Tag: Joy Division (Page 1 of 4)

Vintage Synth Trumps with MARK REEDER

Photo by Crystal Reeder

His portfolio has included NEW ORDER, DEPECHE MODE, PET SHOP BOYS, JOHN FOXX, BLANK & JONES, WESTBAM, MARSHEAUX, THE KVB, NOBLESSE OBLIGE, KOISHII & HUSH, QUEEN OF HEARTS and many more.

Mark Reeder is the jovial Mancunian who ventured over to Germany in 1978 in search of electronic music records and never returned home, eventually settling in West Berlin.

Immersing himself in the local art and punk scene, he arranged JOY DIVISION’s now legendary gig at Kant-Kino, managed MALARIA! and was Factory Records representative in Der Bundesrepublik.

On Mayday 1982, he paid a visit to the DDR and while taking photos of the grand parade in East Berlin, he was arrested by the STASI and taken in for interrogation, under suspicion of working for M16. Unable to draw any conclusions, other than he was trying to corrupt the youth of East Germany with pop music, the East German Secret Police marked his file ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’.

The experience inspired Reeder’s most recent double album named after his STASI classification. Comprising of productions and remixes made by himself and his engineer Micha Adam, it celebrated his cross-border artistic ethos and also included collaborations with the likes of Fifi Rong and Alanas Chosnau, as well as solo work on which he lent his own spoken voice.

The two high profile centrepieces of ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ focus on Reeder’s reworkings of NEW ORDER’s first new single since 2015 ‘Be A Rebel’ and YELLO’s evergreen ‘Vicious Games’. But room is also given to newer acts such as the Dutch-based American BIRMINGHAM ELECTRIC, Manchester’s MFU, DEER Mx from Mexico and hailing from the Chinese city of Chengdu, STOLEN who opened for NEW ORDER on their 2019 European tour.

Another NEW ORDER support act Zachery Allan Starkey makes appearance via a remix of ‘Coked Up Biker Anthem’ which saw Reeder realise some of his mad axeman fantasies having grown up as a fan of Jimi Hendrix. But accepting ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’s invitation to play a round of Vintage Synth Trumps, Mark Reeder kindly chatted about his love of classic synthesizers and how they have been used throughout his career.

Ok, our first card is the Roland SH7…

I’ve seen one but never had one, I had an SH9 which I used at the end of DIE UNBEKANNTEN and the start of SHARK VEGAS. In fact, the bassline of ‘You Hurt Me’ which we released on Factory in 1984 was made with an SH9. They were very similar kinds of synthesizers but the SH7 had a few extra features. I actually played the bassline of ‘You Hurt Me’ by hand all the way through for six minutes non-stop, it wasn’t a sequencer! If you made a mistake, there was no way of going back and you had to start again! *laughs*

What was the drum machine you were using at the time?

We had an 808 and a 606…

And the next card is an Oberheim 2 Voice…

I never knew anyone who could afford Oberheim stuff until it became more affordable in the late 80s, no-one I knew had the 2 Voice. But the OBXs was really good, you could do some great things with them but the earlier ones weren’t readily available, so you didn’t really see anything you could buy… no-one had any money in Berlin in the 80s! A Prophet 10 would be like 10 years wages! *laughs*

So, when you were conceiving ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ which was a reference to that time in 80s Berlin, and your cover photo of the May Day parade and your STASI file, did you select a palette of specific vintage synth sounds to work with?

I’ve always worked like this, when I started to get back into actually making music again, as more of a remixer and producer than before, I had this idea that I only wanted to have a small selection of things that I could draw from to maintain a particular sound. I made my own drum kits, three different kinds and I would interchange within each one.

So, I might have three different claps but I’d put two together and manipulate them to create another type of clap sound. So, the sounds are all drawn from the same three basic kits and say with a snare, I might add another instrument into that snare mix, but it’s all the same block if you like.

It’s the same in a way with synthesizers as well, I don’t have loads, and I keep it reasonably contained. If you have too many, you end up spending too time trawling through thousands and thousands of sounds, but if you have a limited amount of possibilities, then you have to be creative within those few things. I’ll take pads off one synthesizer and put the dirt in from an MS20 underneath, and it will change the sound of the pad. And if you put that through a chorus, it will automatically give that a different sound.

