Brix Smith has just released her acclaimed autobiography : in depth interview
Brix Smith’s acclaimed autobiography, ‘The Rise, The Fall, and The Rise…’ is a powerful ride through the rough and tumble and creative thrill of music culture. It’s a brilliantly written account of her days in The Fall and beyond and comes highly recommended and is available from here.
“What really went on there we only have this excerpt”…. Cruisers Creek-The Fall
Brix Smith recently appeared in Belfast as part of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival to discuss her recent autobiography. Nardo MacGabhann spoke with her about the book and other topics in the Merchant Hotel prior to his public interview with Stuart Baillie in The Dark Horse. She spoke frankly about a wide number of subjects including Mark E Smith, Nigel Kennedy, Alex Higgins, Gazza and her new band The Extricated. The article serves as a good companion piece to her terrific book. Her readings on the night really brought the book to life and one would be advised to purchase either the audio-book or catch one of her public readings because the experience is definitely heightened. The audience in Belfast were stunned by her reading of the harrowing chapter ‘Scabs’ taken from her book ‘The Rise, The Fall & The Rise’.
M: Love the book. It’s a real page turner. We are going to go straight into specifics. Steve Hanley’s book named the rap band that assaulted Mark Smith but you decided to leave it out.
B: I cannot discuss this for legal reasons. It’s not my decision to leave anything out. That book was written with absolute and complete truth.
M: I apologize for the sequencing of these questions
B: I won’t judge any kind of a sequence. Just throw the questions at me. Don’t qualify them. Don’t quantify them.
M: The Undertones recently attended a Brix & The extricated show. Were / are you a fan?
B: Massive fan of them since I was a teenager. I was thrilled when they came. I adore Damien O’Neill.
M: I was a huge fan of That Petrol Emotion.
B: Me too.
M: Apparently That Petrol Emotion used to cover ‘Cruisers Creek’ but no recordings of it exist.
B: That I don’t know. They’re very good friends of Jason Brown. He’s the guitarist in the Extricated. He comes from Derry. I really love The Everlasting Yeah as well.
M: Well you have the John Peel connection there too. You covered Space Oddity. How did you feel about David Bowie’s death?
B: I was upset. I had actually known he was ill for a long time. I knew he had been battling cancer for a long time. I had heard he was close to death before so I was not personally surprised. Everybody has to die. But it was weird because I’d never been on this planet without a David Bowie on it. I grieved. I had met David Bowie but I wouldn’t say I knew him. The grieving that I felt was part of a mass grieving of the entire planet. It felt visceral to me. I woke up every day for weeks and my first thought was David Bowie’s dead.
M: Fall fans are a law onto themselves. At the end of the day they’re going to be a core demographic of who buys the book. Were you wary of displeasing them? Did you hold anything back for this reason?
B: I held nothing back in the book whatsoever. There were things that were slightly changed for legal reasons. This happens with all memoirs. At the same time I did not want to emasculate the book. This book is much more than a book about The Fall. I adore The Fall fans. They’re all highly intelligent people. They always have been. There’s been many things written about The Fall but there’s never been anything from my point of view. I wanted to put things in the book that they could ever know. Stuff about our personal life and about our holidays. About the way we lived day to day. About how we wrote the songs. About how we collaborated together. About how Mark Smith and I worked together as a unit, a team and a partnership. No one else could write that. I did some wrote with a guy called William Van Needer who’s a journalist with the New York Times and who teaches at NYU. He interviewed me for New York Times years ago. He is a massive Fall fan. When I wrote the Fall sections of the book I spoke to William over the phone. I asked him what stuff as a Fall fan do you need to know about. He helped because there has been so much written about the band. But this is a book for everybody. It seems to be really resonating with young girls and women.
M: People are comparing it to the Viv Albertine book. And lots of the people who have read the Viv Albertine book have never listened to The Slits. You’ve said elsewhere the book could be turned into a movie.
B: Its already being chased.
M: Brix and the Extricated haven’t made it to Ireland yet.
B: They haven’t but we will.
M: For me the most interesting parts were around Italia ’90. I didn’t know about any of that. Obviously I was supporting the Republic Of Ireland.
