Natalie Curtis

Natalie Curtis, nasce il 16 aprile 1979 a Manchester, da papà Ian e mamma Deborah. Come per il figlio di Marc Bolan, fino a poco tempo fa, poco o nulla si sapeva della graziosa Natalie. Dopo il passaggio alle scuole di Macclesfield – la Henbury High School ed il Macclesfield College – la figlia dell’indimenticato frontman dei Joy Division si laurea alla Manchester School Art & Design (Metropolitan University) nell’indirizzo fotografico.

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The man who bought Ian Curtis’s house: ‘Joy Division is the modern Rembrandt’

Hadar Goldman stepped in to offer £75,000 above the asking price to buy the Macclesfield house where the singer lived and died

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Last February, after a group of Joy Division fans failed to raise enough money to buy Ian Curtis’s old house in Macclesfield and turn it into a museum, entrepreneur and musician Hadar Goldman decided to step in. The house had already been sold to a private buyer, but Goldman – inspired by the campaign – offered to pay a £75,000 compensation fee on top of the house price of £125,000 in order to secure the purchase. Which certainly sounds committed …

“But it was not only to help,” says Goldman, a Curtis fan himself. “It was also, I imagine, for my personal ego. Some people would pay for a Rembrandt painting; for me, Joy Division is the modern Rembrandt.”

Goldman accepts that the house is not a piece of art in itself, but says that it possesses a “raw energy” that he can now harness for good. He wants it to act not only as a Joy Division museum, but also as a digital hub to support musicians and other artists across the world.

Curtis house

It’s something that’s caused a bit of conflict among the former members of Joy Division. Peter Hook is supportive of the idea, arguing that Manchester bands don’t get enough credit for their achievements. But Bernard Sumner says he’s worried the house could become a “monument to suicide”, given that Curtis hanged himself in the kitchen. Goldman says he hopes he can change the latter’s mind.

“Years pass. We are left with great art, great music. And super-positive energy,” he says (for someone who claims not to be into new-age theories, he talks an awful lot about energy). “There is nothing spooky about it. I would like to take it to a place where it is like a little sun [for] energy projection.”

Would he open up the kitchen to the public – something fans had originally promised not to do, for fear it would be too macabre.

“Yes. Yes. Yes. Of course! You create demand by forbidding stuff,” he says, adding that he has visited the house and “what happened there in the kitchen … it’s not there, you could not have felt it.”

Goldman was about 15 when Joy Division released Unknown Pleasures. He was a classically trained violinist – “one of these gifted boys, I won all the competitions playing all over Europe” – but hearing Joy Division’s music “pulled me to the other side”.

At the moment, Goldman says he’s tied up with the “worst part of the deal”, which means applying for permits from councils and trying to get small projects off the ground, such as putting a blue plaque on the house, which he thinks should be in place within six months. There are plans to install a board of artistic directors, too, and maybe start a fund to support local artists. Had the house retained its original decor, he would have been happy to leave it, but thinks it’s pointless to reinstate it, preferring to honor Ian Curtis’s contemporary instincts by inviting young architects from the University of Manchester to take over the house’s design work: “I’m saying let’s have a dialogue with tomorrow rather than a trip down memory lane.”

Such ideas are a nod to Curtis and the band’s forward-thinking instincts. “Today we call it ‘to think outside of the box’,” says Goldman. “I think Ian Curtis was everything but the box! I don’t think that he had ever met or seen the box!”

New-Order-Sänger Bernard Sumner über Joy Division: „Mir war ‚Unknown Pleasures‘ zu heavy“

Mit „Music Complete“ haben New Order nach langjähriger Pause und zwei eher schwächeren Platten endlich wieder ein überzeugendes Album veröffentlicht. Nachdem Peter Hook, Erfinder des für die Band typischen warm brummenden Bass-Sounds, ausgestiegen ist, kann man hier erstmals den neuen Bassisten Tom Chapman hören. Er macht seinen Job gut – und klingt fast wie ein Hook-Klon.

