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Scanner To Rework Joy Division Songs
The Quietus , September 21st, 2011 12:44

To take place at the De La Warr Pavilion

What with the strip-mining of Joy Division's history and back catalogue in recent years, it's refreshing to hear of an event that promises to be rather rewarding. On February 4th 2012, Robin 'Scanner' Rimbaud will be performing with the Heritage Orchestra to "create a new visual and auditory sensation driven by the music of Joy Division." This, says the De La Warr website will "pay homage to the atmosphere, attitude and narrative of Joy Division and utilizes key musical motifs or harmonies as its musical inspiration." We dropped Robin Rimbaud a line to ask him some questions about the project. So Mr Scanner, how did it all come about?

Robin Rimbaud: For some time I've been in conversation with curator Laura Ducceschi at De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill about creating some very unique, especially since I performed variations on Bach Canatas with pianist Joanna MacGregor a couple of years back which turned out to be a great success. This very open conversation was then extended to Chris Wheeler, director of Heritage Orchestra, and Laura conjured up this concept and here we are today.

Were you a Joy Division fan in your youth? If so, what did they mean to you?

RR: They hold a very personal resonance in my own upbringing since Ian Curtis took his life at the very same time that my father died. I was just about to turn sixteen when my father, who was a well-liked motorcycle journalist at the time, crashed his bike on a race track being filmed for television broadcast. It was a very public incident that was extremely problematic for an introverted teenager to cope with and the music of JD and Nick Drake at the time were the soundtrack to some very complex times ahead. I vividly remember buying my vinyl copies of both JD albums at the time in an Our Price record store in Leicester Square and being undercharged and feeling the trembling thrill of this at the gloomiest moment in reality. Epic, understated, iconographic, grand yet architecturally flawless, JD were a rich part of my youth and have remained so through my own growth. I’ve remained a faithful listener and followed the career of Peter Saville the graphic artist with especial attention since then.

Did you have any reservations about working with Joy Division's music?

RR: Goodness, naturally, it's an incredibly complex and responsible process to undertake. The performance will have a narrative thread, following through certain key songs of the period, though these will not be accurate cover versions or re-interpretations, since our intention is more to offer a suggestion of where JD might be today if they were working with an orchestra, electronics and digital technologies. The strength of Joy Division's work speaks for itself so our intention is to search between the notes sometimes, to take them apart and find new stories within the harmonies, the shapes, the rhythms.

What was your intention with the project?

RR: It's an attempt to consider a minor piece of time-travel – how would JD operate these days? If Ian Curtis had toured with the band to the USA and continued, and New Order had not existed what kind of a creative voice would they offer today and given the rich sonic architecture of an orchestra what new heights would be reached?

How was it working with the Heritage Orchestra?

RR: The process has only just begun but a lot of trust is being left in the relatively capable digits of Studio Scanner and his superhero powers. I am acting as Musical Director which suggests I might get to wear a bow tie and wave a wand around at other players but let's see in actuality. I'm composing the mainframe around which everything else will be developed. Jules Buckley of Heritage Orchestra will then orchestrate and conduct the final work in performance, with a set up of electric guitar, bass, drums, synth, strings, brass, woodwind, percussion and piano. I will also be performing the electronic parts of this live.

What do you make to other interpretations of Joy Division's music - eg Jeremy Deller's Manchester parade steel drum version?

RR: There have been a variety of projects over the years, which have all in their own way tried to remain faithful to the original songs, whereas we are trying to project into an impossible to know future. Let's hope that this show will be the first of many of these explorations.

To find out more, visit the De La Warr website