Tag: Joy Division (Page 1 of 5)

Use Hearing Protection: The FACTORY RECORDS Interview

To celebrate the four decade legacy of Factory Records, Rhino / Warner Music Group have released two lavish boxed sets.

‘Use Hearing Protection: Factory Records 1978-1979’ gathers facsimile editions of the first 10 Factory items issued with a catalogue number including the first music releases ‘A Factory Sample’ (Fac 2), ‘All Night Party’ by A CERTAIN RATIO (Fac 5), ‘Electricity’ by OMD (Fac 6) and ‘Unknown Pleasures’ by JOY DIVISION (Fact 10).

Meanwhile, the early history of Factory Records is told in its accompanying 60 page book with text by label historian / biographer James Nice and photos by Kevin Cummins, while presented on DVD is the 8mm short film ‘No City Fun’ (Fac 9) featuring music by JOY DIVISION.

Additional items in ‘Use Hearing Protection: Factory Records 1978-1979’ include a white label 12” single by THE TILLER BOYS (originally intended as FAC3 but not released) and a previously unheard audio interview with Tony Wilson, Rob Gretton and JOY DIVISION from 1979 conducted by journalist Mary Harron restored across two CDs.

Featuring booklet notes by James Nice and Paul Morley, the second boxed set ‘Factory Records: Communications 1978-92’ is a reissue of the 4CD collection originally released in 2009 featuring JOY DIVISION, NEW ORDER, OMD, SECTION 25, JAMES, THE RAILWAY CHILDREN, ELECTRONIC and HAPPY MONDAYS among many as a set of 8 coloured vinyl LPs.

The ‘Use Hearing Protection’ exhibition premiered at London’s Chelsea Space for a limited period in the Autumn featuring the first 50 Factory items, but an expanded version will open in July 2020 at The Science & Industry Museum in Manchester.

James Nice took time out to chat to The Electricity Club about all things Factory…

How important were Factory Records?

That’s a huge question! Can I defer to all 546 pages of my book ‘Shadowplayers: The Rise and Fall of Factory Records’, published in 2010? I still maintain that Factory has more influence and cultural capital than any other record label since.

The design sensibility counts for as much as the music, but having said that I’ve played ‘Unknown Pleasures’ many times in 2019, and even with the passage of 40 years it still sounds utterly fresh and contemporary. Hats off to Martin Hannett as well as the band.

Are you happy with how the ‘Use Hearing Protection: Factory Records 1978-1979’ box turned out?

Yes, very much so. When WMG asked in 2018 whether there was something we could do to mark the 40th anniversary of the founding of the label, I suggested a mixed media ‘exhibition in a box’ containing the first 10 numbered artefacts because it seemed like an impossible challenge.

Aside from some complex licensing issues, some of the sleeves are exceptionally hard to reproduce. I don’t think any other label could have realised ‘Use Hearing Protection’, to be honest. At no time did Warners veto any element as being too costly, or object to bonus items such as THE TILLER BOYS 12” or the double CD interview with JOY DIVISION, Rob Gretton and Tony Wilson.

The first Factory Records music release FAC2 ‘A Factory Sample’ had a now iconic sleeve design, what was the process to ensure this reproduction was as close to the original as possible?

That was a significant challenge. The originals were hand-folded, hand-assembled – and even heat-sealed by hand using some sort of contraption no-one could identify 40 years later. The process took Factory several weeks back in 1979. The new edition was produced by a specialist printer in Italy and uses a heavier gauge polythene, but otherwise it’s faithful. Actually that’s not true – we corrected all the spelling errors on the sleeves and posters also. Hopefully that will stop anyone trying to sell these as originals.

Legend has it that the thermographic process used on FAC6 ‘Electricity’ by OMD set the black-on-black sleeve on fire during the original manufacturing run, how was the effect achieved this time round?

Well, that’s what Peter Saville says. The black–on-black design concept of Fac 6 is fantastic, but I think the original thermographed sleeves ended up looking more ‘interesting’ than beautiful. The new version uses embossing and a spot varnish, and actually I think it looks better. That’s just my opinion though. Several classic Factory sleeves are pretty much impossible to replicate exactly now because the old technology is gone.