I’ve not got loads of synthesizers in the studio, but we’ve got quite a few. We’ve got quite a few plug-ins too, initially I was a bit dubious about them, but meanwhile a few of them are really quite good and very useful…

Do you have a favourite of the plug-ins?

Well, we’ve got Omnisphere which we use regularly, as I find it’s got a few sounds which I’ll always use and they’re easy to manipulate, but they’re always the same basics. I think I always choose the same couple of sounds *laughs*

We’ve got an ARP plug-in and that is quite good and an EMS one because I could never afford a real one. I’ve got a plug-in version of the Roland SH101 but having the original thing is different, it has a totally different feeling to it. It depends what you want to do with it. The plug-in doesn’t come near, but it has its own sounds that are useful. I have a Juno 106 and my studio partner Micha Adam has a plug-in 106 and a boutique version, although it’s similar in certain sounds, neither sound like a real 106. But each has features that the real 106 doesn’t have, like the arpeggiator or the delay, so you kind of mix them all together, that’s how I work.

Photo by Crystal Reeder

What was your approach to reworking ‘Vicious Games’ by YELLO from 1985 for ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’?

The original track was like “I’ve got a sound sampler and I’m gonna show you how to use it” so it’s like all these ideas together and a vocal connecting everything.

When YELLO sent me the parts, I realised there were more vocals recorded than used on the track and I thought it was a shame that this track of idea wasn’t actually a song. So, I reworked Rush Winter’s wonderful vocals into a song, to give it a definitive verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure, like a 21st Century version of an 80s song.

I used the Oberheim OBX and Juno to make the pad at the beginning and made it more song structured. I looped the guitar part so that it became a groove. People have come up to me and said they love the Donna Summer ‘I Feel Love’ bit that I added, but it’s in the original track, it’s just that you can’t hear it because it’s mixed down so much within the track. You don’t really get to experience that part, so I thought it would be nice to feature that as the break, so I cannibalised the original.

What did Boris and Dieter think of it?

They love it, Boris said I was very daring for changing their song so much and not make it sound like their original, but it does! You can hear I’ve used as many of the original parts as possible but I’ve rearranged it completely.

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

So, we go from you remixing ‘Vicious Games’, an old YELLO track to remixing a brand new NEW ORDER song ‘Be A Rebel’…

As with all my remixes, I like people to be able to recognise the song, I don’t want to take some unused backing track and just drop in some vocals, to me that’s not a remix. I take all the parts I require from the original song and rework them so that they will fit my groove. The idea was make the Elektron bassline more pulsating, give a driving feeling to it.

The first mix I made was the Cheeky Devil one, which appears on ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ that I made more for the elderly semester of NEW ORDER fans that don’t like the techno side. I know people who will get a remixes CD or vinyl and they’ve got techno versions of the track that they love, but they can’t get their heads around it. I thought I’d do one which had a “ploddy” kind of feel that’s not so fast even though it’s exactly the same tempo, one that chugged along and put more emphasis on the vocals.

For the Dirty Devil remix for the NEW ORDER release on Mute, I wanted to make it so that Bernard could listen to it in his car while he was on the motorway, more driving and I must confess I prefer this remix to the one I did for ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ but that chuggy version had to work within the framework of my album. I just changed the volume of a few things within the mix like the loudness of the hi-hats in the Elektron driving version.

You actually added some guitars into your remixes of ‘Be A Rebel’ which aren’t on the NEW ORDER original?

There was initially no bass guitar on the original version. There was a guitar, but it was all quite jangly… that style kind of slowed my track down, so I played what I needed… in fact my guitar mirrors Bernard’s vocal quite a lot. I thought I’d play a melody on the guitar like a sequence… some people thought it sounded like the ghost of Hooky’s bass, but it’s my Les Paul playing that and some power chords to embellish the end.

So what’s your guitar playing like compared with your keyboard prowess?

They equally as cr*p! *laughs*

Time for another card and it’s a Prophet 10…

I don’t know anybody who owned a Prophet 10. Susanne Kuhnke from MALARIA! owned a Prophet 5 but I only ever saw a Prophet 10 in a music shop and you weren’t allowed to touch it!

By the time when you supported NEW ORDER as SHARK VEGAS in 1984, they would have swapped their Prophet 5s for Octave Plateau Voyetras?

