A good friend of The Tripwire sent us a link to this great transcription of an interview between Frieze Magazine critic Dan Fox and designer Peter Saville. The chat was originally recorded as part of a radio series on Resonance FM, titled Subway Sect. The transcription was posted on the Creative Review website, which includes portions of their discussion about Saville’s work on various Factory Records projects. Any fan of the album cover artwork from New Order’s catalog will find this one very interesting read. Below is an excerpt, but head over to Creative Review to read the entire interview.
On Factory and designing record covers:
Dan Fox: But in a sense you had the autonomous space of an artist for ten years – a degree of liberty that is very similar to that of an artist.
Peter Saville: Complete liberty… Strangely out of disinterest. It was New Order’s disinterest and agreed policy of disagreement that allowed it. When Ian died, the natural hierarchy which would have naturally formed in Joy Division… because that’s what happens in bands, at the beginning everyone’s equal, y’know, if you’ve got a van you can be the manager… that’s how it is. But once they enter the music business, a proper manager is put in place and it’s, “The drummer’s not very good, is he?” and “We’ve got someone else with a drum kit…” The natural hierarchy crystallises around the central figure which is usually the writer/singer and that’s what would have happened had Joy Division signed to a record label or a proper record company, and had Ian survived. He would have gradually, even against his own free will, turned into a Jim Morrison-type character and that’s who you would be working for if you were doing a sleeve or taking a photo or whatever… you’d be working for that person. If you are doing a Pulp cover, you are working for Jarvis. Ian died, leaving behind the band, with no defined hierarchy. Three equal people, all of whom needed each other. Nobody really took the responsibility of being the writer – it took a decade before that happened. So they remained a democracy and very quickly, as most bands do, they started to hate each other and decided things by ignoring them. So they’d do whatever was the last option, because all other options had lapsed and they couldn’t agree on anything. And worse than that they would disagree deliberately. I remember one day I said, “There’s a piece of artwork, it’s black and white, it can be any colour you want?” And someone said, “blue”, and someone said “red”, and I thought, “hmmm…”, and someone said “green” and I realised very quickly they only said these colours to be contradictory to each other. Hooky said “red” because Bernard said “blue”, and Steven said “green” because the other two had said red and blue!