Old 'Order: Peter Hook talks re-issues, the Factory legacy and staying relevant
If you're talking about bands who've influenced whole generations of musicians, 70s post-punkers Joy Division, and their successors New Order, would be somewhere near the top of that list. Their bassist Peter Hook's seen more of the business than most, too: a key player in the rise of both Factory Records and the legendary Hacienda in the 80s, he's done pretty much everything there is to do - and then some. These days he's keeping himself busy with Freebass, a new project involving Mani from Primal Scream, Andy Rourke (ex-Smiths) and Gary Briggs, formerly of Haven. DiS had a quick chat with him in the week Rhino Records announced expanded editions of New Order's first five LPs...
You're reissuing the first five New Order studio albums. Listening back now, do you feel they've stood the test of time?
In fact, I was amazed at how well they've stood the test of time. It's a funny thing, for one reason or another I've not really listened to a lot of New Order. I tended not to listen to it after the recording. It wasn't like that with Joy Division, I don't really know why, so to be made to listen to them, as I have been now... it was 'oh god, what's it going to be like?'. But it was great, I think every one of them is fantastic. Movement does sound painful, but I think because of Martin Hannett's production, and the songs, it does sound interesting. It's not the strongest, perhaps, but it is very interesting.
I guess that record, being the first post-Joy Division album, was a bit of a transition...
Yeah. My memory of making it is very confused, it was very difficult. That's not to say the songs aren't good though. I'm surprised, actually, by how good they are.
Would you be able to pick a favourite album of the five, or is it a case of them all being like children?
No, I think for overall sound my favourite is Technique because it always seems very bright, summery to me. Maybe that's because I associate it with Ibiza, where it was recorded...
I guess that would have been a fairly crazy time...
It was probably the worst idea I've had in my life, going to Ibiza at that time! Just as we got there in '87, Acid House was kicked off, the whole Balearic thing... the Ecstasy explosion. And going in to that at our age, well, we were just ready and waiting.
There's a lot of crossover between guitar and dance music at the moment, do you think the New Order back catalogue has been influential in that?
Yeah, definitely. It's funny, because you get a lot of accolades, which is wonderful, but the one that's always puzzled me is 'New Order invented dance music'. Whilst it's a wonderful thing to hear, people who say that have never listened to Georgio Moroder or Kraftwerk. There were so many people before us that were doing it. But I would say New Order were one of the first hybrid groups to mix a traditional guitar format with dance music. I'll take that one, definitely!
*'Blue Monday' is still a really popular club song, even now. How do you feel when the hear it? *
I do quite a lot of DJing myself, and I play it. People expect it, which is fine. I went to the launch of the Ryan Giggs football DVD last week, actually, and it was the first song that the DJ played there. It was a wonderful little nod. But because it's your record, you don't really hold it in much reverence. In fact, you're probably sick of it! It's really nice seeing, on an occasion like that, that it'd be the first record though. That's a great compliment.
*I was going to ask you about the DJing - is there much contemporary music in your record box or is it mostly old stuff? *
I actually much prefer to play the contemporary stuff, because playing a record you've just discovered is really exciting as opposed to playing a record you discovered thirty years ago. DJing is one of those bloody awful things, it's like juggling... you can never please everybody all of the time. It was really funny, I was in Ibiza last week, DJing in the back room of Eden and these three girls came up and one of them asked 'can you play Oasis?'. I was like, 'listen love, it's Hacienda night, I don't really play Oasis anyway'. She said, 'oh, please, the three of us got mugged yesterday and it'd cheer us up if you'd play it'. So I was like 'fucking hell, alright then', and started going through my records to find an Oasis track. I lined one up, looked round and they'd gone! [Laughs] I thought 'the cheeky bitch!'
Speaking of contemporary bands, how do you feel about Editors? They've been accused of ripping off Joy Division many times, now they're reportedly pursuing a more electronic direction - do you think they're trying to emulate your career path?!
Well, I'll tell you what, if they have half as much fun as I've had, then I don't mind them emulating my career path! [Laughs] It's funny, with Editors, because with a group like Interpol I can hear it much more, but they remind me of John Cale. I'm actually quite a fan. You know that one of theirs that goes [sings] 'You come on your own/And then you leave'? That's a fantastic tune, and it's a good LP. To me, it's a great compliment when people are compared to you. You must have made a hell of an impression to get the amount of comparisons that we do. I just wish we'd sold more fucking records!!
Is it a good time for creativity? You looked to the clubs, and stuff like Kraftwerk and Georgio Moroder for inspiration with New Order - is there much to be inspired by these days?
I think the interesting thing about rock and roll now is that it's not very rebellious, is it? They teach it you in schools! I remember when I asked my school master about pursuing a career in music he asked if I was gay! It's changed a lot, and you'd have to say it's for the better, but there's so much more competition. I'd hate to be starting at the bottom, it must be so fucking difficult.
The label that released the New Order albums, Factory, operated in a way that was pretty revolutionary at the time. Given the myriad problems facing them at the moment, what do you think the future is for the traditional record label?