B: We loved them too because there were a lot of players on that team that played for Aston Villa. There were a lot of Irish players there that I loved but we were with Michelle Lineker. So we were supporting England but it was hard during the England V Ireland game.
M: Did Mark ever bring you to a Manchester City match?
B: Mark took me to Maine Road to see David Bowie. Weirdly enough. I might have gone to one match but I can’t remember. I think we were working too hard. We were barely home.
M: A lot of people think “Bill Is Dead” is the Fall’s greatest song. It’s atypical because it’s a love song. The Fall don’t do love songs. It was also rejected as a single choice. A lot of people think if it had been a hit it would have over shadowed everything else The Fall did. And people speculate that Mark wrote it about you. You’re a competent jockey because your father taught you to ride. You rode a horse on occasions in Heaton Park. It does beg the question. Did you ever “dress as if for riding school”.
B: Tell me all the lyrics and I’ll tell you. I don’t know the song.
M: I can’t recite them to you. They’re too X-Rated. I’m too embarrassed.
(You dressed today as if for riding school
Your legs are so cool
Came twice, you thrice)
B: I don’t care whether it’s about me. He can write whatever he fucking wants to.
M: History seems to be repeating itself. Mark seems to have separated from his third wife Eleni Poulou and is now seeing someone else. Care to comment?
B: It’s none of my business. No. I will comment. If two people are not happy then they should go their separate ways. Relationships last a finite period. Nothing lasts forever. This too will pass. Everything flows. Why should two people stay together if one of them is unhappy? My relationship with Mark Smith lasted as long as it lasted. Of course I was devastated when he left me but now I’m great. I’m happy. If that had not happened I wouldn’t be where I am now. So good luck to him. Honestly. Having nothing is better than having something that’s bad. My parents got divorced when I was one and a half. I used to wish that I had a normal family. I wished that my dad would go to work and my mom would stay at home. I wished I had had the stupid American nuclear family. But now I know had that happened I would be completely messed up today. There was so much anger and hatred between them. No child should have to witness that. It was best that they broke up. I got the best of both worlds.
M: You’ve said that you use “Sense Memory” which is almost like a self-hypnosis or a deep meditation. Is there any chance that this could lead to false recollections?
B: That’s a good question. If I lived in a fantasy world. Yes. But I’m sure that it didn’t. In one of the early chapters entitled ‘Peanut’. I talk about Carmen our maid. I was really young. I was like in a crib young. I remember Carmen. I remember every detail about Carmen. I remember her doing what she did. I remember that abuse. People say to me “How the hell do you remember that stuff”. But I just took myself back to that place and I saw it all. When I finished the book I called every member of my family because I say some very strong things about my biological father. So I had to make sure that my half-sister, my half-brother, my aunt, my uncles and my cousins were all OK with what I was going to say. I didn’t want to estrange myself from everyone. Any recollections that they had that differed from mine I wanted to know about. They were all OK about it. My uncle said she to me he’d forgotten all about Carmen but now he remembered that she did have a gold tooth. So I don’t think there were any false recollections. If there was anything I was dubious about I didn’t include it. But that’s a really interesting question.
M: The first OK question?
B: All of them have been OK but it was the way you presented them to me. It was slightly antagonistic. I wasn’t sure about your angle. I’m still trying to figure out.
M: People I’ve approached to publish this interview prior to this were reticent. They had some kind of a fealty to Mark E Smith and so they weren’t interested. I don’t think the book is a dirt digging exercise. There are not really any huge revelations about Mark. There are surprising revelations about Marcia Schofield however. Is she annoyed about what you’ve written about her?
B: She’s absolutely fine with it. She and I are really good friends. I said to her is it OK if I talk about your porn fetish? She’s an ex junkie and an ex stripper as well. She’s fine about it.
M: What does she do now? Is she a psychiatrist?
B: She lives in Cambridge. She’s a doctor she’s one of the UK’s top experts on pain management. She’s very important in the medical world. She’s married to a psychiatrist. I don’t know what dirt people thought I was going to dig on Mark Smith. This is not a dirt digging book. This is told with love. People want to and need to know my side of the story. I don’t think it does anyone any good to hear stories of disgusting human excess or violence. It’s not my job to write about a human being in pain. If Mark Smith is miserable he is the cause of that misery not me. People need to know that. I’m not going to give you any messy bloodbaths. He doesn’t deserve that.
