Five Easy Pieces - Where To Start With Stephen Morris
Joy Division - Insight
A stand-out moment on Joy Division's debut album and an early example of Stephen Morris' introduction of electronic elements via the Synare III drum synthesiser. You can hear them in the track as strange, birdlike noises, as if a squabbling flock had been recorded from a position of being sat on a studio window ledge. Morris later explained this unexpected sound as coming from the fact that "I could only turn one knob. I couldn’t turn up the resonance and turn down the volume so I was hoping someone else would turn it down!"
New Order - 586
Blue Monday is the track that made New Order's name, but in some ways it's 586 that best demonstrates the group’s early enthusiasm for the black club music they'd found in New York. It's the kissing cousin of the Blue Monday single, but smooths over that track's mechanised austerity in favour of a loose, warm euphoria.
New Order - Love Vigilantes
Stephen Morris’ favourite song from his favourite New Order album, Low-Life, released in 1985. He’s said that he feels it’s the album where the group had finally mastered the studio techniques that enabled them to realise their vision. Listen to the wonderfully breezy melodies over the rhythmic swagger and you can hear the blueprint for much of the Manchester scene of the later 80s’ and early 90s’.
The Other Two - Tasty Fish
Rock & roll mythology not only downplays drummers, but also tends to relegate female members of groups. So it was that during Gillian Gilbert's absence from New Order (a break taken to raise her and Stephen Morris' two daughters) fans barely batted and eyelid, yet when Peter Hook left, many claimed it wasn't the same group. Gilbert and Morris' joint extra-curricular project The Other Two rather proves that their contribution to the New Order sound is foolish to underplay. The name itself is something of a mocking retort to those who focussed on Hook and Sumner as the leaders of the group and debut single Tasty Fish is a brilliant slice of charming electropop. It's far more rewarding than the former New Order bassist's nostalgia act Peter Hook & The Light, that's for sure.
Factory Floor - (Real Love)
Over the years, few groups have come closer to New Order's marriage of rock and dance music as Factory Floor. As seen in the At Leisure film, that group's founder and drummer Gabe Gurnsey shares with Stephen Morris not just an enthusiasm for the marriage of human rhythms and synthesiser but also making models of military vehicles. These shared interests were made into music when Morris used the studio skills he'd acquired on those records with Martin Hannett to produce Factory Floor's killer single ~(Real Love), released on the Optimo label in 2011. Said Morris about the group: "There is no denying that Factory Floor can be very intense at times,but it is a very hypnotic kind of thing working around the synth pulse that invokes Giorgio Moroder's disco electronics more than anything industrial. It's an unsettling disco though. Pigeonholes worry me, like too much cutlery at a fancy dinner, I sometimes wonder what they're all for."
Stephen Morris In Quotes:
"The hardest thing in the world is to be different, it’s not easy! The thing about New Order is we never know what we’re doing but we know what we don’t want to do. It’s by avoiding other things you don’t want to do, that you end up at what you do want to do!"
"I just like the thing about having a machine that is very physical and tactile and you get that thing of ‘if I do this I don’t quite know what that will do but it might be good. You’re just messing about with parameters and things like that in a way that you’ll never get on a computer."
Luke Turner is co-founder and co-editor of The Quietus. His first book Out Of The Woods, a memoir of family, sexuality, forests and faith, will be published in early 2019.