The latest episode of Rock Family Trees looks at Factory, the record company that gave the world Joy Division, New Order and Happy Mondays. Label boss TONY WILSON, a man who speaks in hyperbolic soundbites, trumpets his musical legacy.
Words: Peter Ross
Rm-k l-‘umily Trees. the excellent documentary series which traces the connections between seminal bands and scenes. is examining New Order and Factory. the record label which they helped make legendary.
Tony Wilson. who is intcryiewed for .’lll(l (iml (ll’U/(‘d .l/lum‘liesler (along with all of New Order. Bez. and members of Bill/cocks. Monaco and The Smiths) formed Factory Records in Manchester in 1978. Intense post-punkers Joy l)i\'ision recorded two classic studio albums for the label ~ ('nknmrn l’leusures and (laser -— before the singer lan (‘urtis killed himself in ION).
With guitarist Bernard Sumner stepping in on yocals and (iillian (iilbert recruited on keyboards. New Order released a flood of classic tunes on l’actory. including l982‘s 'Blue Monday' — still the biggest selling 12in of all time. The 'Ii'r'lmiqm' album of 198‘) was a perfect synthesis of dance and rock. influenced by the lbi/a house club scene.
Wilson also opened the Hacienda club in Manchester. signing a legally-challenged bunch of locals who were regularly out of it on the dance floor. The Happy Mondays defined the ‘Madchestei’ sound with their rolling rhythms and wasted-sounding yocals. Staggeringly. for such a critically and commercially successful label. l‘actory went bust in l‘)()2.
'Shaun Ryder is the greatest lyric-writer since Bob Dylan.’
s. V ..
Factory workers: New Order
‘Shaun Ryder is the greatest lyric-writer since Bob Dylan and Barney is one of the greatest producers of all time.’ says Wilson. who is now running the reyiyed liactory and is as gobby as ever. 'There are probably around 4() acts in the history of rock ’n’ roll since 1956 who haye changed music. Joy Division/New Order are a yery significant one of those 40.‘
This is a man — part white-collar wideboy. part scally cultural theorist — who really understands pop and his place in it. The perfect interviewee. in fact. for Rock Family 'Ii'ees‘.
'Rock music in the 7()s had become this oyerblown thing which needed blowing apart by the simplicity of punk.‘ he says. ‘But punk was only able to express really simple emotion like “fuck off“. Sooner or later. someone was gonna want to express more complex emotions. but growing from punk‘s simplicity of instrumentation and approach. That was what Joy l)i\'ision did.
‘liyery mox‘e forward in culture is accompanied by a change in the technology of the recording studio. New Order were into early synthesisers and Apple Macs; the world of electronic music begins with them.
Wilson doesn‘t mean to suggest that New Order inyented dance music. He is excellent at tracing the American influence on British raye culture and recalls its impact on the Happy Mondays.
‘When you went into the back room during the limnmml sessions there were no lights on and you staggered on these black IZin yinyl things lying all over the fioor — it was just house music everywhere.’ he says.
Happily. Wilson is also able to confirm that New Order. who are now signed to London and haye recently returned to the liye arena despite a long-rumoured split. will be making another record.
“By the year 2()()() there will be another New Order album. belieye me.‘ he insists. 'There's no new material yet. but they‘ll do some. I haye no doubt.‘
And God Created Manchester, BBCZ, Fri 9 Oct, 11.15pm. Tony Wilson is in conversation with Bez, Waterstones, Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, Thu 15 Oct, 6pm.
Celebrity sofa surfing. This issue: Declan Donnelly from po-mo pop combo turned telly team Ant and Dec.
What’s your favourite television programme, Dec?
I've got qurte a few at the moment,
at tually I think The Roy/e Family \"y’lili Caroline Aherne is brilliant In terms of all time greats though, The Simpsons is a (onstant favourite
What do you like to gorge yourself on when sitting in front of the old idiot box?
Crisps and lager. But every night | indulge, it requires a day at the gym to (ancel out the effects
If you went on Stars In Their Eyes who would you be?
If Ant and me went on, we'd probably do The Pet Shop Boys. But I don’t know who I’d do if it was Just me.
What do you reckon is the best ever television theme tune?
I think the Big Band ones from the 608 and 70s are far and away the best. Out of those, I'd have to say Tee Persuaaers,
7’"? H«"I"7,<,«"I"s and ﬁssion i'noossoze.
If you could book the acts for Top Of The Pops which bands, past or the present, would you have on? That's an easy one It WOUId have to be The Beatles and The Monkees.
Ant and De( (‘o-present SMTV L/ve wrtli Cat Dee/ey, Scott/sh, Sats‘, 9.25am
8- 22 Oct 1998 THE “ST 105