Glen ____, Ellen McGrail and John Kincaid, "Interview with Steve Hanley of The Fall "
LOWLIFE, early 1987 (Atlanta, GA area fanzine)
The Fall may not seem like the sort of band one would expect to find featured in LowLife, but they are probably the most important rock band of the decade. The interview was initially arranged for broadcasting on WREK, but I could not pass up the chance to include it here. We wanted to interview Mark Smith, but, for whatever reason, we were told we would have to settle for the Fall's bass player, Steve Hanley, which turned out to be just fine, despite his inability to tell us what Mark Smith's lyrics were all about. Steve has played with the group since 1979. He has been the backbone of the group through their greatest period. It is impossible to deny that their sound has lately become much more commercial, and some recent releases have been hard for this fan to sit through. Although, they have yet to release a really bad album, which is saying quite a bit considering the fact that they have released thirteen of them. I would like to have included a complete discography with this article, but once I get past the albums I am lost. Questions were asked by Jon Kincaid, Ellen McCrail, and myself.
Glen: Who is the organ player tonight?
Steve Hanley: Her name is Marsha. She is American but lives in England. She is stand in for Simon who didn't want to come. She is not a permanent replacement. He does a lot of other work besides the Fall. He is a classically trained musicians.
G: Are you doing a lot of old material flow?
SH: No. Most of it is from the L.P. we just released in England. (Note: Bend Sinister) We do about three or four old songs in the set.
G: Is the L.P. named for the Nabokov novel of the same name?
SH: I don't know. You'll have to ask Mark. It is tied in with the lyrics. That was about the third title of the L.P.
G: Do you consider this the same band as the original band that had no current members but Mark?
SH: There have been a lot of lineup changes, but there has been a mainstay of two or three members for eight years: me and Craig and Mark.
G: What about Karl Burns? He seemed to appear and disappear and reappear again?
SH: Yes. He was in it up to our last American tour. He was in it for a long time. There has always been a base of the Fall, though it centers around Mark. It is good to work with different people.
G: Your music now is real similar to what you've always done, but maybe less angry.
SH: Yes and more compact as well.
Ellen: Have you mellowed out?
SH: Maybe, but its just a progression. It's natural.
E: Is Mark still an angry young man?
SH: He is not so young any more.
G: Who writes most of the music?
SH: All of us. It's not that we all sit down together and write a song. Everybody comes up with ideas.
G: Do you work things out as you perform them?
SH: No, not on stage. We don't improvise much. It comes out of the studio, and a lot of different ways. Sometimes Mark writes the lyrics first, and we write the music around it or the other way around.
G: Your current-label, Beggar's Banquet, is an affiliate of Warner Brothers. How do you respond to those that say you've sold out because you are on a major label?
SH: We are not on a major label. There is no difference in England anymore. All the independent labels are distributed by majors. Rough Trade has distribution by Island. Beggars Banquet is great because it is sort of in the middle, not independent and not major.
G: How is your distribution in America now?
SH: It is much better than it has been. The LPs that have been on Beggars Banquet have had much wider distribution than the others.
G: Have you done an MTV video?
SH: Yes, “Cruiser's Creek”.
Jon: Are you looking at doing any more?
SH: We did a video for “Mr. Pharmacist”.
G: What are other bands that you listen to and are interested in?
SH: There are some local Manchester bands I like, but also Killing Joke and . . well mostly sort of old stuff like from the sixties.
G: Do you listen to music that isn't rock? Do you listen to classical music?
SH: No, not really.
G: Tell us about the book of Mark's lyrics?
SH: It has been out a long while now. It is very old material. It was put out for Europe really. It is a German/English translation, but it is good to get the lyrics because they've never really been printed before. It was just someone's idea to translate the lyrics.
J: What have you got coming out in England in December?
SH: We have a single coming out. Mark is writing a play. We are going to do that in London for eleven days. It is written around the single. It is a musical play with acting.
G: Will you be acting or will you have actors.
SH: A bit of both.
J: Is there going to be more music for it than just the single?
SH; Yes, about six songs. A couple off the L.P., the single and a couple of new ones written for the play. It is sort of interesting. Something different, playing eleven nights in the same place.
G: Why did you start your U.S. tour in Athens, Georgia?
SH: I don't know. I think we were supposed to play here first, but we picked that one up.
E: Is that because the Sex Pistols played here first?
SH: No. We wanted to come south. The last couple of times we haven't come through here, not since 1981.
G: What did you think of the BBQ Killers?
SH: They were real loud?
G: They do a cover of “Eat Yourself Fitter” sometimes.
JK: They also have a song called “Mark E. Smith”.
SH: I don't think they did either of those, but what does that song say?
JK: It's hard to decipher.
SH: Well, I don't think they played it last night, or we didn't recognize it.
JK: Why do you think the Fall have gotten so much more popular in recent years?
SH: I don't know. A lot of people think it is due to Brix, but I don't think it is entirely that. We used to do nine minute songs. I suppose it was hard work watching the Fall. I never really thought about it at the time. It has not been an intentional attempt to be more commercial.
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