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NEW ORDER A Welcome Reunion

Gillian Gilbert is at the home she shares with husband/New Order drummer Steven Morris and their two children when X-Press calls. The keyboardist, guitarist and vocalist tells LEIGH SALTER that she’s a little surprised to be back. New Order play Future Music Festival on Sunday, March 4, at Arena Joondalup. The 32nd inconsistent year of iconic English band New Order’s existence is upon us and Gillian Gilbert, as with each member at some point or other, is a little surprised to be back.“You just never know with this band what to expect, really,” she says down the line from her home. However, New Order’s latest reunion is a very different story to previous times. The silence that followed the band’s last album, 2005’s Waiting For The Siren’s Call, was broken by a statement in 2007 - apparently from within the group’s ranks – that New Order were “no more and never likely to be again.” Long hiatus and widespread rumours of inband fighting have blighted New Order since their first split in 1990. At the time, it seemed unbelievable that the band whose legend developed - not years after relevancy but with each album and single released would quietly bow out at the end of the 1980s with a whimper. However, in the following two decades, reunions, further splits and stories surrounding New Order’s disharmony occurred at the frequency they once released music, while fans waited for sporadic tours or albums, which always suggested a possible reconciliation. The last time New Order ‘split for good’, (ex) bassist Peter Hook was, it turned out, the only one at that meeting. His subsequent plundering of Joy Division’s back catalogue and threats of legal action against the remainder of New Order (for using

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New Order the name) are matters of public knowledge, but New Order’s surprise return in late 2011 suggests a solidarity within the group still exists and is willed to power in the roughest of times. Bernard Sumner, Gillian Gilbert and Steven Morris began touring again as New Order last year with new bassist Tom Chapman and additional guitarist Phil Cunningham. On the eve of their first Australian visit with the new line-up - and with no new album to promote – Gilbert surely speaks for the whole band when she says that this reunion was a “tentative one”. “We didn’t really know how it [touring a new line-up] was going be received by the New Order fans or if the interest would even still be there,” she says. “But we have come to think of this time as like a new beginning, really.” The first New Order show without Hook was intended as a one-off benefit gig for long-time friend of New Order’s, Michael Shamberg – a film producer responsible for the bulk of New Order’s stylish and surreal music videos - who became terminally ill. It was also the first show to feature Gilbert back behind the keyboard following her indefinite departure some 12 years ago to look after her sick daughter, “I missed just being with everybody,” she says. “It took me a long time to get used to not being in New Order.” The

line-up was completed by members of Sumner’s other band, Bad Lieutenant, but the obvious Hook-shaped hole in the band raised potential problems for the long term. “We were quite scared about doing a fully fledged tour with new band members because we had to of course work out if Tom could cope with such a big part to play,” she says.“So instead of barging back into the spotlight, as it were, and announcing some big ‘come-back‘ tour, we took small steps.” Tom Chapman will inevitably be compared to Hook at every show on the tour but, Gilbert notes, it’s wrong to assume he’s merely imitating. “Tom isn’t copying Hooky; he has his own style of playing. Tom wasn’t there when we recorded those songs and so it stands to reason that he hears them differently to Hooky and has his own take on them.” New members aside, the current New Order live show reflects on the band’s past now more than ever before and the visual identity created around New Order’s music.“In the past it was always about touring to promote a new album or whatever but preparing for Michael Shamberg’s benefit concert forced us to listen to a lot of our older material – some of which we haven’t played live since the ‘80s – and create a set list to go along with a lot of the videos he produced,”

she reveals. The videos - Blue Monday’s oddly posed dogs, Bizarre Love Triangle’s falling business men and True Faith’s mime artists gone feral - have become as iconic as the songs themselves and Gilbert agrees.“I’ve always loved what he did with True Faith in particular,” she says. “I remember Radio One refused to play it unless we changed some of the words.” The original lyric “Now that we’ve grown up together/they’re all taking drugs with me” was tamed down to “Now that we’ve grown up together/they’re afraid of what they see”. “It was never about promoting or glamorising anything though,” she continues. “Meanwhile, nearly every song on the radio now it seems is loaded with drug references, only it doesn’t seem to be an issue anymore. “Some things way out of our control have stopped us or slowed us down, but… I think in a way the band is bigger than us as individuals, which makes it easier to carry on in the face of… whatever the universe can throw at us.” She stops short of mentioning Hook even though she’s - perhaps personally - made her peace with him. “I think with this group getting back together, we knew it [Hook’s objection] would be just another battle in a long line to get through.” She grins, adding “But in New Order, that’s just how we play.”

X-Press – First on the street, Wednesdays

X-Press Magazine #1306  

Wednesday 22nd February, 2012