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The Music Issue

Booze Monday

Barney Sumner used to drink far too fucking much.

Photo by Andy Willsher

I used to drink far too much.

I think it all happened because I was thrust into a position that I never dreamed of being thrust into in my life. I never dreamed of being a singer. It never crossed my mind. I always wanted to play guitar. Because Ian Curtis died, I was put into his position. Obviously that would be challenging for anyone, even someone who'd sung before. And I'd never sung before so I used to drink too much to give me Dutch courage and get my head 'round what I was doing. When we started being successful in America, we'd gone from playing 400-people-a-night clubs, to 1,000 people, to 5,000 and eventually up to 25,000 people a night every night in a relatively short space of time. Suddenly, we weren't semi pro any more. I think I found that quite difficult to handle, really, because I wasn't just a singer in a cult band, I was a singer in quite a large successful group. Suddenly the goalposts had been moved and I don't know if I liked it, because it was a lot of responsibility and a lot of pressure. American audiences expect a lot from frontmen. So I was drinking too much and that was half the reason, but the other half was that I did like it (drinking). Being sober on a 30-date tour isn't as much fun as going for it every night, so I ended up drinking too much and one night I ended up in the hospital through it. Funnily enough, that night I hadn't drunk anything, but I was on my way to a party in Chicago and we had Steve "Silk" Hurley and all these DJs, all the Detroit crew as well, coming down and DJing at this party for us. I got halfway there and I just started coughing and couldn't stop. I got the car to turn 'round and take me back to the hotel and then just started vomiting. And I vomited from 1 in the morning to 4 the next afternoon, non-stop. I think what I'd done is I'd burned the lining off my stomach. We were due to play in Detroit the next night but I had to have an endoscopy. It really made me think about what I was doing with my life. I just think I'd reached burnout at that point, and it made me think that if we were to continue doing it, then I was going to be a victim of my own actions. I just wanted to take a break, really. A long, long break. BARNEY SUMNER
New Order did indeed take a long break and were missing from Republic (1993) until Get Ready (2001). Their latest release is Waiting for the Siren's Call, and it's out now on Warner.