[FoRK] Interview with MES (of THE FALL)
joe at barrera.org
Tue May 3 18:50:34 PDT 2005
//I picked this interview off usenet some time ago, but unfortunately
deleted the author and any other info. (Mail me to claim your credits,
if this is yours in any sense.) I like it because it is from the period
when Marc Riley (now the unspeakable Lard on Marc Ratcliffe's Radio One
Eff Emm show) was still a member of The Fall-- that must have been when
Accrington Stanley were still a major contender for the First Division
Title (and the word ``Premiership'' was not to enter the English
language for a long time)-- and it also shows what a prat he is.//
/There are many more interviews in the collection of articles from the
FallNet <http://www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/home/cxl/fall/fallnet/index.html>. /
The Fall had just finished their gig when I spoke to Mark Smith, and
later Marc Riley. Whether you love or hate The Fall I think the
following will make interesting reading...
TC - Is there one actual point you're trying to get across when you're
writing your songs?
MS - Yeah, I always try to tell stories on stage. There are various
points though. For instance, The Fall are getting pushed as some
kind of Rough Trade band now, and that's really weird...most people
in bands are very privileged people. If you look around this
dressing room now, and all the sort of ordinary people, they join
bands like the Angelic Upstarts, which is really bad. I mean,
they're all working class, but so am I, but I don't push it on
people, 'cos that's not what we've got to say. And when we get a
single out, we get the paper's - I don't read 'em, but people tell
us what they said about our record, and they all contradict. Have
you ever noticed that? There's one guy saying we're great, and
the other saying the opposite. I'm really into being the most
hated band in the whole fucking country, that's what I'm aiming for.
TC - What do you think of Dave McCullough, 'cos he seems to have turned
against you now?
MS - He's just a failure in life y'know. No, I've known Dave for ages.
This thing about us is a big personal thing though 'cos I wrote a
thing in a Dublin magazine about him. Y'see when he did that thing
about Ian Curtis in Sounds he used a lot of my lyrics and I wrote
this article saying this was fucking typical y'know, and Dave
thought he was like that with us and then that came out. I mean I
had to tell the truth. I mean it doesn't bother me, it doesn't
interest me 'cos all the papers are full of rubbish, but he used
my lyrics in his article and it upset me. Well, it didn't upset me,
but I thought y'know, cross him off the list. He had a page to fill
in a certain amount of time so he just put my lyrics in. Then he
turned against us, which was really great. He gave us a bad review
and all the band went 'hooray!'. It's really funny - he's against
us at last.
TC - Going out to be the most hated band is a bit of a pose isn't it?
MS - Oh yeah, it is.
TC - Why did you leave Step Forward?
MS - 'Cos they were hopeless. No, they weren't pushing the records and
things. 'Dragnet' was a really obscure LP. They only got a few
thousand out. And they weren't paying us well...we were very hungry
in other words! We didn't want to go to a big company so we went
to Rough Trade. But Step Forward were alright.
TC - Are Rough Trade any better then?
MS - No not really. They're better on the business side. They press
what they say they're going to press and they give you the money for
what you've sold, which Step Forward didn't do - they tried but
were just disorganised.
TC - Have you become more or less pessimistic since the group started?
MS - More - more every day - and more angry.
TC - You always seem to be pushing your records - telling people to ask
their record dealer if he's got it, and if not, why not...?
MS - Well, y'see we're in a funny position. People come up to us and
say you're being funny - you are deliberately being a bunch of
twats. Guys who sell records in shops are just straights, and I'm
not putting straights down, but they are y'know, and they're not
going to sell Fall albums - they're not even going to get them in.
I can't buy Fall albums where I live. People say to us "you're
ignoring us", but that's not the case. It's no use saying we're
obscure, it's like we're not mad, they are.
TC - How much do you get out of it?
MS - We're on 30 quid a week at the moment, and that's the first money
we've had - that's from Totalles Turns, but that won't last long.
I'd go as far as getting a job to keep the band going and everybody
would. They're all good lads, but they need a bit of a kicking
sometimes. The drummer came straight from school and so did Marc
Riley, where as I've had jobs. That's why other bands fuck up I
think. The Pop Group went into a band straight from school and
that is why they're a load of shit. A lot of bands do that. I mean
how can you write about the world if you haven't experienced it?
TC - You always dress normally?
MC - I've always been like that - ever since I was 14. It's always best
to remain anonymous. Having a name like Smith makes you anonymous
for the rest of your fucking life! And it's really good. At school
the teacher would never ask you anything - they'd look down the
list and pass over Smith, and they'd see some really weird name,
y'know "what's this, I'll ask him the question". You can stand at a
bus stop and old fellas will talk to you. If you dress up like a
punk, old fellas don't talk to you 'cos they're frightened of you.
It's their fault but I don't like to be restricted in anything I
do. We went over to Ireland to play with the Virgin Prunes, and
they really dress up - pearls and dresses - they're all guys - and
they're really into good music, but we went into a pub and people
were hassling us all the time. People wouldn't serve us in pubs,
and I reckon that's all just a waste of time. It's two points of
view. You can either get into the system or...you've either got to
be totally bland or if you're going to dress up, do it, that's
great, but I like my advantages. How can you talk about the world
from the position of a punk? No-one will talk to you, they all
think you're just fucking idiot, and maybe they're right.
TC - Why did you put out the live LP?
