|Ian Curtis Radio Blackburn
Recorded 28th February 1980 at Preston Warehouse
(Also known as the Radio Lancashire interview)
|Ian Curtis was interviewed by Spider in a room above the Warehouse prior to the band's performance that evening. Steve Barker was the sound man who recorded the interview and both men have shared their recollections with us, see below.|
|The interview was originally broadcast in March 1980 and another edit, including some previously unheard snippets, were also aired on BBC Manchester in 1988. Unofficial recordings of both broadcasts exist. Mark Gale has pieced together the logical sequence of questions from a number of sources ..|
March 1980 broadcast
1. Unknown - missing from the only recording currently available (something along the lines of "Can you tell us a little about Joy Division got together" or, "How has the band evolved?"
(First part of Ian's answer also missing)
... improved as musicians, obviously, from when we first started, we couldn't play at all really. Bernard, the guitarist had been playing for a few months, Peter the bass player had just started from scratch, I'd never been in a group before. I think in the beginning it was just something we wanted to do, y'know, just to get up there and play. But after about six months or so we started looking at the music and what we wanted to say more seriously.
2. You've been compared to The Banshees and more often than that The Doors. what do you think of comparisons like that?
I don't agree with them really. I mean it's pointless making comparisons really because you tend to get tied down to one particular type of sound. I think it's a lot easier for the music papers to do something like that because they like to get you boxed in, so they can say Ok, this group belongs to this category and this group belongs to this category. But I'd like to think that we don't belong to any category, y'know the music cuts across different things. I think, y'know, we never had any intention of saying we want to sound like this, or we want to sound like that. It's just what comes out at the time.
3. What sort of influences would you admit then?
ooh, (pause), things that influence me I think are mostly people. I can remember some sort of very good friends when I was 16 or so, sort of growing up at that time, their outlook at that time, sort of our outlooks together sort of shaped my outlook for the next couple of years. If I'm listening to music it tends to be the persons attitude towards the music they're making that influences me more than the actual music that's played. I can remember certain odd singles I remember hearing a few years ago that remind me of a certain point in time when something happened, y'know, and I tend to look on things like that a lot more than say a certain artist let's say, oh I'll buy all his LP's, this is a person or this is a music I like. So odd little things, or odd LP's that er, remind me of certain things that sort of made me think, y'know, that's right.
4. Your lyrics seem to concentrate on industrial or urban decay do you feel the band has any answer to those? Or our you just reporting on it?
Personally I wouldn't say we deal too much in that. the way I look at it , and the way I write, it's more to do with personal relations and the way people can cope with certain things. Within that, I tend to be more interested in people and how they look at things in different ways and different people can cope with certain problems and how we can adapt and such like. I don't like grouping things together more, I prefer to think of everyone as an individual really. I can see different things cropping up in different people's lives, or whatever, that's totally different from other people. I wouldn't like to sort of make a statement on sort of a vast vast subject.
5. What sort of relationships do you have with other Manchester bands?
We tend to be pretty isolated now really apart from the Factory groups. We have a lot to do with the other groups on Factory. So we tend to play a lot of gigs with them and ... there's other things like erm the Durutti Column LP - the sandpaper sleeve - we stuck that on. So everyone helps each other with stuff like that. But groups like the Buzzcocks we knew when we started really. You know when we sort of see them we talk to them but it's not very often. We'd like to, you know, see a lot more of other Manchester groups. Any other groups in general.
6. What do you think of the state of New Wave.
Don't know, I think it's, a lot of it tends to have lost its edge really. There's quite a few newer groups that I've heard odd records of or have seen maybe.
I like the groups on Factory; A Certain Ratio and Section 25. Erm .. I tend not to listen, when I'm listening to records, I don't listen to much new wave stuff, I tend to listen to the stuff I used to listen to a few years back, sort of odd singles, I know someone who works in a record shop where I live and I'll go in there and he'll play me, have you heard this single? There's singles by a group called "The Tights" (an obscure thing) and a group called, I think, "Bauhaus", a London group just one single. There's no one I can say I completely like, I can never say really I like such and such a group coz there's always something I don't like about them (laughs); you know, funny really, I can pick out odd, odd tracks or, eh, odd albums or singles, but it'll end at that, there's not, there's no-one I can say I've got all this persons records, and I think he's great, or this groups records, again odd things.
