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- Posted on Apr 7th 2010 5:00PM by Robin Milling
Mixing the old and new is just what Sumner needed to get that honeymoon feeling again. Bad Lieutenant features two new members, vocalist Jake Evans and bassist Tom Chapman, coupled with old New Order friend Stephen Morris on drums. Rehearsals for the band's debut CD, 'Never Cry Another Tear,' were a relaxed affair on Morris's farm in the English countryside. Despite the fresh start, the memories live on: an old ashtray once belonging to the late Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis lays amongst Morris's eccentric collection of knick-knacks. Spinner spoke with Sumner about the old days and the new band.
Bad Lieutenant features old members of New Order. What's different now?
What's different now is that we don't hate each other. All bands that have been together for more than 10 years hate each other. It's a little-known fact outside the world of music. It's not a natural thing for four men to live together, travel together for years on end, being in close quarters. You feel like you're in the army. I think when you start out the only thing you think about is the music, but after you've been together for a certain amount of time, people's habits start getting on your nerves. I remember Peter Hook in New Order used to drive the van, and he used to eat potato chips, and when he'd finish eating the potato chips he'd suck the salt off his fingers one by one, making this loud smacking noise. That really got on my nerves! Small things like that start to get on your nerves, but then there are egos involved and many different [reasons] why you don't get on. At this stage, Bad Lieutenant is all getting on wonderfully well.
Does it feel like you've started a brand-new band with Bad Lieutenant?
It's a bit of the old, a bit of the new. Some of the members are new and some are old. Jake Evans is completely new. He's just a kid, only about 28. Tom Chapman, the bass player, is new. Philip Cunningham [guitar/keyboards] replaced Gillian Gilbert when she started working with New Order. I worked on one album with Phil and we toured two albums -- one was 'Waiting for the Sirens' Call' -- and so he was a known quantity. And then Stephen Morris on drums, who obviously played for New Order. He didn't play on the new album, 'Never Cry Another Tear' -- we had four different drummers, because when we first started writing it Steve wasn't available, because he had health problems within his family that couldn't be resolved at the time. Thankfully, they are resolved now.
We love each other and it does feel like a new band, although I did have a bit of an argument with Jake last week over having 30 of his friends in the dressing room after the gig we played in the north of England somewhere. But all is forgiven, so so far, so good. It does feel like a new group, and it was a lot of fun making the record. Bad Lieutenant is a family business. In the town where Jake and Phil come from it seems everybody is related to each other. They come from a place [in England] called Macclesfield, which is where Ian Curtis and Steve Morris came from.
Having known Stephen Morris for so long, what do you find most interesting about him?
He is quite an interesting character. He's quite eccentric, really. He won't throw anything away. His studio is like a junk shop for musical instruments. If he gets any musical equipment he'll keep the box that it came in and the instruction manual. In the rehearsal room he's still got Ian Curtis's decrepit old ashtray, which is probably worth a fortune, actually. One of the things he's got is a full-sized Dalek from 'Dr. Who.' It's like a robot on wheels with these weird arms that stick out of it. It's in his rehearsal room. So when we rehearse, this Dalek is like the sixth member of the band. He collects all sorts of s---. He lives on a farm, and he's got a barn full of full-sized war tanks. Just by a strange twist of fate, all the guns on the tank actually point towards where I live! He's got four full-sized battle tanks, and in his spare time he paints the nuts and bolts on them. He took Gillian [Gilbert, his girlfriend and former New Order bassist] once on holiday for a military weekend down at Aldershot, where they do all this tank training down in the south of England, so he could pick up oil for his tanks. I've been inside them and they still work. He's never thrown a newspaper away in his studio. He'll wind up like these old men you read about who have died in their living room after living in the same house for 60 years, and when they walk in they find a skeleton in an armchair surrounded by 12 foot-high stacks of newspapers.
You rehearsed the new CD at Morris's farm in the English countryside.
