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Interview with Ben Pritchard 12 June 2006

Ben Pritchard was interviewed by Anthony Meirion in Manchester a month after leaving the group, along with Steve Trafford and Spencer Birtwistle, a week into the 2006 US tour.

AM: So is Mark just going through this drunken thing again?

BP: I think he’s going through this phase at the moment where his tolerance for alcohol has just dropped and he’s getting up in the morning and whereas he would just get fucking drunk three times a day, it’s now happening five or six times a day. He’s getting drunk really quickly he’s trying to keep up with himself and then he’s falling asleep and then he wakes up. He was falling asleep in the dressing room five minutes before we were due onstage, y’know and then trying to wake him up… I mean when you’re drunk and in a deep sleep you’re not gonna get up for anyone, y’know he’s threatened to stab people before for waking him up, y’know.

AM: Really?

BP: Oh aye, yeah.

AM: So, what are you gonna do now?

BP: Well I don’t know. It’s quite a big change, do y’know what I mean…

AM: Yeah cos you’ve been in it since about 2000…?

BP: Yeah, it’s almost seven years, six or seven years…

AM: Cos you first did stuff for The Unutterable didn’t you?

BP: That’s right yeah. That was when Nev Wilding was in London and we only had about two days left to finish the album and Mark called this guy called Steve Evets and then called me and I’d only been playing the guitar for about two years. It was the day after I’d bought my Stratocaster that was. So that was like the first time I put it on and played it properly and plugged it in was in front of him in the studio, listening to the backing track of Dr Buck’s Letter. He says, “Go on, cock. Just fookin play something, I’m going to the pub.” And that was it…

AM: And he liked it?

BP: He liked it, yeah.

AM: Good riff that.

BP: Yeah, it’s a good tune. It was called Adam Goes To Canada originally cos it was Adam’s song, Adam Halal or whatever his name is, it was his song. He put it together on ProTools and I came in and did that riff over it.

AM: Nev Wilding… he was a bit of a strange guy wasn’t he?

BP: Yeah, I never really used to get on with him when I first joined… cos I didn’t join The Fall at first, I was kinda brought in. In fact the first time I played with him was the Royal Festival Hall for this John Peel thing with Dick Dale and Jerry Edwards and the Scapegoats were playing with us. This was after we had done The Unutterable and the band at the time was Julia, Adam, Mark and Nev. Nev didn’t like me cos I went to a couple of rehearsals before the gig. I’m not surprised he didn’t like me cos he didn’t know who I was and it was just, “Ey’are, fookin let ‘im play the guitar for a bit”, you know that’s Marks mentality. So we didn’t get off on the best start but I saw him a couple of years ago when we played the Festival Hall again and that was… we’ve spoken since, he’s alright, Nev.

AM: What’s he doing now? I don’t think he’s got a band or anything has he?

BP: I’ve no idea.

AM: His brother lives down my street and he’s the total opposite to Nev; he’s six foot six tall and a kick boxing champion…

BP: Yeah, I’ve heard stories about this brother. I believe Ed Blaney tried to start on him. EB’s smaller than Nev. EB’s a tiny little guy. It’s not bravery it’s stupidity, d’you know what I mean? I’ve not actually met Nev’s brother, but Jim Watts used to tell me about him.

AM: He was in Batman Begins as one of the heavies. He’s done a bit of film work but he still lives at the end of my street. So you were brought in to do session work or extra guitar parts and then what? Was Nev sacked?

BP: He sacked the whole group. We were playing in Dublin at The Red Box and we were doing rehearsals at Mount Street in town and the first day I turned up I was sat there for about two hours and no one arrived but I knew there was a rehearsal planned for the next day. Nev lived in London, I think Adam lived in London so trying to get everyone down together at the same time was proving a bit difficult and Nev was a bit of a wild card as well, y’know. I think he got quite demanding. We were doing these rehearsals and on the second day I turned up again to do these rehearsals and the band were there this time and Mark wasn’t there and so we turned up and there was a stage set up in this rehearsal room and everyone started playing and I was playing along and we went for a pint. Then about three or four hours later Mark turned up, he turned up with Ed Blaney, and he was in a really bad mood. He kinda walked into the room, screamed and threw something... at the group that were onstage, I was kinda sat there at the back cos they were rehearsing a song that I didn’t know or I wasn’t gonna play in Dublin cos Mark had asked me to come and play in Dublin. Just to do three songs and that was it. He walked in and he was fuming. He screamed at his group, walked over to me, patted me on the back, y’know, “Hi! Y’alright, cock? Y’alright, cock? Go on, you can go now, cock, I’ll see you tomorrow morning”.

And I was shitting myself anyway cos it was the first time that I was gonna play an actual show, because when we played at the Royal Festival Hall, what I forgot to tell you was, Grant Showbiz, who was doing the sound engineering for the evening, didn’t know who I was and turned my amplifier off before I walked onstage. I mean, I didn’t really know the songs anyway but when I walked onstage I didn’t have any sound coming out of my guitar. So I was just stood there pretending. For three songs. But I obviously knew that going to this Dublin gig, people were going to have to listen to me and so I was pretty scared anyway. And then I got a phone call that night, we were supposed to be meeting at the airport at 7 o’clock the next morning. I got a phone call at midnight from Ed Blaney saying that the whole group’s been sacked. No, Adam and Nev had been fired. So it was just Julia and Spencer left in the group. And I was like, “Right…”. I didn’t know any of the songs. I didn’t know what the songs were… Ed’s like, “Well you’re just going to have to play the whole gig. I’ll see you in the morning. Click.” (laughs) Woah! You’ve gotta be joking!

Anyway, I turned up at the airport and I met Jim Watts cos JW was brought in. JW knew a lot of The Fall songs. He knew Ed Blaney and he’s very good with his music, Jim and he was like “Look, don’t worry about it. I know all the songs. I’ll teach you them when we get to Dublin.” I was like, “Fantastic!” We get on the plane, we get to Dublin and my guitar, Jim’s guitar, all our clothes and all our pedals and everything were left in Manchester. And we had to use hired equipment which didn’t turn up until an hour before the gig. So we’re playing The Red Box and there are seven or eight hundred people there, a packed out show and I had to walk onstage, I didn’t know any of the songs... I knew three of the songs… we tried to have a quick rehearsal in the dressing room before the gig but I was terrified…

AM: But it went off alright?

BP: No! It was a horrible gig! A terrible, terrible show!

AM: What did Mark think about it?

BP: To be honest, I don’t remember. I just remember being relieved when it was finished. We walked off stage and I thought, “Thank God it’s over!” Then it was like, “You’ve gotta do an encore.” “Well what we doing?” “Cyber Insekt” “What?! I’ve never heard of it?” I was trying to play by seeing where Jim’s hand was on his bass.

AM: So, it was a proper baptism by fire then.

BP: Yeah. The first review when we got back, on the Fall website, was, “Utter Shite!” And that was it. That was the review.

AM: When you were recording with the Fall, what was the process?

BP: It was very simple. We would individually write a couple of songs and before we went into a studio, we’d have them recorded cos ultimately, when we have a studio booked, it’s not booked for six weeks or five weeks. It’s booked for a week. The song’s already prepared. We go in, we bang out all the songs in three days, then we leave and give Mark his three or four days in the studio. Then he sings, then maybe in a couple of week’s time there’ll be another week, but that’s to do all the mixing and producing and stuff.

AM: So MES would go in on his own to record his voice?

BP: Yeah. He prefers it that way.

AM: I suppose a lot of the lyrics aren’t finalised till the very end..?

BP: Well, a lot of his lyrics… I’m giving away some of his trade secrets here, I suppose I shouldn’t but… on examples like Sparta FC and the re-cut that we did of Janet & Johnny for Country On The Click, the lyrics were all recorded into a computer but he never stands there, listens to the song and sings along to the song. He’ll just pick moments and draw out a line. “We’re Sparta FC!!... C’mon I will show you…!” d’you know what I mean? He’s not in time, so what you ultimately end up doing is just getting his lyrics and he’ll do like sometimes twelve, thirteen, fourteen takes and each line’s like it’s got a word there and a sentence there and there’s a sentence for that part of the song and it’s not all the way through, so it’s copying and pasting and trying to make sense and putting things together, y’know. That doesn’t happen all of the time, songs like Protein Protection and Xyralothep and the stuff on Fall Heads Roll, in fact most of the stuff on FHR he went in and he did it first time, because a lot of those songs we’d been playing anyway.

