The Fall play:
Bristol Fleece & Firkin on 14 December. Tickets GBP 8, available through the NME Ticketline (0870 1212 500 - unspecified markup)
London Astoria on 16 December. Support: Goldblade and Gabrielle's Wish. Tickets GBP 10.50 available from box office 0171 434 9403/4, Stargreen 0171 734 8932 ( + unspecified large markup), Ticketmaster 0171 344 4444 (+ 4 quid markup), Rough Trade, Rhythm (Camden). NME ticketline (see above); Melody Maker ticketline (0870 1212 600)
Manchester Ritz on 29 December. Tickets GBP 10 plus Booking from Piccadilly 832 1111 Virgin, HMV or Ticketmaster.
So today I've got the new Voiceprint catalogue (these are they that issue the Cog-Sinister releases), and amongst a frightening number of full colour pictures of Tie Dye T-shirts I spy the following
COGVP112CD The Fall - Band On The Wall Manchester (Ed: According to Stefan's list this must be Aug 78 or 3,4,5 May 1982)
Moreover the cover of this catalog is illustrated by a number of overlapping sleeves, one of which is the now generic Live Various Years/ Nottingham '92 picture of MES with an obscured title that begins 'Za'. I presume Zagreb, etc. etc.
ARE YOU TALKING TO ME? (Dazed & Confused, Dec 1998, p56-60)
Text: Lisa Verrico Photos: Deirdre OCallaghan
Mark E Smith must be knackered. For 21 years. the maverick, mouthy singer has been flying in the face of fashion, following a musical path all of his own and fighting with anyone brave enough to take him on. Throw in the fact that, as frontman of The Fall, he has written and released over 30 albums and his stamina should impress even his harshest critics.
On the day that we meet, it takes six hours to pin Smith down for an interview. By then. he has refused to be photographed anywhere other than a pub, taken offence at somebody's suit and threatened to walk out of his hotel without paying. Along the way, he has also decided that he would like his band to be sponsored by a handkerchief brand. Why? Because there are germs everywhere, obviously.
Nursing a pint in the 24th floor bar of a hotel, looking out over London at night, Mark Edward Smith reckons that 1998 has been an excellent year. Certainly, since forming The Fall in his native Salford at the tail-end of the '70s, his music has rarely attracted as much acclaim. Less favourable, however, was the flak which followed the very public bust-up with band members in May. An on-stage fist fight not only landed Smith in a New York jail, but forced him to re-form The Fall for the umpteenth time. Today, he calls the split the best thing that has happened to him for years. He may be right. He looks healthier, happier and more alert than he has in ages. With critics and lifelong fans alike claiming that recent shows have been the band's best since The Fall's '80s heyday, the man who is said to have single-handedly spawned indie is understandably enthusiastic about the future.
Dazed & Confused: You are 38 years old, your band is an institution of British music, you have artists as diverse as Damian Hirst, Sonic Youth, Damon Albarn and Courtney Love citing you as an inspiration. What could you possibly want from The Fall now that you haven't already achieved?
Mark E Smith: I want one last shot. Without wishing to sound sentimental, the last couple of times I've played live, I have actually enjoyed myself. For a long time, The Fall felt like work. Suddenly, it's as though I'm getting what I wanted from the very start. I recorded four new songs last week and they just might be the best I've ever done. I listened back to them and heard this driving beat down the centre of each song. Ive waited 20 years to hear that sound. Now I feel like the possibilities for The Fall are endless.
D&C: Are you saying it has taken 20 years for The Fall to sound the way you always wanted?
MES: Not at all. You have to understand that I never really knew what I wanted The Fall to sound like. I still don't. I can't understand groups who know precisely what they want to be from the moment they form. Those people must have the most boring jobs in the world. Some bands actually come out and say that they want to be a cross between, say, the Rolling Stones. The Beatles and electric pop music. That astonishes me. I mean, what is the point?
D&C: You must have been influenced by someone to start The Fall in the first place.
MES: I only started the band because I wanted to write and I couldn't see myself holding down a proper writing job. At the time, I was 18, working as a clerk at the docks in Manchester. Funnily enough, I'm still very clerical about most things I do. I suppose I'm still in The Fall because it forces me to make something of myself, which is a very desk-job attitude to have. That's why I record so much. The more you want to make of your life, the more you do. I look at bands who spend five years on one album, then wonder what their brains must be like. If it wasn't for The Fall, I'd be at home right now. trying to motivate myself to write, but probably doing every other bloody thing possible under the sur It's that old writer's dilemma. Unless you're forced to work, you find yourself cleaning out the backyard as an excuse.