I think Steve quite likes the idea of being a farmer, which is very strange. I don't know exactly why Steve lives on a farm, because he has absolutely no intentions of ever having anything to do with farming. I think it was more because Gillian Gilbert wanted to live in the countryside. Where I live is just outside a city, just near the countryside, so I've got the best of both worlds. It's good -- I mean, who wants to be surrounded by thick blue smog and tons of traffic like in London? The first sessions that we did actually were with Alex James, the bass player of Blur, in Coxwold, and he's got a farm down there. When he stopped drinking he got his ass out of London, got married, bought a farm in the countryside and started having strange delusions about becoming a farmer.
You are from Manchester, England. What do you remember about the early partying days with the band in London ?
From my point of view I just associate London with hangovers. That's not London's fault, it's my fault, but we always blame London when we're on the train with the band back to Manchester. We say, "it's that f--ing London, not us!" Every time I was in London I used to go drinking at the Groucho Pub, which was my watering hole with Alex James, Keith Allen -- who was Lily Allen's dad -- and sometimes we'd be joined by Damien Hirst, the artist, and get phenomenally drunk. We'd end up staying up all night and crawling around to the rest of the bars that were open and falling back to my hotel room at about 10 o'clock in the morning and having to get the train at 11 o'clock back up to Manchester. So I don't look upon it with a great deal of fondness, but it was a lot of fun. I still drink, but Alex doesn't drink anymore. It was different for him, because he lived within walking distance of the Groucho in Covent Gardens, near a cheese factory. For him, drinking became a more serious thing and he had to stop.
Speaking of cheese, isn't there a cheese named after the song 'Blue Monday'?
Alex made it, and it's extremely strong. The thing with Alex now is he's replaced alcohol with drinking lots of espresso coffee and smoking a lot, which I think has affected his taste buds slightly. This cheese blew my f---ing head off! Strangely enough, there's a cheese connection with me. I don't know the full story, but one of my aunties told me that some of the Sumner family moved to New York in 1912 and they set off a cheese factory, I think in Brooklyn. Some of them stayed and some came back to England. I remember my grandfather telling me as a kid that I had ancestors in New York. Maybe one day I'll look them up.
Who directed the music video for your first single, 'Sink or Swim'?
We did it in a place called Ashton, outside of Manchester, in a white photography studio. We had done a music program there in their music studio for Sky Arts, and we spotted it then and thought it would be a great place to make a video. We were just finishing the album when we did the video, and I'm not very good at multitasking. I like finishing one job and then thinking about the next job, but they needed the video yesterday. My wife's nephew, her sister's son, Robert Kind, directed it. He's just a college kid.
I've got to say that making the video is one of the things that I really don't like. They get you in there at, like, 6:30 in the morning, and you have to go through the song about 20,000 times. I prefer a video as well when I'm not in it, but the band wanted to do a performance video. The tricky thing about video is that it used to cost more to make than the record, which is sort of obscene. With the record you've got some control over it -- it's your baby and you can steer it in the right direction. But with the video you're giving over your song for someone else to do something with it. You get the storyboard, and then you see it and it's completely different. I find that videos can be a huge gamble. I guess, really, that I'm a bit of a control freak. I'd like to do my own video if I have time, because I come from that world. When I left school I did graphics and typesetting for TV commercials. We have been approached in America to have some of our songs in commercials, so that would be great.
Being that you are influenced by visuals, did you name the band after the film 'Bad Lieutenant,' starring Harvey Keitel?
Actually, the director, Abel Ferrara, is coming to the show in New York [in April]. I was actually doing some recording at my friend's house -- Johnny Marr -- years ago, and his studio was in the basement downstairs. I needed a break, so I went downstairs, got myself a glass of wine, and Johnny's friend was staying over and smoking pot, watching the film. So I sat with him drinking my wine, thinking, "What is this bizarre film you're watching?" As I got into it I saw the film was completely over the top, much in a similar way to a [Quentin] Tarantino film today. The scene in the car where Harvey Keitel is whacking one off -- I was about 30 when I watched it, but I found that so over the top. So, yeah, the film was a definite influence in naming the band. I just liked the name.