... Issue 1
The Biggest Library Yet 6
RTE Ireland 1980, with Dave Fanning
Dave Fanning: So... it's nothing to do with the fact that The Fall are looked upon as being totally outside the standard rock and roll type band and they do everything supposedly different?
MES: Yeah, well we wait for people to come to us. We don't go out and hunt out gigs, or anything like that. We don't try and put them all together. We don't do it for the fun of it, if you understand me.
DF: There was one gig in particular that a lot of people said, like you almost played on stage just to be different from the other bands that were there. That was one the Lyceum with the Human League and the Gang of Four and the Mekons and Stiff Little Fingers.
MES: Yeah that was a long time ago. But what are you saying, that we sort of went out to be provocative, yes?
DF: Do you do that deliberately, is it part of the policy of the band?
MES: No, not at all. We do it as we feel, and it works okay. There's a lot of predictability in the rock scene at the moment and we're trying to avoid that.
DF: Would you give out about the normal run of the mill things about the band in terms of record company execs and the press and all the rest of it?
MES: Well, it's just a bit predictable. Cause I've been in it a long time. And I find it pretty tedious. What we're doing here is an indictment of the way we are. We're just come over here and do Cork and go back.
DF: Well, you say you've been in it a long time but...
MES: Not in comparison to most of the band we've been playing [with], but I er... sussed that out.
DF: In terms of then the whole idea of The Fall, you have a lot of line-up changes, for instance... is there a reason for that in musical terms, like have you got a direct objective for The Fall?
MES: The people who were earlier in the band were sort of run of the mill musicians who play in bands and they expect the tedious routine to carry on and that and I wasn't prepared for that. I didn't want go up in a crest of a wave and fall down ex-musician person, you know.
DF: How long have The Fall - not necessarily in the current form - but how long has The Fall been together as a band?
MES: It's about two years. It seems longer than that to me. It's only two years, sounds nothing...
DF: Say you wanted to do all this about five years ago, do you think it would have been as easy to get yourselves across the way you have?
MES: I think it would have been the same, yeah. It's made a lot easier by the new wave, but I think The Fall could exist at any time like all er... original music can exist at any time.
DF: What about the deal and the way you get along with your record company, Rough Trade. Are you happy with the way they're doing things?
MES: They're very good in a business sense, yeah they're great.
DF: And they don't get in the way of anything that you want to do?
MES: Oh no no no. Well Step Forward didn't, the label we were with before. But on the business side, they weren't too hot, so that's why we left them.
DF: What if you thought your next LP was going to be absolutely great and Rough Trade didn't do enough, would you go on to a more major company?
MES: You can't blame failures on the company. You put out the stuff so you should see it through. If an LP's good, it's good, that's as far as I go. That's where bands fall down, they start thinking about the external things as opposed to what they are actually doing. Do you get my drift?
DF: Yeah, but what about the fact then that you don't advertise in the music press?
MES: No, because I mean that is a charade, so the music press... You've got a situation now where the bands go to the music press. I am of the viewpoint that the press should come to the bands. Because that's their job, it's not the band's job to go to the music press.
DF: If I can put this word success in inverted commas...
MES: We are successful.
DF: Do you want to be more successful?
MES: Yeah, of course I do, but I'm not going to compromise in any way to get that.
DF: Do you not think that you owe something to Rough Trade records in some way if they're going to help you out in that respect, that if they want to advertise the band and sell more...
MES: Yeah but they don't, I mean that's why we're with Rough Trade, they're really down on that. They're just the other end of the stick, they're not into full-page ads, stuff like that.
DF: Fair enough, okay then. We'll go onto something else after this one. We'll play a track from The Fall who're playing the downtown campus in Cork later on this evening, that's Saturday night, the usual night down there. And there's Chant Chant Chant and Microdisney are playing there as well. Here's a track called Fiery Jack. [plays track]
DF: Mark E. Smith is here with me to talk about The Fall, we've just been doing that and we're going to do a little bit more. And this time we're going to talk about the music because you have in those two years released quite a lot, a few singles, two LPs, the third one's about to come up. So with those two LPS then, first of all the line-up, was it different between the first and the second?
MES: Yeah, it was yeah.
DF: And what the musical idea, do you think you progressed up to the second one.
MES: I think so, yeah.
DF: So are you going to tell us this third one's going to shake the world?
MES: Yeah, the third one's going to shake the world.
DF: If I'd asked you between the first and the second, is the second one going to shake the world, would you have given the same answer?
MES: Yeah, it's much better, yeah.
DF: So what about that first one then, Live at the Witch Trials. It does seem to me to be very different than the second album.
MES: Yeah, I don't particularly like the first album to be quite honest. I'm not very into it, I think it's... too much musicianship on it for my liking.
DF: What are you looking for - disorder and chaos?
MES: Yeah, I'm looking for spontaneity. And sort of raw music, that's my ideal.
DF: When you say spontaneity, does that mean when you go into the studios and say right...
MES: Oh no, but I mean, there's musicians and there's musicians. I like to sort of foster musicians who are going to play basic stuff. I'm very into basic stuff. Not simple stuff or obvious stuff, but... the old purpose of rock is that it's non-musical. In my interpretation of it. I think the rock scene's getting very predictable, it's getting very stale, and I think a bit of rawness would do it good.
DF: What about then the bands that are around at the moment from the same area as yourselves, like say the Distractions, from the Manchester area?
MES: I like the Distractions, because they're like a paradox to us. I think they're a good cabaret pop band. I think they're very honest. I like honesty in bands. But I think once they got into the hands of the record company, I think they messed up a bit.