D&C: Surely you were influenced musically, which musicians did you admire when you were growing up?
MES: There were a few. The problem was I knew could never be like any of them. When I first got into music -which was around the ages of 13 or 14 - I very quickly worked my way through every scene from Northern soul to glam rock to disco. Later, I got into Lou Reed and Can. I admired Iggy Pop, but he was too American rock and roll to influence me. I liked his music, but at the same time it felt alien to me. There were no groups around that I thought represented people like me or my mates. No one was speaking to the clerks and the dockers. If I wanted to be anything, it was a voice for those people. I wanted The Fall to be the band for people who didn't have bands, for people who weren't supposed to have bands which related to their lives. I think we achieved that. I think we still do.
D&C: How did you decide what the first Fall records should sound like then?
MES: I didn't decide. To be honest, I didn't really care what they sounded like, as long as I got to say what I wanted Mind you, I never thought we'd take the music out of the house, never mind out of Manchester. The only real aim was to make the songs very fuckin' odd and particularly English. I wanted them to be a mish-mash of all sorts, particularly a lot of garage groups of the mid '60s. I used to go to all sorts of different clubs in Manchester, which was why The Fall had to appeal to someone who was into cheap soul as much as someone who liked avant-garde groups like Stockhausen. I even wanted the Gary Glitter fans. I always loved Gary Glitter. I used to really get the piss taken out of me for that when I was 18. Everyone else was into Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. I hated all those guitar heroes. I still do. I detest the very idea of them, particularly since the vast majority of them are self-important little twats. It was a horrific time for me when The Fall first started to do well. I suddenly realised that the rest of the band did actually want to be rock stars. That happens all the time. It's why The Fall's membership is so random. I have to keep dismantling the band to weep out the wannabee Keith Richards. It's not only horrific, it's heartbreaking.
D&C: Have you never felt an affiliation with any other bands?
MES: Absolutely not That's the beauty of The Fall. Wanting to be like anyone else - regardless of who they are - is a sackable offence in my book. I watched a TV programme recently on rock family trees in Manchester. It was all Happy Mondays, Stone Roses and the like. The Fall wasn't featured at all. I thought that was a major achievement. A lot of our fans were outraged that we weren't in there. That proves they have completely missed the point of this band. As I watched that show, I prayed that we wouldn't be mentioned. I think that statement sums up exactly what I wanted when I formed The Fall.
D&C: Wasn't it incredibly disappointing to discover that. 21 years down the line, Fall fans didn't understand that?
MES: Not at all. In fact, I thought that was great. It just means that they enjoy the music for what it is, rather than what it represents. Even a lot of the die-hard Fall fans still miss the Northern soul element or the avant-garde references in my music. It's lovely that I continue to find it very difficult to communicate with people, It gives me a challenge. Of course, it also means that I get a lot of grief. It's like when I decided on the latest line-up for The Fall. I put us on at a Catholic Social club to deliberately make it obscure to get in The fan club turned up, of course, shouting for me to bring back so and so, who was in the band 10 years ago. They were calling me pathetic, saying I was trying to take music back to the days of the working man's club. Trying to get them to accept what I'd done was so exciting. It's what most bands do when they start out, not 20 years into their career. Even friends who have worked for me for years can't understand why I would, for example, employ a country and western drummer. The reason is that I can mould them. I can make them a member of The Fall.
D&C: Do you care what other people's opinions of The Fall are?
MES: Of course I do. Every artist wants credibility. A couple of years ago, I read a poll on the 100 best artists of all time. The Fall was in there between Mozart and Puccini. I was very proud of that. Of course, the next day I can pick up a paper and be the guy with no teeth who beats everybody up, so I suppose I can't take these things too seriously. On the internet, Ive seen Fall fans write four pages or one song. That's a real compliment. It's lovely, just lovely, read that stuff, although usually I don't have a fuckin' clue what it's about. It is stimulating though. I've also been told that German schoolkids have debates about the lyrics from Fall songs. They treat them like ancient Greek poems or something. That's beautiful to me. Id never thought of myself as a Bob Dylan before.
D&C: With so many commercially successful musicians namedropping The Fall, the band has suddenly become hip all over again
MES: Are we hip? I have no idea. Our standing seems to go up and down all the time. It makes very little difference to me. The hipper we are, the less money we make. Plus, if you're hip, you get lots of resentment from other bands.
