"We have all been robbed, and it's still going on. It's bringing the country to disaster": 40 years down the road, New Model Army are as uncompromising as ever

New Model Album loitering on a cobbled street
(Image credit: EarMusic)

Since forming in Bradford in 1980, New Model Army have gained a reputation as a no-compromise, conscientious rock band drawing on punk, folk, soul and even classical themes. Below, co-founding frontman Justin Sullivan sets the scene for the next leg of their tour to promote Unbroken, their appropriately titled sixteenth studio album.

The dates begin on April 10 at Tavastia in Helsinki, Finland, and wrap up at London's iconic Roundhouse on May 11. For full dates and tickets, visit the New Model Army website


If there’s a common misperception of New Model Army, what might it be? 

There were a million misperceptions about us from day one, but I don’t pay much attention to them. 

What do you think they are? Maybe that you are overly political? 

[Slightly exasperated] We are not overly political in any way. We write about a lot of different aspects of life, and politics is one of them, but it’s not the most important. Maybe that’s our fault. We never tried to explain ourselves, or to control the narrative of what New Model Army is, we just make good music. 

The new album, Unbroken, is bleak, but songs like Cold Wind remind us that human beings are stronger than we sometimes realise. 

God, yeah. We live in a time of victimhood; it’s cool to be a victim of some kind. I find that strange, because we are capable of so much more. You ask if we have a political agenda. But over more than two hundred and fifty songs, no we do not. What we do is present ideas. Cold Wind says that people should believe in themselves more. 

Reload declares: ‘If I have to see another fucking Union Jack flying on the orders of the government, I’m going to be sick.’ That needs some explanation. 

The line should make everybody laugh, I hope, but the song is about conspiracy theories, and one in particular. In broad daylight, for the last forty years, there’s been a massive movement of public-owned resources from public hands to the private sector. We have all been robbed, and it’s still going on. It’s bringing the country to disaster. 

With its opening line: ‘After all the days of waiting we were suddenly released’, First Summer After, the first single from Unbroken, at first appeared to be a covid-related song. But it’s more complex than that. 

It’s about a road trip around Eastern Europe that I did with my father in the summer of 2022, so it was post-covid. The perfect storm that we’d been singing about for years had arrived; everywhere we went there was euphoria – we were out at last.

What would you like most for listeners to take away from Unbroken? 

The record has a lot of energy and defiance. I hope its spirit is apparent. 

If you were made Prime Minister, what are the first things you’d change? 

[Laughs sarcastically] Oh, come on. Where to start? Here’s an overview. The government are supposed to work on behalf of the people. [As opposition] the Labour party shouldn’t be talking about anything but housing, transport, health and education, because those are the things that people require. 

Back in 1987, New Model Army gave an unknown musician, the future The Almighty, Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders frontman Ricky Warwick, his first break, as the band’s touring second guitarist. How green was he back then? 

Greener than green. To be honest, he still is. That’s what I like about him. 

Are you proud of the musician Ricky has become, and your role in that? 

Yeah. But he’d have got there in the end anyway. Ricky is talented, but much more than that he’s been imbued with an unbelievable spirit. He’s still got that punk-rock thing going on. And he’s remained a really good friend. 

Going forward, do you see there being a future for the so-called ‘rock star’? 

Yeah. I think it’s bigger than it ever was, unfortunately. It seems like the big things – the big money, everything – hoovers up all the resources of the rest. That’s just the system we live in. It’s horrible.

Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.