Fac 6 is one. Another is Fact 14, DURUTTI COLUMN’S first album. No-one makes 12-inch square glasspaper sheets any more. In fact no-one in Europe even makes glasspaper.

There has also been the 40th Anniversary of FAC10 ‘Unknown Pleasures’ by JOY DIVISION recently, is this the key release that allowed Factory Records to become a sustainable entity for the next few years?

Fact 10 was the logical endpoint to the UHP box, for sure. ‘Unknown Pleasures’ sold quite well at the time, although in June 1979 indie distribution was still in its infancy and it took a while to actually recoup. Obviously Ian Curtis died in May 1980, and sales of JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER subsequently underwrote Factory for a long time afterwards.

Here’s what Tony Wilson had to say: “It began slowly. We did ‘Unknown Pleasures’, pressed 10,000, sold 5,000 off the back of the truck. The other 5,000 came home to Palatine Road. As soon as you’d got going, suddenly the mood changed, and by the end of ‘79 there was Rough Trade distribution, and that political identity you felt about being an independent label had arrived. But it wasn’t until maybe six months after Unknown Pleasures. By the time you got to ‘Closer’, it was all there.”

What’s inside the 60 page hardback book that is part of the ‘Use Hearing Protection: Factory Records 1978-1979’ box?

The book is in the style of an exhibition catalogue, so each of the items included – records, posters, films, stationary, egg-timers – is given several pages. The explanatory text for each item take the form of first person quotes from those involved.

I also wrote an introductory essay about the formation of Factory, and there’s also a highly perceptive Melody Maker piece by Mary Harron from 1979 which keys into the interview CDs. All the photos are by Kevin Cummins and provide an acute sense of time and place. It really was a joy to work with Howard Wakefield and Peter Saville on the whole project, and cut the singles at Abbey Road.

‘Factory Records: Communications 1978-1992’ has been reissued as a boxed set of 8 coloured vinyl LPs, what are your favourite five tracks from it and why?

In no particular order: ‘True Faith’ by NEW ORDER, which I think is their best pop song; ‘Mercy Theme (aka Duet)’ by DURUTTI COLUMN, very composed and classical yet warm and emotive; ‘Baader Meinhof’ by CABARET VOLTAIRE, because it still sounds terrifying; ‘Nightshift’ by THE NAMES, dark, understated pop by an underrated band; ‘Flight’ by ACR, thin boys punching above their weight to great effect.

Is there something you feel should have been included on it that isn’t?

ESG; they asked for silly money 10 years ago when the original CD version appeared. I don’t think anyone was very keen to try again this time. It’s a great shame though, as their Factory single is a timeless gem. I love ‘Can’t Afford’ by 52ND STREET too, but there wasn’t space to include it on this comp.

Factory Records were known for their great artwork and sleeves, which were the five that you liked best?

I like pretty much every sleeve design by Peter Saville, 8vo, Martyn Atkins and Mark Farrow. My five favourites are probably ‘Unknown Pleasures’ (Fact 10), the tracing paper sleeve for the first SECTION 25 single (Fac 18), ‘Without Mercy’ by DURUTTI COLUMN (Fact 84), ‘Always Now’ by SECTION 25 (Fact 45) and ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ by New Order (Fact 75). Ben Kelly worked on a couple of excellent Factory sleeves too – Fac 18, and ‘Sextet’ by ACR – as well as The Haçienda.

The ‘Use Hearing Protection FAC 1 – 50 / 40’ exhibition made its debut at Chelsea Space in London, where is it heading next?

It will open in Manchester in 2020, and will be slightly bigger too. I liked the merchandising WMG produced with Saville – the SECTION 25 ‘Always Now’ tea towel in particular.

The ‘Use Hearing Protection’ T-shirts are only available in yellow in childrens’ sizes, I don’t wear T-shirts much but I’d have bought an adult one of those… do you think an opportunity may have been missed there?

Nothing to do with me!

However our ‘Drifting Cowboys’ DURUTTI COLUMN tee doubles as an ‘early’ Factory shirt, and is available in all sizes from Factory Benelux.

Why does Factory Records continue to be of cultural fascination in the 21st Century?

I’m going to be lazy and paraphrase from my text in the UHP book. According to Peter Saville, the remarkable Factory saga is one of the last authentic stories in pop music. “Because for 14 years nobody ever made a decision based on profitability”. Rather, as Saville points out with admirable candour, the equity invested in the company was death.

