Stephen Morris


Launching his autobiography by having a chat with local writer and DJ Dave Haslam, Joy Division and New Order’s drumming legend Stephen Morris is in fine form. Although guitarist and frontman Bernard Sumner and former bassist Peter Hook have already released their autobiographies, Morris states that this is “his side” of events, although he does admit to getting a bit carried away once he started, hence the full autobiography being split into two volumes, with the launch of Volume 1 tonight. “I didn’t understand what the word count was for,” he had to explain to his publisher. “I thought the numbers were like going for a high score on Space Invaders or something!” So Volume 1 covers the Joy Division and early New Order stories with Volume 2, already written, covering the rest of the story so far.

Haslam has the probing interview technique down to a fine art, having previously done similar events with Bernard Sumner and Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth) to name just two; he knows when to enquire further and when to just let the stories flow, and Morris doesn’t hold back. They start with the Joy Division days and Morris’ recollections of the last time he saw his friend and Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, which was ironically almost outside tonight’s venue on Oxford Road.

Morris had recommended a Mexican Restaurant to Ian called Amigos, now long gone: “It was something new, burritos were like nothing we’d ever had before!” So Morris dropped him off, both chatting excitedly about the forthcoming American tour which they were due to start on Monday. “See you Monday”, “Yeah see you Monday” was the last conversation they had. Morris also admitted to not recognising the media description of his friend and bandmate Curtis after he’d died: “The real Ian laughed a lot, smiled a lot and was a bit accident prone, and they were all painting him as this tragic figure, so when I first heard he’d died, I was thinking ‘he’s probably fallen over and banged his head on or something’, none of us had any idea what was really going on”. Haslam and Morris go on to discuss how in that era, people just didn’t talk about their problems, with Ian keeping his problems mostly to himself, meaning they all just cracked on with a hectic touring schedule, trying to enjoy life in a band on the rise.

The tales of how Morris met his wife and future bandmate Gillian Gilbert are discussed and reveal stories which are both funny and affectionate. Gilbert used to rehearse with her band, The Inadequates, in the same rehearsal rooms as Joy Division. Morris recalled the band all “getting a bit giddy” when they realised there were females just down the corridor, and as he was the one with the car, “a Ford Cortina”, he offered to drive them home with their gear, and that’s how it began over a mutual love of music, in a Ford Cortina!

Haslam also asks him to read out a postcard (reprinted in the book) which Morris sent to Gilbert in the early days of their blossoming relationship, and it’s hilarious – as poetic as a take-away menu, but with a subtle affectionate tone that shines throughout: “Dear Gillian, I am in Eindhoven at the moment, just eaten a Mars bar,” and “Things are getting a bit silly generally speaking, PA problems, getting out of bed etc, but I am confident that things will get worse”. Other topics discussed included their manager, the late Rob Gretton, who would always tell them all to “sit in the corner and shut up” during interviews to let Ian talk as he was the “clever one”, but would invariably end up with Rob taking over the interview, with his effervescent enthusiasm for the band, and how in hindsight, him and Gilbert (as The Other Two) shouldn’t have named their debut single after a chippy on Stockport Road, although ‘Tasty Fish’ is actually a damn fine tune.

Questions from the audience include: his favourite Joy Division song (‘Colony’) and New Order song (‘Temptation’), as well as the secret to a long and happy relationship: “play drums and ask the wife to play keyboards”.

Morris truly has the art of the anecdote, and is a great storyteller, with a comedian’s timing and witty sarcastic tone. There are so many times during the interview where the audience are in hysterics, I even had tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks at one point, his stories and the manner in which he delivers them are so hilariously brilliant. It’s just another reason to buy the book, and if you’re lucky enough to be in a town he’s visiting on this book launch tour, do yourself a favour and go along to hear them first hand. Hugely entertaining stuff!

Stephen Morris: Twitter

From the early days of creating handmade zines, in a DIY paper and glue style, interviewing bands around town, then pestering Piccadilly Records to sell them, to writing for various independent mags such as Chimp and Ablaze, writing about the music I love is still a great passion. After testing the music industry waters in London with stints at various labels, being back in my hometown again, writing about this city’s vibrant music scene is as exciting as ever. All time favourite bands include Sonic Youth, Nick Cave, Patti Smith although anything from electro to folk via blues and pysch rock will also do nicely too. A great album, is simply a great album, regardless of whatever musical cage you put it in.