How we made: New Order and Liam Gillick’s So it goes…
As we prepare to turn back the clock and stream New Order’s legendary MIF17 performance at The Old Granada Studios this Friday 17 April, we look back at how it all came about, the significance of the location and that unpronounceable name.
For MIF17, we brought together 12 young musicians from the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM), the renowned conceptual artist Liam Gillick, and one of the world’s truly most iconic bands, New Order, for an unforgettable series of intimate collaborative performances at Old Granada Studios – almost 39 years after Joy Division made their TV debut on the very same stage.
Manchester’s Granada Studios, now closed and mostly demolished, were home to some of the world’s most iconic and longest running TV series, including Coronation Street and University Challenge, and also staged some of the most important musical moments in British history, from the first televised performance of the Beatles in the 60s to the first ever TV appearance of the Sex Pistols in the 70s.
Joy Division were one such band to make their television debut at Granada with ‘Shadowplay’ in September 1978. It was at this TV performance that the band met Tony Wilson, presenter for Granada’s culture and music programme ‘So it goes’, who would go on to found Factory Records, the label that launched Joy Division and then New Order to fame, and ran Manchester’s legendary Hacienda nightclub in partnership with the band.
If you head down to the Old Granada Studios site today you will find, not a TV studio, but a site of busy transformation – and at its heart, the giant steel structure of The Factory, Manchester’s new landmark cultural venue and the future home of MIF.
In a location steeped in history that is now moving forwards towards such an exciting future, this MIF world premiere in Old Granada Studios, ∑(NO,12K, LG,17MIF): So it goes, was both a nod to the past but also something really new, intergenerational and forward looking.
The artist Liam Gillick wanted to come up with a title that couldn’t be said or sung. He said “I wanted something that we wouldn’t start saying to each other like ‘Thump’ or ‘Jealousy’ (which was an earlier idea). The name gives you a third element that is slightly difficult and hard to deal with. It represents difficulty.”
Put simply the equation translates to ‘the sum of: New Order, 12 Keyboards, Liam Gillick, and MIF17’. ‘So it goes’ refers to Tony Wilson’s famous music and culture programme on Granada Reports that helped launch the iconic Manchester music scene we know today.
This MIF world premiere saw New Order deconstructing, rethinking and rebuilding a wealth of material from across their career for audiences of just 1200 a night.
Inspired by this reinvention of the band’s catalogue, world-renowned artist, Liam Gillick, transformed the historic space at Old Granada Studios into an immersive environment, creating a stage set that responded dynamically to the music.
The central idea was to have a wall of synthesizers. Each synthesizer player, all students from the RNCM, stood within stacked square cells that were each fronted by mechanical wooden blinds. Liam claims to have been inspired by Alaine Robbe-Grillet’s novel La Jalousie, the title itself a play on words translating to both ‘jealousy’ and ‘venetian blinds’. The musicians are momentarily hidden and revealed by these turning blinds, responding dynamically to each instrument, whilst to the musician the audience stays constantly visible through the gaps.
Despite the profound inspiration Liam was very keen that the event should be experienced as a concert and not as an “art event with music.”
Liam explains, “True, some of my starting points have been very profound but at the end of the day, what I was trying to do was create a really good New Order concert – and that’s the art. The art has nothing to do with the aesthetics or the set – it’s all a kind of trick.”
New Order played alongside a 12-strong synthesizer ensemble from the Royal Northern College of Music, put together especially for these shows, with Mancunian composer Joe Duddell conducting and providing the orchestrations, having previously orchestrated 2 special shows for the band with The Australian Chamber Orchestra at Sydney Opera House for Vivid Festival.
Previously pre-recorded digitally through a sampler, Joe and the musicians had the challenging job of separating out each individual synth layer from New Order’s discography and arranging an elaborate score for a 12-piece synth orchestra to perform live and in sync whilst hidden in individual cells behind rotating mechanical blinds. The Guardian, in one of many 5-star reviews, described the results as simply “jawdropping”.
None of the 12 RNCM students knew who the band would be when they applied to the project. And if the initial surprise were not enough, the 12 students went on to tour with the band to Vienna and Miami.
RNCM students have collaborated with us now on several MIF productions including Goldfrapp at MIF13 and The Nico Project with Maxine Peake and Anna Clyne for MIF19 following which, like the New Order event, they toured with the show to Australia.
Joe started collaborating with us back in 2009 with the infamous Elbow & The Hallé performance at The Bridgewater Hall. This was quickly followed by collaborations with Nero and Richard Hawley with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra for BBC Radio 1 and BBC 6 Music respectively, and a 10-date orchestral tour culminating at Royal Albert Hall with indie band James.
REWIND FROM HOME
MIF17’s New Order + Liam Gillick: So it goes… is the first show announced in our new free online programme for audiences at home during the lockdown. It will be streamed via Youtube at 7:30pm on Friday 17 April, kickstarting the weekly release of archive shows, talks, behind-the-scenes insights and a new series of Festival in My House.
Featuring tracks ranging from ‘Disorder’, from Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures – which had not been played live for 30 years – to 2015’s ‘Plastic’ from New Order’s critically acclaimed Top 5 album Music Complete – this streamed performance is a rare chance to relive those magical five nights.