NewOrderOnline.com is supported by its members. Donations are always welcomed and appreciated.

Send a donation...

Get Ready, Barney

'Don't wanna be like other people are.
don't wanna own a key,
don't wanna wash my car.'

- Turn My Way

"Our aim really, in the past, was to create lives for ourselves where we just had a good time. And the bi-product of having a good time was to make music, because you were happy. If you're happy and you're having a good time you enjoy making music. Nowadays we have to be careful about how much of a good time we have...."

Bernard Sumner speaks like a man who knows only too well the pitfalls of having the elusive 'good time'. While not regretful, the tone of his voice betrays a (relatively) newfound desire to channel all his energy into the material on this New Order album. It is a point he is more than keen to stress.

"In the old days, if we were in the studio, and we do a lot of recording down in London, we'd have a flat, stay there for six months, and every night we'd go out to different night clubs. But wherever we were, that's what we'd do. Dublin, whatever. We'd go out all the time. But this time we've been in a residential studio and we just concentrated solely on work and daren't go out. If we go out, we just get so trashed that we can't work the next day. So it's been a different kind of work ethic with this album. The album has been the point of it. And I don't know if that's affecting the music in any way. Don't get me wrong, we always took our music very seriously when we were in the studio, but it was only part of the reason why we were doing it."

The 90s heralded the rise of the career hiatus as a fashionable accessory for any rock band worth their salt. New Order trounce the Stone Roses' famed five-year break and the Stereo MC's seven year itch this August with the release of Get Ready, eight years after 1993's Republic. It's been a break of two halves for Bernard, though. 'The first four years, I was really into acid house and going to parties. I kinda thought with the Hacienda that if we'd spent this much money on it, then I was gonna go down there and enjoy it. So I used to be down there every night.

"I used to hang out with the [Happy] Mondays, and we'd all go off to a party after the Hacienda finished, and I got really into that lifestyle. Until it started to wear me down, physically. And mentally as well. It was making me ill. If you went out, you wouldn't get back till midday the next day, and we'd do that two or three times a week! After a couple of years, I just started getting really ill, physically."

Like anyone living life at breakneck speed, Bernard learnt the hard way that you can only go so far. In essence, what goes up, must come down. "In 1993 I went to an MTV night in Manchester. There was a bit of a fight at the door. I was inside and I was off my head. Some guy with a balaclava came in and I noticed that all the people in the room had spread to the wall like bull rushes, like the wind had blown them all to the side. Except me. And I was stood there while this guy with a balaclava pointed a massive gun at me. And I was just eating chicken dumplings. And I looked up from me chicken and I saw a guy with a balaclava pointing a gun at me. He was looking for someone that he'd had an argument with at the door. So he held the gun up on me for a full minute, then ran off into another room to try and find somebody to shoot.

"At that stage I just thought, nah, it's all gone a bit pear-shaped this. It's all gone a bit wrong. So I got off the scene, you know, going out. The buzz wasn't there, you know." Thankfully Mr Sumner is a stronger willed person than most, and instead of hiding away, such events kick-started the whole New Order machine back into life.

"I just got into my music. Music was my outlet. I started reading a lot more. Just sought a quiet life. Because I'd been going to clubs and been involved in clubs for years. It got to the point where I couldn't enjoy it unless it was an extreme sensation. I couldn't have a good time without an E. I just thought that was shit. There was something wrong about it. The people who were around on the scene weren't cool people. Some of them were pretty violent. Not everyone, but quite a few. And the gun incident. I didn't wanna go out and risk my life really. One of my friends got stabbed badly at a party one night, I thought, if I carry on going to these places then it's going to happen to me."

So something had to give. Where would this new New Order stem from? What would be the inspiration behind the next move? And what about all those expectant ears? "We're not, in any shape or form, strategists. We're not, in any shape or form, careerists, either. I suppose we would be if we were any good at it. But we've always kinda stumbled our way along, you know."But surely, a band as monolithic as New Order must be aware of the great pressure of expectation? "We never really think about what other people think. We do it for ourselves. You know what other people think about New Order. We haven't got a clue. We can't make music that way. I guess we're quite selfish. We just make music that we're into. That's not a cliché. That's just the way it works."