Firstly that of troubled JOY DIVISION singer Ian Curtis, who took his own life in May 1980, and in ‘Unknown Pleasures’ left behind him perhaps the best debut album of all time. Those record sales underwrote The Haçienda, another astonishing story embracing druggy excess and gangland drama. Ultimately the label collapsed in spectacular style, and Tony Wilson, Rob Gretton and Martin Hannett also died far too young. Forget ‘24 Hour Party People’ – the Factory story would make a great longform drama on Netflix or HBO.


The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to James Nice

‘Use Hearing Protection: Factory Records 1978-79’ and ‘Factory Records: Communications 1978-92’ are released by Rhino / Warner Music Group, available from https://store.rhino.co.uk/uk/factory.html

The next leg of ‘Use Hearing Protection’ exhibition takes place at the Science + Industry Museum in Machester between 3rd July 2020 to 10th January 2021, further information can be found at https://www.scienceandindustrymuseum.org.uk/whats-on/use-hearing-protection

https://www.usehearingprotection.com/

https://www.facebook.com/factorycomms/

https://twitter.com/factory_comms

https://www.instagram.com/factorycomms/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
22nd November 2019, updated 18th January 2020

An Afternoon with STEPHEN MORRIS

Stephen Morris is best known as the drummer of JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER.

Together with Ian Curtis, Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner, JOY DIVISION had released just one album ‘Unknown Pleasures’ in June 1979 before the untimely death of Curtis in May 1980. Following the posthumous release of their second album ’Closer’, the remaining trio continued as NEW ORDER with the addition of Morris’ girlfriend and now-wife Gillian Gilbert.

The Electricity Club interviewed Stephen Morris in March 2011, a few months prior to the relaunch of NEW ORDER, and his informative humorous conversion remains one of the site’s most popular interviews. So an autobiography by the man who wanted to be a human drum machine was always bound to be an entertaining read.

‘Record Play Pause: Confessions of a Post-Punk Percussionist Volume 1’ is part memoir, part aural history and captures a dual narrative of growing up in the North West of England during the 1970s, while providing knowledgeable observations on the dynamics of music and the politics behind being in a band. It naturally also gives a first-hand account on the myth and haunting legacy of JOY DIVISION, while maintaining Morris’ noted wry and witty sense of humour.

Introduced by BUZZCOCKS manager Richard Boon who recalled how he tried to get the then-punk band called WARSAW to change their name to STIFF KITTENS, Morris was interviewed on stage by The Guardian’s music critic Jude Rogers about his book as part of the Stoke Newington Literary Festival.

Morris told her that he wanted initially to write a Russian novel only he couldn’t speak Russian and what he wrote was “sh*t”, so he settled on doing something to di-mythologise JOY DIVISION, something which he said was “never black and white”, because the public thought the band lived in the snow, while they actually having a laugh in the pub as were most ordinary young men of the period. Throughout his insightful Q&A, Morris was friendly and down-to-earth, occasionally offering a cynical and sarcastic take on his life.

With his book recalling a childhood of daily school milk rituals, Airfix kits, half day closing on Wednesdays and going on holiday with his parents to Torquay to see a shipwrecked oil tanker, Morris was frank about a period when “misogyny was rife” but men would want to marry one of the ‘Top Of The Pops’ dance troupe Pan’s People, while joining a band was an escape because “you married young and that was it!”, adding that “you got a job, had a couple of kids and then died!”

Of his early live music experiences, Morris recalled how his father had agreed on a concert exchange in an effort to bond: “He took me to see Marlene Dietrich which was nice, and I returned the favour by taking him to see HAWKWIND! It’s a shame we didn’t get to the end of their set as he didn’t like the drugged out hippies there.”

Morris also told of how he had applied to be a ‘Record Mirror’ journalist but while he didn’t get the job, he was asked to freelance and report on live gigs. “I assumed I could pick the gigs” he said, but he was wrong and remembered how he was despatched to review Roy Chubby Brown’s mates SMOKIE to roars of laughter from the audience; “THAT’S NOT THE FUNNY BIT!” he retorted… having been charged 75p for the privilege, he told of how the concert was cancelled when ironically the fire curtain refused to go up!

