New Model Army has been a favourite band of ours for many years but it has also been a band whose worldview, as it has been reflected through their music, weLogo interview respect and feel connected to throughout the years. We listened to their great latest album ‘From Here‘ , we shared our thoughts about it but we also had the pleasure of discussing this album and many more things with Justin Sullivan over the phone, a few days before the band’s Autumn tour begins. This interview almost closes the circle that the process of listening to an album opens up. There is nothing on the planet, that this interview does not talk about and we sure hope that you enjoy reading it.

Blauerosen:  Hi Justin, thank you for joining me in this interview and congratulations on the release of another great album. You are about to start your Autumn tour from Southampton in a few days and you have spent your summer doing festival appearances. What was the best moment of these festivals so far?

Justin: We did quite a lot of festivals but the last one was in New Model Army tourthe North of Germany in the bit that you think is Denmark but it isn’t. It was on a farm, in the middle of nowhere and some of the buildings on this farm were medieval. People had just put together this festival where chickens and ducks were running around and it was everything that a festival should be.

Blauerosen: One of these festivals was the 28th WGT in Leipzig. I don’t think you have ever performed at this festival before. This is one of the very few in the world that has a very strong character. What did you think of it? How was your experience there? Did you have the time to see any other bands while you were there?

Justin:  I really liked the vibe of the festival. The venue we were playing was a bit out of town so we didn’t see that much.

Blauerosen: The new album ‘From Here‘ was recorded at a studio in a Norwegian island and its sound was inspired by the setting there. I wonder, what came first, the choice of the place or the desire to create a new album? Why did you pick that studio? Was there something specific you wanted to explore in this last album sonically?

Justin: We decided to do a new album with the same team that we did ‘Winter‘ with, Jamie and Lee. We thought about the new album quite a lot. In terms of sonics, we decided that we wanted to go for the New Model Army album coverNew Model Army big pounding sound but we also wanted the album to sound quite open and big. We decided to take the guitars away from the rhythm section so that their sound was ‘clean’ and this created this big ‘space’. Obviously the album was made in the context of everything that was happening in the world, but when I was writing the lyrics for it, I just wanted to take a step back from this whole thing of everybody screaming at each other and look at the bigger picture. We’ve written a lot of songs about ‘us and them‘ and I didn’t want this album to be full of ‘us and them’, I wanted this album to be full of ‘us’. With both these things in our heads, Jamie and Lee had this little studio where we recorded ‘Winter’ and this made that album sound like a very loud band in a very small room. This time we wanted the album to sound very big and we looked at various studios in Britain and it was Lee and Jamie who discovered this place in Norway so when we looked at pictures we said ‘we have got to do it, it has to be there‘. It is in a spectacular place but it also a brilliant studio in itself.

Blauerosen: Having talked about seeing things from a distance in order to create this new album. Do you see any similarities between the whole atmosphere in the UK now and the time when New Model Army was being formed? Is the spirit under which you write music similar?

Justin: What is happening now is linked to what was ‘born’ the same time we were being ‘born’ as a band. The 1980s when the band started, was the beginning of the Thatcher era, a kind of counter-revolution in which people with money decided that they had enough of paying high taxes and having restrictions about what they could do with their money and they basically took over. So from that Justin Sullivanmoment onwards, money was very free in the world, to do what money does, like a kind of plague because people with money found more and more ways of sucking it out of everybody else. This started when we started and now we are facing the results of it. In Britain, there’s been this massive movement of money from public hands into private hands all these years and now there is the devastation that this has caused. The strange irony is the idea that people like Johnson and Farage can claim to be ‘fighting for the people‘ when actually these are the people, exactly these people, who have been skinning the rest of the country for 40 years.

Blauerosen: The album’s intriguing title is ‘From Here‘. Is this the beginning of the end of a sentence? If you had to continue this and create a phrase, what would this be?

Justin: (laughs) Interesting question, I have to think… ‘Where do we go from here ?’ It is the obvious one but a very true one at the same time. We live in a time of massive change, we have seen it coming and we have been singing about this since the start of the band and now we are kind of entering it. There’s a line on the song ‘Winter‘ which I stole from something I read and it said: ‘We are entering the age of consequence…‘.

Blauerosen: Nature, its magic and forces have always been present in the music and visuals of  New Model Army and have always been a great source of inspiration for you personally. The cover of this album as well as the videos and their settings are a testament to that. If you had to pick one natural phenomenon that could describe all the music of New Model Army, what would this be?

Justin: (laughs)… The idea that the music of New Model Army is inspired by the powers of Nature suggests that our lives are separated from Nature and that we can either choose to incorporate Nature in the way we look at the world or not, is very strange because it’s impossible. There is no division between the natural world and what we are, which is a little bit of it. So, it is obvious to me to write in the context of this, of me being part of it. If you look at the weather, you will see that it becomes more extreme as the climate readjusts and so are people. Do you think that’s a coincidence? Because I don’t, everything is linked. This desire of human beings to separate themselves from Nature has been the most disastrous thing for us. Nature was alive but we’ve ‘awaken’ a whole lot of a mess when we arrived…Anyway, with that happy thought, what weather would describe New Model Army? It doesn’t matter. All of it…In terms of landscape, the landscape of where we have been is the landscape of our music, the mountains, the sea, everything…

Blauerosen: There is a verse in ‘Great Disguise that says “When everyone’s so sensitive it’s easy to be tougher than the rest…“. One can read this sentence in at least two ways and both are very relevant today. Toughness of character is something that has been strongly misinterpreted and confused. Having a tough character in life, used to be considered a virtue and a drive especially in art (otherwise punk music would have never been born), whereas now it is something of a curse. I have recently read an artist’s statement that characterized self-harm as an act of resistance in a world that attacks individuality. What inspired you to write this song and this verse? What makes a tough person these days?

