Thursday, 26 November 2015

Leaders of the Pack - Teen Canteen and The Girl Effect #2

Turning thirty was a bigger deal than it should've been for Carla Easton, singer, song-writer and driving force behind all-female quartet, Teen Canteen. Instead of either trying to ignore such a benchmark or else drown the sorrows of her twenties last hurrah, Easton decided to get pro-active. Roping in an A-Team of musical friends including Eugene Kelly of The Vaselines, Duglas T Stewart of the BMX Bandits and Norman Blake of Teenage Fanclub, Easton arranged a night designed to celebrate girl groups while raising funds for Scottish Women's Aid, and The Girl Effect was duly born.

Those attending the sold out show at Edinburgh's Summerhall venue in May this year in association with the arts centre's in-house promoters, Nothing Ever Happens Here, saw some fourteen acts play two songs apiece by female artists of their choice. These ranged from covers of classic 1960s pop from the likes of Martha Reeves and The Ronettes through to more recent chart botherers such as Destiny's Child and TLC, with the likes of Joan Jett and The Bangles filling in the generational gaps.

While Stewart and Blake tackled That Lonely Feeling by 1960s Edinburgh sisters, The McKinleys, Stanley Odd played a mash up of Betty Boo's Doin' The Do and The Velvettes' Really Sayin' Something,the latter a song itself covered in the 1980s by Bananarama. With Stanley Odd also paying homage to Teen Canteen themselves with a version of the Glasgow-based quartet's debut single, Honey, Easton and co closed the evening with a sublime take on The Ronettes' be My Baby.

With some £3,456.72 raised for Scottish Women's Aid, a sequel was inevitable, and this Thursday night sees Teen Canteen take the reins for The Girl Effect #2, at which a similarly stellar line-up of artists including Kathryn Joseph, Jo Mango and Broken Records embark on an even more eclectic live display of girl-pop at Mono in Glasgow.

While just who is playing what is being kept under wraps, artists being covered are known to include Shakespears Sister, Shampoo and Girls Aloud, alongside classics by The Shangri La's and The Marvelettes. Works by Sleater Kinney and uber contemporary Glasgow duo Honeyblood are also on the set list.

“I was really surprised when we first did it,” says Easton, “because when we set out the parameters of two songs from any era and the definition of what a girl group could be, I thought it would be all sixties stuff that people would choose, but it wasn't, and that made it even more exciting.”

With The Girl Effect modelled on various themed charity gigs Teen Canteen had played in Glasgow,

Easton decided to tag the event to Scottish Women's Aid after reading about how public funding cuts were affecting refuge centres and other lifelines for women suffering from domestic abuse who might not have anywhere else to turn.

“The cuts are affecting the most vulnerable people in society,” Easton observes, “and I just thought it would be good to pull together a creative community to try and help, and to try and highlight some of the work that Scottish Women's Aid does.”

The Girl Effect shows tie in with a recent, noticeable rise in charity gigs, a modus operandi that hasn't been as visible since the 1980s. While it's not hard to work out the parallels between then and now in terms of punitive governments causing an entire underclass to live on the breadline, in the current climate of enforced austerity, events such as The Girl Effect come with a more human face than those of old.

“I know Jamie from Broken Records who runs Nothing Ever Happens Here put on a couple of food bank benefits,” says Easton, “and I think it's great when people pull together like that. It's always a bit awkward when you approach bands for something like The Girl Effect, because there's no fee, but because you're in a band yourself everybody gets what it is you're trying to do, and there's a shared understanding there.”

Teen Canteen were formed in 2012 by Easton and Sita Pieraccini after their previous band, Futuristic Retro Champions, came to a natural end. With Easton on vocals and keyboards and Pieraccini on bass, the pair enlisted Deborah Smith and, after a couple of line-up changes, Chloe Philip of No More Tiger and BMX Bandits. With debut single, Honey, released in 2013 on cassette (gift-wrapped in honey-scented paper, no less) by Edinburgh's spoken word and music night Neu! Reekie!, which Teen Canteen have played several times, the sound that resulted owed as much to the Glasgow music scene's extended indie-pop lineage as it did to the 1960s groups The Girl Effect is inspired by.