Yes, they’d just got it. A few years before, Bernard had got an ARP so he gave me his Transcendent 2000…

Did you ever do anything useful with the Transcendent 2000?

It just makes a noise! It doesn’t make any kind of like sounds that your granny is going to like! It goes “KKKKHHRRRKK” or “TSCHHHHHH”, it’s a noise synthesizer, white noise, pink noise! A Wasp you can kind of play but the Transcendent didn’t make any keyboard notes. All the crazy “TSCH-TSCH-TSCH-TSCH” noises you hear on the JOY DIVISION records were made by the Transcendent *laughs*

Photo by Kai von Kröcher

On your albums, you like to do new collaborations and on ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’, you worked with Fifi Rong who has a connection with YELLO…

I met Fifi Rong at a YELLO gig in Berlin. She told me she was playing a gig in a small bar the next evening and invited me. She was absolutely mind-blowingly good and she explained what each song was about, it was very endearing. I thought she was so talented, she’s very hands on and so determined.

I thought it would be nice to work with her to give her another platform other than YELLO. You could hear that she has an interesting voice with that high Asian tone. So, I remixed ‘Future Never Comes’, that was such a nice track and as I was doing that, I had another track that I asked her to do a vocal on. I didn’t hear anything from her for about 3 weeks and then she sent me this track that became ‘Figure Of 8’. I decided to start and close ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ with Fifi because I felt she deserved to have those important positions within the framework of the record. She’s been working on her own new album for 2 years and it’s finally getting there, it is an interesting record, a really nice album, I think she’s done really well and got the right ambience.

And the next card is a Yamaha CS30…

I must confess I always found Yamaha gear to be interesting but very cold. I have a TX module which is like a DX7 and has all the sounds, which I’ve had for decades… it’s a limited thing. I don’t use it much, only for specific things like if I want a hard tone filtered in with something else to give it a colder edge. I never bought an actual DX7 because it was too complicated to programme. It had bits like marimba sounds that sounded good, but everyone had one, as it was the first big affordable synthesizer back in the 80s. Everyone dumped their analogue synths for a DX7 and I’m thinking WHY!?!

The DX7 sounded super modern and dead professional at the time, but I didn’t get my module until very late when nu-beat and acid house started, it made a slappy kind of hard bass sound that fitted.

Photo by Martyn Goodacre

Did you get into Akai samplers at all?

I had an Akai S900, I was talking to Micha Adam about them just the other day and how they were the best thing on the market at the time with the longest sampling time. I had a Roland sampler which had an expanded sampling time of 2 seconds! And then there was the Ensoniq Mirage which had its own 30 second samples but when you tried to sample something yourself, you only had a small amount of time. And then came the Akai S800 and that had 20 seconds!! *laughs*

The Akai S900 cost a fortune and was so complicated, there was a lot of fiddling around, twiddling knobs and pressing things! It had a manual the size of the Holy Bible and they knew no-one was going to read this thing, so it came with a VHS video cassette so that you could watch how to programme the thing! It was a really good tool to use once you got used to it and sounded good compared to the others. But then the Akai S1000 came and that had 90 seconds of sampling time which was amazing! I did a couple of remixes in the 90s with the Akai, one for Nina Hagen of ‘Du Hast Den Farbfilm Vergessen’… she hated it! It never came out! *laughs*

How did you put together your 13 minute epic ‘You Can Touch Me’?

That was an idea that’s really three tracks in one and it kind of went on and I thought I’d better stop it at some point! *laughs*

It was originally born from an idea for an album, that had a great underlying groove and I took a snippet from an Eiven Major track to use as a loop in the techno part of the track. I like taking a track that will morph from one thing and end up as another. ‘With You Can Touch Me’, it became that. It starts off very sexual, dark and mysterious… it’s like when you meet someone for the first time, you go through the actions of foreplay and it gets to the climax, the song is a bit like that, very Wet & Hard! It goes into the lyric where “you can’t touch me” and at the end, it goes into this mad techno thing. I’m not a singer, but for that track, it fitted and it sounds alright. I couldn’t find anyone else who wanted to do it to be honest.