Auf dem neuen Album gibt sich die Band elektronischer denn je. „Wir waren immer eine Elektro-Rock-Band“, sagt Sänger und Gitarrist Bernard Sumner im Gespräch mit ROLLING STONE. „Und das heißt nicht nur, dass wir Gitarre/Bass/Schlagzeug und elektronische Sounds miteinander verbinden wollten. Wir hatten immer einen anderen Zugang zur Elektronik als die Clubmusik-Produzenten. Wir haben uns für alles interessiert, was neu war – aber immer versucht, die Klänge und Beats in Gestalt von Songs zu kleiden.“

So überzeugt New Order von ihrem neuen Album sind – so wenig mögen sie den Sound der alten Platten von Joy Division. Die legendäre Band aus Manchester, Vorläufer von New Order, hatte ihr Debut „Unknown Pleasures“ 1979 veröffentlicht – das heute als Meilenstein des britischen Postpunk gilt. Aber: „Ich habe mir die Platte nie gerne angehört“, sagt Bernard Sumner im ROLLING STONE. „Mir war sie zu heavy, zu hart, zu undurchdringlich.“ Und auch das erste New-Order-Album „Movement“ hat die Band in schlechter Erinnerung. Es wurde 1981, ein Jahr nach dem Selbstmord ihres Sängers Ian Curtis veröffentlicht. „Wir können die Platte nicht hören, ohne daran zu denken, wie deprimiert und verzweifelt wir nach dem Tod von Ian waren.“

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Late Style

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The English band New Order is thirty-five years old. Such is its influence on the large, hybrid musical territory we might call “synth pop” or “dance rock” that entire careers are impossible to imagine without it. There might have been no LCD Soundsystem, or the Rapture, or the flurry of similar acts that arose in New York in the early aughts; there would be no Radiohead, either. “It’s very difficult to genuinely impress my bandmates,” Phil Selway, the Radiohead drummer, said during a recent BBC Radio broadcast, introducing his guest, the New Order drummer Stephen Morris. His mere name, Selway explained, had reduced the other members of Radiohead to a state of hushed awe. “I made Radiohead go all quiet!” Morris replied, in his thick northern accent. “Blimey!”

The music of New Order has created a kind of communion between the melodic conventions of pop and the rhythmic possibilities of dance music—and also between traditional rock instruments (bass, guitar, drums) and electronic alternatives (drum machines, synthesizers, sequencers). The musicians give something heartfelt to their machines, while the machines propel the musicians beyond their human deficiencies. The result is songs that move toward the vibrancy of dance music but don’t always arrive, getting caught instead in little eddies of melancholy. New Order’s best songs tend to be long, spilling over the boundaries of pop’s three-minute template; they feel borne along by joy and sorrow in equal parts.
Last week, the band released “Music Complete,” its ninth studio album. In the decade since its previous major release, “Waiting for the Siren’s Call,” the keyboardist Gillian Gilbert has returned, after ten years of absence, and Peter Hook—whose fluent bass lines have formed one of New Order’s most recognizable qualities—has left, in a fug of acrimony. The members of New Order consistently downplay their individual contributions, preferring to present themselves as a unit, but that hasn’t stopped people from asking: Can a New Order record properly be a New Order record without Peter Hook? (But could it be one without Gillian Gilbert?) Where does the spirit of the band reside?

The answer, though it conforms to every cliché of rock and roll, may be that the spirit of New Order was strongest when the band was in its youth. “Music Complete” is certainly the best of New Order’s late-career albums, and the best since the underrated “Republic,” released in 1993. It contains a handful of songs to add to other treasures in the band’s catalogue, along with many that are forgettable by the group’s own standards. It is difficult for the musicians of New Order to surpass themselves, or to convince a listener that they have anything left to prove.

For the band’s first twelve years, it was closely linked with, though never officially signed to, the Manchester-based label Factory Records, which shunned formal contracts. Factory was more successful as a conceptual prank than as a functioning business venture: it assigned catalogue numbers to a lawsuit, a Manchester night club named the Haçienda, and the Haçienda’s resident cat, before declaring bankruptcy, in 1992.

