I hope it's okay that I'm doing the interview instead of Mark.
Yeah, that's fine!
Do you want a drink? I'm buying.
Nah, I'm okay.
No, come on! Let me buy you a drink!
Okay, a Diet Coke.
Diet Coke? Get a real drink.
No, I'm fine! Oh alright - just get me whatever you're having.
(to bartender woman): Two shots of whiskey.
Bartender Woman (who has a glass already half-full of Diet Coke): Diet Coke?
No no no, just two whiskeys please. Oops! I'll - I'll have that. Thank you very much.
So how long have you been playing with the band now?
It will be three years. I'm the youngest member of the band age-wise, but the senior of the group because everyone else is - the drummer's been in now for two years, Dingo the bass player's been here for about five months. Gelled real well. Gelled really really well.
I know, yeah! So you played on the last record, right?
But the one before it was a completely different band, right?
The last record we did - the last studio album was "Are You Are Missing Winner." I played on that.
And the album before that was "The Unutterable" and I played on that as well. I actually - my first kinda work I ever did with The Fall was on that first album. I did "Dr. Bucks' Letter" on "The Unutterable."
I came in and did "Dr. Bucks' Letter" and "Midwatch." And on the strength of that, I moved into the group full-time.
Once everybody - once he got rid of everybody - or after they all QUIT after "Levitate," I've just had such a hard time figuring out who he's keeping in the band and who's leaving. What's it like working with him? Is he, uhh -
He is one of those people that takes a long, long time to understand and to get to know him. And a lot of people really sort of - well, I believe that's the reason that he's gone through all the people in the band, `cause they don't know how to deal with him. See, he is an incredibly, incredibly intelligent person, and his outlook on life, his outlook on situations is exceptional in that it's completely different from everybody else's, and that's what - I mean, it would have to be. Because think about the lyrics he comes out with. He's got a very different outlook on life, and that comes with the whole deal. Mark is - what you see is what you get. What you see onstage is not an act; that's the way he is full-time. The lyrics he comes out with - that's not just for the sake of lyrics. That's the way he approaches situations. That's the way he thinks. People really really struggle to understand it, and I think that one of the reasons that I've been in the group as long as I have is because I learned pretty quickly. I mean, I've known Mark for about six years, and I've been in the group for three. Because I knew him for that time before I was in the group, I knew what he was like. So I know how to handle myself with him.
(at this point, the Fall's tour manager came over to retrieve a folded-up piece of paper that he had handed to Ben a couple of minutes earlier)
I have no idea what was in that.
Do you, umm -
(at this point somebody handed Ben yet another shot of whiskey, which he split between my glass and his)
We'll share it.
Alright, thank you. Do you write your own guitar lines or -
Yeah. Yeah yeah. What's a real bonus about being in this group -- that I think a lot of people that have been kinda in the group in the past have not appreciated -- is that when you write your music, it really is a team job. I mean, you'll come up with an idea, like I'll come up with an idea for a song, and I'll put a guitar line, and I'll give it to the rest of the group. And I or Mark will not say, "I want you to play drums like this, I want you to play bass like this, I want you to play guitar like this." We'll say, "Right, well, what do you think will go on it?"
Oh absolutely, yeah!
So you know, if like Dave the drummer came up with an idea, and he goes to Mark and says, "Look, I got this idea," then Mark says like, "Alright, then what do you think would sound good on this?" And if it sounded good, then he'd say, "Alright fine." It's really kind of everyone walks in with their own ideas, and nine out of ten times, Mark's cool with everybody. Mark would very rarely say, "Don't play guitar like that! Play guitar like this. This is the way I want you to sound." He's been doing this business for so long, and what's very important to him is that whoever is in the band - I mean, because the band is at a point in their career now where it would be very very easy to get, to make an album and think, "Well, what do the Fall sound like 20 years ago?" We don't do that. What we do is always look for fresh new ideas.
That's what's so exciting about being a fan of the Fall for me. There was this period in the late `80s, early `90s when he was doing everything kinda slick. And I liked the songs, but I was like, you know.. When "Cerebral Caustic" came out, I was like "Yeah! He's doing it again! He's all over the place!"
(at this point, a drunk man came dancing through the bar with very forced, exaggerated movements)
Friend of yours?
Uh no, probably not. A typical Fall fan!
What's the holdup on the new album?
