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Legend of the Fall: Our May 2007 Interview with Mark E. Smith

When his entire band—with the exception of the keyboardist, who also happens to be his wife—walked out on Mark E. Smith in the middle of the Fall‘s 2006 U.S. tour, the legendarily cantankerous frontman barely blinked. He assembled a new troupe from members of supporting acts Darker My Love and the Hill, completed the tour, and then recorded Reformation Post TLC (Narnack), the Fall’s 26th studio LP in 31 years. The band has had more than 50 members in that time, not many of whom have departed cordially. So, how does Manchester, England’s 50-year-old post-punk curmudgeon laureate (and DJ Qualls doppelgänger) keep it up? He’s glad we asked. We think.

On productivity and creativity:

“In this business, if you wanna make more than one album every two years, you’re some kind of freak! We were on one label in the ’80s that paid us not to make a record. But once a new LP is out, I start writing again. Because, between me and you, this new LP is starting to get on my nerves.”

On selling a song for a car commercial:

“So what, it’s a car advert! I saw a few seconds of it the other night, and I liked it. I like American ads, because they’re not cheap, are they?”

On the delicate art of collaboration:

“I don’t like the Mouse on Mars records, but when I saw them in London, they were desperate and fantastic. Recording an album with them [under the nom de kraut rock Von Sudenfed] was like being in one of them fucking films where you’re a prisoner of war in bloody Stalag 15. ‘You will do two vocal takes, and we will be back in two hours!’ And I wasn’t used to it. I’m used to being the boss.

On not keeping up with his old bandmates:

“Well, do you deal with the people you worked with 25 years ago? Do you know where they live? ‘Cause this is the question I get: ‘Do you see them at all?’ I mean, fuck no. I don’t regret any of it; I don’t feel bad about it. And [journalists] always talk about the ex-wives and the girls, and I don’t see any difference between some muscle-y drummer and a girl who was in the group.”