Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris on the key moments in New Order's history, musing on Joy Division, coping with the loss of close friends, and the acrimony over Peter Hook...
(For Part 1 of this article click here Ch-ch-ch-changes: From Joy Division to New Order to Now (Part 1))
Change: People dying.
Bernard: I think the other major change is every time someone bleeding dies. Rob Gretton, our manager, dying was a big thing and then losing Tony Wilson was like another thing. It’s just the fact of life really. Rob had a unique style of management he was part of the wacky stuff that New Order did. He hadn’t been well for a while but it just wasn’t the same without him, it all just started fading away really. Even though we’d already lost Ian and Martin Hannet, Rob’s death was still a real shock because we spent so much time together.
Stephen: I think in the early days the thing about Rob is he wouldn’t let you get too serious about stuff, he didn’t rule with an iron rod but he’d bang your heads together. See between a band you can’t argue else resentment comes out, whereas Rob, he could take the heat. There was more focus when he was around.
Bernard: Yeah he took the heat really and there were a lot fewer differences when he was around.
James: You know the period where you weren’t active as a band there was a bit where you [Bernard] worked with Johnny Marr and you [Stephen] worked with Gillian what had happened there, in a way it seemed as though New Order certainly wasn’t at the forefronts of your minds.
Bernard: For me, I had to get of out the pressure cooker really, because that’s what it felt like for various reasons one being that my physical health was suffering, mostly because those tours were pretty hedonistic. We were getting up to a lot of mischief, in fact I ended up in hospital, they told me that I’d burnt the lining of my stomach from drinking such strong spirits.
James: You damaged the lining of your stomach – Alcoholic Gastritis?
Bernard: Yeah that’s the one. I was in a hospital in Chicago and it made me think twice about what I was doing and I thought why am I doing all these tours and we were touring to keep Factory afloat and The Hacienda afloat. I thought I don’t want to do it, I wanted to be a musician, not a bloody financer so going to work with Johnny, he had just left The Smiths, and he was in a similar situation to me. His head was fried, he was burnt out and he’d had a really, really intense period of writing and touring.
James: You never said you’d split up, you never said you were on a break, yet clearly you all had other projects on the go. Within the band how was that said?
Bernard: I just cleared off and it was never discussed, we just went our separate ways and that was it.
Stephen: I personally did feel like we had split up but I think the thing is it was other people rumouring splits, like the NME, even thought we’d be going off to tour.
James: So you’d already had an American tour lined up?
Stephen: Yeah we were on our way to America when Rob were like “oh we told the NME you’d split up”. He just said he said it because he thought it would be a bit of a laugh because he didn’t know what else to say. But we did need a break.
Bernard: Self-preservation really just to keep you from going mad.
James: And what about getting back together again, what came after that?
Stephen: Well we got back together again in 1998 because we all got fed up of saying we didn’t know what was happening and after the offer for the Phoenix festival we had a meeting to decide, well have to split up or not.
James: And how long was the break?
Stephen: from about 1994 – 1998 so yeah about 4 years we hadn’t seen each other.
Bernard: You don’t see each other socially anyway because you see each other so much in as a band when you have time off you want to see your family and other friends.
Rob Gretton, our manager, dying was a big thing and then losing Tony Wilson was like another thing. It’s just the fact of life really.
Change: A new label. Bye Bye factory Hello London.
Bernard: Moving over to a major label, which was London Records that’s definitely a memorable change. I think when we got back together we learnt a lot on how not to do it really so we all sobered up a bit and had a more disciplined approach to the way we worked and went on tours, instead of the massive mega ones we did the small concise tours and saw a lot of people. Everything was fine until, the bass player left we wouldn’t have many changes after that.
Change: Tony Wilson RIP..
Bernard: Out of everyone that died for me Tony seemed wrong, I mean don’t get me wrong they were all wrong. But with Tony he always seemed to have such a youthful thinking and was full of life.
Ste: Tony dying really was the end of Factory. For as long as he was alive there was always something about Factory that was still around the way he did things as well and once he went that was it.
Bernard: Putting aside all that criticism about him as a business man, Tony was such a good catalyst for our musicality, if we’d have gone straight on to a major label from day one, I don’t think we’d have lasted this long so Tony was very important. Again don’t get me wrong, so was Ian, so was Martin, they were all very important.
James: Did you miss Tony’s funeral?
Bernard: I did yeah, I was away with my family and I couldn’t get back.
Ste: When we started it was always Joy Division and Factory, we were always part of something else but as time has gone by the things that we were a part of with every successive death a bit of that has disappeared. And left now are the band New Order, the band on it’s own. That’s all that’s left of that.
Bernard: We’re standing on the top of the iceberg and it’s gradually sinking and sinking.
James: Do you think it’s strange to be a part of something that has lasted so long?
James: When you’re creative, it’s quite unusual to have such longevity, which is a reflection obviously of your success.
Bernard: I was thinking that recently, when I quit my job people were like “you’ll last 5 minutes” and now all those people that were giving me a hard time, my career has lasted longer than there’s you know, it’s weird. We’ve kind of ended up with a job for life and who ends up for a job for life these days. In my Grandfather’s generation it was the norm, and now that’s kind of what we’ve ended up with and it’s great.
Ste: Music isn’t really a job for life though is it? At some stage you just don’t look right together, I mean I know The Rolling Stones still carry on but they don’t look right. It’s a young man’s game.
James: I think that’s a very modern perception of music you don’t really read in those biographies of those classical performers saying “Oh now I’ve turned 28 I should probably stop doing the concerto’s now, it’s a young mans game.” Musicians are musicians, it’s only the industries desire to have new artists. If you look at someone like Tom Jones, it doesn’t seem weird to see him still performing now. I imagine if Tom Jones hadn’t become famous he would probably still be singing in a pub in Wales.
