DiS meets Peter Hook: "Taking career advice from strangers is not to be recommended"
As the bass player with both Joy Division and New Order, Peter Hook's status as a legendary master of his craft is well documented. After 28 years as a musician, Hook is still going strong. Having split with New Order in 2007, Hook put together a new outfit - The Light. Featuring three former members of Monaco (guitarist David Potts, drummer Paul Kehoe and keyboard player Andy Poole)- Hook's side project between 1995 and 2000 - along with son Jack Bates on bass, they've been playing live since the summer of 2010. Initially performing Joy Division's seminal Unknown Pleasures and Closer albums in full, last year saw them embark on a world tour showcasing the first two New Order albums (Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies). Later this year they'll hit the road again, this time focusing on albums three and four (Lowlife and Brotherhood).
Currently in the middle of a busy European DJ schedule, DiS caught up with Hook at Brussels airport. In one of his most forthright and honest interviews, Hook discusses the split with his former New Order bandmates and the prospects of ever working with them again, the current state of the music industry and his beloved Manchester United.
DiS: What are you doing in Brussels?
Peter Hook: I was DJing last night in Porto. Then the night before that I had two charity DJ gigs in Manchester.
DiS: It sounds like you have quite a busy schedule at the moment?
Peter Hook: It is. I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to do this and also play with the band. And I must admit, I do enjoy both.
DiS: What do you tend to play during your DJ sets?
Peter Hook: It was funny last night because the audience looked like they just expected Joy Division and New Order all night. It’s really weird why anybody would actually do that anyway in a club. I do a mix of modern and old classics. You can’t just play all the old stuff. That would just drive you mental. You’ve got to throw in some new stuff too. You need to keep the circle going don’t you? I think the new stuff does surprise them.
DiS: What new stuff do you play? Are there any new artists that you’re particularly fond of at present?
Peter Hook: I’m a big fan of singles artists. People like Tinie Tempah, Disclosure, Rudimental. They all make really great singles. The art of the LP as we all know and love it seems to have gone. Lots of artists seem to concentrate more on making great singles. Like the Black Eyed Peas will release four great singles then add eight filler tracks to make an album. When you look at it from a cold monetary point of view, one hit on the radio is worth the same now as it was 20 years ago. Whereas artists don’t get paid anywhere near the same amount for making an LP.
DiS: Do you think it’s more a reflection of how music is market-driven towards radio airplay, games, film and television that the industry are less inclined to support great albums in favour of stand alone tracks?
Peter Hook: Generally, in the old days, you always used to do music for yourself. When you start listening to other people, that’s when it tends to go wrong. So if a band makes a record, then goes to the record company who turn it down because they don’t think there’s ten radio friendly hits, they should take that as a compliment! Most record companies – and this has been proved through my career anyway – don’t know what they want until they hear it. You’re wasting your time trying to get them to do what you want to do anyway because they really don’t know. It got like that on Get Ready and Waiting For The Sirens Call. It became very confusing because the A&R kept chipping in, telling us what he wanted. So we’d be asking, “How do you get that?” And his stock answer was always get a new producer in. So basically they know what they want but they don’t know how to do it. They can’t explain it to you. They can only go, “That’s it!” when they hear it. And I think it’s destructive. If you look at a band with a career like New Order in particular you shouldn’t be having an A&R man telling you what to do. The impact and the specialness you had making music came from not listening to anybody.
DiS: You’ve toured both Joy Division albums and the Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies records with The Light. Later this year you’re going to be taking Lowlife and Brotherhood on the road. Is it your aim to work through every single album from New Order’s back catalogue including the last two?
Peter Hook: I’m gonna have to now to really piss Bernard (Sumner) off aren’t I! Even if I left off my least favourite LP which would be Republic I’m gonna have to do it to keep up the momentum.
DiS: Republic’s your least favourite? Really? Why is that?
Peter Hook: I find it very hard to judge that album for the simple reason we had such a bad time making it. We were so disconnected making it and brought so many petty grievances to the fore. It was done primarily just to save the Hacienda and Factory Records and it didn’t work for either. With hindsight we should have just said no. We’d split up. Bernard had split the band and gone off to do Electronic with Johnny Marr. And then we had to get back together again because of all the personal guarantees we had to fulfil with the bank for Factory and the Hacienda. We had to get back together again to save our houses basically. Rob (Gretton) our manager said if we didn’t do it we were all going to go under. Which is a hell of a threat when you’ve worked so hard all those years to set yourself up. Funnily enough he was wrong because it didn’t work for either. It didn’t work for the band. It was just an all round failure. We would have just been better off splitting up in 1990 and sticking with that. Coming back and reconvening was really confusing and antagonistic, especially for Bernard. He just didn’t want to do it.
