Brix Smith Start is back on stage and M.A.C are creating her look. Watching the transformation first hand, we talk makeup, pugs and the 80s with Brix.
The inimitable Brix Smith Start opens the door flanked by Gladys and Pixie. They’re her pet pugs and they appear to hate me. Ignoring the barking, Brix leads me into (genuinely) the most beautiful apartment I’ve ever seen and I sit on a window bench, scared to touch or God forbid, break anything. I’m here to talk to the fashion broadcaster and ex-member of The Fall about her new venture. Brix Smith Start is coming back to the stage with Brix and The Extricated.
Having first appeared in the public eye back in 1983 when she joined The Fall as a guitarist, since then she’s graced our screens on fashion television and has become a loveable, admirable and slightly eccentric figure in both fashion and music. But why decide to make a comeback now? 15 years after she’s done anything remotely musical, Brix explains, “It wasn’t even a conscious decision,” and starts to tell me about all sorts of crazy things that made her think the universe wanted her to pick up a guitar again. The bassist from The Fall, Steve Hanley, wrote a book which made Brix realise what a large part she’d played in the band, “I’d mentally shut it down, I knew I was in the Fall but I never talked about it, I never did an interview and I thought that was behind me, I’m a different person now.” That door wasn’t quite closed, evidently, as her husband urged her to try songwriting one more time and after running into an old producer who said the same, she gave in and decided to see what would happen if she sat down to play.
“It was like time just evaporated and it was almost like I could have been anywhere in the world, it didn’t matter, I was in a world of my own and these songs that I didn’t know were in me came out of me in fully formed chunks. They gave me skin prickles and I knew that they were good. It was as if I had been playing the whole time, it was crazy, so I started to keep doing it in secret and not tell anybody.” She shortly after met with a literary agent covered in angel tattoos who signed her on the spot then word started to spread that her and Steve Hanley had been practising together on the sly. A gig was booked in Manchester, “It was very under the radar and it just kicked off, it was so much fun and it felt so good, the new songs sounded great and the old songs had a new life and a new interpretation with me singing and it felt like destiny. We were offered another gig and another gig and five festivals without trying and when that happens in life, you know something’s right and you get in your canoe and you ride down that fucking river. You don’t even have to paddle!”
There’s a faint rumbling coming from somewhere and I’m trying to ignore it and devour every word of Brix’s anecdotes but it’s getting louder and louder and more puzzling. I look down and there’s a rotund black pug asleep at Brix’s feet, snoring contently. I tune back in as she starts to explain why her revival hadn’t happened sooner, “What was stopping me before was a mountain of insecurities. If I’m really honest, at my age I didn’t think it would be relevant. I’ve just stepped back into my power, I was one of the first female guitarists on the scene that brought glamour and actual musicianship and I need to own this and stand up and stand in the light – for women! For all of us! For humans! No – for dogs!”
We talk about how The Fall were originally anti-fashion until Brix joined but even she admits, “Sometimes I got it right and sometimes I got it wrong!” Her look wasn’t all her own work though. She wore red lips everyday (the best she can compare the 80s colour to is M.A.C Russian Red) but it was on tour with the Michael Clark & Company ballet performing ‘I Am Curious, Orange’ that she discovered creativity with beauty looks, “The trannies would teach me how to do my make up!” She tells me, “They would treat me like a little doll and all my beautiful gay friends would dress me up and paint me. It would be massive doll-like eyes, deep socket lines, lashes galore, overly-smoked eyes and then they would overpaint my lips so I would have these amazing comedy lips and they would white-out my face like Geisha girl.”
Brix and M.A.C make-up artist Cher Webb are a little bit in love. Cher gets previews of new songs and private little gigs from Brix and regularly tears up. Brix gushes about Cher and M.A.C as a brand for a solid ten minutes to me. “M.A.C is a company that I absolutely love to work with and Cher Webb is my dream make-up person! What I love about the company is that they’re so creative. They really support every human and especially people that are sometimes marginalised in the eyes of society so no matter what age you are, what sex you are, what colour you are, they do a fabulous look for you and the make-up is incredible…It’s fun and it’s cool and it goes hand in hand with fashion and it helps you express who your personality is and who you are. You can become who you want to be, so for stage make up, that’s my number one go-to!”
After Brix’s hair has been expertly tousled, she scurries off to find one of her many M.A.C trend books and flicks through until she finds the one she wants to recreate. It’s a bold and brave look, thick and tarry eyeliner swept across her entire lid with a glossy shine and lashings of mascara on top. It looks like it’s been done in seconds and the impact is instant. Cher explains that this looks is a lot more rock and roll for Brix and she’s used to making Brix red-carpet ready. As she slicks on gel liner with a fanned brushed (265) the spread bristles create a patchiness across Brix’s lids for her ‘Couture Warpaint’ look. Brix starts to look like Cleopatra with her dark rimmed eyes, if Cleopatra was an art student in East London. Cher has left subtle gaps in the centre of her eyes to brighten them but continues to scribble on thick but blended black pencil liner around her whole eye. It’s all finished off with endless mascara, flawless pale skin and M.A.C lipstick in Honeylove.
Before I know it Brix is lying in the bath, cradling a guitar with her legs draped over the side of the tub, wearing a pair of shoes from one of her two designated wardrobes. She says it’s more rock and roll if she keeps her heels on. If this is anything like how she acts onstage, we’re in for a treat.