Peter Hook clearly has a few things on his mind this afternoon, we were given twenty five minutes with the legendary Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook to talk about his new book ‘Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division’ his side of the(much talked about) Joy Division story which is out this week. But he spoke to us for nearly an hour and he’s bullish about those that criticise him. He speaks honestly and openly with a warmth and a wit that belies those accusations of bitterness. He seems genuine in his continued attempts to keep the Factory flame and the memory of Tony Wilson alive by reopening the building to celebrate the legacy of his two big bands New Order and Joy Division. Whatever your views upon his mining of his own ‘heritage’ or ‘tribute acts’ he makes a good point he was in the band afterall and if he’s a heritage act ‘then what are the current line up of New Order?’
His new book is just as genuine, quite apart from many boring ghost written rock books Hooky fondly reccounts in unfettered northern slang his childhood in Salford. How he became a lead bass player with a distinctive style and the mythologised tale of a band from Manchester called Joy Division whose legacy continues to live on and on despite their shortened life as a band when they tragically lost their iconic frontman Ian Curtis early on.
What was the motivation behind giving your side of the Joy Division story?
Obviously this had never come into my sphere of thinking, doing books and stuff like that. I must admit, being an author does have a certain gravity to it, whereas ‘musician’ doesn’t seem to. People seem to regard you in a different way. What happened was, when I was doing the sleeve notes for the Hacienda CD, the guy was like, fucking hell, ‘you’re full of stories you, you should write a book!’ and that was what kind of inspired the Hacienda book. It was quite difficult, I just thought that you journalists did fuck all! As soon as I started to write properly I realised how difficult it is and how easy people view it, it’s a hard thing to do.
So the Hacienda book took about three years, but it was Mick Middles’ book on Joy Division… actually I read it and was like, for fuck sakes, I’m sick of reading books about Joy Division by people who weren’t there! And it was as simple as that really, because there were a lot of errors, I’m sure Bernard will say there are a lot of errors in mine, but everyone has their own perceptions. So I thought, inspired by the success of the Hacienda book and the satisfaction I got from doing it, I thought, right, let’s do Joy Division next on the list.
Was it important to give a bit of context about your childhood in the book, before reaching the point where you met Bernard and the others and started Joy Division?
The way I do them is chronological. The interesting thing about my and Bernard’s relationship in particular, is that it started when we were very young (although at the moment you wouldn’t think I knew him at all!). But we did start when we were 11, which from what I gather is quite unusual, if you look at the Rolling Stones, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, etc, they’ve been together a long time but in general it’s not the norm.
The interesting part of Joy Division is we were together from the age of eleven, up until discovering the Sex Pistols neither of us were particularly musical, and the interesting thing is both of us have maintained that and been successful musicians since. So the chances of the pair of you doing that, having seen a Punk group in 1977: Paddy Power wouldn’t give you very good odds on that, would they ?! (laughs).
Would you say that you developed a better understanding of each other because of how well you knew each other?
The problem is… with our relationship now, it’s very hard to be objective, it’s very hard to look back on it fondly. It is a bit prejudiced shall we say. When I came to do the book I was desperately trying not to be influenced by that.
The story of Joy Division I felt is very very special. It’s quite simple really, considering how we were only professional for six months… It’s amazing the heritage, the influence and the plaudits you receive. We were professional for six months for the Buzzcocks tour and Ian died in May… It’s bittersweet really because it’s tempered by the frustration and helplessness of his illness: I mean his illness didn’t just take him, it took Joy Division as well…
How has Salford changed since he grew up there? Does being there bring back painful memories for him or is it a positive experience?
The interesting thing about writing the book was, I knew all about Joy Division as I’d lived with the story for years and years. But I’d forgotten a lot of my own childhood, and my mother’s dead unfortunately, and so is my Dad. I learned more about Salford and my Mum, and my life, doing interviews with my mother’s sister actually, I actually learned more about my life for the book, so for me it was quite a revelation. For me I saw Salford change, it hasn’t changed that much since I left and moved to Liverpool to live near the Happy Mondays(joke).
But really you watch the deterioration of the community, it’s a little bit too deep to go into here. The saddest thing was, the deterioration of the community of people. When we lived there… it was more about helping each other and that thing about throwing your door open, everyone knew each other. Nowadays people are a lot more isolated, it’s a contradiction really because you’ve got this wonderful progress that opens the world up to you but shuts your neighbour off, you’d have to say in all honesty it’s not been good. It’s easy to sit there typing and doing all that crap and and if your mate messages you just be like ‘fuck I’ll Facebook you.’