It is a sound beloved by Easton ever since she heard rhythm and blues based vocal trio The Cookies' 1963 hit version of Brill Building songwriters Gerry Goffin and Carole King's Don't Say Nothin' Bad (About My Baby).

“I became obsessed by it,” Easton says of the song, notable for it's kiss-off line, 'So Girl You Better Shut Your Mouth', delivered with understated steel by lead singer Earl-Jean McCrea. “Listening to that and The Cookies Greatest Hits, I wanted to know who they were, and who the other girl groups were. I wanted to know what became of them, and how all that made me feel. That whole era from '58 to '63 became my obsession, but there were other great bands from later as well, like Honey Cone and The Fuzz.

Easton had already begun her love affair with music care of her elder brother, who conspired with her to keep her off school so they could listen to The Stone Roses just released 1994 single, Love Spreads. She was eight years old.

Having learnt piano and saxophone, Easton went on to study at Glasgow School of Art. It was here she began writing songs for Futuristic Retro Champions, taking a back seat on keyboards while Pieraccini sang lead vocal. Only as she developed more confidence as a writer did Easton move centre-stage on an increasingly mature canon of heart-on-sleeve pop romances.

It was this essence that saw the pure joy of Cherry Pie appear so perfectly on the soundtrack of John McKay's bookish 2013 rom-com, Not Another Happy Ending. This pre-dated Teen Canteen's second single, You're Still Mine, a 7'', self-released on frosted clear glitter vinyl, while its follow-up, Sister, was put out on bubblegum pink cassettes in an edition of just 100.

Such attention to detail in terms of presentation may stem from the band's art school roots, but it also points to a sense of self-determination that pulses everything they do. Rather than jump into bed with a marketing driven record label, Teen Canteen have, thus far at least, seized the means of production enough so they're doing things on their own terms.

This extends to the recording of the band's forthcoming debut album, Sister, which was funded via a PledgeMusic campaign which saw the target reached within forty-eight hours, with ten per cent of any money raised after the goal was reached again going to Scottish Women's Aid. The PledgeMusic campaign's success has not only given Easton, Pieraccini, Philip and Smith the breathing space to make the record at their own pace. It has also seen them connect with their fanbase in a way that old school major label management would be unlikely to allow.

“PledgeMusic has been great,” Easton says. “It's allowed us to have complete creative control, and to be able to do things to our schedule and cut out all the middle man stuff. We've also got some of the pledgers to come into the studio to do handclaps on the record, so it's brilliant to make contact with this community of people we've never met.”

Community is a word Easton uses a lot, both in the context of the band and in the thinking behind The Girl Effect.

“Having fans of the band helping us is great,” she says, “and you really feel a responsibility to people who join the Teen Canteen family in that way.”

With a slew of other guests on the album including The Cairn String Quartet, Sister should highlight just how much Teen Canteen have developed from their earliest recordings, done after two practices, to a more expansive sound that has nods to New Order as much as classic girl pop.

As the scope of Easton and co's ambitions becomes increasingly panoramic, it remains crucial to the Teen Canteen ethos that all four voices from the band are heard, not just in the glorious harmonies that wrap each song up in such a sense of wonder, but in how they get the work out there. That's why the band's regular online communiques are signed off from Carla, Sita, Chloe and Debs, a term of endearment that makes them sound like a gang as much as a band, both as tough and as tuneful as The Shangri-Las, an image of whom graces the poster of The Girl Effect #2'.

“I think we've always wanted a big sound,” says Easton. “Some people said we were twee, but I never thought we were.”

Beyond The Girl Effect #2 and Sister, all of the band members are active in other spheres. While Philip remains a member of the BMX Bandits, Pieraccini will be performing her solo theatre piece, Bird, at the Manipulate festival of visual theatre in January 2016.

Easton, meanwhile is working on a solo musical project under the name Ette. Named in homage to first generation Edinburgh punk band The Ettes as much as The Ronettes, Ette sees Easton collaborating with Glasgow musician and producer Joe Kane. An album, Homemade Lemonade, will be released via Olive Grove Records on limited edition baby pink vinyl early next year. If the tellingly named track, Attack of The Soul Glam Cheerleaders (Parts 1 and 2), is anything to go by, it promises to be a pop monster.