Factory was headed by the impresario and television journalist Tony Wilson (when he died, in 2007, his coffin was given a catalogue number), and the label’s graphic designer was Peter Saville, who is still responsible for creating all of New Order’s record sleeves. Saville’s designs for the band, using grids, color blocks, and stock photos, resemble advertising for a company that does not exist. Just as the members of New Order have tended to be subsumed by the group as a whole, the visual style creates a dislocation between the band and its audience.

When New Order fails to move—move the feet, move the heart—it is because the music and the image recede too far into the group’s expected pattern, so that the gap between the band and the listener is no longer mysterious but, rather, vacant. For another band, the title “Music Complete” might seem arrogant; for New Order it feels like a placeholder.

“Restless,” the album’s lead single, has a mood that New Order has explored many times before: a wakeful poignancy, like the dawn walk home after the best party of your life. (If New Order has never quite been a dance act, the music is nevertheless perfectly suited to the club-goer’s comedown.) The song moves smoothly, in a seamless blend of instruments; its craft is something that clumsier bands might covet. New Order can turn out a good pop song the way an athlete runs warmup laps. What “Restless” lacks is the small grain of perversity that has made other New Order songs as glorious as they are inimitable—“The Perfect Kiss,” for instance, from 1985, which includes an interlude of synthesized, ribbitting frogs. Why frogs? Why not.

One of the new album’s best songs is “Stray Dog,” which features a gravelly spoken-word narration by Iggy Pop, very different in tone from the singer and guitarist Bernard Sumner’s light and sometimes colorless singing voice. The friction between the vocals and the deft instrumental arrangement—a hint of violins; guitar that has borrowed its texture from Pop’s rough presence—makes for something worth paying attention to. And Pop’s guest appearance is highly evocative, whether deliberate or not.

New Order arose out of Joy Division, and in 1980, when that group’s singer and lyricist, Ian Curtis, committed suicide, it was widely reported that the record left on his turntable was Pop’s solo début, “The Idiot.”

Sumner, Hook, and Morris all played in Joy Division. Over the years, it has become nearly impossible to cut through the myth of Joy Division to the four young friends whose inexperienced punk racket was transformed, by their own sheer will and by the gifts of their producer, the late Martin Hannett, into unearthly beautiful music. But if any group has the right to reclaim Joy Division it is New Order, and the band does so on “Stray Dog” and on a track called “Singularity,” which begins with eerie, wavering noises and a prominent bass line; both evoke Joy Division’s sound, which was also New Order’s early sound.

New Order covering itself works better than when it tries to sound like Chic, which the group does on the songs “Tutti Frutti” and “People on the High Line.” In the past, New Order’s willingness to absorb new sounds in dance music placed it in pop’s vanguard, but to evoke disco now, two years after the disco-revivalist high point of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” (co-written by Chic’s Nile Rodgers), feels belated. How cruel that the architects of a style, despite their longevity and their widespread influence, should find themselves eclipsed by their younger pupils.

The final song on “Music Complete” is “Superheated,” and it features Brandon Flowers, of the Las Vegas group the Killers, a name taken from a fictional group in a New Order music video. The mood of the song is reflective, almost stately, though the lyrics (a career-long weakness for New Order) are banal. “Now that it’s over,” Flowers sings. New Order was born as a kind of historical accident, out of personal tragedy, and has achieved in the wake of that misfortune more than most bands will ever achieve. Perhaps now, at long last, it really is over.

© Anwen Crawford & The New Yorker

Taking Control: telling the Ian Curtis story

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Even if you haven’t seen it, you already know how Control ends. A young man alone in a flat. Despair. Silence, music – and love, tearing everything apart again.

That young man is Ian Curtis, the singer and lyricist for Joy Division, a band whose fledgling career ended on the morning of May 18th 1980 when Ian took his own life.

It’s a film about a boy. You go with him from the age of 17 to 23 – he just happens to become the singer of Joy Division

Anton Corbijn

So you know how Control ends. But do you know how it begins? It begins with a boy.