Fair enough then Bernard. But what is it that drives a band if not that constant demand? Perhaps the answer lies in the spectral history of New Order - you may know it as Joy Division. "We'll never forget that vibe. Get Ready is a more 'rock' album, but we're really just returning to our roots. Returning to those Joy Division roots. Using more guitar, like we were with Joy Division. But don't make the mistake that most people do. That we're miserable! I think that's the only bad aspect of the shadow of Joy Division."

Get Ready is indeed a more guitar-heavy work than anything the band have produced before. But where many people will stand back surprised at such a revelation, those who truly appreciate the history of the band will recognise that it's more a case of New Order drawing on certain elements of their own history more than others. And it's not like they have made their XTRMNTR.

'60 Miles An Hour' for instance, the second track on the new album, is at first an obvious signpost to what the band have been listening to from the world of rock, but then Peter Hook's trademark bass rumbles through, and you couldn't be listening to any other band. The synthesisers actually sound lusher than ever before as well.

That said, both Bobby Gillespie and Andrew Innes from Primal Scream guest on the crunching 'Rock The Shack'. Bernard looks back on the sessions fondly, yet with a wry smile. "I played some guitar on XTRMNTR, the last Primals album, and when we'd finished doing what we'd done in their studio we wanted to stay up all night, for various reasons! So I had another idea, and we put it down, and really it came from their recording session. So many months later, when we started working as New Order, I remembered I'd done some stuff with the Primals, so I got Innes to send it over, and I worked on it further. Then we got Bobby down to our Reading studio to perform on it. But we've known each other for years and years. I'm a big fan, and a bigger fan of their ethic. They still retain that punk ethic."

Where does this new 'back to basics' approach leave the faithful fanbase? Why have New Order never played the industry game? "We never were part of the music industry because we were on a little independent label up in Manchester. We never, ever had any contact with the music industry. Until we went off and did our solo projects. So we only really had an inkling of what it was all about."

But do you have any battle scars from such industrial treatment, Bernard? "It depends who you work with. We work with good people. You're an investment. That's the way it works, you're just simply an investment. The company either are or are not passionate about music. It purely is a business though. London records is a mixture of both, we think. I understand that though. I understand that they've got to run a business, they've got people to employ, bills to pay. They've got money to make. That's the way capitalist society works. Fortunately we were insulated from that, and we were allowed to develop from that in our own daft little way. Which was a very good thing for New Order. There weren't the pressures of delivering a commercial single or a commercial video, or you must play whatever territory. We were allowed to be like childish brats for most of our twenties."

This relatively free reign of the band's music has left them more than a little isolated. This isn't a bad thing. As anyone who followed them in the 80s will tell you, the band have always existed somewhere in the ephemeral. With few interviews and sporadic releases, they were like visiting dignitaries to a pop audience that lapped it up. This strand remains in the 21st century New Order. When asked about the current state of music Bernard simply responds with the word "Dogshit", and when asked to consider how people perceive his band, he seems genuinely at a loss. "I don't know because I never look at the world from the outside in, I always look at it from the inside out. I don't know. I guess I'm quite internalised as a person."

And what about the rest of the band? "I don't know, you'd have to ask them. We're very much four individuals. You're talking all external again!" It's worth nothing at this point that while the band have agreed to interviews, they carry them out in three different rooms. As individuals.It may say as much about the rigors of promoting such an anticipated album, but maybe it's also about damage limitation (after all, Gillian is at home, nursing her baby).

New Order seem to have occupied all spaces for all people, amazingly now across three decades. Unsurprisingly then, there has been the occasional tears, but talking with Bernard you realise there must have been countless smiles too. His final quip is as headstrong, star-drenched and revealing as Get Ready will be when it's released. "I remember speaking to Karl from Kraftwerk, a long time ago, and he said "Oh, I saw you play in Dusseldorf, you were really pissed on stage, and the show was terrible. Why did you do that?" I said that the purpose of doing the show was so that I could get pissed. Not the other way round. I suppose back then it was just an anarchistic lifestyle really. But I've done that, and I'm fed up of doing that, and what I wanna do now is just work for the music. And live for the music, because over the years you do get a bit bored of getting pissed. But you don't get bored of making music. I feel as excited now as I did when I started. Music still turns me on, but getting pissed doesn't."

Thanks to Nina of Go Magazine in Barcelona (Catalogna, Spain) for her collaboration. If you have any enquiries about Go Mag, you can reach them here: go@go-mag.com.

Thanks also to Chris Nash and Jake Kennedy.

Last updated on 2005-03-07 9:12:00 PM - 9:12:00 PM
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.