Peter Hook is on tour RIGHT NOW in North America with his band The Light. The group is playing ALL of Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures and Closer AND are doing a opening set of New Order hits! It's kind of a big show.
Because Hooky and crew are tearing it up stateside, Punknews' John Gentile spoke to the famed bassist about the tour, Joy Division, conflict in New Order, his session with Gwen Stefani, the death of physical media, and more! You can check it out below.
One of the things that I really like about seeing you and the Light do Joy Division and New Order live is that there’s a little bit more grit in the songs than the studio counterparts. They are kind of punkier versions. Yeah, I must admit that it was kind of frustration of mine that we used too much backing track and I felt like we didn’t need it. I felt like a dinosaur. “Can’t we just play it like we used to?” The strength I think in the songs was when we just played them. The moment that I love the most when we play Joy Division songs is the little moment just before we start playing and there’s nothing there, and then we start playing and it’s ALL there.
When we first started playing and recording in Joy Division we had no money, no way of recording ourselves, and the music only existed when we played. Looking back at that concept now- when we can just record everything and record anything on a computer- it was just so special. The reliance was total. You had to have all four of us to have that music. I must admit, Joy Division was a fantastic group. Each member held up his corner so fantastically and the strength of each member being right behind what they were doing. I’ve never been in a band like Joy Division since. It’s always been different and did not have the reliance and balance.
Some bands, like say Led Zeppelin or Queen, or Joy Division, each member is already insanely talented and they each work off each other so well. Is that just random coincidence? No, we have a term for that- “chemistry.” And that chemistry that makes you fantastic destroys you later. When New Order broke up in 2007, I actually had the thought that the best thing for bands to do was to not play music together. You know like how the Beach Boys would do it? One Beach Boy would write and the others would just sort of go out and play. Without the angst you don’t have the chemistry. It’s the price you pay for legacy, I guess. The longer you are in a group the more you have a chance of falling out.
I was watching an interview with Mick Jagger today, funnily enough. He was talking about his relationship with Keith Richards. Now we all know that has been very, very rocky, but the fact that they have managed to stay together has been quite an achievement.
In New Order, people’s ideals changed. We just became very, very different. By being different, we just made each other miserable. It was a great shame and I couldn’t pretend any more, It was untenable for me, what we were going through. My wife always says to me, when I got home from playing a gig with New Order, my face looked like slapped ass, as we say in England, and she says when I play with the light, I walk through the door with a smile on my face… so it might have been me!
A long the lines of “having a good time,” when you see people at a Peter Hook show, and you play a song like “Love will tear us apart,” everyone is having a great time! But, the song itself is an incredibly depressing tune. I wonder if you have ever contemplated that dichotomy. Yes, “love will tear us apart,” is the perfect contradiction. Thank God no one has ever written a song like that about me! It is a tragic song! The lyrics are heartbreaking. But I guess that’s the thing about it. I’m sure it’s not the only one like that- there are lots of songs that come across as pop hits but are actualloy insidiously telling a very, very sad story, which is what Ian did with that song. It is a very, very sad tale of a marriage break up hidden in a pop song. I’m sure a lot of people, even though they sing the lyrics, maybe they don’t realize the gravity behind them.
I think what I’m trying to celebrate when we play it is that we are all fans of the band and the musi8c is a joyous thing when it comes down to it. Most people make better music when they are angry, tired, poor, frustrated- Tony Wilson used to say to us as a “record boss” if you will, that we’ve got a lot to thank the Hacienda, the club in Manchester, for- it kept you poor and it kept you making great music! It’s like back handed compliment. Th music that we wrote when we were twenty was very angry, it was very confused, we were lashing out. The people of that age still have that frustration and that terrifying thought of what is going to happen, especially in this day and age. Look at any newspaper and you’ll be terrified. When I look at the Ukraine, or monkey pox, or Covid, or that the government in England is on the verge of breaking down for years- I’ve never seen moments like this in my life and they are terrifying. The wonderful thing in my life is I can go out and find a group of like-minded lunatics and sing along and forget about all that crap for an hour…
I’m lucky that we play for nearly THREE hours on this show. I’ve definitely ventured into Bruce Springsteen territory on this one- very, very happily I might add. The band is like “how many songs are we playing?!” In Joy division we would only play seven or eight, or maybe nine songs. In New Order, we’d only play ten or eleven, and even when we were headlining Glastonbury, we’d only play fifteen or sixteen. We knew like twenty songs. Now, I can paly like 100 songs. I’m looking forward to keeping dementia at bay for a while!
