Wrexham Yales on 21 March
Doncaster Leopard on 22 March
Donny Leopard hilights
Smith "there's one more verse actually" (After the band stopped playing Levitate) then then soldiered on and finished it.
Smith "Can you you turn the fucking lights down or something. Lighting man, are you fucking mad!?"
A girl came on stage and gave Smith a whisper a peck, he glanced, nervous at Julia to his left.
Julia was on top unmusical form.
The Leopard was small, The Popes play there on Apr 7th I memory serves.
Wrexham was, in the words of the bloke I spoke to 'not very tight' but good.
Tonight was sloppy at times, He Pep was a joke. The Joke was workmanlike bollocks like usual.
A past gone mad was very nice.
Smith was in good spirits.
oh yeah... Carling Black Label got a mention in 'and other disgusting alchohol based substances like CBL' in Shake Off. Which amused bassist.
during Encore the Fall donned a fag a piece, Smith spent an age trying to find the mic he lay down by drum kit. Much to amusement of band members and Smith. big new prince was massacred on guitar. wrong chords wrong order out of time. I thought it was a protest but I think it was just Julia. ;-)
so it was great to see t'fall again after, what, two yrs. and after not making wrexham nite before.
can't remember order but set list included...
birthday perfect day shake off (a la the session version) touch sensitive antidotes (in a led zep sorta style) tom ragazzi (sounds surprisingly good live) f-oldin' money white lightening and therein (great if lumbering and lazy) big prinz (shite) past gone mad ten houses levitate caterer (really good live) at least one new track, upbeat, sounded promising, something about tigers?
smith was in stunngly good form, perhaps studyingly so. he endured with good nature a couple of assholes up front doing all that shite, grabbing his cacks, jumping on stage, groping for his lyrics sheets, bear-hugging, smooching his haggard cheek, swilling their flat half-empty beers towards him like an offering. in fact, he seemed quite grateful to take a couple of half-dead pints in plastic glasses from people but then, as I said, it was hot and claustrophobic. and the girl who jumped on stage a couple of times and seemed to want a full-on chat in the middle of proceedings, he seemed simply amused. a couple of surprisingly young and more surprisingly enthusiastic female moshers up front too, perhaps the axe men are attracting groupies!
julia didn't look too well. tired, bored even.
anyhow, lots of fun, a whole different story to the fall of old, but great nonetheless. very much more a smith solo project with session musicians to me. which isn't a bad thing. smith does a lot more fooling around with his vocal effects these days, singing in a slowed-down-tape-recording sorta style at times, arsing about but sounding good.
what movie was it that had yer man from austin powers doing jazz poetry stuff? was it 'so I married an axe murderer'? well, at his worst, that's a bit how smith came across during some of the more lame, possibly improvised bits in birthday.
but at their best, the fall in doncaster were a million miles from the pub-rock that they had become with crooks, or the great rumbling but over-engineered machine that they were around infotainment. very much what I can only imagine they must have been like in the early days. at moments during 'and therein' it was reminiscent of that footage knocking about of the fall gigging in germany with marcia on keyboards and a solo ballerina on stage - something of that art-rock feel, delivered dead-pan and without much care about whether the audience are getting it or not. and then at other times during the gig it was all very punk.
York Fibbers on 23 March
The Fall were fantastic. Tight as a gnat's chuff.
And wait for it... a brand new track!
The band played as a unit, solid and more in tune with each other.
Jetboy made a welcome reappearance. The band were in time with DATs tonight.
Julia handled her axe and stoked her keys with precision too.
Smith was in fine good spirits. Two encores. Most went after the 1st thinking it was all over.
The gigs seem to be getting better as the week goes on... should be a cracker tomorrow.
Birthday "Good evening we are The Fall and is this your brithday as you wonder
knocked kneed knocked kneed down streets of cobbled stones in the ancient
city you inhabit is it your birthday? and when (something) te te te te te
te te te Good evening we are The Fall I am in the next room to you always"
(mumbling to band to get their shit togther)
"everyone you meet, in the bars and on the street... if you smile you are a freak.... and to the hilt (this line was milked a lot last night)...
Not Sure Of The Title
the one with the pitter patter skiffley drums has a quiet bit like Ten Houses, "the green, purple..."
The New One
"One way, shifted" "Sign on a hill" "I just cant find my way around here" (repeated) Is this a cover? It sounds like one. A bit of a Stooges type thing in parts.
He Pep - Sang like a retard in places. (He Pep live is a disgrace live, they should drop the tape and do the riff as guitar)
"It's very nice to be here in the sound equipment studio eh? what!?"
Past Gone Mad
Everyone had a good time, The Fall especially.
they were great in york.....small venue meant i was right at the front.....even though i had to stand at the side right next to the amps....and am now deaf in my left ear. lots of jumping about to f-oldin, touch,white lightening..what was that last song though....that went "trying to find my baby" lots of beards, drunk guy at the front got pushed in the face by the guitarist....and when i shouted for perfect day he went to tom and said....request for perfect day(the might have played it anyway....they played it then mark pulled them all off.... i saw them come back through the side door, and as mark came out so did lots of beer spraying all over....and then he went back inside. he also played with the lights.
Leeds Duchess of York on 24th March
Woke up this morning humming 'Past Gone Mad'. Disappointed when I revisited the recording to find that it ain't half the tune that it was at the Duchess last night.
Takes a long, long time for me to filter Fall gig impressions and remember them fondly. All the signs are though that there should have been post-gig air punching :-
* the band have grown nicely into Jetboy, which provides a rockin kick- off;
* packed venue moshing furiously;
* energised 'into it' band and MES;
* support acts you love to ignore - guitar band fronted by an Emmerdale Chris Tate lookalike with use of legs and affectation of smiling to himself sardonically as a song ends + that likeable fellow hard acid DJ who good naturedly lampoons the crowd's lack of response. (not as entertainingly bad as they used to be though - remembering the easy listening played at ear splitting volume Prince of Wales 96).
* acceptable sound i.e. drums could be heard (except the lack of a good bass sound is now becoming a real irritation - Vulture should not be attempted under any circumstances, which it wasn't);
* ace versh of The Caterer, once again much better than the studio recording;
* some evidence of 2? new tunes, one 'I Wanna Be Your Dog'-a-like;
* a noticeably younger crowd (with wimmin! dancing!), balanced by a lone Michael Winner look alike sweating beneath open-necked shirt beneath V- neck jumper and smiling avuncularly at passing aforementioned wimmin;
* Can't recall everything played, but nothing outstayed it's welcome. No Big New Priest. Ritual mangling of Touch Sensitive - DIY lyrics by crowd add a touch of heavy metal theatrics... Now I think about it, there seemed to be a lot less material played from MS than last time, were they going out of their way to play tracks from the compilation? (Past Gone Mad was played as the first tune of the encore).
* MES smiles twice, walks, talks, off-mike singing, stares out chin strokers at back, wagging curled finger to make a point, gripping hands, realistic hair etc;
Yet I come away in griping facker mode, not immediately convinced by this one.
Subject: <fallnet> Fall @ Fibbers & Duchess
There's nothing better than glimpsing out of a window from your local and spoting Mark, Julia and a few friends smiling at each other as they run towards the Shambles to find shelter from the rain in another pub. Yep, the Fall are in your home town tonight.
Now you've got to understand that York has a very boring cafe bar type culture. So it comes as no suprise that although Fibbers is packed, it's full of minglers and chin strockers, this always annoys me, so in a desperate attempt to make life a little more exciting I start gulping the golden nector by the gallon.
The Fall are introduced by the DJ who had more enthusiasm for the Fall than all the audience put together. From then on I can't remember much.... other than nev smashing his guitar end against my face for heckling him (which I completly deserved!) They play about 4 new songs along with: White Lightening, The Joke, ...and Therin, Levitate and bits from the MS album.
After the gig I colloapsed and ended up on some steps asleep near the venue. I woke up about 30 minutes later went tdown the step to grab a taxi, and low and behold Mark and Julia, give Mark a big hug and run off.
