Peter Hook is unquestionably an icon of modern music. When you hear any group described as sounding like Joy Division, New Order or even Monaco, you can bet they mean they sound like Hooky. His innovative melodic approach to playing the bass has influenced generations of bands. One of music’s great characters, after more than thirty years in the business Hook still has an insatiable appetite for performing live and discovering new sounds as well as a growing reputation as a sincere, direct author. His current tour with The Light performing New Order’s first two albums ‘Movement’ and ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ in full is coming to venues across the U.K. and Ireland this October and November. Through the wonders of the World Wide Web, Elliott Homer was able to get some questions to the great man himself who was kind enough to supply some answers! Enjoy!
You’ve been touring with The Light playing classic New Order albums and you recently did the Sankey’s closing party, celebrating the legacy of the Haçienda, why does it keep falling to you to remind people how great music once was, especially that from Manchester?
I’m not sure about that really! I often get criticised for it but in my eyes if things were just allowed to be forgotten that that would be very sad indeed. I was particularly sad to see Sankey’s go, that place had really become a sort of Manchester institution over the years and Dave Vincent has done a great job there, it is a shame to see it go but I was very happy to be able to play the closing party and be part of that event.
You’ve just finished a tour playing ‘Unknown Pleasures’ which is your last for a while performing exclusively Joy Division material. Has The Light moved on from its original purpose, to celebrate Joy Division?
In a way, yes. We played two sets in August based on the Joy Division material but from September onwards we will switch our focus to the first two New Order albums. However, I don’t want to just leave the Joy Division stuff behind, we will still be doing those gigs now and again, for example we already have some gigs lined up in Greece in December. The original purpose of the band was the celebrate the life and work of Ian (Curtis, late Joy Division singer), but I suppose things just spiralled out of control a bit – I never thought that we would ever go on tour with ‘Unknown Pleasures’ let alone also start playing and touring the later albums. I suppose now the purpose of it all is to celebrate the music as a whole.
Do you feel that you can personally put Joy Division, if not Ian Curtis’ memory, to rest with the release of your book (‘Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division’) and the end of these performances for a while?
I don’t think it will ever be properly put to rest really, for me anyway. It’s always going to be a massive part of my life. Writing the book was indeed quite a cathartic proves and I enjoyed doing it, I am really glad that people seemed to enjoy reading it. I think it was about time that someone in the band released their version of events. I was getting tired of reading books about Joy Division by people who simply were not there.
How are you looking forward to playing ‘Movement’ and ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ back in the U.K.? You’ve just done a few dates in the U.S. with it, how was that?
Yes, I am really looking forward to it. It was our third tour of the States and Canada having already played ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and ‘Closer’ there in 2010 and 2011. It was great to go back. We visited placed where we’ve had great gigs in the past as well as a few new places too like Austin and Vancouver. We also went down into Mexico and then onto South America, which was all very exciting.
People see Joy Division and New Order as separate entities but it is of course still mostly the same people making music over a short space of time. Would it be strange to play a transitional set of ‘Closer’ followed by ‘Movement’?
Now that would be interesting… I don’t think it would ever happen because promoters tend to want either ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and ‘Closer’ as a double header or ‘Movement’ and ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ as a package so I don’t think a ‘Closer’/’Movement’ set would happen but I would love to do it actually. It would be fascinating to hear the transition from the final Joy Division record to that first New Order record – keyboards and synths were becoming more and more important to our sound so that would be interesting to present in the live format.
With the Joy Division material, you’ve said that you sought to include more of Martin Hannett’s production touches to your performances. In New Order you were never so reverent with the songs from ‘Movement’ (also produced by Hannett) or ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’, have you decided to go the same route with these performances, to be faithful to the record?
We try to be faithful to the record as much as we can. We can’t say we are going on tour playing the albums and then go on to change things all over the set. There are certain things that have to be changed a little bit in order for them to work live but in general we do try and keep things faithful to what people know.
Are the performances you’ve done with The Light the first time that these records have been played in full?
Yes it’s the first time that that albums have been played in full. To me that feels a lot better than just “playing a set” or doing the greatest hits, I think it demands a bit more concentration and understanding not only from the band but from the audience too. We were lucky in that all of the records translated extremely well into live sets. We flesh out the rest of the setlists with various singles or rarer B-sides from the same eras. So far I am pleased to say that it is working very well!
Were the albums conceived that way, to be played as a whole set?
They weren’t conceived that way, which is where we have been lucky in that the records happen to work very well as live sets. ‘Movement’ is a very intense record that works to a crashing finale with ‘Denial’ whereas ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ is a bit lighter yet still finishes with a bang with ‘Leave Me Alone’ which is probably my personal favourite New Order track. ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and ‘Closer’ also translated well into live sets and it’s great to play them.