AM: Yeah, cos you’d done the Peel Session ages beforehand. FHR’s got more of a live sound anyway…

BP: That album was recorded live. Y’know, there was very, very few over-dubs. The band went in and recorded, Mark went in. We did that in New York, that was three weeks work, that was a good session. But as far as the writing’s concerned, sometimes we’d go in the studio and Protein Protection’s a good example. That was on the day, just started out as a bit of a jam. We needed a new song and that’s what came out of it. Trust In Me off FHR was done the same, but most of the songs are done individually. I mean, we hand ‘em in, Mark has a listen to them, either he says, “Yeah, I’ll have it,” or “No, go back and give me another one”.

AM: What sort of percentage does he throw out and keep?

BP: Most of it he keeps and some of it he uses for… I mean, really for the last two albums, FHR and COTC, he did use most of the stuff we gave him. There wasn’t an abundance of tracks that we left to fall by the wayside, I think pretty much all the songs we provided for him are on the albums and the singles that were released with it, Sparta and Protein Christmas and all them.

AM: The Fall have been at a peak haven’t they for the last three or four years. The best they’ve been for a long time.

BP: Yeah they have…

AM: And I think it’s a great shame that you three have gone.

BP: I know, I know. We didn’t… it wasn’t a decision that we came to lightly. Y’know, we were in the States, we’d been there for a week… every time we go over there something goes wrong. Every time…

AM: That happens with a lot of bands I think.

BP: The only time that we went over and we finished the tour was when Dave and Dingo were in the group and we were touring COTC and that was; we started it, we finished it, we did all the shows. But that didn’t come without it’s moments… where everyone was like, “My God!”… and like, the last big tour we did fell apart half way through, Mark had broken his leg three weeks before we went and that was just… we were too far gone to just cancel that tour, that’s why we had to at least try and do it, but it was always gonna be difficult. But this one, coming into this one we were a bit like…(grimaces) we weren’t reluctant to do it, but we were a bit wary.

AM: So you went into it with some trepidationt?

BP: Yeah. We wanted to do it and we were prepared to do it and we were looking forward to it but we knew that it was gonna be… it was five weeks and that’s longer than we’ve ever done on tour with this line up. There was already rifts and things happening when we did the last UK tour.

AM: Was there? Cos that was brilliant, the shows that we saw in Manchester and that…

BP: It was, but there were a lot of bad moments like on days off. I remember Mark stole Steve Trafford’s suitcase one night, because he had this monitor on the stage with him. And it was one of them nights that Mark had decided that we weren’t gonna have any monitors, but it was one of them big stages and I couldn’t hear Steve and Steve couldn’t hear me, it was gonna be a fucking horrible, horrible gig, but we got back to the hotel and Mark had been told by I don’t know who that Steven had got a monitor on the stage and he just went absolutely berserk.

AM: I’ve seen him throw stuff around the dressing room. Back when Julia was in the band…

BP: He gets really, really angry and it’s frightening to be around cos he’ll just lash out at you. He’ll apologise for it later on, but at that moment, when he’s fucking angry, he’ll do anything. Absolutely anything. It doesn’t matter who you are.

AM: It’s difficult to tell from the audience, how good or badly behaved he’s being. I mean, apart from the usual knob twiddling, I’ve see him give you the occasional punch in the back. Why does he do that?

BP: It’ll be something like there’s a cigarette butt on the floor or there’s an empty beer bottle behind the curtain. Anything, d’you know what I mean? He winds himself up and that’s dangerous. And that’s kind of what was going on in America. There was a lot of games being played. The Fall has always been a very self-contained unit and every time we’ve gone on tour we’ve never had an entourage, we’ve never had a big, massive bus. It’s ran professionally on a very amateur level. We don’t have roadies, we carry all our own stuff around and it’s…

AM: Do you think it’s too much of being around each other all the time?

BP: No, no. Cos we all get on really well. Me Steve and Spen, we just wanted to get on with our jobs. We went over there to earn our wages to get on with our jobs and to make it a successful tour. We never thought for a second when we went out there that we were gonna end up fucking leaving after a week. And we didn’t wanna leave, there was part of us that…we knew what we were doing and potentially the situation we were causing for ourselves, y’know, coming back to no jobs, but we didn’t have a choice. We had to.

AM: It became unbearable?

