May 23, 2017 Interview – Peter Hook
The past is a lesson learned, the present is a gift, and the future is unknown. An undeniable reality, through it all we do something called living. With scars on his soul, Peter Hook is a bit wiser after his vast experiences along this wild ride. A founding member of the legendary bands Joy Division and New Order, Hook has plenty of stories to tell about it all: good, bad, sometimes ugly. Avidly believing honesty is the best policy, Hook has authored three books about his career in music – begun with 2010’s The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club, going into 2012’s Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, and continuing with 2016’s Substance: Inside New Order. At odds with his former band-mates, Hook continues to perform at a high level while reliving the extraordinary discography of his past with his own band, The Light. Recently, we caught up with the man they call Hooky to talk the years of Joy Division, the real Ian Curtis, the chaos of New Order, and much more.
CrypticRock.com – With a career in music dating back over four decades, in that time, you were an intricate part of Joy Division before moving into the New Order era. Through all the peaks and valleys, how would you describe this incredible journey?
Peter Hook – I must admit I can’t believe it’s been 40 years. Actually it’s longer, we started the group on the 5th of June in 1976, so it’s 41 years. My god.. it’s a great job. I was reading an article the other day about how robots are taking over the world to do everyone’s job. I was thinking, well at least I am in the category that a robot would have a very difficult time of doing your job (laughs).
It varies from enjoying it to thinking, “How the hell did I get away with this?” The weird thing is, you think after 40 years you would be stuck in a rut, but with the demise of New Order, it brought a whole side which was quite interesting at 55. It is great, I can’t believe I got away with it.
CrypticRock.com – It is an amazing run of music. The legacy of Joy Division is quite a compelling one. A great deal of the story of the band was outlined in your 2012 book, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division. So much has been written about Joy Division and Ian Curtis, perhaps some of it inaccurate. All these years later, how would you describe Ian as a person?
Peter Hook – The thing about Ian has quite a unique ability to have been frozen in time, you only remember him as he was. Now that I’ve grown older, I remember him the same way, but I don’t remember him as a kid. The big problem with Ian was illness and the treatment of that illness at the time. That was his major problem, he couldn’t survive. Modern epilepsy experiments say that very few people who had epilepsy at that time survived because of the treatment. In this day and age, we are all a little bit more clued up to how to stop it again.
He just was normal, he really was normal. The weird thing about anybody getting ill, like when our manager had a cocaine induced nervous breakdown, their behavior changes so gradually that you start getting used to it. One minute Ian didn’t have epilepsy, and the next he did. You just dealt with it however you could. Ian’s big problem was he wanted everybody to have a great time so he really never told you how bad he was feeling, he kept it inside because he didn’t want to upset anybody. That was one wonderful side of his character, unfortunately it was his downfall.
He was a fantastic musician, one of wonderful things about him was his words, it’s given me a completely different insight into him and Joy Division. I used to look at Joy Division just by virtue of the bass guitar. Now I look at it by virtue of the bass guitar, the lyrics, and the vocals. It has immersed me in different sides of the group, which has been wonderful. I never thought when I started singing that I would enjoy it because it was so nerve wracking and so scary. Here I am now, doing it for 5 1/2 years, I am really enjoying it.
CrypticRock.com – The legacy of Joy Division lives on through you and the band Peter Hook and The Light. Tragically, Ian’s life ended entirely too soon. For many, the story of Joy Division has become somewhat of a lore. We know the band existed, we know they were going to visit North America, but the band unfortunately never made it. In retrospective, had things not played out the way they did, do you think the story of Joy Division would have continued on?
Peter Hook – I do, yes. If we could have gotten Ian to America, I think we would have been ok. I don’t know what happened on that night that we weren’t there, only him and his ex-wife will ever know. It was a shame. When I did the book, the thing I realized was really the group wasn’t that important, if it wasn’t that group, there would have been another group. The thing that was important about Ian’s death was the fact that his daughter lost a father, his parents lost a son, his brother lost a brother, etc etc.
As you get older you realize that there are much more important things than just a group, even if it’s the group like Joy Division. One of the nicest things is that while people are attracted to the group, because of Ian’s very untimely death, the music has given it longevity. The reason I can play in Rome, Mexico, China, Mongolia, playing Joy Division, it’s because the songs are fantastic.
Martin Hannett, our producer, Factory Records, even The Haçienda, they even add to our story and it’s a very unique story. We are not just another group, we really did change the world both culturally and musically more than once, it’s interesting. It’s definitely being in the right place at the right time (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – It definitely is a very compelling story from a musical standpoint and from a life standpoint as well. Putting Joy Division to rest, you had gone on to form New Order. New Order’s story is vividly outlined in your latest book Substance: Inside New Order. A decade removed from your time in New Order, and in spite of creative differences, do you, overall, look back on your time a part of the band positively?
