On the Legacy of Joy Division and Ian Curtis
The oddest thing is that the nostalgic aspect doesn’t actually seem that big. What I love about playing the music is playing it to people like me that love it. It’s as simple as that. Playing it on our own, when we practice, is pretty good, but playing it to a load of like-minded people that appreciate Joy Division? Nothing like it.
Look, Joy Division was very pure, you know? They didn’t embarrass themselves the way that New Order have. Joy Division kept the mystique, the purity, the heart all quite intact. We weren’t sullied by success. The music wasn’t watered down by it, and the money didn’t change anything.
We were literally only professionals for six months. We had only been a group together for three years — and it just finished. It finished before the second LP came out. It finished before “Love Will Tear Us Apart” came out. We started when we were 20, and we were finished by the time we were 23. Actually, I had just turned 24. It was a ridiculous situation.
None of us had the vision. The one who had the vision was Ian. [Laughs.] He always said to us, “You know, when we get to Brazil, when we get to Mexico, when we get to America, this is gonna blow up out the doors!” Well Barney [Sumner] and I didn’t even know where the doors were. We really had no idea how good we were. How solid the group was.
And I must admit, I’ve never been in a group as solid as Joy Division. The four members were so balanced and so equal, and their inputs and their creativity were so important to the group as a whole. There were no passengers in Joy Division. It was absolutely perfectly balanced. We never got to appreciate “It” because “It” was overshadowed by Ian’s death.
Barney and I, along with Steve [Morris], made the decision in the same way we did with New Order, actually, where if one member left, it would be the end. They seem to forget that in New Order.
Joy Division is a fantastic story. The music, Ian’s lyrics, his image … the mystique it creates within rock and roll is what makes it perfect. So, I try not to live up to the myth. I try to just play the music.
The thing that strikes me is that hardly anybody actually heard Joy Division live. Joy Division live was a much different experience. When I play with The Light live, we celebrate the art of the record. Joy Division live was much more spikier and filled with punk. I don’t try to emulate that. I pay homage to the records.
When I put the record on, that’s when I go off into Joy Division’s world. There’s not enough to listen to with Joy Division. I do wish we’d had done more. If I had a pound for every moment I’ve sat there with the lads when we come off after a gig and I say, “Oh my god, I wish we had some other songs to play.” It’s a very, very strange thing.
I do celebrate the music and I do celebrate Ian’s life. It’s very important to me. I’m immensely proud of the fact that I’ve been to Mexico, and I’ve been to Brazil, and I’ve been to America, and I’ve been to all the places that Ian Curtis wanted us to go. The success that he wanted [Joy Division] to have. It’s in a different way, but we have had it.
On a Forthcoming Live Stream Event
We did a concert in Macclesfield, England, at Christ Church, where Curtis used to go when he was a child. We played every Joy Division song. That was another fantastic achievement — not just for us — but for the Epilepsy Society! We didn’t do it for commercial reasons; it was coupled with a charity night to save that Christ Church. It was such a crazy thing to do to. I can’t believe it — four hours.
There were 450 tickets, and it was subscribed. In fact, over subscribed by 10,000. That’s how many people wanted to see it. It was such a wonderful thing to do. So, we’re hoping to broadcast that gig because it was filmed, and it’s been finalized and mixed in its entirety. Should be out by May 18th.
We were scheduled to play on May 18th in Glasgow — sold out gig Barrowlands — but we’ve lost that now. So, we’re hoping to show that concert in full on the Internet and hopefully on the Joy Division sites, which will be absolutely wonderful.
On the Legacy of New Order
The atrocity of the way [the split] happened is unforgivable to me. It seemed cowardly. It seemed unjust and unfair. There’s never been a conversation between us to put an end to that argument. I understand that they wanted to survive as a band financially, but the way they did it … certainly was not a way to end an argument.
Look, if you were in partnership with somebody, and all of a sudden you came to your shop and your key didn’t fit. You look into the window and they’re sitting there waving at you and then ::gives middle finger:: saying, “You’re not working here anymore. Your 25% is now 1%. Piss off.” I defy any human being, not to be very, very upset and irate about the way that resulted.
After 31 years of a relationship, you would have expected a little bit more. The repercussions of their actions make it difficult for both Joy Division and New Order’s back catalog to go forward. Because there is no meeting and no like-mindedness between us. No love between us. Just pure hate, I suppose.
It’s not until you reconcile an argument where you have the ability to move on. Every time a business thing comes up, we don’t get to talk about it together. You know, you just can’t take advantage of opportunities when you behave that way. Someone asked me why we weren’t in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and I think the reason why is because we’re not together. People don’t even know how to approach that subject or even make the best of it because we are so splintered.
There isn’t a day where I don’t feel hurt by what happened, and I think it was very unjust. But you know, if you look at the bright side, there’s two of us playing the music. If you want to hear an honest, passionate, wonderfully enthusiastic rendition, you can come and watch me and go and watch the others for what they do. You know? It’s funny paying your own way, isn’t it? It’s like living as a couple. You’re always compromising because it’s the only way to move and go forward — compromise.
Now that I do The Light, I actually don’t have to compromise anymore. I can make Joy Division sound exactly how I want them to sound, and I would imagine that Bernard has the same thing going on in the so-called-New Order in that he gets them to sound exactly like how he wants them to sound.
I suppose you can listen to both entities and go, “Which one do I prefer?” But, the biggest frustration I found with being in New Order was the way we wouldn’t play any of the old material. The old material was wonderful, and we’d been playing the same set year after year after year. Bernard and Stephen wouldn’t really entertain any of the old stuff — and I just thought it was criminal.
To be able to play the LPs and dig up all those wonderful songs that hadn’t been played with The Light … I mean, I got the shock of my life when I was told we hadn’t played “Age of Consent” for 28 years. That’s just ludicrous. So, it was wonderful giving those tracks a rebirth. And ironically, every time these songs are brought back to life by The Light, the so-called New Order will rebirth them as well … without me.
The biggest shame is that I’ve known Barney since I was 11. We started the group together when we were 20. We were together in the group for 31 years. And the fact that I can’t even go up to him on the street and say, “Hey, how you doing? How’s it going?” because he’s still daggers drawn with me is the most ridiculous, almost shameful, thing in the world to me.
I suppose anybody could say it’s shameful of both of us to be in this position. But we are and I can’t find a way out of it. We just have to keep on doing what we’re doing and enjoy what we’re doing because as everybody says: it is what it is.
We work so hard to achieve what we’ve all achieved. The great thing I love about Joy Division is that it never got to this. At the end of the day, the argument is about money, and what happens with the money is that it can show a lack of respect. There was no respect shown, I felt, for the 31 years of being in New Order.
You may have your arguments against that, but none of us could have done it without each other. As I said before, my friend, it is what it is and people are what they are. The best thing you can do in life is stick on that smile and get out there and enjoy as much as you possibly can. Because as we’ve seen from the way that you’ve suffered in America, and the way that we’ve suffered here in the UK, time can be very short.
You don’t know what’s around the corner, do you?