Peter Hook is a name synonymous with some of the UK music scene's most enduring hits. Having spent time in both Joy Division and New Order and witnessed first hand all the associated success and excess. Hook has assembled a wealth of know-how and wrote about it in his book 'Unknown Pleasures - Inside Joy Division'. Hook returns to Ireland with his band Peter Hook and the Light and will play The Academy in Dublin on November 22nd and we caught up with him for a chat in advance of show.
Words: Paul Page
Thanks for taking the time to talk to entertainment.ie Peter. So, you have been a busy man the last couple of years - your book Unknown Pleasures was published to almost universal acclaim and you have been touring the Joy Division and New Order albums with The Light. What has the reaction been like from live audiences to albums that are regarded with such reverence?
The reactions so far from all of the audiences have been absolutely fantastic, I have been completely blown away by it all at times. I understand that the albums are held in very high regard so the band and I try to reproduce it all as respectfully and accurately as we possibly can. Playing the Joy Division records is a very different experience to playing the New Order ones but I love playing them all. Our current tour is performing Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies by New Order which is a really great live set, we have been fortunate in that the records have translated very well into the live environment.
Was there any trepidation on your part in taking on the vocal duties and interpreting the words of such an iconic vocalist and lyricist as Ian Curtis?
Absolutely, I am not a frontman by trade so at first I found it very daunting and I was extremely nervous, but as we did more and more gigs I got a lot more comfortable with it all and now I would like to think that I do a good job in that role. Obviously I will never be Ian and I would never try to be, but I just try to do the best job I can. Next week we will play our 200th live gig so I have had a lot of experience and now I am a lot more confident with it.
Your book 'Unknown Pleasures – Inside Joy Division' was a fantastic read. It did a great job of demystifying the band and showing that you were just four blokes who happened to make this incredible music. Was that part of your goal with the book – to strip away some of the myths that had built up around the Joy Division?
Yes I would say so, there is a lot of myth that surrounds Joy Division so I guess I wanted to bring across that other side to us all. I was sick of reading books about Joy Division by people who were not actually there, and who were just speculating in my eyes as to what went on. So it was great to be able to set the record straight with my own book and I have been absolutely delighted to see that people have taken to it just as they did with the Hacienda book.
Speaking of books, have you read Morrissey’s book yet? Do you think The Smiths will ever reform?
They are the last ones left, aren't they... The Stone Roses got back together, even "New Order" is back now, albeit not properly, obviously... So the next in line would be the Smiths reunion. Personally I hope it doesn't happen as it's all Manchester has left! I haven't read Morrissey's book and I doubt I will to be honest, I've never been a big fan of his.
As a matter of interest, have you ever thought how Joy Division would have sounded two or three albums down the line if Ian hadn’t died? Do you think you would have taken the more dance orientated path that New Order took or gone in a different direction?
I actually think that things would have carried on going down more or less the same path. All of us were starting to become more and more interested in electronics and were starting to explore that side of music even when we were still in Joy Division – you can hear this on the Closer album with tracks like Isolation and Decades. I think we would still have gone on to make more electronic music with Ian. I can imagine him singing 'Blue Monday', definitely.
It has been well documented that you and Bernard Sumner don’t exactly see eye to eye anymore. Bands inevitably end in acrimony –does this sadden you in any way? That someone you spent so much of your life with making music is now someone you may never speak to again?
It is of course very sad and the longer that it all drags on it just becomes more and more frustrating but unfortunately there is just no end in sight at the moment. I don't agree with the business side of their supposed 'reformation' and so I am fighting it. The others will not meet to negotiate and so we have to do it all through the lawyers which is very time consuming and of course very costly but unfortunately there is no other way. Hopefully there will be a resolution to it all soon. I wish we could just let each other get on with our lives but instead we are locked in this legal battle, but I do have to stand up for what I believe in.
Which has been the most challenging album from the Joy Division/New Order back catalogue to play?
I suppose the most challenging would definitely be 'Power, Corruption & Lies' because it was with this album that we started having to incorporate backing tracks and a lot more electronics into the live set. Unknown Pleasures, Closer and Movement you can play totally live, which we do, but PC&L is a different beast altogether. However, I would like to think that we have pulled it off now, every gig we do it gets better and better. The boys in the band do a fantastic job.
There was a time when the release of an album from a band that you loved was a special event. I vividly remember counting down the days to the release of the latest New Order 12”, and spending ages poring over the artwork and sleeve notes. Do you think the advent of the internet and mp3s has destroyed our relationship with music in some ways? That music has now been reduced to mere files that you just store on your computer or mp3 player?
I know exactly what you mean because I used to do exactly the same thing when I bought records myself. It's a shame that this seems to be dying out but this is the digitalised world that we live in, it's just the way things have gone. The rise of the iPod meant that digital music became the norm, it's sad but you can still find the real stuff out there if you look for it!
You are due back to Ireland with the Light in November to play the Movement and Power, Corruption and Lies albums. How do you feel about these albums now? Do you think they stand the test of time and are there any plans to bring the Low Life album on tour?
I am really looking forward to coming back to Ireland with this tour because we always tend to have great gigs there. I think that these albums have definitely stood the test of time because the music still sounds fresh all these years later. The Movement and PC&L set is great to play, we really enjoy doing it and I hope the audience will see that in our performance. We'll also be supporting ourselves playing a small set of Joy Division songs because I wanted to keep that going and not just put it on the shelf as we moved on to playing New Order, so arrive early for that! Next year we plan to debut our performance of Low Life and Brotherhood with some special UK shows next September, so hopefully in 2015 we can come back and perform again in Ireland with that next chapter.
Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us Peter and good luck with the shows.
Photo: Julien LachaussÇe