New Joy Division Box Set: Q & A With Stephen Morris
, December 6th, 2010 06:47
The Quietus speaks to former Joy Division and New Order drummer about the release of +-
There's nothing The Quietus treasures more than a good vinyl box set - especially at this time of year - so imagine our delight when the release of Joy Division's +- was announced: a collection of seven inch vinyl discs hand picked by Jon Savage, remastered by drummer Stephen Morris, and with limited edition artwork designed by long term Joy Division collaborator Peter Saville. The box set marks the 30th year since singer Ian Curtis's death.
You can find out more information about the box set, which was released today, by clicking here. In the meantime, The Quietus caught up with Stephen Morris to discuss the remastering process, teething problems, whether he had to keep a snarling Barney and Peter apart, and similar plans for a New Order singles box set...
How did the idea of a new Joy Division Box Set come about? And why did you think it was an appropriate way to celebrate Ian's memory?
Stephen Morris: The idea came as part of the 30 year commemorative event in Macclesfield in May this year. Warners/Rhino thought that it would be good to release something to coincide with that. The idea of putting all the singles together in a box seemed like the best one rather than yet another compilation CD. The Macclesfield show ended up being a very much smaller thing than originally planned and was fraught with problems, but the box set project persisted. It was a shame the Macclesfield event to celebrate Ian's life (30 years on and all that) didn't quite go as planned, but +- being just about the music is just as important.
You said that ideally, the collection would have come out in May. Did the remastering and track selection take longer than you thought? Did you encounter any sort of teething problems along the way?
SM: After the "problems" with the New Order remastering I was adamant that we shouldn't be rushed into putting something out that wasn't as good as it could be. The track selection (with the exception of the imaginary 10th single) was the easiest bit. Going through all the tapes and finding the best versions of each song was probably the most time consuming, as some of Martin's and our own notes and labelling were a bit wayward. It was really listening to a lot of stuff, including some versions I'd forgotten about and deciding what sounded the best. A bit of a trainspottery kind of job, but it did need doing.
How did Jon Savage get involved in the track listing? And how much involvement in selecting the tracks did you and the rest of the band have? With the current tension between Bernard and Hooky, did you have to play mediator at all? Or did everyone put their differences aside to make sure it was a great compilation?
SM: Jon was really closely involved with putting together the Macclesfield event, and that spilled over into the box set too. Before that he had written the Joy Division documentary so he had some good opinions on what tracks should go where. He has also contributed some fantastic notes for the itunes virtual version of _+-_ as well as working on the box. I didn't have to do any mediator type stuff at all, really, as everyone was happy to let me get on with it. I haven't had any complaints... yet.
How did you go about choosing the tracks which hadn't previously been released as 7 inches? Is it fair to see this as the release trajectory Joy Division would have taken?
SM: It was purely imaginary, but when we worked out how to fit all the tracks on to 7" we ended up with 9 discs which is not a good number. So, some sort of poetic license was invoked to even it out.
Joy Division were against the idea of taking singles off albums so, if I'm honest, I don't think we would have taken a single off Closer. We would most likely have done 'Ceremony' as the next single, but we will never know for sure. That's not to say that 'Isolation' and 'Heart and Soul' wouldn't have made a good single.
How important was it that Peter Saville, as someone whose artwork was integral to the original Joy Division releases, was involved in the project?
SM: It was great that Peter got involved with the artwork for the box set. It wouldn't have felt right to do it without him, and I can't wait to see his extremely limited edition artwork piece as I really have no idea what it is. Some things never change...
There have been a couple of Joy Division box sets and compilations before, so what do you think makes this one unique?
SM: The thing about Joy Division is there is only a finite amount of stuff. It's not like there are hundreds of unreleased tracks,so really with +- we've just tried to make the singles sound and look as good as they could do. Even though this is a vinyl set, I think the i tunes album version is a very interesting idea and it's the first time that Joy Division have done an internet release of some kind - better late than never.
Can we expect to see anything similar with regards to New Order in the future?
SM: Funny you should say that - yes, we are thinking of doing a complete New Order singles boxset. I still like the idea of doing just an empty box (a really nice empty box of course) and putting out absolutely everything as a series of records/CDs/downloads that you could choose to customise your box with. That's my Pick and Mix idea - probably extremely expensive and a bit mad really. One of the problems that I find with box sets generally is that no matter what you do there is always something missing; leaving the final selection to the listener might get round that.
A New Order singles box should be as comprehensive as possible, but done in a way that is still listenable. It's going to be quite a challenge but hopefully a lot of fun. It's something that will take a lot of thought.
Coming this week: Stephen Morris tells The Quietus about his favourite 13 albums...
Tracklisting for +-:
1B. Leaders Of Men
2A: 'No Love Lost'
4B: 'From Safety To Where'
6B: 'Dead Souls'
7B1: 'Incubation' 7B2: 'As You Said'
8A: 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'
8B: 'These Days'
9A: 'She's Lost Control' (12-inch Version)
9B: 'Love Will Tear Us Apart 2' (Pennine Version)
10B: 'Heart And Soul'