Gary Frei, "The Fall"
Impact (Brighton), October 1996
Notebooks out Plagiarists! The Fall arrive on the south coast for the first time in a number of years and there can be no better way to start the new academic year than with an evening in the company the finest, most innovative and hardest working band ever to emerge from the city of Manchester.
Thirty odd albums in some nineteen years with an ever fluid personnel, Mark E. Smith as he approaches his forties, is still producing music that is cognizant and astute.
The latest slimmed-down incarnation of the band play in Worthing on the 8th October at the Assembly Hall. Speaking on the phone to Mark Smith one afternoon at the offices of Cog-Sinister, where members of the band share the administration work needed to run The Fall between them, Steven Hanley, the long serving bass player doubles as social secretary to Mr Smith and was a great help in arranging things.
This was an opportunity to be able to speak to the man who has represented the forefront of "anti-music" for the last two decades, a man who has given his opinion on everything from Bingo to Speed and from Witch Trials to bidding for the Olympics, and to ask him such deep and incisive questions as "What have you got in your carrier bag today?"
Mark E. Smith is the past master of affable evasion and this was to be a test as to an interviewer's ability to get some answers from him; unfortunately this interviewer was not up to the task, and questions on the relationship Smith has with musicians, the regular disappearance and reappearance of guitarists in the band, on the role of history and on literature were all easily evaded.
I ask Mr. Smith, as the writer of more than one observation on the state of football whether he still had any interest in the game and not surprisingly the question did not go down too well. "I gave up on soccer a long time ago, to be quite honest, it became very middle class. I don't trust it, it became a very family game. These are the great teams, Oldham and Bury, where you can still stand up and have a fight". He would, no doubt, have enjoyed the rioting last season at the Goldstone Ground.
Commercial success for the young dance combo DOSE, with whom Smith had recorded "Plug Myself In" and performed at the Concorde in May, will be found without him. "They've gone really big now, they've got someone from 'Neighbours', PJ Proby and Jools Holland singing over the tracks I worked on." He sees a bright future for them, though not using the expansive lyrics of Mr. Smith.
As for students, especially mature ones, Smith has little time for them. "Traitors, old men all hanging around with young girls who don't want to know. It should be thought about this learning. I get really fucking furious about this. I've lost some good mates, who are mature students. I can't fucking talk to them now, 29 year-olds hanging with 19 year-olds, its embarrassing behaviour". This is nothing new, the auto-didactic Mr. Smith has never admitted to having much time for students.
The tour is an opportunity to visit some out-of-the-way towns up and down the country, Cannock, Cheltenham, South Shields, Kings Lynn and Worthing. "We've deliberately gone out of our way to visit these places, some of which I've never even heard of."
But the seemingly tireless work of the band continues, the tour will have tunes from the excellent "Light User Syndrome", and from whatever is next on the endless production line of The Fall. There may also be one or two "hits" thrown in, but that would be a surprise. As for the carrier bag, this was one of the few days Mark E. Smith was without one.
The Fall play Assembly Hall, Worthind (sic) on the 8th Oct.