Kraftwerk in pants, and a grade two back’n’sides: there’s nothing Bad Lieutenant’s Bernard Sumner regrets, he tells Lee Gale
The Guardian’s The Guide, 2009
Hello Bernard, why are you squinting? Have you not seen sunlight for a while?
I’ve been in my home studio for 18 months. It’s a tiny room and you’re like a vacuum-packed sardine. After six months, you go mad; band members start looking attractive. The kids run in sometimes but the music puts them off.
Is Manchester still banging and double top, man?
It’s a bit gentrified. It’s changed an awful lot from the Victorian neglect which was so appealing and contributed to the music of Joy Division. To be honest, I quite like some of the changes. I like being able to go into Selfridges and YO! Sushi. It’s better than going in Wimpy (1) and getting a burger and chips.
You’ve been my hero for 20 years. Should we meet our heroes?
Karl Bartos [of Kraftwerk] was a hero but when we made an album together we had a flat in London and I used to see Karl walking about in his black underpants, black vest and black socks with white fluffy bits on them. He can’t be your hero any more. He’s just a mate then.
When you worked with Johnny Marr, did you have to handcuff him to a synthesizer?
I was trying to encourage him to play more guitar. I’m like, “Johnny, if you don’t play guitar on this album, I’m gonna get the blame.” And that’s what happened. Synths were a no-no with the Smiths (2); it wasn’t allowed by You-Know-Who.
Is Bad Lieutenant pronounced the correct British way or the corrupt American way?
Loo-tenant. The name came from the film (3). I remember a friend of mine was watching it at Johnny’s house. I walked in and thought, “What’s this?” It was so completely over-the-top it made Tarantino’s work look like children’s TV.
Speaking of which, didn’t you work on the opening animation for Rainbow?
I worked on this huge machine at Cosgrove Hall that … that … well I don’t know what it fucking did, to be honest. It kind of printed images on to celluloid. I was only a tea boy, aged 17 (4).
Using a scale where “Ecstatic” is at the top and “Rage” is at the bottom, how does it feel when you hear the word “Haçienda”?
In a word, angry. In two words, very angry.
Were you annoyed that John Simm got you spectacularly wrong in 24 Hour Party People? (5)
I think John did a very good job. He’s not as handsome as me; that let me down.
Have you got a library of old synthesizer manuals?
Stephen Morris from New Order does. He’s like one of those old blokes with a peculiar illness (6) who can’t throw anything away.
What moisturiser did you use to keep your youthful looks so long?
The secret’s tinned food. I eat organic vegetables now; that’s why I’ve lost my looks.
Should all men have clippers taken to their hair?
This is a haircut I had as a kid. It’s disrespectful to the older generation to have long hair. They fought in two world wars; they didn’t fight for us to grow our hair and look like girls. Saying that, I went swimming the other day in a miniskirt. The only thing I could find to go swimming in was my wife’s miniskirt. It was pink. Quite enjoyed it, as well.
Bad Lieutenant’s first album, Never Cry Another Tear, is out now
1 The food never looked like the photo
2 Excepting the synth strings on There Is A Light, credited to The Hated Salford Ensemble
3 Scores 6.8 out of 10 on imdb.com
4 John Squire took his job
5 In the Joy Division scenes, Simm dressed as Sumner circa 1985
6 Symptom of OCD