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The irrepresible Mark E. Smith is back with one of the strongest Fall albums in years. The post-punk legend talks to Craig Fitzsimons about the song he’s written for the World Cup, the soulless nature of the Manchester derby and Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time. Oh, and why he doesn’t shoot squirrels as a hobby.
Craig Fitzsimons, 15 Jun 2010
“Double Jameson please, cock,” requests Mark E. Smith. At about one o’clock in the afternoon. With a beer to wash it down. He’s in great form, too, grinning benevolently, laughing a lot, mischievous glint in the eye, limping slightly. It would be stretching a point to say the man looks well, but his spirits seem sky-high. He’s even intermittently coherent. Perhaps not a walking advertisement for the benefits of abstinence, early nights, cold showers and organic food, but there’s life in the old dog yet.
I’ve read a hundred-odd Smith interviews down the years, and am well aware that irrespective of how lucid or stupid the interviewer’s line of questioning, a huge amount depends on what side of bed Mark E. has gotten out of on that particular morning. But we seem to have got him on a good day. Sigh of relief. The Fall consumed my life at the age of about 15 and I’ve never really recovered. I don’t idolise him, nor do I think that everything The Fall touches turns to gold. But for the guts of three decades now, 90% of it has. Sure, the last dozen or so albums haven’t quite been as mesmerisingly hypnotic as the first dozen were. But... ‘Winter’? ‘Spectre Vs Rector’? ‘Elastic Man’? ‘Fiery Jack’? ‘Jawbone & The Air-Rifle’? ‘Rose’? Some of this stuff would put Shakespeare or Dylan to shame.
We get down to business. The Fall have just about outwitted a cloud of volcanic ash and made it to Dublin (“Reminds you what a fuckin’ amazing invention air travel is. Punters take it for granted.”) He’s written a World Cup song, but is less than excited about the whole affair: “I’m sick of the World Cup really, and it hasn’t started. It was bollocks the way they changed the rules, they were terrified that the Krauts and the Russians weren’t going to make it. Fuckin’ sponsors put the foot down. Same with France. You’re right to be upset. Actually, if you hear the song, it’s quite anti-England. I’ve never really given a fuck about the England team.”