Joy Division Street Art

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Joy Division street art, scanned from Unknown Pleasures, Inside Joy Division, by Peter Hook(1)

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Annunci

New Dawn Fades, the play

In the stifling heat and the stifling emotions it hits you. New Dawn Fades is a spellbinding and brilliant pay based on a yet to be published graphic novel about one of the greatest bands of all time..I totally urge anyone left out there who believes in music to be so much more to go and see it… Mon 15th July 2013

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‘NEW DAWN FADES – The Story Of Joy Division’ is a new play by writer/actor Brian Gorman (recently seen playing Leon in a new stage adaptation of cult 1980s sci-fi blockbuster, ‘Blade Runner’; which had a sell-out run at The Lass O’Gowrie earlier this month): he claims that “It’s a classic story of 4 ordinary lads who, inspired by the punk revolution of the 1970s, came together to form one of the most influential bands of all time. Lead singer Ian Curtis’ suicide in 1980, and the band’s transformation into the hugely successful New Order, has been chronicled in two recent movies, ‘Control’ and ‘Twenty Four Hour Party People’, as well as a critically-acclaimed documentary. My stage version combines the band’s history with the city of Manchester (and Salford!), taking inspiration from Curtis’ enigmatic lyrics, and involving many real-life characters such as Roman General Julius Agricola (who built the miltary encampment in the 5th century AD that would one day become the Manchester we know now), Dr John Dee (Elizabeth the First’s adviser), Johnny Rotten, Karl Marx, and Frederich Engels.”

There is the known and there is the unknown and there is a strange pleasure in watching yet another dusting down of the eternal myth that is so much part of the identity of Manchester from a long lost timezone.

New Dawn Fades is some experience…it’s the Joy Division myth done as a play in a tiny upstairs room of the legendary Lass A Gowrie pub in Manchester city centre. 20 people watch ten people tell the story in a hot, claustrophobic space that adds to the intense atmosphere that surrounds the band with an added surrealism and depth.

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Not that it’s without humour, there is the late and great Tony Wilson played out in all his camp and brilliant pretension, making you laugh out loud to his fantastic madness and lovable warmth- it’s a touch more Steve Coogan than Tony W but what else would the young cast know? and it does make your heart ache for the Wilson madness and misty eyed at his memory.

The band themselves are now set in stone in their roles, Hooky is the thug with a heart of gold, Barney the insecure arty one, Steve the shy and quiet one and Ian Curtis the romantic dreamer with an added backdrop of domestic drudgery and grayness which is so central to this story- (although there is one very telling scene after the Sex Pistols gig where all the boys decide what instruments they are going to play and Debbie Curtis says ‘I’m a girl- I don’t play anything…) . It’s the mundanity of the backdrop that made Joy Division so special, there is one great scene where the long suffering Debbie is hanging up Y fronts on a washing line- the same washing line that months later the singer will hang himself on , whilst they chat about dreams clashing with normal life- this was the deadly dark heart of the band- their very northernness and their powerful vision clashing in the post punk fallout and the surrounding half crazed lunatics who realised it.

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Lunatics like brilliantly played Martin Hannet that captures the visionary producer and sound sculptor perfectly and reminds me of hanging out with him trying to make an insane music TV programme years ago, there is band manger the bluff but loveable Rob Gretton driving things along in a blunt and forthright and zero showbiz manner, there is the aforementioned Wilson mixing Mancunian history into the narrative like interviewing a Roman general on the local new programme before speaking to John Dee the alchamist who lived in Manchester- this historic stuff is fantastic and it’s important that the radical nature of the city from its history to its music is put into a focus.

The acting is great, taking difficult subject matter and making it believable in a pub room and the whoever plays Ian Curtis has lost themselves totally in the part- even singing acoustic and bongo versions of Joy Division songs perfectly ( believe me, acoustic Joy Division really works!).

This is a fantastic play that justifies another trip into the interzone…

© johnrobb (Louder Than War) & Melanie Smith

Giggs Will Tear You Apart (Again)

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Non è la prima volta che nei romanzi della collana Attese la musica assume un ruolo portante nello svolgimento del racconto. Nei Mastini di Dallas, per esempio, la colonna sonora attraverso la quale Peter Gent narra le vicende di Phil Elliot e dei suoi North Dallas Bulls è un tratto del romanzo così forte che un nostro affezionato lettore ha realizzato questa splendida playlist con il meglio del repertorio musicale del libro, che attinge a piene mani dal rock statunitense degli anni Settanta.

