Peter Hook – Unknown Pleasures
To the list of people I’ve never quite managed to interview, we can now add the name of Peter Hook.
When I’d been asked which events I’d like to cover during the Off The Shelf festival, there was only really one event I absolutely had to be at; Hooky. Bass player with Joy Division and then of course, New Order. If anyone has a story to tell it had to be him. As if my silent prayers were being listened to and answered, without me even having to ask, the nice lady on the other end of the e-mail asked me if I’d like a chat with him before the event? Would I? Just a bit, yes. I quickly checked my friend Dave could be there too, and it was sorted. Dave’s the uber-fan of all things Joy Division and beyond, so I had to have him there. I’m the first to admit I’ve come to appreciate their music much too late and never saw them live, so it was only right and proper that he should come along – but despite our excitement, it was not to be.
The time slot for the interview kept getting put back. Four o’clock, then six o’clock, and on the actual day it transpired he wasn’t arriving until just 30 minutes before he was due on stage, so it was called off. Shame, as I’d got him a present! But more of that later.
There was great anticipation amongst the audience, mainly because I got the impression they were all fans of both New Order, and more to the point, Joy Division. Their place in the history of popular music is now firmly established, with everyone from The Editors to U2, and from Moby to the Red Hot Chilli Peppers citing them as a major influence. He has already written a book about his time as co-owner of the Hacienda entitled ‘How Not to Run a Club’. It seems to have given him a taste for writing, and as part of the Off The Shelf festival he’s here tonight to mark the publication of the follow-up we’ve all been waiting for, ‘Unknown Pleasures’. He talked about how seeing the Sex Pistols in Manchester in July 1976 led to them forming a group called Warsaw, who became Joy Division, and who then went on to change the musical landscape with their two albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer.
Tragically, less than four years later it was all over, when singer and lyricist Ian Curtis committed suicide. Tonight, through a skilful and insightful set of questions from Klive Humberstone, himself a self-confessed fan, Hooky talked about the some of the events of those four years and what happened beyond, as the remaining members went on to form New Order. He told stories of 23 minute gigs, their passion for playing live, sometimes without even asking how much money they were being paid and the difficulties and soul-searching they went through after Ian’s death. He talked about the fallings out and awkward re-unions New Order have been through, and he’s clearly still hurting that he found out that he’d been sacked from the reformed group by hearing it on 6Music. All in all though, he’s justifiably proud of what he achieved.
As a consolation, I’d been offered a post-event chat, but really there was no point. Klive’s interview was excellent, and he drew out of him all the points I would have wanted to talk about, so I thought I’d just hang about with everyone who wanted a piece of him, and to have their books signed. It gave me the opportunity to give him the present I’d got as an ice-breaker for our interview-that-never-was.
In my meticulous research (OK then, Wikipedia), I’d discovered that their first ever mention in the music press was in the NME in 1977. Back then they were paying their dues as Warsaw. Surely, I reasoned, in the old pile of NMEs which my wife thinks I’ve thrown out, but which I secreted in the attic, surely there are some from 1977. There were, and as if to prove myself right when I insisted they’d ‘be useful one day’, I found the review, written by Paul Morley. I’d made him a copy, and I presented it to him. I did wonder if he’d have a copy already, as he’s a self-confessed hoarder, and inevitable chronicler of the band. He reckons it’s a trait shared by many a bass player (cf Bill Wyman). He was thrilled and said not only did he not have it, he couldn’t remember ever seeing it. So I was pleased I’d given him something back in return for an entertaining night of anecdotes about the band mixed with the inevitable regrets surrounding Ian’s death.
Back in 1977 the NME had yet to decide whether this new ‘punk’ thing was to be feared, laughed at or embraced. There was more than a touch of ‘it’ll be gone by Christmas’ about their coverage, and there a great deal was made of the anarchy and violence surrounding the scene. Punk made it possible for anyone to make music, by disregarding the conventions of the music business and just doing it. Warsaw, and the band they became were perfectly positioned to take advantage of the breaking down of these barriers.
It was a great night of nostalgia and measured reflection of the contribution that, without anyone really appreciating at the time, Peter Hook and his band mates made. I’ll let him have the last word.
“It was all about doing things on your own terms, about being awkward yes, but wanting to change the world. Joy Division changed the world of music. To be in one band that changed the face of music was pretty good. When you get New Order doing it again was amazing.”