Joy Division Reworked

Live_Transmission (Joy Division Reworked)_Sydney Opera House 1 ©Prudence Upton

Is it ever possible to do the memory of a much-loved band justice? We spoke to a man who is part of an ambitious project seeking to do just that…

There are some things in the cultural canon you just don’t touch; but if you’re going to, it better be reverential while also preferably bringing something new yet complimentary to the source material.

These are the thoughts which immediately sprang to mind on hearing about Live_Transmission: Joy Division Reworked, a project promising to drag the band into the 21st century.

Taking inspiration from the music of Salford’s post-punk pioneers, Live_Transmission is a collaboration between soundscape wunderkind Scanner, the Heritage Orchestra and the man providing the visuals, Matthew J Watkins (AKA Beat13).

We caught up with Matt to talk, amongst other things, avoiding trampling a much-loved band’s legacy…

“Growing up in ’80s Birmingham did seem to nurture a somewhat Ballardian view of the world”

The Double Negative: You profess to having been influenced by “concrete, monochrome and subterranean road systems”, did this make you an ideal candidate to work on something inspired by Joy Division?

Matt Watkins: I think so. Growing up in ’80s Birmingham did seem to nurture a somewhat Ballardian view of the world.

Did you feel any pressure working on the project?

The Joy Division legacy and admirers’ expectations are a lot to live up to and I would not want to be involved in something that was viewed simply as a cash-in. JD have inspired me and countless others, so it feels more respectful referring directly to the source of inspiration and to continue that vein of creativity.

Was there any consultation with the surviving members of Joy Division?

Not by me personally, no. I believe that the Joy Division estate are supporting the project.

Live_Transmission _plain_image©Philippe Carly

Your work is multi-disciplinary: a mixture of art, film, graphics and animation – do all of those skills help with something like Live Transmission? 

I do tend to have my finger in a lot of pies at once. I was encouraged to draw a lot as a child but as I grew up I couldn’t really see a way of making a living from it so turned my hand to more practical endeavors like photography and graphic design. I enjoy it all, so I’m fortunate to get to put it all together on projects like Live Transmission.

How has the process been between yourself, Scanner and the Heritage Orchestra?

We were all meeting up from the outset. Scanner created initial audio sketches by bending and reshaping Joy Division hooks and sounds and Chris took these sketches to the Heritage band-members who continued the process. Laura [Ducceschi, Live_Transmission's concept and creative producer] was always keeping everything heading in the right direction (avoiding being a crass tribute act) and I was showing them early graphic experiments and asking for them all to pick out the ones that caught their eye. Laura had a very clear vision for the production from the outset.

The results are looking and sounding amazing. Had you worked together before?

I worked on a project called House Music with my friend Caleb Madden at The De La Warr Pavilion which was curated by Laura. We created an audio installation based on David Tudor’s Rainforest, involving audio feedback loops fed through a wooden shed, strip lighting, a metal car fender, fans, cat litter trays and other household items. This project was the first time I worked with Scanner and The Heritage Orchestra, but they’re all great professionals and I would be happy to work with everyone again, especially Three Trapped Tigers who form the nexus of the band.

Tell us about other Beat13 projects.

I started Beat13 as a vehicle to motivate and collaborate friends in Birmingham to work and exhibit collectively. The website caught people’s imagination, including Jamie Hewlett, who hired me to work with him from the early days of the Gorillaz project. To begin with no-one expected the project to be so popular and as the workload grew, Jamie hired a lot of fellow Brummies. It was a fast-paced, eventful journey from a quirky art band to Grammy winners.

For more on Matt visit his website

Live_Transmission: Joy Division Reworked Tours the UK 21st September — 2nd October

Main image courtesy Prudence Upton, Ian Curtis image courtesy Philippe Carly

Posted on 18/09/2013 by thedoublenegative