BP: Yeah. We did Austin, we did Dallas, we did Tucson and then we went to Phoenix… and then when we got to Phoenix, the guy that was driving our bus, the tour manager, he’d just had enough. This guy said from day one, and this guy was the only person who was prepared to do this tour out of all of the tour managers that the record company had asked, this guy was the only guy who was prepared to do it. And he was a brilliant tour manager, it wasn’t like he was someone from the bottom of the barrel. This guy’s attitude was he knew how difficult it is working with The Fall, y’know, he’s heard all these horror stories, but he was gonna do it, cos he wanted to get to New York at the end of the tour and have his picture taken with a sign saying, “I Survived The Fall Tour 2006”, that was his attitude, d’you know what I mean? He was a real kind of… he’d put up with anything. And a week later he was like, “I can’t do it. I’ve gotta go.” So we got to Phoenix and the tour manager was leaving and he was taking the vehicle with him. He was taking the vehicle that we were all getting from A to B in.

I knew that this guy was going to do it and there was tempers flaring anyway, because… what started it all, the tour didn’t get off to the greatest start because we’d just had some new backdrops made, y’know the backdrops that we have behind us, Fall Heads Roll and all this. We had three made, Mark paid for them and they’re about three or four thousand pounds worth of backdrops done by this artist. And Mark flew on a different plane over from Chicago than us. We flew British Airways, he flew the ones that go to Atlanta, I can’t remember who they are. And he gave us Eleni’s keyboard and the backdrops. The backdrops never made it to Austin. They made it to Chicago… and he was like, “You fuckin make sure, you take care of them fuckin’ backdrops, they’re fuckin’ money, them! I won’t be fuckin’ happy if they’re not there!”

So the worst thing that could have happened, I mean if I hadn’t have turned up or if Spencer hadn’t have turned up that would have been fine, as long as the backdrops were there… those backdrops were absolutely everything to him and they didn’t turn up. And when he eventually arrived in Austin, Texas it was like, “Well somebody’s gonna have to tell him. Who’s gonna tell him?” So I told him and he was like, “Right. Ok. Alright.” And I thought at the time, I thought, he’s took that a bit too well. That’s not gonna be the end of this…

Then it started coming out, it was all our fault the backdrops had got lost and it was just kind of… every day peoples heads were just getting lower and lower. It was just like, sat in the dressing room before a gig like that (puts head in hands). Fookin hell… just keep yer heads down and don’t look at him. And then we’d go and play a gig and we’d play a fucking blinding gig but back into the dressing room you’re like that again (resumes head in hands position). I was listening to an interview that Mark did on Dragnet Radio, it’s on the Fall website, and he said that people were leaving during the shows but, you know, that’s bollocks. People weren’t leaving. And if people were leaving, it certainly wasn’t because of us. I mean we fucking work really hard for the guy, we always have done. We just get our heads down and get on with it, but you just end up getting dragged into these fucking horrible games. You don’t want to be a part of it, you just want to get on with it, but when you’re all in the back of a tiny little Winnebago, it’s just… (shakes head).

AM: Didn’t he pour a pint over the tour manager’s head while he was driving?

BP: Yeah. Well we were driving down from Tucson to Phoenix, driving through the desert at 70 miles an hour, we’re in a Winnebago, or that kind of thing, nobody’s got a seatbelt on in the back, it’s like a tiny little flat, you’ve got a bathroom, a little bedroom, a kitchen. People were walking around d’you know what I mean? And Mark was pissed, he was foaming, he was drooling… and he just came wandering over, walking to the front of the bus and I was sat next to the driver with a map, giving this guy directions. You know, for some reason, Mark had made this guy the enemy. Before this guy has a chance to do his job, Mark was like, “You’re fuckin’ shit! I’m getting rid of him!” But he doesn’t just sack him, he winds him up and he winds him up and he winds him up. He’ll make him a target until the guy walks. And if he’s not walked by a certain time, y’know, normally changes his mind. But unfortunately what happened is we were on this two hour journey and Mark had a bottle of beer and I think he just poured a bit on this guy’s head. This guy had two massive braids, you know what I mean, French plaits going down the side of his head so Mark just wasn’t having any of it (laughter)… so, y’know, he just… I don’t think he did it maliciously or in a nasty way, I think he might just have been being playful, but… it was the straw that broke the camel’s back for that tour manager, he was like, “fuck this!”. In theory, if this fuckin guy hadn’t have been as on the ball as he was… some people having a beer over their head could’ve gone off the road, just panicked, y’know and with people walking around in the back, he could have killed everybody. And that was like, “for fuck’s sake, it’s getting out of hand this.” And y’know, he was throwing chewed up pieces of banana at me because I was helping this guy with directions. And he walked up to the back of me with a lit cigarette in his hand and I could smell something burning and I’m sure he was at it with a cigarette at the back of my head, just cos I was helping this guy with directions.

