On 24th January we were confronted with the tragic news that legendary post-punk frontman, Mark E. Smith of The Fall, had passed away aged 60.
Over 42 years and 32 studio albums, Smith created a prolific, uncompromising and inspirational body of work imbued with the insatiable angst and poignant musings that became his trademark, combined with unique styling and an utterly unsuppressible attitude.
2018 marks 32 years since the release of Bend Sinister, a stand-out record from The Fall’s impeccable back catalogue that was recorded in Studio Two at Abbey Road Studios and produced by John Leckie, who had previously worked with the likes of John Lennon and Pink Floyd.
The album was the band’s ninth offering and was a recording during what Smith would later describe as the band’s ‘Glory Years’ – a period in which The Fall’s commercial success was matching the brilliance of their songwriting and the music seemed to perfectly echo a certain mood of the time. A key factor in this creativity was the addition of Smith’s then wife Brix as lead guitarist and creative foil, the collision of influences and aesthetics driving the band to new peaks and a catalogue of work that still resonates today
While the hallways and studio spaces of Abbey Road resonated with the sounds of classical music played by musicians nestled in the upper-echelons of their industry, Smith preferred the style and talent of a ‘self-taught’ musician, and used to say that the classically trained musicians frequenting the studio could never play The Fall’s music.
Mark would also often reject the modern production techniques offered up by Leckie, lamenting at the use of reverb on drums saying, “We’re not f**kin’ U2, you know.”
He actively strayed from using effects on the record where they could be avoided, and always pushed for a live recording of the band, rather than using separate tracks for each instrument, which had well and truly become the norm in recording by then. There are also stories of him kicking microphones away from the drum kit if he felt the sound they were getting wasn’t quite right, citing that they simply didn’t need the mics.
Smith would instead opt for a more ‘authentic’ process to create the resulting sound of Bend Sinister, and while his methods may have seemed unorthodox and his approach somewhat confrontational at times – none can deny that as a band leader, Smith along with The Fall created one of the greatest post-punk and indie records of all time.
Brix Smith Start returned to Abbey Road in 2017 to master her widely acclaimed debut album Part 2 with Brix & The Extricated. She kindly spoke to us this week about her time working at Abbey Road with The Fall: “Who knows where the spark of creative inspiration comes from? I believe that creativity is channelled from non-physical energy. Studio Two is an energetically ‘active’ room. The walls of that room are psychically stained and imbued with the creativity of people who operated multi-dimensionally on multi levels. Many musicians who have worked in Studio Two were able to tap into this non-physical vibrational energy and channel it into their music. Some of the best stuff that The Fall created during my time with the band was recorded in Studio Two. Mark certainly felt it. He was very tuned in. We often had conversations about the energetic power of Studio Two.”
Bend Sinister was released in September 1986 and reached number 35 in the charts, spawning Indie-classic Mr Pharmacist. Watch the video below: