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Driving Ambition

New Order have a new album. Republic, and a new record company, though their confidence was dented by Factory's crash. But as Hooky says, 'We're still on our feet*. So what forces them on?

Designer Ben Kelly may have dreamt of a chic, industrial-styled watering hole for Manchester's drinkers. But the reality of the Dry Bar is less enticing. "It has the atmosphere of a bus station", states New Order's Stephen Morris, who's invested a lot of money in the place over the years. "You wouldn't believe how much it cost to achieve that effect. And because of this ridiculous design concept the beer pumps lose about a gallon of the stuff every time they're used. They look nice but they're chucking money away."

As Morris pulls out a £10 note for another round of drinks, a bear-like, slightly grizzled Peter Hook stares in disbelief. "You haven't been paying, have you7" he laughs. Hooky immediately saunters off to the bar and it's Bamey Sumner's turn lo snigger, "Did you see the blisters on his hands?" he asks. "He hasn't had a shag in ages. He's desperate," The bassist returns, deposits several free beers on the table and grins ai a teenage blonde sitting nearby. Gillian Gilbert, the band's only female member, shakes her head as she resigns herself to a familiar hut wearing session of male camaraderie.

It's four years since the release of their last album, Technique. At that time the hand's voracious appetite for 'fun' took them to Ibiza for the recording, where the music blissed-out on sun and drugs. However, the follow-up, Republic, on London Records (part of a three-album deal, to include a greatest hits package) returns to the sombre moods of Joy Division and early New Order. Sumner's lyrics in particular arc harsher, due to strained band relationships, drug-induced ill- nesses and the collapse of Pact ory'Communications.

In a cold photographic studio where two stylists fuss over the creases in Barney's cream slacks, the singer picks over the debris of the last few months. "I guess this album reflects our record company disinte- grating and all the business pressures," he says slowly. "The effect of the situation was: 'Fuck it, why should we bother'. I hate to say this but I thought: 'What's the point of New Order? We get our bit right hut everything else is lucking awful'."

The break-up of Factory was a pru- By Steve Malins longed, demolarising experience for everyone involved, leaving a trail of broken ambitions, lost personal fortunes, damaged egos and bitterness. At the heart of the company's problems was a flamboy- ant disregard for hard economic sense. Profits were ploughed into spiralling studio costs (budgets for al- bums were never fixed), the Hacienda Club, the Dry Bar, classical and New Age projects and the lavish Fac- tory HQ in Charles Street, which cost around £800,000 to build and is currently on the market for £250,000,

Stephen, nervously chain-smoking beside Gillian on a battered, dusty studio sofa, points out that "after every New Order album there would be a new build- ing or some amazing white elephant built."

The label's boss, Tony Wilson, embodied the entrepreneural spirit and ambitious musical vision of Factory—along with its rather relaxed business style. Wann- ing to the subject, Stephen recalls, "Tony asked Cillian and I to write some music to commemorate the opening of the new t IQ. It's basically samples of Tony and Pete Saville (Factory's renowned graphic dc-signcrl, It gets funnier and more ironic all the time."

Gillian laughs at such a blatant massage for Tony Wilson's ego. "My mum was right. When she met him, she said: T can understand why a lot of people don't like you'. I should have listened To her." Her partner snipes, "perhaps he should try selling timeshares. He'd be good a; that,"

However, he also stresses that such laddish egotism was typical of the whole label: "At Factory personal grudges were allowed to influence decisions, Stuft like who's got the biggest car. Boy things. They wanted boy racer cars, matching Jags, that sort of thing. We were quite impressed that at London's offices they didn't have any beer on the premises."

In contrast, Peter Hook .still speaks of Factory fondly and even talks of resurrecting the label. "There's a great back catalogue which hasn't been fully ex- ploited," he enthuses. "London have talked about tak- ing it on, but whether they will or not, I don't know."

Gillian and Stephen, though, remain resolute, the latter waving his hands in exaspera- tion, declaring: "No, no, never again, We don't want anything to do with it."

The pair's disillusionment with The Factory set-up peaked when they realised that their own project, The Other Two, was not going to be released by the label. "It wasn't disappointment, we were fucking angry", states Stephen. Their resenmient grew as New Order's change to London Records seemed to hury the record for good. "We had London saying: 'Well, sorry, maybe we can put it out next year'," he says dryly. "Then we had a polite phone call from them, apologising. They told me that when they said that, they hadn't actually listened to the record, but 'We've played it a bit now and it's quite good really, so we do want to put it out after all.' It might have had something to do with the tact we told them if you don't put this fuckin' record out, we're not doing anything with New Order."

Both arc already concerned about the lavish promotional fanfare fur the new Republic album. The video for the first single, 'Regret' was on an "MTV-style budget" rumoured to be over £200,000 before the fi- nal edit. The satellite link-up with Top Of The Pops cost around ^60,000, while aborted promo shots for the press wasted another £3,000. WTiile Hooky takes a "wait and see" approach, Stephen rants, "It's ridiculous, silly, absolutely fuckin' barmy. I'm saying, wily should we pay all tins money? But our manager, Rob Gretton, Thinks it's a good idea. A little Factory lingers in there, I suspect." Gillian frowns in agreement. "It's mad. It's happening all over again..."

