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INTERVIEW – PETER HOOK, THE LIGHT – January 2015

| 27 January 2015 | 1 Reply

INTERVIEW – PETER HOOK, THE LIGHT – January 2015
By Shane Pinnegar

As a pivotal member and bassist of post-punk dance-rock bands Joy Division and New Order, Peter Hook has been as influential as anyone in the dance-rock world. Starting from Saturday 14th February he brings his band The Light to Australia & New Zealand to play the much-loved New Order albums Low Life and Brotherhood from start to finish.

Saturday 14th February 2015: Astor Theatre, Perth, Australia
Sunday 15th February 2015: The Gov, Adelaide, Australia
Wednesday 18th February 2015: Tivoli Theatre, Brisbane, Australia
Thursday 19th February 2015: Metro, Sydney, Australia
Saturday 21st February 2015: Corner Hotel, Melbourne, Australia
Sunday 22nd February 2015: Wrestpoint, Hobart, Australia
Wednesday 25th February 2015: Churchills, Christchurch, New Zealand
Thursday 26th February 2015: Bogeda, Wellington, New Zealand
Friday 27th February 2015: The Studio, Auckland, New Zealand

Since Hook formed The Light a few years back, he’s taken the band out to perform two complete albums at a time. Initially it was Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures and Closer, and for the following tour New Order’s first two, Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies. For this tour the focus will be on New Order’s third and fourth albums, Low Life and Brotherhood, the bassist saying it’s a history lesson as much as a celebration of the music.

“The LP’s are simply being played in chronological order,” says Hook. “We started with Warsaw [Joy Division’s punkier early incarnation] and it’s the history of Joy Division and New Order.”

Asking Hook why he hasn’t simply gone out and played a ‘greatest hits’ selection sees the ongoing bitterness between him and his former New Order bandmates Bernard [‘Barney’] Sumner and Stephen Morris start to bubble to the surface immediately.

“Because I didn’t want to become something I wasn’t,” he states bluntly. “I felt that if you go out doing a greatest hits set, that you’re actually saying, in a funny way, that you ARE the band.

“And it rankled with me, shall we put it that way? I can think of a very good example: there’s a group called New Order who actually pretend to be something they’re not. That is a prime example of it, really. What I’m doing is a celebration of the music – I’m not pretending to be the group because I could never be the group, I could never be New Order, and I could never be Joy Division. I wouldn’t have the gall to pretend otherwise.”

To further value-add the show, Peter Hook & The Light support themselves, opening with a set of Joy Division classics.

“Yeah. What happened there was, when we moved into [playing the albums of] New Order from Joy Division, after losing those songs for 30-odd years, I couldn’t bear the thought of losing them again. So I was trying to find a way to keep it going. I thought, ‘hang on, why don’t we…’ – and I must admit, I hate breaking the circle of support bands because it was so important to us when we were starting. So, simply, to keep the Joy Division music going, what we do is when we play as New Order, we support ourselves as Joy Division, and when we play as Joy Division, we support ourselves as New Order.

“That way, I keep the songs, you see,” he adds.

Undoubtedly that’s a gruelling nights work for the band – an opening set followed by two complete albums.

“Well, it’s better than digging a bloody ditch, mate!” Hook laughs, “I have to say, there’s a lot more rotten jobs in the world than standing on stage, even if it’s for 2 hours, 2 1/2 hours.

“The contrast I suppose in my career is that we had a bit of a gimmick in the early days of not playing for long. It was a problem with New Order – we had a lot of riots, Joy Division and New Order, because we used to play such short sets. So now that I’ve got old and I shouldn’t be doing it, I am doing it. It’s bloody typical, isn’t it? You do the opposite of what you’re supposed to be doing!

“So now that I should be home with my feet up, I play for ages,” he laughs again. “When I was young, running around the world like a lunatic, I hardly played at all!”

Hook says The Light play the old songs “absolutely, 100% faithful” to the records, before continuing, “the gimmick here is we’re celebrating the records. We’re celebrating the genre of recording the long player [records] that I grew up with and that was integral and very important to my life.

“The best moments I’ve had in my life have been when I put on a record – God, Ian Dury – New Boots & Panties, Raw Power by the Stooges, you know, even Wuthering Heights – Kate Bush. You sit there and listen to an LP and you go off into that wonderful world in your bedroom, sat there with your thoughts.