I wasn't going to go to the Duchess, I had no ticket and completly hung over. During Friday daytime I kept thinking that was the first time i'd seen the Fall since the NY breakup, and they were completly brilliant. Tight, disciplined and rockin. Nothing like the dreadful post NY gigs i'd been reading about the last few years, and nothing like the sloppy playing on the Leviate tour which to be honest put me off the Fall. Also one last chance to be at that legedary venue before it closes forever. So, finished work, had some tea, on the train to Leeds. Easy to get in, at least 50 places left on the door. Told by the Manager very sternly that "..if you behave like you did last night your out". Couldn't remeber what for though, and couldn't be arsed to ask him to remind me.
This place is fantastic and a perfect Fall seting (perfect imaginary fall gig dream).
The Fall came on and were spot on. They started with some NY dolls cover about "losing my baby" or summat and from then on things got better and better and better. They played much better than at Fibbers, the best stuff here was not present at Fibbers, and although Mark, at first looked to be in a vile mood (kicking over pieces of the drumkit,) By the end of the night he was smiling, dancing and talking to the members of the audience. The encore really was a master piece. One song, which sounded new (but I think the lyrics were to Bound or maybe it's a new version of Bound I dunno) lasted it seemed for ages and I can't wait to hear that again. Classic Fall.
The creme de la creme was A Past Gone Mad. By this time Mark was really into it like the rest of the band, did his obilgatory pass the mike contest - said some stuff in Czech ("Please mind the entrances and exits. The next stop will be Nadrazi Holesovice).
By the end of the night I was smiling and dancing to catch my train home. The best Fall gig i've been to since 1994.
Subject: <fallnet> MES BravEar Interview (1986)
Here's a little something for the group - it's a long 'un, but worthy...
The Fall - Mark E. Smith Interview from BravEar Vol. 3 Issue 5 (1986) by Michael Lang
First the myth (usually passed off as atmosphere): some streets were flooded it was raining so hard. My car was getting pushed around until I found the club. A word or two, and I was in a place called The Nut House, drinking lots of beer with Mark E. Smith.
One of his remarks: "There isn't a lot you can write about rock music. I've never thought there was." This may be true, especially if you consider the experiential aspect of rock music, the emotion and the physicality.....subsequently, the general disregard for introspection and intellect. Yet it is Smith himself who pushes at the limit of rock music, generating unusual forms for that context, forms resembling the written world of fiction and essay. Smith's comment reveals not so much the inadequacy of rock writing as our inadequate concept of the Fall. However rock The Fall may sound, the most valuable approach to their music cannot come from rock criticism or history. Smith's output problematizes categorical distinctions in the same way Iggy twisted, knotted and balled sexual relations. Either you drug/dance yourself to the Fall (in which case Smith would be talking to himself), or you think about why there isn't a lot to write about rock music.
Mark Smith, clarity Michael Lang:
MS: I was in the dark generation. That strange sort of age group in Britain. I was thinking about this the other day. We are dispossessed, the middle age group. I'm 28. The group that wasn't completely musicfied, it's now 8 and 9 year olds who are the main pop buyers, but when I was a kid we didn't get a record player in my house until I was 14. My father wouldn't have a record player in the house; it just wasn't a necessity. There were no pop shows. Radio One only started in '68 when I was 12 or 13. What I remember...I remember the 60's because my father used to make me work with him when I was about 11 on summer holidays. Every kid had 2 months holiday, and I'd be sweeping up after my father, which was great 'cause he had a lot of apprentices in this big plumbing shop. All of these apprentices would be listening to The Kinks and The Move, always playing the radio full blast. And I'd only hear it downstairs (cups his ears). When I got my first record player, I remember the thing that was happening was T-Rex. In school before that everyone was into the Beatles. I remember we used to have polls and I was the only one in my class who didn't vote for the Beatles, the Rolling Stones or the Monkees, because I didn't even know what it was. I voted for John somebody and his Playboy Bunnies just to be awkward. The weirdest name on the paper got my vote. I always hated all pop music when I was a kid. The Beatles, The Rolling...it was more of a girls thing when I was brought up. I suppose it is now. But then, the generation of mine was the one that started off the new wave, punk. The generation that rejected all the singer-songwriters, which is a strange thing. It went back to real bone-crushing guitars. In Britain, it's the generation that's going around Europe killing off foreign football fans. These guys, they're just like me see, because we were getting teenage in the 60's, when it was boom time, and we came to manhood in the fucking real bad recession and it's gotten worse since then. I was one of the last of the working class to get a really good education...all the ideals of the Labour Party fused in the 60's. It was unusual for kids like me to go to real good schools, so we had a real good education, and then we end up in the middle 70's and there's no jobs or anything. So what you've got is a Clockwork Orange situation. You've got all these pretty clever guys with nothing to do. But the kids younger than me, they're OK because they're used to it. They're a different breed altogether. They like music like the Smiths, Everything But the Girl, they don't mind that the music is...somewhat different...it's a strange thing.
BE: What about the bands that remain from the previous generation, how do you feel about them, the bands listed next to yours in, say, the New York Times?
MS: The sad thing is that things are very polarized right now. But I do see the band names next to mine in the New York Times, and the majority of them mean absolutely nothing. That's how they must look at us I suppose, not too much. The Cure and the Banshees are just nothing to us. You see a lot of Americans in London, like the ones who went to school with Brix and that, they like the Fall because they think they've got to like the Fall, they'll give you that, but they'd really like to meet Siouxsie. Whereas we used to play with the Banshees, we were always like the drips and the pullovers, and they were walking around with this regalia. We'd be tripping them up and going, "art students!," pushing them and shit. That's like real war. You've got polls in England, and you get Banshees, Fall, blahty, blahty, blahty, blah. We couldn't be more...when we were starting out we used to struggle to get concerts, so once we'd play with the Banshees, once we'd play with the Clash, and we were so different. It's a British tradition, they basically are art students. They're all art students. They come from nice families, and they put on this fucking rebellious, fucking socialist, fucking you know, con, and they all pretend they are working class and it's all real funny. I find it very hard to relate to bands as I get older...I read all this stuff, anything they said, I know what they're going through. I read an interview and I say, 'hey, can't you say anything more interesting than this.' Like in Britain now, they either talk about themselves or they talk about politics, it just depends what paper they're talking to. I was reading this book the other day, at the place I was staying in Frisco, it's got the Rolling Stone interviews from 1970 to so and so. I never read Rolling Stone, I found it completely unreadable. So I sat down and read some of these things...an interview with Jim Morrison, and they're asking him these tedious questions, of all the things you could ask Jim Morrison. And they've got this real artistic picture of him, you know like, this is not a pop magazine, this is a real serious magazine. And full of all these details about stupid little things, Morrison trying to talk to him about beer, but they guy just wouldn't have it. It's like they do Johnny Carson now, and everybody who does tries to play up to the game of it, try to turn their intellectual back to the guy. That's what you get in Britain a lot. In the pop magazine, you'll have Siouxsie--well, they do it with us as well, we're not completely guilt-free of it. Like, 'what's Brix's favorite color, what kids of clothes does she like to wear.' Siouxsie and the Banshees are like that: Siouxsie wears so and so shoes in one magazine and then in the other one it's (whispers), "the working class have been oppressed too long in this country."
BE: You once commented on your admiration of Lydon, how he maintained his own line in spite of some success...this was about the time of Public Image's first album. Does that still hold up?
MS: (laughingly) No. No, I changed my mind completely. He's produced a crock of shit, it's just shit, basically shit. Rather cynical shit as well. I don't blame him...you read interviews with him, he puts his case across rather well. I think it's what he wants to do, I suppose. It's just this attitude...I don't know, it doesn't sound good mainly, you got to start from there. That single... he does well in Britain, people buy it. It's like Tom Petty, it's just like Tom Petty. He sounds real silly, because his voice doesn't fit in with the music. What I hat about it...my younger sister goes out with a guy 18, 19, never had a job, no hope, and I gave him all my old Sex Pistols stuff and he's mad on it...now screwing with the kids like that, I don't like it...using Ginger Baker, and all that fucking...I'm not against those blokes, it's just that the sound is shit. The sound to me is revolting. We've got a guy in our band, Simon, he's a brilliant musician, he went to the College of Music. It's all session man's tricks, duum, dum, duum, you know, the bass that you hear on every fucking record, you know the $300 an hour guys...with his voice over it, it just sounds crazy, and his rubbish lyrics that used about 4 or 5 times. That's what I hate about the late Public Image. I mean there's a certain resentment there from me of course, because I used to like him, also why should that guy get away with stuff that I throw in the bin.
