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Interview by Roy Wilkinson
ALL ABOARD THE BROTHERSHIP
Not baited and not
bearlike, NEW ORDER
emerge from the
shadow of past
smile benificently upon
ROY WILKINSON. They
manage to convey their
new sense of
adjustment and quite a
bit besides while
remaining evasive, but
RUSSELL YOUNG still
pictures bared souls
Three quarters of New Order are sitting in their extremely
nice, extremely comfortable Manchester rehearsal rooms,
autographing album covers and waiting.
They're waiting to do an interview (something they never
used to do), waiting to set out on tour (another thing they
never used to do), waiting to release a single, 'State Of The
Nation' (any moment now) and waiting to release their fourth
album, 'Brotherhood' (for the end of September).
The album makes me quite willing to cash in all my
superlatives in one fell swoop and wish I could afford a
compact disc player (my poor old hi-fi can't handle it at
all), but right now I'm just watching Bernard/Barney
Albrecht/Sumner signing autographs (something I never
imagined him doing).
"Who are these for, anyway?"
"Stoke Mandeville - you know, the place where they have bad
"Must be a weird place to live."
"It's not a town, divvy, it's a hospital!"
In case you don't know, New Order aren't aggressive people
and they aren't stupid people. They are friendly and early on
a Friday morning they're really quite unnervingly witty.
The fourth quarter, Hooky (as you say), is late and it's
time to leave for the pub, which Barney tells us used to have
loads of 'character'.
"It was really wild, with a woman with metal teeth playing
the organ and inflatable pictures of kittens all over."
Now it's just cold and Barney's deciding that he doesn't
like its fresh salmon sandwiches. He's going fishing for
salmon tomorrow but, now he knows what they taste like, he's
not so keen on catching any.
Barney's also had a late night and is feeling a little
shellshocked (just to get things going, you understand). So,
what the hell, how are you feeling Barney?
"Knackered, and I've got an infection in me eye."
And how are you feeling right now, doing this interview?
"Well, the only reason I'm doing it is because the others
want to do it."
So it's a tolerable evil?
"We've been doing a few of them recently and some of them
have been revealing... but I don't want to do them anymore
because... first, they make you think about what you're doing
and then they make you think like the person you're talking
to... and that's really bad. Also, I've noticed that I change
through the day. I could give you one set of answers in the
morning and then give you a completely different set at night.
"But most of all, I think doing interviews can stop the
flow of something happening."
He talks a lot about "things happening", about juices in
his head and the subconscious. It all makes him sound a bit
of a closet surrealist, but this distracted artist ("I am an
artist, but on my own terms") would never willingly
pigeonhole himself with such a trade description. The nearest
he comes is admitting to being "really fascinated by the way
For a moment all this sounds a bit dubious, but step back
and consider the group's down to earth, determinedly
unostentatious personality together with their evident
honesty and awkward charm and then put this beside their
music with its disturbing beauty and exhilarating blend of
fragility and aggression - the public broadcast of private
moments. Then, talk of spiritual things seems as natural as
The last song on 'Brotherhood' is a bizarre, almost
throwaway thing which recalls the spirit of the "piss off"
line of the second album's 'Your Silent Face'. First it
collapses in hysterics, then it dies with the sound of a
needle scraping across record grooves.
"Yeah, well the album was... really hard work, we wrote 70
per cent of it in the studio, and we got to this last song
and I started singing it dead serious but when I got to that
line about a pig (I think you are a pig/you should be in a
zoo) (laughs) well, it just sounded ridiculous and I
burst out laughing. We could have done it again but we
thought, f**k it, it works as it is."
Your lyrics are often the sing-song rhyming type and the
sentiments of your songs are often bitter, petulant
dismissals of people. All this gives me the impression that
you're a little frustrated, a little inarticulate, and that
all that somehow comes bursting out in this startling music.
(it is startling music.)
Barney: "I don't feel inarticulate, I just feel - well,
different, a bit. It's just that when I'm thinking about
something, I don't feel the need to embellish it because
you're only doing that for display purposes, and that's
tasteless. If I've got something to write about - which is
rare - I just do it as simply as possible."
But you have brought in some new devices, similar to the
tongue-in-cheek storyline on 'Love Vigilantes'. 'All Day Long'
from the new LP reminds me of that.
"Yeah, that's one of the more serious songs."
