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Martin Hannett

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Martin Hannett
Hannett in 1980; photo by Kevin Cummins
Hannett in 1980; photo by Kevin Cummins
Background information
Also known asZero, Martin "Zero" Hannett
Born(1948-05-31)31 May 1948
Manchester, England
Died18 April 1991(1991-04-18) (aged 42)
Manchester, England

James Martin Hannett[1] (31 May 1948 – 18 April 1991) was a British record producer, musician and an original partner/director at Tony Wilson's Factory Records. Hannett produced music by artists including Joy Division, the Durutti Column, A Certain Ratio,[2] Magazine, John Cooper Clarke, New Order, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark and Happy Mondays. His distinctive production style embraced atmospheric sounds and electronics.[3]

Early life[edit]

Born in Manchester,[4] England, Hannett was raised in a working class, Catholic[5] family in Miles Platting, Manchester;[4] he attended Corpus Christi school[6] and Xaverian College in Rusholme. In 1967,[6] he went to the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), where he earned a degree in chemistry but chose not to pursue the profession.[5]


Hannett's uncle was a bass player and gave his nephew a bass guitar when he was 14. Hannett played bass with Spider Mike King and as member in a band called Paradox, in 1973, alongside Paul Young, later of Sad Café and Mike + The Mechanics.[6][7]

Hannett's production work began with the soundtrack for the animated film All Kinds of Heroes, written by future collaborator Steve Hopkins. By this time, he also began to mix live sound at pub gigs. Other early production works included Greasy Bear, Belt & Braces Road Show Band's eponymous album in 1975 and five songs from Pete Farrow's repertoire recorded at Pennine Studios, Oldham, later included on the compilation album Who Says There's No Beach in Stockport.

Hannett attracted more musical attention in 1977, when, as Martin Zero, he produced the first independent punk record,[8] Buzzcocks' Spiral Scratch EP. Under the same moniker he produced early records by punk poet John Cooper Clarke, whose Salford monotone was complemented by drum machines, simple synthesiser motifs and Hannett's bass playing. Jilted John's eponymous debut single was Hannett's first hit single as a producer.[9]

Soon after, Hannett became closely associated with Joy Division. His production of their albums and singles incorporated looping technology to treat musical notes with an array of filters, echoes and delays. Hannett had a collection of BBD echo devices which he called his "bluetop echo and delay boxes".[citation needed] The Cargo Recording Studios in Rochdale were used for the recording of the Joy Division songs "Digital", "Glass", "Atmosphere", "Dead Souls" and "Ice Age". Hannett's unorthodox production methods resulted in drum sounds mixed with synthesisers that were complex and highly distinctive. According to Hannett: "There was a lot of space in [Joy Division's] sound. They were a gift to a producer, because they didn't have a clue. They didn't argue. A Factory Sample was the first thing I did with them. I think I'd had the new AMS delay line for about two weeks. It was called 'Digital'. It was heaven sent."[10] He went on to produce all of Joy Division's studio recorded output, including their two albums Unknown Pleasures and Closer and single "Love Will Tear Us Apart", which became a hit following the suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis.

Hannett produced U2's first international single, "11 O'Clock Tick Tock", which was released in May 1980.[11] He was set to produce their debut album, Boy, but after the suicide of Curtis, Hannett was too distraught to work and backed out.[12] A rift developed with Factory, leading Hannett to sue the label in 1982 over various financial matters. The dispute was eventually settled out of court, and the lawsuit is listed as part of the Factory Records catalogue as FAC61.[1] When Hannett returned to produce Happy Mondays he worked as a freelance producer, and was not reinstated as a Factory director.[citation needed]

Personal life and death[edit]

Martin Hannett's grave in Southern Cemetery, Manchester

After leaving Factory, Hannett's career declined due to his heavy use of alcohol and drugs, especially heroin. He later married his new partner Wendy. Hannett died on 18 April 1991 at the age of 42 in Manchester, as a result of heart failure. He was survived by his wife, son James and stepdaughter Tania. His headstone at Southern Cemetery, Manchester pays him tribute as the creator of "The Manchester Sound".[13]


Several weeks after his death, Factory Records released the compilation album Martin: The Work of Martin Hannett (FACT325) as a tribute, collecting his work as a producer.[14]

In 2007, Colin Sharp published Who Killed Martin Hannett?,[15] a memoir based on extensive interviews with Hannett's friends and collaborators. Sharp had previously been a member of The Durutti Column and was friends with Hannett during his time in the Manchester scene.

