Brix Smith

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Brix Smith
Steve Hanley (left) and Brix Smith onstage with the Fall at the Markthalle Hamburg, Perverted By Language Tour, April 13, 1984
Steve Hanley (left) and Brix Smith onstage with the Fall at the Markthalle Hamburg, Perverted By Language Tour, April 13, 1984
Background information
Birth nameLaura Elisse Salenger
Also known asBrix Smith, Brix Smith Start
Born (1962-11-12) November 12, 1962 (age 60)
Occupation(s)Musician, fashion retailer, presenter
  • Vocals
  • guitar
Years active1983–present

Brix Smith (born Laura Elisse Salenger) is an American singer and guitarist, best known as the lead guitarist and a major songwriter for the English post-punk band The Fall during two stints in the band (1983–1989, and 1994–1996).

Acknowledging her importance to the band, and noting she co-wrote several songs for the band's most widely acclaimed album This Nation's Saving Grace (1985), some critics break the Fall's career and evolution into the pre-Brix years, the Brix years, and the post-Brix years.[1]

She is currently the lead vocalist and guitarist with Brix & the Extricated, along with brothers Steve and Paul Hanley, both of whom were long time musicians in the Fall. She published her memoir The Rise, The Fall, And The Rise with Faber & Faber in May 2016, noting that "writing the book freed my creativity to play again."[2]


Smith was raised in Los Angeles by her mother Lucy Salenger, a TV executive at CBS.[3] Mother and daughter moved to Chicago in 1972, when Salenger married political economist Marvin Zonis[4] and became a powerful regional figure in the film business as head of the Illinois Film Office.[5]

Studying theatre and literature at Bennington College in Vermont,[6] Smith formed a group, Banda Dratsing, in which she performed as bassist/vocalist; she adopted the name "Brix" after the Clash's 1979 song "The Guns of Brixton".[7]

The Fall[edit]

Smith met Mark E. Smith, vocalist of the Fall, at a gig at Metro in Chicago on 23 April 1983; she moved to his native United Kingdom, where they settled in Prestwich, Bury, England, and married on 19 July of that year.[2] She initially played with the group on two songs for the album Perverted by Language. She co-wrote some of the best-regarded Fall tracks from the period, and is acknowledged for introducing a more mainstream, pop-oriented element to the group's sound. She remained with the Fall until her divorce from Smith in 1989. She rejoined for the live promotion of the album Middle Class Revolt (1994) and remained for the recording and promotion of albums Cerebral Caustic (1995) and The Light User Syndrome (1996).

The Adult Net[edit]

In 1985, Smith launched side project the Adult Net[2] with fellow Fall member Simon Rogers. Contributors included Mark E. Smith. The group released four singles for the Fall's label Beggars Banquet Records in 1985 and 1986, including a cover of Strawberry Alarm Clock's "Incense and Peppermints".

The Adult Net released The Honey Tangle in 1989 on Phonogram Records. This line-up included Craig Gannon, The The member James Eller and Blondie drummer Clem Burke.

Brix & the Extricated[edit]

Smith reunited with former Fall bassist Steve Hanley and drummer Paul Hanley as Brix & the Extricated for a one-off gig at the Manchester Ruby Lounge in December 2014. They played Fall songs to celebrate the launch of Steve Hanley’s book The Big Midweek: Life Inside The Fall. The success of the concert saw the band start performing more gigs and, in 2015, a national UK tour.[8] They played the Rebellion Festival in August 2016, where Brix was interviewed by John Robb. The line-up is completed by guitarists Steve Trafford (another ex-Fall member) and Jason Brown.

By this time new material was being written and introduced into the set. A single, "Something to Lose", was released on Blang Records in November 2016, followed by the album Part 2 in September 2017.[9] Their second album, Breaking State, was released in October 2018 on Grit Over Glamour Records and almost exactly a year later in October 2019, their third album, Super Blood Wolf Moon, came out on the same label.

