Peter Hook on the Hacienda Classical: “Precision combined with a wonderful bit of anarchy.”
The Haçienda was all about expression, and about madness, so it’s nice to keep the wackiness in the show
Prepare yourselves, classical music fans, some good old-fashioned acid-house tunes may soon become favourites in your music library. Ahead of the arrival of Haçienda Classical at Sheffield’s Don Valley Bowl on August 17th, I spoke to executive producer Peter Hook of Joy Divison and New Order fame about the intrigue, and the challenges, of bringing the Manchester club scene back to life on stage through the city’s Camerata Orchestra.
For those too young to have been initiated, the Haçienda nightclub opened back in 1982. It was built upon “grand delusions” and funded throughout its lifetime by both New Order and Joy Division until its closure in 1997. Despite its relatively short existence, Hook takes pride in the definitive legacy it left behind.
“It begat genres,” he says. “What we’re celebrating here is the birth of acid house, with the Haçienda becoming the church where everybody went to worship. The songs were well known, and they were there when people met their partner, when they got engaged, when they had kids, when they split up, when they had their mid-life crisis; these songs were a constant. Many of them were also one-hit wonders, so most people have never heard them performed. The magic seems to come from the performance, the songs are performed with the same passion that we had at the Haçienda, and the response so far has been that it’s worked.”
Regardless of Hook’s passion for the songs, when it was suggested to resurrect them by way of an orchestra, his initial expectations hung as low as one of his bass guitars. “I admit that I was sceptical. It seemed absolutely ridiculous, putting acid house together with a live orchestra. It was Graeme Park who finally persuaded me. He was one of the people who taught me how to DJ, and I have great respect for him. He told me “It’s gonna be great”, but I couldn’t fathom it at first. But when you go into the makeup of the music, most of the records were made with artificial orchestras, and so it actually started to make sense. It’s spawned a lot of imitators, and there’s now this glut on the market of this interpretation of music, which is quite a compliment actually.”
The next task was to choose an orchestra up to the task, and it was the innovative Manchester Camerata who received the nod. “The Camerata is a charitable organisation, and we knew the people who ran it. It had been suggested to me before, from a musical point of view, to do a collaboration with them, and obviously I love that it’s a Manchester-based orchestra. They were very helpful in getting the project going, and obviously you want the grandiosity of it to meet the responsibility of making sure that it’s good. It’s interesting when these two worlds collide. You’ve got the disciplined alongside an unruly bunch of lunatics, which is what brings the edge. The Haçienda was all about expression, and about madness, so it’s nice to keep the wackiness in the show.”
Obviously, the music of New Order and acid house is a world away from what would most naturally fit alongside with classical arrangements, and I wondered how Hook’s fame had affected the response to the project. His answer is rather poetic: “It’s a bit like social media; if fifty percent are telling you to fuck off and that you’re a bastard, and fifty percent love what you do, you’re okay. I was the manager of the Haçienda, and now the only one left who managed it, so I’m the only one who’s carrying that legacy on, and I hope that I’m keeping the original premise of it, which was to be a bit mad, and to do things for people as opposed to being fixated on money. We’ve done it despite the doubters. We’ve shown that we’ve done it with the right amount of passion, enthusiasm, heart and soul, and I’m very proud of it”.
The Leadmill brings Hacienda Classical with Manchester Camerata to Don Valley Bowl on Friday 17 August. Tickets and more info available from leadmill.co.uk.
Image credit: Anthony Mooney