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Interview by Bill Black
Bill Black tunes in, turns on
and freaks out with New Order
Maybe it's the lamentably low profile Factory's finest otherwise adopt, but
it's as if New Order chose August to explode onto a slumbering music
First came their contribution to Channel 4's Play At Home series on a
Tuesday night. Generally self-conscious and occasionally infuriating (is
Tony Wilson really such a prat?), in the story of Factory Records as told to
the demure Gillian sitting in the bath with a naked Wilson, Hookey at the
controls of a speeding trial bike and Barney and Steve largely behind the
camera, New Order successfully de-mystified themselves and the austere label
If further de-mystification of the band was needed then their simultaneous
live appearance on Radio One's Saturday Live slot and BBC2's epic Rock
Around The Clock bash spoke volumes for a band who steadfastly refuse to
fall in with what the industry deems appropriate behaviour. Like tuning up?
"It was awful, a total f*** up," says Barney. "We'd played in Cornwall the
night before and during the day we got stuck in traffic for two hours which
meant we had to drive at 120 miles an hour for the last three hours and then
we got there only 25 minutes before the programme went out. Not only that,
but a piece of equipment had broken down which meant we couldn't play the
songs we wanted, and everybody was in a pretty bad state after the
And your fluffed intro at the start of 'Age Of Consent', did that make you
want to give up?
"Not give up, I just wanted to get it over with. And I wanted to do it the
best we possibly could and that was the best we could have done under the
"The whole thing was daft because we don't record in a studio like that
and we never wear headphones. We had four synthesisers, an Emulator, guitar,
bass, electronic drums, drum machine, acoustic drums and vocals and trying
to put that lot through a pair of headphones with two inch speakers is
completely and utterly stupid.
"Okay, so a lot of bands are trained to be professionals and they'd have
done a thing like that and still played it note perfect despite all the
hassles, but we're a product of whatever atmosphere we have around us. If
there's no atmosphere then our music will sound shitty because the feel will
be all wrong, we'll be round pegs in a square hole."
At Heaven the other week they were most definitely not round pegs in a
square hole. Which brings us to the other reason why the New Orderometer has
been nudging 'overkill' for the first time in it's short life. Their first
ever tour! And it was on the last night of this admittedly short but
nevertheless significant jaunt round the rather more poorly served parts of
the British Isles that I caught up with the band.
Although hardly advertised, London's most famous gay nightspot (and the
centre of Richard Branson's gig universe now that the Venue has finally gone
under, one hopes) was beseiged by New Order fans after tickets, much to the
amusement of those less wealthy (£5.25 for a ticket anyone? And that's
before the touts' mark up) visitors to Charing Cross' salubrious arches.
With the place packed by 10.30pm it was a long wait until, after various
technical hitches, New Order took to the cramped stage just before one in
the morning, and even later, after an intermittently brilliant set that
dealt out treats like 'Temptation', 'Age Of Consent', 'Confusion' and 'Blue
Monday' with a glorious and highly-charged abandon, that I finally made
contact with the band's singer Bernard 'Barney' Albrecht.
This rendezvous occurred at five am at a sumptuous post-gig party that was
still going strong thanks to the staying power of the likes of the Smiths,
Genesis P Orridge and an expensively-dressed Paul Morley. It also occurred
after four weeks of fruitless phone calls to manager Rob Gretton's office
requesting a formal interview. Instead I had to compete with a brain-mashing
disco and a free bar in dragging some words from young Albrecht's lips.
This is your first real 'tour'. What prompted you to do it?
"Because we've never done one before."
Is there any particular allure?
"None. We just did it to see what it would be like."
"It's great, it's been really good."
Are there any benefits to be had from playing a series of dates as opposed
to the odd one or two?
Not even an opportunity to develop some kind of durable stage persona?
"It doesn't work like that. Y'see, we do this because it's fun and playing
these gigs has been fun. It's also been a gamble, seeing whether it'd work
or not, which is exciting. Y'see we're a very unpredictable group and that
makes eveything a gamble and that makes everything exciting."
What makes you unpredictable, everybody telling you that you are?