Solo work and other activities[edit]

After leaving the Fall and disbanding The Adult Net, Smith went on to tour with the Bangles. She became romantically involved with violinist Nigel Kennedy,[2] and they collaborated on a cover of Donovan's "Hurdy Gurdy Man" for the 1992 Donovan tribute album Island of Circles; the song was released as a single in 1993 on Nettwerk.

In 1994, Smith auditioned for Hole after the death of bassist Kristen Pfaff, but was in the group for one day.[3] Hole guitarist Eric Erlandson, while supportive of Melissa Auf der Maur as Pfaff's replacement, later commented that he was a huge fan of Brix and expressed regret that he didn't get a chance to play with her in the group. In 1997, she released the Happy Unbirthday EP on Strangelove. The EP is a collaboration with Marty Willson-Piper and includes a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity". A decade later, in 2007, she released her debut solo LP Neurotica, as a digital download on Loser Friendly Records.

In 2022 Smith announced a new album, Valley of the Dolls, co-written with Youth from Killing Joke, and a new live band to perform this material, containing Debbie Googe and Jen Macro of My Bloody Valentine, as well as Vas Antoniadou and Ros Cairney from deux furieuses. The album contains guest contributions from Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles and Siobhan Fahey and is planned for release in 2023 on Republic of Music. The band has supported Killing Joke, and went on tour with Public Image Ltd in June 2022 [10][11]

Work in fashion[edit]

Smith married fashion entrepreneur Philip Start. In 2002 the couple opened the boutique "Start" in east London. The business expanded to four boutiques and an online store.[3] The Shoreditch boutique closed in May 2015.[12] In recent years Smith has appeared as a fashion expert on British television shows, including Channel 4's Gok's Fashion Fix. She also appeared on Animal Planet UK's Top Dog, The Culture Show on BBC Two, John Peel's Record Box, LK Today's 'What's Hot and What's Not' segment[13] and Sky 1's Angela and Friends.[14] She appeared as a fashion expert on Sky television's coverage of the 2011 Academy Awards in February 2011, and she took part in the fashion commentary in Channel 4's coverage of Royal Ascot in June 2013. That summer she presented the first series of Ultimate Shopper, broadcast in the UK by digital channel TLC.[15]


  1. ^ Irvin, Jim (ed). The Mojo Collection: 4th Edition. p. 495. London: Canongate Books, 2017. ISBN 978-1-8419-5973-3
  2. ^ a b c d Hughes, Rob. "Slang Queen!". Uncut, May 2016
  3. ^ a b c Meter, William Van (18 September 2013). "Brix Smith-Start Has a Second Life as a Fashion Retailer". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "Under the Umbrian Sun". Traditional Home. Retrieved 2016-04-24.
  5. ^ "movies come back to Illinois Feb 1983". Retrieved 2016-04-24.
  6. ^ The Fall online-Biography Archived February 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ O’Hagan, Sean (2016-05-01). "Brix Smith Start: 'Mark E Smith? He's complicated'". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 2019-11-13.
  8. ^ Cooper, Neil. "Brix Smith before and after The Fall". Herald scotland. Herald Scotland. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  9. ^ "Brix & the Extricated". Blang records. Blang records. Archived from the original on 12 November 2016. Retrieved 12 November 2016.
  10. ^ Trendell, Andrew (2022-02-18). "Brix Smith to release solo album 'Valley Of The Dolls', forms all-female live supergroup".
  11. ^ Janes, Steve (2022-07-28). "Brix Smith announces her first UK headline tour with her new band". With Guitars.
  12. ^ "Security Check Required".
  13. ^ "Vivienne Clore represents Brix Smith-Start". Archived from the original on 2013-02-05.
  14. ^ "Sky 1 |". Archived from the original on 2011-10-09. Retrieved 2016-04-24.
  15. ^ Chavda, Sanaya. "Wear what feels right, says style expert Brix Smith-Start". Retrieved 2 May 2022


External links[edit]