With the release of Sister imminent, Teen Canteen are also signed up to play alongside Japanese girl group veterans Shonen Knife on the Scottish leg of their forthcoming tour. With the fortieth anniversary of Scottish Women's Aid also forthcoming, one shouldn't rule out the possibility of The Girl Effect #3.

“It's all really quite exciting right now,” says Easton. “I never thought that we'd end up on a film soundtrack and be in a position where we can put out an album by ourselves, and help to support Scottish Women's Aid with all these people coming along to The Girl Effect. But we're in a position now where we've got all these songs to explore in our own time, and the band itself feels really strong just now. It's really great being in a band where harmonies become another instrument. It's really powerful. There's not really a better feeling than singing with close friends like that.”

Teen Canteen presents The Girl Effect #2, Mono, Glasgow, November 26th.

Product, November 2015


Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Jessica Hardwick - Rapunzel

Jessica Hardwick could be forgiven for wanting to let her hair down. The Borders born actress has barely had a breather since she graduated from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in 2013 to join the Citizens Theatre as one of the company's acting interns for that year. Her new tenure threw her in at the deep end for her first professional role as Sonya in Dominic Hill's epic staging of Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment adapted by Chris Hannan. This was followed with Hardwick playing the maid, Christine, in Hill's equally intense staging of August Strindberg's play, Miss Julie, as adapted by Zinnie Harris.

For both of these roles Hardwick was awarded playwright John Byrne's inaugural Billy award, named in honour of actor Billy McColl and introduced to support the best in rising young talent. Hardwick was subsequently cast in Byrne's take on Chekhov's Three Sisters at the the Tron Theatre, where she also performed with Stellar Quines in Lucy Porter's The Fair Intellectual Club.

Hardwick was back at the Citz in Slope, Stewart Laing's studio-based reworking of Pamela Carter's play that looked at the relationship between the poets, Verlaine and Rimbaud for Laing's Untitled Projects. She returned again following a stint at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh in Tony Cownie's reworking of Goldoni, The Venetian Twins, for the Citz's Edinburgh International Festival co-production of Lanark. This saw her play the female lead in David Greig's adaptation of Alasdair Gray's iconic novel as directed by Graham Eatough.

Now, rather than ease up from such non-stop activity, Hardwick has come home to her alma mater for Christmas to play the title role in a new version of Rapunzel. With Hardwick sporting scarlet Doc Marten boots, geek girl glasses and crazy hair, Lu Kemp's production of Annie Siddons' new take on Grimms' classic fairytale offers up a punkier, spunkier heroine than is usually depicted.

“I think quirky is a good way of describing her,” says Hardwick on a lunch break from rehearsals and still wearing her Docs. “The play is much more earthy than the fairytale, and Rapunzel's got a good bit of feist behind her. Rapunzel has this oomph and a zest for life inside her. Everything she does comes from the heart, and she's not afraid of anything. I think earthy is a good word to describe the play, because it's set in a garden a lot of the time, and it's about growing up and coming of age.

Once Rapunzel gets her hair cut I spend a lot of time dressed as a boy, so there's this tomboyish thing about her as well as her having this inner beauty. There's something very free about her. She's not a wallflower.”

This could be said as well about Hardwick. Born in Melrose, she grew up “in the middle of nowhere” and was involved in school shows from an early age. While never happy with purely academic pursuits, Hardwick came into her own once she started at Earlston High School, where a thriving drama department opened her up to new possibilities in much the same way it had done for Jack Lowden, the Olivier award winning actor who was in the year above her.

“There was a lot of love for the drama department at school,” Hardwick says, “and Jeff Thompson, the head of department, also put on shows with the local amateur operatic society, so I'd get involved in those, and from the age of thirteen had this structure of going to rehearsals two nights a week, so it became part of my routine. It was the happiest part of my life, and I couldn't imagine not having that in it, and I thought, okay, this is what makes me happy, but coming from the middle of nowhere it was still quite scary going to my parents and telling them I wanted to go to drama school when I wasn't even sure what drama school was.”

