New Order on Joy Division: 'Even the Punks in Manchester Hated Us'
Sunday, 15 July 2001When Joy Division's epileptic singer Ian Curtis hanged himself in the spring of 1980, few predicted that the 'post-punk' Mancunian band would leave much of a legacy, let alone spawn one of the world's greatest dance acts. Like their heroes The Velvet Underground, Joy Division's time would come years after the band had finished and today, their two completed albums Unknown Pleasures and Closer are rightly recognised as unsurpassed masterpieces of rock culture. Focusing on psychosis, lost love and death, Curtis' lyrics even appear to predict his own tragic suicide, adding a chilling authenticity to the band's music.
Back in 1977 though, Joy Division were four more unknown Manchester lads, trying to make it in a punk scene that had already largely imploded. Ignored by the city's cognoscenti, they struggled to get gigs, while the city itself continued to sink towards the mass unemployment and urban decay that would come to characterise Northern England in the early 80s. By 1980, Joy Division were critically acclaimed though still commercially unsuccessful. When Curtis hanged himself, in fact, they were on the cusp of chart success with 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'. Weeks later, his three colleagues (Peter Hook, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Norris) formed New Order (along with Stephen Norris's girlfriend Gillian Gilbert), playing their first gig at Manchester's Squat Club in October 1980. Ian Curtis, who'd killed himself at the tragically young age of 25, had been dead less than 6 months.
Skrufff chatted to Peter Hook and Stephen Norris recently at the Metropolitan Hotel, Park Lane (London) as they prepared to launch their new album Get Ready.
Skrufff: I read about you all seeing the Sex Pistols on their 1976 Anarchy tour; did you see yourselves as punks back then-
New Order (Stephen Morris): "It depends on what you mean by punk; if you're talking about that DIY anybody-can-do-it attitude then yeah, we were."
New Order (Peter Hook): "It was about the way you dressed; you wanted to rebel against your parents, the establishment and the fact that nobody f*cking liked you. You were a punk and everyone thought you were shite! We probably were; Joy Division was a punk band and in those days we were f*cking shit. I felt very much a punk and very much an outsider, actually."
New Order (Stephen Morris): "We were outside of everything, even the punks in Manchester hated us."
Skrufff: What were the other Manchester punks like-
New Order (Peter Hook): "They were quite middle class and art school types, (people like) the Buzzcocks and all them lot. We were working class lads from Salford and we really didn't fit in, we didn't understand their humour or their attitude. They were what we'd consider 'posh'. After our first gig with the Buzzcocks it took us another six months to get another one, because we were effectively blacked (black-balled). At the last day of the Electric Circus (Manchester's most infamous punk venue, located in the mean streets of Hulme) they wouldn't even let us f*cking play, and we actually had to go to the Electric Circus and fight to get in the place. We f*cking had to threaten the organiser to put us on stage ('yeah', Stephen confirms, nodding his head vigorously). Then the sticker came out (on the 'Live From the Electric Circus' album) saying 'featuring Joy Division' and that was one of our happiest moments. That's when we 'cocked a snook' (laughed at) at The Fall and all them stuck-up twats who thought they were better than us. They had no idea what we were about and just didn't fucking like us."
Skrufff: Joy Division produced some remarkably dark songs such as Dead Souls, which went delved far into spiritual matters and death, did you get heavily involved in all that mystical stuff-
New Order (Peter Hook): "Yeah, if I was going to give an overview of astral projections/ mysteries of the universe/ Bermuda triangles, then I'd say, 'Yes, we do have an interest in< Tags