We meet Ian as a schoolboy, an eyeliner-wearing, Wordsworth-quoting Bowie fan who joins the band after a Sex Pistols gig. “It’s not a music film,” director Anton Corbijn explained on its release in 2007.

“It’s a film about a boy. You go with him from the age of 17 to 23 – he just happens to become the singer of Joy Division.”

Joy Division may never have reached stadium status while Curtis was alive, but the band was on the cusp of making it big when he died. With a cult following in their native Manchester and their first North American tour scheduled to kick off the day after his death, what his fanbase may have lacked in quantity they made up for in passion.

Since then, Joy Division has reached near-legendary status. It’s hard to overstate the band’s influence on the indie scene over the past 35 years. Countless artists crowding today’s festival line-ups claim the band’s timeless, brooding post-punk sound as an influence.

ideo clips of Curtis’s inimitable performance style abound on YouTube and his life’s work has been pored over and analysed in countless books. His memory is – and was when Control was released in 2007 – alive and well.

Keeping fans happy when making a film about Curtis was always going to be tricky but, aside from pleasing fans, it was important for Control to do justice to Ian’s family and bandmates’ memories.

That so many people remember and revere a film’s subject is both a help and a hindrance when you’re making a biopic. How do you do them justice? And how do you tell their story without upsetting friends and family who are still around?

In Control’s case, you start with decent source material. The film is based on Touching From A Distance, the book Curtis’s wife, Deborah, published in 1995. She writes about their life together as well as the formation of the band, her husband’s infidelity and his death.

Screenwriter Matt Greenhalgh took the book as a starting point, explaining that it allowed him to keep the story authentic but also to find the conflict that every film narrative needs to work: “I had a great place to start with the book, because there was so much to work with.”

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Step two was to involve as many people who knew Ian as possible. Director Anton Corbijn met him when taking the photographs of the band that became their defining image: intense black-and-white shots, heavy overcoats and understated poses that somehow exude otherness.

These photographs contributed to the way the film was shot; the black-and-white film echoing the now-famous photoshoots.

As well as writing the book that inspired the screenplay, Deborah Curtis served as co-producer on the film, while her daughter, Natalie, who was just one year old when her father died, helped with research for the script. She also visited the set and met Sam Riley, the actor who played her dad, and Samantha Morton, who portrayed her mother.

“We talked until dawn about her role and I saw her notes – thoughts and reflections on how to play the character,” Natalie wrote of Morton at the time. “Spending time with her had reassured me; I knew that whatever happened she’d do a damned good job, even if she didn’t seem quite like my mother.”

Curtis’s bandmates were also on board. Having gone on to have a successful career as New Order, they created the incidental music for Control.

The actors who played Joy Division also learned their instruments so they could play all the songs live for the shoot. The likeness was uncanny, according to the band’s bassist Peter “Hooky” Hook when he went to see the film: “It was like being dissected. And then I went to take a piss and Ian [Curtis] and Bernard Sumner were next to me… Well, the actors that played them and I was like that… ‘Aaaaah!’. That was surreal.”

Despite all the careful research, the film could never completely match up to the reality of Joy Division’s short but eventful career.

“It’s sort of true, but you have to take liberties when you’re making a film because the truth is too boring,” drummer Stephen Morris said, before adding: “It’s good, very good. It’s a bit hard to watch when you’re involved in it as much as Peter [Hook] and I have been.”

Hook agreed: “I really enjoyed it, but it was like having your heart stamped on.”

As Control comes to MUBI this week, Joy Division fans around the world have been marking the 35th anniversary of Ian Curtis’s death.

There are Joy Division re-releases and a recent live show featuring Peter Hook to mark the occasion, allowing Curtis to live on through the timeless music that he made. Because, as Curtis himself wrote: “Reality is only a dream based on values and well worn principles, whereas the dream goes on forever.”