DiS: Do you see the end of New Order as you knew and enjoyed it being straight after Technique came out?
Peter Hook: No. It’s a very interesting question. I’m currently writing a New Order book which answers a lot of those questions and fills in a lot of things people tend to have forgotten about. The main thing being there was a real change of power within the group. It was alright while Rob Gretton was in charge. But then when Bernard became in charge – in my opinion – that’s when it all went wrong. The group didn’t finish on Technique. I love Get Ready. I think that was the closest me and Bernard had been for years, probably since Unknown Pleasures. Stephen (Morris) and Gillian (Gilbert) weren’t very involved with it. Steve was there the most. Gillian had quit while we were making it, so Steve stayed with her. Quite rightly really. So me and Bernard did it mainly with Steve Osborne, in my opinion. I really enjoyed making Get Ready. Once we’d made that record, New Order returned to form. I always said to myself that when we got back together again, if it ever got as bad as it did on Republic I would split the band, and that’s what happened in 2006.
DiS: The split has been well documented elsewhere. Without going over old ground too much, would you ever consider working with Bernard and the other two again?
Peter Hook: I respect Bernard and Stephen as musicians. I really do and I would play with them any time because of the respect of what we created together. But New Order could never get back together again after what they did when they reformed it. I entirely disagree 100 per cent with what they did and how they did it. I’m still fighting a legal case that’s going along very well actually.
DiS: Have you seen any of the current New Order line up’s shows? If so, what do you make of bass player Tom Chapman, who’s effectively replicating your work and very little else?
Peter Hook: He’s in a very odd position really isn’t he? I take it the brief from the band is they want to stand together as a band. And by standing together as a band they think that eradicates my memory. Or my importance. So Tom Chapman really is a session musician. But they’re sending him out doing interviews, which I don’t think is being fair to the fans. And it was particularly annoying for me when I found out he was signing New Order records. I don’t think that’s on. I won’t let any of my band sign New Order records. If anyone brings along a New Order or Joy Division album and asks them to sign it I’ll tell them not to as they didn’t play on any of those records.
DiS: I wouldn’t let anyone scribble on any of my records that didn’t play on them. It instantly defaces the album for starters.
Peter Hook: That’s what I mean. It’s an odd position and in a way, I do feel sorry for him. I’m not one for blowing my own trumpet but he could never replace me in that band. In the same way Stephen, Bernard or Gillian couldn’t be replaced either. Without any of those four components it’s not New Order, no matter what they say. Whatever they pretend to try and be, they are not New Order. They’re masquerading as New Order.
DiS: Interestingly the current line up of New Order are yet to release any new material.
Peter Hook: New Order – or the people masquerading as New Order – haven’t made a new record since 2004 when we were together as New Order. It’s my own fault really because I brought Phil (Cunningham) into the band. I had really high hopes for him when we were making Waiting For The Sirens Call and I insisted that he came in as a published member and writer of the band. The management wanted us to just pay him, buy him out, and I said it was important for us to keep a core. It’s like growing flowers in a greenhouse. So they’ve done it again, only this time without me! Tom Chapman hasn’t written anything. I’m not being funny but as a bass player – and a very distinctive bass player at that – I have listened to them. Because when I came to do the New Order songs, I wanted to make sure I got all the odd bars and sequences spot on. A lot of them are difficult to notice and pick out. When I listened to a lot of the songs again I realised that in order to play them live I’d have to change some of them. We weren’t able to play those songs as they were on the record even as New Order. So I did have to listen to a couple of tracks just to see what they’d done. ‘Temptation’ and ‘Age Of Consent’ primarily, because they were both jammed on the record then finished off afterwards. It's a bit like stalking your ex-girlfriend isn't it! It's very difficult not to do it. There is that aspect too, and when it comes down to it I'm only human. Considering that he's meant to be my replacement and supposedly putting his own stamp on things, I don't believe he plays those songs anywhere near as well as me. Maybe I'm the worst judge?!?
DiS: I guess the fact they're playing what is primarily a greatest hits set could be dismissed as being pure nostalgia?
