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Joy Devotion Contributor Spotlight: Mike Grimshaw
June 20, 2016
Back when I was getting my PhD, an acquaintance of mine went to a conference, and started talking to another dude at the bar about music. Of course, as all things do, the talk came to Joy Division. My acquaintance brought up me, and the fact that I was doing my doctorate on the band. While I have lost touch with the acquaintance, the guy from the bar has become a dear friend and a total inspiration. Mike Grimshaw is an associate professor of sociology in New Zealand at Canterbury University. His area of expertise is theology, popular culture and music- and how these areas cross populate each other. Yes, we have never met in person, but our friendship for years now shows the power of Joy Division- how the love for the music and the band can span time, space and cultures. When I gave him some quick-fire questions about the band, here is what he said:
Name: Mike Grimshaw Position: Associate Professor, Sociology, University of Canterbury, NZ
What does Joy Division mean to you?:
I first read of JD before I heard them. NZ being so far away ( in every way) from the UK in the 170s and early 1980s, as teenagers we tended to read of what happened musically in the UK long before we heard them. This was especially so for punk/post-punk which had to be imported as singles or LPs- and occasionally tapes.
I first heard them when they crashed, unannounced, into the weekly top ten radio countdown and then their videos made the weekly music show on TV. They were the sound of everything different, everything challenging to the safe, bland, provincial society and rural town I was living in.
Today I talk about them in my city course as embodying the sight and sounds of post-industrial Manchester. So while on the one hand my 49 year self still hears and responds to them as I did as a 13 year old in 1980 ( much to the amusement and embarrassment of my children and incomprehension of my wife) I have continued to use them as a sonic touchstone to mark the changes in my thinking on what it means to live in a cultural colony, to live in the post-industrial west, to note the changes in popular culture, working class culture and its middle-class responses.
Why are they still cultural provocateurs 30 plus years on?
JD took the ethos of punk and remade it as a type of post-punk articulation of post-industrial decline and despair. They took punk out of its adolescent fury and nihilism and made it as music you could grow up alongside. They took us into the sonic depths of possibility as a cultural critique.
Favorite JD song and why?
Transmission. This is the sound of the freedom and possibility that radio still engenders. The sense that what you hear in that moment, that what you are responding to is also being heard and responded to by thousands of others, elsewhere, at that very moment. By myself I am part of something greater that is celebratory yet transitory. No one will ever ‘dance dance dance to the youtube’ or 'dance dance dance to the downloaded track’ in that way.