M: In the acknowledgements you thank Andy Weatherall for encouraging you to write the book. How did that come about?
B: I’ve known Andy Weatherall for a long time. His fiancé is one of my right hand women in the business. Andy Weatherall is the artist liaison at Faber and Faber. Andy and Lizzy gave me the Viv Albertine book and said you have to tell your story. I was planning on writing a book from the time I was in the Fall. Just being on the road with that band I got in all kinds of trouble.
M: Andy Weatherall was meant to produce ‘The Infotainment Scan’ but I think when faced into the boozing he just walked away.
B: Andy Weatherall is a real purist. He sticks to his guns. He’s got the most integrity of anyone I know.
M: When you re-joined The Fall did Mark ever make a pass at you?
B: Why are you asking this and where did this information come from? You be honest here. Who told you what?
M: I’ve no special information. I was living in Manchester in the mid 90’s. I wrote for The Fall fanzine. The only time I was ever within The Fall’s inner circle was at the Cerebral Caustic album launch party in the Roadhouse.
B: Was I there?
M: I think you were but I didn’t say hello.
M. You re-joining The Fall. You being there that night. We were like “WHAT IS BRIX SMITH DOING HERE?” To me and Graham Coleman it was a very strange thing. For the rest of the world to compute it was a strange development. I’m divorced. I have a child with my ex-wife but we keep our distance. Good fences make for good neighbours.
B: You’re comparing the details of your life to my life. You’re presuming that I must have had similar feelings about my ex-husband. But because you can’t fathom it in your own life you can’t understand it in mine. You’re imagining how excruciating it would be to work with your ex-wife. Listen this is what I think of what you’ve asked. I had moved on from Mark. I had gotten over the fact that he had left me. He had been married to Saffron. He had gotten divorced. I truly believe that Mark and I are connected. We will always be connected on some level even if there’s no verbal communication. There is a connection I’m sure. Time had moved on. Four years had passed. I had forgiven him. I was happy. I had boyfriends. I had girlfriends. I had them all. I could either have joined Hole or joined the Fall. But The Fall are the divine inspiration. They’re the real deal. They’re the original. And what would I rather do. Go in a band with Courtney Love who I like or go in a band with Mark Smith. Not as his wife but as a guitarist and songwriter in my own right. I wouldn’t have to worry about any of the marriage shit because that was done. I could go back in my own right as a musician. That’s why I did it. I still liked him. I didn’t fancy him but I still liked him. As for making a pass at me I have heard that he wanted me back. I have heard that he wanted me back in both ways. That I cannot confirm. I have heard from other people. That’s part of the reason he got me back. I did not know that and it was not on my radar. It may be that when that wasn’t going to happen things turned uglier. I don’t know.
M: Look Martin Bramah came back to The Fall time and again.
B: When I left I told Mark “You should get Martin Bramah to take my place. He’s the one who should take my place.” I forgot to write that but it’s true.
B: I just thought he played guitar really well. I knew it would just do good things for The Fall. I just think he’s brilliant. Is that Alex Higgins? (Pointing to a painting on the wall).
M: Yes. I think it is. He looks well in the picture. Some people have commented that MES and Alex Higgins looked alike.
B: I know isn’t that weird. Mark and I met Alex Higgins at the David Bowie concert at Maine Road. Alex Higgins came up to me at it and asked me if I was a dancer. I said no.
(Brix returns to a previous topic)
B: Can I just say on the topic of whether Mark Smith made a pass at me. There’s so many things that I bury. It’s not even important. It might have happened. It might not have. Certainly there was nothing coming from my end.
M: If your dream is to get this book made into a film. Who from now or in the past would you dream of playing you?
B: I don’t know. The person who was portraying me would really have to get me. Not so much on looks. It would have to be someone who gets the essence of me. A really great actress would be able to do that. They would be able to transform their look through the essence.
M: Maybe you and Mark weren’t suited because you love dogs and he hates them.
B: He does hate dogs. He loves cats. He’s really connected to cats. I have no idea why he hates dogs.
M: Is he quite feminine?
B: Feminine? No. I mean he’s certainly not macho. It’s not like he’s down at the gym pumping iron is it? It’s not like he’s watching his intake of fatty and acidic food.