BE: You mentioned once a guy named Thomas, as Irish friend of yours. I wonder if you'd elaborate...
MS: (laughs) Where'd you read that?
BE: An old Slash. I remember you said he's an influence, he was a friend.
MS: Yeah...he was a bit barmy. I don't see him much. He was an influence on me when I was growing up. He had that great Irish thing: all the kids I was brought up with always did what their parents told them to do; Irish kids never did what their parents told them. They'd always take the piss out of kids who really had nice clothes and stuff...it made me more secure in myself. I had great parents, but Thomas was one of those guys who could reduce you to tears and laughter just by talking. That's why I had a really nice childhood, because of Thomas. He was a few years older than me. His sense of humor was completely absurd. Like there was this guy, he used to call him 'Simon of Diarrhea' and he used to invent these stories about what Simon's house was behind the doors, and how he lived off diarrhea...you know, disgusting stories that would go on for ages. He'd throw in some real cheeky things. It's strange about Thomas, I haven't thought about him for a few years. I don't see him at all...he's gone completely...he was too tuned in.
BE: It'd interesting you mention your parents. I wanted to talk about your father...the father/son relation comes up a lot...in Totale, Lay of the Land.
MS: (laughs...laughs harder) Yeah. Well you got to know that it's a very Manchester expression 'son' as well. I could call you son. You've got to remember that.
BE: What about NWRA, "look where you are, the future death of my father?"
MS: Yeah. Right, right. (long pause) My dad's all right. He's strange...I get on better with him than I used to. I left home when I was 16, I couldn't stand it. But since the last 2 years, well about a year and a half, I moved into this house in the next street of my parents after 10 years away. I get on really well with him, it's strange. I go to bars and drink with him; he's like another person now. There are lots of things I learned when I left home about things he taught me that made me a lot more secure in myself. Like, my dad had never given me money, just never gave me money. He wouldn't even...I wanted to go to college when I was 16, so I did for a short while, but he gave me no money...(laughs)...So my ribs would be sticking out. I'd hate the bastard. I'd go, 'you bastard. Other kids are getting money.' But when I thought about it I didn't really like college anyway. I educated myself a lot better. I don't have any real money problems...I never have. I've been in real bad debt with tax due to the group. But I've always been able to live on anything. Some kids go through life and because their parents gave them a lot of money they are in a permanent state of debt and personal insecurity...they totally depend on a certain amount of money coming from...somewhere. I think it's great that parents, especially American parents, are generous. I think it's great. But what you think is a handicap comes in real useful when the band's got no fucking money...like my father always said to me, "look, if you've got 5 pounds in your pocket on Friday, your life's made," which is great. That's the ideal. That's a real English working class...They were brought up during the Blitz. They don't throw anything away. They're that type. I was the first child of 4. My father wasn't well off when I was born. He was working for his father then. That's a lot of why I left home, because the idea was to carry on the plumbing business in the family...one of your stereotyped stories. Which I wish I'd done, I really (laughs) wish I'd done a plumber's apprentice. It'd be great to be able to do your art and have that back up. Plumbers make fortunes. They never used to when I was a kid. Nowadays...they used to get nothing. Now, they're so in demand. But I just don't have it in my hands, you gotta have it. I can't even change a plug now, it's real hard.
BE: You mention the idea of a back-up. You give the impression of someone who could look the situation over and say, 'I've got to get out.' That's how I felt 4 years ago about you. Is that as true today...I just gotta quit. And what kinds of things are you thinking about?
MS: You tend to think about these things as you get older. Like what are you going to do when you're 40, but it's never worried me. If I ever wanted to make money, there are lots damn easier ways, like up January I was doing the management of the group as well. So this year is real strange for me because we have a real good manager now. WE went through 3 or 4. That was sort of the situation when I was training them what to do, they'd get good at it, and then leave. So I said fuck it. I'll do it myself. I really enjoyed it, but I became more of a clerk than...writing songs. 2 days a week was for filling in tax forms and shit. Which was really enjoyable...that's why these last 2 albums have been particularly good. I think, because before that, I was a very violent person, the early days of the Fall are very, very violent. Aggressive, real, didn't give a fuck. I had loads of time to be the moody writer thing which I despised in myself. I always hate...like you hang out with these "sensitive" British groups, and they're all (screws face). Oh God, you look at them, oh God, they're so mysterious and creative. It's not good for your work. I found by throwing myself into taxman and accountant, it teaches you a few things. You realize that you're not that important. The strange thing about it was that then the writing came real easy...I was doing it for pleasure rather than sitting down and go (thinker's pose.) And it made me think, when I started the band that's what I used to do. I used to write my songs during the dinner hour. I mean on the typewriter.
This guy from Miami Vice came to see us in LA, the guy who decided the music. We couldn't see him before the show so he made and appointment for afterward...(laughing) he never came back. He saw the show and never came back...he must have run like hell. The main thing that I despise about that show--somebody said this in a magazine--why are these cops so arrogant, who the fuck do they think they are? I thought the thing was good, 'cause what the guy was doing was busting basically poor people trying to make money. This is forgotten. It's not like in the fine American tradition of the private type stuff, like Chandler and that, which is fucking brilliant...genius. These guys are pretending to be drug dealers and suckering people in. Why is it hip to be a cop? I don't like it. I respect policemen, I think policemen should be completely respected. But I don't like policemen like that, there are too many fucking policemen like that. Too many got a grudge against the fucking world. Those kind of guys should be in the fucking Army.
BE: Any bands on this tour that you've played with that are worth mentioning?
MS: The clubs are so tight right now, put the clause in your contract that you choose the opening band, and they cross you out. They always think they know better. Have you ever heard Artless, from New York? They're the Republican band, well that's what they say, it's a joke. They're great. He's got his own label this guy, and he brings out real weird records, like country & western records, like Blind Man's Penis (John Trubee), stuff like that. It's fucking good stuff. He's totally nuts. We had this band with us in Chicago called Doxy (?), real heavy metal band, reminded me of the Stooges, they look like Van Halen, but they play like the Stooges. And the difficulty we had with them is that we insisted on 5 dates, and we finally got them on 3: each time they'd open for us, they'd have to be the first of the 3 bands, because of some promoter's choice, more often than not a Gun Club imitation, you know some dicks who work in a record shop, or at a club. So Doxy would go on first...they'd come on and look like fucking Van Halen, man, and people are going 'booo', booing it and that, and they're fucking great, going, tchka, tchka, tchka, tchka, tchka, boofch. It's just like fucking Funhouse, man. Brilliant, great singing. I thought it was great contrast to the Fall. No, no real objections to it.
You got to remember that a lot of people--especially nowadays--are out to be entertained, which is fair enough so I don't expect much from the audience. For me the it's like part of the...'act,' in inverted commas. to concentrate on one's singing, and trying to make it a bit more interesting, to get it moving. The only thing I like to give the audience is a kind of mental stimulation, that's really if I got good. I mean a lot of my work, if you look at it the way you're asking the question, a lot of it is very selfish. That goes with printed words as well. Sometimes I think: why should I just outright tell somebody what the song's about? I'm in an ideal position because I do write anything I bloody want to. I don't have to take in commercial critical considerations, and I'm supporting myself doing it. It's a big thing really. A fine line. Whereas to an outside observer the Fall look no different from any other British post-punk group, whatever the fuck you call it...we are a lot different.
BE: I want to clarify a few things I don't know that I'm hearing correctly. In "Pay Your Rates", the "debtor's escape estate, a socialist state invention?"
MS: Yeah, it's like they call them estates in Britain, but they call them projects here. When the socialists came in in '45, that was their first term of power, so they knocked all the slums down in the north of England, which were real good community places, and they shipped them all into these obscene, fucking, new bloody things that resulted in a lot of pain for a lot of people. There's a great playwright called Mike Leigh...
