AN INTERVIEW WITH BASS-PLAYING LEGEND AND EX-JOY DIVISION/NEW ORDER MEMBER PETER HOOK
Does Peter Hook really require an introduction I wondered when starting to write this piece, probably not I concluded. To play with not one but two seminal bands in Joy Division and New Order would have been more than exemplary for any musician. The fact that Hooky has followed that up with several other various careers and achieved success in those truly does set him apart. Achieving success a s a producer, club owner and author, amongst other things shows that he is a man that truly seems to have a Midas touch for whatever he turns his hand to. Recently he has released four live releases in which he along with his own band The Light pay homage to those two legendary bands that he was a part of-Joy Division and New Order. Promoting those and also the release of his fourth book “Substance Inside New Order”, released last year, Peter made a single promotional trip to his home town of Manchester where Spill Magazine was lucky enough to be given the sole media interview at the event. Due to a large crowd the signing event itself ran longer than scheduled, but I managed to have a brief chat with Peter afterwards.
I opened by asking him how he personally viewed his musical legacy as a contributor to two iconic bands which would have been far beyond the dreams of many musicians. His response was a peculiar one, ”Actually its four, five if you include Peter Hook and the Light.” He elaborated that the label was an odd one as he had not set out to be iconic. He had just been doing something that he had believed in, and had just hoped that somewhere along the line a certain amount of people were going to agree with him. Whether it was due to luck, skill or talent you only find that out afterwards. Peter stated that when he was in Joy Division and when they wrote “Unknown Pleasures” they were not sitting there thinking that they were iconic rather they were actually struggling to survive. Regarding his following band New Order, Peter felt that they had actually played a significant part in actually shaping modern music. He added and admitted quite openly that “We didn’t have a fuckin’ clue when we were doing it and didn’t care” They were just getting on with it,struggling to survive and then thirty years later they are classed as iconic. He felt that it was weird because the Joy Division part of his own musical history is tempered by the death of their singer Ian Curtis so that it never really feels…Peter added that even today there is always a lot of personal guilt attached to it even though they have now played all around the world as Peter Hook and the Light, in places where Joy Division didn’t even dream of going to and they receive a fantastic reception. Even with that success he still thinks what if “Ian had lived and carried on then…we would have been as big as New Order(chuckles)…
Returning to the four current live albums just released that Peter had come to Manchester to promote, I asked how they decided to record those. I wondered if all dates on those tours had been recorded or had the band selected individual cities based on their previous experiences of playing those. Peter stated that a couple were recorded properly and that a couple had been recorded by the bands keyboard player who used to record nearly every gig. They only had to listen to a couple of those. Peter had never thought of doing it himself and gave credit to Steve Beattie from Plastic Head who had come to see them live as he was trying to sign Joy Divisions merch. He suggested the release of a live album and offered to release it. Peter stated that its been a wonderful experience to do and that audiences have received it extremely well. Sales have been great and that he himself was extremely surprised by the response that it had generated. All four had been released at once because the band had been recording just for fun and they had ended up with two twenty four track recordings that they had not even considered using. Peter stated that they were in a “funny” position as New Order were still existing,with an ongoing legal battle and animosity amongst the former band members and himself. That was the reason that Hooky stated why he didn’t feel like celebrating it. To Steve from the label who had seen the band live it alternatively appeared to be the most obvious thing in the world. Out of the four live releases, two were from Dublin shows..I wondered why that had been the case. Apparently that part of Ireland had always proved to be strong supporters. Dublin had actually proved to be one of the few cities that band had actually played every tour. He always had a personal affinity, as Dublin was where he had recorded New Orders third album Lowlife at Windmill Lane Studios.
With the album tours Peter Hook would actually be playing some songs live for the first time. I would imagine that it would have proved quite difficult at times to replicate some of those lesser known album tracks in a live setting. Peter agreed with my opinion stating that “People don’t realise that some recorded songs don’t lend themselves to being played live.” However that appealed to him as its firstly more difficult and its also more difficult for the audience. He admitted to having stole the idea of Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream who had told him that it would be difficult to replicate a whole album live. His biggest fear was that he would have been accused of copying the group. To which he added ”I know New Order do it with no shame.” However he didn’t want to start playing a set but instead wanted some form of playing it that would be a celebration of the music. ”To me doing an album is a perfect celebration of the music.” The fact that he would be playing some songs that would really be a test when playing live he viewed as great because at fifty five there’s a thought that you have nowhere else to go and nothing else to learn. Suddenly he found himself with loads to do and he also liked the way that it made it awkward for the audience because of the way that the LP runs. The band worked very hard with recording and the sequencing of the original albums from Joy Division that they actually are “a work of art” Peter issued a challenge for anybody to say otherwise. He stated that it was wonderful to celebrate them and to get the key changes as the set progressed so that they are tuned. In addition to be able to present songs that New Order actually were unable to play.
“Substance-inside New Order” was published last year as Peter Hooks third book. How did the creative process of writing songs overlap with the creative process of writing a book?. Are they entirely separate or do they follow the same pattern?. Peter explained that they are the same in that you start with nothing ”Its like being at the bottom of Everest and looking up. Saying fucking hell, I will never get up there and the next minute you are there looking down and thinking how the fuck did I get here.” Sourcing the materials for his books came from interviews and just using things to spur memories rather than a methodical read through old kept diaries. He knew from the outset what type of book that he wanted to do, and ”When I saw Bernard’s book I definitely knew what kind of book I wanted to do (chuckles). Or what kind of book that I definitely want to do. He felt that it was important to include a lot of detail in it. The publishers actually had cut out 100.000 words from it. Those were originally promised to be included in the e-book when it came out,in eight weeks but they didn’t adhere to that. Peter stated that one day he would have to find a way to publish the complete book with the additional 300 pages.
As I touched on in the introduction, Peter has several outside business interests/activitliies. I was particularly keen to discuss one in particular. He had set up a course in conjunction with his venue and the local university to introduce the music industry to young people. It had its origins in the fact that existing music courses at the time, especially to do with clubs and management didn’t give any practical experience as part of their training. All were theoretical based which often wasn’t applicable once you left the classroom. There was a guy who was developing the course in Preston, Peter was asked for input. Involving the club that he owns the course takes the kids there and they run a night which they actually help and work at. It is a Masters Course. It attracts a lot of people and they do a project after a year. Hooky and his club partner Aaron offer advice and then the students present their projects to them. There is no substitute for the actual practical experience.
On reflection on his musical career to date, Peter picked out Glastonbury Festival which he had played with Hacienda Classical in addition to three times with New Order. ”Luckily the highs just keep coming” How did he cope with fame and all that went with it I was keen to find out. Peters response was that “Nobody knew who we were for 10-15 years,because it was in the days of pre internet and social media they didn’t put pictures out and didn’t do many interviews“ In Manchester the band were actually able to operate quite calmly. People didn’t bother them. He admitted to actually getting more recognised these days than he did then including by a lot of different nationalities. Regarding future dreams and ambitions he actually surprised me by revealing that he had none. ”I am very lucky that what floats my boat if you like still comes in” He explained that he was still actively involved in a diverse range of musical collaberations including Reverend and the Makers to collaborating with a member of Kraftwerk. Winding down the interview, Peter shared that the one person that he would personally like to interview was his former band mate, the deceased Ian Curtis. ”That is a conundrum that I would like the answer to. I really would.”