M: How angry were you with your partner when he messed up his answer on Pointless Celebrities? It seemed like up until that point you were going to win.
B: Oh Jonathan Pang. I was mad.
M: You were doing really well.
B: Oh and I knew the next pointless answer which was William Orbit in the next question. I would have won the show if he had not fucked up. I wasn’t that angry because he was so angry with himself. The explanation of the question was weird. There was confusion. I don’t need to beat him up because he beat himself up.
M: Did your grandfather really invent the carwash?
B: He invented something called the wash mobile.
M: Was it a static device?
B: I can’t remember. I think he did. I think it was the precursor to the normal car wash.
M: Until I read the book I wasn’t aware of the alkaline diet. What is an alkaline diet?
B: I don’t always stick to it. I’m not regimented. Its things like avocado and cucumber. Google it. It consists of easy digestible foods. Your body expends so much energy digesting difficult foods. It can make you sluggish and lethargic. You can’t sleep. It causes inflammation. Even if you only do the alkaline diet for two weeks it gives the body an opportunity to heal itself.
M: In the first chapter you talk about your grandmother driving a mustang into a fairground. What happened to your grandmother after the Disney incident? Why did she do it?
B: Do you have a proof or a final copy? Does it have pictures? In the book there’s another chapter that explains this. In 1984 I go to Disneyland with Mark Smith. A woman dies on the Matterhorn ride. Do you remember that part?
B: You can’t really write this because it will spoil it for people. The Disney accident brought back memories of the childhood dream I had. The first nightmare I can remember.
M: So it was a dream?
B: Yes. The chapters written in italics are in my psyche. In real life when I was five my grandparents brought me to Disneyland. The submarine ride was closed for maintenance. The lagoon around it was drained. For me as a child seeing the giant squid laying at the bottom of the lagoon it was just so sad. It was extremely upsetting. It was like seeing backstage. It was like seeing behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. My fantasy was broken by the reality of the filthy pit. It went into my psyche and so I had a nightmare. In the nightmare my grandmother drives a mustang into a Disneyland attraction. That dream was a metaphor for my whole life. I had it when I was five. It was almost a precognitive dream. My life was all about control. But in the dream I wasn’t in the driver’s seat. My grandmother crashes the car and in real life my grandmother committed suicide. So the dream was prophetic.
M: The reason why this is the best The Fall related book ever is because you can write. I mean you can really write well.
B: Thank you. You’ve passed the test. That’s all I wanted to hear.
(At this point the interviewer realizes how much easier the last hour would have been if he’d just said this at the start).
B: I worked so hard on the book. I’m a smart woman. Smart. I’m a great song writer. I’m also a good lyricist.
M: I know you’re a smart woman. I saw you on Pointless Celebrities.
B: That’s a different kind of smart. I wanted it to be well written. I didn’t want it to be a slash and burn piece of trash. I wanted “ME” to come out of it. If you read that book you know who I am. You know pretty much everything about me. There’s not that much left unsaid. I don’t go deep into my sex life. I don’t talk about super uncomfortable things the way Viv Albertine does. Viv is honest in a different way. I’m emotionally honest.
M: You’re not going to name the first two rock stars you slept with.
M: Are they really famous?
B: Were they in bands that had number one singles? One of them was. Yeah. They were not the singers. They were the musicians because I have a connection with musicians.
M: I remember reading an interview with you years ago where you talked about fancying Peter Hook. Imagine how different history would have been if you’d hooked up with him instead of Mark when New Order were touring.
B: I dread to think.
M: On page 162 you talk about Merkabah. Apparently it’s a school of early Jewish mysticism.
B: No a Merkabah is a piece of sacred geometry. Its three dimensional triangles together that look like a star. This is my interpretation.
M: It sounds like an enneagram.
B: It’s used by Archangel Michael and Archangel Mettyatron to permeate through different dimensions. It looks like a star. It’s an angelic vehicle with which to reach higher realms.
M: A journalist in The Telegraph said you had adopted a “Madonna-ish British vocabulary”. Have you adopted cockneyisms?
B: Really? But I have a completely American accent.
M: I only brought it up because the Merkabah discussion reminded me of Madonna’s interest in the Kabbalah.