I was talking to the cleaner this morning, he was an old geezer like me, and we were talking about lighting coal fires and I really hope my daughter will never have to do that… Some progress is good and some is bad.
I suppose sometimes you never know who is reading Facebook it is a form of broadcasting afterall..
Yeah I used to fall for it in the old days. My lawyer says my send button needs a 24 hour delay. I would print things on my blog and then I’d think shit, I shouldn’t have done that. I still go by the maxim, you really shouldn’t say something that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. Twitter and all that lot… some geek sat in his bedroom in outer Munktee or whatever… you just wouldn’t do it to their face, would you?
Trolls by nature are cowards. I think what’s interesting, that thing over the weekend about Noel Fielding, about getting his followers ganging up on people, that’s fucking terrible isn’t it?It’s like Fagin isn’t it. You’d have to say even though Ricky Gervais fell for it too, it’s not very clever behaviour is it? Say you didn’t like my book and I got all my mates to come and throw bricks through your window. You would be like, he doesn’t take criticism easily does he? It’s something you have to be careful of, but I think the education of it is coming.
Do you feel any pressure living up to his musical legacy?How do you respond to the criticism surrounding your celebration of your past?
What happens is people make you feel guilty about celebrating your legacy, and I was reading an interview last week from Phil Cunningham and Tom Chapman in the Japan Times, slagging me off for being a heritage act. And… I was like, but what are New Order?They’ve not even got the correct line up, they are a heritage act as well.
I actually phoned Phil Cunningham up after that, and he was like, for Tom Chapman, the new New Order bassist who spends his whole life emulating me, saying that I was a heritage act is like the pot calling the kettle black. What happened with me was, Factory, they reacted against it, they rounded on me and accused me of using the Factory legacy. From my point of view, I’d already lost Hacienda, when my mate offered me the opportunity to save the Factory building- which New Order paid for by the way- and it was a lovely building , even before anything else.
How can it be disgusting and horrible to play your own music? And what has always irritated me was, why, why is it disgusting and horrible to play Joy Division music when you are doing it as well? I got slagged off for doing Joy Division songs but we’ve had the biggest resurgence of ‘Madchester’ this year. So maybe I was ahead of the curve? The last time I saw the Stone Roses the Manager was paying people to go and see them. The next time I go there’s 250,000 for a new musician it must be really frustrating to watch us old farts never go….
In a recent interview with the Guardian, David Bryne said ‘It feels like the end of history in pop music’….
In a funny way if you hear a great piece of music it evokes a memory: the first time you have an E or the first time you bunked up at a gig, whatever memory it evokes and that’s what makes it comfortable and nice. I was reading that thing from Bernard on Radio Six talking about writing new music. And really all the interviews they’ve done, the first question he’s asked by journalists is ‘will you write new music?’ But The funniest thing is nobody wants to hear new music, they just want to hear the old stuff!Ha ha.. If we played new music people used to scream ‘Playyyy Blue Monnndayyy!!’ It really is a contradiction and totally anachronistic.
There’s this book by Simon Reynolds called Retromania and whilst I’m not that negative about the future of music he does have a point, there is a sense that the music world is repeating and rehashing itself over and over again..
Two of the best gigs I’ve seen in a long time this year were Tinie Tempah and… Example. If you were going to be pedantic you would say that it’s not new music, but it is good music. Tinie Tempah and Labyrinth are writing great pop tunes which are a great hybrid of house. When you get to my age you have to bear in mind that kids hearing Tinie Tempah have nothing to cross reference it too.
When you say to someone who is a mad Oasis fan, you talk about the Beatles and they’re just like, who are the Beatles?The older you get, or the more educated you get, in music, the more you can’t take it on face value, so old buggers like me and David Bryne are going to say ‘Oh this reminds me of…’
I was watching the greatest programme of Wilson Picket rocking out to an all black audience in 1960s America. It was great man, it just shows you the Stones and the Beatles nicked the whole bleeding lot.
Nothing is original really but I guess the key is being about to translate your influences and put your own spin on it…
And that is an art. The thing about Joy Division is we sat there just like every other band, we sat there listening to Iggy pop, Kraftwerk and say right, let’s do a tune like that. We’d start it, it would sound like that at the start, but by the end of it it would sound like us.
