Interview with New Order drummer Stephen Morris and guitarist Phil Cunningham
The reunited music icons on playing live and the importance of arguing
New Order are back, and it’s as if they never went away. Are you enjoying it Stephen Morris, drummer and longest continuously-serving member alongside Bernard Sumner? ‘Yeah, it’s been great,’ he says from his house/studio just outside Macclesfield, where apparently he spends all his time ‘repairing things.’ ‘I wasn’t going to do it if I didn’t enjoy it, because I’ve done that before and there’s no point.’ Despite Sumner stating only a couple of years ago that New Order were finished, the decision of Peter Hook not to return seems to have eroded most of the creative tension: besides, Sumner, Morris and guitarist Phil Cunningham still worked together as Bad Lieutenant.
What about Morris’ wife, original keyboard player Gillian Gilbert, recently returned to the fold after a decade spent caring for their unwell daughter? ‘She’s really happy, because she did really miss it,’ he says, ‘although the rider doesn’t last as long now.’ Originally it was meant to only be a two-date reunion in order to help their old Factory America friend Michael Shamberg with his medical bills, but things just snowballed from there. They’ve just toured Australia and played Miami, with UK and US tours bookending a festival season which includes T in the Park and an Olympic-closing show alongside Blur and The Specials in Hyde Park.
‘People slate bands getting back together,’ says Cunningham, who originally replaced Gilbert in 2001 and this spring took his original Britpop-era outfit Marion around the country once more, ‘but it’s a chance for people who didn’t see them the first time round to check them out and find out what they’re all about.’ How does it feel to be reconvening without original bassist Hook, though? ‘It’s a lot more fun,’ he deadpans. ‘To be brutally honest, it is. At the end of it, 2006-07, he just wasn’t happy at all. You’d have to ask him why, but he’d probably tell you one thing one week and another the next.’ So it doesn’t sound like the original New Order will ever get back together. ‘Not at the moment,’ he laughs, ‘but I’ve learned to never say never.’
Morris echoes this last sentiment, although he says he would always be the one accused of sitting on the fence in disagreements between Hook and Sumner. ‘Never stand in the middle of two people having a fight, because you’ll always come off worse,’ he says. ‘Although there’s never actually been that many stand-up screaming rows, really. If you have them every so often it sorts things out a bit, but it’s more when you let things slide, the resentment grows and grows and grows and there’s no way back.’ So not enough arguments, that was New Order’s problem? ‘I’m not saying they’re a good thing in themselves, but they’re a good way of sorting out your problems, he says. ‘And you do feel better after you’ve had a good scream, so I’m told.’
Regardless of personnel arrangements, New Order’s future after the current lengthy tour is very much a work in progress. ‘Nobody sells records any more and the only way you can actually do anything is to go out and play live,’ says Morris, hinting at another reason as to the decision to reform.
So will they ever record again? ‘That’s the next logical step, but the world’s a very different place to when we started up. What would you do? Nowadays who actually listens to the tracks on an album, anyway? I’d like to do something quite quickly, rather than spend ages writing fifteen tracks. So an EP or a download single sometime next year, if it happens at all.’
O2 Academy, Glasgow, Sat 5 May; Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Sun 6 May; T in the Park, near Kinross, Fri 6 Jul.