D&C: Don't you monitor The Fall's place in pop?
MES: You can't help it. can you? I mean, sometimes there's like three people in the world who like us, the next week we're massive. In Manchester, it feels very peculiar; everybody knows who The Fall are now, whereas they didn't ten years ago. I think it's because a lot of the people who are really into us have come into positions of power. That's at least part of it. We've also started to attract a lot of the pre-student crowd, very young kids, which was our audience when we first started out. That's great because it's not because their mums and dads who have introduced us to them, they have got into us by themselves.
D&C: Do you really care who buys your records?
MES: Difficult question. Fortunately, most Fall fans are cool. They are, it's true. At least, they are not unlikable people. The worst fans we could have are those blokes who are just into the Manchester scene. They come up to me in pubs and rave on about the band. Then you start talking to them and realise they're not really into The Fall's music they just recognise my face. We've never had a lot of them though. I always worried that all people would know about me was my face. Naturally, I want people to know me, but I want it to be for something I've done, rather than just because they have seen my face in a magazine,
D&C: Maybe you should try moving out of Manchester.
MES: I have never lived in Manchester. I live in Salford. It's a different town entirely. Besides, I have tried moving. I went to Edinburgh for two and a half years and Ive lived in America as well. What drives me back to Salford? I don't fuckin' know. Maybe I'm mad. It must be a love-hate thing, t guess I can't get my shit together to move house.
D&C: A lot of kids form bands as a way to escape their roots.
MES: That's right. But I left home at 15 so I never had that desire to get away from my family or prove my independence. I never fantasised about going to New York or Sydney, which a lot of kids around me did. Even when I did romanticise in my music, it was always about Manchester, because that's what I knew best. In the Victorian days, writers would romanticise about the Orient. They had never even been there. When they did go, they discovered t was crap. It's worse these days though. Kids start saving up to go to Australia when they're 11. They think they'll get there and it'll be like Neighbours and they'll have this great life. I say I've been. I like the place but it's not like TV. Some people think that by getting away they'll find themselves or walk into a fantastic new life. Generally, people who keep going places just want to get away from themselves and that's impossible. Where you're living is in your fuckin' head, innit?
D&C: DO you never want to get away from being Mark E Smith for a while? It must be a bit of a burden.
MES: It's a burden, but it's also an inspiration. I have to constantly reappraise myself and The Fall. When you're in the public eye, it's easy for people to get a fixed idea of what you're like or what the band is about. Let that happen and you become a caricature of yourself. That said, everyone turns into their parents in the end.
D&C: So what are your parents like?
MES: My dad's dead. My mum is marvellous. She lives in the next street to me in Salford. She's so cool, an outrageous dresser. When she does herself up to go out she looks amazing.
D&C: Tell me what happened when you fought with your band on stage in New York. Shouldn't bust-ups happen behind closed doors?
MES: They should, yeah. But it was the others who attacked me. I was just defending myself. They acted like kids, which I find terribly embarrassing, but I suppose is symptomatic of our generation. There's all that shit now about male responsibility being taken away. Most blokes think the only way to express themselves is by fighting.
D&C: So what happened?
MES: They were saying I couldn't sing and couldn't remember my lyrics. They were talking behind my back. They were also coming up with all these ideas about how the Fall should sound and trying out all this strange shit on stage. I'm the one who is unconventional, that's my racket. It was good for me though. Basically, they were middle-aged men with middle-aged minds. I'm not puking my guts out every day to make music with people I have nothing in common with.
D&C: They left you alone in a jail in New York.
MES: Yeah then they came home and said I was impossible to work with.
D&C: Are you?
MES: I'm a difficult bastard, obviously. But no, Im not impossible to work with.
D&C: Despite the critical acclaim, The Fall remains an underground band. Is that what you wanted?
MES: Are you mad? Of course not. To be honest, I find it just incredible that we can't turn our critical standing into financial success. Most bands would die for our status. The Fall has a notoriety that you can't set out to achieve, on the other hand, I never really believed we would amount to much, so guess we've done okay.
D&C: So what is the future for The Fall?
MES: This sounds so crap and no one believes me when I say this after 35 albums or whatever, but I still approach every album as the last one. That's what you have to do. You have to imagine that you will never get me chance to record again. I think I let that attitude slip slightly a couple of years ago, but I'm back on track now.