DF: When the Distractions were on the programme some months ago, they mentioned the fact about going to London and not being able to get gigs and there's no way at all, and in Manchester there's so few places to play. Well in the last six months there seems to be loads of bands coming out of Manchester, loads of albums on independent labels and things like that. So it is that much better up there, do you need to go to London do you think?
MES: Well we went to London because I think the Manchester scene is like an imitation of the London scene, the Manchester scene is rapidly becoming like London. If you go to Manchester now, it's just like London.
DF: With all the upswings of all the bands are there places to play over there now?
MES: In Manchester? There's the odd place, but it's no better than any other city. I think just that Manchester turns out people like that, I think it's the city.
DF: What about some of the other bands, say bands like Echo and the Bunnymen and the Cure and people like that?
MES: Yeah, I don't rate that, I think that's just a reiteration of what went on ten years ago, where you've got like narrow lane bands, you've got your headbanging bands and you've got your student bands, which Echo and the Cure are going into. I don't want to put down students or anything, but it's the very same as Genesis were ten years ago, or the Grateful Dead, as I was talking before to somebody about.
DF: What about then, the years between '65...
MES: Ha ha! Gibberish!
DF: Between the years say about '65 and '73, is there any band around that time, is there any music from that rock part that you might like?
MES: Yeah, there's loads of stuff. There's like Lou Reed, the Seeds and Captain Beefheart. That was good and that was ignored when it was around. I don't think time matters, bands can do it and it doesn't matter what time you come out. Like Manchester, all the pride you know, because of certain innovators within the city at an original point, like the Buzzcocks, you know and people like that. They just started a trend. Like you go to Manchester now, and every club you go in, it's just like third-rate Joy Division impersonators. There's no sort of advance. Manchester as an innovator has been dead about six months, as far as I'm concerned. But The Fall as a group has never integrated itself with that scene anyway. We always keep on the other side of town. I mean Factory have got a good thing going for themselves, you know, but it's nothing to do with us.
DF: Within the context then of being successful, there's no definite road that's written down, you know you have to follow this one to go there even though there's plenty you can follow and do your best you can like in a heavy metal band or in a Genesis-type band or whatever, but if you want to be successful do you think you can do it in terms of what you're trying to do with The Fall?
MES: I don't know, Dave. Because I think I am successful, because I'm saying what I want to say and I don't sort of kiss anybody's arse while I'm doing it. If I wanted to be successful I'd get a job or something like that, it's very easy. I mean, these bands, it's predictable, again I keep coming back to it, it's routine. And I think it's very easy to form a band and get on Top of the Pops.
DF: What about the third LP, is that going to be as different as the first two were to each other?
MES: It's not particularly different, but it's going to be an improvement I hope. It's er... it's a good LP.
DF: Can you not tell us any more.
MES: I can't be objective about it obviously. The next LP is called the Grotesque Peasants. And that'll be out sort of November time. And that'll be it. I'm very interested in cultivating The Fall as the most hated band in the music scene because we prick a lot of thorns in people's sides, and there's a big backlash going on against us, sort of very overreacted to what we actually sell.
DF: What about then if you play a live gig...
MES: We worry a lot of people and it stimulates me, if you see what I mean.
DF: Yeah but that can transcend to the stage as well. Do you want the audience to dislike you?
MES: Oh no no, not at all. You know, audiences are audiences, gigs are a different thing altogether. Ha ha...
DF: I think we'll play a record. Here's a record...
DF: Totale's Turns, that's the last LP, the current one still in fact from The Fall, It's Now or Never, that's a track called New Puritans. So Mark before we play another one and before you also give out your message... [Mark laughs] First things first, is it true that like, are you always the spokesman for the band? Would anyone else be taken along to do an interview?
MES: Oh yeah they did come with me, yeah.
DF: Because the general impression is that you are mainly the Fall and it's not necessarily Mark E. Smith and other musicians, but that you are The Fall, always have been and generally always will be. Is that not fair?
MES: I think I was at the beginning. I know the rest of the band in the current period get a lot of flak for not speaking up but I think they know who's got talk, you know. I can't sort of hone it better than anyone else but I write the lyrics and so I speak for them. I don't think it makes them any less [as] people. I think it's good that... I don't believe in democracy in bands, because democracy just produces a mediocre average. Everybody's a different as the next person.
DF: Can I thrown in the word anarchy here in any way in terms of the total idea of what The Fall are about?
DF: Well if I did, without saying it's the Sex Pistols, or the the punk type of thing...
MES: I know what you mean, yeah.
DF: Does it go that far, your different opinions of what music's about?
MES: I'm personally pretty extreme. But as regards bands I'm pretty erm... fascist, and I'm pretty er...
DF: Well you have been around a bit because I'm going to throw a quote at you here from...
MES: I've been crossed too much Dave, you know and I don't sort of believe in musician's integrity any more, like most of the people who buy records. This is the reason why record sales drop, and the guys who are in the band now are behind me and they believe that too, and there's no reason for us all to speak at the same time or they'll just come out with gibberish.
DF: Do you have a positive dislike then of a lot of the bands that are around at the moment?
MES: Oh yeah, yeah, a vicious dislike.
DF: As people?
MES: I just don't understand why they're in it. Because I'm always sort of wrestling with that question, and they don't seem to even entertain it, you know.
DF: A lot of them would say, and to steal a few words from Bob Geldof, that they're there to be rich and famous. Would you not allow them to be there to be rich and famous?
