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PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT A Man of Substance


As an integral member of two legendary bands that changed the face of modern music, Peter Hook has laid down more than a few memorable basslines. No longer a part of New Order, the seminal 80s dance-rock act that formed out of the ashes of Joy Division, Hook is continuing on his own journey through his back catalogue. As he prepares to tour playing both bands’ Substance albums in full with his band The Light, stopping at the Astor Theatre on October 16, the ever-jovial Hook chats to ALFRED GORMAN and reflects on the trials and tribulations of an amazing career.

“Well I’m still working, which at my age, is a blessing,” Hook laughs. “I’m having a great time – if it wasn’t for this legal battle with the others, I’d be ecstatic, but I guess these things are sent to try us.”

Hook’s an entertaining interviewee. Bursts of laughter punctuate his rambling stories and it’s hard to get a word in edge-ways as he waxes lyrical of tales past and present, and he doesn’t mind saying how he feels. His enthusiasm for playing music has not waned since he (along with Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris and Ian Curtis) formed Joy Division in 1976. A lot has happened since then. Since leaving New Order in 2007 they haven’t been on good terms, and are currently in the midst of a court case disputing royalties from the New Order name.

But this hasn’t stopped New Order or Peter Hook and The Light from touring. While New Order are content to play the big gigs and the big hits, Hooky is likes to dig a little deeper. His band first toured Australia in 2010, playing Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures album, and a couple years back they were here playing New Order’s Low Life and Brotherhood albums. When they come back to Perth in October, this time they are ambitiously tackling both bands’ Substance albums.

“I’m well on my way to completing my ambition of playing all the songs written by New Order and Joy Division,” says Hook. “It’s gonna be weird when I get to the end. I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I’ll have to start again!”

Factory Records released two compilation albums by the name of Substance – one by New Order in 1987 and one by Joy Division in 1988. Hook explains what led to the albums’ release, and how it had to do with Factory Records boss and Madchester legend Tony Wilson’s new car.

“As daft as it sounds, Tony had just bought a Jaguar, and it was one of the first cars to have an inbuilt CD player,” he says. “He basically wanted to be able to play all New Order’s singles, some which weren’t on LPs, in his car. We weren’t that bothered. So we just said yeah, whatever, do it. So he did it, and it became our biggest selling record around the world! So then after that, he suggested we do it for Joy Division, because Joy Division also didn’t put a lot of our singles on our LPs.

“We play them chronologically, as in, the New Order one first, and it’s been going fantastically every time. The weird thing is, I thought because the New Order one was a lot bigger and more commercial, it would go down a lot better than the Joy Division one, but they both go down really well. It’s the songs like Dead Souls, Atmosphere and Digital, where you think, we should have released them as normal singles because they would have been hits. It’s weird to think in our naivety of youth we downplayed them so much.”

Indeed, the Joy Division songs seem to have a more timeless quality – perhaps due to New Order being more poppy and using electronics that now sound a bit dated. Hooky has always been more of a rocker and his band do the songs justice in all their gritty glory.

“The Joy Division stuff feels very natural to play, but the New Order stuff always requires a bit more concentration, and a little bit more effort,” he says. “I don’t know why. The songs I love on (New Order’s) Substance are Shell Shock, State of the Nation, 1963 – the oddball ones that weren’t straight forward, or commercially massive. New Order very rarely played them, which was frustrating. We had this wealth of old material and neither Bernard or Steve had any interest in exploring the back catalogue, and it was really boring! Another frustration was the amount of gigs we did. You’d spend three years making an album, then you’d do 10 gigs, and it’d be over! And you’d be like ‘What the fuck?!’ I always enjoyed gigging more than recording.

“We were a very awkward group when we played. We actually made our shortcomings part of the sound. That gave it a uniqueness. And that’s what I celebrate – that uniqueness. My thing is to sound like the record. New Order would get bored and change everything. Like when they were announced they were doing the Manchester Festival with 12 added synthesisers – because the last thing New Order needs is 12 more synthesisers!

“But y’know, it’s all about taste. And when you started together, like we did, in 1976 – the chance of that ‘marriage’ lasting, especially with some of the things we went through, were very slim – but really, we had a good innings!”

Hook is obviously, and perhaps justifiably, bitter. “It’s just a shame that you can’t turn round to each other and go, “You know what mate, you did really well, we had a great time. Now let’s just go and do our own thing.” But they went behind my back and took the name, and reduced my share from 25% to 1% which I think is drastically unfair, so that’s what I’m fighting for.”

In some ways, it’s a win for the fans, as we have two separate bands touring, playing these legendary songs. While he’s been playing some big festivals, Hook has been playing smaller venues too. As per the last two times, he’ll be playing The Astor again in Perth, a venue he has fond memories of, and where he played on Valentine’s Day a couple years back. There was a lot of love in the room, and Hook enjoys that intimacy you get in the smaller venues.

“One of the things I’ve always found hard as a musician, is that transition from small to big venue. It’s amazing the difference you feel. It’s like a normal person addressing three people, then addressing 30,000. Some of the festival gigs we do, I’m like, ‘Woah! This is like being back in New Order.’ Though I’m enjoying it now more than I ever remember enjoying it in New Order,” he says with a laugh, adding, “But we did change the world.”

While Hook has copped some flack over the years for playing all the old Joy Division material, you really get the impression he’s doing it out of love and respect for the songs. Songs that never really got to be played. It must have been a devastating period; tragically losing their friend and vocalist Ian Curtis to suicide, right at the moment when things seemed to be taking off. They’d just recorded their second album and were about to embark on their first US tour. For many years, these songs were never played, until 10 years ago, when Hook decided these great songs were meant to be played, and he has no regrets.

“We went into the studio with Martin Hannett and recorded Closer in 1980 but we never got to play that wonderful record,” he says. “And I must admit, one of the best moments I had, and I’m not ashamed of it, was in our practice room, standing there, watching my son play those songs – it really did send a shiver down my spine, watching my son, who’s exactly the same age as I was when I made Closer, 23. It was absolutely spooky. When I wrote the older songs, with the others, all those years ago, I thought they were fantastic. And 30 years later, I still think they’re fucking fantastic. Bernard always said that I was too melancholic. [puts on whiny voice] ‘You’re too melancholic, you’re always looking back.’ But I don’t think of it as a bad thing. It’s like looking at an old photograph of your family.

“When it was finished, with Ian, it was over. And we knew it was over. We put all the Joy Division stuff in a box, pushed it to the back of the cupboard and just left it there. And we went on to make New Order, which was a fantastic success, without ever harking back to Joy Division. When you were in New Order, that was alright. But once New Order split up in 2007, and I was on the outside looking in, I didn’t understand. I thought, why the hell aren’t we playing that wonderful music? And now we’ve been right round the world. We played it in Australia – Joy Division never played in Australia. We played it in Brazil, Mexico – Joy Division never made it there. And the thing is, since resurrecting it, celebrating it, and trying to do it with as much passion and enthusiasm as you can muster – I feel like it’s been a real achievement… despite what the others might think!”

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