Vale la pena ripetere l’esperimento con Voglio la testa di Ryan Giggs, il romanzo di Rodge Glass da oggi in libreria che racconta la tragicomica carriera del diciassettenne Mikey Wilson, vittima di un sogno andato in frantumi centotrentatré secondi dopo essersi realizzato.

Manchester è tra i grandi centri urbani inglesi che tra la fine degli anni Settanta e l’inizio degli anni Ottanta ha dato un importante contributo all’emergere, nella scena rock mondiale, del movimento genericamente conosciuto come New Wave e interpretato da gruppi quali Joy Division (poi New Order) e The Fall. E sempre a Manchester, nel 1982, si forma la band che, negli anni a venire, avrebbe registrato il maggior numero di tentativi di imitazione su scala planetaria: gli Smiths di Morrissey e Johnny Marr.

Ancora negli anni Ottanta, la centralità della scena mancuniana viene confermata dall’affermarsi di gruppi come Happy Mondays (1980), Stone Roses (1984) e Charlatans (1988-89), fino all’esplosione dei grandi interpreti del Brit Pop degli anni Novanta (Oasis, «quegli stronzi che tifano City», e Primal Scream) e della prima consacrazione, attraverso «quei bastardi dei Take That», di un fenomeno che avrebbe segnato i due decenni successivi: l’avvento delle Boy Band.

Rodge Glass, da buon musicista, non poteva rimanere insensibile a questo sottofondo, a maggior ragione quando tutta Stretford End, il settore più caldo dell’Old Trafford, intona i versi di uno dei maggiori successi dei Joy Division, «Love Will Tear Us Apart», per salutare l’ingresso in campo dell’idolo di casa, Ryan Giggs. Ovviamente, con una piccola variante sul tema: Giggs will tear you apart again!  «Giggs vi farà di nuovo a pezzi!».

Mentre Ryan si accomodava tra i compagni e le riserve in panchina, alcuni nati dopo il suo debutto nello United, alcuni che non avevano conosciuto altro United se non quello in cui c’era lui, sembrava che potesse andare avanti – da giocatore – per sempre. E, sulle note di «Love Will Tear Us Apart» dei mancuniani Joy Division, la folla cantò, fragorosa, orgogliosa e stonata, mentre il gioco tracimava nei tranquillissimi minuti di recupero. Mike chiuse gli occhi e mise le mani in tasca, concentrandosi sulla canzone. Non vedeva, non udiva, non percepiva altro che quel ritornello. Così forte, dappertutto. Nelle orecchie e nelle viscere. Come se fosse l’unica canzone del mondo. E per un po’, per Mike, fu davvero così.

Giggs… Giggs will tear you apart again…
Giggs… Giggs will tear you apart again…
Giggs… Giggs will tear you apart again…
Giggs… Giggs will tear you apart again…
Giggs… Giggs will tear you apart again…
Giggs… Giggs will tear you apart again…
Giggs… Giggs will tear you apart again…
Giggs… Giggs will tear you apart again…

 

Come spesso succede nei romanzi, anche in Voglio la testa di Ryan Giggs una delle pagine più belle del libro ha a che fare con un innamoramento, nel caso specifico quello tra Mikey e Gemma, che ha per palcoscenico il pub preferito dal nostro eroe e per sottofondo, appunto, il sound di Manchester, e in particolare dei Joy Division. Ed è la stessa Gemma a spiegare quanto il gruppo di Ian Curtis (e in generale tutta la scena musicale degli anni Ottanta e Novanta) abbia influenzato la storia recente della città:

Gemma è venuta al pub con degli amici, ma se ne va insieme a te. Non perché sei un calciatore, non perché le hai detto che hai Giggsy sul tasto di chiamata rapida o che hai vinto un mucchio di medaglie. Ridete insieme. Come due vecchi amici. (Quando ride prende un accento strano. Come se non fosse di quelle parti). Ti sembra anche abbastanza tosta. Combattiva. Ha un’opinione su tutto, e deve avere una buona opinione di te, altrimenti non sarebbe ancora lì, giusto? Andate in un locale per un altro bicchiere, al bancone, gridando per farvi sentire sopra la musica, e dopo un po’ vedi che si sta divertendo. Parlate di Manchester. Gemma dice che ci si è trasferita quando aveva circa dodici anni, ma si è sempre sentita a casa. Aveva la musica giusta. Vi scoprite in sintonia sulle cose che contano:

New Order [di Salford] Le prime cose ottime, le ultime cose pessime.

The Mondays [da Little Hulton/Salford] I grandi successi ottimi, tutto il resto pessimo.

The Stone Roses [di Altrincham] Il primo album spettacolare, il secondo una merda.

Oasis [di Burnage] Non contano. Tifano per il City.

The Fall [di Prestwich, ma hanno cambiato formazione centinaia di volte] Merda merda merda merda merda.

The Smiths [Morrissey: di Hulme, Manchester; Marr: di Ardwick, Manchester; gli Altri Due: non importa] Grandissimi. Ovviamente. Anche se Moz è una checca. (Poi vi lasciate distrarre dalla questione se Morrissey è davvero gay o no. Ma è possibile?).

E per finire…

Joy Division [vedi New Order] I suoi preferiti. I tuoi preferiti. I migliori.

Gemma dice: «Penserai che sono una sciocca, ma per me il suono dei Joy Division è quello della vecchia Manchester, quella che mi manca tanto, sai?». Questi sono proprio i discorsi sentimentali e sdolcinati che ti piacciono tanto, e allora canti «Love Will Tear Us Apart» per lei, stonato, più forte che puoi, in omaggio a quello che ha detto. E quando finisci lei è ancora lì. E non ha una faccia strana né si dirige verso la porta. Allora sei più rilassato, perché significa che adesso le piaci ancora di più. Quando ricominci a cantare lo fai prima impersonando Ian Curtis, agitandoti dappertutto, e poi Moz, porgendole un mazzo di gladioli immaginari. Poi ti trasformi in Ian Brown e fai lo spavaldo, ti pavoneggi proprio come lui. Fino all’ultima mossa. «Bella questa, amico!» dici. «Bella questa!». Gemma ride e dice: «Sei proprio un idiota». Sorride, contenta. «Un idiota carino» dice, giocando con l’orecchino con la mano sinistra. Non te lo ha mai detto nessuno.

Quando un giovane di Manchester  imita davanti a una ragazza conosciuta da poco le movenza del vecchio Moz e si lancia nella Monkey Dance significa che ha un solo obiettivo in testa: fare di quella ragazza la donna della sua vita. E mentre Gemma ride giocando con il suo orecchino, sembra proprio di sentirla la playlist che hanno stilato insieme, pochi minuti dopo aver visto «il più bel gol di tutti i tempi», e che qui proponiamo come ideale colonna sonora di questo romanzo pieno di humor, passione e musica.

 

© 66thand2nd

Hear his song

Twenty five years after its release, Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ remains a classic, reflecting the short, chaotic life of its writer, Ian Curtis

The only time I saw Joy Division, Ian Curtis collapsed on stage during the fifth song and the set ended abruptly amid confusion and conjecture. The venue was the Moonlight Club in north London; the date 4 April 1980, the final night of an Easter weekend showcase for Manchester’s Factory Records. Joy Division played only five more gigs. In the early hours of 18 May, Ian Curtis hanged himself, brought low by guilt, illness and acute depression.

That chaotic show remains one of the most powerfully intense performances I have ever witnessed, not least because Curtis seemed to have danced himself into oblivion, body twitching like a marionette, eyes staring straight ahead, as he careered backwards into the drum kit and was carried off stage, looking dazed, drained and disoriented. In the previous few years, after punk had galvanised a moribund live music scene, I had seen my share of raw and confrontational gigs, but this was something else. It was as if the small audience had witnessed something almost too real, a music so dark and visceral, so bottomless in its sense of despair, that it seemed to have literally debilitated its main creator.

The truth was more prosaic, but no less disturbing. Curtis, who suffered from epilepsy, had passed out on stage at least twice before. That night, the group had played an earlier show at London’s Rainbow, where the strobe lighting had caused Curtis to have a seizure during the final song. Years later, his fellow group member, Bernard Sumner, who took over vocal duties when Joy Division mutated into New Order, said: ‘When I look back now, we did some gigs we shouldn’t have fucking done… we did the Moonlight and he was really ill and he did the gig. That was really stupid.’