MES: I think there's a lot of easier ways of being rich and famous. I'm not knocking bands that are rich and famous, I don't think that's particularly wrong. You know, there's entertainment. And there's culture, and we're on the cultural side of the line. And that's all I can say.
DF: What about, here's a quote I'm going to throw at you, I was just going to say earlier, from Bono from U2, he said it to Dave McCullough in Sounds, he says: 'Mark E. Smith has been banging against the music business walls for far too long'. Do you feel as though there might be a lot of people in the music business who might positively dislike you as much as you seem to dislike them?
MES: Well Bono probably does, yeah, cause he's feathering his nest and when he comes up to his wall, he'll see it. I haven't been banging me head too much cause I don't treat it that seriously really.
DF: So... all right, well let's just say, when will the next album be out?
MES: You'd make a good politician, I think.
DF: Go on, when will the album be out?
MES: I don't know Dave. Ask me another.
DF: What's it called again?
MES: The Grotesque Peasants. And it'll be out at the end of November. Can I pass me message on now?
DF: Yeah, go ahead.
MES: If I could get through to the Hanley brothers and Marc and Craig. We sent you a telegram but the soundcheck is at five o'clock if you don't get it. See you boys.
DF: What a message. All right, listen Mark, thanks very much for dropping in to say hello to us.
MES: It's been a pleasure.
DF: And enjoy your concert later on this evening, Saturday night, downtown campus in Cork.
MES: I hope I didn't cause any trouble.
DF: You didn't cause any trouble. [laughs] Johnny Rotten! All right listen, we'll play this, this is a conventional song from The Fall.
[plays Rebellious Jukebox]
From Australian tapezine 'Fast Forward', August 1982
The Early Years
MES: "We sort of started arseing around and we wrote loads of songs in about mid-76 which was the same sort of time new wave was hitting Manchester and there were all these Manchester new wave groups and we would go along and see 'em and they'd be like some sort of fuckin' cabaret group with their hair fuckin' cut, and it was like monstrous. 'Cos we were into that sort of thing, we were into Patti Smith and the Stooges at the time. I was particularly into Can, I was into German music.
And when you saw these fuckin' groups, it was a shame because a lot of the early new wave groups were good, like the Pistols, even the Clash were very good. And when you saw all these Manchester groups coming out. I mean the Buzzcocks, no matter what anybody says, they were good with Devoto but their first couple of gigs were fuckin' terrible, they were like T Rex. And you'd get Slaughter & the Dogs, the Nosebleeds, and all these fuckin' dicks who'd been playing Smoke on the Water for years, saw a bit of money there. So' that was good actually, it kicked me into starting thinking about... you could do that, and you can't even play.
But the basic thing was 76 it was a recession in England. It's not as bad now, I don't care what anybody says. It was a fuckin' bad time, I was lucky I had a job. But anybody you'd meet was on the dole, so like getting anybody with a drumkit who would be all right was totally out of the question. So we waited like a year to play, no about 8 or 9 months to play, before we even get a drummer. People who could afford a kit were mad fuckin' heavy metal boys - like Karl! Our first drummer was an insurance salesman who'd just bought his kit, you know. He was bald and he used to wear a car coat, and he was really hopeless. But the basic nucleus of The Fall believe it or not was me on the guitar and Martin Bramah on vocals and Tony Friel on bass. I'd do the lyrics and he'd sing 'em, 'cause he was like into Kiss and... ha ha!"
Bingo Master's Breakout
"The Buzzcocks paid for that, they lent us the money. We hawked it around and people were going 'Oh great promise', and all this. Went round quite a few record companies, and a lot of 'em were laughing and saying great demo, but we've got this producer in.
We went to Rabid records, you know the guy who did Joy Division and all that. What's he called - Hannett? We took it to him when he was doing Jilted John and all this, and he says: 'Oh it's got promise, but I'd have to produce it and put a few more guitars on it.' Fuckin... up yer arse, you know!
So, to get back to your question, by the time we got somebody, we couldn't afford to go and re-record it, so when it came out which was about mid-78... it had been recorded like, bloody summer of 77, and it came out in mid-78. By the time we got somebody to say yeah, which was great with Step Forward, which was all right.
Except for Miles Copeland. 'It sounds a bit 77 to me,' he says. I said, 'That's because it bleedin' is!' "
Leave the Capitol
"All the songs [on Slates] were written pretty much the same time. It all connects up, like Capitol, was like London, and Slates was like all the fuckin' idiot art student groups. You'd play it to 'em and they'd go, you shouldn't call Wah! Heat like that, and there'd be Wah! Heat posters all over the fuckin' offices."
"I do, yeah [live in Manchester]. I didn't leave the place till I was 20. The only time I went to London was about four years ago, when the group started. That was the first time I ever travelled because I was never into travelling. It was a surprise to go to places, like we went round Europe.
You've probably heard this story before, but we'd do places and people'd come up to you, especially places like Holland and Germany where you'd get English students who are studying there or the sort of people who travel around and have a great life and you talk to them and you go in the dressing room and you get: 'You're from Manchester, that's great, I'd really like to live there, all the music coming out of there, it must be great.' And it's just two streets you know, you've got Market street, you've got Oxford Street.
What I like about Manchester is that there's a very much city environment in it, a much harsher sort of city... 'cos it's very Irish. Very Irish, sort of Jewish. You've also got Salford, which is part of Lancashire which is where my roots are, and people are very sarcastic. All my family are Salfordians. That's slightly different and you've got Manchester and they're very city-ish. And Liverpool's only 40 miles away, see, so you've all these different things.