Hardwick would take the 6am bus to Glasgow every Saturday morning to take part in weekend acting classes at what was then the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Aged seventeen, Hardwick left school and moved to London to take up a place on a foundation course at RADA before moving back to Scotland for the full three year course at RSAMD/RCS.

While still studying,Hardwick was selected to take part in the Sam Wannamaker Festival at Shakespeare's Globe, where she performed in scenes from Richard Brome's little-known seventeenth century comedy, The Antipodes.

“That was quite daunting,” Hardwick says of her time at the reconstructed Elizabethan playhouse. “Because of the way it's built, you feel like a gladiator.”

Hardwick was spotted by the Citizens around the same time.

“Oh, my goodness,” she says. “The Citizens means everything to me. I was really lucky to end up here so early in my career, and I've learnt so much working with the people I have done, especially on Crime and Punishment. Everything about that was so magical, and I remember every moment. I felt part of something that was different, exciting and special. It was a beautiful part, and it gave me the confidence to believe that I can do this. I've learnt so much from everything I've done so far, and every part I've played has been different, but in my heart I will never forget Crime and Punishment.”

As if she hasn't achieved enough in her short career, Hardwick has also taken up photography.

“My brain works really quickly,” she says. “I find acting and photography calming, and they both help control that energy. It's also nice to be able to talk to people. That's something I really enjoy, and acting and photography help connect you with other people.”

Having only worked professionally for two years, Hardwick isn't sure where her ambitions will take her in the long term.

“It's a lottery,” she says. “Things have happened for me so quickly that I'm really enjoying that. There should probably be one part I'm aiming for, but at the moment it's a big Pandora's Box, never knowing what's going to happen next.”

In the immediate future, as soon as Rapunzel is over, Hardwick will be joining the National Theatre of Scotland for the American tour of The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart, David Greig and director Wils Wilson's contemporary reinvention of ballad-based drama.

Hardwick thinks it will be “a good adventure. I think I'm going to take my camera.”

In the meantime, she'll be keeping the Doc Martens on as Rapunzel.

“I think it will give audiences a really harmonious experience,” Hardwick says of the show. “There are lots of Christmas shows on which are tremendous fun, but there's scope as well for really clear story-telling which can be fun, quirky and unexpected. The way we're doing Rapunzel means it's also quite dark in places, but every character in it is driven by love. There's a hell of a lot of love in this play.”

Rapunzel, Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, November 28-January 3.

The Herald, November 24th 2015


Monday, 23 November 2015

Grace Ndiritu - A Return To Normalcy: Birth of a New Museum

Reid Gallery, Reid Building, Glasgow School of Art until December 12th

"The things people think about Africa," says the down to earth and very English sounding voice of Grace Ndiritu in her video piece, Raiders of the Lost Ark (2015), at one point, "and they never go to Africa. Fuckin' Hell, man."

Filmed on location at the Wusha Mikel Church in Ethiopia and the Samyeling Tibetan Monastery, Raiders of the Lost Ark's prosaic observation sums up everything Ndiritu's vast catalogue of film and video works, paintings, photographs and performances are about. Raised in Britain and with a Kenyan heritage, as Ndiritu bridges the shadow line of cultural assimilation, appropriation and fetishisation of the exotic, a transformative visual poetry emerges that fuses shamanic ceremonial with trash pop notions of ethno-delic glam chic and ancient future ritual.

This is made most explicit in Holotropic Breathing for the Masses (2015), a film of what in September of this year Ndiritu styled as 'An Afro-futuristic Performance', in which she set herself up as a high priestess overseeing a form of rebirthing of GSA's Mackintosh Building following the recent fire that destroyed part of this most iconic of buildings.

The film is screened beside the set on which Ndiritu performed, with a circular yellow rug at its centre flanked by mock-ups of giant crystals and vividly coloured sculptural shapes. In this recreation of Ndiritu's temple-like construction, the film itself finds her banging a drum as she attempts to conjure up the Egyptian God Osiris.

Even more hypnotic is the singing bowl-like drone composed and performed by Ndiritu that forms the soundtrack for Journey's North: Pole to Pole (2009), a twin screen video installation in which adaptations of Native Alaskan poems by Melody Jackson are beamed alongside images of a snow-driven landscape.

With the paintings that make up Workers: Post-Hippie Pop-Abstraction (2015) exploring New Age totems co-opted by fashion victim cultural tourists and the ongoing photo-based installation, AQFM VOL.6 GLASGOW SCHOOL OF ART an ever expanding archive of multi-cultural mash-ups, this is as much a personal spiritual quest as anthropological excavation.

'Today I am more Native than yesterday' are the first words onscreen in Journey's North: Pole to Pole. 'I see I am more Native than tomorrow' are the last in a telling meditation on how identities can shape-shift depending on where you're at as much as where you are.

Scottish Art News, December 2015


Tuesday, 17 November 2015

King Charles III

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars

As constitutional crises go, the death of the Queen and subsequent accession of Prince Charles in his mother's wake might well rock the establishment where they are both figureheads. And if the man who would be king breached royal protocol and started tasking charge of matters of state, who knows how things might turn out?

This is the starting point for Mike Bartlett's contemporary history epic, which begins in this UK tour of Rupert Goold's Almeida Theatre production with a solemn candlelit requiem as the cast process into a brick-lined semi-circular crypt that doubles up as the bowels of Buckingham Palace. Here we meet Charles and his tabloid-friendly brood: a dutiful William, a ruthlessly ambitious Kate and a hopelessly hapless Harry, who falls for Jess, a St Martin's art school girl who introduces him to some real common people. Charles, meanwhile, must confront old ghosts even as he squares up to a reactionary government.

Told over five audaciously treasonous acts and penned in faux Shakespearian blank verse, what follows is a very British coup that brings down the old order even as it confirms a new one that pays even more lip service to tradition. Robert Powell makes for a quietly radical Charles, looking by turns statesmanlike and lost as he finds a purpose too late. Beyond his over-riding ridiculousness, Richard Glaves' Harry learns much from Lucy Phelps' Jess, and in many ways it is the women who hold the power. Jennifer Bryden's Kate is particularly driven. Book-ended by Jocelyn Pook's exquisite choral-based score, the ending may look and sound like triumph, but this is actually a play in mourning for kingdoms yet to come.

The Herald, November 18th 2015


Ruth Connell - Supernatural

Fans of long-running cult American fantasy series Supernatural will have spotted a new arrival in its tenth season, currently airing on E4 in the UK. The red-haired woman called Rowena may not have said anything during her first appearance sitting in her hotel room at the end of the episode, Soul Survivor, which aired last month. The two men hanging from the ceiling above her impaled by stakes, however, spoke volumes about her demonic intent.

As fans of the show will find out when Rowena makes her presence fully felt in the season's eighth episode, Girls, Girls, Girls, on November 25th, what turns out to be a 400 year old matriarch with some very important progeny also speaks with a Falkirk accent. This comes in the form of thirty-six year old actress Ruth Connell, who was last seen on these shores playing Mrs Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh back in 2008, but who now seems to have entered an even more fantastical realm.

“Rowena is this powerful witch trying to reclaim her power-base,” Connell says on a break from filming the eleventh series of Supernatural in her first UK newspaper interview since she first appeared on American screens a year ago. “She turns up and creates havoc, and gets caught and tortured, but she's not just a baddie or nasty for the sake of it. There's humour there, and I can be playful with Rowena., especially after a manager I had a couple of years ago told me that I looked like I probably should play a witch.”

Connell's career was marked out from when she was a child growing up on her parents farm in Bonnybridge, when, having been packed off to accompany her younger cousin to dance classes, Connell found a natural aptitude for it. She appeared as Clara in Scottish Ballet's production of The Nutcracker, and danced in pantomime before studying drama in London.

Connell toured in a production of Ena Lamont Stewart's play, Men Should Weep, played Helen of Troy in Faust at the Royal Lyceum, and appeared in Alex Norton's production of No Mean City at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow.

Once she moved to America, it was Connell's voice which initially paid dividends when she was picked to be voice match for Merida, the flame-haired princes played by Kelly Macdonald in Disney Pixar's animated feature, Brave. With Supernatural, however, it is Connell solely in the spotlight.

“It's honestly been one of the best years of my life,” she says. “Eighteen months ago I couldn't get an audition, and now here I am, this girl from a farm in Bonnybridge on network American TV and going to fan conventions all over the world.”

One of these brought her back to the UK for an event called Asylum, held at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham.

“I really was pinching myself,” says Connell, “because six or seven years earlier I'd done a convention when I was working for a PR company, and now here I was signing autographs in the same room I'd helped set up.”

Given that Supernatural is known for killing off its characters in the goriest of ways, both Connell and Rowena's future with the programme is far from certain. While Connell won't be drawn on how things pan out, the fact that Rowena is known to fans to become integral to future plots suggests she'll be haunting our screens a while yet.

“She's involved in quite a pivotal way,” Connell teases. “especially in the finale. Rowena's a lot of fun to play. It's definitely the most fun I've ever had in an evening gown.”

Despite such high profile exposure, Connell expresses a desire to work more in Scotland, particularly onstage with the likes of the National Theatre of Scotland and the Royal Lyceum. Filming prevented her taking up an invitation to appear in a scene that formed part of the latter theatre's recent fiftieth anniversary celebrations, though a couple of years ago Scotland came to America when Connell was asked to be voice coach on a production of Linda McLean's play, Sex and God.

“That was one of the best things that happened to me before Supernatural,” she says. “I'd admired Linda's work for years, and suddenly I'm sitting next to her in a little black box theatre in L.A. But it would be great to do something like that back home as well, and why not? I've a house in London, a family in Scotland, I'm filming in Vancouver and I'm living in L.A, so I don't see why I can't combine all that with working in Scotland as well.”

Supernatural airs on E4 on Wednesdays at 10pm.

The Herald, November 17th 2015


Monday, 16 November 2015

Capital Converse

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Three stars

When you've got nothing, you've got nothing to lose, as some street-smart sage once wrote. So it goes for Malky, the Leith Walk wag at the heart of Mikey Burnett's play as he lets rip over one tragi-comic night sparring with his flat-mate Frank in the bathroom. When Malky bursts in, he's lost his last pound on a sure fire winner that fell at the first, the dole have stopped his money, and, most crucially, the love of his life has dumped him to the point of almost having to get a restraining order out on him.

What follows over the next fifty minutes is a quickfire riot of the sort of twisted desperado logic which initially comes on like a post Trainspotting flat-sharing sit-com. Things take a more serious turn in Iain Davie's production for the Napier University sired Trig Point Theatre company, as such exchanges point up just how much those backed into a corner by economic and emotional poverty can end up clutching at any straw that's going. The fact that the first voice you hear on this final night of Hothouse, the Traverse's week-long mini season of local grassroots theatre companies, is neither Malky or Frank's, but that of David Cameron, speaks volumes about where Burnett is coming from without ever having to lay it on with a trowel.

In many ways it is the meticulously observed behavioural tics and nuances of personality that count here, something relished by Daniel Campbell and James Garvock as they invest Frank and Malky with a depth beyond the play's initial hysteria that makes for a darkly funny portrait of life on the edge.

The Herald, November 17th 2015


Brix and The Extricated - Life After The Fall

When Brix Smith Start picked up a guitar for the first time in fifteen years, it was an understandably emotional experience. Smith Start, after all, is a survivor of not just one, but two stints as guitarist with legendary punk-sired outsiders, The Fall. She was also married for six years to this most truculent of bands' mercurial vocalist and leader throughout almost forty years, thirty-odd albums and countless ex members, Mark E Smith.

Following such service above and beyond musical duty, Smith Start eventually moved into a career in fashion, first running a chain of boutiques with her current husband, Philip Start, then on TV alongside Gok Wan on Gok's Fashion Fix.

Once she started playing guitar again, however, there was no turning back, and the result of this renewed love affair is Brix and The Extricated, a band she fronts with no less than three former Fall members, including bassist Steve Hanley and his drummer brother Paul, who first played with The Fall aged fifteen.

The Hanleys are regarded by many to be the finest rhythm section The Fall ever had, with Steve Hanley clocking up some seventeen years hard labour in the band's engine room. Brix and The Extricated's forthcoming tour, which stops off in Glasgow this week, will be the first chance to see the trio play on a stage alongside guitarists Steve Trafford (a later ex Fall casualty) and Jason Brown for more than twenty years.