Peter Hook: The thing is, Bernard and Stephen just wouldn't ever choose a very interesting setlist. They're just settled on playing a greatest hits set. Whereas I don't think our greatest hits represented New Order to the full extent. I thought there were many other tracks that they didn't play which were more representative of New Order in the way we created a unique style of music. But they would never play them, which caused me a great deal of frustration in 2004 when we were playing Get Ready. By 2006 that frustration was still there. They were very catholic shall we say in their choice of set. So I must admit I was very delighted when they came back in 2011 amidst all that hoo-hah and they were just doing exactly the same thing. So I would have been intentionally frustrated if we hadn't have split up in 2006 when considering their shortcomings, they're still doing them. As to why they do that, you'd have to ask them. The interesting thing is whenever New Order do interviews most journalists never ask them pertinent questions. They're scared of them walking out I suppose?
DiS: One rumour I've heard is that Bernard and his teleprompter set restrictions counteracted your philosophy for playing as much as possible from the entire back catalogue being partly responsible for the split. Was that the case?
Peter Hook: It is one reason, yeah. For sure. The nice thing about what I'm doing is I am getting to play every single song that we ever wrote and recorded. I've actually managed to get two songs into the set; 'Homage' and Promises'; that we didn't record, and I've also stumbled across a track called 'Too Late' which we recorded for a John Peel session that we never played and never recorded elsewhere. If you search it out on You Tube it's a great song. Why have we never recorded that? The only reason we never recorded it was because Bernard didn't like it. That was usually the edit and become the mantra of the whole group in my opinion. If Bernard didn't like it then you didn't do it.
DiS: You've also been playing b-sides like 'Hurt' and 'In A Lonely Place' with The Light. Was it your intention to play these with New Order on the Get Ready and ...Sirens Call tours? Were they dismissed by the other members of the band?
Peter Hook: Yes they were. I think Steve would do it generally because in his own words, he goes whichever way the wind blows. But if you've got somebody that just doesn't want to do it or can't be bothered or doesn't like it you can't make them. Basically, I've learned over the years that you can't forcibly make someone sing. So they've either got to do it willingly or you can't do it. Bernard is a trooper. I was looking back at the American tour we did with Public Image in 1989 and I remember one night where he actually sat on the drum riser in front of 25,000 people and just sang from where was sitting. On the drum riser. He was bored out of his skull. And I remember thinking to myself, "Good for you lad!" Because the thing about this business is everybody pretends to be having a great time when they're not. So I thought it was great that he was pissed off and not afraid to show it. The funny thing was, the audience really didn't care. They were just having a great time. It just shows you. Both ways work. Standing there and saying "Hello Cleveland!" or wherever you're playing or just not actually giving a shit; both mantras work. It's amazing at my age to say that I've learned more about the music business in the past two-and-a-half years than I ever knew in the other thirty-six.
DiS: What was it like initially going back to playing smaller venues? I saw your show at the Sugarmill in Stoke last October and you seemed to be enjoying yourself immensely on stage.
Peter Hook: This interesting because I did an interview with Gigwise last week where the guy was asking me to compare playing small gigs against bigger ones. That was how we got to talking about Bernard. I bet that Bad Lieutenant tour scared him to death because he went back to playing small gigs. Now a lot of small venues used to lack amenities back in the day. That has changed because we've all become a lot softer as we've got older. But they are still a lot less comfortable than playing festivals or headlining arenas. In my opinion, Bernard was terrified when he Bad Lieutenant played those venues. Only I referred to him in that interview as "twatto", which is a form of endearment us northerners use to describe each other. And the guy misheard it as "twat hole" which doesn't make sense, so the sub-editor supposedly put it in to make it look like I was having another massive go at Bernard when it was nothing more than a simple remark about the difference in size of gigs. Don't forget I grew up with Joy Division playing smaller gigs. When Ian (Curtis) passed away and we came back as New Order, we went back to playing smaller gigs. We I did Revenge we went back to playing smaller gigs, and the same with Monaco too. So I knew what to expect by being used to playing a lot of smaller gigs over the years. Whereas Bernard hasn't gigged anywhere near as much, particularly with his side projects. So playing those kind of venues really doesn't bother me. I'm more easy going. In my opinion, if you have the right attitude you can get through anything. What shocked me towards the end of New Order in 2005 was my attitude being completely different to Bernard's. And that's what brought about the split. I thought he had different ideas for the music. He certainly had different ideas for the band. We were so far apart it just couldn't work. I thought he didn't care about the band at all. And when we split up he didn't seem to care then either. The only time he got annoyed was when Clint Boon said we'd split up. I didn't say we'd split up. I said we weren't working together any more. But he seems to have forgotten that. He always quoted Johnny Marr, who said you should never say you've split because then you can come back. I just thought now what fucking difference does that make? It hasn't worked for The Smiths has it? So I'm not too sure Johnny's a great expert on how to run various groups if I'm honest with you!