We play a lot live, because we make a livelihood out of it. People come up here out of curiosity. They don't necessarily buy the records. I know they don't buy records."
"I thought it was funny... there was a war on in 82, and you'd turn Top of the Pops on, and there were these hundreds of horrible lime type groups. I hate that stuff, can't stand it.
It came out [Marquis Cha Cha] and people were saying Marquis is not your real name, and people have latched on to it, after bloody three years. It's never occurred to me either, but people started saying I've contrived it all.
And I thought it was funny when the Argentinian thing broke out, I was thinking it would be good to go over there and be a sort of Lord Haw-Haw and work for the Argentinians, and you can just see a British bloke doing something like that. I thought if I was really desperate I could do that."
With Richard Skinner on 'Rock On', Radio One 1982
[plays Mere Pseud Mag. Ed.]
Richard Skinner: Mark, the sound on the LP once again seems to be a move ahead for the group, it's much cleaner than previous recordings.
MES: Half of it was done in a cinema and half of it was done in a studio made out of lava.
RS: In Reykjavik.
MES: Yeah. It might be clearer, we got Richard Mazda doing it, he's quite into clarity.
RS: What had he done before?
MES: He did the single Lie Dream of a Casino Soul. It's like battle between me and him, I was trying to rough it up. It worked well. What I'm going for is a well-produced noise thing. Not like bringing out the obvious things, but bringing out everything, bringing out the distortion and producing it well. I was dead surprised at the good reaction to it, when it was a finished article. I sat down and listened to it. I was surprised that people accepted it so well. It was the best reaction I'd ever had to an LP. It was intended~as the most intense work we're ever going to do, I thought this was the one where everybody goes waaargghh. But it's funny, everybody took the polar opposite.
RS: It's still the product that you hoped to create?
MES: Oh yeah, but all the songs, if we do any song on stage now that are on there, they're very different.
RS: I noticed on the LP sleeve, blanked out or half-blanked out is the year 1981. Was it ready to come out last year?
MES: No, it's just somebody in the printing department, that's all, ha ha.
RS: Music is changing as it goes by, even the stuff on this LP as you say. Do you now still listen with any pleasure at all to your earlier recordings? I know that a lot of people regard tracks like The Container Drivers as revered ornaments from two or three years ago now.
[The Container Drivers]
MES: I do get tempted to listen to it but I don't listen to it a lot. Not because I think it's bad. sometimes I go round by accident and somebody's playing it and I think it's better than I thought it was. But I still cringe at my own voice, you know. But I think that's a good thing, it's bad to wallow in the past.
RS: Let's wallow in the present, in a fairly sparse track from the LP, in a sense, it's called Hip Priest.
RS: Mark, I saw in one write-up in Sounds magazine, they said that the hip priest is you.
MES: It's a bit of a joke on the group you see, because they're all Catholics except me. It's meant to be a funny song. I have an image of Johnny Cash or somebody, I don't know why...
RS: Johnny Cash?
MES: Or South America...
RS: Johnny Cash is one of your early influences. Not an obvious influence.
MES: No, not really, I do like him. I like his stance more than anything. His old stuff now, I think it was very neat for the time.
RS: What do you think of the other rebels, of the very fashionable bands that are around at the moment?
MES: I don't rate them very much, I don't see any rebels. I think rebellion is very orthodox.
MES: Yeah. I'm quite a conservative person really, with a small 'c'. I don't like that rebel stance. I equate that with irresponsibility, I always have. It's probably as I'm getting older I'm changing a bit.
RS: An hour's worth of good songs, it says here, on the album out from The Fall at the moment.
RS: What portions were recorded in Reykjavik - Iceland, was that one of them?
MES: Hip Priest was done in Iceland.
RS: And Iceland was done in Hitchin, don't tell me.
MES: Ha ha ha, Iceland was done in Iceland, it's pretty embarrassing. I don't usually do that sort of thing. You're doing it and all these Icelanders are sat there and you're giving your viewpoint. They took it very well.
RS: Why did you go to Iceland, it's not exactly a popular stopping off point for bands.
MES: The people who are now Purrkur Pillnik, asked us over there.
RS: That's a band, is it?
MES: Yeah, they asked us to go. That's why a lot of bands don't go, it's not a big market or anything. But it's getting very trendy now, Iceland.
RS: Talking about this LP, the fact that it was recorded in two places, it seems have two definite feels to it. You have those sparse, more simple tracks in a way, and then the much heavier diatribes as they're sometimes described. Is that the split between Hitchin and Reykjavik?
MES: I usually find that on the records we do. It is divided into half and half and I think the latter stuff, the sparse stuff is more where we're going. But there again I can't say, I'm still writing to that horrible noise music. I'm very fond of it. And I feel it's my duty to carry on doing that sort of stuff. Something like And This Day, the thing that finishes off the LP and often finishes off a lot of audiences, you know. Like everything's going great until we do And This Day and everyone's going like, STOP, please. So I think that's worthwhile.
[And This Day]
RS: One thing we must find out, you've recently left Rough Trade who've obviously been very supportive of the band over a long period of time and signed a deal with Kamera records. Why did you feel the need to move from Rough Trade?
MES: It's basically that sort of thing where every group is the same and you're and you're on this stable and you're treated the same, it's like poison to us. My aims, in rock, to sound pompous, are to get a new audience and I don't think that people who-have given up on rock are going to get access to The Fall when The Fall are among 20 other groups who've got derivative names of The Fall, have derivative sounds of The Fall but are in fact people who are filling in a gap in their lives until they grow up a bit. That's not my sort of ... bag.