The album was recorded last November. And the last one, "Are You Are Missing Winner," was a good album, but it could have been a lot better. It was quite rushed. And we were very, very adamant when we decided to make this new album, it was very very important to us that we put the time and the effort into making sure that it sounded good. And we're hoping to get it released worldwide the first week in September. That's in all the shops all around the world the first week in September. And if it's not then, it will be very very soon after that.
Are you still mixing it? Or -
Well, we recorded it, it was mixed, then it was mixed again, and it's kind of, "Well, it's good, but it could be so much better." I mean, we really are, especially Mark is putting a hell of a lot of effort into making sure it's absolutely perfect.
The new songs sounded great. What I really liked about it is that they all sounded -- Like, the last album, there was a real rockabilly feel to the whole thing.
But this new one, all the songs sounded like different -
They are! They are!
- different types of songs.
Absolutely they are! I mean, that was, again when we came to write the album, we decided that it needs to go from one end of the spectrum to the other. It's gotta have all different kinds of styles, and it has. I mean, I know I play on it, but I think it's a fantastic album.
Everyone who's heard it - you know, we did a John Peel session a few months ago, and we were doing a few songs off of the new album, and we did "Mere Pseud Mag Ed," which is a Fall classic.
Tonight was the best version I've ever heard of that!
Well, we did that version on the Peel session. As we were listening to it on the show -- we were on Radio One, you've gotta listen to it while he's on. John Peel was talking about the group - he was getting emails and phone calls from people as the show was going on, saying that it was the best Fall Peel session that they'd ever heard. And the Fall have done like 25-26 Peel sessions.
The band just sounds really - I haven't been going to that many concerts lately because I went to so many in college, so I wasn't sure, especially since last time I saw the Fall was right before he got arrested, and he was really drunk and the band was really off. So I was a little concerned, but the new band sounds so tight and so.powerful!
They are, they are. He is so happy with the group.
I've never seen him look so happy!
Well, there you go. I mean, he really is. I feel very, very, very privileged to be involved in the Fall's career at this moment when it's getting so much good press.
Oh, is it really?
Oh absolutely, absolutely. I mean, if you look on the Fall's web site, all the reviews have been like tremendous. And they're really struggling - really, really struggling to find bad points about the shows. I mean, some of the things they say are just pathetic. Like they'll take him to task for the clothes he wears now instead of like - you know, I mean they really are scraping the bottom of the barrel for complaints. Which is, I mean they can say that all they want, as long as they're not saying, "The band was shit. They played crap." We all work really, really hard, and I think Mark sees that, and he really does appreciate it.
I was really, umm - the song choice I was really thrilled with. Not only because you kind of hit all of the albums since the last time I was really seeing the Fall on a kind of regular basis, which was when they were on Matador. The "Middle Class Revolt" tour. So all those albums since then, it was just great to finally -- like "Way Round." I love that song!
Great tune. It's a great tune. What's great about that tune is that it's just one riff, and it goes round and around and around and like - there's a lot of songs that have that kind of structure to it, but you get bored after five minutes. But "Way Round" has got a - I don't know, it's got a thing about it that you can listen to it all day.
I liked the way you played the guitar. You played the guitar the way the synth noise does on the original version!
What was I gonna ask. Is he, umm. I guess there's this - he just seems so.. Crazy? Or drunk? Or - I mean, he just seems really - he seems DIFFERENT.
He is. He is. He's a very, very -
Eccentric? Would that describe him?
Yeah, he's very eccentric. He is. Absolutely, very. A lot of people get the wrong impression of him. A lot of people say, "He's a drunk. He's this," but he's not. That's just like the way he is.
That is the way he is. And that is what's beautiful about the guy. He approaches a gig the same way that someone would approach an office job. He looks at this as his 9-5. It's his job. He doesn't think, "I'm a rock star. I'm a pop star. I'm famous around the world." That's not important to him. What I really, really dig about him is that he still gets really nervous before a show.
He still gets that way, after 20-odd years.
How old are you?
24. He's been doing it before I was born!
Wow. How long have you been a fan?
Eh, well, this might sound crazy, but to be brutally honest, I never really was a fan.
