Joy Division: Equipment


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The classic Joy Division line-up has always been Ian Curtis on vocals, Peter Hook on bass, Steve Morris on drums and Bernard Sumner on guitar. What a lot of people do not know is that JD used to experiment with swapping of instruments and sometimes different line-ups.

Sometimes this experimentation and instrument swapping was more or less forced upon them. For example, when somebody hurt their hand during a "joke" fight with empty bottles just as the band were to go onstage. Or, with Curtis deteriorating health and more and more frequent epileptic seizures, he would sometimes not be well enough to perform, and somebody else would have to take care of his guitar duties (and sometimes even singing! read on...)

Although it is evident that Curtis was not a skilled guitarist, many of the later gigs featured Curtis (reluctantly?) on guitar. We think the first song he played guitar on was "I Remember Nothing" which was introduced into the set in late 1978 or early 1979. It is not known whether Curtis played additional guitar on some of the earlier Warsaw-era songs, although it certainly is possible. Either way, we haven't found any pictures to prove this.

Although it is likely that Sumner did most if not all guitar parts in studio, the singer's guitar playing allowed the increasing number of songs with both synthesizer and guitar, to be reproduced with full instrumentation in a live setting. Curtis often played a VOX Phantom guitar. He had two, one white and one black and his trademark "metallic" sound came from its many built-in (battery powered) effects. A disturbing observation is that it is the only guitar in the world shaped as a coffin, the white colour makes this all the more obvious. Whether Curtis had this in mind when purchasing the guitar is anyone's guess. A more likely incentive is that Sterling Morrison had used a similar model for "Sister Ray" and other Velvet Underground classics, and also that these guitars were unfashionable (and thus affordable) in the late 1970s.

Vox Phantom copy by Eastwood - picture reproduced with permission of Michael at
Another fact that helped shaping the sound of Joy Division was the introduction of the six string bass (a Shergold Marathon model, and later also a similar Modulator model), which was used on many tracks on the Closer album. Hook has continued to use the six string bass with New Order, where it can be heard in tracks such as Dreams Never End, Procession, Blue Monday, Subculture, As It Is When It Was, and 1963. The idea to introduce the six string bass was apparently Sumner's, and it first appeared in the autumn of 1979, around the same time as Curtis' VOX Phantom guitar. The first song with six string was possibly Passover, although there is no video footage to confirm this.

Hooky's trademark sound is created in the main by an Electro-Harmonix Clone Theory effects pedal. On stage he uses two in his rack (one spare), with all identification removed.

One of Hooky's old effects pedals - reproduced here with permission

Although Sumner probably was the member most keen on changing the band's sound and constantly "move on" in new directions, it was actually Curtis who took the unusual step to bring a melodica to the studio. This, by some considered as "just a child's instrument" had found an unexpected renaissance in Jamaica, frequently used by artists like Augustus Pablo. Sadly, the only track with said instrument that Joy Division got to put down to vinyl was "Decades" where it features briefly. It was to be used more properly on In A Lonely Place which was written and demoed only weeks before Curtis' death.

Photo courtesy Simon Hardy who got it when New Order threw it into the audience
According to themselves, New Order "inherited the melodica from Ian" and not only used it on In A Lonely Place, they would use it on many songs recorded from then on: Truth, Hurt, Your Silent Face, Love Vigilantes, Angel Dust, Fine Time and Run Wild, and of course their Keith Hudson cover Turn The Heater On (which they recorded for a John Peel radio session as a tribute to Curtis - who had been a huge fan of reggae legend Hudson) all feature Curtis' melodica.

Only a small amount of footage of the band playing live exists, so this data is based on that little footage, several live audio recordings, interviews with various people, and eyewitnesses. Some of this is likely to be incorrect. If you witnessed a Joy Division performance, and have any corrections/additions, please get in touch so that we can get this list as accurate as possible.

Joy Division Guitars.
1. Gibson (copy?) - as used by Warsaw (1977)
2. Gibson SG Standard (customized, "without Vibrola")
3. Shergold Custom Masquerader
4. VOX Phantom VI Special(?) This is a variation on the famous VOX Phantom model
5. VOX "teardrop" model - correct name VOX Mark VI (unconfirmed)
+ guitar effects: Boss BF-2(?) flanger
+ amplifiers: Marshall / VOX

Joy Division Basses.
1. Gibson EBO copy (Hook's first bass, bought at Mazel's Music Shop in Manchester in 1976).
2. Hondo 4-string bass (Rickenbacker copy) - possibly damaged during a gig at The Factory
3. Yamaha BB1200 (4-string)
4. Shergold Marathon (6-string)
5. Shergold Modulator (unconfirmed)
+ effects: chorus/vibrato pedal Electro-Harmonix Clone Theory
+ amplifiers: HiWatt: Custom HiWatt 100 model, with 18" VOX speaker cabinet

Joy Division Drums.
Rogers concert drum kit with
22-inch bass drum,
14-inch Gretsch snare drum,
12-, 13-, 14- and 15-inch hanging concert tom-toms,
15-inch Super Zyn hi-hats
20-inch Earth Ride and Crash Ride cymbals.
18- and 14-inch Zildjan crash cymbals
Simmonds twin-channel drum synthesiser
Synare three-drum synthesiser
Musicaid Claptrap and
Boss DR55 drum machine"

Joy Division Synthesizers.
ARP Omni 2
ARP Solina String Ensemble
Powertran Transcendent 2000
Melodian (?)
effects: Melos echo; MXR 10-band graphic equalizer; chorus flanger; Altair PW-5 power attenuator.

Joy Division Melodicas.
Hohner Soprano. This is the green melodica pictured in Jack magazine FAC413
Hohner Alto (unconfirmed) This is a similar model but red colour - used by New Order (and possibly also by JD?)