We kept getting compared to the Doors, I kept saying to Barney, who were the Doors? And big Ian was like ‘you’ve never heard the Doors?’ and we put the Doors on and we were like “Jesus we do sound like the Doors!” It was never widely reported but we played ‘Riders of the storm’ live as a gag, because everyone kept comparing us to them but nobody ever noticed. They had a brilliant frontman…
Ian was a fantastic frontman, like ,really you’re lucky when you get a frontman that good. Both Bernard and I have gone on to do lead vocals. For me, Bernard and Stephen to get through the loss of Ian and Joy Division, to go and do a band like New Order, we were really blessed there. It doesn’t happen very often really and you don’t realise how important they are until they are gone.
Is the story about you playing in the ‘lead bass’ style so that you could be heard over the band because your amp was so cheap an apocryphal tale like the Ray Davies ‘nackered amp’ story or is that really how your style developed?
I bought the amp, and bought the guitar and I thought the strings were on it for life and someone told me to buy an amp. I remember getting my mum to do the hire purchase, and I got it home and I was like, why wouldn’t it work. I bought a speaker off my old arts teacher for ten quid, he was the bass player in the Salford Jets. So by the time I got it home it sounded like ten quid: shit. The thing was I soldiered on with it…
The only way I could hear the guitar was when I played high, Barney had a really good Vox amp, but I couldn’t hear myself when I played low. Ian used to really like it and he was always like ‘Play it high Hooky! Play it high!It sounds great’ he was like a conductor in an orchestra. ‘Barney Barney put some guitar on that, Steve do some jungle drums…’ and you’re done. Very lucky, that again shows how important Ian was…
When we reconvened after Ian died, the three of us just stood there, there was nobody to say that. It took us an age to work out how to make it work. New Order at the start was like a car with a flat tire. Unfortunately Gillian never really quite filled the gap. New Order were a bit shaky, which was actually quite interesting and endearing: sometimes we were absolutely dreadful, sometimes OK and sometimes magnificent. It was always a gamble which again for a group is quite unique.
So the fact that you put yourself at the front unlike any other bass player I can think of before that wasn’t intentional?
Janet Street Porter said to me once ‘you’re so fucking competitive you’ and I think that’s the problem with me, as soon as somebody says something like that to me I react against it, I did at school and I never stopped. Just because I was expected to be the bass player, you can’t expect me to change my personality. I mean Barney always used to accuse me of being competitive as well. The wonderful thing about Joy Division was the bass guitar was very important to all the songs. It had it’s own melody and I actually did that really well.
When we got to New Order, the only fight that I got in in New Order was the fight I had with technology. As soon as Bernard could do it on his own he started to push you out. Which is quite a normal thing. They say the drum machines were invented so ‘the singer doesn’t have to talk to the drummer’ and I guess it was the same with bass. The technology can make you very precious if you’ve done something you didn’t want anyone else to change. I loved early New Order because you always have a real combat between the vocal and the bass, and I thought it made the music very interesting, very weird and very lasting, you could listen to it over and over again. With later New Order, when we became more of a pop band, when it was just verse chorus, I just thought it got a bit boring and predictable, and the playing down of any counter melodies in my opinion made it a bit more bland. When all the remixes happened in 88, and 89, none of them would put bass on and Barney would piss himself laughing. Fantastic remix by the way, but they just dumped the bass. They were more concerned with the electronics at the time, it doesn’t happen now. But there was that period when you were just bounced off. ‘Round and Round’ remix no bass, ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ you were off and ‘True Faith…’ you were off again…
Bit of an obvious one but what’s your favourite Joy Division bassline?
There’s so many but at the moment ‘Twenty Four Hours’. The good thing at the moment is that because I’ve been able to play them all again and doing the book and playing every song Joy Division played (apart from ‘In an Lonely Place’ which I count more as New Order )I’m an expert on Joy Division songs at the moment. Some of the songs were never played live. When Ian died we put the whole thing away, but when New Order split in 2006 and I was outside it, I started thinking why do we never do any Joy Division, why have we never celebrated any Joy Division? It didn’t make any sense once I was outside of New Order. When you were inside New Order it made perfect sense because it was your day job. You were more concentrated on that so it felt quite natural. Once I got outside of New Order and we split and I started celebrating it, it was so wonderful to get the music back. And hold your hands up and I was like, fuck it, if a heritage act can play this great music, I don’t fucking care!
