all-around-luna

all-around-luna

Ian Curtis by Annik Honoré


May 18th was the day Ian Curtis died and also the day I was reborn. It is a special date for me, both sad and very happy. Consequently, Curtis is habitually high in my thoughts at this time of year.

I’ve always tried to think of him as a person and not a myth. A person who is no more but whose story seems very vivid still after three decades. When you read all that’s been written about him, you always get the same clinical reports about the facts that happened to him. But what was in his head for true? Was there anyone to share the intimacy of his feelings?

I was thinking about all that when I came across this recent interview of Annik Honoré, who shared a special relationship with Ian. I found it very moving. The fact that she didn’t speak for so long is a sign of dignity. How would anyone react if the love of their life was brutally taken away and almost no-one is showing any support or sympathy? It’s maddening…

That is why I decided to translate the article. So, here it is, with all my warmth and compassion. Never too late, hopefully…

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The original article in French is here :

http://focus.levif.be/culture/musique/ian-curtis-et-annik-honore-l-histoire-fulgurante-de-joy-division/article-normal-3871.html

 

Source : Focus Vif – Journalist : Philippe Cornet

Ian Curtis and Annik Honoré :
the meteoric story of Joy Division

 

On May 18th, 1980, Ian Curtis hung himself in his house in Macclesfield, starting the process that turned Joy Division into a myth. Thirty years later, Annik Honoré - his Belgian love - agrees to speak for the first time about her dazzling story with Ian and also about a period of time which was wholly extraordinary

 

“I always expect Natalie, Ian’s daughter, to knock on my door… I would so much love to tell her my version of all that happened” Annik pauses for an instant, her smile freezes which gives her face a charming look full of melancholy.

 

Annik stepped out of the strictly private sphere round 1995 when Deborah Curtis’ book Touching From A Distance was published. In the book she gets wildly vilified. And more so in the autumn of 2007 when Anton Corbijn’s biopic ‘Control’ was released. Corbijn’s fiction initiated the powerful comeback of long-standing questions about her personal role in Ian Curtis’ tragedy, who committed suicide 2 months before his 24th birthday. Annik turned to a psychiatrist and refused to speak to journalists because, in Great-Britain especially, she is caricatured as the diabolical mistress who caused the fatal breakup between Ian and his wife Deborah. She made an exception for the beautiful book of Lindsay Reade (1), Tony Wilson’s other half, who had hosted her after Curtis’ death.

 

As we knew Annik since the glorious punk years, we went to see her with a strong desire to learn more about the other side of this saga. We remembered seeing Annik in 1979 at the Futurama in Leeds after a mystical and petrifying Joy Division gig where she refused to talk about what she always considered as “private matter”. Time has wrought changes and we met with her early June this year in the evening time in a house situated in a wooded area of the Walloon Brabant. We sat around veggie pasta and started a 4 hours discussion.

 

She was born on October 12, 1957 and originated from a Mons middle-class family. Her Father was a police officer, her Mother worked for the Registry and Annik was an indie rock girl. She first saw the Rolling Stones in Brussels’ Forest in 1973 and then got radically shocked by both Patti Smith and The Stranglers on May 16, 1976 at the Round-house in London. She was a language trainee in Bournemouth when she got blown away by Bowie (her hero still) at the Wembley Arena on the same year. The English fan ritual, the British devotion and the eye-catching looks left a print deep inside her DNA of “decent girl, totally clean, always doing well at school

 

After a “shit” job at the Pension Tower in Brussels (….) She moved to London in the beginning of spring 1979 and found a secretarial job at the Belgian Embassy.

Annik Honoré : Out there, I’m writing articles for En Attendant (a Belgian cultural magazine, ed) and I’m going to gigs every night. Everything seems simple, accessible, affordable and the period of time feels terribly exciting. In August, I go and see Joy Division at the Nashville Rooms. I knew Unknown Pleasures and I thought it was loaded with violence and intensity. The performance is captivating. After the gig, my friend Isabelle and I get near a lad standing next to the console to ask for an interview. It’s Rob Gretton, the manager, and he agrees for the next time. It happens soon after that and here I am with my Bert Bertrand (2) questions e.g. “what’s your favourite colour?” (she smiles). The band earns 5 pounds each per gig, they have no money to go to a hotel and are hosted at acquaintances in the North of London. They’re all friendly, very nice and flattered that a foreign magazine is taking some interest in their music. We listen to Bowie’s Low and gradually everyone falls asleep but Ian and I… The Corbijn movie pictures it quite faithfully.

 

 

(Journalist) So you fall in love…

It’s my first love story. Up until then, I only lived through music. I’ve had a couple of boyfriends before, yes. But suddenly I’m facing a rare being, exquisite and polite; it’s all I love. It’s a bit silly to say but Ian’s got beautiful soft eyes. I can feel his fragility and his suffering and yet he’s immediately very kind to me.

 

(Journalist) Joy Division is a musical wake-up call then, a unique sensation…

The sound is often quite bad but it’s so intense and beautiful… It’s a suspended moment, as a matter of fact, their gigs don’t last very long. The music reviews are lyrical in their praise and I’m sure they’re going to be huge. I’m also involved in the programming of the Plan K venue in Brussels (3) and so I naturally ask them to come and play. They did so twice, on October 16th, 1979 and on January 17th, 1980. In those days, the band would get 250 pounds (400 euros) per gig.

 

(Journalist) There are two Ian Curtis : one on stage, literally in a trance, and the other one being a troubled, introverted and private person ?