AM: Nobody would put up with that…

BP: No. And we got to Phoenix and it was like, “Look, what do we do?” We were looking for signs that it was gonna get better, it was gonna be alright, we were desperately trying to get this tour Manager to stay, but he just wasn’t having it. He was leaving and that would have meant that we were stuck in Phoenix with no tour manager and no money. And ultimately someone was gonna have to go and tell Mark that this guy had left and, of course, it would have been our fault, just like the backdrops not turning up. The tour manager quitting would have been our fault and he knows himself that it’s not our fault, but he winds himself up and he starts believing himself. He tells himself so many times that he starts fucking violently acting on this thing that he’s made up.

But at the end of the day he was our boss and we understand what he’s like. We understand that you are putting up with things that no other band in the fucking world at the moment has to put up with. I can’t remember if it was Spencer or Steve, but somebody said that we were the worst treated band in the whole world and I sat there and thought of all the bands in the world that are performing at the moment, no one can be. Especially with all the money and attention that’s pumped into these new bands, a band like The Fall… we were the worse treated band. He kept trying to take our wages off us after we’d been paid, y’know it’s just…

AM: What reason would he have for doing that?

BP: Whatever. His hotel bed’s too uncomfortable, “Get the wages back off ‘em!”, y’know, that’s what you’re dealing with.

AM: Presumably there’s a reason why you put up with this and I’m guessing it’s to do with how important The Fall are?

BP: Yeah of course. I feel very privileged to have been part of that group and most people don’t last two or three years, and the reason that I understand or I learned as I went along is the fact that The Fall are an important group and the more I learned about them the more I realised how lucky I was to be a part of them and that’s why I was like, when I got to the third year… once you get past the two years… for the first year you’re golden bollocks. For the second year you’re a piece of shit. By the third year you’re accepted. You’re in. And then he kind of eases up on you. And I took it upon myself, y’know, during year three, four, while we were doing Country On The Click, we didn’t really have a manager, we didn’t really have anyone organising stuff for us, so me and Mark used to do it. I put a lot of… The Fall has been my only job for a good four years now, so when we walked away from that tour it wasn’t just something we did just like that, we sat and thought about it and it was the only thing we could have done. That tour, in hindsight, was a good one and it wouldn’t have been if we’d have stayed. If that kind of atmosphere had been there for the whole tour then the tour would have been a fucking shambles. If it wasn’t Tucson or it wasn’t Phoenix where we played the last gig it might have been a week later and a week later… and we just sat down and it was like, “How much more can we put up with?”

AM: Is it true he pulled a corkscrew on Steve?

BP: We were using the Winnebago as a dressing room when we played in Tucson at The Congress Hotel and we’d been sat waiting for him and we were getting all edgy because it had just been every single night had been like, “Oh! God…” every single night. So we were shitting ourselves like we always are cos you wonder what kinda mood is he gonna turn up in. Who’s he gonna go for tonight? Whose turn is it? For the first two nights I was golden bollocks. It was Steve and Spen. “You’re shit, you’re shit, him and me are the professionals.” And I felt like I had to go and apologise to the lads and say, “Look, y’know, please don’t think that because he’s saying that that I believe that, that I’m not feeling bad about this.” Cos everyone’s confidence, everyone’s morale was at zero…

And at this gig in Tucson, he walked into the dressing room just in a really fucking stinking black mood. He took a bottle of wine out the dressing room, “What the fuck you looking at? What are you fucking looking at?!”. Picks up the corkscrew and he’s about to put it in and he looks at Spencer, this is what I’m talking about, when he’ll just do anything and he’d apologise for it later on, I think he did do, but at the time it’s like, “Fuckin hell! What you doin?”. And he had this corkscrew and he looked at Spencer, “What you fuckin lookin at? Eh? Eh?”. And he just lifted his hand up and he’s got a corkscrew in his hand. And Spence had to grab him… There’s something wrong… He wouldn’t do that to him. Mark can’t seriously want to hit Spence on the side of the head with a corkscrew… it’s his fucking drummer for a start, it’s his pal. But at the moment he doesn’t care. That’s not what he’s thinking about… he’s just overwhelmed with anger…but yeah, he just lunged for him and we all kinda got out of the van and we left him in there to stew. I think somebody had told him that we’d all had a meeting about him and about his behaiviour, y’know, you couldn’t go for a piss without somebody telling Mark and everything we did angered him. And we just wanted to get on with our jobs and we weren’t being allowed to do that.