Justin: Oh there are so many different kinds of strength! No one has them all. I think this song is about two things. A certain amount of stoicism and acceptance of little things going wrong, things that annoy you in other people and the ability to deal with crises; I think that these are good human qualities and very necessary sometimes. But then, these kinds of people that can withstand everything tend not to be super sensitive to people around them so there are things to be said for both,  and the other thing of course about people that seem pretty tough and is also behind ‘Great Disguise’ is that they are often scared and confused like everyone else.

As a person, I grew up quite tough and I am surprised sometimes by how people are easily upset, so in that sense, this verse is a little bit about me. But there are many types of strength, one of which is to be sensitive to people around you.

Blauerosen: My favourite song from your album is ‘Watch and Learn‘. It is the first song where another side of you has been revealed and it is all summarized at the sarcastic laughter at the end of the song. Can you share the story behind it?

Justin: It is a very simple idea and it was very fast to write. At its simplest: ‘Remember your children are watching you‘, the generation that is coming up watches and learns and they will act accordingly…

Blauerosen: Should I even mention Brexit in this interview? I will, just for the hell of it and because of the lyrics of the song ‘Maps‘. New Model Army is a band with an international audience and an international reach. What does Brexit mean to you as a musician? How does, the trend to create divisions influences the spirit of New Model Army who aims to create alliances organically?

Justin: Yes, the desire to create divisions is the opposite of what we are trying to do. I think that Brexit is a ridiculous sideshow to what is happening in the world. It’s like a kind of a joke because, in the greater scheme of what is happening on the planet, it’s just nonsense.

Blauerosen: Can you tell me the smallest thing, something unexpected, a detail of everyday life that has inspired you lately?

Justin: (long pause)… ha…NO!

Blauerosen:(laughs)…fair enough!

Justin: Just been around people…there’s always stuff to write about when you’re around people

Blauerosen: I read a lengthy post you made recently on facebook having Brexit as a starting point, in which you talk about loyalties of different types. By the way, if this post was open to signatures I would sign it right there and then. So my question is this: Humanity was built on loyalties, then ideologies and the human thought in general evolved and the old ways were questioned. Now it seems that again people look desperately for something to attach themselves to and they have become very strict about everything around them (e.g. climate change, identity in general, vaccines and so on and so forth). Have you noticed if this change in the way people experience things now, has been reflected in the way your audience receives your music? Has your way of thinking been challenged by all this?

Justin: I think that in many ways, the way we have been writing music is kind of consistent. And yes things are changing, but the way we approach things as a band is the same. Attaching yourself to the idea of being concerned about climate change, is not really a cult. I know that the right-wing press would like to see it in that way but it’s not. It’s interesting, how they treat little Greta Thunberg. She just happens to be at the figurehead of an idea and of course, the first thing that the right-wing press does is that they attack the messenger. She is quite easy to attack, as is every individual who finds themselves at the head of a very important message, they are the target for the right-wing press. So I think that it is terrible that they attack her in order to shut out the message. I hope she does well in her life but at the end of the day, it’s not her that is important it’s the message which actually involves all of us and everything else. In that post on facebook, there was also this statistic, that 40% of everything on the planet is dying. Isn’t that the big thing?

Blauerosen: Which was the last gig you went to and what was the last record you bought?

Justin: The last record I bought was a very old Northern soul compilation. I am basically a Northern soul fan. I haven’t been to a gig for a while because obviously in the summer playing festivals I see quite a lot of other bands. The best band I saw this summer was a bit of a surprise to me I have to say, it was Anthrax. They were really, really, REALLY good and I’m not really a metal fan but they were fantastic! We played a gig with the IDLES and they were nice and The Cure, but it was Anthrax I enjoyed the most.

Blauerosen: I want to go to the past for just one question although I know you don’t like to talk about the past but there’s one thing that’s been puzzling me. I will ask you about ‘The Love of Hopeless Causes’. The single ‘Here Comes The War‘ came with specifications for an atomic explosive device. What was this all about?

Justin: The idea of printing out the instructions for building a nuclear bomb was our idea of a joke. It’s not private information, it’s public information but we thought it was a kind of joke… a black joke.

Blauerosen: Any thoughts about a new solo album?

Justin: Yes, some thoughts…

Blauerosen: Finally, New Model Army’s 40th anniversary is approaching, any plans? 

Justin: Yes, I think we’re planning something not dissimilar to what we did on the 30th, playing weekends when we can cover a lot of different material from different eras of these 40 years. Exactly where we’re doing what, I can’t tell you yet.

Blauerosen: Thank you, Justin, we can’t wait to see New Model Army in London in November!

Justin: Thank you

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