On stage, he gets outside of himself, as if he wanted to exorcise all his demons. He’s an erupting volcano. After a gig, he’s physically and mentally shattered. He becomes again this excessively sweet and shy person, locked up and full of questions about the band and about his own life. He’s got a huge potential but he’s so honest he doesn’t notice. He holds no cynicism or pretention of any kind.

 

(Journalist) Why this deep anxiety ?

He is overwhelmed by his own talent. I really liked the other members of Joy Division and their exceptional energy. But Ian was two steps above . The fact that Ian was epileptic since teenage made him particularly fragile. When he’s having a seizure, it makes him look surreal and terribly frightening. I saw him practically lifted up from the ground. But it’s also something magical like a contact between conscious and unconscious stages. All the sudden, he enters a world with no relationship to reality. I understand he needs a female presence and it’s not in the band politics to travel with women. Somehow, I break the circle because Ian needs a lot of comforting. It’s all the more difficult to read thereafter horrible things on the “betrayal” and that kind of things…

 

(Journalist) But you were lovers, weren’t you ?

It was a totally pure and platonic relationship, very childlike, most chaste… I did not have any sexual relationship with Ian. He took a lot of medicine and it would make any physical relationship impossible. I’m sick and tired that people doubt my word or his. People may say what they want but I’m the only one owning letters from him… One of them says his relationship with his wife Deborah was ended when we first met.

 

(Journalist) How did you react to Control, the Anton Corbijn movie ?

The person in the movie is not Annik Honoré but Ian’s girlfriend, it’s a fiction. The reason I’m testifying today is to keep some bibliographical authenticity. I have no other interest to do so except the fact that I talk about the Plan K (venue) and about the ‘Disques du Crépuscule’ that I’ve done with Michel Duval. This being said, Anton is someone hugely respectable who came to see me several times. But Annik does not exist, Deborah Curtis does… (she co-produced Corbijn’s movie which is based on her own book, ed). I only saw her once, from far away during a gig in Manchester. I was very uncomfortable because she already deeply hated me in those days. I was Ian’s “girlfriend”, his love, not his mistress or his “affair”- horrible and abject word.

 

(Journalist) You got sucked up by an overwhelming story that grew with the incredible posthumous success of the band?

I still think his death is a pure moment of aberration. I had talked to him on that very evening and everybody knew he was happy to go to the USA (he was due to leave on the day after his death on a tour). He took 20 pills a day and had mixed them with alcohol… On Saturday May 17 I’m attending James White’s gig at the Plan K and Ian calls me to say he wants to see me at Heathrow before his departure for the States. When I arrive in London on the next day, I can feel something is going on… As he’s not there at the meeting point, I call him at his parent’s place - he had been living there for a few weeks. And so, his Dad says to me “Ian is dead” and hangs up. I couldn’t go to the burial because Deborah Curtis “feared that I would make a scene”, as she mentions in her book - this is laughable. However, she accepted that I would go and see Ian’s body at the Macclesfield Chapel… I collapsed. Tony Wilson (Head of Factory, Joy Divison’s record label, ed) and his wife hosted me for a week, then Tony bought me a plane ticket back to Brussels as Annik Curtis… I went to live with my grand-parents in the countryside for 3 months and the Embassy sued me for “treason against the Belgian State” because I did not go back to work there.

 

(Journalist) You stayed for years with this heavy story. You told me that your parents and your brother didn’t know you had this love story with Ian Curtis : why keep it all like this ?

My parents and I we don’t tell each other’s stories (…), they didn’t know who were Joy Division or Ian Curtis; nor did my brother. I had a lot of guilt in me : a married man, a suicide, a great job at the embassy that I quit… I kept a low profile. My parents respected that and I appreciated it. In those days, I fully lived the story and I would have wished that it stayed in a small secret box. It made me feel fragile, I was scared to hurt others, scared to fall in love. People only started to talk about me in 1995 – 15 years after Ian’s death – because of Deborah Curtis’ book. Opposite to what she said, I never phoned her “for months” during the night. She, however, phoned me to threaten to “kill” me because I was seeing her husband… Consequently, I would answer any further e-mail and request saying it was a “private matter” and that Joy Division, well,” it’s just records”.

 

The night fell a long time ago. Annik takes me to the attic where she’s storing posters from the Plan K and some New Wave memorabilia. She shows me Ian’s letters - ten or so – one of them holds a T.S. Eliot poem. Tonight she opened the valve to the flow of a decisive story that lasted less than a year, three decades ago. Even though she’s been marked by this encounter, Annik has not become a black widow. She’s had a different life, had 2 children – both adults today – and started to work in an international institution in 1985 without interruption. She never stopped going to gigs and is looking forward to seeing Benjamin Biolay soon. She would rather that people take more interest in her because of the “precursory” work she’s done at the Plan K between 1979 and 1984. Or even in the Disques du Crepuscule, a slightly snobbish but innovative record label created in Brussels in 1980. The day after the interview, she texted us requesting that we “don’t get too personal” about all that. But where does the intimacy border stop in a story like this one ?

 

Journalist : Philippe Cornet

(1) Torn Apart-The Life Of Ian Curtis by Mick Middles & Lindsay Reade, Omnibus Press, 2006.
(2) famous Belgian journalist in those days working for Télémoustique ; he commited suicide in New York in 1983, at the age of 28
(3) ancient sugar refinery turned into a multi-cultural place, situated on Manchester street in Molenbeek

 


© 2013   



02/07/2013
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