7. Do you have any plans of gigging outside this country?
We've played in Europe already in Holland and Germany and we are going to America. We're only going for er, I think they wanted us to go for about 3 months or so, but we're only going for about 2 weeks, 3 weeks, and rough trade will probably be organising that. i think we're going with Cabaret Voltaire. I like those, (laughs) they're a good group, I forgot about them. Yeah but, we tend to do what we want really. We play the music we want to play and we play the places we want to play. I'd hate to be on the usual record company where you get an album out and you do a tour and you do all the Odeon's and this that and the other. I couldn't just do that at all. We had a bad experience of that supporting the Buzzcocks. It was really soul destroying, you know, at the end of it. We said we'd never tour ... and we'll never do a tour I don't think - or if we do it won't be longer than about two weeks.
8. Ian, what is your relationship with Factory Records?
It's very good, sort of friends, everyone knows each other it's all 50:50. Everything's split.
Doesn't it seem a bit insular the Factory set up?
Don't know I suppose to somebody looking at it from the outside I suppose it is really. I mean you're not pressurised into having to sign ... like you know get a normal record company - they're always looking for the next group for the next big thing ... you know ... to bring the record sales in and for them to promote and everything but Factory just sign who they want to, put records by who they want to out, package it how they want to, you know, how they like doing it. It's just run like that. You might get a spurt of 3 singles out - you might not see anything for the next 6 months. You know. I like the relationship.
9. A couple of tracks on Earcom 2 - How did you get involved in that, an Edinburgh company?
Yeah, it was when we started playing we played a few dates with The Rezillo's, Bob Last was their manager at the time and he talked then about setting up his own record label, and he wanted us to do a single for 'em. But, due to Factory coming along and other and other things, he did a Gang of 4 and the Human league first and sort of tied in in a management way with the Human League , I think he manages them, it never came about. When we were doing the album we had quite a few tracks left over we recorded sixteen in all and just put ten, our manager Rob Gretton talked to him about certain things, had always kept in touch, we'd always sort of kept in touch, he mentioned his idea for Earcom, we just offered him the 2 tracks to put out on that . we like to get everything we record out, one way or another, like we've doing the Earcom and we're doing the Sordide Sentimentale which is a French limited edition magazine come record thing. There's two tracks on that will be coming out that won't be on an album or a single. It's just that we like getting as much stuff out as we can really, in some form or another
Y'know it's often hard with factory because obviously they're limited financially, y'know they can't just put out a record y'know when they've got other things planned, erm if we've no room on the LP we tend to look for other outlets for them really and see what we can do.
10. Where do you see or want Joy Division to end or go to?
I just want us to carry on the way we are really. Basically, we want to play and enjoy playing. I think when stop doing that I think, well, that will be the time to pack it in, that'll be the end.
INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL “SPIDER” SWEENEY – 3RD SEPTEMBER 2020
BACKGROUND: On the 28th February, 1980 Spider interviewed Ian Curtis for the BBC Radio Blackburn programme “Spin Off”.
The interview took place upstairs at the concert venue, The Warehouse, Preston prior to the bands performance that evening.
Some 40 years later we have finally managed to track the interviewer down and here for the first time we are able to hear his first hand account of perhaps the most iconic of all the Joy Division interviews.
Can you tell us how the opportunity to interview Ian Curtis came about Spider?
It was a very busy time. I started as a DJ at the Talbot in in Burnley.
I say started but basically I got so bored with the music that was being played that I told the then DJ - `Boris` that he needed to start playing some punk.
He told me that if I could do any better and had the records he would give me a chance.
I turned up the following week with about 30 to 40 singles (this was mid 1977).
He was a real gent and I respect him to this day and he let me have a go.
Eventually it became my night - a shit Tuesday night - but it got busy.
This was by now the late 70`s.
For fuck sake there was nothing else to do.
We had three TV channels, no social media and no future the economy had tanked - mass unemployment was our inheritance.
Most of us were either too young, or looked too young get into pubs apart from the cellar at the Talbot.
A sort of scene developed and thanks to Mid-Pennine Arts and a wonderful bloke called Simon Lanzon we were given a space in an old abandoned Methodist Church.
The Musicians Collective was formed.
We started to get more local bands and began to get noticed.
There were links between ourselves and the Manchester bands and venues such as the `Band on the Wall` - largely through the Notsensibles
We eventually became a `curiosity` for the North West media - so they came to see us.