B: The Merkabah is not a religious thing for me. It’s just a symbol that keeps coming up in my life. It’s not a religious cult thing. It’s more like a cool spacecraft. I used it as the symbol for Brix & the Extricated because when The Fall was at their best it was like they were communicating on a different dimension. People said it was almost like a religious experience. Any music that gets deep into your soul can lift you to another dimension. You feel that you transcend. I believe that a lot of my inspiration comes from a collective consciousness. If you are watching a gospel choir. They just radiate it. It’s like the light of God is coming out of them. People are uplifted. There’s a divine connection to them. We are non-physical energy in a physical body. I believe in a soul and a spirit.
M: You’re friends with Alan McGee.
B: Yes. I’m Godmother to his child and to the Lineker’s child.
M: There doesn’t seem to be much love lost between Mark E Smith and Alan McGee. It also seems remarkable given the number of record labels that the Fall were on that they were never on Creation.
B: Alan has very specific tastes.
M: Why blame Simon Wolstencroft for collecting Mark Smith from your house? OK Simon aided in Mark’s desertion of you but you didn’t marry Simon. You can’t really blame Simon can you?
B: I’m not blaming Simon. When he left me it felt like I was the last one to know. I felt like everyone knew. I was freaking out. I was alone and broken hearted. I felt that the whole band knew.
M: It was a multiple betrayal?
B: It was a multiple betrayal. I was hoping it wasn’t him. I was always close to Simon. I always considered him my friend. It was the sheer humiliation of it all. It was too much to take at the time.
M: He seemed to become Mark’s taxi driver after you left.
B: Oh yeah maybe well Mark can’t drive so someone had to do it.
M: You don’t get any royalties?
B: Only from my publishing.
M: Is there any chance of changing these circumstances? Or has the music industry changed so much as to render it pointless.
B: I kind of figure Mark Smith needs the money more than I do. If I thought there was a pot with three million pounds in it. Then I might CONSIDER it but I don’t like to rake up bad shit. I don’t like having bad feelings going through me. I don’t like fighting or confrontation. I’d rather make my own money and not have those bad feelings. I do get my own publishing royalties though.
M: Was Nigel Kennedy’s house really more untidy than Mark E Smith’s.
B: Yes. On hundred percent. Yes.
M: You gave Paul Gascoigne alcohol. England might have won the Euro’s but for you doing that. Are you aware that this admission might result in you incurring the wrath of the entire nation and not just a few middle aged die hard Fall fans.
B: They were having alcohol anyway. We went on the yacht the next day and there was champagne everywhere. I didn’t give Paul Gascoigne alcohol. He took it and drank it. Its his fault. Not mine.
M: The Mexican restaurant in Disneyland. What was Nigel Kennedy’s issue / problem? Was he OCD? Was he upset that you weren’t going to eat the food? Why was he spinning his plate? Was he upset because he was paying for the food? I didn’t understand that segment of the book.
B: I can’t talk about this. I’m sorry it doesn’t make sense. I wish it did.
M: In the book you describe The Fall album’s ‘Code Selfish’ and ‘Shiftwork’ as artistic flops. I really like them.
B: Some people do.
M: So how is publicity tour going? You were on the Channel 4 news.
B: It’s gone crazy. Channel 4 news was good. They were respectful.
M: And Mark was on the Channel 4 news recently too. There must be a Fall fan on the editorial team.
B: I don’t know but the producer and reporter from Channel 4 news loved the book. They were looking at the book as a really strong feminist book. People get different things out of the book. Certain scenes resonate with different people. Mark Radcliffe and Marc Riley loved the World Cup section. Other people loved the L.A. part. Some people get the spiritual dimension of it and some people don’t.
M: You were probably the last person in the band to have some semblance of equality with Mark. I didn’t know that the song ‘Disney’s Dream Debased’ was related to you. I didn’t know that Claus Castenskiold (the sleeve designer) was your friend. You really broadened Mark’s horizons. The idea of an unhappy Mark on a cruise ship had me in stitches.
B: There’s lot’s I didn’t write about. A young and underage member of my family was having a flirtation with a crew member on the boat. They smoked pot in our cabin and we took the blame. It was brilliant and horrific all at the same time. The sight of Mark Smith on a cruise ship standing next to an ice sculpture. It was surreal.