I used to DJ with the Clone Roses and I swear most of the audience were so young they thought they were the Stone Roses!I used to say to the manager ‘I’m gonna start one for Joy Division’ and he was like yeah but ‘you can’t play in your own tribute band can you’?And I guess that sums up New Order, Peter Hook tribute band: New Order. (laughs).
Do you think the reason it hadn’t been broached before because some of the more devoted Joy Division fans were more guarded of the memory?
I couldn’t get my head around just playing the songs, it didn’t seem respectful, it seemed like a tribute band but when I heard Bobby Gillespie talk about doing ‘Screamadelica’ because he said ‘some of the songs were never played live and never heard’ and I thought fuck, that’s like Unknown Pleasure songs like ‘I Remember Nothing’ and ‘Candidate’.
And I thought… Hey, I’ll do the album, and that satisfied me artistically and creatively. The thing you have to bear in mind is, most of the people who know Joy Division know the albums but not the band, the band were very different to the albums. We haven’t played a lot of the songs on ‘Closer’. The thing with Closer was we did finish it in the studio, but we didn’t have the opportunity to interpret them live, we weren’t able to finish them off because Ian died. So to actually be able to play them and get them back… I don’t care what those miserable fuckers think!(laughs) To stand there and hear and play ‘The Eternal’ and ‘Heart and Soul’ it’s great.
My favourite one is ‘The Eternal,’ it’s one of my favourite songs, regardless of the fact that it’s by Joy Division, and ‘Closer’ is one of my favourite albums. I can listen to ‘Closer’ for enjoyment, which I can’t say about any New Order albums or ‘Unknown Pleasures’ really. ‘Closer’ is like someone else’s work because of the trauma. All the songs were finished, it was Martin Hannett that developed them into a very very ambient, very very layered and textured album. And he couldn’t do that on ‘Unknown Pleasures’ because it was much rockier and the lyrics were more aggressive, whereas on Closer the lyrics were quite melancholy and so… I mean it deserved a different feel.
Listen mate, if I got run over by a bus this afternoon… The fact that I’ve done the book and played all the Joy Division songs makes me very happy….
Stay Tuned for part two of our interview and for Peter Hook’s opinion on how Joy Division might have sounded had Ian not died. His views on music management courses, his ‘other bands’, New Order album ‘Lost Sirens’, his career as a dj.And whether New Order will ever get back together and well his favourite cheese!
UNKNOWN PLEASURES: INSIDE JOY DIVISION BY PETER HOOK is published in Hardback by Simon & Schuster UK 1st October, 2012.
Unknown Pleasures – Inside Joy Division Peter Hook Book Tour October 2012
For full details visit https://www.facebook.com/insidejoydivision/events
Monday 1st October @ 18.00 Formal signing – HMV, Manchester
Tuesday 2nd October @ 18.30 Talk, Q&A and Signing – Foyles, Charing Cross (Sold Out)
Wednesday 3rd October @ 18.00 Formal signing – Fopp, Bristol
Thursday 4th October @ 12.30 Formal signing – WH Smiths, Birmingham
Thursday 4th October @ 19.00 Talk, signing and Q&A – Waterstones, Liverpool
Friday 5th October @ 19.30 Talk, Q&A and Signing – Ilkley Literature Festival
Saturday 6th October @ 19.30 Talk, Q&A and Signing – Morley Literature Festival
Monday 8th October @ 19.00 Talk Q&A and Signing – Easons, Dublin
Tuesday 9th October @ 12.30 Formal signing – Waterstones Glasgow
Tuesday 9th October @ 18.30 Talk, Q&A and Signing – Waterstones Edinburgh
Wednesday 10th October @ 19.30 Talk Q&A and Signing – UCLAN, Preston
Tuesday 16th October @ 19.30 Talk Q&A and Signing – Off The Shelf Literature Festival, Sheffield
Wednesday 24th October @ 19.30 Talk Q&A and Signing – Chester Literary Festival
Unknown Pleasures – Peter Hook And The Light Live Tour November 2012
Friday 16th November Kasbah, Coventry
Saturday 17th November 53 Degrees, Preston
Sunday 18th November Chinnerys, Southend
Tuesday 20th November Phoenix Theatre, Exeter
Wednesday 21st November Waterfront, Norwich
Thursday 22nd November Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth
Saturday 24th November Sugarmill, Stoke
Sunday 25th November Guildhall, Gloucester
Monday 26th November 02 Academy, Leicester
Wednesday 28th November Concorde 2, Brighton
Thursday 29th November Cockpit, Leeds
Friday 30th November Academy 2, Newcastle