Solo Outing: Brix Smith, a new solo album is on its way, and the former Fall guitarist/vocalist will be curating a brand new book covering the legendary band she made her name with
Brix Smith has a defining year ahead of her, having made best use of her pandemic downtime, despite personal loss and heartache, like so many of us.
The Los Angeles-born singer-songwriter and guitarist – her moniker in tribute to a teenage love of The Clash’s ‘The Guns of Brixton’ – is eager to get 2021 off to a more positive start, talking to me with great enthusiasm about a new LP on its way and a book project she’s curating, inviting fans of The Fall and those involved with the band and various offshoots en route to share tales about seeing and hearing the Manchester post-punk legends and related experiences and encounters, celebrating the influential outfit’s impressive legacy and wealth of material.
You’ll know at least part of the back-story, Brix meeting frontman/main songwriter Mark E. Smith – the band’s sole ever-present member, who died three years ago – at a show in her dual home city Chicago in 1983, soon joining the band and starting a new chapter in her life based in the North West of England, her songwriting and guitar playing in time fully utilised.
Brix left The Fall after splitting with husband Mark E. Smith in 1989, but returned to record and tour two mid-‘90s LPs, and is credited with co-writing some of their best-regarded tracks, introducing a more pop-oriented element. And alongside all that there was her Adult Net side-project, launched in 1985 with fellow Fall member Simon Rogers, Mark E. among the contributors, an LP following in 1989.
In more recent years, she bounced back at the forefront of acclaimed five-piece Brix & the Extricated, also involving ex-Fall trio Steve Trafford and brothers Paul and Steve Hanley, their live shows and three LPs inspiring rave reviews.
Before we got to all that, London-based Brix – who married fashion entrepreneur Philip Start in 1999 – told me about another imminent release covering her ‘lost years’ in LA, having returned to her childhood home city after initially leaving The Fall, that early ‘90s period including live work with The Bangles’ lead singer Susanna Hoffs – who remains a close friend – and in the studio with The Church’s Marty Willson-Piper.
“I was working with Susanna, but also writing an album with Marty, which is finally after all this time set to come out. It’s called Lost Angeles, because those were the lost years for me, when I wasn’t in The Fall.”
The tale of that era and many more feature in Brix’s acclaimed 2016 autobiography The Rise, The Fall and The Rise. But there was a long gap away from the music industry before her five years performing and recording with Brix & the Extricated, whose most recent show was a year ago last week at the three-day Rockaway Beach Festival at Butlin’s, Bognor Regis, an event also involving Fontaines DC, John Cale, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and The Wedding Present. And success with the Extricated has now inspired a fresh direction, working with Martin Glover, better known as revered producer and Killing Joke bass player Youth.
Most Recent: Super Blood Wolf Moon was the third LP from Brix and the Extricated, released in 2019
“Before the Extricated, I went 15 years without touching a guitar or singing a note in public. But after three albums in a row, touring relentlessly for five years, I decided last January to take a break to write and push pause, let myself recoup both creatively and physically.
“It takes a toll on you at that level. It’s important to take time, reflect, let your mind become empty for a while, so new things and experiences can regenerate in your creativity. Otherwise you burn out. I felt intuitively before the virus it was time to take a break. We had a few festivals booked for 2020, but postponed. It was more about sporadic gigs. I didn’t have a calendar of commitments.
“I channelled my energies into resting then writing again, maybe coming at it from a different angle, writing with other people. I was put together with Youth, to see what happened. We’d never met before, but Ros Earls, who manages him as a producer and also Nadine Shah, felt he may be a great person to write with, Nadine instrumental in pushing me to maybe branch out.
“Youth and I had plans to write, but he was in Spain, the lockdown happened, and I was stuck here. But around the end of April we met up on FaceTime and started to collaborate remotely. I set up a little studio in my bedroom, which I’d never done before, learned how to record, and we started writing, pretty much straightaway realising there was something special, turning into this album.”
Will it come out under your name, or with the Extricated?
“As Brix Smith, with Youth as my collaborator and producer. This is the first time I’ve released a solo album since the Adult Net, so it’s been a long time coming. My work with the Extricated really helped me gain back confidence as a player, a singer, a writer. It took on a life of its own, a facet of creative output, and it was wonderful to be working with them (Paul and Steve Hanley) again. At the moment, it’s on hiatus, but it’s not gone away.”
