Tommy Crooks issue no. 8, February/March 2006. Questions by Martin Peters
What sort of stuff had you been doing prior to 97 when you joined The Fall? Did you have traditional art training? What sort of bands had you been in/played with?
I trained in Fine Art at Dundee art college for four years then I moved to Glasgow and had several exhibitions before moving to Provence in the south of France where I was provided with a studio and accommodation by Les Ateliers D`art De Garandeau which, it turns out, was a money laundering exercise for the Parisian Mafia. The guy who ran it died of aids. I shared a studio with another Scottish artist called Charlie Farrell who was an amazing artist and is sadly no longer with us.
Is it true that you actually applied to join the group, as stated in the Simon Ford book? And is it also true that you learnt a lot of songs only to find out that the set list was completely different?
I got into the Fall after bumping into Mark on Leithwalk. I suppose I did "apply" to join The Fall. It was when I noticed Craig’s missing presence on the album cover (can't remember the name of the album) So I phoned Lucy Rimmer at the office and offered my services and the rest is history.
It’s true about the song list. Steve Hanley gave me the list and we rehearsed over the phone! Have you ever heard acoustic bass playing Container Drivers over the phone? Then when the first gig came along we played a totally different set but I’d rehearsed most of the songs with Steve anyway so it wasn’t too bad. Ther ehearsal we had before the gig was unbelievably weird. We had it in some basement in Longsight. (I think.). It was a squat owned by some geezer Mark had met the street but we were all in a fairly high spirited and weird mood. Simon Wolstencroft was there and the keyboard player from Dose who eventually ran away in terror of Mark Ha ha.
How much of Levitate were you involved in? Did you have a hand in the songwriting? (Mark E Smith's songwriting credits being notoriously unreliable...)
I was drafted in to the studio to play on Jungle Rock, Everybody But Myself, Ten Houses Of Eve, Masquerade...cant remember if I played on any others and I didn’t write any of it. Steve wrote most of the music for Levitate and I think Simon wrote one or two.
Did you enjoy the recording sessions for Levitate? Was there tension in the air?
The recording sessions were tense but that’s normal due to studio pressures, time ectcetera. It was boiling hot in London at the time.
You did the Levitate cover, I believe. Where did the inspiration come from and had you done other covers before this?
I did the album cover as I was doing a lot of FARMHAND work before I joined the band and Mark thought that the work suited the ascetic of The Fall at the time. I hadn’t done any album covers before this. The inspiration for the artwork would take too long to explain. I might put it up on the Farmhand Organization website at some point. [2009: the website seems to have disappeared]
As regards the infamous US tour...did you feel from the beginning that this was a bad idea? Was there a musicians' pact to keep going whatever happened? (seems this was the case, given the largely instrumental nature of the gigs...)
The US tour was a good idea and there was no particular agreement beforehand that we would play on whatever. We wanted to play anyway. We all took it very seriously and I think there was an inbuilt attitude that The Show Must Go On! Steve was a total pro and tried hard to keep everything running smoothly.
What sort of contact pre and post gigs did you have with MES? Was the general feeling one of anger or sadness?
We had normal contact with Mark before the gigs and we definitely didn’t feel sad about anything maybe a bit frustrated at times because all we wanted to do was get up and play the best set we could.
How did you feel Julia Nagle coped with all that was going on? Did she talk to the rest of the band about it?
I don’t know much about what Julia thought. She was a bit vague about it all.
Do you still have the photos you took of the audience after the Brownies gig?
I didn’t bother getting them developed. The film is kicking about somewhere.
Was it easy for you to pick up your career again, post-Fall?
It was no problem picking up my career again after The Fall. I started a floor sanding business, did that for a few years then got into doing up old houses and selling them. It enabled me to produce bits and pieces of music and keep my art career going. I brought out an album called ABUSE with Sandy Guy, an Artist who lives in Barcelona. We did Gary Glitter covers which was fun to do. It was part of an art exhibition we put on at The DCA in Dundee called ABUSE-GET FUCKED YOU FUCKING CUNTS which the police and the local council philistines tried to close down and failed.
Do you keep in touch with any of the group?
I don’t keep in touch with any of the group but I’d like to see Steve and Paul Hanley again at some point...who knows.
What are you up to at the present, as far as your own projects and interests are concerned?
At this moment in time I’ve been reading stuff like 3 Freakonomic(Steven Levitt), The real Frank Zappa Book (excellent) and I read a ton of stuff on astronomy and cosmology.
Listening wise, I’ve been into some reggae from the seventies. King Tubby, Augustus Pablo, Hugh Mundell and Lee Scratch Perry and also The Cramps "Flame Job" and "Off The Bone". I’ve also been listening to stuff by a guy called UNK which is strange and unclassifiable but very good.I’ve also been writing and producing music with Doctor Norman Shaw [http://fineart.dundee.ac.uk/research-staff/people/dr-norman-shaw/research.jsp] who’s a weird academic from Lewis. We are calling it "His Light" and hope to get it out on the website soon. I thought Saddam Hussein was excellent on the telly last week so we’ll probably write a song about him too. Sandy Guy is moving back to Scotland at the end of November and that’s when the work will start in earnest. At the moment we are showing at an exhibition at the Embassy Gallery in Edinburgh. The show’s called "Strategic Art Getts". [http://www.embassygallery.co.uk/www.embassygallery.co.uk/strategic%20art%20getts/Tommy_crooks.htm] The curator Neil Mulholland is planning a show for Sandy, myself and Vic Reeves for sometime next year which should be interesting...