It’s well documented that The Fall’s Mark E. Smith has hired and fired more musicians than most frontmen. Amongst those 66 musicians, one of them is BIMM Manchester’s Songwriting Course Leader, Steve Trafford.
Steve played on two albums by the seminal Manchester group, including the acclaimed ‘Fall Heads Roll’, which he recorded at Philip Glass’s studio in New York. Like many ex-members of The Fall, he has gone on to enjoy a very successful solo career.
But it’s Steve’s latest collaboration that has been getting fans particularly excited. 11 years after joining The Fall and Steve is back on the road, playing with one of the band’s most famous members Brix Smith Start, as part of Brix & The Extricated.
The band also features brothers Steve and Paul Hanley (also former members of The Fall), Jason Brown and, of course, Brix herself – The Fall’s pioneering guitarist, songwriter and Mark E. Smith’s ex-wife.
Brix & The Extricated have been together four years, but 2017 marks the year of their debut album Part 2. According to Steve, the band had actually only planned to host a Christmas one-off at Manchester’s Ruby Lounge after reuniting at the launch of Steve Hanley’s book – The Big Midweek. However, the offers soon came flying in and it didn’t take long before the band were playing together regularly.
“The idea was to play songs from The Fall’s catalogue that that been written by the band members,” he explains. “After that we went from strength to strength and started moving away from the old stuff when people started bringing new material in, I wrote the music to Moonrise Kingdom, Damned For Eternity, Faced With Time and Teflon.”
The album, which is out now, has so far received rave reviews and reached number 28 in the Indie Chart. In particular, Moonrise Kingdom, which was originally written by Steve [Trafford] for Fall Heads Roll, has also been subject to a huge amount of praise. “Absolutely gorgeous – wistful and swooning,” wrote Drowned In Sound’s Marc Burrows in his 9/10 review.
BIMM have also learnt that the song will be played before an upcoming match between Manchester United and Brighton and Hove Albion – the track playlist will also be released to 15 million people. With that in mind, we also took the opportunity to quiz Steve on his songwriting style.
“There’s never a fixed way, and it’s changed over time. One thing I’ve always believed in is ‘catching songs’ as opposed to labouring over writing them – save that for the arrangement process. I like to let things unfold quickly and naturally; it’s more exciting and magical that way,” he explains.
“I’m self-taught so learnt to play and write from listening to records, there was no ‘guitartabs.com’ when I was growing up, so me and my mates had to listen to recordings and work things out for ourselves. I encourage my students to do the same thing; it really is the best education you can get and gives you a robust musical ear.”
So, what’s next for the band? Well, a month after Part 2’s release and Brix & The Extricated are about to embark on a UK-wide tour of some of the country’s best live venues, including Bristol’s Thekla, Glasgow’s Stereo and a highly anticipated homecoming gig to support The Charlatans at the 02 Apollo in Manchester. What’s more, Steve will be balancing the tour with life at BIMM, which he admits is challenging but beneficial.
“It can be tough balancing things at times, but BIMM has been very supportive of me doing this. One week I’m teaching, or in the office, next week I’m on tour, doing a radio session or filming a video. It’s good to bring back experiences and contacts to my position at BIMM, particularly with guest masterclasses and work opportunities for the students with the tours.”
And what of our students, are they fans of the band?
“Perhaps ‘fans’ is a strong word, but some of them do ask me a lot of questions. Quite a few students have been coming to gigs which is excellent,” he adds.
We’re eagerly anticipating Steve’s return to the stage after several earlier shows. Like all members of The Fall, he is an immensely talented musician with an outstanding repertoire, which is why this latest collaboration so exciting.
Brix & The Extricated’s UK tour kicks off on 14 October at The Georgian Theatre in Stockton-on-Tees. Tickets are on sale now.