The anecdotes of his first encounters with key figures in Morris’ life provided much amusement for everyone gathered in the Stoke Newington Town Hall. Rob Gretton had told him to “F**K OFF” when he told him he was a budding journalist at a gig at Rafters, where the future JOY DIVISION and NEW ORDER manager was the resident DJ who refused to play requests! And in another story regarding a merchandising opportunity to produce ‘Unknown Pleasures’ T-shirts, he remembered Gretton had kiboshed the idea by responding “T-SHIRTS? THEY’RE SH*T!”

While Morris’ memories of his first meeting with bandmates Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook featured no expletives, he admitted he got confused when following his recruitment by Ian Curtis via a small ad in the Manchester fanzine ‘Shy Talk’, the vocalist suggested they meet the pair at the local prison! “Strangeways?” Morris remembered, “What were they in for?”.

And when a villainous looking Jaguar pulled up as they waited, Curtis started talking about someone called Hooky; “I assumed Hooky was Bernard and Peter’s father”, not realising Peter and Hooky were the same person! “There’s a lot of misunderstanding in my life” he admitted.

Answering an audience question about meeting Factory Records impresario Tony Wilson for the first time, Morris told the audience “It’s weird because you knew Tony from the telly and your impression of him was not exactly favourable; you thought he was a bit of a show-off, a clever b*stard who had to impress on everyone that he knew Trotsky did this and that… but once you got to know got to know him, you found out that your first impressions were correct!”

As the audience recovered from Morris’ amusing account, he added “I think he liked to wind people up, but he was very clever in that he would put people together, like getting us Peter Saville. Tony was a good catalyst, I always thought Tony would have got into politics eventually”. Meanwhile, he remembered how Gillian Gilbert’s mum had said to Wilson: “You know Tony, a lot of people don’t like you, and now that I’ve met you, I can see why!”

With an eye on the future, Morris’ electronic percussion journey was initially inspired by the cover of the UK edition of CAN’s ‘Tago Mago’ and a misunderstanding about a device attached to one of Jaki Liebezeit’s drums. Eventually he acquired a Synare 3, Simmons SDS4 and Roland CR78 while Sumner built a Powertran Transcendent 2000 before upgrading to an ARP Omni MkII.

In the book, Morris tells of his KRAFTWERK-influenced rhythmic experiment triggering his Simmons SDS4 off producer Martin Hannett’s ARP sequencer to produce ‘As You Said’, said by many to be “the worst JOY DIVISION song ever” although The Electricity Club rather likes it. Morris noted that the eccentric genius of Hannett added a depth that set ‘Unknown Pleasures’ apart and this pushing of sonic boundaries continued throughout JOY DIVISION’s short existence.

One instance was the aerosol used on the 12 inch disco re-recording of ‘She’s Lost Control’ inspired by BLONDIE’s ‘Heart Of Glass’. The idea had been to make the drums sound as powerful as possible, but Hannett suggested using an aerosol spray sound to give the rhythmic elements some fizzy top end.

Trapped in the vocal booth, Morris recalled noticing the can had a burning flame symbol and warnings of “danger” as the fumes started suffocating him… when the recording was completed, he reached for his pack of Player’s No6 King Size and was about to have a smoke but ”luckily I’d lent Rob Gretton my cigarette lighter”. As Morris put it, “it could have been a ‘Spinal Tap’ moment”, referencing the film’s recurring joke of spontaneously combusting drummers!

Despite Morris highlighting in the book about his lack of sartorial elegance and geography teacher look in the iconic JOY DIVISION photos taken by Kevin Cummins on Hulme Bridge, The Electricity Club asked about his 2011 ‘Arena Homme+’ fashion shoot; “It was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever done in my life, never again” he snorted, recalling his parents were saying “What are you doing, standing in a tank with a suit on? You don’t look well??!”

But of that iconic Hulme photo and its mystique, Morris said “people look at those pictures and see different things which is great, but all I can remember is the reality which is I was excruciatingly cold because Hooky had forgotten to bring his coat and I offered him mine!”.

Compared with bands of the time, JOY DIVISION’s monochromatic austere stood out as Morris confirmed: “We looked strange, we looked like we didn’t belong”.