As I understand it, the Extricated was borne out of a conversation at a book launch for Steve Hanley’s The Big Midweek – Life Inside The Fall (co-written with Olivia Piekarski) at Manchester’s Ruby Lounge in December 2014.
“Exactly. It was very organic. We never plotted or planned it. In a million years I wouldn’t have thought … at that point I hadn’t seen any of them for 18 years, not even communicated. I never thought I’d be back on a stage or writing and making albums with Steve and Paul.
Auto Matter: Brix’s 2016 autobiography, the writing of which inspired her eventual return to performing and recording
“Before Steve’s book came out I was working in fashion, had my shops, was doing telly, and Andrew Weatherall and his fiancé, Lizzie, my husband’s right hand in the business, handed me a pre-release copy of Viv Albertine’s book, Andrew – the creative liaison for Faber & Faber – saying, ‘You need to write a book, you need to tell your story’. And I felt maybe it was time to do that.
“But at the same time, he said – and this was crucial – ‘And you should pick up the guitar again, because it’s criminal that you’re not writing and playing.’ I thought no way am I going to do that. I felt my insides were bashed around from my experiences, thinking no one cares. Then Craig Leon, who produced the Adult Net, The Fall, Blondie, the Ramones, said the same thing – ‘You really should think about picking up a guitar again’.
“And so did my husband. All three said that in a space of a month, so I thought maybe this was a sign – three people I really respect telling me the same thing. I started writing the book, wrote a bunch of chapters and a journalist in New York helped with the timeline, to get right all The Fall stuff. We put together five chapters and a proposal to Faber & Faber, hooked up with a literary agent, had a meeting with Lee Brackstone, Viv Albertine’s editor, and had a book deal within 24 hours. And the words began to just pour out of me.”
Was writing the book a form of catharsis?
“Yeah, but more than that, it was the actual angle of how the outlet for my creativity in the words somehow gave me a safe channel to pick up a guitar again. Writing the book and talking about my memories, even in my own head – getting it out on paper – I realised I had been fundamental to The Fall and shouldn’t denigrate in my own mind what my contribution was to that band and the music industry in general. I was pre-riot girl, the mother of riot girl, really! I shouldn’t underestimate what my contribution was.
“The writing of the words unleashed those creative juices for me to pick up a guitar again, and in my bedroom, by myself – unbeknown to anybody, even my husband – I took my white Rickenbacker out of the case it had been in for 15 years, started to play again and record myself. For two months I played every day and wept every time I started singing.
“This weird emotional valve had been opened after all the pain I’d bottled up for years that I wasn’t doing what I’d been put on the earth to do, that I pushed music aside because of all sorts of things – insecurity, thoughts that I was a failure. Loads of things came out, and it was cathartic in a way.
“I don’t know if I can explain it in words to people, but the voice that came out of me was different than the voice I’d had before. It was a voice of a woman that had lived and was now able to show her vulnerabilities. And I didn’t give a fuck anymore. I didn’t care about being judged by people and what they’d say. I just wanted to get it out. It felt good, sounded good and it made me feel good to play again. I knew then that the magic had come back and the book had unleashed that magic.
“At the same time I was starting to write the book and started to play and write again, Steve Hanley’s publisher sent me a copy of his book to fact-check, and reading that made me realise what a contribution I’d made to the band and the high esteem in which people held me. So when they asked me to come to the launch, I thought, fuck me, I’m going to go!
Part Two: The first LP by Brix and the Extricated, featuring Jason Brown, Paul and Steve Hanley, and Steve Trafford
“These were important people in my life, important creative partners. Steve and I felt we’d been through world war together, let me tell you. So I called Marcia (Schofield, with The Fall from 1986/90), now a prominent medical doctor, said, ‘Will you come with me?’.
“That night, Steve put together a band of ex-Fall members, including Paul, Una Baines, and different singers, like John Robb, this amazing band doing cover versions of Fall songs. They never asked me though, and during ‘Mr Pharmacist’ I was watching somebody – who I now know is Jason Brown from the Extricated – play my guitar solo, a fire going through my body as if driving me up on to that stage. I wanted to shove him over, grab that guitar and fucking play it! Then I knew the mojo was back.