RS: A lot of what you do appears to be very depressive, or condemning. Do you ever worry...
MES: Yeah I have thought this thing over, but I think the most cheerful way to do things is like clean them things out.
MES: I was having an argument with Kay about this last night. She was saying how that's all this generation is, it's just synths and bloody moaning about themselves. And I'm saying yeah, that's not what I am though. I'm quite a cheerful person.
RS: I must say Kay your manager is smiling as you say that.
MES: Ha, well I'm not really.
RS: I want to play another track from the album, but you want me to play the other side of the single. Why's that?
MES: I think it's a... different song for me. It's odd, it doesn't sound like The Fall to me.
[I'm into C.B.]
With Johnnie Walker on Radio One 1984
Johnnie Walker: I didn't know what to expect from you today, because having heard the single C.R.E.E.P., very different sound on that. And yet this is The Fall that people are a bit more used to.
MES: D'you reckon?
JW: Yeah, a bit more so. Have you changed your sound a lot or is this the sort of thing you're going to be playing live?
MES: We've always changed the sound around.
JW: But are you going for a much more accessible sound on the singles?
MES: You've got no choice nowadays, matter of survival.
JW: Has it really come down to that?
MES: No, no. C.R.E.E.P.'s a good song, you know.
JW: It is a good song. It's just that the change of sound seems to have coincided with the change of record label. Has that been a influence?
MES: Might have been, yeah.
JW: Are you worried about this?
MES: Keeps us covered.
JW: You're going out on tour soon, do you know when you're going to be playing?
MES: Erm... no, I'll tell you later. I've got a list somewhere.
JW: At least you've got your line-up sorted out, because there was a lot of changes early on in the band. How long has this lot been together then?
MES: About six months.
JW: About six months. Now you're going to play...
MES: Got the wife in it now.
JW: I noticed the difference, now you're going to play two more songs, one a bit later on, but what's this next one called?
MES interviewed by Terry Christian, 1986
MES: We thought it would be quite funny to do a sort of rock opera thing. But I've also got a lot of stuff that I want to put in... like, say The Fall's work which I can't use because it doesn't come across so well in a song. I'm not fed up with The Fall or anything. And also we did a tour last year for the last LP and I didn't fancy really a climaxing it with two days at some London venue. Cause we already play London on and off a lot and surrounding areas, so I thought it's be a good idea to finish off with something like that. Then we won't feel like we're doing the same thing as last year. Do you get my drift?
Terry Christian: You said it was a rock opera, is it a bit of a send up?
MES Yeah, it's something you wouldn't expect us to do, that's why it's funny. It just started as a song and then all the characters surrounding it are very interesting. It's not just about the church at all, it's not an anti-Catholic thing. The characters around them times are very interesting to me, like the way they're all connected up. Like you've got a lot of Italian fascist groups in there, and you've got all the characters surrounding the Pope. When I started writing it, I was gonna remain pretty true but I thought well, people can read up about it if they wanna know about it. I've put in a thing about commandos and the group do two or three songs. I've written some songs for it.
TC: Are you nervous about it?
MES Pretty much, there's a lot of pressure on it, you know. Because I'm so used to working with the group... is very obliging to me, they're never any trouble to me. But working with about eight other people too is quite something else, is like getting with eight other people in the group. I've tried to use nobody from the theatre because I know nothing about it. And so being a bit paranoid I thought they might take advantage. So they're nobody from the theatre in it apart from the guy who's going to play Pope John Paul the first.
TC: It isn't the sort of subject that would automatically spring to mind, writing a rock opera about a Pope.
MES Well it's not a rock opera, there's no real rock songs in it, there's only about two three songs in it. It's more a play really. Er... it's not really a play and it's not really theatre, definitely not.
TC: How did you fund that? Because even if you wrote a play and you were in a band, even if you're in Go West or Wham! or something and you wanted to do a play, you still wouldn't know about how to go about getting a theatre to put it on, would you?
MES: For sure, for sure. That's why I'm not... I'm just nervous about the creative bit which is natural and healthy. But the way that thing came together was great, it was so easy. It's a lot of work but the people have been really... a lot of the people working on the sets like The Fall and they're very bored with working in certain things. And people have really gone out of their way to help.
TC: What is it actually saying, the play?
MES: Well I don't want to really, you know...
TC: Give it away.
MES: For sure. I want people to go and see it. From reading the press it looks like it's about the life of the Pope. But that's just the title, it's really about the times of the Pope. Which could mean anything from like 1880 onwards. And I want to take The Fall approach into that sort of scene.
TC: What did they say when you went up to them and say look, we're gonna do a play?
MES: Well they laughed of course.
TC: Do you blame them? After a few years on the road, and rock n roll and street cred and the NME and John Peel sessions, and suddenly some guy comes up and says right lads and says we're gonna do a play next week and it's all limp wrists and theatre...
MES: That's why it's interesting. I've got a new angle on it.
TC: Is it something that you are excited about besides being nervous about?
MES: Yeah, I am very excited about it. I think even if it's a total disaster I think it'll be an experience. It's better than playing a big London date at the end of a tour. Cause you can get certain... people around the capital only wanna see a couple of sounds. And hopefully if it does go well - touch wood - I can take it up to Manchester and Birmingham. It's not going to be like experimental theatre, that's the last thing I want to do.