In memory of Ian Curtis’ sad passing, Morris said “It was such a shock, one of Ian’s failings was he’d try to be everything to everyone, he’d never want to let anyone down… if he’d have turned round and said ‘I don’t want to do this’, I’d like to think we would have gone along with it, but he wasn’t like that. He’d say he was fine when he clearly wasn’t fine. We were all excited about going to America and suddenly BANG! I couldn’t make sense of it”.

But concluding on a lighter note, when asked what NEW ORDER song Ian Curtis would have loved, Morris sheepishly replied “Ooooh! ‘World In Motion’” to roars of laughter, adding “I could imagine him doing that!”. However, Morris conceded that it was likely that material from ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ would have appealed to the late JOY DIVISION frontman while also surmising that if Curtis had lived, JOY DIVISION might have mutated into something like RADIOHEAD.

From tom riffs and gothic disco to club friendly four-to-the-floor beats, ‘Record Play Pause: Confessions of a Post-Punk Percussionist Volume 1’ covers the up to the end of JOY DIVISION and the start of NEW ORDER. With moments that make you laugh out loud as well as making you cry with an emotional account of a very personal tragedy, this book is a must read, capturing the background behind the post-punk generation’s dysfunctional creativity that manifested itself under the spectre of The Cold War and appropriately unleashed itself during Britain’s winter of discontent.

A second volume covering NEW ORDER up to the present day will be published in 2020.


‘Record Play Pause: Confessions of a Post-Punk Percussionist Volume 1’ is published by Constable

NEW ORDER + LIAM GILLICK ‘∑(No,12k,Lg,17Mif) So it goes..’ is released as a limited edition triple coloured vinyl LP and double CD by Mute Artists on 12th July 2019

http://www.neworder.com/

https://www.facebook.com/NewOrderOfficial

https://twitter.com/neworder

https://www.instagram.com/neworderofficial/


Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
15th June 2019

NEW ORDER Live at Alexandra Palace

It’s interesting to think that when Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris were in their 20s, NEW ORDER gigs would be around three quarters of an hour but with both now in their 60s, the band are onstage for close to 2 hours and 20 minutes!

The pair with younger founder member Gillian Gilbert and new recruits Phil Cunningham and Tom Chapman played their only UK gig of 2018 at London’s Alexandra Palace and delivered a superb show that acknowledged their history, one which a number of their contemporaries could learn from.

Alexandra Palace is an iconic building, full of prestige as a live venue, but its practicalities are hindered by limited public transport access and with a standing capacity of 10000, a stage so low that anyone under 5 foot 11 inches automatically has a restricted view! Luckily, NEW ORDER’s live presentation with its vibrant widescreen visuals more than compensated.

Opening with ‘Singularity’, footage compiled from Mark Reeder’s documentary ‘B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin 1979-1989’ complimented the track’s rock electro tension before the quintet launched straight into ‘Regret’; welcomed back like a lost friend, the 1993 hit single had not been in the NEW ORDER live set during their last UK tour in 2015 or the ‘So It Goes..’ synth orchestra shows.

Appropriately for Remembrance 100 weekend, a superb ‘Love Vigilantes’ was dusted off while there were even bigger surprises with ‘Ultraviolence’ from ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ set to stark images of bullets and a blistering version of ‘Disorder’, the JOY DIVISION song which opened the now classic 1979 debut long player ‘Unknown Pleasures’.

2001’s ‘Crystal’ naturally came accompanied by the promo video from which THE KILLERS got their name, while a rendition of ‘Academic’ from the ‘Music Complete’ comeback highlighted how impressive the ‘Akademixx’ reworking by Mark Reeder for his ‘Mauerstadt’ collection was, as NEW ORDER’s own take now came over slightly underwhelming.

The glorious ‘Your Silent Face’ with its serene neo-classicism was a highlight, illustrated by a ‘Dallas’ style montage which drew cheers as each starring band member’s name was flashed onto the screen.

On the whole, the very bright visuals based around geometric shapes and specially filmed life sequences were magnificent, although at times, the unnecessary use of lyrics on some of the projections bordered on karaoke unless they were prompts for Bernard Sumner.