“That same night I said to Steve, ‘Why the hell didn’t you ask me to play? I would have done it. I’m playing again secretly, writing in my bedroom’. He was like, ‘I’d never have the temerity to think you would do this’. I said I would, he said, ‘Why don’t we just get together and jam?’, and I said, ‘Hell, yeah!’ That’s how it started. He said, ‘Let’s get our kid on drums, Jason Brown and Steve Trafford’, and once we all got in a room together … there was magic!”
Incidentally, my first Fall live encounter came a few dates into Brix’s tenure with the band, in October 1983 at the University of Surrey in my hometown, Guildford. Brix herself only experienced the band for the first time six months earlier, discovering 1981 six-track EP Slates in a Chicago record store, the 20-year-old catching the band on their US tour soon after, Mark’s enthusiasm and support for her songwriting a key consideration in her decision to shell out on a one-way transatlantic plane ticket and a new life overseas.
“I was obsessed with British and Irish music but wasn’t a hardened Fall fan. It was through my friend Lisa finding that record. When I put it on, I’d never heard anything like it and became immediately obsessed. It was intellectual in a different way, and every time I heard it, I heard something else. It was so complex yet so tribal and simplistic in certain ways, so psychologically complex. Every time it was like a different thing, it would morph again, like a living, breathing thing. Extraordinary!
“Never in a million years did I think I would be in The Fall or even aspire to be in it. I was a musician and had left school to pursue music with Lisa, taking a term off to see if we could crack it. These were the days when anything was possible. I was writing and hoping to record a solo album, which is what the Adult Net became.
“That was always my intention, so when this set of circumstances or fate happened and I ended up at that Fall gig, I met Mark and he ended up hearing the songs I’d been writing that month, hearing something in it then conspiring in his own mind to get me in the band.
“That happened slowly, but I think he knew. When they recorded Perverted by Language, he asked if they could use ‘Hotel Bloedel’, which was my song, one of the three he heard in the car the night we met, titled ‘One More Time For the Record’ then. He saw how my knack for top-line melodies, hooks and riffs, and – to be blunt – my physical appearance could maybe help bring more attention to the band and make it more accessible.”
First Footing: Perverted By Language, from late 1983, was the first of many Fall long players to feature Brix Smith
I was barely 16 when I first saw The Fall, and didn’t truly get the appeal, which surprises me now considering the amazing set-list and footage from around then. I was more interested in support band Serious Drinking, and recall a rather hostile atmosphere, a brainless right-wing skinhead element in the crowd – not interested in any of the bands, just causing trouble – bringing the mood down. But John’s Peel’s love for the band steadily made an impression and in time I was hooked, the Brix-era of the band the one I truly identify with.
“A lot of people struggled with it initially. It takes time to break down the brain until you finally get it. It’s not always beautiful music either. There’s a lot of ugliness, a lot going on there. I think Mark was very clever. I’ll give him credit for that. I was certainly scared to join The Fall. I knew I was in for flak, but at the same time he believed so much in my talent and what I could bring to it.
“I’ve said it a billion times, but I was extremely careful from the minute I joined to never stamp my personality on it, only to add a little light to their shadow. The canvas was already painted. I wasn’t going to erase that. I loved the canvas as it was, but if there was any way to weave gently the light in, that was what I was going to do.
“I believed The Fall should have been one of the biggest bands in the world, one of the most important. It was frustrating for me that people couldn’t see what I saw.”
When I admitted to Brix I recalled nothing about her part in that first Fall show I saw, but would love to go back in the time machine to experience it all afresh, she responded, “Me too. If only I could recall every minute of that gig. I think in those early days i was so nervous I stood in the back trying not to get spat at!”
In fact, live footage from Channel 4’s The Tube, recorded six weeks later, suggests she was lurking at the back a fair bit.
“I needed to very gently work my way in, find my path, so The Fall’s music was still inherently The Fall. I was only enhancing it. But then my writing came out and he started to use me as a writer all the time. Then people realised I wasn’t just a piece of fluff. I was a proper writer and they began to give me the respect that he gave me.”
Fast forward to 2021, and the new LP, its vibe described as ‘dystopian California’ …
“The album’s all written and recorded. Youth and I did it over a period of eight months, writing remotely in the beginning but then getting together in person in July, then remotely again because of lockdown, then I flew to Spain and recorded more in his studio. It’s all finished and mostly mixed at this point.