“That, to me, is what my LPs [mean]. I worked so hard in my career as a musician, with Bernard and Stephen – to make our LPs the best we possibly could, so they would be around like the ones that we enjoyed, so they stood up with them.
“So I think it’s a genre, in this day and age, that needs celebrating, and needs championing. It’s not easy to play a record, start to finish: it demands much more concentration from the audience in the same way that it demands much more concentration from the group. Playing a greatest hits set would be much easier, mate, and probably much easier for the audience. But I hate to say it, it wouldn’t give me much satisfaction.

“I wanted to do something that was slightly different, that was a bit more interesting, a bit more challenging, and a bit more fulfilling, satisfying. You know, the thing is, these songs – I was really shocked when I saw how little they’ve been played. I knew we ignored Joy Division [in New Order], but I never realised how much we ignored New Order’s early output as well. Bernard and Steve in particular were very anti-playing the old stuff. I did get it, and I do know why, and I talk about it in my New Order book, about why I think the reasons are.

“But the thing is, it was very frustrating, because that early material built you your following. Your fans were there because of that early material. It seemed a bit of a crime to me and very frustrating not being allowed to play it. It seemed a bit mad… [but] I couldn’t MAKE them play it.”

I put it to Hook that this sounds like a fundamental reason he’s not touring with New Order right now.

“Yeah, it was… the thing was, the angst of New Order before we split up in 2006 was unbelievable, and in my opinion, Barney was being a bastard. And not only was he being a bastard to me, I thought that he was treating the audience badly – and that’s what I couldn’t stand. I could put up with him treating me badly, because I had done for years, but I couldn’t put up with him treating the audience badly. In my opinion, he had to stop. When we split up and finished that last gig in Argentina that we did [in 2006], that was the end of New Order. He knows it was the end of New Order. He can resurrect something and call it the same thing, but it’s not the same. He knows that.”

Despite Hook’s protestations, at the time of that dissolution, a ‘source close to the band’ was quoted on NewOrderOnline website as saying “the news about the split is false… New Order still exists despite what [Hook] said [….] Peter Hook can leave the band, but this doesn’t mean the end of New Order,” pointing to two fundamentally different ethical viewpoints. The overt bitterness in Hook’s voice when he discusses his former band is tangible.

“Yeah, I’m pursuing a legal challenge to them taking the name without my permission or consent. I’m also pursuing a legal challenge against the business and the business solution they put into place without any input from me. They’re like your missus, mate, kicking you out, and then telling you how much you could have for the house.

“’50p. Now piss off!’ she’d say, wouldn’t she? You’d go, ‘No love, that’s not fair. That’s not enough for all the hours and years I’ve put into that house,’ that’s what you’d say, wouldn’t you?”

He’s got a point, yet despite that, Hook has acknowledged that had Sumner and Morris approached him properly with a formal offer, he may well have rejoined and toured with New Order.

“Yeah, I think I would’ve,” he admits, before explaining further, “See, the thing that you lot don’t know is how sour the relationship got between me and Barney, and then with splitting up in 2006, it soured more and more and more, and became involved in business ramifications because we had two companies together.

“Whether I like it or not, I’m tied with them until the day I die, in Joy Division and New Order. They’re big businesses, you know, Joy Division still earns a lot of money from royalties, for the records – and New Order do the same thing. So you’re still tied together. I haven’t got rid of them, and they haven’t got rid of me.

“But they chose to do it and spit in my face. Not come along with a handshake and say, ‘listen, we’re all grown-ups. We don’t want to play with you any more. Let’s figure out a way to make it work, so that we can all live happily ever after.” They just went, ‘fuck you, this is what we’re doing. We’re not having anything to do with you, and you’re cut off.’

“Now, I don’t know about you, but after putting 30 years of work into something and establishing that brand, as much as I could, and working as hard as I did, I wasn’t about and I’m not about, to let them walk away with it. I’m sure you’d do the same thing.

“What they did was disgusting,” he continues, “and I really do hope that the fans realise that and treat them accordingly, because they don’t deserve your support if they go around acting like that. They really don’t. And I suppose the greatest revenge for me – no pun intended – has been to play the material, and then have journalists, critics turn around and go, ‘oh, my God, you play it better than New Order.’ [laughs] Which won’t be very difficult because they’re not New Order!

There’s no denying that Peter Hook & The Light have received glowing reviews for their live shows, despite initial outcry that the venture might somehow besmirch Ian Curtis’ memory. A succession of sold out venues some five or six years on from the band’s formation says otherwise.