Peter Hook, with cordless telephone in one hand and cigarette in the other, is in a more affable mood. Offstage he and Bamey constantly rib each other, enjoying the fireworks. On stage, he's the more aggressive of the pair: "Any fans who try to climb up, I kick 'cm. I'm not very easy-going with people like that. It's my stage and I'm not going to let some sweaty, spotty little twat jump off my fucking monitors. If anyone tried to rip off my shirt I'd smash their teeth in," He smiles. "Funnily enough, no one's ever got up on stage and tried to hug me."

Hooky thrives un the combative, self-indulgent atmosphere of New Order on tour (they will play some UK dales later this summer), which left Bamey hospi- talised after their gruelling 40-date jaunt around the L'S in 1989, Stephen calls it "the Death tour. We all over- indulged, We were all ill", he says, "It was like, 'Oh my God, is this all I've got to look forward to for the rest of my life'." Gillian explains further, "Everybody wants different things now," she says. "We were sort of a gang in the early days, we didn't have houses or all that. Now we've grown up, we're in this weird situation. I mean, I don't want to go on tour for the rest of my life, but Hooky likes playing live."

The stubbled bass- player is also regularly to be found propping up The Gay Traitor Bar in the Hacienda, which is part-owned by the band. He retains an obvious appetite for Man- chester's nightlife: "This city is a unique place. It's very vibrant hut the price it pays is the violence. When I go to London I'm really surprised how a club like the Limelight can have only four bouncers, compared to the Hacienda where we need about 25,"

Stephen, however, seems determined to distance himself from the late-night world. "It's that horrible unpunkish thing, wanting a bit of security in your life", he says, "I'm past fascination with nightclubs. I'm more interested in studios and little country pubs." His girl- friend quietly adds, "Bamey likes going out on a Satur- day night. I suppose it's alright if you've got friends to go out with." As tor the band's singer, he moaris that the band's couple are "boring fuckers. They go out when we're abroad and get off their beads like the rest of us. But they can't be arsed in Manchester."

The band are also split over their involvement with the Dry Bar—The Other Two have recently pulled out—and the infamous Factory HQ. Stephen hitches, "Bamey wanted it just so he could own the building."

In fact, the four disagree about almost everything except for their music, "We don't discuss the songs anyway," says Bamey in his diffident monotone. "But we knew we couldn't produce ourselves this time. It causes bad feeling within the band. We didn't want lit- tle grudges to occur. I know that sounds very childish, but that's because it is. Why should you have that kind of shit in your life really?", he says with minimum fuss.

The Other Two can't resist another dig: "Hooky just made an album because Bamey did one." They claim their own project was different, "We'd been working on TV themes and stuff", says Stephen. "We thought, why nol turn these ideas into songs? But we never stopped thinking of New Order. Soft gits that we are."

Gillian cites the 'World In Motion' football single as an example of their ap- proach. The music came from a piece she and Stephen had written for the TV programme, Report- age. "We just gave them it to listen to and they liked it", she says. "At the time that's how we thought New Order would work in the future. We'd all bring along our own solo ideas and songs. But that never happened. Now we realise per- haps it wasn't the right thing to do, Some people would call us stupid, I suppose."

New Order's first tentative steps at recording to- gether again after their four-year leave of absence took place in the pair's home studio in Macclesfield. But according to Gillian, band politics intervened almost immediately, "We suggested Pascal Gabriel as a producer. He'd worked on our own single, 'Tasty Fish'. He was great until he started working with the band. Then he completely messed us two up. You don't think people are going to do things like that," she says, in a resigned, rather world-weary fashion,

Gillian has another reason to feel aggrieved. Peter Hook recalls that when she first joined the band in 1980 (a year after the death of Joy Division singer lan Curtis), their manager felt it "would soften our image. He thought we were getting a hit boyish, a bit out of order."

Following a period of "taking notes and brewing up", Gillian felt that she'd established herself as an equal. But after their own project, she realised the cou- ple were being taken for granted by their New Order pals. "When we were in our studio, I had to do the shopping, do their dinners. We tore our hair out for two weeks because no one noticed we had been run- ning around emptying bins and cleaning the toilet."

After four weeks the band relocated to Peter Gabriel's Real World studios where, according to Gillian, producer Stephen Hague, "brought a sense of organisation to it, He's a very restrained character. He made us work sensible hours, so we weren't staying up all night." This more professional approach paid off, although Peter Hook has reservations, "A producer takes a weight off your shoulders, but you miss out on putting yourself wholeheartedly into it. The album's very pure, calm almost. Maybe a hit too pure for us,"

t's shortly after midnight and the Hacienda's Gay Traitor bar is hosting a showcase night for Rob Gretlon's own label, Rob's Records. Hamey is ex- pected to arrive but can't be found in the heaving crowd, Stephen and Gillian are most definitely at home after leaving the Dry Bar early to "feed the animals" on their Macclesfield farm. Peter Hook is standing at the bar, where he orders some more free drinks and pours himself into a group of young girls, who are clearly wise to him. They whisper and laugh at the ageing reveller. Must are too young to remem- ber when Hooky was in a dour, solemn band called Joy Division. "The old fuck", giggles one.

The Madchester scene may now be dead, but un- like friends and former lahelmates Happy Mondays, New Order are still viable, still working, "Shaun (Ryder) is making a dick of himself", says Hook with obvious regret, "I can't believe he's got any friends left in the world, because they wouldn't let him behave like he does. It's really sad,"

Last updated on 2005-03-07 10:11:00 PM - 10:11:00 PM
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