Honey Tangle: The first Brix LP away from The Fall, released as the Adult Net in 1989, on the Fontana record label
“It’s really my second solo album, my first since the Adult Net, and those following my writing from Adult Net to The Fall through to the Extricated will absolutely see my very firm handwriting in everything, and there will be elements of everything in there. I’m really proud of this one.”
Will you get a band together to tour this album when the shutters finally come back up, post-pandemic? And will Youth be involved?
“I’ll be putting a new band together to tour it, and Youth will come and do appearances, for sure. He will definitely be playing with me now and again. I’m going to put an all-woman band together for this project, put my money where my mouth is, having been a strong woman in the music industry for a long time. I’m gonna make the motherfucker of all-girl bands … with Youth as a guest star! Ha!
“That’s the idea now. Of course, things can always change. One of the most important things I’ve learnt about this last year is to remain fluid. We don’t know what’s happening. We have to remain flexible. My advice to everybody is to accept the present situation with grace. Fighting against it only leads to bad feelings inside. It can break down your creativity and mental health, so as much as we can remain in the moment and be fluid and not be rigid and fixed on certain ideals … Things change all the time. I’m not locked into anything in terms of the band or whatever. But in my mind, it would be wonderful to put together an all-woman band, go out and just kill it.”
Are you going to mention names here?
“No, but I do have a hit-list of people and like to look for young female talent as well and bring younger girls through if I can. I have a few names I’d like to attach in my dream book of band members, but at the same time I see myself as a mentor.
“It turns out that I’m a mentor to lots of female musicians, so if I can bring any talented younger women through and not only show them the ropes but also embrace their talent, I’m going to do that too. I’m open to a lot of things here, but the main thing is to have fun.
“I wish I’d had a female mentor that had shown me the ropes, brought me through and given me the confidence. I’d love to be that for someone. We’ve got to keep music alive and put all of our talents together!”
You mentioned The Slits’ Viv Albertine, a motivating force for women in rock, as was Debbie Harry, Chrissie Hynde, and so on. You’ve also name-checked The Runaways before.
“All those really early girls in punk were so exciting to me. Chrissie Hynde was a huge inspiration, an extraordinary songwriter of the highest calibre with an incredible voice, an incredible performer and a wonderful guitarist. She was a personal idol, as well as Debbie Harry and Tina Weymouth.”
Those women were never going to be content just being the pretty ones in a band. They were always going to find their own path, do it their way.
“Yeah, and a handful of others, like Patti Smith and Siouxsie Sioux. These women were literally beacons of light for me. And this is really random and people will say, ‘What the fuck?’, but Karen Carpenter too. The first ‘rock concert’ I ever went to was The Carpenters, I saw Karen behind those drums and was like, ‘Oh my God, women can do this! I can do this!’
“It was so important to have those women out front, doing what they do, inspiring others to come through. If I can be that woman to other women, that would be wonderful. With The Runaways, it wasn’t so much about their songwriting but their look and attitude, like people growing up in the ‘50s seeing Rebel Without a Cause. It was a rebellious thing, and The Runaways were it for me as a teenager.”
I’m guessing you were always aware of Youth’s work, moving in similar circles over the years.
“I’d never met him, but we knew of each other. Talking with Nadine Shah and her manager about who I should work with, to come at something from a different angle, Ros said, ‘What about Youth?’ I was like, well, he’s legendary in terms of songwriting and production and with Killing Joke, we were always around them in The Fall, at some points crossing over completely. And we had many mutual friends. I said, ‘I don’t even know if he’s going to know who I am’.
“But Ros said, ‘He’s a shaman, and you’re a witch!’ and I said, ‘Yeah, that’s probably true. Why don’t you ring him, say my name, and if it resonates, it will immediately resonate with him and he’ll say yes. If he doesn’t, we’ll move on’. So she called, and I believe he said, ‘Fuck me, I’d like to work with her. She’s a legend!’ Something like that.”
Killing Joke anecdotes aside, of which there are many entertaining off-the-wall tales, I recall an interview with Neil Finn about Crowded House recording their Together Alone album with him.
“Oh, the naked thing?”
Well, there was that. Was that what was going down in Spain, or is he beyond all that now?
