Archive for May 19th, 2009

Nick Smith’s interview with Pen Hadow in E&T magazine (Catlin Arctic survey – pre-departure)

May 19, 2009

Techno explorers take to the ice

This month a team of explorers lead by Pen Hadow will set off on foot for the North Pole. Man-hauling ice-penetrating radar instrumentation for more than 1,000km, the expedition will relay back to the scientific community crucial data about how climate change is affecting ice thickness in the Arctic. By Nick Smith

Sitting in his expedition headquarters in Leadenhall Street in London’s financial district, Arctic explorer Pen Hadow is at the centre of operations of his latest mission. His Catlin Arctic Survey is about to head off to the Arctic – hauling their own bodyweight of monitoring equipment across the ice – to do something satellites and submarines can’t.

“Circumstances are changing up in the Arctic Ocean so quickly that it’s just not possible to get the technology into space on time,” says Hadow

Satellites could easily carry ice-penetrating radar and, orbiting overhead, complete a survey in a fraction of the time that it will take Hadow and his team to cross the late-winter ice that surrounds the North Pole. But the difference lies in the phrase “on time”. It takes years to assemble and launch a satellite. The bleakest plausible prediction that says there will be no seasonal ice left to measure in just five years. “The shrinkage and thinning is happening at a pace that’s outstripping our ability to get new technology onto satellites.”

Getting up close and personal to the Arctic ice is worthwhile, Hadow explains. “There isn’t, and never has been, an accurate enough method of determining by satellite what’s going on with the ice.”

Existing satellite technology is able to measure the thickness of the ‘freeboard’ – the combined depth of ice and snow above sea level. The presence of snow is not relevant in the prediction of ice meltdown, but it does have a nasty habit of contaminating remote telemetry measurements. This is because radar cannot differentiate between the two, and so we can’t tell how much snow is depressing the ice cover. As the end reading is an extrapolation based on the assumption that the freeboard represents only one-ninth of the total ice thickness, any errors caused by snow become magnified to produce wildly inaccurate results. Submarine-based surveys are better at estimating the ice thickness, because their onboard technology measures the much larger draft of the ice. But even extrapolations based on these readings aren’t accurate enough. And, besides there’s hardly any submarine data available. So, it’s back to people hauling instruments on sleds in scenes that have not changed much since the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, when the likes of Ernest Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott were gunning for the South Pole.

Hadow’s business card says director and head of surveying, and it’s been his full-time job since he drew a line under his high-profile 2003 expedition, when he became the best-known polar explorer of his generation. That year, he became the first person to walk solo and unsupported to the North Pole, then regarded by the polar community as the last of the classic uncompleted challenges. A shadow was cast over his success at the pole by a media controversy that inaccurately depicted Hadow’s delayed scheduled airlift from the pole as a ‘rescue’.

For Hadow, the 2003 expedition was an eye-opener. In all his years exploring the north polar icecap, never before had the explorer seen so much thin ice and open water in the Arctic. “To travel my route in a straight line to the pole – 478 miles as the crow flies – I found myself needing an amphibious option.” Hadow equipped himself with an immersion suit and, in order to keep the route as short and straight as possible, when he encountered water he simply swam across it.

During the course of his research for his book Solo, his account of the 2003 trip to the pole, Hadow “started to better understand the process that was bringing about this increased open water and sea ice: global warming”. He also discovered that there was one critical data set that scientists did not have if they wanted to predict when the ice cover on the Arctic Ocean would disappear more accurately.

For Hadow, the solution was simple. He would check the existing data by dragging an ice-penetrating radar, its associated instrumentation, computers and communications technology across the Arctic. “Many of my previous expeditions have been about achieving something for me, seeing what I could do. Now I think that what we’re doing with the Catlin Arctic Survey is real exploring, going out into the field and gathering data that could be vital to our understanding of climate change. This data could provide our science partners with what they need to convince those in government that something needs to be done about how to manage fragile environments sustainably.”

Although going solo is something Hadow is used to, there is simply too much work to be done on this trip to go it alone. To assist him he has enlisted the help of two fellow explorers, Ann Daniels and Martin Hartley. Daniels is in charge of field operations – handling navigation and other logistics – while Hartley is the expedition photographer and filmmaker. Hadow will pull the sledge containing the radar equipment and computers. Apart from the ice-thickness readings, the on-ice team will conduct 50 different sets of measurements and samples, from the water column, the ice sheet and the atmosphere. Some devices will record the data continuously; other measurements will be taken hourly, daily or weekly. Getting across the ice is hard enough without having to do the science as well. “It’s going to be hard work,” says Hadow.

