WHILE HISTORY HAS cast him in monochrome as one of rock’n’roll’s tragic figures, Bernard Sumner describes “a cheery, happy-go-lucky” side to Joy Division’s Ian Curtis in a new interview to coincide with the release of a new New Order album, their first without bassist Peter Hook. Speaking candidly in the MOJO Interview in our new issue (September 2015 / #262), which is on sale now in the UK, the New Order frontman and former Joy Division guitarist explains that Curtis’s personality changed dramatically once he started receiving treatment for epilepsy, and it became very difficult for the rest of the group to understand what has happening to him.
Asked to look back on the lyrics of Joy Division's final album Closer, Sumner concedes the warning signs were there, although impossible to decipher at the time.
“You never knew with Ian whether those lyrics were biographical or whether he was just writing about… a character,” he tells MOJO’s Andrew Male.
“We listened to the vibe more than the actual words, but when we did listen to them we assumed it was some sort of character from the past that he’d met or someone he’d invented. That it wasn’t really about him. But you wouldn’t stop him and go, ‘Ian, are these lyrics about you?’ We just never did it.”
“We should have listened [but] it wouldn’t have changed anything.”
“The other thing you’ve got to remember is, pre the epilepsy and drugs he [Curtis] was just like a cheery, happy-go-lucky bloke, spouting out these heavy words,” says Sumner.
“The lyrics didn’t sound like they were about Ian. After he died, we certainly re-evaluated everything. We should have listened [but] it wouldn’t have changed anything.”
Get the latest issue of MOJO, on sale today in the UK, for the full interview, which covers Sumner’s early life, his relationship and falling-out with Peter Hook, his collaboration with Johnny Marr, plus the past, present and future of New Order.
Listen now to New Order’s new single, Restless, taken from forthcoming album Music Complete...
PHOTO: Andrew Cotterill