BE: His films...there's a whole series of films right now, he's a director, right? The San Francisco Film Festivals begin this week, and he's highlighted within it.
MS: Go and see it, man, it's fucking brilliant. Great stuff. He did one about estates. It is just exactly what it is like. These places are horrible to live in. And it's weird because the people blame Thatcher and that, but it's the fucking socialists who built that shit. The people who built that should be fucking executed. You sat in these houses...they had everything the working class wanted then, you see, because you're getting central heating, fridge, and the rest of that fucking crap, you know. But you can hear people shouting next door, you're not allowed to paint the front of you house, they got crime and that, because they got lifts. The lift's always broken. Someone will come along with some sense and knock them down. A nightmare. A nightmare. Like all these people who lived on estates, before the war, they used to walk in and out of each other's house, even though they were in abject poverty, nobody ever locked the door. But now with these estates, it's like rat experiments. Essentially what it is. You're closing people up. I used to go out with girls when I was a lad, and they'd live on these estates, they'd just be unbearable, man. You'd go in these houses...they'd all be the same. They all have gardens and shit, little gardens. But you go in, all the wallpaper is the same, the smell is the same, like being in prison, very, very similar.
BE: On "What You Need" you say a "bit" of Iggy's Stooge, is that right?
MS: A vid, a video.
BE: Of Iggy's Stooge, OK. Then 3 rules of audience, same as from Cash-n-Carry, and then it is the book, "Death Is Vision" by the brothers Copeland.
MS: No, it's just a private joke, Miles Copeland, who used to own IRS and manages the Police, "Theft as Vision." And his brother who runs FBI, and his other brother is the drummer for the Police. He's never paid us any royalties in 5 years, from Dragnet and that, he just paid us 2 weeks ago. Meanwhile, you see Miles Copeland get up and talk at the Conservative Party conference about his ideas for a new Britain. "Why can't we stop all this defeatism in Britain?" I mean the guy is American. He had this program on TV, and it's very strange 'cause we got our money about a week before this program went on where he's talking to all these Liverpool lads and saying, "You can get out of this, say I offered you a record deal." It was a real sick program. And these guys were going, "well I don't want to dress like a fool." These guys were really great. And he'd scream "let's say I offered you 500 thousand pounds to sign with me on my label!" And the guy would go, "it depends on what you were going to offer me...look, I just want to be a bass player." So, Copeland: "you are so defeatist here, you've been brainwashed by the Marxists." Unbelievable. The guy hasn't paid his own fucking debts, he's a glorified con man. Going around telling Britain how to live, and probably America as well, he's got the Bangles...he was brought up in a completely privileged...his father was a CIA hitman. And lives in St. John's Woods. And he's shouting at these Liverpool kids who have been brought up in abject poverty that they haven't got enough drive! Incredible. There was such a reaction to him in Britain, even the rightwingers were going 'the man is an idiot.'
BE: So, what's the video of Stooges?
MS: That's a 2 way thing really. It's like what you really need is something like the Stooges, but also, Iggy is a very hip college thing in Britain. Every time you go to a college, to play a college disco, they always play an Iggy Pop solo thing. And it's like if they'd play the Stooges, it'd be a lot better. There are a lot of students in Manchester who've got videos of (softly) Iggy Pop, and think they're really cool. It's like all these new Velvet Underground fans...nerds, where were they when it was fucking necessary?
BE: I like everything that Iggy has done on his own, but my heart's in the Stooges.
MS: Yeah, there's a lot of Iggy solo stuff that I don't like at all. But I know what you are saying, you can't dislike the guy. "What You Need" is a Twilight Zone episode where this old peddler sells this guy what he needs. I got it mixed up with this other Twilight Zone episode which is "The Four of Us Are Dying," where this guy could change his face by looking at a picture in a newspaper and have it become his face. It's just a crazy song, really, just images. But it's also, the main theme of the song is that there are a lot of people in Britain, and a lot of people in America, too, telling people what you need. And in America, especially, I find this really scary.
It's very hard to get into America now...just to play and work, even though I've got, what, 12 visas in my fucking passport. And I've always left. I don't want to live in America. The presumption is that you are a Third World Savage who wants to take American money out of the country and blah, blah, blah. I know these 5 groups from Manchester who applied for concert visas and we were the only ones to get in, and we got in on the last day. They're turning bands down. They've changed it from where the embassy used to decide, it's now the immigration, who are taught to be paranoid about everybody. There are all these fucking lame brains running immigration service. I seriously object to it, as a Briton...maybe if I was from a totally impoverished country, I could mildly understand it. I just object to it because Americans can go to Britain any time. They can play there, they can work there. Brix has never had any trouble. Britain is one of the few countries in this world that is an American ally, and you are treated like some sort of crook. It's really stupid.
I'm real big on American old films...I like that sort of thing, I'm mad about it, like I like Billy Wilder...fucking genius. That's what's missing nowadays. And I like Lyndsay Anderson. He's generally hated in England, 'cause he did this great film, "Brittania Hospital," which is just like Britain on film. It knocked everything in Britain. But it did it in a Benny Hill style, in a comedy film style. Like the nurse is behind the screen with the doctor...amazing film, but it just bombed everywhere. That stuff is real good. I always liked Fellini as well. I identify with people like that...I don't have access to that sort of communication. I like Fellini and Anderson, people who stay where they are. I think John Waters did that. I like the fact that he works out of Baltimore, and that he sees the surreal in the ordinary. I strongly identify with that, I really do.
Every building I ever have from Prestwich on the back of my covers gets fucking pulled down. The church on Grotesque is probably one of the few photographs left of the thing. Like the building on Elastic Man was pulled down, the building on Hex Enduction Hour was pulled down, the building on Dragnet was pulled down, (laughs) it's unbelievable. All these places I cherish are pulled down. I chose them because they are good.
I've written a lot of songs from dreams. Like Paint Work is probably the most favorite track of people who listen hard to rock music. When I write a dream down, I can see it in my head, but you have to think, to some people, it's just a collection of words. I think that's where your skill as a writer comes in.
A lot of people think my interpretation of history is really kookoo. I did this Melody Maker interview and I was saying things that...like another thing about British groups is that you've got to be pro-IRA, it's trendy. So I was going, well who the fuck wants to be ruled by the Pope, it's stupid. Like in the Republic of Ireland, you can't even buy contraceptives. These people who are always left-wing are espousing this cause. The Protestants in the north just don't want anything to do with the Pope. I think it's cool, they got a right to do that. But you can't say it. Well, I go, look at history. If Britain were fucking Catholic, we wouldn't be anywhere, we'd be 200 years fucking backwards. People go, "Ohh, Nazi!" And I'm saying look at the Ethiopians, we're sending billions of pounds to the Ethiopians when fucking people in Manchester are half starved on these fucking estates. People are getting fucking 25 dollars a week to live on and eat...grown men of 35. this survey says that they're suffering from malnutrition. And just because on TV they got the Ethiopians, who have always been fucked up, the government's fucked up, because they're Marxists. The government is corrupt. Britain is sending their last fucking pennies to Ethiopia, the food is rotting on the docks. You got Band-Aid and all this shit, I find it really annoying. And then people say, you got a weird view of history. I think everybody's got a weird view of history, everybody re-writes their own history anyway.
I'm not that down on the left anymore, I'm really not. But I'm not pro-left at all. What really annoys me is that people can't really get into their head that there really isn't any threat from the left or the right really. The threat is some kind of standardized horrible society. Run by a bunch of fucking idiots.
BE: Well, aren't the left and right really collaborating? Don't they need each other to fight each other?
MS: Yeah, it may be like the Fall needs all these bad groups to keep on going. It kept me going a lot of times. When you've been at the lowest depths, like in '83, '84, no money, no decent record company, band disintegrating, tax debts, and you think, what's the point, might as well just throw it in, but then I think, if there were no Fall who's going to check these fuckers?
transcribed by William Ham, March, 2000
Part of an interview w/MES & Kay Carroll was featured in a book I've got, called "Who's been sleeping in my brain? Interviews post punk", which includes various punk luminaries (and, er, Jim Kerr). The interview was done in Feb, '83. The book itself is in an odd format that's in a continuous narrative with bits from the various interviewees dropped in as necessary.
