Section 25 were one of the unluckiest groups on Factory.
A band full of talent, they had their own take on the dark Northern sound exemplified by bands such as Joy Division, yet were continually overshadowed by their peers. The sleeve for their first album "Always Now" was the most expensive in pop history - then New Order topped it with "Blue Monday".
After a line up change, and an entirely improvised second album, the band re-emerged with a new dance orientated sound. Produced by close friend Bernard Sumner, "From The Hip" is perhaps their masterpiece. Released to rave reviews at the time the album has become obscured over time, yet has been sampled by such notables as The Chemical Brothers.
...the only common denominator for non London bands was that nobody was interested in you
Section 25 agreed to become part of our Factory week celebrations with a passionate and outspoken interview.
Q1 - How did Section 25 form?
The nucleus was my brother Larry and I; we were both punks in 77. I had been playing drums for a long time but not with a band. When my brother returned from Art College in 77 he was then playing bass, he had seen loads of punk bands in London and we were both into the idea of the immediacy of playing music.
Q2 - What was Manchester / North like?
It was shit. Everything centred round London, which was controlled by money. There was no "Northern Scene", at first the only common denominator for non London bands was that nobody was interested in you.
Q3 - How did you come into contact with Factory?
We did a gig at the Russell Club, the original Factory Club and we knew Joy Division because of seeing them at Erics in Liverpool.
My brother wanted to do a benefit gig in Blackpool for the "Year Of The Child" in Aug/Sep 79. Besides us he also had Joy Div and Orchestral Manouveres on the bill. Rob Gretton and Ian Curtis were really into the band and asked us to record an EP at Cargo in Rochdale - they were going to produce. The tracks were played to Tony Wilson and he agreed to release it on Factory. We never signed a contract with Factory all bands/artists had verbal contracts or what is laughingly referred to as ‘gentleman’s agreements’.
Q4 - How much of a community was there at Factory?
There was a very good community at the label, and yes I was friends with all the people, some to this day.
Q5 - How was it to work with Martin Hannett?
I have heard a lot of people complain at the treatment they had from Martin while he was producing their music. Our experience was not like that, you see we trusted Martin and his process. If you are going to be "produced" by someone you have to let them get on and produce. It seems obvious, but not to a lot of musicians, some of which have a deal of trouble letting go of their precious tunes.
Martin actually had a vision of what he wanted, he wanted to create something beautiful with the music -I think overall he succeeded.
Unlike the majority of electronic music, which just bores the shit out of people
Q6 – Sleevework for “Always Now” is famously expensive. Did you have a hand in the design process?
The graphics for Factory were as important as the music in a lot of ways. Saville was instructed by my brother to create something typically European with Buddhist leanings and a flavour of psychedelia. The original black and white poster we did for inclusion with the album was stopped by Factory and later appeared inside “The Key Of Dreams” our second album on Factory Benelux. Factory thought our efforts on the poster too amateurish.
Q7 – You underwent some personnel changes, and head in a dance orientation – what led to this?
After our original guitarist P Wiggin left we had had a few temporary members but when Jenny Ross joined she was an accomplished keyboardist so this opened up lots of possibilities for us. You see the rhythm section Larry and myself was a force on its own but we needed some melody importing otherwise people lose interest you know. We ploughed all our royalties into the latest electronic equipment locking ourselves away in an attic summer 83 and ended up writing “From The Hip”. We have always liked strong hypnotic rhythms and drum machines and sequencers lend themselves to this. Unlike the majority of electronic music, which just bores the shit out of people. Bernard Sumner was a key element in the production of this album, bit like an extra band member.
Q8 - After “Love and Hate” band finished – why was this?
The band never split as such, we just left things alone until we felt like doing it again, split is a final term and things didn’t happen like that. There were outside influences, children, families, careers etc but I think we always had an understanding we would get back into it at some point.
Q9 – How do you react to the band’s re-assesment in the present day?
It’s very nice to hear people say positive things about the band. It doesn’t bother me if we get slagged off now, I am kind of once removed from it. Joy Division's manager Rob Gretton wanted us to call our first album "Fuck Off". He reasoned that we had our own powerful approach and if people did not like what we did they should do as the album title suggested. Tony Wilson called our music "a uniquely uplifting brand of melancholia". The bands position has really stayed the same.
Q10 – What do you feel Factory’s legacy is?
For us Section 25 and Factory gelled excellently. We could not have done what we did with any other label, we kind of understood it at the time but even more so now. They gave us TOTAL artistic license with the music, that’s fucking unheard of. The label was run as an artistic/cultural experiment, with money/business hardly included in the formula. Whether that was done as premeditated act by a group of music industry terrorists or from complete chaotic financial ineptitude I will let you decide.
Enjoyed this? Now read the rest of our special series of features on Factory Records!