And I think that's why I've lasted. I mean if you look at the Fall timeline, guitar players have been and gone. And the amount of time I've been in, I've done pretty well considering. And what I think attracted the idea of me being in the band to him was the fact that I wasn't a Fall fan. See, if I was a Fall fan and I joined the group and came to write music, I'd be standing there thinking, "Well, I'm in the Fall. What kind of songsdoes the Fall want me to write?" And I don't. I write songs - I just write songs! And then I put them into Mark, and he adds that touch to them that makes them the Fall.
Are you alright playing the songs you didn't write? You alright playing the old Fall songs?
Oh yeah, yeah! Since I've been in the group for the past - I mean, I met Mark six years ago through a friend. And since I, it might have been seven or eight years. It's been a long time since I first met him. I think I was about 15. I was 15 when we met, so it'll be nine years. I've known him nine years!
I've known the guy nine years. I've known him since when I was a kid, and we gelled. We got on pretty well. Because, you know, he's a bit of a character, and a lot of people are like, "Whoa, whoa!" But I wasn't kinda taken aback by him, you know. I understood sorta the things he'd say. And you know, he was cool because he's such a different bloke. And in that time, I've gotten to know the Fall more and more and more. Some of the old songs, I'm just sorry that I didn't know about then! But it was great for me because you know, as I'm in the band, I'm learning about them. So, you know -
Have you heard all the albums at this point?
I've heard the majority of them.
There's so many!
Yeah, there are so many. And some of them are just absolutely incredible. Some of them are absolutely incredible. I mean, I love "Victoria," and I love - My favorite Fall song is their version of "Lost In Music."
I love that one! That bit in the middle where it just cooks and the production sound changes. That's just Mark. That's just typical Mark.
Just record the song, it sounds good, then change it. Switch it up. Switch it around. It's a completely different production sound. That's just great.
So from how it sounds now, I know it's still being mixed, remixed. What does it sound like in terms of - Is it slick? Is it loose? Is it like the last album?
The new album?
Yeah, the production sound.
Well, we've got Grant Showbiz producing it.
Okay. He did "Extricate"? Did he do "Extricate"?
Yeah, and he did "The Unutterable." So he's been involved in it. And we've taken his production, and Mark's added his own - we went to Abbey Road. We went to Abbey Road twice, and did two mixes of it. It's got some fantastic moments in it.
How many songs are on it? `Cause I liked all - you played like five from it tonight.
Ten? Twelve? Twelve. And we did a cover of "Houston" by Dean Martin. It was written by Lee Hazlewood.
An old, old, old rockabilly song we did a cover of. We did it in one take, and it was just perfect. Mark, Mark just sounds so good on some of the tunes. It's incredible. He sounds so good.
How did you end up - did he call you in because you were a friend of his and say, "Do you wanna play guitar?"
Kind of, kind of. He was recording the album "The Unutterable" in Manchester. The guitar player at the time was in London, and they were running out of time before the album had to be finished. So I was living in London at the time but I'd come back, just come back for a wedding. And the guy who introduced me to Mark, a guy called Steve Murphy who is a friend of Mark's and appeared on his spoken word albums -- Mark called him one day and said, "Look, I'm in the studio and we've got to finish this album like this week. Do you know any guitar players? `Cause we can't get Nev down from London `cause we haven't got time." And Steve goes, "Well, there's this kid I know that might be able to do it." And Mark said, "Ah, well give him a ring and bring him to the studio." `Cause he wanted Steve to do some vocals, because Steve does vocals on "Midwatch" on "The Unutterable." So me and him went down for the day and played these backing tracks he'd given to us. And I came up with just a little riff that ended up being "Dr. Bucks' Letter." So we went in the studio and I just started playing this riff, and Mark said, "Yeah, that's it! That's great! Yeah, do that! Do that!"
Oh, you did the "duh dih dih dih DIH dih dih dih dah!"? Oh, you wrote that?
Yeah, that was my riff! I wrote that.
That makes the song!
That's my riff! That was my first-ever recording.
It's like a spaghetti western thing. It's great!
And we came back and Mark was just absolutely thrilled to bits. And he kinda kept in touch with me for the next three or four weeks, which I thought was a bit odd but he kinda very slowly got me into making a few appearances with the band - with the old band with the old guitar player. Neville Wilding, the old guitar player hated me. `Cause he thought I was always stepping on his toes, you know. He was like, "Who's this guy?"
Did Mark throw him out or did he quit or -
No, he sacked him.