There was the old jibe that Ringo Starr was not even the best drummer in THE BEATLES and Bernard Sumner is known not to be the best singer in NEW ORDER, but he has learnt to use his limitations well over the years. Tonight, his vocals were as wayward and vulnerable as ever; part of the omnipresent charm of NEW ORDER, while there were a few missed cues too, one thing that was obvious was his enthusiasm and that he was throughly enjoying himself.

Introducing the Italo House flavoured ‘Tutti Frutti’ as “quirky”, NEW ORDER launched into a sensational electronic disco extravaganza akin to an over 50s rave, although there were plenty of youngsters in the audience who knew ALL the words!

The baroque sex anthem ‘Sub-Culture’ combining the best elements of the original ‘Low-life’ version and the John Robie remix triggered massed dancing, as did a Richard X assisted update of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ segueing into the dreamily emotive ‘Vanishing Point’, one of the stand-outs from 1989’s ‘Technique’.

The only misstep of a wondrous setlist was an electronic take on ‘Waiting For The Sirens’ Call’, the transformation of a classic NEW ORDER guitar driven number not working at all. But victory was snatched back by ‘Plastic’, with the hypnotic sequenced influence of Giorgio Moroder reflected by a spectacular road trip of flashing nocturnal illustrations.

The mighty triad of ‘The Perfect Kiss’, ‘True Faith’ and ‘Blue Monday’ rewarded the audience while with a steady introduction comprising of the string quartet motif from Lou Reed’s ‘Street Hassle’, ‘Temptation’ saw the song’s memorable chant reprised by all present like some communal hymn.

It was a long energetic evening that ensured the crowd were exhausted so despite somewhat muted calls for an encore, NEW ORDER returned for a JOY DIVISION triathlon beginning with ‘Atmosphere’.

Using David Bowie and Giorgio Moroder’s ‘Cat People (Putting Out Fire)’ as a re-arranged first section, there were roars of approval as the forever looming figure of singer Ian Curtis appeared on the screen.

An emotional ‘Decades’ from ‘Closer’ and its sonic grandeur set to archive footage of Manchester was the evening’s pièce de résistance while ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ sent people home with strength through joy, despite the song’s sad backstory.

Yet another band who are better than the current live incarnation of DEPECHE MODE, NEW ORDER win on many points thanks to a drummer in Stephen Morris who actually knows how to play along to electronics, a guitarist in Bernard Sumner who can play a variety of styles without lowering to blues noodling plus the use of original sounds synonymous with the songs, like the Oberheim DMX on ‘Blue Monday’ and the synthetic clap on ‘Decades’.

And that’s without mentioning an inventive setlist of not just hits and tracks from the most recent album ‘Music Complete’, but songs from the early days of JOY DIVISION, not just one but four fan favourites from the classic albums, singles that weren’t hits and sensational visuals that impacted all of the audience and were not just seen by a privileged few.

Now just imagine for a moment DM actually giving some thought of making that effort and doing the equivalent…


The live NEW ORDER album ‘NOMC15’ is still available via Mute Artists

http://www.neworder.com/

https://www.facebook.com/NewOrderOfficial

https://twitter.com/neworder

https://www.instagram.com/neworderofficial/

https://www.youtube.com/user/neworder

http://mute.com/artists/new-order


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Simon Helm
10th November 2018

NEW ORDER Decades

A new film by Mike Christie for Sky Arts, ‘Decades’ is a part concert and part documentary presentation of iconic Manchester band NEW ORDER. 

It follows them as they re-stage their acclaimed ‘So It Goes..’ collaboration with conceptual artist Liam Gillick and a 12-piece synthesizer orchestra recruited from Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music.

Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of JOY DIVISION’s TV debut performing ‘Shadowplay’ on Granada TV, introduced by their soon-to-be Factory Records boss Tony Wilson, the film celebrates the past, present and future of NEW ORDER.

Featuring interviews with Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert along with new recruits Phil Cunningham and Tom Chapman, ‘Decades’ also includes contributions from graphic designer Peter Saville as well as cultural commentators Jon Savage and Dave Haslam.

First performed at the Manchester International Festival 2017, the audio / visual spectacular had its own technical and logistical challenges, with up to 19 musicians on stage including conductor Joe Duddell.

Taking the installation to OGR Torino and Wiener Festwochen earlier this year, the whole concept had to be almost totally reconstructed thanks to the height restrictions and dimensions of the two hosting art spaces in Italy and Austria respectively.