Twenty-five years later, Joy Division is the name to drop, and the post-punk years, which stretch roughly from early 1978, when Joy Division played their first show, to November 1981, when New Order’s debut album was released, is the genre that has seemingly influenced everyone from Franz Ferdinand to Bloc Party and beyond. A biopic of Ian Curtis is in pre-production, directed by photographer Anton Corbijn and co-produced by Curtis’s widow, Deborah, and his erstwhile record label boss, Anthony H Wilson. The myth of Ian Curtis looks set to blossom afresh, and one song, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, looks set to remain his enduring legacy. Released just after Curtis’s death, it became his epitaph, its title engraved on his headstone, the lyrics expressing all the torment of his final months
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‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is a delineation in three verses of a relationship’s protracted death throes. The song’s peculiar and still singular dynamic has much to do with the way Curtis’s deep and plaintive voice is set against the propulsive, descending, electronic melody. But for all its glacial modernity, it has often struck me that it is, in essence, an old-fashioned ballad of lost love. Slowed down, and tied to an acoustic setting, it could almost be a traditional folk song, albeit of the stark and unflinching kind. This, I suspect, is an often overlooked part of its enduring power; it touches us in that direct and deep way great folk songs do.

When I first heard ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, it had that feel of something groundbreaking. It sounded confusing in the way truly great pop songs often do, almost maudlin, almost pop or, at least, more pop-oriented than anything Joy Division had done before, with the possible exception of their anthemic single ‘Transmission’. Much of this is to do with what writer and broadcaster Paul Morley calls ‘Curtis’s almost crooning, old-fashioned pop delivery’, which he employs here but nowhere else.

In his thought-provoking study of post punk, Rip It up And Start Again, pop critic Simon Reynolds makes a similar observation, capturing the song’s particular dynamic wonderfully when he writes: ‘Curtis’s crooning vocal, Peter Hook’s bass and Sumner’s keyboard trace in unison the same, shy, crestfallen melody, while Stephen Morris’s drumming skitters with feathery unrest.’

As Reynolds points out, the post-punk years, which coincided with the entrenchment of Thatcherism, were characterised musically by ‘a mood blend of anticipation and anxiety, a mania for all things new and futuristic coupled with a fear of what the future had in store’. If any one group caught that mood, it was Joy Division, whose music was dark and despairing, but whose sound seemed thrilling in its ice-cold, technological thrust.

Produced by the late wayward genius Martin Hannett, released on the intriguingly named Factory Records and clothed in gothic sleeve imagery courtesy of graphic designer Peter Saville, Joy Division’s music summoned up the sound of an uncertain future, looming and ominous.

Listening again to both their albums, Unknown Pleasures (1979) and, particularly, Closer (1980), I am taken aback by how relentlessly gloomy the songs are. It is as if Curtis has absorbed all his influences – Ballard, Bergman, Gogol, Herzog – and channelled their bleakest visions into songs such as ‘Dead Souls’, ‘New Dawn Fades’ and ‘Decades’. The group responded in kind, elevating the heavy thump of Hook’s bass guitar almost to a lead instrument, pummelling and propulsive, while Stephen Morris’s drumming style sounded almost regimental and Sumner’s guitar added abrasive shards of dissonance.

Curtis did not possess a pop voice, and on the likes of ‘Decades’, when he sings: ‘Here are the young men, the weight on their shoulders’, he sounds like a stentorian poet laureate addressing the dead of the two world wars. Neither, as songs such as ‘Isolation’ and ‘Atrocity Exhibition’ show, did he evince a pop sensibility.

His lyrics on the page often seem melodramatic and anguished, as if the felt intensity of adolescence had been carried into an uncertain adulthood, where the world was a cruel, harsh, blameful – and shameful – place. As Reynolds notes: ‘Certain words and images appear repeatedly: coldness, pressure, darkness, crisis, failure, collapse, loss of control. Whether through his illness, or the mind-dulling drugs he used to fight it, or though his natural melancholy, Curtis was drawn to the dark side like a moth to a flame.’

