Peter Hook opens up ahead of UK tour

Peter Hook''Photo by Mark McNulty
Peter Hook''Photo by Mark McNulty
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Peter Hook. Bassist, singer, songwriter, DJ, club owner, record company boss, author. In three years, the man who helped give Manchester a musical heartbeat will be 60 years old. He shows no sign of winding down. For somebody who has shed the amount of blood, sweat and tears Peter Hook has, he probably wouldn’t know how to.

Since assembling Peter Hook and The Light and deciding to play Joy Division’s seminal “Unknown Pleasures” in its entirety three years ago, more than 150 shows have passed.

Peter Hook. Photo: Timothy Norris.

Peter Hook. Photo: Timothy Norris.

The shows started out as a way of celebrating Ian Curtis’ life, a memorial to a friend whose life came to a tragic and heart-breaking end at the age of just 23. Hook was overwhelmed by the response from fans though, thousands yearning to hear tracks they had only ever heard through speakers. There have been detractors, none so more than former band mates Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris. Hook doesn’t care.

“I’m used to it all now, the stress and the strain of it all. Don’t forget that when New Order split up in 2006 I hadn’t played in a group for four years. I’d been DJing and to be honest with you I thought that’s all I’d be doing. I really didn’t envisage getting back in a band especially after Freebass. What happened was the 30 anniversary of Ian’s death came. When I was in New Order it felt OK to ignore everything to do with Joy Division, so I concentrated on New Order.

“When it came to the anniversary of Ian’s life I was thinking to myself, now I’m outside of New Order it doesn’t seem right not celebrating what was a fantastic achievement. A sad ending but a fantastic achievement. I thought ‘right let’s do it’. I wasn’t on speaking terms with either of the other two so I thought I’d do something myself to celebrate Ian’s life. I only thought that I’d do two gigs at the most. We got asked to play it all around the world. And in fact, all the times we’ve been asked to play it, the only people to criticise it is Steve and Bernard. It does hurt me. It is annoying. They were calling me for so long for doing it and now they do it as New Order.”

The band are now turning their attention to New Order’s formative years, playing “Movement” and “Power, Corruption & Lies” back to back along with favourite cuts from that era including “Everything’s Gone Green”, “Temptation” and “Blue Monday”.

They play Preston 53 Degrees on Thursday, October 23rd, and it promises to be a memorable night.

“The odd thing is that when I started doing the Joy Division ones I just thought ‘wow, wouldn’t it be great to play every song you’ve ever written before you shuffle off this mortal coil’. We’ve now played every song that Joy Division ever wrote or recorded. And the thing about New Order that used to really p*** me off was that Barney and Steve wouldn’t play any of the old stuff. It was very frustrating to have all those songs that the fans loved and wanted but you weren’t allowed to play them. It was really weird. Some of these songs have not been played for 25 to 30 years. A lot of people have only heard Joy Division on records so it’s nice to be able to go to the places we’ve been to. We’ve been to Mexico, Brazil, Peru, all over the world and play this stuff. And the audience when you get there, I thought it would be full of fat, old blokes like me and it isn’t, it’s really mixed.”

The fractious relationship between Hook and his former cohorts is as strained as ever, a bitter divorce between partners who once upon a time loved each other unconditionally.

It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Hook, Sumner and Morris could share a stage again. The animosity within both camps shows no sign of simmering and communication has all but entirely broken down.

“We had a chance of mediation on the legal dispute a year ago. That was the last time we spoke and that was for five minutes. The frustration is that they decided to reform New Order behind my back without asking my permission or even informing me. It’s not a very noble way of doing anything. Then it went from bad to worse because like with any divorce the only way you can move forward is if everybody is in agreement. The way they did it though made sure there could never be any good feeling and to be honest with you, the business settlement they put forward is entirely unsatisfactory and I’m still looking for a legal remedy to it.”

He may be busy touring the world but Hook still finds time to DJ (he was booed off in Brazil a while back, he tells me laughing); run a club, the FAC251; he’s writing new material and he’s also released two books, “The Hacienda: How Not To Run A Club” and “Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division”.

In that book, Hook sheds light on the myths that shadow Ian Curtis’s legend, a legend that has darkened and grown more enigmatic the longer it’s been frozen in time Some cast doubts over his playing of “Unknown Pleasures” saying it was cashing in on this legacy, selling out to promote his own personal ventures. What many people forget is Ian Curtis wasn’t just a “tortured genius” nor was he just Hook’s band mate, he was a friend.

“A lot of people play up to the myth, don’t they, like with ‘Control’. I don’t want to debunk the myth but I do want to show that we are just normal people. It was a struggle and it was really hard work but it was funny and we had some real laughs and great scrapes. And the person who believed in it the most, who has been portrayed as that tortured genius, was Ian. And yet Ian was just one of the lads. It was his illness that sort of singled him out and made him different and he fought it tooth and nail.

“After 30 odd years I’m used to it (seeing the way he his portrayed). Any suicide in any way affects you and the guilt never goes away. You’re always reminded of it. I live with Ian every day. I hear Joy Division every day. I’ve got pictures of him in my office., I’m always getting asked about Joy Division business. It’s not something you can get away from. The frustrating thing is that Ian wanted that success to have a fantastic life for him and his family and he never got enjoy it. That’s the great shame in it. But that’s what suicide is. It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”

Curtis’ influence on music should never be forgotten. Neither should Peter Hook’s.