Interview: Peter Hook
For a band that were only professional for six months, the legacy that Joy Division left behind has remained unparalleled. It’s rare that a group so influential comes along, and indeed even rarer that one man becomes a member of two bands who would become culturally significant for pioneering different styles of music. Taking their influence from the New York City club scene, New Order combined the post-punk darkness of Joy Division with dance and became one of the defining groups of the ‘80s.
Peter Hook, the man behind the unique basslines which drove both bands, left New Order in 2007 and has since become embroiled in a royalties dispute with his former bandmates. In 2010 he formed Peter Hook and The Light, performing tracks from Joy Division’s seminal albums Unknown Pleasures and Closer, as well as some New Order tracks, to live audiences. With the group heading to Sheffield’s The Foundry venue this month, Jack Spivey caught up with the ace of bass.
“Initially there was a fair amount of scepticism, not least from the remainder of New Order,” he says when asked about the pressure of returning to the old albums. “People were unsure of it, I think, but it’s something we’ve been doing for a while now and people have come to realise that we treat the songs with the right level of respect. I try and make the show as true to the recordings of the albums as possible –something which never really happened in Joy Division, as seeing us live was completely different to listening to the albums.”
An early name-check for the remaining faction of New Order – Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert – is unsurprising as he’s been far from coy with his opinions on the trio since announcing legal action, claiming that he has only received a small fraction of the estimated £7.8m made by the band since his departure. Rechristening the band ‘New Odour’, Hook pulls no punches when asked about their 2015 album Complete Music – the first studio release without him – and breaks off the interview to read a letter from a fan (Howie) who complains about the evident absence of his influence on the record, also suggesting that he should re-join the band at some point. “I can’t see it being something that happens in the foreseeable future, but hey, who knows?” he replies when I follow up on this point. “The court case has been in the works for five years, and it finally seems to be coming to the boil. The whole thing feels like a bad divorce with us arguing over who keeps the cat. I’m more than willing to get the saw and chop her in half to keep things fair.”
Joining him in the band since their formation six years ago is his son, Jack, and while joining their old man in a rock band may send shivers down the spines of some aspiring musicians, it is something which appears to be running smoothly. “Surprisingly, it’s never been an issue. On many occasions there’s been a bit of a role-reversal compared to what you’d expect; I’ve had him shouting at me up the stairs at home countless times to get my music turned down. It’s been an incredible opportunity that a lot of father and sons don’t get the chance to take – we’ve visited so many countries playing the albums together. For me it’s still weird at times. He looks like me, plays bass like me, and is the same age that I was first time around. Every so often I’ll see him on stage and get tingles.”
And with a set list numbering around 30 songs, the band are building something of a name for themselves through their marathon live shows. The Sheffield gig itself will see the band play through not only both Joy Division albums, but some (as of yet unannounced) New Order tracks. “I feel like I’ve become Manchester’s answer to Springsteen!” he jokes. “It’s nice for me because when I was playing with New Order it was a task to get them to change up the set at all. This way I get to play through it all, and none of the tracks that used to get overlooked end up being side-lined. I think we’ve proven we can do it; we played every Joy Division song at our Macclesfield gig, making a 49-song set, and the reaction was amazing throughout.”
And such a response is testament to the long-standing influence of Joy Division, with post-punk bands today still trying to emulate their success. Just what for him were the key factors behind the band’s achievement? “I think for any successful band it comes down to the chemistry. There needs to be those little clicks and sparks, and a lot of the time it’s these things that make you hate each other. If you’re lucky though, this hate can lead to some great songs, and if they’re good enough they become timeless.”
Peter Hook and The Light play The Foundry on Friday 29th July. Tickets and more info available at www.su.sheffield.ac.uk.