‘Ian had an incandescent loneliness,’ says Paul Morley, the writer who, as a fledgling freelancer for NME, first championed Joy Division and recognised the mythic elements their music – and their lead singer – possessed. ‘He was quiet and reserved, a little bit old-fashioned northern in his reticence, but with that lust for knowledge that we all possessed at the time because our education had, in effect, left us feeling let down and frustrated.’

Morley also points to Curtis’s ‘distinctly European sensibility’ and, perhaps more illuminatingly, to ‘Ian’s odd insatiable curiosity for depraved things’. Deborah, whose book, Touching From a Distance portrays the more messy side of the singer’s myth as a tangle of domestic duties and looming fame, echoes this. ‘It struck me,’ she writes, ‘that all Ian’s spare time was spent reading and thinking about human suffering.’ For all these reasons, some of the songs he left behind are as lyrically unremitting as any in musical history. ‘Mother, I tried to please, believe me/ I’m doing the best that I can,’ he sings on ‘Isolation’, a song Freud would have had a field day with. ‘I’m ashamed of the things I’ve been put through/ I’m ashamed of the person I am.’

Against all that, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ seems simply and majestically sad, a lament for a failing relationship, for ‘something so good’ that ‘just can’t function no more’. It is also a guilt song, addressed to Deborah, to whom he was both unfaithful and suffocatingly possessive. It was written while he was conducting an affair with Annik Honoré, a Belgian he had met on tour.

What sets the song apart is the lyrical starkness, Curtis’s graphic delineation of love gone wrong. The clattering start, as if the group can’t quite contain their energy, or have been counted in before they are ready, does not quite prepare you for the bleak poetry of that opening line: ‘When routine bites hard and ambitions are low.’ Pure northern gritty realism, not the kind of line one could imagine Sinatra or Tony Bennett, or anyone else but Ian Curtis, crooning.

‘”Love Will Tear Us Apart”,’ says Morley, ‘is where the twilight zone that Ian increasingly inhabited towards the end merges with the domestic zone of marriage and family duty. He was being mythologised even when he was alive as this doomed romantic figure, not least by Factory, and there was this dreadful sense that if you created these patterns, they became the myths that people stumbled into, in Ian’s case, with cataclysmic results.’

The song, though, endures: still resonant, still sounding oddly awry and oddly contemporary. And, for all its mordant observation, its accumulation of deathly detail, its unflinching candour – ‘Why is the bedroom so cold? You’ve turned away on your side’ – it has been covered more than 100 times by performers as diverse as the Oyster Band, PJ Proby, Simple Minds and Paul Young. Nothing, though, comes close to the strange beauty of the original.

In this years Brits’ awards, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ made it into the shortlist for the best five songs of the last 25 years. The fact that it was included at all, as Morley attests, ‘was slightly sad’, not least because it had been co-opted into that celebrity-driven, music business-marketed contemporary showbiz zone where everything has been hollowed out, drained of meaning.

The winning song was Robbie Williams’s ‘Angels’, as old-fashioned and overblown as ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is modernist and coruscatingly honest. One can only pray Robbie will have the good sense not to follow in Paul Young’s misguided footsteps. Most great songs attain a life of their own once released into the world, but ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is the exception to the rule: it belongs exclusively to Joy Division and to Ian Curtis, even if he could not ultimately carry its weight.

© Sean O’Hagan

Joy division, New Order et Bad Lieutenant : rencontre avec Barney Sumner

Barney Sumner a ouvert la voie du post-punk avec Joy Division, lancé la déferlante electro avec New Order. Entretien avec une anti-rock-star, en novembre au Festival Les Inrocks tck tck tck avec son nouveau groupe, Bad Lieutenant.

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Le quinquagénaire qui se présente devant nous n’a pas le profil d’une légende du rock. Avec ses petites lunettes, sa chevelure blonde tirant sur le blanc et sa silhouette arrondie, il évoque plutôt un prof de maths en fin de carrière. Courtois et humble, il ne renvoie pas l’image d’un type perdu dans ses fantasmes de grandeur.

Bernard Dicken, alias Barney Sumner, a bien des points communs avec Noel et Liam Gallagher, les ego hypertrophiés d’Oasis. Comme eux, il est né et a grandi dans la banlieue prolétaire de Manchester. Comme eux, il a symbolisé la fierté d’un rock anglais sûr de ses forces et fondé deux de ses plus célèbres porte-flambeaux, Joy Division et New Order. Comme eux, il s’est adonné aux joies simples de l’insulte et du pain sur la tronche, avec comme partenaire le bassiste Peter Hook, son ennemi préféré de New Order. Mais rien, dans sa mise comme dans son discours, ne trahit l’arrogance des hommes qui s’imaginent plus vivants que leurs semblables. Tout prouve qu’il a endossé le costume du brave gars qui ne la ramène pas.