That is a really tricky question! I'm starting a new group at the moment, Freebass, and I do not know what the hell to do for the best. Do you sell it yourself on the internet, wrap it around a pair of shoes, stick it in with an ice lolly... what the hell _do_ you do these days? It was a lot simpler when record companies sold records. Now, everywhere sells them. Starbucks, W H Smith... it's very watered down. It's a difficult decision. Honestly, I'm agonizing over whether to do it the normal way and sign to a record company, or to use individual companies, to go for download only... my answer would be 'I don't know', and if anybody does, please send it on a postcard to Rhino Records!!
It is a difficult one, because everybody seems to be struggling; the big labels and the small ones...
It's interesting, because I love these big labels whining about money and having a tough time - EMI, Universal, all that lot. They made billions, what they should be saying is 'we're not worried, we made billions before'. They're such a bunch of whiners! In a way, you sort of miss that rock and roll lifestyle... being feted by the record companies. Bands, by doing it themselves, don't get that bit do they? Dinner at The Ivy and all that crap! Younger bands have to grow up sooner, maybe.
I was talking about that with some friends yesterday, about how a band like The Beatles probably wouldn't have time to develop in the current climate...
I think Bernard Sumner summed it up well when he said 'a band takes 22 years to write their first record, and then six months to write their second'. It's a funny thing because when you do the first record you do it in a different way, you don't have the same pressure as you do when you're on a label. I think that's what missing these days, labels don't nurture particular groups. Now, record companies will only stick with groups the public likes. If the public don't like a group, they'll get rid of them. You can get a great artist, and just because they haven't sold, they'll get rid of them. It's shocking, that lack of loyalty.
*I guess they need to make money... *
But do they only need to make money? They used to look at it like they educated people: 'I have a great band here, this is my company so I'm going to give them a chance'. Now, you're not allowed because they're owned by a bunch of bloody capitalists who only work for money, not for taste. Look at an artist like Hendrix, how influential he is today. If he was signed to Warners now, they would have dropped him after the first LP! It's like The Rolling Stones; the first LP wasn't a massive smasheroonie so they would have been dropped, they wouldn't have been nurtured. It's one of the sad facts of our generation: we live in a much more disposable age. Ooh, we're getting quite philosophical here aren't we?
We are indeed. On that tip, do you think the model behind Factory is something that could succeed now?
I thought it was interesting what Tony [Wilson] said afterwards: 'we weren't interested in making money, we were only interested in making art'. If we'd known that we probably wouldn't have gone with Factory! [Laughs] We wanted to make money and art, you know what I mean? I think the Factory model, and the same with The Hacienda, was that money wasn't the be all and end all. What I particularly liked about [Joy Division/New Order manager] Rob Gretton was that he always felt that as a group you should give something back, he felt Manchester had made us and we should open a club because we could. It didn't work out, you could say, but it lasted 15 years - and The Hacienda changed the way people looked at clubs, and clubbing. You'd have to regard them [Rob Gretton and Tony Wilson] as unique human beings. A lot of people will only do things for money, but Tony gave the acts whatever Factory made because he thought it was unfair the way other record companies treated bands.
He was even willing to make a loss with the release of 'Blue Monday' just so the packaging was right...
They lost 10p on each, on the biggest selling 12" of all time! Because the company was run like a co-op, some hippy commune, nobody bothered to check it. They just thought 'it's impossible to sell a record for less money than you made it'. The interesting thing about it, and Steve Morris always laughs about this, is that when [Factory sleeve designer] Pete Saville made that cover, it wasn't the bits you got that cost the money, it was the bits you didn't get - it was the hole! It's got three different shaped holes so it had to be pressed three times. With one hole, you make a profit, two holes you can still make a profit but we put three holes in it which meant you could never make a profit! Nobody spotted that for five years. That's one of the myths that makes rock and roll though. Okay, I'm being told we've got to wind it up, so do you want to ask one more?
That's cool, okay, one last question. What's your view on older bands like Led Zeppelin reforming, and people like The Rolling Stones who just keep going? Isn't it better to quit before you get too old?
[Laughs] I'd have to say no, wouldn't I! Personally I still feel 17, like the day I picked up my bass for the first time and went to my first Joy Division rehearsal. I might not look like that, but I still feel like it! And what the fucking hell are all those old musicians going to do if we stop making music? What would Mick Jagger do if he wasn't prancing around a stage?!
Run the labels and sort out the industry, perhaps?
Some do that, but there are others who don't want the responsibility. They just want to stick to what they feel they're good at. I watched Led Zeppelin reform and I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time in Manchester. And I saw The Sex Pistols at the Manchester Evening News Arena and enjoyed it as much as the first time at Lesser Free Trade Hall. I enjoy watching people make great music, it doesn't matter if they're young or old. As an old musician, you get Rolling Stones syndrome where you think noone wants to listen to your new stuff, just the old stuff. But one thing Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton taught me is that you've got to look forward. Enjoy looking back, but always look forward - because if you don't look forward you'll have nothing to look back on.
Power, Corruption & Lies, Low-Life, Movement, Brotherhood and Technique hit the streets for the second time on September 29 via Rhino Records.
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