Much of the scientific and communications equipment the explorers will be using has been developed specially for the survey, with more data – including audio, video and biotelemetry – being transmitted than on any other polar expedition before. Taking up the most room and perhaps most important to the expedition is ‘Sprite’. The name is short for “surface penetrating radar for ice thickness establishment”, but Hadow says the name also doffs its cap to the Scott Polar Research Institute, one of the science partners that has played an influential role in the survey.

Not surprisingly, Sprite is robust. The team will drag it across fields of rubble and send it tumbling down pressure ridges over a total distance of more than 1000km. The impulse radar unit is a mere 4kg – 25 times lighter than equivalent radar systems used in aircraft surveys. It is mounted behind the survey’s sledge boat, effectively converting the sledge into a survey vessel, called the Lady Herbert, after the wife of one of the greatest polar surveyors ever, Sir Wally Herbert.

Built by Cambridge-based scientist Michael Gorman, Sprite will take a high-resolution cross-profile of the snow and ice every 10cm along the route. Sprite’s own computer will then process the raw data before transferring it to the central data unit, otherwise known as the ‘onboard sledge computer’. Here the data is compressed and sent using the Iridium network of orbiting communications satellites back to the survey HQ. There it will be reformatted and distributed to the Survey’s science partners.

Iridium is the only satellite network available in the Arctic and but explorers do not much like it. It’s narrow bandwidth channels result in a low data-transmission rate. The sledge computer, developed by Andrew Jackson, has to use a custom-built multi-modem data uplink system that can receive, format, store, compress and transmit the data back to the UK on a live, ‘delayed live’ or overnight basis.

While out on the ice, the team will be communicating with each other, and the UK HQ, using a three-way person-to-person communications system developed by IET member and independent engineering consultant Perran Newman. Designed especially for the survey, the rig consists of an ear-mounted, jawbone-sensing headset and separate throat microphone, connected through a wiring harness built into the sledging suit, to a belt-mounted control box. Team members’ control boxes are networked via radio links to allow three-way voice communications. The boxes are also linked to a radio-transceiver mounted on the Lady Herbert, containing the uplink facility to the Iridium array. Toggling between control box functions is by push-button, meaning that the explorers won’t have to risk frostbite by uncovering their hands to operate the system. Other features include voice-activation, and a ‘live commentary’ link that will allow armchair explorers to follow the expedition on the survey’s website.

The explorers will also be wearing a chest-belt with integrated biosensors that will measure and record physiological data such as heart rate, respiration rate, skin temperature and body orientation. Developed by Hildago, the Equivital system has been adapted from telehealth applications aimed at first responders and paramedics. Its use on the Catlin Arctic survey will provide an opportunity to assess how the body responds in the polar environment. Team members will also be taking ‘tablets’ that contain miniature temperature sensors, batteries and radio transmitters that will transmit information about their core temperature, as the pill negotiates its way through the stomach and the intestines.

By linking reportage-style web-cam footage and live audio commentaries to data generated from body-worn bio-monitors it will be possible to not just follow the team’s progress but to experience it too. Anyone passing the survey’s HQ in Leadenhall Street should watch out for the huge screens Hadow is planning to put in the windows of the offices donated to him by his main sponsor. Those in the City worrying about the economic climate will over their lunchtime lattes also have the opportunity to worry about the real climate.

Unlike so many modern adventures into the Polar Regions, the Catlin Arctic Survey has a real scientific mission as its main objective, and has more in common with the polar exploration of the Heroic age than any other recent expedition. This small team of explorers is going out onto the ice at great personal risk to themselves because there is no other way of getting the data. If they succeed, everyone on the planet stands to benefit. “There are times when I feel quite overburdened by the significance of the survey, and there are others when I just want to get on with it”, says Hadow.

All three members of the Catlin Arctic Survey – Pen Hadow, Ann Daniels and Martin Hartley – have been to the North Pole before, so there will be no need for personal ‘milestone bagging’ on this tour. Hadow says the team will focus entirely on securing the relevant scientific data and if that means they don’t get to the pole, then they don’t get to the pole: “we just want to ensure that we get the longest possible transect of meaningful data before we come home.”

But there is a very strong sense in which the real work won’t really start until they return. As Hadow says: “Were just the foot soldiers getting out into the field collecting the information that the scientists need to do their work.” And with the Arctic Ocean and surrounding High Arctic environment more responsive to climate change than most, the urgency for the Catlin Arctic Survey to get out there and do just that is greater than ever.

 

Chilling forecasts for ice meltdown date

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) thinks that seasonal disappearance of the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice will occur between 2050-2100. This is based on the best figures for the rate of the shrinking surface area and the IPCC’s long-range global climate forecasts. As if this weren’t scary enough, a super-computer model developed by the US Navy’s Department of Oceanography puts the meltdown date at within five years. Their calculations are based on the ice thickness estimates (as compared with surface area).

As Hadow says though, the accuracy of the models are merely a function of the quality of the data relied on. The data returned by the Catlin Arctic Survey will “allow for the re-evaluation of satellite and submarine digitised observations.

Climate Change modelers will be able to use the findings emerging from the survey to assist in validating or modifying projections made by the IPCC’s Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis report. The survey data can be factored into related areas of scientific work that until now had been based on satellite and submarine data, but unverified by a ground-truth survey.

Evidence for an earlier meltdown date than the IPCC’s – the most frequently cited and widely accepted – would mean that the environment lobby could apply more pressure on governments to take sustainable and responsible management of the environment more seriously. When it comes to Global Warming international agreements are the only route to success. But agreements can only be made if scientists can provide policy makers with higher-resolution forecasts than they already possess.

 

Global impacts of climate change

The complete meltdown of the North Pole ice cap as a perennial global feature is a major marker in the progress of climate change. Here are some of the impacts anticipated from climate change in general for different regions of the planet:

* Scientists have major concerns about 15 cities across the globe, 13 of which lie in coastal plains. If current warming trends continue London, Bangkok, Alexandria and New York will end up below sea level, displacing tens of millions and causing worldwide economic damage if adequate flood protection measures are not put in place.

* Large numbers of people living along the coast in South and East Asia (as well as in West Africa and the Caribbean) are at risk of losing their homes and their livelihood.

* Sea levels are rising in the Bay of Bengal affecting villages in Orissa’s coastal Kendrapara district in western India.

* Between 15 and 20 per cent of Bangladesh lies within one metre of sea level. Predicted rises in sea level will affect between 13 and 30 million people, potentially reducing rice production by 50 per cent.

* Pacific islands such as Tuvalu are already being evacuated as people leave to escape the rising waters. Tuvalu’s highest elevation is 4.6m, but most of it is no more than a metre above the sea

* Concerns are mounting in Shanghai, China’s economic capital, as the northern Pacific Ocean could rise by 7000mm before 2050. This impact will be exaggerated by the fact that Shanghai is sinking due to exploitation of groundwater needed to supply the population of 18million.

* About 80 per cent of the Maldives’ 1,200 islands are no more that 1m above sea level – the archipelago’s 360,000 citizens could be forced to leave in the next 50 years or so

* A rise of between 8-30cms in sea level could lead to the loss of 2,000 of Indonesia’s 17,508 islands

* Global warming could cost the Brazilian rain forest up to 30 per cent of its biodiversity and turn large areas into savannah

* Maize production levels could plummet by as much as 25-50 per cent in the next 50 years in countries such as Brazil, Nigeria, Mexico, South Africa and Tanzania due to rising temperatures and shifting rainfall pattern.

 

For more on the Catlin Arctic Survey visit www.catlinarcticsurvey.com

For more details about Pen Hadow visit http://www.penhadow.com

For more details about Ann Daniels visit http://www.anndaniels.com

To see more of Martin Hartley’s polar photography visit http://www.martinhartley.com

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Nick Smith’s interview with Brix Smith of the Fall in Guitarist magazine (December 1996)

May 19, 2009

Was it really thirteen years ago when I interviewed the Fall’s legendary Brix Smith for Guitarist magazine? Apparently so. To be honest I’d forgotten all about it, but in trying to track down some of my earlier feature work for the ‘archive’ section of my mythical website-in-development, I found this lurking in a dark corner of the internet. I’ve not edited it at all, which was pretty brave of me, because I can’t quite believe how embarrassing my attempts at ‘cool’ journalism were. Still it’s no worse than looking at photos of those bad haircuts from the mid-1990s. Times change I suppose, and even if we don’t get cooler as we get older, we come to a better understanding of the semi-colon. But even so… ‘Schlepped’, ‘mega-babe’, ‘miserablists’, ‘real deal’, ‘agit-pop’… Really? What on earth was I thinking?

 

The Fall Girl

Brix Smith has again played her ‘last note ever’ for The Fall but happily she is going right back into the wonderful and frightening world of the solo artist. She talks to her near namesake Nick Smith about The Fall, the guitar and the future

It’s impossible to say just how many records The Fall have made over the past twenty years. Even the experts don’t know. Brix Smith, twice serving guitarist with her trademark white 330 Rickenbacker, certainly doesn’t. What about ‘Fiend With A Violin’ (1996 Receiver Records)? “Yeah, I got that one at home somewhere. It’s a live compilation, isn’t it?” And ‘Sinister Waltz’ (1996 Receiver Records)?

“These things are just out-takes, aren’t they? From ‘Shiftwork’ and ‘Extricate’ – I don’t listen to that stuff’ much, it’s kind of collectors’ stuff.” And there are others ­­– including a live double – less than a year old, but she can’t put a name to them. This is because, for her, there has been only one Fall record this year, and that’s the stunning ‘Light User Syndrome’, showcased on a European tour including a Sunday afternoon appearance at the Phoenix Festival, finally winding up, for Brix at least, on October 4th in Cheltenham. She’s left The Fall again.

Quite how Manchurian miserablists The Fall ended up with an American guitarist, and how she became a legend is a long story, and Brix takes evident delight in telling it. It all started in the early 80s in Vermont’s famous liberal arts college, Bennington where Brix was studying theatre and literature. Naturally, there was no actual work done here, as everyone just wanted to hang out, play guitar and be in a band.

Up until this point Brig’s only brush with the instrument had been her bluegrass-playing father’s tuition and a friendly babysitter who taught her how to play Joan Baez songs. “So my first chords on a small acoustic guitar were A, E, D, E minor. In college we were listening to Joy Division, Echo and The Bunnymen, and The Clash. I just wanted to be like The Clash. I used to go around singing Guns Of Brixton all the time. I guess that’s how I got my name.”

Inspired by Peter Hook – she had yet to fall under the spell of “the greatest” Fall bass player Stephen Hanley – she spent her first term’s book money on a bass guitar, a second-hand Carville. “It was the most horrible kind of thing you could imagine, but it was black so it was okay. My friend Lisa had a red Epiphany, and we used to have fights over her Pignose amp. The band started gigging in school in 1982.” Lisa is important – it’s her fault Brix joined The Fall first time around.

Thinking it would be easier to get a record deal in Chicago (she was wrong) Brix moved into the third floor of her mother’s house, which quickly became an improvised rehearsal studio for her new ensemble Banda Dratzing – ‘Clockwork Orange-speak for fighting band’. They were a moody garage outfit, a cross between Joy Division and The Go-Gos. Cautioned by the local cops, Brix and Lisa decamped to a disused abattoir: “There were no carcasses left in there,” she says reassuringly.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, The Fall had stunned the music scene with albums such as ‘Live At The Witch Trials’, ‘Dragnet’, ‘Slates’ and a stream of jarring, anti-establishment singles. They were the real deal, the only authentic art/punk band, and it was only a matter of time before Brix caught up with them. “I was looking through the import bins in Wax Trax in Chicago, and I found ‘Slates’. I took it home and became obsessed. It was the most brilliant thing I ever heard. It was outrageous. Two weeks later they were playing Chicago at Cabaret Metro, so Lisa and I went along. Stephen Hanley was totally, totally hypnotic. I was scared of Mark E Smith. They played a lot from ‘Slates’. After the gig, Lisa took off with some boyfriend, leaving me at the bar on my own. Before I knew what was happening I was talking to Mark E Smith.”

Three months later she was married to the lead singer of The Fall. “I never intended joining. The idea was that Mark was going to produce Banda Rating’s first album, my first record. But when he heard my song Everything For The Record he wanted it for his ‘Perverted By Language’ album, and he wanted me to guest guitar on it. I couldn’t play guitar at the time – I was a bassist – but he said, ‘Do it, you play just like Lou Reed’. I was like someone with emphysema running a mile – I just couldn’t do it. And when he asked me to sing it, I thought I was going to die. So I did it on an electric guitar that wasn’t plugged in, just miked up, and I sang into the guitar mike and it came out quite interesting with Mark playing some sort of 3-string violin on the top. There’s real magic there. It’s the song that became Hotel Bloedel.” Brix was now in The Fall.

She may have been a musician and a songwriter in her own right, and she may have been a fully paid-up member of The Fall, but this did not signal the beginning of a happy relationship with either the media or the group’s fan-base. In Banda Dratzing she had been her own woman, bristling with confidence and arrogance, but now these strengths were chipped away. When she played live she could see what was written over everyone’s faces: she’s married to the singer, she can’t play. It was the Linda McCartney and Wings syndrome. “It was like being scalded with burning oil or being burned alive. There was this dark, brooding, northern, train-spotting band with this American girl no one had ever heard of. I could have coped with being Yoko Ono, but Linda McCartney…”

This was the one thing that really hurt. The press carped that she’d single-handedly ruined The Fall. In fact she’d singlehandedly saved them from repetition and being typecast. “Mark was pissed off with the dissenters, but eventually the disdain turned to grudging respect and after a year or so it became open respect.”

As things got better, with Brix’s first fully-fledged Fall album ‘The Wonderful And Frightening World Of The Fall’ her acceptance was complete. Brix’s songs started to become, if not a creative backbone for The Fall, then at least a vital organ. In this incarnation she toured the world non-stop for five years at the rate of 150 gigs a year. The Fall were on a roll.

At this point the story gets confused. When Brix joined the band her attitude towards her guitar playing had been: I’m only good for one thing, but at least I can do it. But after five years she had become good enough to hold her own with anyone she wanted, with a creative urge to front her own band again. She reaIised she’d forgotten the limitless possibilities involved with running your own show or simply being available to session for other bands – something she loves doing. Her relationship with Mark was at an all-time low.

“I’d been in The Fall since I was 19, and I’d missed out on a load of things. I was spiritually dead, I had no independence and I couldn’t even write a cheque. I suffered from stress and I’d become hypoglycemic.” She freely admits to having ‘bitch alerts’ on tour. Surrounded by press, tour managers, fixers and a general entourage of people seemingly put there just to get on her nerves she would lose her temper and become impossible to deal with. It was time to spin out into Adult Net.

Adult Net was Brix’s first solo project since Banda Dratzing. She was still in The Fall and her Svengali, Mark E Smith, wanted to produce the first single – a cover of Strawberry Alarm Clock’s Incense And Peppermints. The single appeared in 1985, but it was John Leckie – one-time Fall producer, more recently associated with Radiohead, Cast and Kula Shaker – who sat at the controls. Mark’s influence was still pervasive – the name Adult Net comes from ‘The Wonderful And Frightening World of The Fall’. There’s a lyric buried somewhere in the mix which you can only hear on the left channel with headphones on where Mark, for no apparent reason, says ‘Adult Net, net of mesh.’ Brix likes this; “It sounds like a prophesy of pornography on the internet.”

The album ‘Spin This Web’ was recorded with future Lightning Seed Ian Broudie in the Penthouse at Abbey Road but never released. “I went to the States and took it to Geffen. They really, really liked it, but told me that the record was only good enough for demos. This totally knocked my confidence, because in those days I thought the record companies were God and that they knew everything. So I sat on the album. But I went back to the UK and did one gig at the ICA with The Smiths as my backing band and got a deal the next day with Phonogram, who bought the album. So I got to re-record it.” The new version produced by Craig Leon and renamed ‘The Honey Tangle’ (1990) was much better. Recorded at North London’s Church Studios, with dubbing and vocals at Jimmy Page’s Buckinghamshire Sol Studios, the album drew on the skills of Blondie’s drummer CIem Burke and The The’s bassist James Filer, as well as the classical might of the Brodsky Quartet.

By this time Brix had left The Fall (“and The Fall left me”) and was in the messy process of divorce from Mark. She had also developed the crippling repetitive strain injury Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a form of tendonitis making it impossible for a guitarist to even think about playing the guitar without wincing in pain. The fear of the pain duly turned Brix’s CTS into a psychological illness as well as a physical one. Coerced by her parents she underwent physiotherapy at the University of Chicago with a hand specialist. For nine months she walked around with a packet of frozen peas strapped to her arm. Brix’s inability to play led to the inevitable. Phonogram dumped her. Not surprisingly, without a band, without a record deal and with a profound aversion to the guitar she was now “really unhappy”.

Whatever else she may be, Brix is a survivor and an opportunist, and after nine months of bleak depression, through a chance sequence of events, she was back on the road with Susannah Hoffs of The Bangles. A friendship had also been struck up with super-hip Fall fan Freedy Johnston, a gent more renowned for his work with Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen and Butch Vig. Johnston’s agenda was to get Brix back into thinking positively about writing and playing again – an agenda that led to Brix rehearsing with Courtney Love’s upcoming mega-babe grunge act Hole, as well as detailed discussions with Mark (the first in six years) about “fucking The Fall up the ass”. After initial mistrust of his ex-wife, Mark eventually warmed to the suggestion and invited her back. One problem was that Brix couldn’t be the front woman in either band. Hole was always going to be the Courtney Love Show, and The Fall isn’t really The Fall unless Mark E Smith is the bullish centre of attention. Brix says of the Hole episode: “It was around 1993 when I rehearsed with Hole for two days, and stayed with Courtney. “She’s smart – I mean real smart and the band are great too, but they’re not as hard as The Fall. And in any case they only wanted me as the bass player and I had loads of my own material I wanted to contribute. With The Fall I could be Mr Spock to Mark’s Captain Kirk.”

Second time round was no easy ride, but there are two classic albums in ‘Cerebral Caustic’ (1995) and ‘Light User Syndrome’. Brix was less overawed by the band, and far more assertive, becoming recognisably more integral to the creative process. It’s no coincidence that The Fall make better records when Brix is around. But, unless you’re Mark E Smith, The Fall is not a band that you can hang around in for the rest of your life.

At Cheltenham Brix played her final note for The Fall ever. And she means it. “I feel like I’ve done The Fall, enjoyed it, given the most I could to it and got the most out of it. But now it’s time to move on.”

Brix’s cutting loose marks a new beginning and a series of new projects. So what’s the new stuff like? “Oh, it’s really heavy, and hard and good.” And the guitar playing? “Now I’m happy with that. Sure, I sweat and I worry, but now I have the room to be as improvisational as I want. But it only works when you’re comfortable. I love playing real hard. Chaos and order seem to work together.”

 

BRIX’S GUITARS AND GIZMOS

A staunch Rickenbacker user throughout her career, Brix is virtually synonymous with her mid-80s white 330. While in reasonably good condition, it’s a bit of a mongrel, with much earlier Rickenbacker components fitted to it by the Rickenbacker Doctor in Los Angeles. Brix uses incredibly light strings, helping prevent any recurrence of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, making it extremely easy to play and allowing those huge chord bends which are part of her melodic, loopy, groove-based style. The guitar retains blood spatters from an on-stage mishap at the Phoenix Festival. Brix once owned the guitar’s twin – a black 330 –, which was stolen from her brother’s flat in Los Angeles. Her other Rickenbackers include a short-scale limited edition John Lennon signature in black and gold with Bigsby tremolo arm, and a “truly beautiful” midnight blue 12-string. Brix’s other main guitar is the phenomenally rare cherry red 63 Gretsch Corvette, which was given to her by the guitarist from Joan Jett And The Blackhearts. “It was my first real guitar, and my first guitar in The Fall – I did my debut with it on The Tube. When Johnny Marr saw it, he called me up and said that he wanted to buy it, and I said nobody’s going to buy this. But a year later our van got broken into and everything got nicked, including my Gretsch. It broke my heart.

“I put ads in the paper trying to track it down, and called music shops. I tried everything but couldn’t find it. Then about five years later I was walking around Denmark Street and I went into Andy’s and there it was on the wall. It had been butchered a bit – ah the brass fittings had been taken off and replaced – but I knew it was mine from the scratches from my belt on the back of it. So I bought it back, and I’m using it today. I love it,” Having sworn that she’d never sell it, Brix found the irony behind having to buy it back most unamusing. It turns out that the brass fittings are probably worth as much as the guitar itself, so if you’ve got them you’d better watch out. Brix wants them back.

Another guitar that tends to get schlepped around on tour is a pink Paisley Fender Telecaster (early 80s reissue), while for songwriting at home Brix is using her recently acquired Yamaha 12-string acoustic/electric.

As for amplifiers, Brix doesn’t have one. She used to own a MESA-Boogie, but when she left The Fall the first time the band confiscated it. “It was actually in my divorce agreement that I got it back, but by that time it was completely trashed. They’d dragged it around the world and beaten the hell out of it. Since then I’ve never had an amp. When we went on tour I hired a Vox AC30.”

GUITARIST, December 1996, pp. 139-146