Trente ans plus tôt, Barney Sumner, tête d’oisillon mal nourri, visage émacié et regard noir, apparaissait sur l’une des premières photos d’un groupe, Warsaw, qui allait bientôt défrayer la chronique en renaissant sous le nom de Joy Division. Sur ce cliché, ses trois camarades – Ian Curtis au chant, Peter Hook à la basse et Stephen Morris à la batterie – présentaient les mêmes caractères physiques : longilignes, tendus et secs, ils incarnaient une époque où les groupes anglais avaient faim et étaient à cran. Le punk était passé par là, pulvérisant les derniers reliefs d’un rock boursouflé par ses moeurs de nouveau riche et sa fringale de notabilité. N’en restait plus que les os, et ce sont ces restes-là que Joy Division aura rongés deux ans durant avec une violence rentrée inconnue jusqu’alors. Le post-punk, dont tant de groupes actuels lutinent le cadavre (des Editors à The XX en passant par Interpol), sort de cette musique, brute et minérale comme une coulée de lave froide, sous laquelle couvait un rock rendu à sa condition de force tellurique. Après deux albums aux beautés inépuisables (Unknown Pleasures et Closer), le suicide par pendaison de Ian Curtis, le 18 mai 1980, aurait dû marquer la fin d’un groupe dont la formule sonore unique devait tout à l’alchimie humaine qui le fondait.

Ressuscités sous le nom de New Order, les Anglais oseront pourtant poursuivre leur chemin. Chanteur par défaut et plein de défauts, voix blanche et mal assurée, Sumner incarnera la grâce improbable d’une formation qui imposera son primitivisme éclairé, ne cachant ni ses limites techniques ni ses lacunes d’expression. Derrière la production léchée et le vernis pop ou synthétique, les membres de New Order resteront ces musiciens autodidactes et fiers de l’être, compensant leurs inaptitudes par un mélange de flair, d’ingéniosité et de rouerie – voir en 1983 le carton de la scie Blue Monday qui ramènera les amateurs de rock sur les pistes de danse et annoncera la déferlante electro des années 90. Plombé par des querelles intestines de plus en plus glauques, le groupe, en net déficit d’inspiration sur la fin, rendra l’âme en 2007 suite au départ fracassant de Peter Hook.

Après une telle déconvenue, Barney Sumner aurait pu déposer les armes. En bonne tête de mule mancunienne, il a repris le chemin de l’écriture et des studios avec un gang d’amis fidèles : le batteur Stephen Morris et les guitaristes Phil Cunningham et Jake Evans, jeune instrumentiste voué à donner un peu de sa sève à cette réunion de vieilles branches. Bad Lieutenant est le terrain de jeu d’un homme qui aura voulu placer toute sa carrière sous le signe du plaisir collectif. Centré sur les guitares, presque britpop dans son immédiateté mélodique et ses lignes vocales punchy, le premier album du groupe n’ambitionne pas de révolutionner le rock. Mais dans ce disque vif et sans prétention résonne la parole d’un musicien touchant qui aura réussi à s’inscrire dans l’histoire sans jouer les superhéros.

Après trente ans de carrière, tu repars à zéro avec ton groupe Bad Lieutenant. Es-tu surpris d’être encore animé par une telle passion de la musique à 53 ans ?

Barney Sumner – La réponse est oui, sans hésitation. Mais en même temps que pourrais- je faire d’autre ? Je baigne dans la musique depuis l’âge de 21 ans. Sans elle, ma vie n’aurait rimé à rien. J’aime le côté créatif de cette activité, je n’ai jamais été bon qu’à ça. A l’école, ma meilleure matière était le dessin, la peinture. Dans les autres disciplines, j’étais le pire élève que l’Angleterre ait jamais enfanté… Mais dès que je faisais appel à mon imagination, je sentais en moi comme une flamme. Elle ne s’est toujours pas éteinte.

As-tu retrouvé facilement le plaisir d’écrire des chansons ?