D&C: What put you back on track?
MES: Probably having my ears syringed. You're laughing, but it's true. I can hear everything now. It's great. I thought I was going deaf from being on stage. I was shouting at everyone. I was also very unhappy with the sound of the band. I knew something was wrong, but I couldn't hear what it was. The nurse freaked over my ears. She had to pump them out two or three times She said she'd never seen so much wax. Apparently, I had enough for three 70-year-old blokes. Getting it done changed my life. The other day, I was sat in my front room and I could hear these voices outside. Before, I would have thought it was people standing outside my front door, talking about me. Suddenly, I could hear what they were saying. It was only the neighbours having a chat. They didn't even mention my name.
Thought you might like to read the press release that accompanied my promo 12" copy of Why are People Grudgeful?
The Fall Biography in Short
Necessarily dangerous, The Fall's career had always evaded classification by hack and listener alike. "Always different, always the same, they are the reason that I listen to pop music" to quote the stumbling verdict of the soundest ears of British rock to pop music, and long-term Fall fan, John Peel.
The Fall continue to update themselves and strive for perfection, their consistency comes in the form of quality, a quality that has and will be maintained past, present and future. Their respect for and hatred of fundamental values of consumer Europe, coupled with the appetite for communication and hard graft, that has left most of their contemporaries struggling, has created a reputation that inspires fear, love and respect. Increasingly, their command of the pop medium and irritating powers had produced a clarity of address and musical dynamic that takes their work into areas of sensitivity undreamt of in the "Virgin A-Z of Pop Music."
In 1989 "I Am Kurious Oranj" was released, this was a soundtrack album from a musical composed by The Fall, called "I Am Curious Orange" a collaboration with Michael Clark Ballet Company, which was performed in Amsterdam, Edinburgh and showed for seventeen nights at Saddlers Wells. In 1991, The Fall contributed their track "Hip Priest" to the Jonathon Demme film "Silence of the Lambs" and it was used to enhance the atmosphere during the tense basement scene at the end of the film.
Mark E Smith has been the diarist of this era, screaming truth at us in the most honest and inornate fashion for all to hear. As a powerful lyricist he has taken his poetry and set it in motion. His work is continually analysed and discussed. A loyal fan has started an e-mail list for the sole purpose of conferring with others, globally. There are no new trends, or no new financial hit-listing cop-outs that The Fall cannot BUCK.
Their new single "Why are People Grudgeful" and "Glam Racket" and "Past Gone Mad" stand to shake the foundations of the "new club culture" and is released March 29. It will be followed by the album "Infotainment Scan" released April 19 on Permanent. The current line-up is as follows: Mark E Smith - Vocals Craig Scanlon - Guitar Steve Hanley - Bass Simon Wolstencroft - Drums Dave Bush - Keyboards.
Formed in Manchester, England, in 1977, the Fall was the brainchild of the mercurial Mark E. Smith (b. Mark Edward Smith, 5 March 1957, Salford, Manchester, England). Over the years, Smith ruthlessly went through a battalion of musicians while taking the group on a personal odyssey of his wayward musical and lyrical excursions. His truculent press proclamations, by turns hysterically funny or sinister, also illuminated their career. Just as importantly, BBC disc jockey John Peel became their most consistent and fervent advocate, with the group recording a record number of sessions for his Radio 1 programme.
The first Fall line-up, featuring Una Baines (electric piano), Martin Bramah (guitar), Karl Burns (drums) and Tony Friel (bass), made their debut on 'Bingo Master's Breakout', a good example of Smith's surreal vision, coloured by his relentlessly northern working-class vigil. Initially signed to the small independent label Step Forward the group recorded three singles, including the savage 'Fiery Jack', plus Live At The Witch Trials. In 1980 the unit signed to Rough Trade Records and went on to release the critically acclaimed but still wilful singles 'How I Wrote Elastic Man' and 'Totally Wired'.
Meanwhile, a whole series of line-up changes saw the arrival and subsequent departures of Marc Riley, Mike Leigh, Martin Bramah, Yvonne Pawlett and Craig Scanlon. The Fall's convoluted career continued to produce a series of discordant, yet frequently fascinating albums, from the early menace of Dragnet to the chaotic Hex Enduction Hour. At every turn Smith worked hard to stand aloof from any prevailing trend, his suspicious mind refusing to make concessions to the mainstream. An apparent change in the group's image and philosophy occurred during 1983 with the arrival of future wife Brix (Laura Elise Smith). As well as appearing with the Fall as singer and guitarist, Brix later recorded with her own group, the pop-orientatedAdult Net. She first appeared on the Fall's Perverted By Language, and her presence was felt more keenly when the group unexpectedly emerged as a potential chart act, successfully covering R. Dean Taylor 's 'There's A Ghost In My House' and later the Kinks' 'Victoria'.
