New Order singer Bernard Sumner speaks like he doesn't think people know his band very well. Sumner is participating in the 24th annual Tibet House Benefit at Carnegie Hall on Tuesday night, a concert that finds organizer Philip Glass pairing up prominent musicians to collaborate.
"The whole focus is collaboration, so we are going to do a version of a New Order song called 'Your Silent Face,'" he says, as if the song he mentions isn't a bona fide synth pop classic. "A string arranger over here in the U.K. called Joe Duddell has done an arrangement with it and a poet called Mike Garry has written a poem about our ex-label boss, Tony Wilson, who was the boss of Factory Records, who passed away, unfortunately."
Does Sumner not understand that "24 Hour Party People," the docudrama about Factory Records and all of its charges, is required viewing for any self-respecting music journalist? Instead of interrupting to remind him of this, we let him continue to discuss the other plans New Order have for collaboration.
"Philip is going to play on it," he says of Glass, "and Scorchio String Quartet are going to play on it, and we're going to do a collaboration with Iggy as well."
The last kernel of information he seems especially excited about. He doesn't feel compelled to even share that the Iggy in question is Iggy Pop, he of the eternally shirtless persuasion; he of The Stooges and the self-mutilation onstage. He whom Sumner met once in the 1980s when New Order were arguably a bigger concert draw than Iggy Pop. But even when he met Iggy, more than 25 years ago, he didn't assume the elder statesman of punk would know him or his band.
"I've been a massive fan of Iggy's from the early days of Joy Division," he gushes. "I shook his hand once! A friend was a roadie for him. I was a bit inebriated at the time. I was so pleased to meet him that I got really drunk, I got drunk as his show went on. I didn't even say it was me, I just said hello like a fan. Then I went back to my hotel, which was in Los Angeles, and the hotel had left a box of chocolates on my pillow — a whole box — and I remember I was drinking tequila that night, and it seemed like a good idea to eat the full box of chocolates on a gut full of tequila. I was rather ill the next day."
Not-so Silent Face
Speaking of ill, New Order founding bassist Peter Hook has recently been in the news for speaking ill of Sumner, telling aU.K. website that he believes his former bandmate couldn't stand playing small clubs, so he revived New Order and played greatest hits to make a quick buck.
Sumner proudly beams that the band has actually been working on new material.
"We've written about 14 ideas, seven of those ideas I've got vocals on now, so we're quite a way on our way," he says. "The debate within the band is whether to release it as a series of EPs or an album."
When asked the band's official stance on Hook, Sumner sighs. The latest round of critical words from Hook are not the first that the bassist has shared with the press.
"At the end of the day, he left the band. It's as simple as that," says Sumner. "He obviously wanted to do his own thing, which at the time was as a celebrity DJ and then he formed the band Freebass. So of course we've got to respect that, and we wish him all the best, really."
New Order perform at the Tibet House Benefit on March 11 at Carnegie Hall. For more info, visit www.tibethouse.us.