Are you a fan of groups playing albums in full in general?
I would say so, yes. I mean a lot of bands are doing it now. I saw Iggy & The Stooges play ‘Raw Power’ in full and that was amazing, I was blown away to be honest. Then you big shows like ‘The Wall’ by Roger Waters or The Who doing ‘Quadrophenia’, I think they all work really well. To present the album in full as an art form is something I can definitely subscribe to.
If you could see any artist perform one great album back to front, who would you see?
I think I would choose to either see The Doors perform ‘Waiting for the Sun’, Led Zeppelin perform ‘Led Zeppelin II’ or John Cale perform ‘Paris 1919’.
New Order are unique as band with an incredible number of great singles as well as albums. They are very different pieces of work however. The Light focuses on the albums, which do you think is a better representation of New Order’s catalogue?
Well what we try and do with our live sets is to present both sides. Our sets contain the albums performed in full but then we also include the singles and B-sides from the corresponding era that really turn it into a great set. I also like to keep it chronological where I can so that people see the transition and the journey of the band. For example, we’d start our ‘Movement’/’Power, Corruption & Lies’ set with ‘In a Lonely Place’ and ‘Ceremony’, the first New Order songs, followed by the next single ‘Procession’ before playing ‘Movement’ in full, then going to the songs that bridged the gap between ‘Movement’ and ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ such as ‘Mesh, ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ or ‘Cries and Whispers’ followed by ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ in full and ending on the singles from that era like ‘Temptation’ and ‘Blue Monday’. It works well as a live set yet also retains that chronological edge.
Which other New Order songs do you miss playing the most and slip into the setlists?
‘Hurt’ is a great New Order song that I really missed. I tried to get Barney to play ‘Hurt’ again for years but he just would not agree to it, so it is fantastic to be able to play it again now.
In response to their criticism of you playing ‘Unknown Pleasures’, you said to Interview magazine “I don’t understand why they don’t just say, “Okay, you play New Order and we’re going to play Joy Division.”” Was your treatment regarding the current New Order tour a factor in deciding to play New Order material aswell?
Not really no, once we had come so far as to have played ‘Unknown Pleasures’, ‘Closer’ and even ‘Still’ (the last Joy Division release) live then it seemed natural to carry one with things and to go ahead and play the New Order albums because we have built up quite a following now doing what we do who seem to enjoy our project so it felt right to press ahead with the New Order record. The fact that the others are out there touring now was not a direct reason yet it is interesting to have that competition. Although us and them are touring in different ways for different reasons.
What differentiates what you’re doing with The Light from the current New Order line-up’s tour?
Well obviously the main difference between the two tours in that while “New Order” are out there playing the same greatest hits setlist every night, we are bucking the trend a bit by committing to playing the full records which includes some of the songs that were not hits, which I love because it then becomes a challenge to present the lesser known material in such a way that it stands up to the bigger tunes. I can’t really get my head round the current “New Order” tour to be honest, not changing the setlist was something that really annoyed my during my time in the band and it looks to have stayed that way. It’s interesting that they are all closing all their gigs with a few Joy Division songs as again, Barney never used to enjoy playing them as he called them miserable!
Lastly, we have a radio show that goes out last Thursday of the month. We ask all our interviewed artists if they would like to pick three songs for a mini playlist. Would you like to pick three? They can be any three, ones of your own, bands you want to big up, well known, anything. Shoot…
Wow, talk about being put on the spot… OK, well my choices would be ‘Came Back Haunted’ the new song by Nine Inch Nails which I think is a great tune and it is nice to see Trent Reznor back in the fold. Let’s also go for ‘Sea Within A Sea’ by The Horrors – we played a festival together last week in France and they were great to watch. Finally, I’ll pick ‘Born Slippy .NUXX’ by Underworld as that is one of my favourite tracks of all time!
Thanks Hooky! Three of the best there we’re sure you’ll agree!
Tune in for Hooky’s selections and more great music on the Gigslutz Radio Show at www.opticalradio.net on Thursday 31st October from 7pm.
Catch Peter Hook & The Light on tour during October & November at the following venues;
24th October – EastVillage Arts Centre, Liverpool
25th October – The Cockpit, Leeds
26th October – Colchester Arts Centre, Colchester
31th October – 53 Degrees, Preston
1st November – Sugarmill, Stoke
2nd November – 02 Academy Birmingham
7th November – Chinnery’s, Southend-on-sea
8th November – Sub 89, Reading
9th November – Concorde 2 Brighton
14th November – Digital, Newcastle
15th November – The Garage, Glasgow
16th November – The Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh
22nd November – The Academy, Dublin
23rd November – The Limelight, Belfast