MES: I have got people coming up to me saying, "You're a bit old to be doing this." And I'm saying, "I'm twenty-five and it's not like that with me; I don't grow out of it. You should realise that even then it was something more important than just a trend." I hate that, y'know, I don't wanna stay that rebel the rest of my life, but people force you into that situation, so finally you become more conservative. But they won't face up to that, they just want something to comfort them...
MES: If there is any problem nowadays, it's the over-analysis of many things, the theory syndrome. Like people ask you, "How do you write?" They think it's something that can be learned. To me, the concept of English literature is ridiculous, and I think to send somebody to school to learn how to paint is rdiculous... It's very funny, we got an English paper the other day, and there was an ad saying they're going to open this training school for rock bands in a college - in a college! And people who contributed - see, it was amazing - it was people like the Poison Girls and all these so-called political groups, y'know, like they're becoming teachers and are giving lectures, teaching people how to start a group!
MES: All that's important is to just carry on. To me, it's not important to be a big hit, but it's gonna have to get important one day. What is personally important to me is keeping my respect, keeping my dignity, and I don't just mean in normal life, y'know. I think, if you wanna keep your dignity in culture you don't keep it in life. Interviewer: Why? MES: I don't know, it's like you have to pay for it...
MES: I worry a lot about my brain exploding in my head... I don't know why, but there's like this fear where my head will stop moving or something, y'know, where my brain will just go like "qch-ch-ch-ch"...
KC: I worry about how I can stop worrying! I worry about cynicism. It's quite a comforting thing to be cynical, I mean, it can be comforting and it can make sense. But I think you lose the feeling for love; cynicism is somehow connected to love.
MES: The prospects of a Third World War don't really occupy my time. I think it's a waste of energy, this anti-nuclear thing. It's just taken over from "Rock Against Racism" and stuff... People start calling us fascists merely because we don't assume any political point of view. For us, those political things are simply amusing. They are the sign of a moral decay, y'know, there's nothing to worry about for people so they start worrying about atom bombs and things. And like, they don't worry that their whole culture is falling apart.
MES: ... you get people just staying at home watching, say, horror movies all day. Watching TV, y'know, there's still the chance that you get to see something you didn't expect, like the chance that something surprises you - good or bad. But with video, this random stimulation is erased. KC: You don't let anything happen at random, and you cut yourself off from everything around you...
Mark E. Smith - interview from the book Tape Delay, by Charles Neal (1987)
In mid 1997, writer and science fiction fan Mark E. Smith formed The Fall in Manchester, England. The following year they began releasing records and gathering a devoted audience, inspired by the astute lyrics and casual manner of Smith and the relentless drive of the band's guitars and drums. Despising rockist fashion with an equal scorn to being classified with any musical movement, The Fall have cloned various permutations of rock and roll with their ideas to form a sound which has been described as 'Northern rockabilly' or 'Modern folk'.
The technical merit of the music is often distorted by the way The Fall choose to record themselves, many times leaving background noises and mistakes in, thus adding to the initial rawness of the music. Smith's lyrics often bear no rational symmetry to the actual music, and at times he becomes a storyteller addressing things obliquely rather than directly. These allegories are often best consumed through album covers and sleeves, usually scrawled with segments of lyrics or other printed matter. Since 1983, Smith's wife Brix has played an increasingly important role within The Fall, releasing singles in her own right as The Adult Net. In 1984 The Fall increased their coverage by signing to Beggars Banquet.
In December 1986 Mark Smith directed his own play Hey Luciani at Riverside Studios in London. The play, loosely based on the life of Pope John Paul, used few regular actors and was punctuated by several numbers from The Fall. Smith was insistent that the play was neither historically accurate nor anti-religious, but through the use of different time and place location, back projections and music, created a plot about the life of the one month Pope and those who surrounded him. After a string of increasingly accessible singles, The Fall entered the top 30 in 1987 with a cover version of R. Dean Taylor's There's A Ghost In My House.
Do you think that music has become less powerful than it was at some point in the recent past?
MES: It's funny, 'cause when I was moving house I found a New Musical Express from 1981, you know, those times were like the intellectual times of music, weren't they? And like reading the singles reviews, they were written in heavy foot, philosophical sort of stuff, you know, but now it's like a complete reaction against that.
Brix had this Smash Hits on the train you know, and I was reading it, it had like Lou Reed and stuff. But the girl who was reviewing the singles was called Mary Duff. I mean you know what Duff means in English slang, like duff means like really rubbish, and she was reviewing this Lou Reed thing and going, "Lou Reed has influenced everybody from Ian McCullough to Frankie Goes To Hollywood," as if this was something to be held against the guy, you know, like the only people who will listen to this will be people in sunglasses and black leather jackets, which is like the ultimate simplification of Lou Reed's work, you know? Imagine if you were him reading that, it would break your heart, you know what I mean? And compared to like what somebody would have written three years ago, it would have been equally full of bullshit, but it would have been all philosophical bullshit, you know?
Do you think that musical criticism can become too educated?
MES: I just think it's interesting to observe and sort of like, you know, I think there's more to it. It's like The Fall are now dismissed as some sort of old cranks who have got to be respected. But I don't like that, I don't think that is. When The Fall were analyzed and that, it wasn't satisfactory in any way at all. In a way, I like it better like this. I just like bad reviews now, I think it's good.
Why do you think they're good?
MES: I mean they're idiots, they always will be idiots. One thing about today, I think it's completely illiterate, but I don't know if it's more or less illiterate than it was.
Do you think it's important now to sell a product?
MES: I think it was, always has been. Now it always reminds me of, like one of them, like futuristic books you know, that everybody's much the same and everybody's like... You see the bands now, they're all like wearing stuff. See I always notice that, I was thinking the other day, the thing with The Fall is they always act opposite to that. Now everybody's going very scruffy, we're sort of going very smart, it's weird. It's strange, we're always like the inverse of that, isn't that strange?
Would you say that The Fall has an image?
MES: No, not really. Looking at sort of the people in the group nowadays, they're all very underground people who don't really take it that seriously, you know? I always wonder why can never cross over and that - but I mean looking at it, you know the people that like us and stuff, it's all very underground, which is an old cliché, but it's true you know, every time.
Do you find that having that underground or cult status is confining sometimes?
MES: It's only confining if you let it be, you know? (long pause)
I mean do you sometimes feel that because you are an underground band and you've been around for so many years, that you don't get the publicity you should?
MES: Oh, definitely. I mean this is what's happening now, yeah, I mean the easiest thing for us to do now would be just to change the name.
Have you considered that?
MES: No, you know, it's ah, even people who want us to be commercial don't agree with that. You know it seems sacrilegious that, I don't know what it is, just that word, it's like that's the great thing about us really. You know I mean I thought of calling us The New Fall, and I thought, "Well no, nothing's that different, it's nothing to be embarrassed about". But it's true, you know, like you get these fucking groups with weird names getting publicity, but I mean that's the nature of the market, it's the way the fucking whole thing is organised. I mean this is all they do, isn't it? I mean this is all Stiff Little Fingers do or anybody like that, they just break up, don't they, after two years, you know, reform under a new name, pick up on the trend that's happening and divert it that way, you know? And somehow it's very interesting and new, but what we're doing isn't. (laughs)
How would you define commercialism in music, or being commercial?
MES: I don't know, you see it all seems dead obvious. It's like you feel it in your bones, it's a very sort of physical thing that you sort of learn to hate after a while, you know? I mean like the Frankie thing, I think it's good but I mean... All the advertising is Wyndham Lewis, you know, which is very close to my heart, I hate to see it used for something like pushing a sort of rebellious pacifism, (laughs) you know what I mean? 'Cause I mean like Wyndham Lewis would've really hated it you know, it's fucking populist and it's horrible, the whole CND thing, and it's like how bad America is, and how bad Russia is, you know? Like using Wyndham Lewis, who was like the archetypal man, you know, when the First World War broke out, Wyndham Lewis was all for it and everybody hated his guts for it, you know, and they always did, and the man died in poverty because of things like that.
