Mark E Smith On Being A Cult Hero

This week in NME we salute our favourite unsung heroes. The Fall’s Mark E Smith came out on top. Here’s what he thought about the whole thing…

Hi Mark. You’re number one in NME’s Cult Heroes list. Are you aware of this fact?

Do you reject the conceit of being a cult hero?
What, of being a right cult?

The notion that there’s such a thing as a ‘cult’ hero, above and beyond a normal, common-or-garden hero.
I suppose its fitting because when I was a teenager I was into what was then considered a cult band – Iggy and The Stooges. They never sold any records at the time. It was a very hard record to get hold of in fact. But I never saw us as a cult group. It was more of an underground thing.

The Fall were always aiming for the top of the pop charts?
Not at all. But it’s not like you’re either a weirdo or a straight. A lot of our fans are bank managers. Dole-ites. Criminals. Stockbrokers… Just people who doin’t like either the overground or the underground. It was always surprising that people liked us at all. I was surprised.

The obsessiveness is a factor too – the perennial weirdoes that cult heroes attract – the ones who who go to 100 gigs a year.
Not really. Not as much as you’d think. I mean, you get 15 year olds… you get German kids whose dads bought the record, didn’t like it and passed it onto their children. Weird club owners. Weird clothes designers. It was never one town, you see. With The Fall you could never say ‘we are very strong the north-east’, or in the south-west. You can’t say that. We don’t aim at any one market.

Who are your own cult heroes, apart from Iggy?
The thing is… I thought The Sweet were good. I thought Gary Glitter was good. You just buy what you like, don’t you? 99 percent is always shit, isn’t it? So you just buy what you like. I mean, I like Karlheinz Stockhausen. He’s a cult figure I suppose.

He’s quite unlisteneable. Do you actually like him or do you just like the idea of him?
No! Often people pretend to like him. But I actually do like him. I genuinely like him.

So you’d have him on in the house on a Saturday afternoon?
Always do.

It’s mowing-the-lawn sort of music to you?

Have you ever chartered a helicopter and attempted to recreate any of his more ambitious works?
I recorded a helicopter once. I didn’t even know he’d done it at that point…

Meanwhile, here are a few NME writers on what makes Mark E Smith a cult hero: