A Man of Substance.
If you are a musician and you are very fortunate, you might make some records or be in a band that truly impacts on a wide audience. A band that becomes iconic, that years after their demise still sell records and move people in seismic ways. Sometimes is you are super lucky you might have a career after that iconic band, it is rarer, but it can happen. In the case of Peter Hook, he was a pivotal member of TWO iconic bands Joy Division and New Order. And not only that he was a big part of both the legendary Factory Records and one of the owners of the Hacienda one of the most famous nightclubs ever.
New Order split in 2007, but reformed in 2011 without Hooky and a barrage of lawsuits were flung around from both sides. Hook was contesting them using the name without him and royalty issues and the New Order team were trying to stop Hook and his band The Light touring the world playing the music of both New Order and Joy Division. Those legal cases continued for half a decade and a resolution was reached (conveniently) 36 hours before I was due to talk to the legendary bass man on the phone from his home in Manchester.
Peter Hook & The Light are about to commence their latest tour of Australia and for fans of either of his best known bands it is 24 gold must see. Substance was the name of the first New Order best of collection released in 1987. A year later they released Joy Division Substance which similarly collected all the most iconic songs from the band that came first. So in case you are not keeping up, you literally get the very best of both Joy Division and New Order played live by Hooky and his crash hot band!
Whenever I am about to interview somebody, especially somebody with such a rich history I tend to spend some time listening to their music and immersing myself in their work. Best intention aside I confess to Mr Hook that while starting to do that I found myself unable to escape a Monaco rabbit hole. In 1997 when New Order front man Bernard Sumner was off recording with his supergroup Electronic (with Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant and Smith guitarist Johnny Marr), Steven and Gillian amusingly put out a record as ‘The Other Two’. Hook had made an album with producer and guitar player David Potts. They had both been members of an earlier New Order spin-off outfit called Revenge. But the first Monaco album was like the best New Order record they never released.
And the lead single What Do You Want From Me, was a solid dance floor favourite at Indie clubs the world over. God I love those records.
Oh! (surprised). That is very kind of you to say. I must admit I always get a little bit of a thrill when it comes on my iPod at the gym, because it’s been so ignored by everybody. A lot of my friends keep saying they’ll be glad when all of this Joy Division and New Order stuff is out of the way so I can concentrate on doing Monaco. Potsy plays guitar in The Light with me and we have talked quite a lot about starting a new record, in January actually. It is the part that I miss. I do a lot of collaborations with other people. I just did one recently with a French group called The Liminanas who I did another track with a couple of years ago (Garden of Love 2016) it was put out by a friend of mine called Michelle Duval who used to run Factory Benelux and he said it was the best New Order track he’d heard in a long time. Which I took as a great compliment.
I guess the big news is that settlement came down this week with ‘the others’, as far as you are able to, can you tell me what that means for you?
I’m not allowed to talk about it. And they weren’t supposed to talk about it either actually. I’m glad it’s over. The thing about it for me is you have to stand up for what you believe in and I think I did. It is very important to me, my career, my heritage and I want to use it. And here is the perfect proof of me carrying on in the only way that I know how. Strapped to a bass and playing it with heart, soul, passion and enthusiasm, busting a gut to enjoy myself which is what I’ll be doing with you lot.
I’m glad that it is over too. When you are a fan of bands you’d love to believe that they are a surrogate family or a gang, united forever…
Well that’s the pantomime aspect of it isn’t it? It was what I was very aware of when I did the New Order book, popping people’s little lead balloons and assertions about it all. It’s tough, but ultimately you want to just enjoy yourself. That’s what it’s all about isn’t it?
As you get older you realise people in bands are, like your parents, just human beings with all the same strengths and failings as anybody else.
(Laughing) You are right. The truth of it is, that the very thing that makes you write edgy, fantastic, in some ways unsettling but in some ways exhilarating music, is the very chemistry that will destroy your personal relationships. Because it is that compromise that creates great music. Is there any band that portrays an aura of getting on with each other and have done for years? U2? The bass player has had a lot of problems hasn’t he? I don’t know really, I think it’s just part of the business. I think if you look at your business, or any business really, I’m sure you’d see these dysfunctional relationships and the same kind of petty squabbles, petty grievances in any walk of life. One thing I am aware of is that this world is so difficult at the moment, it’s so hard and so dangerous. Everybody has enough angst of their own without putting on them when they come to see you play. They come to a concert to try and escape all that. I do it meself. I go to be entertained and have my mind taken off all the worldly problems. So you do need to be careful with it, but with the book I felt like I had to be truthful and it is the truth you know.