AM: You’ve known Mark for longer than you have been in The Fall?

BP: Yeah, I have… it was the St Bernadette’s Social Centre on Bury New Road in Whitefield. That used to be my youth club when I was about fourteen, fifteen, it kind of got me off the street corners into this youth club and it’s just a social centre and it used to open every night. It was completely run by volunteers and people of the parish and it was run by a committee and it was only a small little place. And it was open every night as a pub for people to come in and was open from nine. And I used to be in the youth club from like six till half eight, then most of the people who were my age used to leave, but my dad used to work behind the bar so I used to be allowed to hang around for a bit, y’know, get a lift home with me dad. And he just used to come in and it was in there that I met Steve Murphy who introduced me to Mark… and I used to see him four or five, six times a year when he used to come in. I think the first time he came in he wasn’t having a very good period, he was having trouble with his group…

AM: This would have been around the time of Middle Class Revolt?

BP: He just didn’t look very healthy, you know? He just used to walk in and people were like, “Fucking hell! Here’s that guy again.” And Steve would say, “He’s a singer, he’s in The Fall!” and it would be like, “Who? Who!?”. I used to spend a lot of time in that place anyway cos I knew a lot of the regulars and what I used to start doing was I used to start coming in with my guitar, cause when I left high school I thought, I wouldn’t mind teaching myself to play guitar, so I bought myself an acoustic and I used to go and sit in the function room of this social centre, nobody was in there, it was an empty function room and everybody that came in for a drink went in the lounge and that’s where Mark would sit with everybody else, play a bit of pool. I used to go and sit in the corner with my Oasis books and my Beatles chord books with all the tabs, just to teach myself to play. And Steve would come in and if Mark was with him Steve and Mark used come in and I used to sit and chat with them with my guitar and [Mark] was like, “Aye that’s good that, cock. I like that, cock.” I think he did actually offer me a job playing the guitar for him when I was about seventeen, but I don’t think he meant it, “You can come and play for me if you want, cock.” And I was like, “No way. I’m not ready.”

AM: And you weren’t really a big Fall fan were you?

BP: No, not really. When you’re fifteen, sixteen years old, very few people are. When I was fifteen, sixteen The Fall were… you didn’t really hear about them. They weren’t on the radio, they weren’t on TV. They weren’t in the NME, really. If you didn’t already know they were around, y’know a fifteen year old wouldn’t pick a Fall record up. I think as a fifteen year old you’d have to be pretty open minded to accept that kind of music, when you’re fifteen and everything’s pop… in my day it was Oasis and Blur. To then listen to Mark… it’s a step in another direction. But the more you get to know him, the more you understand. And I think the more you learn about the history of The Fall, you accept his voice and you accept it more you know. And I can imagine that Fall gigs are brilliant entertainment value for a member of the audience, but being on that side of it is… frightening. You learn a lot about yourself, you really do, about dealing under pressure, dealing with things that no one else deals with in a profession like that. From being this weird guy that used to come in the pub to him being your boss… it was like, “Hang on a minute. Can I trust this guy?”

AM: That was the set up - he was your boss and you were his band?

BP: His group. He won’t actually call it his band. We’re his group.

AM: It reminds me of Captain Beefheart, the way he used to treat The Magic Band… except he would dictate the way the whole thing was played as well, whch I suppose Mark doesn’t do…

BP: Sometimes he does. Mark’s way was, if we were in the studio recording he’ll be in the room and he’d go, ”Erm… No, y’gotta…er, you gotta play it like (makes scary MES-face) EEERRRRRRGGH!” and he stands like that (scary-face, guitar stance), “EEEEEAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGH!!” And we’re like, “What??”, and if you’re not doing what he wants, he tells you to raise your guitar strap, “Fookin’…errm… Up, up, up, up!”. It’s like, “C’mon, mate. It doesn’t make any difference.” “Up! Do It!”. “For fuck’s sake…”, but you’ve gotta do it cos he’s the boss and he just wants you to obey blindly. What ever he tells you to do, don’t ask why, just do it. We’re doing a sound check. When we’ve set the drum kit up. The mat’s down, all the mics are there, y’know what I mean… “Erm, I want the drum kit moving six foot to the left.” “It’s dead centre, Mark”. “I want it… yeah, six foot, six foot. Erm now, two foot forward.” Just for the sake of it. It doesn’t improve the sound. There’s no point to it. It’s just cos he can tell us to do it.

