It’s been 30 years since Ian died, but that doesn’t make it any better or easier to take. But I am glad that people still remember the work that we all did together and that it still has a place in the world.
I principally remember him as a friend as well as an artist. A lot of the japes and jokes we had stemmed from me. Ian had to join in because, if he didn’t, he’d become a victim of the japes himself! You’d get bored and it was a way for us to have fun – it was a relief. Like when were in our rehearsal room at TJ Davidson’s [where the video for ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ was filmed].
There was a band below us and when they started playing, we couldn’t hear ourselves any more. So to get our own back, when they were gone, we used to take turns pissing through a hole in the floorboards which was right over their drumkit. Becoming a musician was sort of a licence to be a brat.
I know a lot of people look at those moody pictures of Ian and see a man who was torn apart. But it wasn’t really like that. He was very friendly and pleasant, but a man with problems. If there was something that was really frustrating him, he’d deal with it in an explosive way – he’d just do something silly as a release. He certainly wasn’t one to wallow in self pity.
It’s strange that we didn’t listen to his lyrics though. I’m not entirely sure why that was, but, in a way, it felt like delving into his lyrics was too personal, so we shied away from it. That’s the only explanation I can think of.
But as soon as he died, we obviously wanted to find out what went wrong and if we could have done anything. I don’t think we could have though. There were many nights I stayed up with him until four or five in the morning when he was staying at my house just before he died. I was just trying to unravel what was going on inside his head and give him a sense of optimism about what we were doing.
The thing was, he agreed with everything I said, but a day later he’d be back in his old headspace. He would tell you what he thought you wanted to hear and in retrospect, I don’t think anyone could have stopped him doing what he did. His mind was made up.
The first time he tried to kill himself, we all thought it was a cry for help, but the only reason he called the ambulance was because he didn’t have enough pills to do it properly and he thought he might end up with brain damage.
Joy Division made such an impact with so little. There was no hype, no attention paid to what we looked like, we couldn’t even play very well. There was just a lot of imagination. Ian was definitely a writer though.
He’d sit at home and write lyrics even on his days off. He liked to do it. I can understand why he’s been deified because he was a true creative artist – the real deal. There’s no doubt about that.
This article originally appeared in the 22 May issue of NME
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