Actually, on all the Light tours, you usually do two albums and sometimes an opening set. You could “get away” with just doing one album, so, uh, why give yourself the extra work, I guess? Well you know what, it doesn’t feel like work, that's the interesting part. The band, we have these conversations all the time. We had just played Brixton academy and I wanted to play all of An Ideal for Living in addition to Unknown Pleasures and Closer- I had to practically bribe the boys to do it. But that show was wow! For me it’s about the chronological aspect of the music and showing the growth- showing how quickly Joy Division went from a punky, child like band I’d say, to large, majestic and powerful entity. I’d play the demos if I could persuade the boys! I’d like to do it! That’s the aspect that fascinates me. The amount of work that Maritn Hannett put into the songs- he taught us how to tune the keys, so each song is sympathetic to the next. These little tips were so wonderful in jhelping ud make a song so natural.
When we finish with “decades” there’s this wonderful [pregnant pause that suggests what could have come next. I’m very lucky in that, with Joy Division, we didn’t put any of the singles on the albums. For me, that means we’ve got the best chocolates to throw out at the end. We can paly “digitital,” “Dead souls,” “Transmission,” “Love will tear us apart.”
It’s amazing to me at how naïve, and young, and fresh we were as a band to throw out those singles- “don’t worry, we’ll write other songs!” We didn’t want to rip our fans off by regurgitating songs by putting singles on an LP. It was a noble idea that we stuck to as New Order for a so long until Factory records went bankrupt and we signed to London Records. That’s one of the things that I loved about punk rock. Its intentions were wonderful. It has changed so many people’s lives for the better.
Watching Danny Boyle’s Pistol, I actually really enjoyed it and I didn’t think I would. The way he caught the youth of the band and the stupidity that is in youth, the lack of knowledge, the lack of experience, I thought he made it work quite well. Many items when the band were being horrible to each other, it reminded me of Joy Division and early new Order. He caught the band dynamic very, very well. I actually thought he taught the story very well. The way the band treated Johnny Rotten was all very obvious, in a very school bullying way, which was quite sad but was quite normal. It was very well done. Joy Division was a punk band and I’ve got a punk attitude so you’ll have to drag me off!
I get really paranoid and I see people get hot or getting crushed or collapsing, and I think maybe we should ply for less. I’m indulging myself! The wonderful part of being in a band is you do get indulged! I went through the 80s and 90s indulgences, but this is a different kind of indulgences!
I think you, and even the other members of Joy Division, have all done a good job, of we’ll say, appreciating Ian Curtis without glamourizing his demise. I believe some friends of Kurt Cobain have expressed frustration that perhaps Cobain’s death has been glamourized and exploited. How do you feel when you see like a bootleg poster that says “Ian Curtis” and it has his birth and death dates on it. In the media, suicide can be glamourized a great deal. Yeah, especially in a group ethic, I supposed As an older punk- ha! The things that Ian missed the most was his child growing up and seeing a romance blossom with Annik. His relationship with Annik was cruelly shattered. It’s the every day things. He loved his dog. And I never realized the importance of that until after I got one. I don’t actually view the frustration of the group not carrying on. I think the sadness is that Ian never got to do the things that we did as we grew older and enjoyed. He had never been thanked by people by having them buy your records and giving you a certain lifestyle. Ian never got a penny form Joy Division. We were on one pound fifty a day in Joy Division. We didn’t earn any money from Joy Division until 1985 or something. The band had been finished for years. We didn’t learn anything from New Order for a long time but that’s a different story! He’s not my only friend that I have lost to suicide. It’s a short term solution to what seems like an end of the world problem.
My daughter is now 23, the same age of Ian when he died, and it’s unfathomable. I still have guilt and I still hate that we didn’t do enough to keep him… but we were 23. We didn’t know our ass from our elbow. I’ve got a picture of him here in my office that I see every day. I went to his grave today, actually. I was in the area and went to say hello, which is weird. I do it quite often.
To change gears, didn’t you record a session with Gwen Stefani once? Yes, I did… a very unsatisfactory session, as well.