MS - Various factors. One was money. We never had anything off Step
Forward and we needed money very quick. And I thought it would be
a good idea to bring out an album like that for the under 18's who
can't normally get into our gigs, so I got all the bad versions of
everything we'd done. Live albums are always crap, but I thought
ours was really good. We only used cassettes - no studio or
anything. It was great. I was really amazed. That's the good thing
about Rough Trade, they're really innovative.
TC - It was meant to be a budget album, but it was selling for a fiver
in some shops...
MS - Oh yeah, where I live it was 5 pounds and we went in and told them.
I thought of putting on one of those stickers 'Do not pay more than
so and so' but it's so obvious y'know - all the record companies
are doing it. People wrote to me and said they bought Totalle's
Turns for 4 quid or so and I wrote back and said "Well, you're a
fucking idiot" - you've got to keep your wits about you, you've
got to have some suss - go somewhere where it's cheaper. I mean,
I feel sorry for the guy and if I can I'll get his money back, but
I'm no Jimmy Pursey.
TC - What was the idea of the talk you did at the ICA in London with Poly
Styrene, Adam Ant and some record company representatives?
MS - I did that 'cos I thought it might be interesting...but it wasn't.
It was like the story of Adam Ant's bloody career. He really went
on - it was embarrassing. And there's Poly Styrene sitting there
going (puts on high pitched woman's voice) "surely it's all about
the music - playing and singing music" and there's the guy from
Island laughing his head off - quite right as well. I thought it
was going to be a rap about independent and big labels and I had
all these things prepared, like I don't think independents are all
that good although we're on one, but I like them 'cos I can do
what I like. And Adam Ant just went on and on - I hate him - it's
just showbiz, and I don't relate to that at all.
TC - What is 'Totally Wired' about?
MS - Tension. That was our trash record. I'm really into disposable
records. It was a bit rushed though. The mix was terrible so me
and Kay, our manager, went in and re-mixed it, and I think it was
TC - Do you enjoy gigging more than when you first started?
MS - Yeah. I was going through a bad period this year - everything's
gone wrong. Like we lost our drummer, who I thought was ideal, and
Step Forward just sort of disintegrated and we did the Cramps
tour, but I don't regret it. And now it's getting good again. I
really enjoyed tonight. We wanted to go on earlier though - about
six, but it was so badly organised.
TC - What's 'How I wrote Elastic Man' about?
MS - Writers, which is why Dave McCullough didn't like it. It's about a
guy who wrote a book called 'Elastic Man' and everybody gets on
his back about it, he's a celebrity and it fucks up his art.
TC - What about 'Muzorewi's Daughter' about?
MS - Well that was sort of our political joke...we played in front of
all these coloured people once and I realised halfway through,
but they really liked it, they were really into it.
TC - What about politics?
MS - We don't put them in our lyrics. In the north of England it's all
sort of left-wing - the Tories never get in, but Labour hasn't
done anything. There's that Labour MP for Salford, Frank Allorn or
something and he's been promising things for 20 years. He's just a
bastard. I'm not into left wing politics at all. At least Thatcher's
honest about what she does. I hate her, she's trying to get Britain
back to the days of the Empire and it's not going to happen. But if
you got rid of the Tories you'd only get Labour in. I live next door
to a Labour councillor and he drives a sports car and all that -
real Not The Nine O'clock News sort of idiot who thinks he knows
what the working class wants. Tony Benns just as bad - he'd be
worse than Thatcher.
Mark then left and I was joined by bassist Steve Hanley and guitarist
TC - Do you know why the old drummer left?
SH - I think he felt that Mark was just sort of taking over the band.
Dave McCullough wrote something about Mark and Kay being the nucleus
of the band and he got upset about it.
TC - How do you feel about it?
SH - I'm quite happy with things. I mean, it's true he is the sort of
spokesman for the band.
MR - When we're doing it alright and getting it together, everybody's
contributing and putting what they can into it. Mark writes the
lyrics and he's sort of speaking for us. Some people say they don't
know what he sings and we don't care, but that isn't true. His words
are stories and happenings and if he writes something we thought
was crap we'd have to tell him, but I think Mark writes great lyrics
personally and obviously the rest of the band do 'cos otherwise
they'd say. People are always wanting to interview Mark 'cos he's
got more to say, as you're probably finding out right now!
TC - Are you happy with the way things are going at the moment?
MR - On the whole, yes, though there are times when you don't quite get
it together and you get a bit depressed, but the Fall is my life.
I don't expect it to be a high point all the time. It's the same
with gigs - I don't expect every gig to be great. Sometimes we're
really tight, sometimes it's chaotic. Like tonight it was a bit
shambolic in parts, but it had the right spirit. It took us a bit
to get going - after the incident where someone threw some beer
at Mark. It's funny, tension seems to get you going more. Perhaps
we shouldn't need that stimulus, but it worked tonight.
TC - Would you like a major recording contract?
MR - It would depend how we're getting on at the time. If we'd be better
off somewhere else I'd go. I've no great morals about big companies,
that's all a load of crap. I don't think any of them are really
good, but a lot of independents are crap as well. If you can get a
big label to bend your way, then you would be alright.
TC - Who does the artwork?
MR - Mark's sister does a lot of it. A friend of Mark's and Kay's did
Dragnet. The cover of the new LP is great. Buy it folks, BUY IT!!
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