Music View, US interview with John Fox, 12.9.88
Brix: I found a dead mouse in the front of my house, it was like a rotting little mouse, and my cats had killed it. And I couldn't even look at it, and my neighbour had to come over and put a bucket over the mouse. And Mark being the garbage taker-outer in the house cleaned up the mouse happily, and I was so happy the mouse was gone.
And I wash the dishes - we don't have a dishwasher - and I drive the car - Mark doesn't know how to drive - and Mark does work all day at home, like writing, and basically at home we just relax. I mean, Mark does what he has to do, shuffles paper and stuff [Mark laughs in background]. I cook and go to the market and do all the errands.
MES: It's a northern English home, yeah. We don't have any women's liberation where I live, lad!
BS: I get enough liberation playing in a group. I feel like I can do my domestic duties.
La Stampa, Holland, April 1990
Dutch interviewer introduces his subject, ends with a mention of Popcorn Double Feature. Speaks in a mix of Dutch and English...
MES: Yes it is actually, but I've changed it a bit as usual. Don't know who did it but the version I heard was the Searchers version but they didn't write it. It's just like a publishers song, y'know.
Q: Where did you find it?
MES: I found it on an old Searchers tape. I changed the lyrics though, because talking about coloured people, you know where I say 'That man is your teacher', on the original it's 'The black man is your teacher'. And it goes, 'Not much'. So I thought no way, you know, if I do that, people are going go here's Smith being controversial, so I had to change a few of the lyrics.
Q: Says something about Extricate and the multinational Phonogram label. The gist being have they sold their souls to The Man?
MES: I don't know, I think they've sold out to us really. What about it?
Q: The Fall have always had a reputation for being the last independent band from the 70s.
MES: We were never an independent band really. We were an autonomous band, but labelwise, we couldn't give a fuck, you know.
Q: All the labels?
MES: Yeah, we just... any label we could get we took. Couldn't give a shit if it was independent or not, we've always been like that. I mean, when we signed to Phonogram we said we're gonna keep on doing what we're doing, and they said well okay, you just keep on doing what you're doing. The Fall didn't sign to Phonogram, I signed Mark Smith and Cog Sinister to Phonogram. That was the general idea.
Q: Stuff about independent labels... something about chocolate drops and cognac. The petit-bourgeoisie and the new LP, Bill is Dead, Lou Reed, and a parody of Manchester bands New Order and the Smiths...
MES: Well I had all these ridiculous lyrics. It was actually, to be frank with you, Bill is Dead was written as a parody of New Order and the Smiths and that. Me and Craig got together and Craig said let's do something Smithslike, and the original lyrics were like 'My heart is going, I'm at the bus stop, ooh ooh-ooh', all that sort of stuff. But then Craig wrote a really nice tune so I thought we can't do that, so I wrote the off the top of me head. So they're a bit more personal.
Q: So there is a Bill?
MES: Bill was my father's best friend, but that was the original piss-take title.
Q: Talks about Bill is Dead from the new Fall LP... Brix Smith... Martin Bramah... Blue Orchids... comeback...
MES: He got in touch with me just to ask for some advice because he wanted to pack in music altogether and just write. And he said to me can you get me an advertisement or can you get me a publisher where I can sell my songs to. And I said frankly, Martin, no. So he said well why don't we write a song together as an experiment, so I thought that'd be a good laugh and he came round for a day. We wrote two really good songs and I said great, thank you, and then about four months later, Brix left so it was the natural choice really.
Q: I know what you mean. Next question Mark... about the personal nature of the lyrics on Extricate re: his break-up with Brix...
MES: People have referred to that, but no not at all. People say that.
Q: Because Sing! Harpy could be about it.
MES: Actually, strangely enough, I don't want to get trendy here, but the Manchester scene was happening, as any other scene was, 18 months ago which is why I moved to Edinburgh. And that's why I moved, cause it was really wild, not like now, it's like the punk thing. But it was a pretty cool scene. And of course, I was having a lot of affairs and stuff like that, like you tend to, and that's what I think them songs came from. But it wasn't the break-up of the marriage at all, not at all. People have said that. I hate that sort of thing, that personal sort of... I did this thing for Music Box. And it's like, the guy's like [does impression of a cheesy theme tune]. And he goes: Hello, Mark, Mark from The Fall, your father died, does this influence the LP? And I went... I had to fuckin' hold meself back you know. You know, a fuckin' pop fuckin' programme, he read it in the NME, and I'm not like Ian McCulloch I'm not going to sit there and go on about that. It's disgusting.
Q: Interviewer says something in Dutch (which he has every right to)
MES: It's the same thing with all our LPs really, it's just happens like that. I spend a lot of time working out the running order. And when I've finally got it organised, that's what it seems. I mean, this is pretty personal for me, this first side. And I only noticed this after I'd compiled it. And the second is more in The Fall tradition. Commentary.
Q: More stuff... America...
MES: I think one or two of them were written on our American tour last year. Definitely Chicago Now. Cause we did a heavy American tour and I came to terms with America for the final time. I really went off it. You know, in America we tour so hard and work so hard, you get so tired you're physically sick. And there's no sense of humour, there's nothing, it's strange. And there's no redeeming point. The only time I've ever thought of packing it in was on that American tour. The only time I've felt like not going on stage, the first time in ten years. You never really want to go on stage, but there was one point in that American tour where I wanted to stop. What's the point, you know. Like in Sacramento or somewhere. Rock star... you've heard it all before. But you're so tired and sick of it.
Q: Something about a functional monotone, white noise and MES being a self-made working class hero from Salford, Manchester... question about Arms Control Poseur...