“Yeah, that’s the easy bit, to be honest with you. The thing is, when I started [this band], it was literally just to celebrate 30 years [since Curtis’ death], [and it was at a gig] in my own club [FAC251 – The Factory] in Manchester, and that’s the truth. We didn’t have any gigs booked.

“I’ve seen New Order say, ‘we started [to perform] these two charity gigs and then people kept asking us afterwards.” That’s rubbish. They had loads of gigs booked before they did the charity gigs. The truth of it is that we didn’t have any booked. We did the celebration at The Factory, which was very well received. It was really nerve-wracking.

“And the reason I sang it is because all of the singers [we were planning to use] were scared off by the backlash. They couldn’t handle it [and] they didn’t have an emotional join like I did. So they literally ran away, you know, wailing, ‘no, we can’t handle it, we can’t handle it.’ They were all off. I was like, “Shit.”, and it was Rowetta from the Happy Mondays, God bless her, that turned around and said to me, ‘Hooky, you’re going to have to do it.’ I was like, ‘oh, no. I want to play bass. I don’t want to sing. I tried that once in Monaco and Revenge, and I’d rather play bass.’ So I had to do it, you know, and luckily for me, my son was an aspiring bass player [so] I got him very happily to fill in for me – and it worked, which was wonderful.”

Hook goes on to say that his son Jack, who is in his mid-twenties, reminds him of his own musical skills around the same age.

“Yeah, he is very, very good at playing the way that I did and the way that I do, to be honest with you. It does make me laugh, though, because he plays them differently. I say to him, ‘Jack, you’re playing that wrong.’ He turns around and he goes, ‘I’m not.’ [laughs] Who does that remind me of? God, he reminds me of a 25 year-old arrogant me.

“I was a pain in the arse,” he digresses with amusement. “Yeah, you can say that again, mate. No, I mean, he is so enthusiastic, and so happy. He was never a fan before, you see. Jack likes completely different music to me. He wasn’t a great fan of Joy Division or New Order, probably because he was too close to it, you know what I mean? It was only since he started playing with us that he’s got into the group. He prefers Queens of the Stone Age, Metallica and bands like that. He’s become a very, very, very good bass player. I was delighted when we were in America recently and Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins asked him if he wanted to play with him in his group.

“I just went, ‘woah!’ There aren’t many people that I’d happily lose my son to, but Billy Corgan is one of them. I hope it does happen – that was a great compliment. That was really nice because Jack is a really nice kid. I must admit, you know, having him as a son has been an absolute pleasure because I was a pain in the arse!” Hook laughs again. “I feel very guilty about my parents having to put up with me, and Jack has been wonderful. I never had the problems with him that my parents … I don’t know why. I must have done something right, mate.”

After playing those early shows at The Factory the offers started to roll in slowly.

“It became easy, shall we say, to carry on,” he says as he gets back to the history lesson. “The second gig we got offered was in Clermont-Ferrand in France [the Europavox Festival]. I thought, ‘oh, my God, it’s a bit nerve-wracking.’ I was really worried about how people would perceive it and whether they would accept it.

“So, we started playing to very few people. I must admit, it took a lot of proving ourself. It has grown steadily over the 5 years, and, yeah, it’s been really, really tough, and the negative criticism from the others initially made it tougher, actually. There was a feeling like we were doing something wrong – and yet Bernard and Steve criticising me for playing Joy Division was absolutely ridiculous. They were playing bloody Joy Division in Bad Lieutenant. I’m like, ‘what the fuck are you on about mate?’

“It was very typical of Bernard actually,” Hook says with disdain. “With Bernard, it was always, ‘never do as I do, just do as I say.’ That was a prime example of it. It was all right for him to play New Order in Bad Lieutenant without asking my permission, but it wasn’t all right for me to play Joy Division songs without asking his permission. ‘Yeah, fuck off knobhead,’ you know what I mean?”

The spirit of Ian Curtis looms powerfully over the early years of The Light, and Hook was lambasted from some quarters for somehow doing his memory an injustice by performing those early songs. Between the criticisms and Hook having to stand centre stage and sing Curtis’ songs, it must have been quite emotional.

“Well, it wasn’t emotional for those reasons, though,” he says. “The emotion is borne by the loss of Ian, and this wonderful thing… you know, Joy Division, since Ian died, has sort of sat in the corner. When you look around, you can see it. ‘Oh fuck, there’s Joy Division again!’ I mean, in my office, I have pictures of Ian, pictures of Unknown Pleasures [the album] and things like that – I’m surrounded by it all the time. It is really weird. There is a huge emotional aspect to it. I take my daughter to school every day and I drive past the cemetery, and I always go, ‘good morning Ian,’ as we’re going past. [I’m] still very, very, involved and very, very close to it all.