Peter Hook – Not really, because when they reformed it behind my back and did what they did with my shareholding; I actually own 25% of New Order, the other 3 decided in their infinite wisdom while I was away in China to take the name and reduce my shareholding to 1%, which is why I am fighting. The thing is, you have to come embroiled in a very bitter, very expensive, and stupidly time wasting legal battle because the thing is you do have to fight for what you believe in. I think putting 31 years into a group, as I did, doesn’t deserve treatment like that. I certainly would not have done that to anybody.
When that happened, it made me think of everything to do with New Order was shit, and always had been. It was only when I did the book that I actually looked into the history of New Order and realized how much we had achieved. The side effect was it had made this legal battle even more ridiculous and even more bitter. It had a strange effect; Bernie, Steve, and I split up in 2007, 10 years ago, the thing is they still have a hell of a lot to do with each other because of this ongoing legal battle. It’s an awful position to be in. When Andy Rourke of the Smiths had the legal fight he had with Johnny Marr and Morrissey, it was the worst thing he had ever been through. I thought he was being a drama queen. Now that I’m going through it, I can safely say to anybody it’s the worst thing that I’ve ever been through for many reasons. We should be enjoying the fruits of our labor, all those years of music, we should all be allowed to revel in it like the way we want to. But it’s very New Order I have to admit (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – It is very unfortunate and it is understandable how that could be very exhausting, physically and mentally.
Peter Hook – Like you wouldn’t believe it. Suppose they at least have their manager fighting, it seems that now, I am in more of a fight with my ex-manager than I am with the rest of the band, which is an even stranger situation to be in. We are not the first and we won’t be the last group doing it. Remember the old saying about cocaine addiction is God’s way of telling you that you’ve got too much money? I think they have got that wrong, it should be litigation (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) Well, one can imagine you have to try and keep a sense of humor through it all. The latest book is the third and final installment in the series. All three well written, personal, and honest, they really give people a clear image of the events of the past four years. That said, was it difficult to put all these feelings into words like this?
Peter Hook – Yeah, but the thing is, I am very much of the persuasion that if you are going to do something, you should tell the truth, otherwise it doesn’t make any sense. The biggest shock I had was when I read Bernie’s book because he seemed to throw away his own career and be more interested in writing me off then telling the story of himself, Joy Division or New Order. I must admit I had to take it as a compliment (laughs). When I read this book and thought, “If this has done one thing for me, it has shown me how you should tell the story of New Order,” and it wasn’t how he did it. I thought he did himself a great disservice.
I already have a formula for writing that starts with The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club (2010). I read a lot of Rock biographies, and I shouldn’t because they drive me mad, because they are always the same – we get together with the stars in our eyes, all full of love for each other, and very quickly you fall out over the same things, songwriting, money, ego, they are all the same story with different people. I am just reading Ginger Baker from Cream’s book now and it was exactly was the same. I was reading Grace Jones recently and I am hoping it will be different. I read Steve Jones recently and it was the same. Wilko Johnson, it was the same. It is tragedy, the chemistry that makes people write great music, is then turned around makes them act like this toward each other, it is quite weird. From a book point of view, I wanted to write the book I would want to read, it was as simple as that really.
CrypticRock.com – You did an exceptional job of doing so. As stated, this is very good storytelling.
Peter Hook – It’s quite weird, I went to one of my best friend’s houses the other day and I’ve known this guy for about 10 years. He is a lovely guy, he said, “Go up look at the bedroom.” He took me up to his bedroom, and I was looking around, on his bedroom table was my bloody book. Because of all the stuff that you had written about the past, the drugs, the groupies, everything else. He didn’t know about that, I’ve only known him for 7 years at the time, it was quite weird. It makes you feel a bit embarrassed, what’s he going to think? I know he’s a great guy, otherwise he would not have been a friend as long as he has. It does put you in a funny position, baring your soul.
My wife never reads me, because in a funny way I wouldn’t want to read her’s. It’s a weird position to be in, but I don’t see the point of not telling the truth ,and that I would be devastated by. There’s no lies in any of my books, that is something I am immensely proud of.
CrypticRock.com – They always say the truth can be brutal sometimes, but they all say the truth will set you free. You are baring your soul, it has to be a challenge.