“Erm … did I record naked with Youth in the room? No.”
I was thinking more about the chanting and early morning primal screaming.
“Well, Crowded House may have needed to release some stuff. Both Youth and I are extremely intuitive, as was Mark Smith. I work on that level and people do call me a witch. But that’s because I work with energy. I fully admit that.”
You were already there in that sense, I guess.
“I was. I’ve been there for years. When I write songs or do anything creative, and how I live my life, I believe when we’re alive our spirit and energy is in a physical body, but when we die our spirit and our energy returns to the non-physical and you are able to access that.
“I believe that when a channel is open and I’m feeling great or in Brian Wilson’s words, ‘Good Vibrations’, it’s very easy to collect information from the non-physical, and I admit that’s what I do.
“Whether people think I’m nuts, I don’t care. Many other musicians will agree it’s the moment you get those skin tingles and it creatively comes through. It’s kind of non-quantifiable – you can’t say for sure what’s happening.
“Youth also works in that way, his own way. He’s very much of the earth, a high-ranking druid, extremely spiritual. To put us together was really a masterstroke, as we create on multi-levels and it transcends the physical, because music is vibration, and it’s using vibrations to penetrate multi-dimensions.
“I’m suspecting Crowded House may have been bound up within themselves and he wanted to break down some barriers. But I always prepare the space before any show I play and any time I write, burning a stick of palo santo – holy wood – to give a kind of blessing, clear the energy, let go of all the negative stuff, bring in the positive, and we’re good to go.”
So you don’t need to get naked on a New Zealand clifftop?
“No, but we did have really interesting experiences – in his studio in Spain he’s got a sauna and at night we’d get, whoever was there – me, Youth, the studio engineer, the drummer, Siobhan Fahey from Bananarama, who sings on two tracks – into this wood-fired sauna after a session, late at night, with percussive instruments and chant. Youth would lead and we’d all chant together. It was absolutely magical and then, with baking hot bodies, we’d get out and stand under the stars.
Big Impression: Slates, the first Fall record Brix heard, leading to her catching that Chicago live date … and history
“The studio’s located above a valley he thinks is the goddess spot, and there was one day when we trekked down into this gorge, it was amazing being led through, and again we did some kind of ritual of thankfulness. That kind of spiritual element does come into play working with him and in my life.”
The Fall, like yourself, were about moving on, but do you ever go back through the song catalogue and hear things that mean something different to you now? There was plenty of stream of consciousness type writing after all, from Mark and yourself.
“You think it’s stream of consciousness, but it’s channelled. Mark was super-psychic, spiritual in his own way, a precognitive psychic. He’d get snippets of information of things yet to occur. Many songs came to pass that were predictions of what was going to happen, in the way Nostradamus did that.
“I channel in a different way, but working with Mark really tapped into that, one of the reasons we worked so well together. I believe we were being fed the information, channelling through our bodies like a radio receiver. Call me a witch, I don’t care, but mostly I’m an energy worker, and so was Mark. He understood that everything flows … continuously. Nothing stays the same.
“If you stay the same, you stagnate. In order to keep things fresh and alive, you have to move, and that’s the reason he understood so intuitively why he changed members so many times – it was to create chaos and churn up the energy to keep it alive.
“Of course, I think about the future. We all do. I try and plan for the future. I have rockets of desire I send out – things I want to achieve and accomplish, goals I set, places I want to get to. But by and large I try and remain as much as I can in the moment. If I worry about the past, there’s nothing I can fucking do about it, and actually it doesn’t even exist. The past is no more.
“It’s good to have aspirations, but all those at the moment are just thoughts. They don’t exist. They haven’t come to pass. I can drive my train in that direction, but in terms of this pandemic and what’s going on in the world, it’s so scary when you project yourself forward.
“The film of all the terrifying things that could possibly happen that goes around your head does you no good at all. To live in a future that’s just a figment of your mind and your fears. So I pull myself back, live in the moment, and feel good – whether it’s writing, singing or watching fucking Netflix! Try and keep myself grounded in the here and now. Because the world’s changing so fast, and we’re not in control of any of it, it’s stupid to try. So just keep yourself safe and do what you love.