Part of the unrest in the world hit close to home earlier this year when his fourteen year old daughter was at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester which was attacked by cowardly terrorist at the end of the show. Thankfully she was unharmed in the tragic events. Hook has written three books so far, Hacienda (How Not To Run a Nightclub), Unknown Pleasures : Inside Joy Division and Substance :Inside New Order. I can highly recommend all of them, the Hacienda one is fantastic. Brilliant read.
Thanks a lot. I tell you mate, as an author all those three stories were a bloody gift. To have a story like the Hacienda, a story like Joy Division and a story like New Order. It does make me wonder what my fourth book could be about. I honestly don’t know, I’ll have to do a history of Manchester, it’s maybe the only thing that could eclipses them. There is a guy over here who writes for the Manchester Evening News, and he writes a lot about sixties and seventies music and it’s interesting to see how that music paved the way for what came in the seventies, eighties and nineties in Manchester. There were a lot of clubs here and The Beatles played here very early in their career. Manchester has always been an interesting place for music.
I was once at a press conference for Ray Manzarek from the Doors and when it was my turn I said to me the sound of The Doors were very much the sum of their parts but that his keyboard sound played a huge part in creating the sound that made them so unique. So didn’t he get pissed off just answering questions about Jim Morrison every day for 40 years? For me the same is true of your bass sound for both Joy Division and New Order, it was so unique and distinctive but is often under rated in both band success. So do you get pissed off getting asked about Ian Curtis and in more recent times the troubles with New Order?
No, y’know, this is my job (laughter). It’s been very wonderful in my job to change the world of music once with Joy Division and change the world of music again with New Order. And the world of popular culture with The Hacienda and Factory Records and I don’t have any problem talking about any aspect of it. I am still incredibly proud of people I have worked with, despite all the fracas. Bernard is a fantastic musician and great guy. Steve is an amazing drummer. You know what I mean? That is never going to change. And I was very lucky to have them because none of us would have achieved what we did if we hadn’t been together. We did it together.
If anything the problem becomes that sometimes you forget that. You forget that you did it together. You forget sometimes that it wasn’t just you, or you and him. It was a combination of Joy Division, Tony Wilson, Rob Gretton, New Order, Gillian even, God bless her. So it was all about all of you and it will always be about of you. I think New Order when they came back, were hoping that people would forget about me. (laughing). But I wasn’t going to let that happen. I’m musician, born and bred, I started late, twenty one. But by God I have made up for it since then. And I am not going to stop playing music, and I am not going to stop playing MY music. Because it’s not fair. It is not a fair thing to ask somebody to do. I am really enjoying playing ‘our’ music and it looks to me like they, are enjoying playing it as well.
I guess it gives the punters twice as much opportunity to see that stuff live.
It does and if people want to see the old stuff they can come and see me can’t they?
I have only seen new Order without you once and they always put on a great show, but I did struggle with your bass sound coming out of a band without you in it.
I know, and I have the same sort of problem. It’s like when I go and see United now and I’ve not been there for a while and all the players have changed. I end up going hang on a minute, what’s going on here? It’s sort of the same thing, it’s the same banner, but it’s all completely different. It takes a while for you to get used to. The thing is, in 2007 Bernard and I stopped working together. That is a well reported fact. In 2011 they decided to get the band back together. The mistake they made was not telling me and I disagreed with the way that they did it. We have resolved that now, so the strength of this, is wether we like it or not is another matter, but now it is resolved and we can get on with doing what we are doing.
I must admit it has been a weight off my mind and the English legal system is very daunting. It is not the most enjoyable thing I have ever been through, but it needed to be done and I am looking forward to the future. In the same way they are, although I think Bernie is a on a break at the moment, didn’t he say he was going into hibernation? I think as people we had changed. We had different ideals, different ideas and it just didn’t work anymore. It’s like any relationship where it gets to a point where it isn’t going to go anywhere. We’ve all had them, personal, business…it’s nothing new.
The tour you are about to do in Australia is Substance which is literally the best of Joy Division and New Order and people couldn’t ask for a better representation of your two most iconic bands.
Well it’s interesting. Substance New Order is very commercial, very well known and then you have Substance Joy Division and which very intense and songs are quite rocky and quite dark. It’s a hell of a contrast to the other one. But it goes down really well. We play New Order first and Joy Division second, because chronologically that’s the way they were released. So we stick to the proper chronological theme which is what I have been desperate to do throughout my journey with this music. I am delighted we have made it to you actually, because Australia is one of my favourite places in the world without a shadow of a doubt. So before Kim Jong Un presses the button, I’m hoping to get to you mate! It puts the whole New Order thing into perspective doesn’t it? He’s talking about exploding a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific and we are worrying about fucking New Order, pack it in!
Interview by Ian Bell
Catch Peter Hook & The Light on the following dates…