For the musical aspect of the show, the MIDI information controlling the NEW ORDER’s regular live set had to be transcribed into twelve individual music scores for each of the students to play by hand. But controlled from a huge computer were the light show, the angles of the white Venetian blinds in each of the cubicles that the synth orchestra were each positioned in and all the sounds for the various synthesizers.

Still very much a concert, Liam Gillick was adamant that this wouldn’t be “a weird art event with music”. Stephen Morris got fully involved in the technological aspects because he was, in his own words, “the only one boring enough to read the manual”, a trait which Bernard Sumner reflected on as being “unusual for a drummer” and something which long suffering wife Gillian Gilbert laughed about and said made him “impossible to live with…”

But Morris spoke in awe of how with the original NEW ORDER productions, the band would programme each note laboriously into the sequencers before speeding up the results, while each member of the synth orchestra would use their virtuoso ability to deconstruct and tightly recreate the fast programmed elements of tracks like ‘Plastic’, ‘Sub-Culture’, ‘Vanishing Point’, ‘Shellshock’ and ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’.

But as Cunningham remarked, “you’ve got to have a feel” and this was a quality which the synth orchestra undoubtedly provided. The best song from NEW ORDER’s most recent ‘Music Complete’ album, ‘Plastic’ was presented full length as were all the other songs in the film, a relief from the usual quick cut butchering and fast editing that has occurred in 21st Century music event broadcasts aimed at youngsters with attention deficits.

The spectacular sea of flashing straight line visuals came over well on the small screen and reflected the song’s complex but energetic combination of Giorgio Moroder and house, aided by Sumner’s disco dad dancing and the silhouetted movements of the synth orchestra looking like a futuristic ‘Jailhouse Rock’.

The rarely performed baroque sex anthem ‘Sub-Culture’, while combining the best sonic elements of the original ‘Low-life’ version and the polarising John Robie remix along with many new parts, provided amusement with a major continuity error thanks to two very different looking female backing singers being used over the two dates during which the concerts in Vienna were filmed for this documentary.

Not doing ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Truth Faith’ at the ‘So It Goes..’ shows encouraged NEW ORDER to be inventive with the setlist to primarily include other more synth friendly material. But one of the most interesting choices was the post-punk rage of ‘Disorder’, the opener from ‘Unknown Pleasures’. While not presented as a concert number in the film, the rehearsal footage was a reminder of its blistering impact while leading to a section on the forever looming legacy of JOY DIVISION vocalist Ian Curtis.

After the passing of Curtis, Bernard Sumner took over lead vocals from the ‘Movement’ album onwards and in the film, Phil Cunningham recalled how uncomfortable Sumner looked when listening to it as the band members convened to listen back to the NEW ORDER catalogue to choose songs for the ‘So it Goes..’ shows.

A short section focussed on Tom Chapman replacing Peter Hook as bassist. While Peter Saville reflected that the chemistry which NEW ORDER had in their classic line-up was what made them great, he also accepted that “chemistry is combustible”; and while Sumner praised Chapman’s contributions on ‘Music Complete’, he complimented Hook obliquely by saying “not that the other bass in our history wasn’t great, it was great!”

Sumner amusingly waved and greeted the synth orchestra before a fabulously dreamy update of ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ which was visually enhanced by close-ups of the exuberant actions from the synth orchestra members, although just as the track segued into ‘Vanishing Point’, the performance disappointingly faded off into the next documentary chapter.

The neo-classicism of ‘Your Silent Face’ was just perfect foil for interpretation by the synth orchestra and as an emotional finale of the glorious ‘Decades’ itself from ‘Closer’ captured the tense sonic cathedral of JOY DIVISION while adding some strangely uplifting qualities, both songs made for the ultimate display of multi-layered melancholic grandeur.

Beautifully produced, while the film itself was not too in-depth about the band’s history, it was an enjoyable snapshot of a reconfigured band in transition who were aware of their status as treasured veteran artists. Peter Saville concluded that Liam Gillick’s concept, as “his dialogue with his idea of NEW ORDER”, was an artistic success and “put the group back into an uncomfortable space”, just as in their formative years.

