As The Fall frontman passes away, we revisit an interview he did with Another Man in August of last year
This article was originally published on August 1, 2017:
It’s fair to say Mark E. Smith’s reputation precedes him. Painted as surly, standoffish and cynical, the Fall frontman is a British national treasure in the way only these isles could muster – one whose charm is centred around his churlishness.
When Another Man meet him, though, he’s in sky-high spirits. Sipping a gin and tonic in a hotel bar, he’s in London for a Fred Perry Subculture Live show at the 100 Club, and not even a day-delayed train down from Manchester or central London’s lack of pubs (“I don’t miss that about London much!”) could dampen his spirits. He’s excited about the imminent release of the band’s 32nd album New Facts Emerge, and keener still to keep leading the pack forward.
“I’ve been poorly since Christmas, so I’ve been actually sitting down and watching bits of music on telly,” he reveals. “It cheers me up actually. I’ve never paid much attention to competitors or anything like that – the funny thing is, there’s fuck all to catch. There’s a lot of shit! Sleaford Mods, that’s about the only good thing. There’s none of them groups you can go and laugh at anymore, they’re so fucking bad. All the groups have been to college.”
The Fall’s self-taught, 40-plus year career and ‘revolving door’ policy of non-Smith members is the stuff of legend, but it’s their modern guise which excites Mark E. Smith the most. Contrary to reputation, he hasn’t sacked a soul in 11 years, and it shows. New Facts Emerge is as chaotic and challenging as their earlier works – a product of a decade-long creative relationship between his current group, and proof that even at 60, he’s still open to evolution. “I wanna get a few decent works under my belt,” he laughs, refusing to reflect on his already mile-long list of achievements.
Below, Mark E. Smith shares some words of wicked wisdom.
“I’ve always wanted The Fall to be more cheerful, so we’ve raised the atmosphere up a little bit. [Everyone else in music is] all sorry that they’ve hurt their girlfriends! [laughs] It’s something wrong with society, really. It’s a brain disease in society.”
Keep your friends close
“The group’s improved a hundred-fold over the last year and a half. It’s their tenth year, now – I keep thinking they’re new, but they’re not. I never thought, after all the cock-ups I’ve had with groups, that I’d get to this point. We’ve got to know each other over eight or nine years – they know my taste, y’know? It’s unusual, for me.”
Do new things
“We’re going to America for the first time. We’re doing a residency there. I want to stretch the group out a bit – we’re doing some theatre-type shows, give them a bit of a kick up the arse! That’s why we’re doing this [100 Club show], it’s a whole new thing. We’re doing an eight-day residency on Broadway, which is fuckin’ weird! [laughs]”
“We’re starting another LP next week. It’s hard to get a decent studio – all the studios these days, they’re not a fuckin’ studio. It’s just some kid who’s got mum to do his equipment. He really want to be a super DJ, he’s got all this equipment, and he doesn’t know what we’re supposed to do! They don’t even have CDs, a lot of them – all the music goes into the sky. If you ask for a mix, they go, ‘Ooh, it’s on file!’ They always get it fuckin’ wrong. I haven’t got a computer anyway! They all think it’s in space!”
Don’t look back
“All anyone wants to talk about these days is ‘retro’, about the past. I’m not fuckin’ interested; I’ve never been like that... [Manchester] gets worse every year. All they ever go on about is the Hacienda, or Manchester Festival. They just go on about it all the time. You go into these pubs and there’s a drawing of Noel Gallagher with a picture of me next to him, like we were all mates in the 80s – band of brothers! [laughs]”