I was very lucky recently to meet Peter Hook the iconic bassist of Joy Division and New Order in Bristol. We subsequently arranged this interview in which we talk about his new book entitled ‘Unknown Pleasures – Inside Joy Division’ and his recent work with new band – The Light.
First of all congratulations on the book, it’s a touching read which brings out a multitude of feelings, funny accounts within a story ultimately so tragic.
Q – Was it emotional revisiting Joy Division’s rich history in such depth?
I’ve been heavily immersed in all things Joy Division for a while now, ever since I first started playing Unknown Pleasures live again with my band The Light, so as that has progressed and we’ve ended up playing every single Joy Division song ever written, it kind of felt natural to be writing the book at the same time. Of course it is emotional because of the obviously tragic ending but also because I spent a lot of time reliving my childhood memories.
Q – Tell us a little bit about your upbringing, you spent time as a child in Salford and Jamaica. Two complete opposites right?
Yes we moved from Salford to Jamaica when my brother and I were very young, because my father got a job over there, so we all went over to live there for a few years. At the time you could not have picked two completely different places – Salford seemed very grey and dull, while I remember Jamaica being extremely vivid, eye-opening and full of colour. We went from our two up two down house with an outside toilet, to a massive house in Jamaica complete with its own servants! Then left that to come back to the 2 up 2 down back in Salford! Which I must admit, did feel quite nice to be back at what I considered to be home…
Q – During the book you state that Ian was the glue which held Joy Division together, what made Ian so invaluable and irreplaceable?
Ian was like a conductor, he would sit there during practise and listen to us play and pick out the bits that he liked or that sounded the best, directing the music, like he would say “Hooky, carry on playing that high riff” or “Barney, do those chords again over the top of Hooky’s riff” and then “Steve, do some of those ‘jungle drums’ along with them” … This is why when we threw ourselves into New Order after his death, we did feel a bit lost, in a musical sense as we had lost that direction which Ian gave us.
Q – A big moment in Manchester’s music scene history was when The Sex Pistols played at The Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1976. Only around forty people attended but amongst them were the people who would change musical history forever; yourself, Bernard, Morrissey and the guys who would later go on to form Buzzcocks.
What are your memories from that gig?
I remember buying my ticket on the door from Malcolm McLaren himself, who was dressed all in leather and to us looked like a bloody alien! For just 50p. They sounded absolutely terrible of course but watching Johnny Rotten really go for it just shouting at the audience “Fuck off!! Fuck off!” I actually thought, hey, I could bloody do that! I had never got that feeling from watching bands like Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple live, but from the Sex Pistols we all got a sense that we could do it. So Barney and I left that gig as musicians in a group, the next step was to get the instruments!
Q – As a bassist you were inspired by Paul Simonon of ‘The Clash’ and Jean-Jacques Burnel of ‘The Stranglers’. In what ways did they inspire you?
Yes they are two great influences on me, at first it was simply because they looked really fucking cool up there on stage with their low slung bass guitars and then obviously because their riffs sounded amazing, like nothing else I had heard before.
Q – The Joy Division track ‘Warsaw’ reflects the early punk side to the band with Ian’s strong vocals and aggressive guitar riffs. How did this sound progress to more melodic tracks which can be heard on ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and ‘Closer’?
There was a natural progression in Joy Division’s music, we were becoming better and better songwriters as well as becoming more and more interested in electronics and electronic styles of music so I think it was a natural progression that the sound you hear on Warsaw became the sound you can hear on closer. To this day I still think that if Ian had lived, Joy Division would still have followed the same electronic inspired path that New Order eventually did and I do believe Ian would have been singing on Blue Monday!
Q – Bernard’s notorious sleeping bag developed enormous friction between the band on numerous occasions. Tell us about these scenarios?
Barney was always very well prepared anytime we went anywhere, he had always thought ahead and planned things out, the rest of us in the group really were not like that so it was only natural that we gave him a load of stick for that bloody sleeping bag!
Q – Kevin Cummins is the man who captured and documented Joy Division’s short career span through his iconic images. The band will always be identified with his work. What are your memories of working with Kevin?
Kevin is obviously a great photographer and some of his images of Joy Division are undoubtedly fantastic. I think his pictures are a great compliment to the music.
Q – Throughout the book you speak very highly of Bernard commending his talent despite your problems with him more recently. Will you always hold that level of respect for Bernard?
Of course I will, Barney is a wonderful musician, and there is absolutely no way I would let today’s playground spat tarnish what he brought to the music back in the days of Joy Division which I was focusing on in the book. Its bizarre really because they seemed sure that I was going to slag them off in the book, but I would like to think that I have not done that at all.
Q – How true to life would you say the representations of Joy Division and Factory are within the films Control and 24 Hour Party People ?
24 hour party people is very much like a carry on film in a way, carry on up the factory, haha… Control is a lot more serious. I like both films, but I do feel Anton Corbijn captured everything a lot better with Control as he was there with us at the time and knows us all very well.
Q – You set up The Light in order to mark the 30th anniversary of Ian’s death. It’s fantastic that your giving a younger generation the chance to hear Unknown Pleasures live and in its entirety. How did it feel to be playing a complete Unknown Pleasures set after so long?
It felt great to play them all and to get them back after over 30 years. When we were in New Order before we split up, we ignored everything to do with Joy Division for years, so it was a wonderful feeling to play that set and develop it into a tour to let other people all round the world hear them too. The lads in The Light are fantastic musicians and work so hard to get it all sounding great. I am still really enjoying it all.
Q – In a recent copy of the NME you recommend upcoming Mancunian band ‘The Slow Readers Club’ what is it about them that appeal to you and are there anymore new bands you are enjoying at the moment?
I like them a lot because to me they have a very unique sound and don’t just sound like everybody else out there. With regards to other bands, I am really into two young Manchester bands that we are taking out on tour with us in November to support us on the UK tour Shinies and Tiny Phillips. They are both great bands and through them it sounds to me like the future of Manchester music is in good hands.
Q – So you have ticked The Hacienda and Joy Division off the list book-wise, are we likely to see one documenting your career with New Order on the shelves in the future?
I think so yes, I would definitely like to complete the trilogy as it were and write the New Order book.
Q – Just one to leave us with; after over 30 years what’s your favorite Joy Division track to get on stage and play live and has it changed since the early days?
In the early days we were all about the punk songs, but today, I have to say the song I enjoy playing the most has to be The Eternal. It’s a beautiful song and the lads play it so well. Sometimes I just like to close my eyes and listen to them recreating it.
Thanks so much for your time Hooky! It has been an absolute pleasure.
Following their first full UK tour in late May/ early June of this year Peter Hook And The
Light take Unknown Pleasures on the road to a host of new venues across England in late November 2012. The Light are set to play the widely acclaimed album sequentially and in its entirety along with other classic and lesser known material from Warsaw and Joy Division’s repertoires. So don’t forget to check out the tour dates.
Also the new book ‘Unknown Pleasures – Inside Joy Division’ is now available and definitely worth a read.