I made it just so I could play it in clubs, mostly the DJ who plays after me is usually a techno DJ so I wanted to give them something at the end of my set that they can mix into. It’s my closing track and it’s so long, I can pack all my stuff away while it’s playing and the DJ after me can either let it play out or mix into it. *laughs*

The final card, it’s an EDP Wasp!

I never actually owned one, I borrowed a Wasp, Mijk van Dijk had a Wasp. It’s a bit like the Transcendent, but it has more tone and easier to use. I never recorded anything with it, I just messed around with it, it was quite good. You could mix it with other sounds to add some grit.

You’re working on the debut album of BIRMINGHAM ELECTRIC who are on ‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ with your remix of ‘How Do We End Up Here?’?

We’ve been working on quite a lot of songs together and they’ve become an album. It’s a synthpop album in its own way, Andy Evans has got a very distinctive voice that colours the music and gives it his own edge. It’s not dissimilar to how I work with Alanas Chosnau, but I try to keep Alanas’ song ideas directed towards his kind of sound, if you know what I mean. I’m also working on a second album with him. I keep them separate, but as I use the same kind of sounds, there is always this “me” thread running through the music.

When you’re writing songs with people, you have gaps while they’re figuring out their part, especially when having to do it online, so you can use the time to work with somebody else. So for example, I’m doing something with Andy and when there’s a break, I’ll do something with Alanas in between. I’m quite happy the way the BIRMINGHAM ELECTRIC album has turned out, it’s been quite a nice project.

Photo by Crystal Reeder

What’s happening with STOLEN at the moment?

STOLEN have gone from being “a band to watch” to playing headline gigs in China now. Since the pandemic, their career has had a meteoric rise, as no Western artists are allowed to play in China at the moment, so promoters have been forced to look at their home-grown talent and have realised they actually have some really good and interesting bands there.

With STOLEN having opened for NEW ORDER on their 2019 European tour, it boosted their credibility enormously back home and has added to their attraction, so now they’re performing at festivals to 25,000 people. They’re playing a gig virtually every week and in between, they’re trying to write and record another album. So, they’re sending their parts to me too, that means I’m doing three albums parallel!

I guess whoever’s gets finished first will get released first! But it’s a lot more difficult not having them in the studio, because if they were there in person, you can bounce ideas off immediately. And the time difference with someone in China and being in Europe isn’t easy, usually when they’re in the studio, you’re going to bed! It’s a bit complicated! *laughs*

I want to make everyone happy, but I also like a challenge. When it all fits, it can be very rewarding.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its sincerest thanks to Mark Reeder

‘Subversiv-Dekadent’ is released as a download double album, available from https://markreedermfs1.bandcamp.com/album/subversiv-dekadent

Mark Reeder’s Dirty Devil Remix of ‘Be A Rebel’ features on the NEW ORDER double 12” clear vinyl EP and expanded CD collection released by Mute Artists also featuring mixes by Arthur Baker, Stephen Morris, Bernard Sumner, Maceo Plex and Paul Woolford

A one hour long Operating//Generating special on Mark Reeder is broadcast for 4 weekends from Saturday 4th September 2021 at 1800 CET on laut.fm at https://laut.fm/operating-generating

https://mfsberlin.com/

https://www.facebook.com/mfsberlin

https://www.facebook.com/markreedermusic/

https://twitter.com/markreedermfs

https://www.instagram.com/markreeder.mfs/

https://open.spotify.com/artist/1n7yJzVVfUO2MiQskjmzqW

Vintage Synth Trumps is a card game by GForce that features 52 classic synthesizers available from
https://www.juno.co.uk/products/gforce-software-vintage-synth-trumps-2-playing/637937-01/


Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
1st September 2021

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.

It includes 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 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.


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK 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’ takes place at the Science + Industry Museum in Manchester between 19th June 2021 to 3rd January 2022, further information 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 13th June 2022

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.

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK 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.

Meanwhile 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 ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK 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, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK 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 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://twitter.com/stephenpdmorris

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.

Meanwhile 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 as 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…


‘Education Entertainment Recreation’, the live recording of this show is released by Rhino as a Bluray film + 2CD plus audio 2CD, 3LP and download on 7th May 2021

http://www.neworder.com/

https://www.facebook.com/NewOrderOfficial

https://twitter.com/neworder

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

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


Text by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Simon Helm
10th November 2018, updated 26th March 2021

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

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