It wasn`t TV`s best moment - an old, but much loved, TV reporter came to interview a room full of under 20`s punks.
Some people are kinder than I and think it was ok.
Really!!! I do not agree with that.
I carried on DJing and tagged along with the Notsensibles and then was given the opportunity to interview Ian of `Joy Division`.
So. . . . .
The questions you came up with were really insightful. Much better than most of the music journalists could manage back then. Can you remember much about the process of compiling your list of questions?
I did not prepare anything. We just sat down at a table facing each other and had a conversation about the music we liked amongst other things.
There seems to be a lot of BS that has been lost from the tape - I can assure you that it is probably not worth finding.
Ian was very quiet but interested in what I was asking him.
The questions basically flowed from our conversation.
To this day I cannot think that it was an `interview` it just felt so natural. We were two blokes having a conversation.
I did bring with me a few misconceptions about JD but left the interview/conversation really liking Ian and the band.
The question that raised comparisons with the `Doors` and `Siouxsie` was because there was a starkness to their sound and lyric that seemed to me as comparable.
Both the `Doors` and `Siouxsie` sang about being different, apart and not in line with societies norms.
It kinda struck a chord with me and my mates.
With regard to the record labels - again, as I said at the time, I was really into the `Fast` (Gang of Four, and the very wonderful `Scars` that no one remembers) record label. He favoured `Factory` who I also liked.
Back then, and I suspect even now, most of the good stuff comes out of indie studios or is now homegrown.
The first question is missing from all the existing recordings of the interview, something to do with how JD have "improved" or changed? Can you remember what it was?
About my original question.
I really cannot remember.
It was just so nice to sit in a quiet room across from someone I quietly admired and knew we were going to have a conversation.
This was not a Mills and Boon moment. It was at a nightclub and it had that wonderful stench of alcohol and tobacco which is now sadly missing.
What do you remember about the interview with Ian?
It was indeed a pre-gig interview - originally it was only scheduled for about 10 mins but went on a bit longer.
We were upstairs at the `Warehouse` in Preston and it was very quiet. I think we could have talked for longer by just bouncing off ideas that came to us as we discussed the music that we liked.
Ian - I really do not know what more to say about Ian other than he was kind, intelligent and someone with real feelings.
He was a quiet gent who I respected far more than I expected that I would.
You recorded the interview on tapes. Any idea what happened to them?
I would love to get my hands on the original tapes but I really do not have any idea what happened to them.
I suspect that they no longer exist.
Shame, but back then no one imagined that in 40 years we would still be having conversations about punk.
Punk was the music of the moment and times.
However, like all great music, it still has a relevance today.
Punk grew out of shitty underground gigs which are either closed or being closed.
Covent Garden and Soho have become ` gentrified` - soulless.
Small pubs and clubs, are and always have been, the seed beds of new music.
We need to protect them and support them.
© Mark Gale 2020. Not be reproduced without permission.
In Novembers 2015 Joy Division Central's Mark Gale spoke exclusively to Steve Barker from BBC Radio Blackburn, who recorded the interview, and he had this to say:
"You are correct in the assumption of when the interview was broadcast - I think it was March. It was before Ian's death. As far as all the other versions you mentioned these are all bootlegs and unofficial as far as I, and the BBC, are concerned. I would be grateful if you mentioned this in some way, as here in Blackburn we receive little credit for what we have done over the years and this disrespectful, arrogant and greedy approach still goes on to this day. If we had have been asked we would have said yes anyway and we do not wish to hold any copyright or control over this or any other material we generated, but we do expect credit where its due.
The interview was done late afternoon early evening in the background of the soundcheck at the Preston Warehouse. The interview was for the Spinoff show which went out each Tuesday and Thursday evening on Radio Blackburn (now Radio Lancashire). Obviously its a long time ago and I don't recall much detail other than the fact that Ian was very cooperative and friendly, recognised that Spyda was a non-professional and treated him well. I just sat by their side and held the UHER reel-to-reel portable tape machine. The interview was edited by my producer Ian Cook for later broadcast. I may have the tapes somewhere but cannot locate them easily (I did an interview with Jimi Hendrix in 1967 and lost that cassette!) Ian did not show any signs of disturbance or depression, obviously he was not one of those loud, gregarious people - and seemed very quiet spoken and sensitive, serious about his work".
© Mark Gale 2015. Not be reproduced without permission.
See also: On The Wire - Radio Lancashire blog