We were due to do a show in Ireland, right? And the show was on a Saturday night. On the Friday afternoon, we did the rehearsal. I turned up and really didn't want to be there, because I knew that no one knew who I was. And I knew that the guitar player thought I was stepping on his toes.
What was his name?
Nev Wilder. We got on this - You know, we were doing the rehearsal. And Mark came and saw what was going on. He was very. Mark.. Mark's got this kind of - he likes to make sure I'm alright.
A paternal sort of thing?
Kind of. Very protective. At the time, he was very protective of me, because I was new and he saw what was going on. We were due to play in Ireland the night after, and I was supposed to be playing three songs. I turned up at the rehearsal, we rehearsed the three songs I was doing, I went home and was told we were gonna meet at the airport the next day. I turned up at the airport, and he sacked the entire band. He told me I would have to play the entire show to like 1500 people at, I think it was called the Red Box in Dublin. And I only knew three of the songs. I quite literally bullshitted my way through the entire set. And just about got away with it! And when we got -
He sacked the whole band?
He sacked the guitar player and the bass player. The drummer was still there, so we had to get a bass player. We got Jim, who was the bass player before Dingo. He got Jim in and he got me and I only knew three of the songs. And to make matters worse, we turned up in Dublin Airport, and my box with my guitar were left back in Manchester, and it wasn't going to turn up until the day after. So not only did I not know any of the songs; I didn't have my guitar and I didn't have any clothes.
That was a nightmare. That was a nightmare and it was my first ever show on my own.
So how many Fall songs do you know now? I know you know all of the last two albums.
When I first joined, I only knew the new ones. But we did a show last November and they were making a DVD of the live show. And part of the contract was that they made a list of all the greatest hits of The Fall - "Victoria," "The Chiselers," "Hit The North," "The Classical" -
Oh wow! That's not out yet, is it?
No, it's not out yet.
Oh, I gotta get that!
That's a long story, and I don't really know the full story. I'd tell you, but I don't know it.
Is it gonna come out?
It'll be out eventually, yeah. But we had to learn about 15 new songs - all the singles they've ever had, so I've learned all of those ones. Some of those are just fantastic. Some of them are really hard to listen to, which makes The Fall The Fall.
Are there any you would prefer not to play, but you kinda have to?
There's one off the new album called "Locust." Our drummer wrote it - it's a good tune. It's a really, really good song, but the idea of the song is that it's just one riff. It's one guitar riff and it just builds up. The drums come in, and the drum parts change, and the bass comes in, but playing it on stage is just an absolute nightmare.
You kinda have to hold the rhythm down - oh.
Like I said, it's a great song.
Did you play it tonight?
No, we didn't play it tonight. I begged him not to play it. Because it's like I have the set list on my amp, so I get really into the tunes, and then I see "Locust" next. And it's "Neh-neh-neh-neh, neh-neh-neh-neh, neh-neh-neh-neh" for like ten minutes! So annoying. And it's such, you know, it's just a very, very simple riff. And it's like, you know, songs can be too simple. They can sound great, and it does. It's a good song. But it can sound too simple from a player's point of view. Playing a little riff constantly, it's just really really - you've kind of really gotta concentrate.
What kind of stuff did he write about for the new album? Did he write about the whole War on Terrorism and all that stuff?
There are references to what he refers to as the Holy Terror, which I can only presume is a reference to what's been going on in Iraq. `Cause he's got his opinions on the state of the world. He's got some fantastic opinions you'd never even think about, because of the way he is. It's like I was saying before, his perception on everything.. He's got some fantastic opinions.
Anything come to mind or -
Not anything you can kinda print, because they're very, very, very controversial.
Oh, okay. I gotcha.
I wouldn't tell you one in case it gets printed; then I'd get wasted! But he's got a bizarre way of looking at situations. Very bizarre, but you know sometimes it makes perfect sense, and you think, "He's probably right there!" And sometimes he talks absolute nonsense. Don't say I said that!
Are you able to make a decent living with all the playing you do? Is it tough because the Fall are still sort of an underground band?
Well, they are, yeah. What's good about this band - what I really, really dig about Mark is that when a lot of rock stars get into this business, one of the things that drives them is how much money they're gonna make. No one in this band is motivated by the thought of how much money he's going to make. We do alright, you know what I mean? We're not poor. We do alright. We live quite happily. No one's ever kind of gone, "We're not earning enough money." We don't care. We're doing it purely for the music, and that's because of the way Mark is. We the band get so much inspiration from him as an artist and his approach to being the artist that he is. I think again that might be a reason that he's gone through so many band members; because they come in and go, "Great! I'm in the Fall! I'm gonna make all this money," and that's not the way to approach it.