M: Tell me about Brix & The Extricated.
B: Those songs have been sitting in moth balls. Unloved. They are brilliant classics. When I first started playing with the Extricated people came up to us and they were crying. They wept. They said “We never thought we’d hear those songs again in our lifetime”. Of course we’re writing new songs like ‘Something to lose’ and ‘Faced with time’. We will continue to write new songs but we’re going to use the back catalogue of what we wrote as a foundation to springboard from.
M: It’s almost analogous with what is happening with Peter Hook and New Order. Peter Hook’s band concentrates on Joy Division and early New Order. In both cases both bands can co-exist.
B: That’s totally right. There’s no reason why both bands can’t co-exist. For a Fall fan it doesn’t get any better really. You get to see Mark and his new band AND you get to see the Hanley brothers and I do what we do. It’s a different interpretation. Sometimes I have fantasies that we will appear on the same bill at a festival.
M: You both appeared at Glastonbury last year.
B: Yes. I was doing a reading from my book.
M: You didn’t bump into him.
B: No. I left on the Saturday night. I crawled on my hands and knees to the car. My feet were so blistered. He played the next day which I watched on the Glastonbury Livestream.
Brix: I’m just happy to be in Belfast. I remember being in Belfast with The Fall. We were playing Queens College. I didn’t appear on stage. The reason I didn’t appear was because I had food poisoning on the plane from Paris to Dublin. Backstage I was writhing in agony. I had explosive diarrhoea. I was vomiting. A lovely doctor came and gave an injection. It wasn’t because I had a hangover. Ok the timing of the book. I knew that I wanted to write a book about The Fall one day. I was a female guitarist. At that time there weren’t that many of us. I kept diaries. Not all the time. It was patchy. There’s an incident in my book about where my father who I had a very strained relationship with. I put all my memorabilia, every article, every picture and all the diaries into a stove.…I know this is weird…that my mother bought me. I stored it in my father’s garage. He then got cross at me and gave the stove to a neighbour. Everything I had was gone. It took me years whereby I was mentally prepared to do this. I’ve been very quiet about my time in The Fall. I didn’t play music for fifteen years. This book is very honest. Really unguarded. I’ve gone through so much. I now write about it from a place of love. It took me a long time to get there. I had to reinvent myself a few times. I had to find mental processes to get me through the dark periods.
B. Yes my family had money but they were really fucked up. Life is about a duality. I came from a set of circumstances but I inherited a very strong work ethic. That was given to me by my mother who raised me as a single mother from the age of one and a half. My parents got divorced when I was one and a half. I have no memory of my parents being together as a unit. They were at each others throats forever. My mother worked every day. I was raised by a succession of baby sitters. I saw my mother as a working woman. She provided and she had a great work ethic. Watching her example I learnt how to work hard. She taught me that life had no limits. My mother said you can do whatever you want in life. A parent saying that to you is a wonderful thing.
B: My history with music goes back a long way. The first time I was aware of proper song writing was in the late 60s / early 70s. Living in L.A. as a kid. Going to day camp. Listening to music in the van. It was the time of Carole King ‘Tapestry’. It was the time of The Carpenters. Janis Joplin ‘Me and Bobby McGee’. These were women who were songwriters. I mean Karen Carpenter for fucks sake. She was a female drummer. There were so few of those. She only had her problems when they made her come out from behind the drums. The first album I spent my pocket money on was ‘Tapestry’. I was a huge anglophile. I was obsessed with The Clash. I was obsessed with the song ‘Guns of Brixton’. My friends nicknamed me Brixton. Mark Smith changed it to Brix. He said we can’t have people calling you Brixton. I loved Joy Division. I knew nothing about Manchester but I knew great bands came from Manchester. I had heard of the Hacienda nightclub. I liked The Buzzcocks.
