The Aardvark Speaks : essence, effervescence, obscurity. Established 2002. A weblog by Horst Prillinger. ISSN 1726-5320

October 14, 2004

Interview with Ben Pritchard of The Fall

Well, not really an interview. After the Fall gig on Tuesday, I walked into the bar for another beer, and there were Ben Pritchard, Steve Trafford, and one of the guys from their support band Doc Schoko talking and enjoying after-gig beers. When the Doc Schoko guy left, I walked over to Ben and Steve, only to congratulate them for the great gig, but we ended up talking for about half an hour. Jim Watts joined us later, too, but it was mostly Ben talking.

Which is why today I am proud to present you an Aardvark exclusive — an approximative interview with Ben Pritchard talking about The Fall.

Slight disclaimer: I didn't take notes while we were talking, so everything is pieced together from the things I still remembered on the next day. It's a bit sketchy, and the quotes reproduced here aren't really verbatim. I hope I am reproducing everything correctly, because the last thing I'd want is Mark E. Smith sacking Ben because I wrote nonsense here. So anything that's wrong here is entirely my fault.

The obvious starting point for talking to Ben and Steve was to congratulate them for the great show. The Fall feel so much more like a real band at the moment, playing together really well, and appearing very much in sync.

"Thanks. Yes, I guess that's true. We now have some really good musicians who are getting along really well, and that's why we're getting better as a band, too."

During the gig, it sometimes seemed as if he was kind of in charge musically — playing a strong lead guitar, signalling Spencer [Birtwistle] the breaks, that kind of thing.

"No, hell no, I'm not in charge of anything, and I certainly don't want to be. The thing with Spencer is that he just joined us and he doesn't know the songs all that well yet, so I have to signal him when there's a tempo change or something. That's really all there is to it. They say that on the internet too, you know, Ben does this, Ben does that, but I really don't."

Spencer unfamiliar with the songs? It seems incredible if you've seen him in action. I think he's an amazing drummer — terribly precise, and he adds such a lot of drive to the music. He's really powerful and can be very taut when necessary, unlike any Fall drummer before him.

"Oh yes, he's really becoming an important part of the group. He's very different from Dave [Milner]. Dave was a great guy and a really good drummer as well, but Spencer has a totally different approach to drumming, one that fits in really great with the kind of music that we're playing now."

While we're talking about new band members, does it feel temporary to be in The Fall?

Ben laughs. "I guess so. I've been in the band for five years now, so that's either a very good thing or a very bad thing. In the end, only Mark knows."

I don't really want to talk a lot about Mark, after all I'm talking to Ben and don't want to turn this into a Mark-this and Mark-that conversation. But there is one question that I have about the man whose band changes its line-up at least once per year: is he really such an erratic person?

"Oh yes. He is certainly... unpredictable. He'll also come up with the most amazing ideas when you least expect it. I've known him since I was 15 — a long time before I joined the band — and he is certainly the most creative person I've ever met."

I've seen Fall gigs — a particularly bad one in the mid-1990s comes to mind — when the group seemed in disarray and even Mark was a mere shadow of himself. But now it seems as if he has more stage presence than ever before and the group is really dense and focussed.

"Well, the band is really good now. That makes it a lot more interesting for him to invest time and energy into it, and he is doing that now, and of course you notice that immediately."

Ben asks me if I was at the last Vienna gig three years ago. I tell him I wasn't. That was after their previous album Are You Are Missing Winner, and I didn't really like that album.

"The problem with AYAMW is that it was recorded very quickly."

I tell him that I always felt that it sounds like it was recorded and mixed in three days with total lack of interest.

"We probably did it even quicker. But do you like Country On the Click [a.k.a. The Real New Fall LP]?"

Well, yes, of course. Who doesn't?

"You see, the reason this turned out so good was that we spent a lot more time on it. Actually I think it wouldn't be so good if Missing Winner hadn't been so bad. That way we really wanted to make an effort to make this better."

I say that part of what makes Country such a good album is that it seems to have a sense of purpose, of direction. Many of the 1990s records were meandering, probing all different sorts of things, some (like Light User Syndrome, Marshall Suite and Unutterable) very successfully so, some not, but the main difference now is that it seems like the band's really found a direction.

"Absolutely. I'm not sure it's the direction Mark expected to find, but it's there, and there's a whole new sense of purpose in the band."

And the band just seems to get better all the time. I never liked "Green Eyed Loco-Man", thinking it was kind of lame actually, but tonight's live version just blew me away.

"I know. It's a different song now than when we first recorded it. We keep playing it, and it just keeps growing on us and getting better. Same with some other songs. It works with this band. It's amazing."

I say that I'm really looking forward to the new album, which will be out on November 1st.

"Well, it's not a real album, you know. It's kind of in-between. We've been touring a lot, so we haven't really had the time to write a lot of new songs lately. We hope to get a proper album out next year. Making one album a year is very demanding, so this is just like half an album. It was done very quickly, it's probably very raw."

I guess this means it can either be very good or very bad.

"Let's hope it's good," Ben says, "I haven't heard it yet, let me just knock on wood and hope it turns out good." He walks over to a table and knocks on it, then he notices it's a metal table. "Oh dang, this isn't even wood."

"After this tour, we need to take a break for a while and work on new songs for the next album proper. I've got ideas, Steve's got ideas, Spencer's got ideas--

I suppose Mark's got ideas as well...

Ben laughs. "Yes, he does. He does. But what we really need is some time to get them down and turn them into proper songs."

It's almost the end of the tour, isn't it?

"It's Munich tomorrow, and then right after the gig the same night we're off to New York to play at the Virgin Megastore. But the worst thing is that we have to wait 6 hours at Heathrow for our connecting flight."

Sounds like fun.

Ben agrees: "I'm going to be soo knackered."

I express my sympathies.

Ben takes the cue and checks his watch. "Well, I guess I'm off so that I get at least some sleep tonight."

I wish him a good night, tell him to keep up the great work, and not to get sacked too easily.

He laughs at that last remark. Obviously, in the end, only Mark knows.

Posted by Horst on October 14, 2004 11:54 PM to reviews | Tell-a-friend

laura said on October 16, 2004 09:30 AM:

Current interviews of rock stars and other newsmakers: good idea! Why don't you ask the Nobel prize winning author for an interview for your blog. All she can do is say no. Send her some clips of your articles against Haider.

The Cartoonist said on October 16, 2004 02:08 PM:

Mark is probably going to sack him anyway...

Norbert said on October 18, 2004 05:59 PM:

Next saturday bajuwarian radio BR II (Zündfunk) will broadcast recordings from THE FALL concert in Munich - maybe you can receive it

19.03 – 20.00 ZÜNDFUNK
23.05 – 24.00 ZÜNDFUNK nachtmix: The Fall - Konzert vom 13.10.2004 in der Münchner Registratur

Horst said on October 20, 2004 09:48 AM:

Cartoonist: Sure he will, but I don't want to be responsible for it.

Norbert: Thx. Apparently Bayern 2 is on Vienna cable radio, so I should get it and be able to make a decent recording. It'll be interesting to compare it with the Vienna recording made on a minidisc player.

Horst said on October 20, 2004 11:12 PM:

For those who can't receive Bayern 2, there's a "Listen Live" link on the Zündfunk website, so you can probably follow the Internet stream. [Thx davedeath]

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