Chris Byrne: You grew up near Manchester in the north of England at a time now lauded for its post-punk scene.
Your early interest in music led you to publish a fanzine—how did this sonic fixation transition into the visual?
EARLY TO THE PARTY Matthew Higgs: I was born in 1964, which makes me 53 now.
Like many people of my generation I became interested in art through music.
Music functioned as a kind of ‘gateway drug’ to other ideas/ cultural forms.
I was too young to have had a meaningful relationship with punk (i.e., 1976–1977),
but I became very interested in what followed (c. 1978–1981): the DIY/Independent cultures of postpunk and ‘new wave.’
Through my interest in groups such as Cabaret Voltaire, The Fall, Joy Division, Throbbing Gristle,
Human League, Scritti Politti, etc., and record labels such as Fast (Edinburgh),
EARLY TO THE PARTY Mute (London), and especially Factory (Manchester),
I developed a nascent interest in art, which eventually led me to art school in 1984–87.
I published a fanzine called Photophobia named after a Cabaret Voltaire song in 1979–1980 when I was 14–15 years old.
It was an attempt on my part to articulate my (adolescent) interests, and also to get closer to the things that interested me.
CB: This past year, you seemed to revisit this early fascination via your exhibition “True Faith” at the Manchester Art Gallery.
Although I regret that I wasn’t able to see the show in person,
I was intrigued that you seemed to transcend the usual Joy Division/New Order memorability approach.
How did these bands, with Peter Saville as the graphic designer for Factory Records, directly influence painters and sculptors?
MH: As I mentioned above, many artists of my generation arrived at art via music.
Someone like Peter Saville was crucial; as a designer he operated largely autonomously from the groups and labels he worked for;
he enjoyed a freedom to do his own work that was unprecedented.
To all intents and purposes he was an artist, who just happened to work—at the time—in the music industry.
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