“It's the weirdest thing,” says Smith Start. “After I left The Fall, I did a couple of solo projects, but nothing ever happened. It wasn't my time, and I thought that was it. I not only never touched a guitar, but I sold ten of them, lent others out and put others in a closet as I became creative in different ways. But life is weird, and I really believe in signs and spirituality, and just as my husband started really getting on my case about doing music again, I bumped into my old producer, Craig Leon, who also said I should be playing.”

With no-one else around and in the privacy of her own home, Smith Start wondered what harm it could do. Once she plugged in, however, “Something weird happened, and this fully formed song dropped out. My voice was different, kind of vulnerable and charismatic at the same time. I didn't know where any of this was coming from, and began weeping.”

Around the same time, Smith Start was sent a copy of The Big Midweek, Steve Hanley's tragi-comic memoir of his time in The Fall that also features his thoughts on Smith Start.

“I read it,” she says, “and I thought, my God, what we did was really important. It was also really interesting to find out what Steve thought of me, because we never really spoke. I'm a chatterer, and he's very inward, and while I was Mark's girlfriend in America, he took me at face value, but his book doesn't really pull any punches. There are things he said about me that are different from the perception I have of myself, but that's okay, and they're completely valid.”

At the book launch, an ad hoc band led by Hanley played a selection of Fall covers.

“Steve seemed happy and healed,” Smith Start says in a nod to the trauma playing in The Fall clearly leaves in its wake, “and as soon as they started playing, something inside of me just opened up. The first thing they did was U.S. 80S 90s, and I just got chills.”

Smith Start asked Hanley why they hadn't asked her to play with them.

“He said they didn't think I'd ever do it.”

With the aim of performing both old and new material, the seeds of Brix and The Extricated were duly planted.

“We're all songwriters,” Smith Start points out, “and the first rule was that we only do stuff that we wrote for The Fall. We're doing different interpretations of our own work, and we have the right to do that, because they're not only fucking great songs. They're part of our lives.”

While this rule allowed for a welter of material, including singles Cruiser's Creek and L.A, for Smith Start it also made for a slight problem.

“Nobody wanted to sing Mark's lyrics and stand in his shadow,” she says, sounding like a fan girl as much as Smith's ex wife. “I have to tell you, I was absolutely terrified to do it. First of all, his words are incredible, but so is his delivery and his attitude. He's so iconic, so to try and follow that is pretty scary, but then, with those songs, because I was married to Mark, I understand where some of the inspiration came from, because I was part of it too.

“Once I realised that, I started to sing the songs in my own way, and it all transcended. It's different, and I have a style, but that's okay, and I felt confident, because it's relevant. We've only played six shows so far, but old fans have accepted it, and that's been really emotional.

“With the new stuff, we're not trying to sound like The Fall, but it's early days yet and sometimes, because of who we all are we can't help it, but we're letting it evolve. I love the bombast, and I love the repetition, and I'm really into rapping right now, so let's see. This is what I live for, and right now is pretty much my whole life.”

The artist formerly known as Laura Elisse Salenger grew up in Los Angeles and Chicago before studying theatre and literature in Vermont. It was while playing bass and singing in her first group, Banda Dratsing that Laura became Brix after Salenger was inspired by The Clash song, Guns of Brixton.

Having met Smith in 1982, she subsequently married him and became The Fall's second guitarist, arriving not long after current BBC 6Music DJ Marc Riley left following a punch-up with Mark E Smith during a tour of Australia. The newly monickered Brix Smith gave The Fall both a glamour and a commercial sheen that paid dividends. For a while she even sorted out her new hubby's wardrobe, as scruffy jumpers were exchanged for shiny shirts in major label backed videos in support of chart-skimming singles, including covers of Victoria, by The Kinks, and psych-garage classics, Mr Pharmacist and There's A Ghost in My House.

Fronting her own band, The Adult Net, in tandem with The Fall, Smith Start went on to tour with The Bangles, covered Donovan's Hurdy Gurdy Man with her later partner, classical violinist Nigel Kennedy, and auditioned for Courtney Love's band, Hole, playing with them for just one day. Smith Start went on to release a solo EP at the end of the 1990s and a digital only solo album, Neurotica, in the noughties, though both slipped out barely noticed.