The song in question is about child beating and this is
what's called interview technique, and it's tacky because
when I ask, Are any of your songs autobiographical?, I'm half
hoping he'll say, Yeah, I was molested, I had a dead unhappy
He doesn't, he just thinks for a moment and starts up with
his laconic, habitually slurred speech and says very, very
slowly: "Well, some are a bit, but it's disguised. I could
never, never do it straight, it's like baring your arse in
public - it's embarrassing."
In New Order's early days - in what I took to be 50 per cent
honesty and 50 per cent not wanting to talk about the obvious
(hello, Mr Curtis) - the band always stressed that all they
were interested in was the music. But Barney's married now,
with a kid. Can things like this alter your perspectives,
change your priorities?
"Up to now the music's been the most important thing in my
life, but I'm going through a big change in the way I think.
That's another reason why I don't really want to do
interviews. I won't have anything to say until I've changed."
What are you changing to?
"Won't know 'til I get there."
"Just someone who's totally dedicated to one thing - music."
I see. You know you're just a bit idiosyncratic?
"Always have been, I've always felt a bit out of place."
All the time?
"Well, whenever I try to do something that everyone else
"Like watching telly. I can't just sit there without
thinking, why do people do this, what do they get out of it."
You know, Dallas, Dynasty, that sort of thing. Power,
corruption and lies.
Better late than never, here's Part II. Hooky (as everyone
says) has arrived at last. He's driven me back to the New
Order Bat Cave in his big silver sports car ("I like speed")
and is being a model interviewee. How does minor cult status
"I'd have thought we could be hoping for major cult status
Not the band, I meant you. The bass round the ankles, the
'repartee' with the audience, everyone calling you Hooky.
You've become something of a mascot.
"I can take it or leave it. A mascot? You calling me a goat
He's so relaxed and so self assured that he's almost but
just not quite coasting, and (you should know this by
now but I'll tell you anyway) he's not a thug and he doesn't
grunt. He says he doesn't really understand what he's doing
but he tells me that "writing a classic bass riff like on 'Age
of Consent' is extremely satisfying" and that he's confident
that what he's done and is doing will be around for some time.
"When I saw us (Joy Division) on So It Goes, it made so
much sense and seemed so fresh. I'm glad Joy Division have
that timelessness, 'cos I think it'll last. Like The Doors,
who weren't really big until ten years after they finished."
He thinks interviews are a bit futile ("How can you hope to
get to understand someone through talking to them for an
hour?") but he's doing them, and graciously. As he says, being
in a band gets you out a bit and gives you more confidence in
Hook's very direct and just a bit of a lad. This comes to
the fore when he tells me about "just having had enough of one
particularly obnoxious heckler at a show and getting the
bastard right between the eyes with me headstock".
There's more when I ask what he could do outside a band.
"I've always wanted a scrapyard. Just sitting there and
getting a few quid for parts and wrecking all the cars - an
idea which has always appealed to me."
On the wall of the rehearsal room hangs a T-shirt with Ian
Curtis' face on it, to which someone's added a Hitler
moustache. I think that tells you a lot about New Order's new-
found adjustment. That and the fact that they sign autographs
but don't quite, because Barney's squiggle doesn't contain
his names. It really says Phil Barnes.
Here's four "total idiots" with this near perfect company
structure behind them and they're making these records like
'Brotherhood' with it's spellbinding more-acoustic-than-ever
realisation of the slightly flawed 'Low Life'. Cyril Connolly
once spoke of stretches of countryside whose beauty made him
feel suicidal and I'm afraid this is just like that.
I ask Stephen Morris about this, saying, Don't you think
about what you're doing a great deal, don't you get absorbed
by it and, well, I can imagine it containing the seeds of
madness. He just smiles and tells me he's too boring for that.
Stephen and Gillian are, after all, the affable, politely
public face of New Order and they don't mind that tag at all
("What's wrong with being pleasant?"). Stephen with his ever
so slightly camp voice is utterly unaffected, while Gillian is
quiet. (You're quiet, aren't you? "You guessed it. Yes, I'm
very quiet"). She's taking piano lessons and has started to
use the black keys recently in New Order.
She doesn't mind the others taking the lead ("Well, they
talk the most, don't they?") but I get the feeling that her
muted presence is pretty important to New Order because those
four people are now so close that, if you took one away, the
whole thing would unbalance. They've been together for years,
(Barney and Hooky go back almost 20) and it looks like they'll
just be going on together in their own determined way. Not a
bad album title, 'Brotherhood'.
Last updated on 2005-03-07 9:45:00 PM - 9:45:00 PM
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