How long have you been playing the guitar?
I've been playing the guitar since I was 16, 17, so what's that? Seven years. I taught myself.
Did you play in other bands before the Fall?
Only in different local groups.
Are you from Manchester?
I'm from Manchester, yeah. I live ten minutes away from Mark. We used to go drinking at the same - me and Mark's mate who introduced him to me used to go drinking at the same Catholic social center. At the time, I was 15 and I was in the youth club there. Me and my mates were 15 years old, and Mark would come in, and this guy would go, "Hey, that's Mark E. Smith of The Fall." And I'd say, "Who?" And he said, "The Fall. He's a madman! Let's get to know him." And that's how it happened. He's known me since I was a kid.
Did you know OF The Fall at that point?
I knew OF them, yeah. I didn't know THEM. I didn't know any of the music. I'd heard the name. It was one of those names where if someone goes, "Have you ever heard of The Fall?," I'd recognize the name, but I couldn't quite pinpoint it. Because it was so much before my time when the Fall were like, I mean they're still big, but they used to be absolutely enormous. We still are, but when it really mattered, at the time of Happy Mondays and the Inspiral Carpets, that was WAY before my time. Way way before my time.
24 years old and playing in the Fall. That's cool. That's REAL cool.
What's cool now is that, when I first joined the group, any shows that we did in England, when we turned up at the venue, and the majority of the audience would be 35-40-year- old guys. Very, very critical. But what's really, really cool is that in the past 3-4 years in England, we've had this explosion of American bands like the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, the Strokes, the White Stripes, and they have quite often said, when they've been asked, "Who are your inspirations?," they've all said The Fall. So what's really cool now, especially in the States, is that we're coming to the shows and there's loads of young people there. And that's so refreshing to Mark. Because he cares! He really cares. I mean, he wrote the song "The League of Bald-headed Gentlemen," and I believe that's what that refers to. The fact that all he'd see was bald heads in the crowd. That was the thing, you know - he got a bit sick and tired of it. But since I've been in the group, and he's pointed it out to me a few times, there have been loads of young people. And that is so refreshing, because that also affects your approach towards the music. You gotta write music for a really wide range of people. You've got your old people and you've got your young people, and your young people want rock - they want it hard. They want Mark to give it to them. Then you've got the old guys who are already kind of, "You know, this doesn't sound like The Fall," so you've still gotta say, "Well alright, let's give them some classic Fall stuff." And that's the way we approached the album.
When you write songs, do you write them really for you, and then when you're done writing them, go, "This sounds like it could be a Fall song. Let me show that to Mark." Or do you -
We just give any ideas we have to Mark. It's him that turns them - I mean, I could give him a 12-bar blues song, and he would turn it into a Fall song. He is the sound that you hear on stage. The sound that's created, he creates. It's the band's ideas mixed with Mark's ideas. You give him a song and go, "Alright, that's a song," he'll take it home, and five days later he'll come back and go, "Alright, we'll use this song, and here's what we're gonna do." And he'll turn it into the Fall. Like I said, I could go to Mark and give him a three-chord nursery rhyme, and he'd turn it into a Fall song. When we played in England last year, we were doing "Classical Gas"! You know the song "Classical Gas"?
You were playing "Classical Gas"!?
Only about two shows. I started playing "Classical Gas," and Mark would go "Alright!" and start singing over "Classical Gas"! The bass player wasn't playing, the drummer wasn't playing, I just started playing, "Duh duh dih dih duh dih dih duh dih dih." and he would sing over it. He turned "Classical Gas" into a Fall song! That is just genius.
Wow! Put that out on a live album. Did anyone get a tape of it?
I don't think so. It was quite - we did that by mistake. It was just when we recorded the album, it was a state of the art studio and there were loads of guitars in the room. Me and Mark were sitting there one day and I was just picking away there and I started playing "Classical Gas." And Mark goes, "Great, great!" and started writing. "Great! Fucking great!" So it was like, we were doing a gig in Leeds and we finished a song, and he said to me, "Alright, `Classical Gas'! Band - play `Classical Gas'!" So there we were, playing "Classical Gas." He'd written out these lyrics to "Classical Gas"! It was fantastic.
