Ian Curtis was "radical and unique" says Joy Division bandmates

31 October 2020, 13:00

Joy Division in January 1979 by Kevin Cummins
Joy Division in January 1979 by Kevin Cummins. Picture: Kevin Cummins/Press

In a new podcast, the singer's colleague recall that Curtis was a "good laugh" but was "unpredictable and volatile".

The former members of Joy Division have been remembering their lead singer Ian Curtis, recalling that the late singer could be "unpredictable and volatile" but also a "good laugh".

Speaking on a new podcast, Transmissions - The Definitive Story, Joy Division guitarist Bernard Sumner claims that despite the photo shoots of the band portraying the singer as a "tortured artist", the truth was somewhat different.

"He wasn't like that really," says Sumner. "He was a good laugh - a really good laugh.

"But was unpredictable - he'd say one thing and do another, which was a bit annoying at times. He could be a bit volatile. Which is fair enough."

Ian Curtis took his own life in May 1980 aged just 23 years old. The rest of the band continued as the hugely successful New Order.

"He believed that everything should be radical," continues Sumner. "That the music we made should be radical and pushed to the edge, which was a good philosophy. It's easier to do that when you're young, because that's how you feel."

The guitarist remembers going to Ian's house and being played Iggy Pop's new album The Idiot by the singer: "I’d never heard Iggy Pop before. He played China Girl off that album and I thought this is great, this is really, really great and fell in love with it straight away. I thought… this is the guy.”

But Sumner also recalled a time when Curtis showed his explosive side.

"We were in a hotel once, I can't remember where. Derby or somewhere like that. He used the phone - we weren't used to staying in hotels and they'd charge you a fortune. He called home and they charged him ten pounds for being on for like two minutes. He got in a real fit about it. He was fuming - he had a massive argument about it."

Bernard Sumner and Ian Curtis performing onstage as Joy Division in March 1979
Bernard Sumner and Ian Curtis performing onstage as Joy Division in March 1979. Picture: Martin O'Neill/Redferns/Getty Images

Bassist Peter Hook remembers the first time he met Ian Curtis at a gig in Manchester: “He was easy to spot, he had a donkey jacket with 'HATE’ on the back in orange paint. If someone had shown you the front of him first and said what do you think this guy’s got written on his back? You would’ve gone ‘Pussycats? Kittens?’ Not HATE in fluorescent capital letters. He was unique. And he stuck out."

Hook continues: "Our dream became an all-consuming passion and nothing was gonna stop you. And even if it stopped you, Ian Curtis was not going to allow it to stop you, because he was going to grab you and drag you along whether you liked it or not!"

With the first episode launching on 29 October, the eight part podcast Trasnmissions features exclusive interviews with Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris, Gillian Gilbert and Peter Hook and is narrated by Maxine Peake.

The first series of Transmissions, will cover the journey from Joy Division up until New Order's smash hit Blue Monday in 1983.

Guests on the podcast will include Bobby Gillespie, Bono, Damon Albarn, Johnny Greenwood, Johnny Marr, Liam Gallagher, Shaun Ryder and many more.

Transmissions is available on Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Amazon Music, Stitcher, and wherever you get your podcasts.