"No, it's obvious. We don't play to a formula, we don't decide what we're
going to play until ten minutes before we go on so it's unpredictable
whether the order of the songs is going to work or not. We also use a lot of
technical equipment which is very unpredictable."
Have you noticed any change in the way the band works since this tour
"I think we've got more er, what's the opposite of random? Consistent. I
think we've become more consistent through these gigs that we've done and
that's because every gig you play you learn summat, you learn how to control
You've started doing encores, why is this?
"Our reputation wasn't true in the first place; we did encores but we
didn't do encores all the time. We do encores now but we only do them when
it feels right, when we're enjoying it."
Have you started work on the follow up to 'Power, Corruption And Lies'?
"We go into the studio in two weeks to record an album and a single."
At this stage how does the task compare with that of recording 'Power'?
"'Power, Corruption And Lies' was put together maybe 30 percent in the
studio, the rest we had when we went in. Same with the lyrics. Some, like
'Blue Monday', we had written when we went in but most of them were made up
on the spot or taken from live tapes. If we haven't got enough songs when we
play live we make them up as we go along and we took the best bits from
these and condensed them all into one song.
"This time we haven't got as much to start off with. We've got maybe five
songs that are finished and loads of ideas that need finishing."
Will the new album have the same electro feel as the last? I fancy you're
relying more on acoustic drums and plenty of guitar for the newer songs.
"There's no difference betwen electronic and non-electronic instruments."
Any new ideas you're keen to develop?
"We don't have ideas, we just do what feels right at the time."
When Divine's 'Love Reaction' came out a while ago, Rob Gretton told me
that the band was quite happy with the record's plagarism of 'Blue Monday'
as they themselves have stolen ideas in their time. How true is that?
"Absolutely true. It's dead interesting what Divine or rather Bobby O did
to that record. The new single is another rip-off of 'Blue Monday' but it's
good, I like it. It's the free distribution of talent. We've got the talent
and it's freely distributed!"
What about Jaes Last's proposed cover of 'Blue Monday', do you have any
objections to a cabaret version of that song?
"Not at all because I think there's a place for all sorts of music in the
world. James Last's music might not mean a lot to you or I but it might
mean something to a pensioner or summat. There's a place for it."
So you're flattered by the attention?
"If I thought about it, yeah, but I don't think about it. It's pleasing I
suppose to consider that somebody else you consider to be a musician covers
one of your songs, because we don't consider ourselves musicians, well not
in the sense of inverted commas if you understand what I mean."
You've been attacked for taking a slack approach to playing live, playing
half completed songs and experimenting with those you've already got. How do
you react to this criticism?
"I think it's interesting for the audience to hear a song go through the
different stages before it gets completely finished. It's interesting for
people and it's also a laff to do, makes things a bit more exciting. It also
makes playing live a creative thing rather than a purely reproductive thing
because you'll suddenly get an idea when you're up there playing and you can
do it. It's great."
With the bar forever a-beckoning and still half a room full of people to
talk to, Barney was less than responsive to my niggling questions. Like,
have you ever played to an audience of non-believers since becoming New
Order (I reckon not)?
"It's a case of if we play badly we'll go down badly."
Are you sure that's true?
"Yeah, we've done it. We've played badly and we've had a cool response."
Lastly, the much touted democracy on which Factory is based is generally
held to extend to it's bands. Is New Order a true democracy?
Have you ever had any really bad rows?
"Well, we've rowed, yeah, but never to the point where we haven't been
talking to one another. Y'see, we've known each other for a really long time,
I've known Hookey since school and Steve from Joy Division days. And if we
do disagree, because we run things democratically we just take a vote and
the majority wins."
"The reason we do all this is because er... I dunno."
The reason New Order are so necessary is because they lie outside the
bounds of rampant careerism that mark both the leading and trailing edges of
I believe Barney when he said he wanted to do that Saturday Live prog to
the best of the band's ability but I also believe New Order could never get
worked up about the consequences of doing it badly (mass exposure equals
mass humiliation right? Wrong).
Here is a band to cherish.
Last updated on 2005-03-07 9:45:00 PM - 9:45:00 PM
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