All of this and more will soon be laid bare in The Rise, The Fall, and The Rise, Smith Start's forthcoming memoir, overseen by the same team who worked on ex Slits guitarist Viv Albertine's book, Clothes, Music, Boys, and set to be published by Faber and Faber in 2016.

“I kept my mouth shut for fifteen years,” Smith Start says, “because I'm an extremely private person, but this is the complete truth. I've no anger about things anymore. It's just about the choices you make in life, and the hardships I faced which no-one has any idea about. There's stuff in there about Mark as well, which, because I was married to him, no fucker knows.”

Given Smith Start's background in drama and her ongoing membership of the American Screen Guild, it is interesting to note the inherent theatricality that has powered The Fall. While some dismiss Smith's restless messing with sound levels inbetween moving both members and equipment around or else wandering offstage entirely as the vagaries of an incoherent drunk, such incidents are closer in execution to the way Polish theatre guru Tadeusz Kantor used to control the stage.

This is borne out, both by YouTube footage of a 1995 band rehearsal notable, not just for Smith Start's presence, but for the way Smith's instructions more resembles the behaviour of a theatre director than a band leader per se. Smith Start agrees, and points to Hey! Luciani!, a musical play penned by Smith about the short-lived reign of Pope John Paul I, and which was performed at the Riverside Studios in 1986 by the band and a cast that included choreographer and dancer Michael Clark and performance artist Leigh Bowery. While the play bemused reviewers, Smith himself described it as “a cross between Shakespeare and The Prisoner”.

“He's a mastermind,” Smith Start says of her ex-husband. “He's omnipotent in every way. No-one had a clue what was going on in the play, but it was fucking brilliant. Mark used to do all these songs through a megaphone which we wanted to stick up his ass, but he was like the silent movie director, Mack Sennett.

“You have to remember that Mark is not a trained musician, and that's what makes him so brilliant, because there are no limitations on what he can or cannot do. So when he picks up a three-string violin on the song Hotel Bloedel, and starts doing things with it, it has a real effect on things. It is like theatre, and that's possibly why he wanted me in the band, to break things up onstage and maybe give things a different dynamic.”

With Smith Start still a member, The Fall have the honour of being one of the first contemporary bands to appear at the Edinburgh International Festival when in 1988 Smith and co composed and performed the live soundtrack to Michael Clark's ballet, I Am Kurious Oranj. Loosely based around the 300th anniversary of William of Orange's accession to the English throne, the show was performed at the capital's King's Theatre, and among its many eye-popping highlights was notable for Smith Start arriving onstage sat astride a giant hamburger.

“That was Michael Clark's idea,” Smith Start says. “I didn't know what he meant till he showed me this nine-foot burger. Leigh Bowery, who was in the show, used to take great delight in spinning me round on it as fast as he could, and I thought I'd either fall off or puke.”

Smith Start was fashion commentator on the broadcast of this year's Royal Ascot meet, and recently took part in BBC4 documentary, Girl in a Band. While she expresses a desire to combine music and fashion for further TV ventures, with an album already planned, it is Brix and The Extricated that matters right now.

“This band is very special and we're all loving it,” she says. “It's a joyful thing, and I think it has everything. I see it conquering the world.”

All of which begs the question of what Mark E Smith thinks of all this.

“I don't know how he feels about it,” is Smith Start's short answer, “but I hear through the grapevine he's not pleased. I'm not in touch with Mark and haven't been for years, and I don't know how to get in touch with him, but I've heard rumours of him calling venues we've been playing and trying to get the gigs cancelled.

“Whether that's true or not I don't know, but we are not The Fall. We are The Extricated, though everything we do obviously brings attention to The Fall, and that's no bad thing. At the end of the day, this is for the love of our music, which is the only reason for doing anything, so why would he be mad?

Smith Start pauses, perhaps remembering the old days that might go some way to answering that question.

“Mark may have issues,” she says, “but he really shouldn't.”

Then, looking forward, she mischievously speculates on what might be, but probably never will.

“Imagine if we played on the same bill,” she says.

Brix and The Extricated, Broadcast, Glasgow, November 19th.

An edited version of this article appeared in The Herald, November 16th 2015