Like Celinean people, like that's the same story, they always went across the grain and were always persecuted by jerks who, for years later, plagiarised their whole art. I mean I identify with that stance a lot. I think it's happened to me a lot you know, and sometimes you sort of despise that fact that you were an innovator once, because people just take it and sort of distort it into something a lot weaker.
How important are the lyrics within the music of The Fall?
MES: It goes up and down, you know, over the years it's very interesting that sort of constant sort of writing thing. Most of my stuff over the last two or three years I just haven't used in songs, which I never used to do, you know? Nowadays I try and keep it simple and try and do things that are going out to annoy and are going out to break new ground, I think that's important. Whereas when I started, you know, I'd use everything I'd ever written, I mean I seriously would, you know, I mean it's obvious. I mean this is interesting about other groups, is that other groups actually dry up completely, whereas we never have. I mean to me, the last two years we made a conscious effort to stop thinking we've just got to keep writing. But then again, who wants to hear about it, you know? We could have brought out twice the amount of LPs we have done, you know, easily, and it would have all been pretty much as good standard as what was brought out. In fact, I always get letters all the time about, "Why didn't you release this bloody track you used to do, you used to do this great song", you know, and it's songs you can't even remember the lyrics to, I've chucked them out.
Do you consider yourself more a poet or a musician?
MES: I mean what's a poet, you know? To me, poetry stinks, you know? This is what I'm saying, that if like somebody's a poet nowadays in music, it's like pulling some kind of revelation, like some kind of great talented guy, when in fact they're just writing lame poetry, you know? I mean I like to think of myself as beyond that point even, beyond the pop lyric, I think this is why the pop lyric is appealing to me, because you can distort it and shoot it that way, more than going out to be a poet, you know? You know what I mean?
Do you find your lyrics become too literary and confining in that sense sometimes?
MES: My stuff once was, yeah, I mean about '80-'81, not that anybody complained about it, but you know, you end up getting up on stage and singing your diary, you know like I mean a few bands do that now and do very well out of it.
Why did you feel it wasn't working?
MES: 'Cause when you write you should do your best, you know, not just like some kind of deep, self-centered monologue that is boring to everybody. I always try and put a little crack in it, and I always try and put lyrics that mean nothing and like jumble it all up and you know mess around with it. I like to, like, you know, get people off on the strange words, you know, not strange words particularly but slang words and stuff like that.
I was looking up lyrics from a while back and they were really good. I can't remember, totally escapes me now, I think it was from, you know, a mid-sixties thing or even a seventies thing, and the lyrics, I mean nobody could have understood them, you know what I mean? And ah, they're really good but they're really wordy compared to the songs now which are like - like if you look through Smash Hits, you never even get the word receive, you know? Like receive is a big word - did you ever get that thing where you forget to spell words? Like on the train, I forgot how to spell receive, so I got Smash Hits and I was looking at the lyrics for receive, and there wasn't any, or anything with an I and an E in it you know, 'cause I got the I and the E the wrong way round. (laughs)
I before E except after C, 'cause I always use to get them mixed up, and then somebody told me that.
MES: (Pause) Yeah, right, I remember that. That's the thing you learn at school isn't it? I learned that at school and forgot it, yeah. (laughs)
Why do you think expressing yourself with music is more powerful that simply the words written on a page, or do you?
MES: Well now I've come around to that point, I mean I've said this like loads of times, but I'm gonna actually get down and do a sort of short lyric book, you know, of about 12 songs, I mean I'm doing one for the Germans which sort of appeals to me.
Why the Germans?
MES: Well particularly non-British people, 'cause non-British people, you know, it's the old story, you know, funnily enough, it's other people who aren't English who are really interested in my lyrics.
Why do you think that is?
MES: I don't know, I was ah, I had this interview with Record Mirror a while back, and this lad was going you know, like doing me this big favour, "Like Record Mirror is even interested in you Mark!", and all this, and Brix was saying, "Oh well in New York, you know, they really like his lyrics and stuff", and he was going, "Well I can't understand that, you know, I mean uh...", and I was saying, "Yeah, well in Belgium and in Germany, you know, people are more interested in...", and he was going, "Well they can't understand the lyrics, how could they possibly understand them more than English people?" And I says, "Well you know it goes back, you know, why is fuckin' Shakespeare bigger in fuckin' Japan than it is in bleedin' England", you know what I mean, which is the truth, you know, people are interested. And I get mail from German schoolchildren which I find incredible. I got this letter from a class, the whole class signed it, and like they wanted to know the meaning of 'Jew on a Motorbike'. (laughs) I never wrote back to them though, because they said, "You better write back fast because we leave school next week", and it was too late.
But anyway I know this lad who lives in Berlin, and he's got a printing press and shit he's an artist and he wants to, he thought it would be a laugh to translate, 'cause what he does when we tour there, he translates the lyrics really freebase you know, he just like abuses the Germans really. I mean he knows everything about The Fall, but it would be just too boring for him to write, "Well the first album was 'Witch Trials'...", so he writes other things, you know, and it sort of appealed to him, it's his sense of humour to see like my lyrics in German. So what we got talking about is doing something like that.
But to get back to, I mean, I think a lot was missed of my past lyrics that wouldn't have... I suppose I still don't like the whole of them printed on the sleeve or anything, 'cause that would go around the whole point. I mean I think it's up to a person to take what they get out of the lyrics. I mean I still think like, you know, music's much more interesting when you don't know what the lyrics are. 'Cause there is that sensation. If you're into words, you know, if you're a reader which I am, I'm like, I've got to read once in a day, I've got to read something, eve just a paper. So if you buy an LP, which is an investment, if I ever saw a lyric sheet, I mean it would spoil it for me 'cause I'd read all the lyrics before I even put the record on, you know? I mean I know that like ninety percent of the people don't do that, I mean you know, they look at the lyrics a few years later, don't they? But if we're talking about the lyrics I'm gonna print, I'm gonna do one or two present ones, but mostly old ones like, you know like 'Marquis Cha Cha', I mean I think that looks really good written down, it's like a story you know?
Do you think your lyrics work well on paper or do you think they're greatly boosted by a musical backing?
MES: Some are and some aren't. I like to think they all stand up on paper. I also like experiments where it's just a sound experiment. In a way I find that I did that with something like 'I Feel Voxish', I just wanted a vocal tune going - but the lyrics in that are dead interesting actually, like the throwaways and that, it's the sort of thing I can't remember to write down, but it would look good written down.
When The Fall first started, what was it you wanted to do?
MES: I don't know, it's just that, the music, as it was, looked like it was dying out to me, and then the 'New Wave' happened, which was really very good, but when I went out to see the bands, I mean I saw them all, and I just, it wasn't like everybody says now, "They thought they could do better than that..." - everybody knew that. What it was with me was it was like, the possibilities. People forget this now, all those, like smart arses in the rock world and that, they forget that before like '76, you just didn't! I mean we had a group, me and these two other lads, and the mere idea of getting on stage was just like, you know, you just thought it was against the law and it's hard to imagine them days now but you did, you know? If you knew anything about music, you know what I mean, like Top of the Pops, the music programmes, even if you hated the guts of the people on them, you'd never dare try it without a million pounds, you know what I mean, which is what it's getting back to now in a way.
So, when I saw that New Wave, the Punk thing, it was good, but I mean lyrically, it wasn't satisfying and stuff like that, and like it wasn't respectful to the influences, you know? Everybody says the Velvet Underground and all that, I mean this Velvet Underground thing is a joke, I mean you used to get things like The Pretenders and The Buzzcocks and that, you know, they're good in their own way, but you know, they were nothing of the spirit of the Velvets or The Stooges or anything like that in mind, you know? That's what was good about the Velvets was they were literal you know, and nobody else was. We're literal, but we're never seen to be literal, which I think is great.
Originally did you want to become more literal than the predominating supergroups?
MES: No, I just caught you know, interesting things could be written about. A big inspiring thing was early Can stuff, when they had Damo Suzuki. He wasn't even singing lyrics in fact, he didn't even know what he was singing, the Japanese guy, he was just like, he was learning English, and he was just saying words, you know? And that's what inspired me. They used to have like, there's a Can track called 'The Empress and the Ukraine King,' and it's some mad story about... I don't know what it's about but it's really like, it's just so stimulating compared to like, you know, anything else that was. The music was good too, I mean I also, I must make this quite clear, I also hate that sort of songwriter-poet thing, I mean that's shit, you know, the way the music is some kind of piano or two piece guitar band, like now you're getting that routine, like well sort of even Costello type of stuff, where the music is contemporary, but it's not like... great.
Why do you hate that?
MES: Because the singer-songwriter thing, it's a self-important thing of being taken as a poet and stuff, i mean it stinks. And it's crap, you know, it's bad. It seems like bad poetry to me, written down it looks bad, it's not the mark of a genius, you know? But I mean you meet these people, like Ian out of the Bunnymen, I mean, you know, he used to say to me, "You're no poet, I'm the poet", you know, "You're a wordsman". And I went, "A wordsman?" you know, what are you talking about, you know? You see his lyrics written down, and you know, he's doing his thing, you know, and he's successful at it and it's good, you know, but his lyrics don't hold up when you see them on posters and that. I mean they're a joke, I mean I burst out laughing. I saw one in the train station and it had, "If all soldiers are going to war", or something, no, "If my heart is a war, it's soldiers are dead", you know what I mean what the fuck are you doing, is this like English literature class or what? You know, fucking art class at primary school, you know, "Write a poem today kids".
Would you say the motives behind The Fall have changed?
MES: Well, now they have. I mean like recently the pure motive of the band was to get money because we were hugely in debt. We just had this bad luck that dogged us, badly, with tax and shit, you know? I mean this is why bands break up after two years too, it's clever, you know, it's the right thing to do. That's why bands emigrate and stuff, it's the English way, you know? It stinks.
Do you think your sound has become more accessible?
MES: No, 'cause what happened to me was this dimension where you get to the point that you don't give a fuck anymore, you know? I mean all it is a matter of expressing yourself fully when you do business, you know? This is what I've found. I mean our single on Beggars Banquet wasn't particularly commercial, they didn't want us to do a commercial single, you know, they just said, you know, we'll push it, whatever you want.
Do you think it's important to be original in what you do?
MES: For myself it is, yeah, just out of pride, you know, not that many people really notice that you're being original. In fact I think you get a bit heckled for it, you know, you have to wait two years until some band makes a big career out of the sound that you had two or three years back, you know, know what I mean? I think that's true in The Fall's case you know, anything off 'Slates' is as well produced as anything these guitar bands are turning out, you know, it's got a lot more punch and it's a lot more interesting, but at that time it was just ahead of its time, you know? Um, it's important to me 'cause I get embarrassed if anything sounds like something else. I get very spiteful you know, I just hear the band, if they just write some music and it sounds a bit like something else, I'll go, "We're not going to do it", you know -- really. I mean in a way it's wrong, you know, but I mean I'm ultra-sensitive about it. I think that generally people don't know that they're doing it, sometimes, you know?
Like I don't think The Alarm genuinely think they have been influenced by The Clash. I was talking to the sound-mixer about this a while back, that a lot of these bands now, these so called 'underground bands', like the independent bands, they all sound like, very much like the old, what I used to call 'weirdo' bands, like Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull and that. And I said to the mixer, "You know what I think it is", and I think it is true, "Is that when bands start out, they've been listening to records from when they were like thirteen or fourteen, and that is like at the back of their brain, but when they form a band, they've got to be contemporary, so they like follow the mold, but after a year or two they sort of subconsciously go back to what they started out listening to". And I think that's what is happening now, you know, and I don't think they're conscious of it.
I mean I heard a single the other day by Gene Loves Jezebel, I could have sworn it was like a track off a Black Sabbath album. I mean there was nothing different from it, I mean it's pretty good actually, 'Shame'. But if you went back in a time machine ten years ago and played it to somebody, a Black Sabbath fan would really get into it. You know, so what's what? And I mean, a lot of bands now, you know, they sort of sound jazzy, rocky, you know like, and very English, this horrible sort of English music that turned up around '69-'70, what I used to call weirdo music. I mean Duran Duran sound a bit like that now, do you know what I'm saying? Like did you ever have old Jethro Tull LPs and that?
MES: Yeah, well they were good, I mean his lyrics were good. Some of his lyrics were great. Very indirect.
It could be the start of another revival, after neo-psychedelia...
MES: Yeah, but I mean I think it's still there, you know, they all laugh at those groups, I think that is dead dishonest, if they can't recognize the similarities, you know, in their own work. I mean I wonder what they're in it for, you know, why are they in it? To be like people that have gone before?
Why are you in it?
MES: To be like... The Stooges (laughs). No, it's ah, it's just the writing bit, I think it's good, original.
Why do you think it's important to stay away from trends in music?
MES: You can do things, but it's a temporal thing. I mean you can only do things once or twice without getting fed up. I've turned my back on the audience because, you know, I like to concentrate on my lyrics sometimes, and I've read lyrics off paper and it's because I can't remember the lyrics sometimes - that's all. I mean that's the thing, you know, that's what stinks about the 'rock' thing, you know? You're supposed to take the whole show around and it works very well, you know, it's like the old thing about Jimi Hendrix, you know licking his guitar and it's the old boring thing, it's even boring to talk about it, see you're yawning already. (laughs)
Sometimes we play, you know, and I can see people have some because they expect Mark Smith to get annoyed with the audience, or the Mark Smith who's going to be absolutely brilliant tonight, you can see it, you know what I mean? I mean to force anything like that would make me physically ill, 'cause like when sometimes, like when I've gone trough the motions once or twice on heavy tours, I've never felt well after it, and people have been raving about it and stuff, and I've never liked it.
Do you think it's important to play live?
MES: Yeah, it's important for us in two ways, one is we can actually earn money playing live, which we do, we can always get a few weeks wages out of it, you know. So I mean that instantly means that when you're recording and stuff, and you're dealing with record companies, you can say, "Fuck it", which was like the situation with Rough Trade, you know? Like they just wouldn't give us any fucking money 'cause it was all going into other groups, you know, but we were selling well. But I mean quite rightly they said, "Well, you get your royalties in three months", and I said, "Well our last company went bankrupt right, so we have had no royalties for the last two years, we have no money", you know? And I'm not going to go in there and say, "Look I'll do this and I'll do that if you give me the money up front", you know, which I could have done, it would just take a bit of mental application, but I didn't want to creep to people who I regard as my inferiors, you know?
So I mean what we did was just arrange five dates, you know, people want to see us, they enjoy it, you know, we enjoy it, we'll get new songs sorted out, we travel and shit, you know, it's a grind, you know, but it's worth it, you know? I like it you know, I mean, 'cause some of the live tapes are just great, you know, I mean the best, some of our best stuff has been worked out like that, just accidents. Like we played The Hacienda, and the live tape from it, some of the versions of the new songs were just definitive, it'll be hard to top them in the studio, although the other three dates were a bit shaky.
Do you feel The Fall experiment much within music?
MES: Um, I think you have to watch being self-consciously experimental, you know? I think I am. I don't think the group is really. What we needed after 'Perverted by Language' was actually to tighten it up, not to tighten it up playing wise, but just to tighten it up so it's a bleedin' sound instead of a complete like, as you said, it tended on the monotonous, you know? There's a difference between monotony, and like you can play the same note over and get a syndrome, and like it's really good. There are so many groups now that just play the same things over and over, and this is why I had to get rid of a lot of people in the group because they felt that was it, they've mastered their instrument and they think, "Oh well, I can play the same chord brilliantly for six minutes", which is, ah - you should get a bleedin' machine to do that. You know, the thing is to play it with an inflection.
In what ways are you being experimental now?