Peter Hook – It’s fantastic, the things that we’ve been through as New Order, even as Joy Division at The Hacienda, they were a bloody gift. Three stories like that are an absolute gift to an author. Those stories have to be told, even if none of them got a happy ending, they are still fantastic stories. I suppose I have to say that my ambition is to write a book with a happy ending, so that’s something I’ve got to work on.
Put LPs out for Record Store Day 2017, it’s another way of telling your story again. I like to think Peter Hook and The Light work very hard. The boys were fantastic, they really put their heart and soul into the music. In many ways, I wish that they had written it; they were so passionate about it, their enthusiasm is boundless. All our performances are fantastic, if I say so myself, they make the music sound exactly how I wanted it to sound. Having the records out is a wonderful testament again to Bernie and Steve and also to them. I’d like to think that if Rob Gretton, Tony Wilson; or Martin Hannett was around, they would all look at it now, what we’ve done, in the same way and appreciate it. I was very lucky to work with all of them. I really was blessed, and when I see what people have to put up with in life, I realize what I see, what people have to do in life. I realized just how bloody lucky I am.
CrypticRock.com – From an outsider’s perspective, it is an extraordinary journey, especially after reading your books. You mentioned the new LPs, which came out on Record Store Day back on April 22nd. These LPS are kind of a documentation of the live shows over the past 5 years. You have been working very hard, you guys have been on the road a lot. What is it like for you reliving these songs on stage night after night like that?
Peter Hook – I really enjoy it. I must admit that, probably, if I wasn’t embroiled in this awful legal circus, I may not have worked so hard. Luckily for me, again, I must have done something right in another life that I am able to do a job that’s, while is very tiring, especially at the ripe old age of 61, and it can really take a toll on you, I am doing something that I love. I am playing music that I love with people of the same persuasion.
We recently played in Rome back in April, playing Substance from 1985, the reception for both New Order and Joy Division was ecstatic. I was looking and it just makes me smile. It’s really wonderful. New Order’s angst added to their music. I suppose, in a funny way, there does come a time where you have to be free to enjoy without the angst. While we got the angst on the legal side, musically I haven’t gotten any angst. Now I am really enjoying what we do, that’s the main thing for me.
CrypticRock.com – That is positive that you still have the music with everything else going on. You are continuing to tour through 2017.
Peter Hook – Substance has been very well received, I must admit. I am really looking forward to doing Technique (1989), it is my favorite New Order Album. Yeah, I’ve got a few years yet, it just makes me wonder what I am going to do at the end. Am I going to have to start it all again (laughs)? It’s quite intriguing to think about what you are going to do when you get to Lost Sirens (2013). Maybe I should do the music complete and finish it off (laughs).
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) That would be interesting. Understandably, this is your focus right now and it’s a great package of shows that you’ve been doing. Is there a change of perhaps some new Peter Hook Music in the future when this is done?
Peter Hook – I have done a lot of collaborations. I am doing one with Kraftwerk shortly, I am also doing one with the English band Reverend and The Makers. I am busy doing new music as well, I have a partner, Phil Murphy, that I do Man Ray with and that is all new music. I must admit we haven’t got a deal for it, but we have a lot of tracks. Potts and I are also talking about doing a new Monaco LP. Everyone keeps wanting us to reissue the old albums. We were talking about recording a new Monaco LP. That’s very exciting, it’s going to be weird. It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything in that way, but life is short and you have to grab it while you can. I am still very happy to be doing what I do.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent, these are all things to look forward to and it would be great to hear a new Monaco LP, it has been quite some time.
Peter Hook – You know what, it would be great for me as well. I am actually really looking forward to doing it. I am just hoping that it comes easily shall we say, it’s a bit of a weird position to be in. I have been in control of my own destiny now for quite a while. Going back to being in a group shall we say, but hey, it is better than working isn’t it (laughs)?
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) Fans will love it as well. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror/Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of either genre, do you have any favorites?
Peter Hook – Yeah, I get a lot of stick for being a zombie fan. I ordered the last Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016) recently. I am a great fan of zombie films, all of them. I love Milla Jovovich beyond compare. I am not particularly into Horror movies, I am more of a shoot em up kind of guy. I was probably scarred by The Exorcist (1973) when I was a teenager.
CrypticRock.com – That is very cool to hear. Have you enjoyed The Walking Dead?
Peter Hook – I devour The Walking Dead, even Fear of the Walking Dead. It has gotten to the point it is so well done, they are amazing. I have really been enjoying The Walking Dead and I am a great fan. You know what else gets me about people in zombie films, when the zombie first appear, they always shoot them in the body. Why is it people in zombie films have never seen a zombie film (laughs)? Have you ever seen The Walking Dead? You always know to go for the head!