Ste: Yeah, that’s true in a way; it’s more fun now as the pressures aren’t on you as much. At times back then it was a bit difficult to handle, it was great but I think even Ian was finding it difficult, I remember seeing two letters that he wrote but he would never tell us them.
We’ve kind of ended up with a job for life and who ends up for a job for life these days. In my Grandfather’s generation it was the norm, and now that’s kind of what we’ve ended up with and it’s great.
Change: Hooky departs.
James: You said that Peter Hook left as opposed to the band breaking up he doesn’t see it as that way does he?
Bernard: We never sat down and had a meeting about it and said do you think we should split up, he just went of Xfm and said “New Order have split up” and we went “No we haven’t”. He can’t tell us we’ve split up, as far as I’m concerned you can leave but you break something up made of people comprising of more than you.
Bernard: He’s performing on his own, it’s really difficult to sit there and watch him hijack our heritage in the way that he did with The Hacienda but I have no idea what the legal situation is.
James: Do you think New Order will reform with Peter again?
Bernard: In our minds he left the band and now we can’t embrace our heritage and he’s managed to scoop off the last chunk of it, which isn’t very nice after all these years. The way you treat your old band buddies and yeah it doesn’t feel good, you don’t do the dirty on your mates.
He’s (Peter Hook) performing on his own, it’s really difficult to sit there and watch him hijack our heritage in the way that he did with The Hacienda
Change: New York club sounds
James: Was there any significant musical change in the band? In my opinion I think they’re two - records that are driven by guitars and records that are driven by electronica. Even on a lot of your previous records, the guitar and the keyboard have definitely been fused together, there’s two different sounds I think.
Bernard: It’s dancey and electronic; we’ve always tried to combine them. It started on our first trip to New York when our equipment got knicked, maybe it got knicked for a reason. We spent a lot of time in the nightclubs in New York and we heard a lot of fresh musical influences there. Back in the UK there were two types of music the straight music and the alternative which was us. The straight they played in the clubs, so you would never go. In New York the DJ’s were really forward looking and would play new wave music from the UK and Sugarhill records from New York so they would play dance music mixed into stuff like The Clash and Soft Cell it was much more daring and interesting music that they played there. So that rubbed off on us. It so happened that about that same time we came to England, it since became affordable for technology to allow us to get our hands on it. Part of the fun was that we thought we were pioneers everything was new and exciting.
James: And do you remember the first song you made using that technology?
Ste: I think the first song we did was Everything’s Gone Green we got a drum machine, I saw it and thought I might be out of a job here so I made sure that I was still playing the drums as well, so it turned into not removing anything but adding more things we ended up with a hybrid.
James: Do you have like ten favourite New Order and Joy Division songs that you could just list?
Bernard: I guess all the ones coming up on the new album and the ones that we couldn’t fit on Love Vigilantes is a good one and Disorder, and there’s other ones as well, it depends what mood you’re in. Saying that as well you don’t go home and play your own music you’ve spent so much time with it. It’s bit like you don’t go out and socialise with the band because you’re always with them.
We got a drum machine, I saw it and thought I might be out of a job here so I made sure that I was still playing the drums as well, so it turned into not removing anything but adding more things we ended up with a hybrid.
James: Do you remember writing Love Vigilantes?
Bernard: We wrote it because I remember years before we were on a tour with Buzzcocks and the roadies had all these funny Country and Western songs with tear jerking stories in them so I thought I’d write something in that vain. Country and Western Redneck story songs. Thing about that song is, when he comes back to see his wife, you’re not sure whether he’s a ghost.
Ste: I just remembered something, remember when Jonathan Demme did the video for The Perfect Kiss, he wanted to make a film for Love Vigilantes it would be like a short film, I wonder if I still got his number.
Change: The Silver Screen.
James: You’ve had the pleasure of seeing yourselves played in two fairly high profile and critically acclaimed films, what did that feel like?
Bernard: Not that weird weirdly, you’re used to making videos and being on stage and those films have been playing in your head for ages, especially Control, it played it over and over. Again, not everyday but it’s something that you can’t forget. How about you Ste?
Ste: I’m just a drummer; I’m there for light relief. No, I think it’s weird, someone pretending to be you on screen.
Bernard: I like 24 Hour Party People and Control for different reasons, 24 Hour Party People because it’s really fun, and Control for the way it dealt with a really hard period
James: Did you think it was pretty realistic?
Bernard: I do think it was pretty realistic; in a nutshell that’s what it was like, except everything wasn’t black and white in the 1970’s.
James: Did you get a shiver watching it at any moment, especially with the portrayal of Ian?
Ste: The first couple of times I saw it just kind of washed over me a bit didn’t really affect me, then I saw it about 3 or 4 months later and for some reason it just sort of hit me and got quite affected by it. Almost upset, now every time I watch it since then it affects me more and more.
Bernard: With me, lets put it this way, it’s not a period in my life that I want to relive and dwell on. What happened, happened and I can’t do anything about it now and I couldn’t do anything about it at the time. I cherish the memory of Ian but it’s not something I want to relive, over and over I guess that’s just the way of dealing with something.
James: Did it dislodge any emotions whilst watching Control?
Bernard: Oh Yeah, extremely emotional but I don’t like being upset, I’ve had enough of that in my life. Obviously all of us wish very much that it hadn’t taken his life; we wish that he could have been around to enjoy some of what we enjoyed. Ultimately it’s been a fantastic life it’s a shame Ian didn’t get a chance to enjoy it. Saying that, I really don’t think his health could have taken the pressures of touring and being on stage and that pressure, his health was in a terrible place. I think he would have stopped performing and become a writer and would have started writing books as his way of life, he would have had to have done it because his epileptic fits would have been so bad.
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