How'd the crowd react?
Oh fantastic! You understand, I mean it was "Classical Gas" played Fall-style with Mark singing over it. Come on, no one else in the world would dare to do that. He can sing over anything and make it sound really, really cool.
When he replaces people, does he tend to replace them with his friends, or does he hold rehearsal or do you know?
Since I've been in the group, we've been through three drummers, one guitar player, two bass players, a keyboard player and our manager.
Is it because of personality clashes?
Sometimes it is through personality clashes, sometimes it's just through people just doing the wrong thing. One thing he demands when you're in his group - if you're a part of his group, it's very important that you understand that you are in HIS group. It's his band. He's the guy that everyone like, "Well, it's The Fall; it's Mark Smith." He's the guy. He demands that you are faithful to him. When you sign up with The Fall, you've got to be kind of with Mark. There's no room for any other egos. You're backing him up. You've gotta make him sound good.
You're not there to be doing guitar solos and things.
You're not there to do guitar solos, you're not there to kinda go, "Hey everyone, look at me!" You've gotta stand back, make the music sound good and do what he needs you to do onstage. It's so important to him. And.. I forgot the point I was making.
No, you were saying about why he, so some people will -
Yeah, so some people will get up there and think they're really important, and you can't do that. You cannot do that. You're there to back Mark up. You've gotta understand that that's your job. You're not there to show off.
But you are very important. Just very important in a role that's -
We're very important, but we don't take our roles to be that important. We understand there's a band - I understand that as a member of this group.. When I first joined the band, I was like, "Great! I'm on stage in front of all these people!" And I got to learn eventually that there's no room for that. You're there to back Mark up. He is the man. He is the one. He's the genius. He's the creator. He's the reason I stood there and and played in front of how many hundreds of people were here tonight. And a lot of people think, "They're here because of me." But they're not! You know, you could have any guitar player up there, and the same amount of people would show up because of Mark. It's not like we don't matter, but -
He is the constant.
He is the constant. He is the ONLY constant! If you go see The Fall, he's the only thing you're going there to see. I might not be in the group in two weeks time, you don't know!
Do you worry about that or you just kinda go day by day?
I don't worry about it because he's happy with me at the moment, and I do my job. I am nothing else but the guitar player. I've been in the group the longest, so a lot of people are starting to know who I am. I've got a lot of people coming over saying, "Oh, you're the guitar player!" I've been with the group for a while now. And if you look at a timeline of the group and how many people have come and gone, I've done pretty well. A lot of people are surprised about how long I've been in the group, because - the old guitar player before I joined came up with a really good quote. He said, "You only ever get two good years with The Fall." He said that to me and I said, "I've been in for three years." And he said, "How can you not worry?," because he worried from day one. He's happy with the drummer, and he's happy with me and the bass player. The band just gels so well.
But he kept Craig Scanlon for a long time. Maybe he's just been looking for someone else he can work with that well.
Craig Scanlon is THE Fall guitarist to a lot of people - a lot of critical people. You know, it's "Ben is not the same as Craig Scanlon," but I'm not supposed to be. I'm not in the group to be the same as Craig Scanlon. I'm in the group to play the guitar the way Mark saw me play the guitar. He wants my input and, fortunately for me, thinks I'm doing a good job. Which, you know, I think I am. Not to show off, but I think I'm keeping him up there. I'm doing a good enough job.
The band sounds great. It sounded really good.
It's such a good job. What's refreshing about this group is that two years ago, we played here - we were only here two weeks, and we did L.A., San Francisco, Seattle and we played here two nights. We did the same tour, but that band had all these egos going on, and it could get really horrible. What's good about this group is that we all get on so well. Mark gets on with us; we have a good time and a good laugh.
He seemed to have a real good time tonight.
Dave is the best drummer I've ever worked with. And Dingo is a fantastic bass player. Dave's just a drummer. He's not John Bonham. He's not there to do drum solos. He's there just to play the drums, same as the bass player. We get on really well.
Is Mark dating the keyboard player?
She's his wife.
Oh okay, alright. Is that kinda strange to have that dynamic in the band?
Well, he's had it before, with Brix. She's a good keyboard player. She's very, very underrated. She's a great keyboard player.
She sounded good on the keyboard tonight.
