Published Sep 24, 2015New Order never officially broke up. And chances are they never will. But after co-founder/bassist Peter Hook left acrimoniously in 2007, there was plenty of reason for fans to never expect another album from the influential band. It wasn't until their long-time video director Michael Shamberg fell ill that the band's remaining members chose to play some shows in order to help out.
"We just thought we'd raise some money for Michael and that was it," explains drummer Stephen Morris. "We'd probably not done it long enough to have had our batteries re-charged, but it was a lot of fun. We'd forgotten that playing live and doing music could be fun, and we just carried on from there. One thing led to another and we tried writing songs together."
Those songs began with Tom Rowlands of the Chemical Brothers behind the boards, and quickly signalled that for the band's tenth album, Music Complete, they would return to the more synthesizer-oriented albums that inaugurated New Order in the '80s.
"On this record, we approached writing in a different way and we concentrated more on beats and using synths and bass lines first, and then guitars," Morris says. "The last couple of records we'd done it the other way around: come up with guitar riffs, and then put synths and bass with that. It made us think in different ways and try harder."
Of course, it was impossible not to make an album without noticing two important distinctions: that Peter Hook is absent and original member Gillian Gilbert has returned after a break to care for her and Morris's youngest daughter. Morris says working with new bassist Tom Chapman and reinstating Gilbert helped the band find new inspiration and make necessary changes.
"Unconsciously, it did make us work differently," he explains. "It changed, but it didn't make it any more difficult or easier. I think it definitely contributed to us concentrating on the music more. And everybody chips in on keyboards, but I think having [Gillian] shift that balance a little bit, and even just having a woman in the band changes the way we think."
As for the album's title, Morris says christening it was another example of "New Order and their strange relationship with titles." Originally, singer/guitarist Bernard Sumner suggested musique concrète but they settled for Music Complete, thinking it would avoid people imagining they'd delved into electroacoustic experimentation. Naturally, Music Complete came with its own confusion.
"We hadn't even thought about it having a sense of finality about it," he admits. "We never thought that it sounds like it'd be the last album we're doing. And also we never thought that it sounds like another New Order compilation album, which I think the world's got enough of, quite honestly. It was the best title we could come up with, because we do the title last. And it's sort of summed up the fact that it's all styles of music. It isn't all dance, but a lot of different things in it. Music Complete explained it best."