Peter Saville on Power, Corruption and Lies

An interview with Uponpaper
Peter Saville's sleeve design for New Order's Power, Corruption and Lies
Uponpaper interviews artist and graphic designer Peter Saville on the thirtieth anniversary of his 'Blue Monday' sleeve design. In this extract, Saville discusses the inspiration for New Order's follow-up record, Power, Corruption and Lies:
After the Blue Monday twelve-inch single, you then quickly moved on to New Order’s second album, Power, Corruption and Lies (1983). What were your initial ideas for this design, and was it a given that the colour code would continue onto the album?

Yes, they were conceived together. The way of working that developed between Joy Division, New Order and myself was one of autonomous partnership. It began with ‘Closer’… I would be informed that they were working on new material and then it was expected I would have something I wanted to do. The covers were rarely direct responses to the music. I would always ask if there was a title and sometimes there was, sometimes there wasn’t. Sometimes there would be something to listen to, I remember distinctly listening to Blue Monday in their rehearsal studio some weeks prior to the release. I didn’t hear any of the other tracks for the album but I did hear Blue Monday. Other times, covers were done without hearing anything, so in a way, this was the practise that evolved between me and them; they did what they did, and I did what I did.

When I heard the title Power Corruption and Lies, the first thing that came to mind was the dark side of the Renaissance. That was because I had been watching the BBC television series The Borgias [1981–82]. I was fascinated by the sinister political machinations during the Renaissance period. We always think of the art and architecture that the Renaissance gave us, but it was the darker, political underside which the Borgias story had made me aware of, the Machiavellian dimension.

My ideology at the time was that cultural history was a continuum in which everything could be simultaneously ‘in the now’. Something from the 1980s didn’t have to live in isolation, it’s relevance was part of a greater continuum [...]. Thirty years ago this was very much the exception rather than the norm; there was still a compartmentalised approach to culture. The eclectic mélange that we experience now in art, design, fashion, music was quite singular then.

To me a record cover is part of the everyday, the now. And regularly there were phases of reference and quotation that – for whatever reason – I found relevant or pertinent. There were things going on in fashion or architecture that I would be aware of… things that I would take a reading from. I was interested in how the arts in general, but in particular the applied arts, were in some way evoking the mood, the appetite or the direction, the direction of the now. I always had a sense of what direction ‘the now’ was, it started with my own senses and then I would double-check and double-check to determine that what I was thinking was not merely insular. Around ’82 to ’83, I began to feel confident in my own sensibility. [Read More]
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