B: I did not know who The Fall were. I knew lots of other bands. I had left college to play music. I was with my friend Lisa. We were in Chicago. It was late at night. We went to an independent record store. We were pawing through the import bins. She pulled out The Fall ‘Slates’ LP. Lisa said to me “Oh my god. Have you heard this band The Fall. They’re amazing. They’re like the gods of the east village.” I bought the record. I was completely fascinated with the album cover. There was no picture of the band. Normally a record had the band posing on the cover. This was like a blurry indistinct picture. There were cryptic words written on it. I was like “What the fuck!”. Anyway we put it on. I’d never heard anything like it. It was the most hypnotic, intellectual and original music I’d ever heard. I couldn’t understand the lyrics so my brain made up what they were. I couldn’t get enough of it. The more I listened to it the less I understood. But somehow I internalised it. Anyway two weeks later they were coming to play in Chicago. We went. We were underage. We had fake I.D.s. I broke the law every night. I was a bad girl. Lisa went off with some guy so I was left on my own. I was riveted by the band especially by Steve Hanley. Because I was the bass player in my band. He’s the most incredible bass player. After the show I went to the bar downstairs and I smacked into Mark Smith. We started talking. I couldn’t understand what he was saying but we seemed to connect on some level. He asked me if I wanted to go to a party. I said I would drive. We got in the car and he asked me what I did. I replied that I was a musician. He asked me had I any tapes of my music. I was told to always carry a demo tape because you never know who you might meet. I had a cassette of a rehearsal. He listened to it silently as I drove. I was so nervous. Here was a musician that I really liked listening to my stuff. And when it ended he turned to me and said “Who wrote this?”. I replied that I’d written it. So then he said “You’re a fucking genius”. I was partly suspicious because I thought he just wanted to sleep with me. That song turned into ‘Hotel Bloedel’. It was originally called ‘One More Time For The Record’. I never intended to join The Fall. Mark wanted me to come to England so he could produce me and I could get a deal on my own. That ended up being The Adult Net. It didn’t turn out the way it should have. The Fall were such an important band that I didn’t want to spoil it. I was frustrated that they weren’t more famous and respected. Everyone referred to them as a cult band but I couldn’t understand why people weren’t calling them the greatest band in the world. I did not want to take anything from them. I only wanted to enhance certain bits. I was very respectful to the music. My thing was adding hooks. I’m a hook writer. I can write a hook over anything. Give me someone farting and I can write a hook over it. I added an extra bit of repetition. I was just a ray of light to their dark.
Stuart Baillie: I think you’re relatively kind to the man given what transpires. Tell me about two things (1) the self-sabotage (2) you refer to him as a pre-cognitive psychic.
B: Self-sabotage. If things were going well he would do something to screw it up. He would fire someone. He would change record companies. Or he would make some heinous comment in the press. He’s really complicated and I’m not sure of anything. But I know he likes to change the energy and keep it fresh. He likes to create chaos. Because from chaos new energy is born. You have to find your feet. You have to find another path. Change it up and keep living. If you do the same thing over and over you wither and die. The only thing that keeps us going is changing, refreshing and reinventing. He had a brutal way of going about it. But his methods were successful.
I believe that Mark is a psychic. He’s written songs about things that came to pass later. I quite a spiritual person. I also believe that I’m a psychic. I believe that he and I connect on multi levels. I believe that everything is vibrational based. We could talk about that all day. I hear things in my head. I’m not nuts. Maybe I am nuts. (Laughs). Where does inspiration come from? You tell me. I hear in my head this song is called ‘Terry Waite Sez’. I hand the song to Mark. I tell him it HAS to be called ‘Terry Waite Sez’. At this point Terry Waite was the envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury. We record the song. He ends up getting kidnapped. The song is released. Then his family call Beggars Banquet record company. They believe there might be clues in the lyrics as to where he’s being held. That was one instance but there were many more.
Audience question 1: Of the albums that you recorded with the Fall which one are you proudest of?
B: This Nations Saving Grace.
Audience question 2: From what you’ve just read your expectation was that Mark’s health would fail. That he would give up in some way or another. Does it surprise you that mark continues to perform?
B: He still has moments of brilliance. I haven’t physically seen shows but I saw Glastonbury on the telly and I though oh my god this is brilliant. I think that band is really tight now. He was excessive in his intake of substances. But then so are lots of people. God bless him. Let him create until his last day on earth. Good on him.
Audience question 3: Have you enjoyed your career change since The Fall?
B: I’ve had lots of careers since the fall. I have a Peter Pan or Tinkerbelle theory of life. Think happy thoughts. I do what I enjoy. When I meet young women who say I don’t know what do with my life. I say “follow your joy”.