New Order's Stephen Morris Talks First Album Without Peter Hook
Published Aug 10, 2015In 2011, when New Order announced that they would return to business without original member Peter Hook in the band, fans wondered just how long they could go on without the iconic bassist. Although Hook was busy doing his own New Order- and Joy Division-themed work, remaining members Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert reassembled a new version of the band with long-time contributor Phil Cunningham and new bassist Tom Chapman for a world tour. The revitalization wasn't just successful on the road, but in the studio, and so New Order proceeded to make their ninth official full-length album.
New Order are aware of the doubts that come with a Hook-less album, but they aren't too bothered by what other people think.
"The thing is, you make a piece of music and you make it the best that you can," Morris tells Exclaim! "And some people are gonna like it, and some people will think it's crap. I can't do anything about what other people think. It's up to them, really. We've just made the best record we can."
Music Complete (out via Mute on September 25) was made with a stacked cast of contributors. Along with Cunningham and Chapman, Tom Rowlands (Chemical Brothers), Stuart Price and Richard X all helped with production, and Elly Jackson (La Roux), Iggy Pop and Brandon Flowers (the Killers) chipped in vocals. And even with all of those names involved, Morris and the band were aware that their long-time bassist was not involved. That awareness, however, helped them more than anything.
"That's part of what made me think differently [on this album]," he explains. "Unconsciously, it did make us work in a different way because we were working with Tom and we weren't working with Peter. So we'd go about things in a different way. Just that fact, really, made it different. It changed, but it didn't make it any more difficult or easier. I think it definitely contributed to us concentrating on the music and trying harder."
When the band began working on Music Complete with Rowlands in 2013, they quickly decided they wanted to make an album that took them back to the days when the synthesizer ruled their music. For Morris, it was hearing the work of London's Factory Floor that inspired this decision.
"I'd got this CD back in 2011 by a band called Factory Floor, and I just thought it was the most amazing thing I'd heard for ages," he says. "It reminded me of the way that New Order used to use electronics, both dance-y and rock-y, something we hadn't done for a while. And I kind of felt that we should go back to doing using synths instead of guitars.
"I think on this record we approached writing in a different way and we concentrated more on beats and using synths and bass lines first, and then guitars," he adds. "The last couple of records we'd done it the other way around: come up with guitar riffs, and then put synths and bass with that. It made us think about it in a different way and try a bit harder."
As for the album's title, Morris knows Music Complete is being interpreted as a swan song, but he just chalks it up as another example of "New Order and their strange relationship with titles."
"Music Complete came from Bernard saying, 'Let's call it musique concrète,'" he explains. "But we couldn't call it that, so we said, 'Let's call it Music Complete.' And for some reason that became the title. Everybody liked it most. We hadn't even thought about it having a sense of finality about it. We never thought that it sounds like it'd be the last album we're doing. And also we never thought that it sounds like another New Order compilation album, which I think the world's got enough of, quite honestly. It was the best title we could come up with, because we do the title last. And it's sort of summed up the fact that it's all styles of music. It isn't all dance, but a lot of different things in it. Music Complete explained it best."
Various editions of Music Complete, including vinyl and box sets, can be pre-ordered here.