C’est de loin ce que je préfère. Pour beaucoup de musiciens, la scène représente le summum de l’extase. Ça n’est pas mon cas, même si la musique est aussi affaire de communication et de partage. Moi, c’est dans la phase de composition que je ressens la plus grande excitation. J’aime partir de rien, voir naître entre mes mains une forme qui, peu à peu, va prendre son sens. C’est une activité qui requiert toute mon énergie : quand j’écris un album comme celui de Bad Lieutenant, ce qui m’a pris dix-huit mois, je m’immerge totalement dedans, je m’abstrais de la vie quotidienne, je ne vais même plus faire les courses… Du coup, dès que j’appose la dernière touche à une chanson, j’ai une incroyable sensation d’accomplissement. La musique est comme un puzzle en trois dimensions : la mélodie, le rythme, les paroles… Autant d’éléments qui peuvent donner lieu à d’innombrables combinaisons.

As-tu l’impression d’en avoir découvert de nouvelles avec Bad Lieutenant ?

S’il y en a, elles tiennent avant tout aux personnalités qui composent le groupe. Je connais bien Phil Cunningham, qui a rejoint New Order dans ses dernières années. Stephen Morris est un partenaire privilégié depuis plus de trente ans. Quant à Jake Evans, il m’a apporté une grande bouffée d’air pur, car c’est un jeune gars très compétent – il joue de la guitare depuis l’âge de 5 ans – et vierge de toute expérience : il n’avait jamais enregistré d’album auparavant. Pour lui, participer au premier disque de Bad Lieutenant était aussi fort que de marcher sur la Lune… C’était fabuleux d’avoir à nos côtés une personne comme lui, empreinte de cette naïveté. Ça m’a rappelé l’état d’esprit dans lequel nous étions au tout début de Joy Division. Nous ne savions pas comment écrire des chansons mais nous chérissions la musique plus que tout. Nous n’étions que des amateurs qui étaient passés à l’acte. On ne peut pas dire que Joy Division ait laissé l’image d’un groupe naïf : c’était pourtant le cas et notre principale force.

Si Bad Lieutenant repose sur l’amitié, New Order n’a-t-il pas pâti de s’être construit sur des liens quasi familiaux, avec toutes les tensions que cela suppose ?

J’ai pris beaucoup de bon temps au sein de New Order, mais sur la fin c’était devenu une affaire trop plombée par le sérieux… Nous avons fondé Bad Lieutenant en réaction à ça : j’aspirais à plus de légèreté. J’ai trouvé un groupe où l’amitié n’est pas un vain mot. New Order, c’était plutôt comme un mariage : une sorte de lien sacré avec lequel il te faut composer, que tu aimes ça ou non ! Au fil du temps, l’amertume s’est incrustée dans nos relations, nos positions se sont durcies… Comme dans une vraie vie conjugale, le divorce n’a pas été reluisant. Ce groupe a duré au-delà de toutes nos espérances, ça devrait suffire à me réjouir. J’aurais juste préféré ne pas me retrouver dans la situation de ces vieux couples qui ne se supportent plus et se balancent sans cesse des insultes à la gueule, mais qui restent ensemble pour ne pas faire de peine aux gamins – et dans notre cas, nos gamins, c’était nos fans… Le principal problème de New Order, c’était ce clash permanent des ego entre Peter Hook et moi.

Pourquoi n’as-tu pas envisagé une carrière solo ?

Je n’en retirerais aucun plaisir. Je ne m’imagine pas composer, tourner et donner des interviews seul : rien que d’y penser, ça me déprime. J’ai toujours été dans un groupe. J’aime l’idée de camaraderie – une idée joyeuse… J’aime croire que l’opinion de chaque membre d’un groupe a une valeur, que ce soit dans la direction musicale comme dans le choix de la setlist d’un concert. S’il y a trois instruments dans une chanson, il vaut mieux qu’il y ait trois personnes derrière plutôt qu’une seule : la musique y gagne en dynamique. J’ai besoin d’échanges. Je préfère me voir à travers le regard d’un autre, comme sur une photographie, que dans un miroir. Dans ma carrière, ces interactions m’ont toujours porté bonheur.