MES: With the lyrics I think, 'cause I'm surprised, some of the new stuff that I've been writing is really weird. I've got a great song about Scottish groups, and it's uh, I started out trying to write about how shitty all Scottish groups are and how Scottish groups always lecture everybody on how they are from Scotland, and how hard up they are, and I just tried to make out that this is just a part of the national character of everybody, and you shouldn't take it seriously, don't feel guilty about it, you know? I started writing it like that, but then it started going on about the price of Scotch Whisky, and then it sort of goes into this weird thing about how I can attain to the sky and stuff, and it was really weird and really good. I'm sorry, I don't want to talk about it anymore 'cause it's a really good song you know? And the riff is like, it's like something the Sex Pistols would do, it's really good. (laughs) The riff is like completely you know, just not what you'd think from something like that. I mean if it's going to be a satire it would be something like the Bluebells or something, tinkly things, but the music is just like, how the boys came up with the music is just like, I don't know, you know, it's was one of Brix's tunes actually. When you heard the music you would have thought, you know, "I'm in hell, I'm living in hell", do you know what I mean, a sort of like direct, very simple thing, but the lyrics are really, they get more and more complicated the more I do it.
You mention a lot of other bands. Is it important for you to know what is happening musically around you?
MES: It's a funny thing, I think a lot of it is, to just talk about The Fall and myself, I can't do it, you know what I mean? Like you say, what is there to The Fall, I just see a vacuum, you know, which isn't true. It's one of those cases where you wished you had said this, you know what I mean, just like the brain isn't connected to the mouth at all. I know what The Fall is and I don't think there is much you can do to explain it, which is why a lot that is written about us is absolute gibberish, 'cause there's nothing you can actually say about it really, without it being there, which is why I think we're valuable. I know it's funny, I think it's just that little kick that keeps us tight.
It's not that I'm really interested in music or anything, I don't really, you now, Brix is always reading music magazines, and I go, "Get it out of my face", you know, "I don't want to see it" you know? It irritates me, which may be the secret to it, you know?
Would you like to be commercially successful?
MES: Yeah, I think the boys deserve it you know, but what I'd like to do with it, I don't know. And I don't see how anybody could take us to their heart, like a nation or a generation, which I think commercial success is all about. "Cause we have actually sold a lot more records than a lot of people in the charts, 'cause we've sold records over quite a few years, which is a weird thing, you know? But people always say, "I bet you're feeling bad that you never made it", and I usually say, "Yeah I do", but then, you know later I think, "I can't complain, it's not as if we've been brutally treated". But I mean there's never enough money there, you know, of course, but I mean everybody's like that.
Would you say that you've compromised much during The Fall's career?
MES: Um, no, 'cause I'm the sort of person who people don't approach with compromises. Maybe it's a bad thing and a good thing, though I've found for the potential we've got, you know, nobody here would even think of coming up to me and saying, you know, "Could I suggest this?" I mean nobody ever says it to me, they just don't say it, it's a funny thing. Sometimes we'd wished somebody had said something like that, maybe things would have been a bit more interesting, but I don't think so.
When listening to 'Perverted by Language' one hears a lot of fragmented noises and odd sounds which are incorporated with the music in a unique way. However, The Fall aren't usually looked at as being great experimentalists, are they?
MES: Well you know, people who see those things know them and feel them, you know? But no, I've always tried to do that. Yeah, a lot of 'Perverted by Language', like I had a cassette of the demo tape that we did in the room of the track, you know, played on an acoustic, out at a different time and everything, I'd have it going in the studio, so it sounds like a background. It's almost like a weird echo.
What would be the purpose of something like that?
MES: I just think it's real interesting, you know, I hear it, you're witnessing the last version of the song and the first version, even though you don't know it, only I know it or something. I do a lot of the vocals live too, well on that I did, I do a lot of the vocals with the group so you get the overspill which I always try to keep on, which means from my mike you're going to get a feedback from the guitar that isn't necessarily going through the guitar or the drums. So that's why a lot of the vocals are muddled.
How much are the band a vehicle for your lyrics?
MES: Um, I think they're as good on their own, you know, without me. I think it's important for them to know that. They're only a vehicle for things like that actually, when I am experimenting at their cost sort of thing - I mean so people say. I think they like that in a way 'cause it gives them less responsibility and they never get attacked for anything they do seriously wrong. And also, a lot of the time when you have that sort of thing it's good 'cause sometimes just emotionally, they'll like go apeshit on a track, you know, and like completely express themselves better than they ever would have done.
You've only got to hear people who have been in The Fall when they make their own records, there's like something seriously missing there. And, "It's Mark Smith's Fall, it's his lyrics" - it's not, it's not that at all. It's the last thing I think is missing. What's missing is that actual sort of suppression that sort of gives rise to freedom in a funny sort of way. They just take the mechanics of it, and try to, you know...
Do you think it's important for your product to be heard?
MES: I think it's important for us to be heard. Like I don't think 'rock' on TV is important, I just think it's important that, you know, maybe a snatch of us is heard on television, that's good enough for me, you know? Surprisingly, it's very hard, you know, it's such a fucking corrupt business. It's not corrupt really, I mean it's just a lot of people have got instant careers to move forward, you know, so they're obviously a lot more desperate than me.
transcribed by William Ham, March, 2000
Subject: <fallnet> D. Thomas story of MES (from Ubu newsgroup)
> Plus, Mark E Smith mentioned Ubu's frontman in 'Deer Park'.. not in
> especially kind way.
I am told this follows on an incident decades ago when I was visiting Rough Trade Booking. Mark E evidently came into the room and stood there. I had no idea who he was, or rather what he looked like, so I continued on with my conversation. He took it as a snub. Years later we were at a festival. I thought, "Right, I'll repair this situation." So I kept a lookout for an opportunity to be nice. Of course not knowing what he looked like I ended up in conversation with someone backstage, again "ignoring" Mark E in a remarkably parallel set of events. All you humans look so much alike...
-- David Thomas :
Just sending my primitivist poster for the all-night-Fall party i'm throwing together at AION club in Athens, Greece on April 5.
From today's MM, a terrible review of A Past Gone mad. It makes The Fall sound like those wacky comedy merchants Half Man, ho-ho, Half Biscuit:
The Fall A Past Gone Mad (3.5 stars)
It seems somehow fitting that this collection, subtitled "The Best of The Fall 1990-2000", has been put together by comedian Stewart Lee, because The Fall have always embraced the ridiculous. Check out practically any example of Mark E. Smith's legendarily idiosyncratic lyric-writing style (best example here: "If I ever end up like U2/Slit my throat with a garden vegetable" - A Past Gone Mad) and you'll see there's something hugely amusing about the old curmudgeon. This compilation treads no new ground, but there's enough here to satisfy all but the most completist fans. Highlights include the hilarious 'Hey Student' - and attack on Pearl Jam-loving undergraduates - and 'I'm Going To Spain' - the original of which, by the fabulously named Steve Bent, was so bad that it appeared on an album celebrating the 30 worst records of all time (before Semisonic demanded a recount) - wherein Smith manages to make the utterly crass, sub Dolores O'Riordan lyrics ("I'm going to Spain/Cousin Normal had a real fine time last year" sound oddly affecting.
Review by Phil Mongredien
Short article on the Groundhogs by Julian Cope in today's Guardian:
"...The Fall have even recorded a version of Junkman from the Hog's legendary Split LP - apparently Mark Smith credited it to McPhee!"
Apparently, according to an article in today's Guardian- signs of mental stress are increasing in students. Here is a checklist of things to look out for-
Failing to complete coursework
Doing too much work
Tense or irritable
Sad or miserable
Smelling of alcohol or cannabis
Withdrawn or very quiet
Agitated or very loud
Apparently among Fall fans are also affected by increasing mental stress
These are the signs to look out for-
Listening to The Fall
Listening to The Fall very loudly
Listening to someone talk incoherently
Listening to someone smelling strongly of alcohol
Watching erratic, tense, irritable, agitated, miserable behaviour and enjoying this.
000314 various reviews, old Liz Kershaw i/view
000224 Past Gone Mad details
000213 few bits & pieces
000130 tour details, Tommy Blake stuff
000120 TBLY #18 details, Hanley in Mojo
000110 Dragnet doylum, New Year message, etc
Old stuff: Nov 1997 - Dec 1999
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