As much a document about the regeneration of Manchester as a cultural force as well as the continuing relevance of NEW ORDER, what was particularly touching about ‘Decades’ was the band’s respect of their tremendous back catalogue and general happiness that their naïve pursuit of fun led them to success.

Now, if only DEPECHE MODE would be a bit more grateful for their lot and accord more respect to the very songs that got them to where they are today…


‘Decades’ can be viewed on Sky via subscription – for more information, please visit https://www.sky.com/watch/title/programme/968c1ac8-3538-4e4e-b9e8-4977a160b551/new-order-decades

The live album ‘∑(No,12k,Lg,17Mif) So it goes..’ is released as a limited edition triple coloured vinyl LP and double CD by Mute Artists

NEW ORDER play London’s Alexandra Palace on Friday 9th November 2018

http://www.neworder.com/

https://www.facebook.com/NewOrderOfficial

https://twitter.com/neworder

https://www.instagram.com/neworderofficial/

http://mute.com/artists/new-order


Text by Chi Ming Lai
23rd September 2018, updated 13th July 2019

SECTION 25 Elektra

Blackpool’s SECTION 25 went from post-punk gloom merchants on ‘Always Now’ in 1981 to mutant electronic dance pioneers with 1984’s ‘From The Hip’ and its seminal single ‘Looking From A Hilltop’, before evolving into a glossy pop act with the album ‘Dark Light’ in 2013.

Founded by the Cassidy brothers Larry and Vin, SECTION 25’s various stages have been shaped by the band’s lead vocalists, from Larry himself to his wife Jenny and now their daughter Bethany.

Part of the iconic Factory Records family, Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris all took a productive interest in the band’s creative fortunes over the years, while there was a boost in profile when rapper Kanye West sampled the song ‘Hit’ from ‘Always Now’ for the outro of his 2016 track ‘FML’ which eventually boasted seventeen names in its publishing split due to the number of samples it used!

Sadly Larry and Jenny passed away in 2010 and 2004 respectively, but the family tradition of SECTION 25 continues today with Vin and Bethany joined by cousin Jo on backing vocals and keyboards, along with the newest family member Michael on bass.

The new album ‘Elektra’ sees a return to SECTION 25’s post-punk roots and this move is signified by multi-instrumentalist Steve Stringer being joined by the band’s original guitarist from that period Paul Wiggin as the recording’s special guest.

The result of jam sessions and recorded as a live band in the studio, the dreamy opener ‘Laid Back’ with its layers of gentle string machine might indicate business as usual at least with more recent SXXV offerings, but ‘Chase The Blue’ offers live drums and a gritty guitar driven sound to offset Bethany’s voice and some lingering vibratoed synth. Then there’s the dubbier excursion of ‘Creatures’ and the quirky indie of ‘All I Ask’ before a more aggressive new wave demeanour sets in for ‘It Don’t Get’.

‘You Want Some’ continues on the new wave path, while the amusingly titled ‘You Don’t Have To Be Liked To Be Good’ plays with squelches and baggy piano over a percussive template that recalls PUBLIC IMAGE LIMITED. The most electronically assisted track ‘The Greatest Thing’ has that fizz reminiscent of NEW ORDER. With Bethany joyfully exclaiming “this is my time”, it offers possibly the highlight of ‘Elektra’.

Again playing with squelches over live drums and incessant bass, ‘This Is The Love’ is another that goes into new wave territory although is a little too long while ‘Floating Sun’ soothes via its swirly textural atmospheres and a hypnotic rhythmic mantra from Vin.

To close ‘Elektra’, there’s a surprising band cover of ‘FML’, the very Kanye track which sampled of ‘Hit’. It bizarrely sounds like CHVRCHES going West Coast rap with the austere essence of the North West looming courtesy of the lingering voice of Larry Cassidy.

Those hoping for more electropop in the vein of the ‘Dark Light’ album might be disappointed, but those who prefer to party like it’s 1979 with guitars, bass and drums will love this latest offering from SECTION 25 as a worthy addition to the Cassidy tradition.


‘Elektra’ is released by Klanggalarie Records as a CD available from http://www.klanggalerie.com/gg278

A selection of the SECTION 25 back catalogue is available from http://www.factorybenelux.com/section25.html

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Text by Chi Ming Lai
1st August 2018

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