The band's indispensable collaborator, producer Martin Hannett, originally worked under the name Martin Zero, producing Buzzcocks' genuinely seminal 'Spiral Scratch' EP in 1976, and first hooked up with Joy Division on the 1978 'Factory Sample EP'.
'Unknown Pleasures' was recorded at Strawberry Studios in Hillgate, Stockport. The studios belonged to 1970s MOR sonic specialists 10cc (about as far removed from the Joy Division sound as possible, this side of a Stock Aitken Waterman production) who had a state-of-the-art, 24-track set-up.
That frosty sound is no coincidence, nor an illusion. Hannett would whack the air-conditioning in the studio up to freezing temperatures. His story was it was good for engineer Chris Nagle's diabetes.
Engineer Chris Nagle recounts how Ian Curtis would listen to a song once before doing his vocal in one take. He would also have "sheets with his lyrics on, but he always recorded with the lights off," the only aide-memoir being his head.
Joy Division didn't include the lyrics with 'Unknown Pleasures', to avoid being pinned down. "Our lyrics may mean something completely different to every single individual. You could hear one thing, the bloke next to you could hear something completely different," said Peter Hook. "We don't want to say anything. We don't want to influence people. We don't want people to know what we think."
Drums were paramount in the Hannett sound. Stephen Morris's playing was a big attraction. "One of the things that drove me to drum machines was the appalling quality of drummers," said Hannett. "But Steve was good, so immediately they had a red hot start." Hannett fed the drums out of the studio to a microphone he'd placed in the bathroom, then put the results through a digital delay.
"At Factory, no one's restricting us, the music or the artwork," said Ian Curtis in 1979. The inner sleeve included a newspaper clipping of a photo of a hand near a door handle, an image that Peter Saville later found out was a famous shot by Ralph Gibson, the Californian art photographer.
Factory played fast and loose with Joy Division's finished product, not even inking a contract. "We had a sheet of paper saying that the masters would revert to us after six months if either of us decided not to work with each other," Peter Hook said later. "That was it. It was amazing that the agreement lasted so well."