Hannett was portrayed by Andy Serkis in the 2002 film 24 Hour Party People, a fictionalised depiction of Tony Wilson's career as the co-founder of Factory Records and The Haçienda nightclub. In the DVD commentary for the film, Wilson notes a review that described Hannett as Serkis' "strangest role" and points out that the actor is best known for his portrayal of Gollum in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Wilson concludes that the reviewer's implication is correct, that indeed, Hannett was far stranger than the Lord of the Rings character. Hannett was portrayed by Ben Naylor in Anton Corbijn's film 2007 Control, a biopic of Ian Curtis.

A film documentary about Hannett's life was released on DVD on the 23rd anniversary of his death on 10 April 2014. A book was released the same day, Martin Hannett – Pleasures of the Unknown by Chris Hewitt.[16] Another book by Hewitt, Martin Hannett, His Equipment and Strawberry Studios, was published on 26 January 2016 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Strawberry Recording Studios, where Hannett recorded with Joy Division.

Selected discography[edit]

Albums produced[edit]

Singles and EPs produced[edit]

INXS Simple Simon


  • Martin: The Work of Martin Hannett (Factory Records, 1991)
  • And Here is the Young Man (Debutante, 1998)
  • Zero: A Martin Hannett Story 1977–1991' (Big Beat, 2006)
  • Martin Hannett: Maverick Producer, Genius and Musician (Ozit Morpheus Records Sept 2011)


  1. ^ a b "FAC 61 Martin Hannett Lawsuit | Cerysmatic Factory". Cerysmaticfactory.info. Archived from the original on 7 April 2016.
  2. ^ Ryder, Patrick (4 November 2016). "An introduction to A Certain Ratio in 10 records". The Vinyl Factory. Retrieved 30 April 2024.
  3. ^ Kellman, Andy. [atmospheric sounds "Martín Hannett"]. AllMusic. Retrieved 26 August 2022. {{cite web}}: Check |url= value (help)
  4. ^ a b "Martin Hannett / Biography by James Nice". Ltmrecordings.com. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  5. ^ a b "martin hannett". martin hannett. Archived from the original on 13 September 2013. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  6. ^ a b c "Martin Hannett / Interview with Jon Savage". Archived from the original on 11 November 2012. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  7. ^ Simmonds, Jeremy (2008). The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars. Chicago Review Press. p. 272. ISBN 978-1-55652-754-8.
  8. ^ Perry, A. Mojo (95): 90. {{cite journal}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ "Martin Hannett biography". Martinhannett.co.uk. Archived from the original on 26 June 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  10. ^ Savage, Jon (May 2006). "Faster, but slower". Mojo.
  11. ^ McGee, Matt (2008). U2: A Diary. London: Omnibus Press. pp. 29–31. ISBN 978-1-84772-108-2.
  12. ^ U2 (2006). McCormick, Neil (ed.). U2 by U2. London: HarperCollins. p. 96. ISBN 0-00-719668-7.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ "Martin Hannett, Photograph – 1991". Manchester Digital Music Archive. Retrieved 26 February 2021.
  14. ^ "Factory Records: FACT 325 Martin, The Work of Martin Hannett". the factory records catalogue. Retrieved 17 May 2023.
  15. ^ Staff (21 December 2007). "Zeroing in on Martin". BBC Manchester. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
  16. ^ Martin Hannett – Pleasures of the Unknown: Amazon: Chris Hewitt: Books. ASIN 0954931246.

External links[edit]