En matière d’alchimie collective, il est vrai que tu as été formé à bonne école avec Joy Division…

A la base, le groupe se composait de Peter et de moi. Ma mère m’avait offert une guitare pour mes 16 ans, mais je n’en avais jamais joué. Peter, lui, n’avait même pas d’instrument. Puis le punk est arrivé et ça nous a fait l’effet d’un électrochoc. J’ai pris cette guitare pleine de poussière et de toiles d’araignée qui croupissait dans un coin de ma chambre. Peter, lui, a jeté son dévolu sur une basse : c’est comme ça que tout a commencé, dans le salon de ma grand-mère… Ensuite, on a auditionné cinq batteurs, c’étaient tous des trous du cul, y compris Stephen Morris ! Mais il avait une voiture, alors on l’a choisi ! Quant à Ian Curtis, on le connaissait pour l’avoir croisé dans des concerts. Quand il m’a appelé pour se proposer comme chanteur, je lui ai dit : “OK, tu as le job !” Voilà ce qu’a été Joy Division : non pas une réunion de gens incroyablement doués pour la musique, mais la rencontre de deux copains de classe, d’un batteur qui avait une bagnole et d’un type recruté par téléphone… Nous avons été très chanceux d’arriver à créer une telle alchimie musicale à partir de ça. La leçon, c’est qu’il ne suffit pas d’écrire de bonnes chansons : encore faut-il qu’elles arrivent au bon moment. C’est ce qui s’est passé plus tard avec New Order et Blue Monday. A la base, on avait conçu cet instrumental comme un machin destiné aux dance-clubs, un truc idéal pour tester la sono… Mais il s’est trouvé qu’il avait le bon son au bon moment. Ce morceau était beaucoup trop long pour que les radios le diffusent : il est pourtant devenu un tube énorme. Je suppose que beaucoup de gens l’ont entendu en boîte de nuit pendant leurs vacances en Espagne… Après, on en a sorti une version plus courte. Les radios se sont jetées dessus.

Es-tu conscient de la trace profonde que Joy Division et New Order ont laissée dans les esprits ?

Je suis heureux d’avoir contribué à écrire des chansons qui ont passé l’épreuve du temps, que je peux encore jouer avec fierté. Mais je dois aussi accepter de vivre dans l’ombre gigantesque de ce passé. Beaucoup de gens ont des relations affectives très intenses avec les chansons de Joy Division et de New Order. Je sais pertinemment que les titres de Bad Lieutenant ne peuvent pas rivaliser avec elles. Je ne vais pas me battre contre ça, ce serait ridicule. Mais c’est un défi stimulant que d’essayer de les porter au même niveau.

Comment envisages-tu l’avenir de Bad Lieutenant ?

Le plus important, à mes yeux, c’est de ne plus subir de pression, de prendre autant de plaisir que possible. Je ne vais pas me mettre sous les ordres d’un manager qui va me dicter la conduite à suivre pour engranger le maximum de fric. Mon instinct de survie m’a toujours commandé de ne pas devenir un businessman. Je n’en ai ni la mentalité, ni le costume. Cette conviction m’a permis de garder une certaine fraîcheur, même si je ne suis plus un perdreau de l’année. Je me sens parfois écrasé par le poids de mon expérience : je sais que j’ai perdu l’innocence de mes débuts. Je sais aussi que je n’écoute plus autant de musique qu’autrefois – comme à l’époque de Blue Monday, où nous passions notre temps dans les clubs pour nous imprégner des nouveaux sons électroniques. J’ai atteint un point où je n’ai plus l’impression d’apprendre en écoutant les disques des autres. Il y a peut-être là un sentiment de fierté un peu stupide, un petit côté “j’ai tout accompli dans ma vie, je n’ai plus besoin de ça !” Mais je crois qu’avec Bad Lieutenant, j’ai trouvé un bon moyen d’échapper à ce travers-là. Ma tête est pleine de souvenirs mais continue à penser au présent.

© Richard Robert & Les InRocks

 

The Reckless Club

Dear Mr. Vernon,

we accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a whole Saturday in detention for whatever it was we did wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make an essay telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is…

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Does that answer your question?

Sincerely yours,

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This is a tribute to the great writer, producer and film director John Hughes, that touched a generation of teenagers through 90-minute pop psychology high school life lessons, followed by amazing soundtrack music.
 
Life moves pretty fast.
Break the fucking rules.

© Butcher Billy