Despite this, Mark E. Smith's deadpan voice and distinctive, accentuated vocals still dominated the band's sound, along with his backing band's ceaseless exploration of the basic rock riff. On later albums such as the almost flawless This Nation's Saving Grace and The Frenz Experiment, they lost none of their baffling wordplay or nagging, insistent rhythms, but the work seemed more focused and accessible. The line-up changes had slowed, although more changes were afoot with the arrival of drummer Simon Wolstenscroft and Marcia Schofield.
Proof of Smith's growing stature among the popular art cognescenti was the staging of his papal play Hey! Luciani and the involvement of dancer Michael Clark in the production of I Am Kurious Oranj. Any suggestions that the Fall might be slowly heading for a degree of commercial acceptance underestimated Smith's restless spirit. By the turn of the decade Brix had left the singer and the group (he maintains he 'kicked her out'), and Schofield followed soon afterwards. A succession of labels did little to impair the band's 90s output, with the Fall's leader unable to do wrong in the eyes of the band's hugely commited following, which now had outposts throughout America.
Brix returned in time to guest on 1995's Cerebral Caustic, although Smith had persevered in her absence, recording four consistently strong albums. Unpredictable and unique, the Fall under Smith's guidance remain one of the UK's most uncompromising groups. In The City is a live set recorded in 1996, and was followed by Smith's thirtieth album, Levitate, which experimented with jungle and hip hop. Oxymoron and The Less You Look The More You Find were further compilations of unreleased or alternative material.
Encyclopedia of Popular Music Copyright Muze UK Ltd. 1989 - 1998
"I said I ain't no millionaire
but I spent more money than one ever seen"
"Now I did not say I was a millionaire
But I have spent more money than a millionaire"
Howlin' Wolf, Goin' Down Slow
Post Nearly Man is reviewed in the new Wire. The most sensible review of it so far. The writer complains at the end that MES still hasn't returned to him a George Steiner book he borrowed ten years ago. Funnily enough ten years ago I remember reading an NME article which ended with MES asking if he could borrow the interviewer's George Steiner book.
This reminds me that there was sizeable FallCon on BBC Ceefax yesterday:
Page 462: Pop QUIZ, Question 1
Who released I Am Kurious Oranj?
Also feel free to investigate the following:
194 GREENVALE. LONG ISLAND UNIVERSITY, C.W. POST CAMPUS. HILLWOOD ART GALLERY. Perverted by Language. Feb.-March 1987. Curated by Robert Nikas. 64pp. Prof. illus. Lrg. 4to. Wraps.
Greenvale, 1987. $17.5
And the equally aaahrtistic:
John Howard/Michael Flack:
>Subject: RE: <fallnet> Keep Up with the Jihad, Online!
Indepth investigation. Answering the charge that the Taliban are agents of a foreign power (presumably not Afghan), the site reports:
"When our editor took a close look at the Taliban leadership he found that out of the 20 members of the Supreme Council 14 had lost parts of their body during the Jihaad against Russia. In fact some had lost two limbs."
981130 Nottingham 92 sleevenotes
981123 NME and MM news items
981116 nothing special
981109 Peel session reactions
981102 Melody Maker singles review, Action Records details
981026 St Bernadette's Hall reviews, Astoria ticket details, Nottingham 92 album
981009 NME interview, TBLY #13
981005 F-olding Money lyrics, couple of PNM reviews, Simon Rodgers' career
980927 Live Various Years details/review, 1994 interview
980920 more snippets
980914 bits & pieces
980907 NME interview, Post Nearly Man reviews, Mojo's How to Buy The Fall, Something Beginning With O
980831 Inertia tour details
980825 various snippets
980817 Observer interview, Manchester and LA2 gig reports
980811 Melody Maker interview, Live Various Years details, previews. Rick.
980802 Spoken word LP press release, Northern Attitude key & sleevenotes, Edwyn Collins, TBLY #12 details
Old stuff: Nov 1997 - July 1998
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