Joy Division, la storia della band che portò alla luce il lato oscuro del rock

Joy Division - Tutta la storia

Una parabola durata quattro anni ma che avrebbe cambiato il mondo del pop per sempre. E’ quella dei Joy Division, la band guidata dal carismatico Ian Curtis che, tra il 1976 e il 1980, con solo un ep e due album, è stata capace di entrare nel mito. Anche grazie, come spesso accade nelle storie del rock, alla tragica fine del suo leader, impiccatosi il 18 maggio dell’80. La vicenda viene ora raccontata da chi l’ha vissuta in prima persona, il bassista e fondatore del gruppo Peter Hook, nel libro “Joy Division – Tutta la storia”, pubblicato da poco da Tsunami.

E’ la prima volta che quanto accaduto in quegli anni viene affrontato direttamente da un membro del gruppo. Un gruppo che, a dispetto di una parabola estremamente rapida e di sicuro non baciata sul momento dal grande successo, ha lasciato un’eredita che andata crescendo nel corso del tempo, raccolta ancora oggi da gruppi che partono da quella lezione per muovere i primi passi, si chiamino Interpol o Editors, o prima di loro U2, Rem,Radiohead, la cui musica è piena di semi gettati dai Joy Division.

C’è sempre una storia vera dietro il mito. Con le sue miserie, le sue normalità e le macchie di sporco che intaccano il quadro luccicante passato ai posteri. Figurarsi quando il quadro è di per se oscuro, con l’ultima pennellata costituita dalla tragica fine di un’anima tormentata. Pochi personaggi nel mondo del pop hanno dato vita un culto fedele e ossequioso come Ian Curtis. Splendido poeta e uomo fragile, che proprio grazie a queste due caratteristiche è riuscito a entrare in sintonia con milioni di ragazzi di più generazioni.

Peter Hook mette insieme una ricostruzione minuziosa, completa di fatti giorni per giorno e descrizione delle singole canzoni album per album, ma depurata da qualsiasi accento agiografico, lascia da parte l’enfasi e riporta sulla terra anche il mito di Curtis. Senza rivelare particolari che ne possano intaccare l’immagine ma semplicemente riducendolo a “persona normale”, con le sue debolezze e inclinazioni. La storia dei Joy Division è quella di un gruppo che gira su un pulmino scalcinato, per locali dove spesso si trova a suonare per dieci persone o viene coinvolto in risse e deve fare i conti con la cronica mancanza di soldi. Un gruppo che rimane folgorato dai Sex Pistols e vorrebbe suonare punk ma che poi cambia la storia di quel genere aprendo un universo nuovo, oscuro ed ipnotico, dove persino Frank Sinatra trova spazio.

Peter Hook dei Joy Division e New Order

Peter Hook dei Joy Division e New Order

C’è ovviamente il capitolo doloroso del suicidio di Curtis. Un epilogo per il quale diversi segnali compaiono durante il percorso, e Hook è a suo modo impietoso nel non cercare scuse, per se stesso in primis ma per tutto l’entourage della band. Sottolinea più volte come, nonostante le condizioni del cantante, schiacciato da un’epilessia che andava peggiorando con l’aumentare degli impegni, fossero evidentemente sempre più precarie, nessuno volle fermare il treno. Perché il treno Joy Division era in piena corsa, stava raccogliendo i primi frutti delle fatiche e dei sacrifici, e nessuno voleva guardare il muro verso il quale stava andando a schiantarsi. A partire da Ian stesso, che, stando a quanto dice Hook, non chiese mai di rinunciare a qualche impegno e anzi rassicurava tutti ogni volta che poteva. E tutti erano ben felici di essere rassicurati.

Nel libro entrano spesso riferimenti ai New Order, che raccolsero l’eredità dei Joy Division, e ai rapporti sempre più tesi (fino alla rottura definitiva negli ultimi anni), con l’altro fondatore, il chitarrista e poi cantante, Bernard Sumner. Nonostante questo Hook riesce a non deragliare troppo dal racconto e, per quanto possibile, a non farsi trascinare da rancori personali. Per quelli ci sarà tempo, come dice lui in chiusura, “per il capitolo di un altro libro”.