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Martin Hannet (1948 - 1991)
Related: British music - music producer - Factory Records - Joy Division
Featured in film: 24 Hour Party People (2002)
ProfileMartin Hannett (May 1948 - April 18, 1991) was an innovative record producer, closely associated with Joy Division and Factory Records. However, a rift formed with Factory - the company he co-founded - and he sued them in 1982 over a financial dispute. At this point Hannett's career had spiralled into decline due to his massive drug use. He also used the pseudonym Martin Zero. Hannett died of heart failure in 1991 at age 42. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Hannett [Apr 2005]
The work of this extraordinary but bizarre Mancunian includes seminal production for buzzcocks and slaughter and the dogs, as well as his own brand of experimental electronica and bass playing as part of a support ensemble known as the invisible girls. he is perhaps best known for ground-breaking work with joy division, restraining, isolating and separating the sounds of manchester's most powerful band. he served as the in-house producer for several record labels, including rabid, thin line, and Factory,[recording label] in which he also had a controlling interest until a falling out and a lawsuit with legendary provocateur Tony Wilson over royalties. he changed with the times, producing the first single by the stone roses in 1985 and giving the happy mondays their first hit. he was found dead in his chair by his step-daughter on april 18, 1991.
A man who gave very few interviews, he was, nevertheless, well regarded enough to be voted producer of the year in 1981 by readers of zigzag magazine. a native of northside, Manchester, he spent his time in further education immersed in the local music scene, trying hard to make it come alive. while working in a chemistry lab, he also found time to work as a soundman, play bass in various bands, tour briefly with paul young (no, the sad café one), manage a musician's co-operative, and form his own music promotion company before local punk heros buzzcocks offered him his first production job with the seminal "spiral scratch" ep in 1977. this led to his long-running involvement with tosh ryan's rabid records label for which he was to produce, amongst others, slaughter and the dogs, john cooper clarke and "jilted john" by jilted john which emi re-released and took to number four in the uk singles charts.
Drug abuse was a major feature of hannett's life and there is little doubt that his early death was related to years of misuse and experimentation. what effect this had on his personality one can only guess. he certainly had a reputation for being a difficult man to work with (c.f. new order, a certain ratio), and for presuming to know far better than the group in question how their music should sound (jello biafra would premise nazi punks fuck off "this is fuck off overproduced by martin hannett take 4"). he also loved to be at the cutting edge of new technology and was pushing the potential of synthesisers at a time when many musicians in britain were trying to outlaw them, believing that they would merely replace "real" musicians rather than create a new form of music. in the late 70s, electronic music at its extreme was mainly coming out of germany from groups such as kraftwerk, but hannett never lost sight of the human element, making the machine work to complement the artists involved rather than trying to dehumanize bands or make work of a purely "synthetic" nature. following hard on the heels of punk rock and the "do it yourself" attitude, he managed to tap into the raw energy of the rabid roster without burdening it with technology, yet when presented with a very raw joy division found a new sound that perfectly suited curtis' lyrics (in spite of the band's implacable resistance, at first, to the idea of synth), moving music forward from new wave into a genre that was all his own.
Hannett is best known for his work with factory records, beginning (as told by tony wilson) with the idea that martin should produce the durutti column's first recordings - laurie latham eventually won that honour - and ending with the lawsuit, brought by hannett against factory for not giving him his "rightful" share of royalties and fees. the suit was brought in april 1982 and settled out of court in january 1984. in typical factory style, the lawsuit has its own factory number (fac 61) and letterhead. hannett would come back with factory to produce the happy mondays, after rather less successful stints with, among others, john cale behind the desk. the mondays' biggest album to date, "bummed", and their first hit, "wrote for luck", are due in some part to the jelling of the hedonists, hannett and ryder. more on that on the mondays' page.
in the aftermath of his death, factory added a subtitle to their huge "cities in the park" festival in heaton park, manchester, on august 4, 1991: "in memoriam martin hannett". a week later, factory released an excellent introduction into hannett's production work, entitled martin, the work of martin hannett (fact 325). A recent compilation cd, and here is the young man, may also help those unfamiliar with his work, or perhaps familiar with only a part of it, to start to recognise the essence of what makes a "hannett" production
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