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New Order's Sumner Talks Birth of Bad Lieutenant, Plans for U.S. Gigs

September 25, 2009 4:00 PM ET

Two years ago New Order bassist Peter Hook quit the group and made it clear he wanted the band name retired. "You are no more New Order than I am!" he wrote in an infamous MySpace screed. "You may have two-thirds, but don't assume you have the rights to do anything 'New Order-ey,' because you don't." The remaining members (Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris and New Order touring guitarist Phil Cunningham) took his advice, and re-dubbed themselves Bad Lieutenant. Their debut album Never Cry Another Tear is out October 13th. "The last New Order project was hard work," Sumner says. "This was a happier atmosphere."

Sumner got the idea for the group's name at Johnny Marr's house. "I walked in and he was watching the scene in the movie Bad Lieutenant where Harvey Kietel is shooting the radio," Sumner says. "I said, 'What the fuck is this film?' It was so gross and over the top."

Since Sumner is no stranger to over-the-top band names (Joy Division and New Order were both derived from Nazi Germany), it seemed like the perfect moniker. Drummer Stephen Morris was handling a family problem during recording and only plays on two tracks, but he's now a full-time member and will tour with the group. Blur bassist Alex James and guitarist Jake Evans round out the band.

Unlike much of Sumner's previous work, the album eschews synthesizers for guitars. "I decided it was important to play to our strengths," says Sumner. "Phil and Jake are just both really talented guitarists. There would be no point in me giving them synthesizers." In the early stages of Bad Lieutenant, Sumner was working on a solo project with Madonna producer Stuart Price that was heavy on synths. "Making two albums at a time diluted my attention," says Sumner. "We put the album on hold — so I'm not giving up on the synthesizer entirely."

Bad Lieutenant will launch their debut tour October 20th in Brighton, England. In November they are coming to the states to play gigs in New York, Chicago and Toronto. Details have yet to be announced, but Sumner says they will open for the Pixies during their run of shows at New York's Hammerstein Ballroom. "The bulk of the set will be Bad Lieutenant songs," says Sumner. "But there's also going to be songs from my past including New Order, Joy Division, Electronic and a song I did with the Chemical Brothers called 'Out Of Control.' "

Might New Order reform one day, like they did in 1998 after a five-year hiatus? "I'll give you my stock answer because I have to be very tactful about what I say," says Sumner. "I think too many bad things have been said and done, so I don't think so. It was a different situation 10 years ago. This one's turned a bit nasty."

Hear a pair of Bad Lieutenant tracks here:

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