“I don’t go back over the back-catalogue for a couple of reasons. Being completely honest, sometimes when I listen it makes me emotional. I feel so sad about a million things, like Mark not being here, the fact that such a creative partnership no longer exists, or I listen to songs and they bring back very difficult emotions I was going through in terms of what was going on in my life.
“Also, hearing Mark’s voice sometimes just makes me sad. But periodically things come on the radio or I have to talk about something and if I get myself out of that emotional state, I realise how extraordinary that output was and hear things differently because I’m in a different place now.
“There are things I wrote at the time that now I go back and listen, I think, ‘Fuck me, I didn’t understand what that was!’ But now it makes complete sense, because it was precognitive.
“There’s a misconception that he wrote all the words, but quite a lot of lines and titles I came up with but was uncredited because I didn’t see the point of saying so. I really felt I was Mr Spock and he was Captain Kirk. He was driving the ship and I was first in command. I was happy to play those roles and accept that decision.”
You mentioned Nostradamus, and a song that came back to us recently was Slates’ final track, ‘Leave the Capitol’, in light of the recent Trumpite coup d’twat in America.
“Of course, and you can go back through many points in history and many Fall songs that elude to things that were yet to happen. My case in point is ‘Terry Waite Sez’, recorded and released just before his kidnapping. I wrote the music sitting in the telly room in our house in Manchester, took it into the dining room and showed Mark, saying, ‘Here’s the music to a new song, but it has to be called ‘Terry Waite Sez’.’
“We worked in cahoots without even knowing what we were doing. Another was ‘Powderkeg’, written in my four years off in California, the lost years. I came back with a bag of songs in my pocket, although for some reason I’m not even credited as a writer. Filling out those writing credits, Mark took liberties, which everyone will tell you. Infuriating and galling, but it is what it is.
“And Super Blood Wolf Moon, the last Extricated album, is completely precognitive. It came out at the end of 2019, and what’s the name of the first song? ‘Strange Times’. What we’re living through now. And there’s reference to the virus all over that album, written before we knew it even existed.”
Final Outing: The Fall’s 1996 LP The Light User Syndrome was the last studio album by the band to feature Brix Smith
If you had a chance to relive a couple of moments – be it a live show, radio session, studio recording, or even a bus trip between venues – where would you head?
“One of my favourite shows ever was at the Metro in Chicago, the venue where I first saw The Fall, coming back as a fully-fledged member of the band to my part-time hometown, playing a sold-out gig, having only been in high school there a few years before. One of those ‘pinch me’ moments.
“Even better, backstage were the Plastercasters, the women artists who sculpted rock stars’ penises. They asked if they could plaster-cast my breasts. Of course, I said yes, although that hasn’t happened yet! But the fact they asked me, when I’d known all my idols from Jimmy Page to Jimi Hendrix do that, was a surreal moment. And my family were there, so that’s one I’d love to relive.
“For a similar reason, there was one in LA, my other hometown, at an amphitheatre, when we had Howard Devoto’s Luxuria offshoot opening for us, and another at a massive amphitheatre outside LA where we played with New Order, The Smiths – I think – and Durutti Column. Maybe in Irvine. We did a few shows with New Order on that tour.
“Those gigs were amazing, but it was also about camaraderie with other bands. We did a lot with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds in Europe, lots of co-headline tours with the Swans, and also The Cramps. For me it was about sharing a stage with bands that influenced me. Joy Division was probably my favourite band ever, so to see those guys and Gillian in New Order, hang out with them as buddies … I love all that stuff and the energy of those gigs.”
And if you had a chance to sneak back and talk to Laura Salenger, aka Brixton, as she got on that plane in May ’83, heading for a new life across the Atlantic, what might you tell her?
“The thing is, she was following her gut instincts all the way along, listening to her internal guidance, even if she knew not where it was coming from. You couldn’t have said anything. She was doing all the right things. She had to make all the mistakes … and none of them were mistakes. Everything was for a reason. She played it exactly right.
“There would be nothing I would change, and I have zero regrets. Everything I chose to do led to where I am now. And despite the personal losses and what’s going on around us, at this very second sat here talking to you, I’m in a great place. When Laura got on that plane, she was following her instincts. There was nothing else I could do.