MES: The first two lines of Arms Control Poseur are from an author called - you might have heard of him - Malcolm Lowry, he wrote Under the Volcano.
Q: Beautiful book.
MES: The first two lines, 'Death of a sense, death of a sense, death, death of a sense of humour, how do you recover from this'. It's really good, I fuckin' love that guy, it's from his diaries.
Personal Stereo: MES on Mark Goodier's Evening Session 1992
[interview starts with Dead End Street by the Kinks]
Mark Goodier: That's the first selection on Mark E. Smith's 'Personal Stereo'. Welcome to One FM. I'm not sure how many interviews you've actually done here...
MES: It's about me third.
MG: In such a long time of music-making, that's not nearly enough so we'll redress the balance here slightly, although we're not going to play any Fall records tonight. But we will demonstrate your incredible broad music taste. We ask people to do this feature, not to be like a Desert Island Disc thing, but just so people can hear what kind of stuff they listen to, and I wonder what it is that makes you still stay interested in listening to such a broad spread of music.
MES: Well, when I was asked to compile this I wanted to do a lot of contemporary stuff but I thought a lot of people don't acknowledge their influences enough I think.
MG: Because people actually try to claim they're completely original.
MES: That's right, yeah. so they don't want to give away their secrets.
MG: Who are your real influences then?
MES: I haven't got many to be honest. The Fall could never be influenced by anybody because we couldn't play like anybody. But I was very influenced by a lot of the German groups.
MG: And Ray Davies is a great songwriter...
MES: Yeah, I love it.
MG: And what people sometimes miss with your work is that you do dress up your songs to sound like Fall records but there are some great songs in there which people, if they listen repeatedly, discover. Does it always start with the song for you?
MES: No, I use all different ways and they're all secret.
MG: That's probably why your records are so diverse.
MES: Yes, I use all different methods because I find if you use the same method, you end up every LP sounds the same. Sometimes it's a tune I've written, which isn't often. A lot of the time it's a Craig tune, but a lot of the time it goes off the lyrics. I start with the lyric mainly.
MG: Okay, next - Can.
MES: Yes this is a contradiction because Can never had any lyrics.
MG: Exactly, apart from the one that I remember of Can's which was a semi-hit single called I Want More.
MES: That was the only one that had any lyrics.
MG: Which wasn't exactly Brain of Britain sort of style lyrics.
MES: I Want More was the lyric yeah.
MG: What is it about this band that...
MES: It was the drums really, and the organ sound.
MG: It was distinctive.
MES: It didn't take any prisoners you know.
[Vitamin C by Can, which has lyrics, of a sort]
MG: You said that you wanted to acknowledge the records that you liked as well as some more contemporary stuff, but was it easy to sit down and come up with this list?
MES: I didn't think very hard about it, no.
MG: So it could change...
MES: Took me half an hour.
MG: It could change next week or next month.
MES: No, I think it's a good one, you know. It's like writing a song, don't stop and think.
MG: Cause if you do...
MES: You're into self-analysis and you sound like House of Love, you know.
MG: Or Levitation, who you recently fell out with. What's the story about that, when they suddenly disappeared from The Fall tour?
MES: No, I don't want to go into that.
MG: Okay then, fair enough. Augustus Pablo, I mean this is a music lesson for me as well as perhaps for other people who haven't heard King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown.
MES: He's very psychedelic and that was like 76. It makes psychedelic music of the 60s sound ridiculous. It's incredible, the sound quality is amazing.
[Augustus Pablo - King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown]
MG: Soon you get the chance to win a personal stereo with an album that's Mark's selected to put in it and we'll tell you what that is soon and it'll certainly be different from what is currently in your record collection. In fact, it's an album I haven't heard...
MES: And I don't know where to get it.
MG: Thanks a bunch. We'll have to try and track it down. This next tune is an old radio one tune. It's Theme One done by Van der Graaf Generator.
MES: I just wanted to acknowledge Van der Graaf Generator.
MG: They were an old hippy band weren't they?
MES: No, they weren't. I went to see them when I was about 13 and they were better than the Doors if you ask me and I like Peter Hammill as well. He doesn't sing on this one. They didn't have a guitarist for a start. But I went to see them at Manchester Free Trade Hall and Peter Hammill came on in jackboots and they didn't have a guitarist and it was like the second concert I'd ever seen and it was just the best thing I'd ever seen in my life. And I still write to Peter and he's great, and he's not acknowledged properly.
MG: I think I saw him do a gig somewhere, supporting Brand X.
MES: He just does solo now, but Van der Graaf were great.
MG: Did he do a tour where he shaved off half of his beard?
MES: I don't know. No, it's an LP cover you're thinking of.
MG: No, I think he did the tour, he came on stage and like half of his beard was shaved off.
MES: Well, if you come from Bath, that's what you're like.
[Theme One by Van der Graaf Generator]
MG: There are so many tracks here which we couldn't play, we'll have to get you back for more. From the very weird Van der Graaf Generator we move to the Four Seasons. I mean, how broad can we possibly get? You're obviously still a music fan at heart. You say you write to Peter Hammill and you remember these concerts quite vividly. There are lots of people who, although the old records might be in their collection they never listen to them anymore, they don't remember the old gigs with that much affection. Are you completely immersed in music, is it your life?
MES: No, not at all, music is my relaxation in a lot of ways.
MG: Well, in mine too.
MES: It's not like a profession, which a lot of people seem to think. I just think you can't perform music if you don't listen to it, if you're not interested. If you start watching telly, you lose track.
MG: But isn't that what's happened really, people who've been in the music business a long time?