“So yeah, it was nerve-wracking, but whenever we played, unless anyone can correct me, I don’t think we’ve ever had anybody say, ‘you shouldn’t do it.’ The idea might have been abhorrent [to them], but when they’ve seen it, they’ve always gone, ‘oh, I fucking get it now.’

“So, I mean, what can you say? I am not in the habit, as much as I hate to say it, of taking career advice from total strangers [or] we wouldn’t have started a punk group, you know, that struggled against the odds for years. We had reviews saying how crap we were as Joy Division, loads of reviews – ‘this band is shit,’ all that lot. We fought against that, didn’t we, because we believed in ourselves. You have to believe in what you’re doing, and go for it because that’s the only advice you’ll ever get in life. If you start asking everyone’s opinion, all you’re going to do is get very confused.”

The ultimate revenge, after all, is to go for it and succeed.

“Yeah, [but] you know, if I was playing with Bernard and Stephen I would be much happier,” he says, surprisingly. “But the thing is, we don’t have any connection anymore. There’s so much animosity between us and because of this ongoing legal battle over the use of name New Order, this whole attitude toward each other is awful. This is like a proper playground fight. We’re just waiting for teachers to come and give you a cuff around the head and sort it out, really. It’s absolutely pathetic – but it shows no signs of abating.

“What else would I be doing?” he adds sarcastically, “I might be just enjoying meself, wouldn’t I? You know, as Tony Wilson said to me, ‘you’ve got a lot to thank misery for. It’s kept you making great music.’”

Obviously, New Order and Joy Division cast very long shadows over everything Hook has done, from his side projects Revenge and Monaco, to Man Ray and The Light. I wonder if that legacy has been a mixed blessing at times?

“No, it’s like where I’ve been lucky is I never have to start at the bottom every time, do I?” he says unequivocally. “I always start a little way up the ladder, the [same] way that Bernard did in Electronic, the way that Bernard did in Bad Lieutenant – the promoter put ‘Bad Lieutenant featuring former Joy Division/New Order…’ You know, I mean, you never get away from it, and as much as you like to… Listen, when we started touring as New Order, we never wanted to promoters to mention Joy Division. We don’t do that, do we? But they’ve got the worst job in the world, promoters, they’re the ones that put their ass on the line every night, so they put ‘New Order, formerly Joy Division.’

“It was annoying for a few years, but then you realise that it’s just life, isn’t it? You come with baggage. Sometimes that baggage is useful and sometimes it’s not. Most of the time, I’d have to say that I’m very proud of my legacy and very proud of the work I did, and I think that celebrating it the way we do with The Light is proof that I’m proud of it. I’m proud of Movement, I’m proud of Power, Corruption & Lies, I’m proud of Low-Life, I’m proud of Brotherhood. Wouldn’t I look stupid if they were shit records? If I was up there playing them, and they were crap records, wouldn’t I look like a complete idiot? I don’t because they’re great records.

“I’m lucky, I am really lucky,” Hook reflects. “I’ve been in [some] fantastic groups and they’ve all stemmed from Joy Division. I can’t knock it. I’ve been very, very lucky as a musician, you know. The chemistry in finding Bernard and Stephen. I would not be here without Barney and I would not be here without Steve. The interesting thing about them two, is they say New Order are here without me and will be here without me. That’s the difference! I freely admit that, without them, I wouldn’t be here now – but they have a different attitude to it.”

No matter who is right or wrong, it remains a terrible shame when any kind of relationship descends to that sort of level, a fact that Peter Hook readily admits – though not without having another shot at the other side.

“Definitely. The thing is, it’s just I think what they’re doing is fucking pathetic. It embarrassed me and I wouldn’t do it. It’s interesting because early on when we’d split up and Barney went off to do Electronic, Rob Gretton got us back together again and suggested that we reunite without Barney. I said no, Steve and Gillian said yeah. So I suppose, in a funny way, it goes to show you just what kind of people they are.

“Because I said, ‘New Order without Barney: no chance, mate.’ It’s a shame Barney didn’t give me the same compliment.”

An edited version of this story was first published in X-Press Magazine’s 21 January 2015 issue

Category: Interviews

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  1. Merryn says:

    I really hope the joy division tracks aren’t cut back too much to suit an uneducated oz audience. Not fair!!

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