“I always listened to my internal guidance, with every choice I made. Sometimes I took routes that might have been more difficult than others, but that’s what life is – each thing leads you to the next. And it’s okay to not be okay. I used to fear the darkness – depression, lows, negative feelings. I would fear having that come around me like a black cloud. Now I realise everything flows.
“The spark of creation comes from the darkness. It is the right desire that you shoot out to get out of the dark place. And in order to get to the light, you have to have been in the dark, or you have no contrast. And those contrasts are so important, even if they’re uncomfortable. So don’t fear it, realise it’s going to pass and from that darkness something good will come. That’s what I believe.”
For the latest from Brix Smith, you can follow her via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And for a June 2019 feature/interview on this site with Paul Hanley, head here.
Band Substance: Brix and the Extricated, on camera around the time of their third LP in 2019, the band now on hold
‘What really went on there? We only have this excerpt.’
Three years after losing the genius that was Mark E. Smith, and following a wretched year where we’ve all missed live music, a new book project is underway celebrating The Fall, charting the band’s amazing four-decade journey from late ‘70s Prestwich punk roots through recollections from fans, ex-members and others who played a part in their incredible story. But we need your help.
Do you have a tale to tell or memory to impart related to the band’s amazing sonic journey that you’d like to share? The new publication will concentrate on – but not be exclusive to – the period from 1981’s Slates to 1996’s The Light User Syndrome, with Brix Smith curating the project, adding insight into her time with the band and related offshoot outfits.
‘Remember …’ the first time you heard John Peel play ‘Rowche Rumble’ or ‘Totally Wired’? Or maybe ‘Kicker Conspiracy’, ‘Cruiser’s Creek’, or ‘Telephone Thing’ turned your head to The Fall. ‘Remember …’ how you sat transfixed watching that spell-binding national TV debut on The Tube in late ’83, witnessed June ‘85’s Clitheroe Castle headliner, or Manchester’s Cities in the Park in August ’91?
Perhaps you go further back, the touch-paper lit in June ‘77 when The Fall supported Joy Division prototype Warsaw at The Squat, Manchester, or Buzzcocks and Purple Hearts at North East London Poly. Alternatively, it could have been one of several side-projects, an Adult Net, Blue Orchids, Creepers, Extricated or Imperial Wax show inspiring you to head back through the catalogue.
Whether it was one of the many radio sessions, seeing Michael Clark put through his paces at Edinburgh Festival to Brix and Steve Hanley’s soundtrack, hearing a track on a mate’s stereo or at your favourite record shop, we’d love to hear from you. Even if it’s just reminiscing about the night Karl cadged a ciggie off you outside a club, you shared a pint at the bar with Craig, or Mark told you to ‘do one’ in his own inimitable way as you struggled, awestruck, to find the words to address him.
Where and when did you become aware of the band, who were you with, and what were your first impressions? What memories are stoked by those associations? What was it that truly resonated and sticks in your mind when you hear mention of The Fall? Did you catch the gruelling Australasian tour which proved to be Marc Riley’s last with the band, or the following US visit? Were you there when Brix first stepped up to the mic on ‘C.R.E.E.P.’ in late ’83? Have you any photos or ticket stubs from those special gigs you’d like to share (adding relevant consent and photo/press credits)?
The finished product will form part of a wider series of music ‘fanthology’ publications, including ‘I Was There’ titles endorsed by the likes of The Wedding Present, Killing Joke, Simple Minds, OMD and The Jam. And your contribution could end up alongside those of big-name fans and first-hand accounts by Fall band members, crew, studio and venue personnel.
There are several great books on The Fall, written from the inside and fans and critics alike. This is not about replacing those, but creating something equally worthy, entirely complementary. Some recollections will jar with others, commentators may fall into opposing camps, events remembered differently, but 50,000 Fall fans could well be wrong, and your story could add extra colour to an already rich palette. Be sure to pass the message on to others who might miss out too. And this time, flair will not be punished.
Your favourite of five dozen or so singles and EPs? The relative merits of your favourite of 30-plus studio LPs and many more recorded live sets? A show or festival appearance above all others? The ultimate line-up? Ever book the band, join them on stage, work with, support or top a bill with The Fall? Here’s a new chance to enter that Wonderful and Frightening World. We look forward to hearing from you, via email@example.com.
Returning Force: Brix Smith is back, promising new recordings and a new book project (Photo: Amelia Troubridge)