MES: They're dulled to it, yeah. Which is why you get a lot of rubbish records out.
MG: And they do treat it like a job, the studio becomes... you go to the studio to work. But just to go back to what you said before, people who watch the telly, it does seem to me that increasingly people, whereas they used to spend their money on a new album, they're spending that money now on a computer game. And whereas they used to try and discover music by listening to the radio, whether it was the Peel show or whatever, people now discover music by watching MTV.
MES: Which is mad, yeah. Well, MTV is not about music, it's about women in their underwear.
MG: Exactly, that's what the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy said on their record TV - Drug of the Nation. Have you heard that record?
MG: We'll get a copy of that for you, cause I think you might appreciate that. It's very very good.
MES: You know you won't Mark.
MG: I will, in fact I'll make the call now. Hang on... Hello, hey Geoff, we're doing this thing with Mark E. Smith here and he doesn't believe that we're going to give him a copy of the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy record. Can you bring it down. See, promised. He'll come in, this is absolutely live and he'll come and give you this record. So, Four Seasons, which is where we were before we went on that ramble.
MES: I just think Frankie Valli is a great singer. I like that old Italian doo-wop, street corner stuff, I love it. It's a very sexy song as well.
[Marlene by Four Seasons]
MG: This next one, many people think should be your theme tune... it's one we can't even suitably discuss, it's just mad.
MES: Yeah, it's great.
[They're Coming to Take me Away Ha Ha by Napoleon XIV]
MG: And one more selection coming in a moment on Mark E. Smith's Personal Stereo. But first, your chance to win a personal stereo with an album in it. This is the album that Mark E. Smith will wish on your ears. And what is this album?
MES: It's called 'Sounds from Another World' by Joe Meek.
MG: How the hell are we going to find a copy of this?
MES: You'll have to work.
MG: We're going to have to do some hard work on it.
MES: It took me about two months to get it.
MG: And we'll need a question, a Fall question perhaps.
MES: Oh yeah, what was the cover version we did on the last Peel session we recorded? It's a reggae song, that's a clue.
MG: All right. What cover version did The Fall do on the last Peel session they recorded? Send your answer to Mark Goodier, Personal Stereo, One FM, London WlN 4DJ.
MES: It begins with a K.
MG: Don't give any more clues! And listen a week tonight to see if you're a winner. And Geoff Smith, the producer of this show has arrived with a vinyl and also a CD of the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. Which would you prefer? Have them both for goodness sake.
MES: Thank you very much.
MG: Don't say we're not generous at One FM. And we're going to play the Young Gods actually to finish off here. Now you have something in common where with Mike Edwards of Jesus Jones who likes this as well.
MG: Two more contrasting people, we couldn't have thought of, you and old Mike Edwards. But why do you like this particular one?
MES: Mike Edwards played on Extricate.
MG: Did he?
MES: yeah, played guitar on Popcorn Double Feature.
MG: Oh, now we know, you see. That's probably why - not that dissimilar music tastes.
MES: Before he got into Sergeant Pepper.
MG: All right then. Young Gods, why do you like this?
MES: I don't know anything about them, I just like it.
MG: All right, excellent. This has been good fun and we will have you back on the show soon. Mark E. Smith, thank you.
MES: Thanks Mark, see you.
[finishes with something by Young Gods]
BBC World Service, June 1993
MES [talking about the title of new album, the Infotainment Scan]: I think in Europe in general, it's entertainment masquerading as news. In all of Europe, all the channels of TV and radio, it's crime and riots. What used to be reportage is now in between. It's titillating, it's also very prurient as well.
Nick Reynolds: So you think the problem is people get confused as to whether they're watching news...
MES: Or a show, yeah. I think it should be made quite clear.
NR: Does that idea fit in with what I sense as a theme of the album, there's a lot of stuff about the early 70s, where you seem to be criticising...
MES: It's retro, yeah. There's a lot of old rubbish. You turn on the TV now, and I'm seeing things I saw when I was 16. Groups, for instance, because it's cheap TV. There's a lot of music being played now that was rubbish at the time and it's rubbish now. But because it's looked at through rose-coloured glasses, for some reason it's supposed to be good.
NR: One of the best lines on the album is a reference to 'the look-back bores', presumably that's what you're getting at there.
MES: You've got a lot of people in their mid-30s, like myself, who are now in charge of the media.
NR: And they want to hear...
MES: What they liked when they were 16 and 17, ha ha!
NR: Talking about people in their early-20s, let's talk about the track Paranoia Man. Is that based on anyone in particular or is it just general observation?
MES: Yeah, the latter, really. You just see a lot of them walking around. If you go these revival discos, there's a load of blokes who are like that. I'm not blaming them. I was reading this psychiatric book - that's what sparked me off - and it said that most paranoiacs are from the age of 33 to 38, which is the sort of bracket I'm in. So, all you 34 to 38 men out there, don't worry!
NR: What motivates you, what is the driving thing about what you do, about The Fall, that makes you want to get up out of bed in the morning and carry on doing it?
MES: I just feel like I've got to continue, I've
got to monitor the situation. There's too much retro music around,
there's too much so-called experimental music and it just doesn't
kick off. Our audiences are getting younger and younger so we must be
doing something right. I mean, there's still the old guard there but
it's like, when we go on tour, people always go: 'Oh this group is in
the top ten, but they don't get any audiences', but our shows are
always packed out. And some people - I'm old enough to be their
father you know - they really are excited by it which is the main
thing. And also, I've just got this compulsion to keep writing
Radio Interviews Part 1