DiS: Your current band (The Light) features three former members of Monaco. Will you be revisiting any of that material in the future? Or even Revenge and Freebass too?
Peter Hook: My intention is when we do Technique I'm going to throw in a bit of Monaco and Revenge then. I think that album stands alone. It certainly doesn't fit with Republic. I'd probably tour that album with Get Ready instead. There's such a wide scope to choose from with New Order because there are so many tracks. We're just running through the tracklistings for Lowlife and Brotherhood and there's a ridiculous amount of songs. Something like thirty-three in total! It's far too long for one night. It would be like a Ken Dodd comedy show! Five hours long! It's ridiculous. It's gonna be difficult because Jack (Bates, bass) wants to play them all. Whereas I'm saying, "Mate, some of our fans are pretty old. They won't be able to stand for that long!" Not only that. I also have trouble standing for that long. It's pretty fantastic because a lot of these songs have never been played. They were pretty much ignored in the same way that Joy Division was, so it's wonderful finally being able to get them out there. Playing Movement was an amazing experience.
DiS: Was it inevitable that you and your son Jack would end up playing in the same band? How old was he when he first picked up a bass guitar?
Peter Hook: He was about fourteen when he started. He first got into music through bands like Queens Of The Stone Age and Metallica. I must admit I wanted him to finish his college course first. He only had a year to go. Both my wife and ex-wife nearly got together to murder me for breaking his concentration. In fact, my wife also nearly became my ex-wife because of it! Obviously he wanted to come and play with us when he saw the opportunity rather than finish his college course which he'd been doing for four years and cost an absolute fortune. We'd made sacrifices to pay for his education and then he just runs off with a rock and roll band! I now know exactly how my mum felt when I did it. That's how life works isn't it? The sinners become the sinned against. But then also he's a very good bass player. I must admit he can play the way I play very well. What I do love is his arrogance. Sometimes I will say to him, "Jack you're playing that wrong," and he'll reply, "I'm not." And I think to myself I wonder where he gets that from..! If he goes through life thinking like that he's going to be alright.
DiS: As Peter Hook & The Light, you're technically the front man in the band. Was that something you'd always wanted to be right from first starting out as a musician?
Peter Hook: I think I always wanted to be a benign dictator! The thing about singing is it's very difficult as is being a front man, and my God don't some of them let you know. It's like when Barney was forced into being a front man because of Ian's death, in a strange way because of New Order's death in 2006 that forced me into becoming a front man. I was scared to death, especially doing the Joy Division material. Doing Bernard was always going to be a lot easier than doing Ian. I wasn't really that worried about doing the New Order songs. Ian had bigger shoes to fill and I think there was a greater expectation as well.
DiS: Were you prepared for some of the criticism that followed? I suppose it was inevitable opinion would be divided, particularly when it came to the Joy Division songs.
Peter Hook: People are always going to be divided. The secret is to try and make it about 50-50. If you look at the comments there's usually half telling me to fuck off and die while the rest are encouraging me to give it to 'em! It summed it up for me when we did Power, Corruption & Lies in London. I'd just finished playing 'Cries And Whispers' and some guy on the left shouted, "Well done Hooky, that was miles better than Barney!" And then some guy on the right shouted back, "Fuck off you twat, Barney's much better than you." So I thought there you go, that just about sums up life really. Everything's 50-50. As long as it stays at that. It only gets worse when it goes one way or the other. Jack gets upset by some of the comments, especially on Twitter. So I've just told him he needs to stop reading them. You do what you do in life because of who you are and what you want to achieve. Taking career advice from strangers is not to be recommended. With the internet, everyone has a voice. It exacerbates that. But you have to let them do it. Although I guess most of those posting negative remarks wouldn't dare say it in a pub. But that's what the internet does for you. Allows people to say what they like and hide behind anonymity. I do love the way the people masquerading as New Order hide behind these kind of statements when they're having a go at me. At least I've got the balls to have a go at them myself. Whereas that Twitter guy hides behind a pseudonym and although his statements are anonymous. It really does sum them up. In my opinion they're just cowards. You've also got to bare in mind that the person who used to do most of the interviews in New Order was me. They got the shock of their lives when we split up and I started working again. I did a lot of New Order and Joy Division interviews so Bernard started complaining. The management had to very carefully remind him that he'd never done them. Whereas I always did them. So people came to me knowing I'd always speak with them. It is really interesting sitting back and watching him change. It's like the facade he puts on about enjoying playing live. I remember the same guy saying he hated it. It's amazing what a pension crisis and harsh economic climate can do for people's attitudes. If I was a bit cynical, I could say they were just doing it for the money.
DiS: Do you think a band like New Order could have survived long enough to make an impact in the current climate?
Peter Hook: Bands come and go these days. In our day that didn't really happen. It was all about building then playing to your fan base, and New Order were a very special group. The music we made and the chemistry between me, Bernard and Stephen lasted through Joy Division into New Order. Gillian didn't change that chemistry, so we continued to make great music, and always have done, the three of us. The misconception when they came back as New Order was that Gillian also came back and this is what New Order are all about. Even Bernard has said in interviews that he played 95% of the keyboard parts and she just played what he told her. It was that misconception that I found particularly galling.
DiS: Musicians and bands have cited you as an influence. Are there any you're especially fond of?
Peter Hook: That is a wonderful thing. But generally in the day-to-day running of your life when picking up dogshit or the car's broke down on a motorway somewhere it's really not that important. Don't get me wrong, it's lovely to be appreciated. What I loved about being in Joy Division and New Order was that we were doing it for ourselves. We didn't listen to anybody else. We were punks, and we kept that punk attitude all the way through. We never made any money until we were thirty-three. We were just doing it for the love of making music. People still hold Factory Records up as being the most inspirational label ever created and yet it went bankrupt and didn't pay its acts! But then it also transcended the ordinariness of record companies. Joy Division were a really special group. New Order were also a really special group. Now they're not. It is a shame but then we all grow up and people change.
DiS: In light of what's happened between yourself and the other members of New Order, do you feel the band's legacy has been tainted?
Peter Hook: No, not at all. I still think they're one of the most interesting bands around. There aren't many bands that have stand up slanging matches in the press between all the members. We're doing it in a unique fashion.
DiS: Will there be any brand new material from Peter Hook And The Light?
Peter Hook: I feel very guilty about not writing new material although I do play with a lot of people. I actually looked at the number of collaborations I've done with other artists and I stopped counting at twenty-eight since New Order split up in 2006. I do them all the time. I'm just really shit at promoting them! If you go on Hacienda Records you can see all the Man Ray and Freebass stuff that I've done. Me and Phil Murphy did a conceptual piece called 'CP1919' for the opening of a restaurant in Liverpool. It was done as a one-off performance about Liverpool that revolved around an art piece from Leeds University. And nobody knows about it, yet it's a lovely piece of music. We did a William Burroughs soundtrack as well, me and Phil. Which again, very few people know. I really need to tell people because then they wouldn't ask me whether I'm going to make any new music! I make loads, and I'm very happy doing it.
DiS: So you're actually very much in demand.
Peter Hook: Rat Scabies who used to be in The Damned was telling me about a website he set up, where bands send him a tape and he'll play over it for £1000. Regardless of what it sounds like. And I'm sat there thinking I should do that! Get all these rich middle class kids to send in their tapes and money off their parents to get Peter Hook to play on their song. Let's face it, we're all mercenaries aren't we? None of us do this for nothing. You need to survive, you need to pay the mortgage. It's just the honesty of music that seems to be lacking these days. People telling you they're doing it for the love of it when in reality we're all doing it to survive.
DiS: Finally, being a Manchester United supporter, what's your opinion on David Moyes performance as manager? What do you make of Wayne Rooney's new contract, estimated to be worth £300,000 per week?
Peter Hook: Well, I'm seriously thinking of giving up bass playing and going into football management. It's got that bad. I know most of the players there and was actually sat on next table to Rooney in a restaurant recently. Me and you would love that kind of money in our dreams. But we'll never get it, so it will always stay in our dreams. I can't comment. People might see me DJing and say, "Oh my God, he gets paid 500 euros for standing there two hours and doing fuck all." People's perceptions are always different, so I don't think it's something we should comment on.
For more information on Peter Hook including forthcoming tour dates visit his official website. Peter Hook & The Light Debut New Order's "Low-Life" and "Brotherhood" in September 2014, at Manchester Ritz Thurs 25th and Shepherds Bush Empire Sat 27th.