AM: It’s like the, er… “On-stage mixing” I think Eleni described it as…


BP: Yeah, “On-stage mixing”, that was a good one! “On-stage mixing”! Bloody hell! I remember when we did that TV programme. It was put together, that BBC documentary by three women. They sent women, which was good cos Mark’s very respectful to women. I think if they’d have sent three guys that looked like students he would have just… y’know what I mean. They sent three professional women to put this thing together. And I was supposed to have an interview on my own, talking about the current Fall and Eleni was supposed to have her interview, but they put us next to each other. Mark said, “Right, when you go and do the interview, I want them to interview you at the same time.” So when we turned up and I was like, “Mark’s told us to tell you that me and Eleni have to be interviewed together, [they said], “We don’t want to do that, because we want you to be honest and we want you to answer the questions honestly and, obviously if you’re sat next to his wife…” and I was like (through gritted teeth), “Look, I know! I know!” (laughter). “I’m gonna make myself look a right prat.” And that’s the way they did it and they shot it very cleverly cos Eleni was sat next to me but they moved the camera around so I looked like I was on my own, but I was sat there and they were saying to me, “What’s it like when he comes and messes with your amps?” and I just wanted to say, “Well, I fucking hate it. He doesn’t know what he’s doing, he just comes along and turns them all up and then turns them all down…” but of course Eleni was like, “He knows what he’s doing. He knows the kind of sound he wants…”

AM: I used to love your skyward glances. (Ben glances skyward. Bless ‘im)

BP: You don’t know what to do. The first time it happens it’s like, “Hang on a minute… he can’t do that. He’s turned me off!”. Or he comes over and he stamps on your pedals dead hard and it’s like… (looks around confusedly), “What..?” and you don’t know what to do. Has he turned it off cos I’m crap? Does he not want me to play? And sometimes he’d come back on and turn my amp back on or he’d tell me to turn it back on. He’d just say, “Look, I’m sorry, cock. I’m fucking up. Just turn it back on.” But you learn… that he is only doing it… for entertainment value. He’s not doing it to add anything to the song, he doesn’t seriously think that I’m playing badly or Steve’s playing badly. He’s just doing it cos he can.

AM: At that Manchester gig, at The Academy, he had Steve facing the wall. (laughter) He just turned him round to face the wall.

BP: He’ll do that if there’s people in the audience that you know. If you put people on the guest list for that gig and he knows, like your girlfriend’s there or your parents are there he’ll target you and make you look like an absolute get. He’s gonna embarrass you. He was a bastard for that so you just wouldn’t tell him, “No! I haven’t got anyone on the guest list tonight.”

AM: So what was the first band you were in?

BP: I was never really in a band. Not a proper one. I did… there’s a village squash club in Prestwich, in Sedgley Park and when I was in college, me and a few mates were the resident band there, y’know just doing cheesy covers, just crap. I used to play the bass for them, that was pretty much it. And then I got this project together where me and a friend of mine did The Dark Side Of The Moon cos at the time I was a massive Pink Floyd fan… that’s it. That’s the only band I’ve ever been in.

AM: You toured with that Dark Side of the Moon thing, didn’t you?

BP: No, we did it once, at the Met in Bury, upstairs. It was good! [I was] actually playing with The Fall in Athens, we were there for a week and we were supposed to be playing a festival and about half an hour before we went onstage the heavens opened and it just destroyed the stage. So we never ended up playing. Nick Cave was playing, Charlatans were there and we were out there for a week and never ended up playing. But I told a few white lies as to why I wanted to go home a couple of days early. We had this gig on the Friday night so I left Athens Friday morning, pretty much just walked onstage and did this Dark Side of the Moon gig… sunburned! Cos we’d just spent all week in Greece not working, on this bloody roof! I walked on… red face! Every time I tried to sing something, my fucking skin was cracking.

AM: So how many were in that band?

BP: We had three women singers, we had two guitar players, two keyboard players a seventy year old saxophone player. We had Tom Head who used to be in The Fall. He did the drumming for us. And we had Steve Murphy who was playing bass so there was ten. It was brilliant. It was a real amateur thing, y’know, one of me guitars was on an ironing board to play the lap steel part on. It was blatently an ironing board and I wanted the audience to see that it was an ironing board with a telecaster on top of it!