Oh, why? Was it just not jiving? It was handled by a very famous producer called Spike Stent. He actually gave her a massive hit LP. I did a hell of a lot of work on the track. I took it somewhere else. I made it very New Order. Everything that I tried to do was frustrated by this producer. It got back to Gwen that I was unhappy with how it turned out and God bless her, she phoned me up and thanked me personally, which was wonderful. I got paid a lot of money for doing it, but it was very unsatisfactory. Maybe I knew what it could have been for me, yeah? But the producer didn’t like it. He actually said to me, “you’re taking too much off Gwen.” And I said, “that’s my job! That’s my job, mate! That’s what I do!” Gwen was lovely and I’ve seen her many times since and I regret my… churlishness, shall we say.
I’ve since learned, I think I had only done one session before that for Martha and the Muffins, so I didn’t know what to expect, and I guess I was sort of still keeping the flag flying for being a punk and writing your own material and it being used and I wasn’t aware of the politics and machinations of it. I learned a lot with that one. The great frustration of it was I was sent a framed nine times platinum disc1 so what do I know?!
New Order and Joy Division were very famous for their physical component. “Blue Monday” had the diskette jacket. “Bizarre Love Triangle” had those unique wash colors. Unknown Pleasures has the iconic image. But now, physical media is on its last legs. Is that a tragedy or is it just the way things go? Interestingly, I think I agree with you that it’s a tragic change. Over here is my record collection. The joy I get in playing my vinyl records is so great. The people that kept records going were the Germans. They wouldn’t give up vinyl. Thank God they were instrumentals in brining it back. And now I must admit that I’ve just done a Joy Division classical concert and a record of it. We put it out digitally and then we did an actual vinyl record and the vinyl record is wonderful. I have to say UI was so proud when I got it. For someone my age, I cannot completely switched off from that. Sometimes I stream, but here, I’ve got my Grace Jones album- wonderful- there is a difference with a record. It was a great shame but it’s coming back. I think young people are starting to realize the magic in playing as record. You can’t argue with the simplicity of it, but God help you if the Interne goes down. I’m happy there has been a resurgence and warner is putting out box set of the Joy Division and New Order albums.
Peter, last question. What do you want people to take from the upcoming live shows? There is a wonderful appreciation in watching someone do something well with heart and soul and passion and integrity. When I go see a concert, I’m the same as everyone else. I don’t want to see something halfhearted or underdone or even overblown. I’m extremely fortunate that I’ve bene in not one wonderful group, but two wonderful, wonderful groups, and Monaco, and revenge, and Peter Hook and the Light- there is a wonderful simplicity and passion that is just picking up a guitar and seeing people around you play. I am doing my level best to promote something that I love beyond compare and I’m doing it with the best people in the world- the people that like it as much as me. So to be honest with you, I would not let them down. I always felt that I did let people down in New Order for whatever reason it is. Now, I’m getting to indulge myself. You’re going to have to have some stamina to keep up with me. That’s what I want people to take away. You want people to come in, you want them to relax, you want them to hear something done well, and then we all go hoke happy. Really, there is nothing more you could ask for. It’s as simple as that. And please, if anyone doesn’t like what I am doing, tell me… it will be interesting to see if I agree…
|Aug 18, 2022||First Avenue||Minneapolis, MN|
|Aug 19, 2022||Metro||Chicago, IL|
|Aug 20, 2022||Metro||Chicago, IL|
|Aug 22, 2022||The Pabst Theatre||Milwaukee, WI|
|Aug 23, 2022||Paradise Rock Club||Boston, MA|
|Aug 25, 2022||The Fillmore Silver Spring||Silver Spring, MD|
|Aug 26, 2022||Union Transfer||Philadelphia, PA|
|Aug 27, 2022||Terminal 5||New York, NY|
|Aug 29, 2022||The Van Buren||Phoenix, AZ|
|Aug 30, 2022||Mohawk||Austin, TX|
|Aug 31, 2022||Mohawk||Austin, TX|
|Sep 02, 2022||House Of Blues Houston||Houston, TX|
|Sep 03, 2022||House Of Blues Dallas||Dallas, TX|
|Sep 05, 2022||Ogden Theatre||Denver, CO|
|Sep 06, 2022||Humphreys Concerts by the Bay||San Diego, CA|
|Sep 08, 2022||The Theatre At Ace Hotel||Los Angeles, CA|
|Sep 09, 2022||The Theatre At Ace Hotel||Los Angeles, CA|
|Sep 10, 2022||The Warfield||San Francisco, CA|
|Sep 12, 2022||Crystal Ballroom||Portland, OR|
|Sep 13, 2022||The Showbox||Seattle, WA|
|Sep14, 2022||Commodore Ballroom||Vancouver, BC|