It's nice to have a woman in there, because she adds another element to it. She's cool. She's the same. She's just like, "I'm the keyboard player. I'm here to play the keyboard in Mark's band."
Does Mark have a bad temper?
Mark's Mark. He's fantastic to work for and fantastic to work with, but.
He's not gonna be in a good mood all the time.
Yeah. Anyone who knows the band knows Mark and knows what he's like. I'm not gonna say he's a bad person. He's not a bad person. He's a very good guy. He's a very good friend of mine. I've known him since I was a child. And what he does is hard work. It's really hard work. But it's worth it. I mean, that was a great show tonight.
Yeah, it was. It was the best Fall show I've ever seen.
There you go!
I was excited to hear what the new music was gonna be like. I was like, "Well, I liked the last album, but I hope they don't do the same thing again." It's been a long time since the Fall have repeated themselves, and NONE of the new songs sounded like they could have been on the last album.
That's what I really dig about this band. Bands like REM, U2 - you could take a song off the new album, put it in the first album and it wouldn't sound out of place. They find a method and stick to it. The Fall don't do that, and that is so good. Because it's so nice, as a player. It's a challenge. It makes me a better player. It makes everyone a better player knowing that we have to approach the album in a different way, and we've got to come up with new, fresh ideas. It's fantastic. Absolutely fantastic.
I'm really looking forward to the new album.
It's a good album.
You said September 1st?
That's what we're working at.
What's the title?
"Country On The Click."
Oh, it's not that "Mike's Love -"
No, that's the name of one of the songs. "Mike's Love Lexicon" or "Hexagon" or something. I don't know. He comes up with some mad words.
"Country On The Click." What's that mean?
I have no idea. We tend to not pry too much into what he's talking about, because half the time, we probably wouldn't understand it anyway. We just let him do his thing. He's got a really, really clever mind. A lot of people don't see it. A lot of people see the wrong thing. They just say he's a drunk. He's not. He's not a drunk. He's a really, really bright guy. He's got some amazing opinions about what's going on in the world right now. But like I said, they're very controversial and I wouldn't dream of - you know what I mean?
In a lot of his songs, that's him expressing himself.
(looking at my shot glass of whiskey) This is supposed to be a shot? This is huge! Can I drink some of your Diet Coke as a chaser?
(I drink it)
Ahh! Oh boy. Thanks. 24 years old in the Fall. That's great.
My first band! First public band. I used to be in a band that toured doing "Dark Side Of The Moon" by Pink Floyd. It was a big 15-piece band, and I used to play the guitar. When I was in that band, I was doing David Gilmour's role. We could show up in any town, and that show would sell out. "Dark Side Of The Moon" people just love.
Who are your favorite bands of all time?
Zeppelin, Floyd, Tom Petty. I'm a big blues fan as well. And I'm a big fan of, because I'm a guitar player, I love Jimmy Page and -
I always thought of Tom Petty as a solely American thing. God, that was strong whiskey.
Do a lot of British people like Tom Petty?
I don't know! My Dad was a big blues and jazz fan, so when I was a kid, I was brought up on like the "Jesus Christ Superstar" soundtrack and old blues. So I'm always listening to people like that.
(Club guy speaks to Ben): Your friend's outside - sorry to bother you.
Right, no problem. I'll be down in a minute, mate! I'll meet you downstairs!
Thank you very much for your time!
Yeah, no problem!
(Ben leaves; I walk outside)
(Two young women with British accents notice my Neil Hamburger shirt): Is that Neil Hamburger? We love Neil Hamburger! Neeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeil Hamburger!
Are you gonna be here to see him next week?
No no no.
We live in Manchester!
He never comes there.
Okay, I'll tell him to go there. Say it again - I'll play the tape for him.
Neeeeeeeeeeeeeeil Hamburger! What do you have there?
It's just a tape recorder.
(pointing at my book): And what's that?
"Secret and Suppressed."
Ah! I know that book. Why do I know that book?
It's pretty interesting. I was just reading about how the Jonestown massacre was really a CIA mind control experiment. Conspiracy theories, yeah. Alright.
(I wander home drunkenly)
It sure looks like a certain out-of-work record reviewer in his thirties would KILL for Ben's job...
Had a brief word with Ben and he does seem a nice fella, (same with the current drummer and bassist.) So, unbelievably, a good night was had!
And the north shall rise again!
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