New Model Army
Despite having shot themselves in the foot more than once, the Army marches on – and to their own tune.
New Model Army celebrate their 40th anniversary next year, but frontman Justin Sullivan isn’t planning on hanging out the bunting. “It would be awful to be stuck in the past,” says the man who has led the band since they formed in Bradford in 1980. “And impending dementia means I can’t remember half of what happened anyway.”
This aversion to nostalgia has served NMA well – their windswept new album From Here, their fifteenth, is a world away from the strident post-punk with which they made their name.
Why did you choose to record the new album on an island off the coast of Norway? I can’t think of a place that suited the temperament of this band more. We all said we wanted to record this album somewhere big, bleak, cold, beautiful, melancholic, quiet. We wanted the atmosphere to feed the music.
How much was shutting yourself off from the rest of the world also an attraction? It’s definitely a part of it. You’re living above a studio, and it’s quite primitive. If you did a two-month album, you’d probably start to get a bit crazy, but we did the whole thing in nine days. Which is incredible given that half of it wasn’t written when we got there.
How hard has it been to keep the band going for forty years? Why would it be hard? Why would anybody not want to do this. [New song] Never Arriving is revealing in the sense of that’s what I like – I like going out on the road, always going somewhere. You can have difficult times as a band, and we’ve had lots. But it was exciting when we started and it’s exciting now. Have people dangled big cheques for the band to go out and play a classic album from start to finish? We’ve been offered huge amounts of money to go and play Thunder And Consolation in its entirety. No interest.
Why are you seemingly allergic to revisiting the past? It’s tedious. It’s gone, done. If any song has threatened to become bigger than the band – Vengeance or 51st State or Vagabonds – our response has been: “Right, we’re not playing it for five years.” We’ve lost a lot of the people that want us to play the old stuff. But it means that the people who have come on the journey with us are really with us.
“We’ve lost a lot of the people that want us to play the old stuff.”
Could you have made things easier for yourselves over the years? Well, we’re not going to please an audience, we’re going to please ourselves. It’s stopped us becoming a ‘big’ band in the past. People say to me: “What went wrong?” And I can think of various ways in which we shot ourselves in the foot, sort of accidentally on purpose. But then you think: “Where have we ended up?” We can play a folk festival one week, then a metal festival, then a gothic festival then a hippie festival. We don’t really fit in with any of them, but we fit in all of them a bit.
Will you celebrate your fortieth anniversary? I think we are, but I dunno how. We’re rather good at going: “We’ll think about it next week”, then it eventually gets to four days before and we go: “Oh, we’d better do something, then.” DE
From Here is out on August 23 via Ear Music. N MA tour the U K from Oct 8.