Peter Hook is an icon of British music. He was a part of legendary Joy Division and then the band New Order. Soon, he will play two gigs in Poland with The Light. In an interview with us he talks about the idea of playing Joy Division’s songs and the situation between him and New Order.
musicis.pl: Firstly I’d like to thank you for the idea of doing live shows with Joy Division’s songs. For young people that is the only way to experience the atmosphere of what was 30 years ago. You are also criticized for using Joy Division image. How do you react to such opinions?
Peter Hook: Well it is shame that not everyone is happy about it but sometimes in life it is impossible to please everyone. We have been playing since may 2010 now and we have almost done 150 gigs, in fact when we arrive in Warsaw that will be number 150. I have seen the responses of the audiences we have had and have spoken to enough fans to make me realise that the number of positive people certainly outweights any negativity, and this makes me very happy to have decided to play the music again. I was a member of Joy Division and I helped to create those songs so I do not understand why some people say I should not be playing my own music… I admit that it is not a very normal situation but I have to say that I think we are doing a good job with it, the band I have put together are fantastic and they work really hard to make our set work and sound good. I just want to give people the opportunity to hear these songs in the live format.
musicis.pl: I’ve listened to your recordings from the Australian show, I’ve listened to New Order playing Joy Division songs live. Do you enjoy playing them with The Light more or when you were still the part of New Order?
Peter Hook: I would have to say that I do enjoy playing the joy division material much more with The Light than I did when we used to play Joy Division songs as New Order. When we were in New Order, we could only play about 5 or 6 joy division songs as that was the only amount that certain people would rehearse or would actually want to play, and sometimes we had to change the key of the songs to suit Bernard’s higher vocal, which sometimes meant that we lost the intensity of the songs. With The Light, we stay faithful to the Joy Division versions of the songs as much as we can, and we can play every single joy division song live, not just 5 or 6, we have played every single one, which I am really proud of!
musicis.pl: How do you feel singing Ian’s lyrics? To my mind, they are both personal and universal . Do you think of him while you singing or do you focus on your own interpretations?
Peter Hook: At first I must admit that it was a very strange feeling to sing Ian’s words, but as we did more gigs I have become more comfortable with it. Of course I think of him while I am singing them, it would be impossible not to think about him as they are his words after all. I just hope that he would think that I am doing my best.
musicis.pl: What is more important for you in playing Joy Division? As closely as possible to present that time and do everything like you did in the late 70’s or discover something new in these songs.
Peter Hook: Well you have to remember that most people who will see our show did not get to see Joy Division live, and that all they have are the albums and the other recorded music. For this reason, when you present the songs live you have to try and stay faithful to the original recordings. Joy division sounded very different live in the 1970s to what they sounded like on record, so with this project I am just trying to find the right balance between live Joy Division and recorded Joy Division. We want to present the songs that everybody knows and loves but also to give a feel of how they actually sounded live back at the time when Joy Division existed.
musicis.pl: Tour with the Light started in 2011. Earlier you didn’t play Joy Division songs that often. Not playing them for a long time (before 2011) caused, that you missed what shaped you as a musician in late 70’s?
Peter Hook: The tour with The Light actually started in may 2010, we played our first show on may 18th 2010 in order to celebrate the life of Ian Curtis. Its true that before this, when we toured as New Order for example, we never played much Joy Division. In the early years this was because we were trying to make a new identity for ourselves as New Order, a new band, but in the later years I wanted to play more Joy Division songs but the rest of the band did not agree with me. I did miss the songs, and thats why it’s so good to play them all again these days.
musicis.pl: Once you said that Joy Division, when I play it, is not as good as when Joy Division played it. The question is do you fulfill your artistic ambitions doing it with The Light?
Peter Hook: Well of course the songs can never sound as good as Joy Division did because we do not have Ian. We can never capture his vocals and his intensity and his stage presence, but we try and present the music as best as we can. I am very satisfied from an artistic point of view because I feel that the band play these songs very very well and I am proud of all the work we have done to be able to play every joy division song live again I think it is a great achievement. I am also very happy to play the albums in full as it is almost like an art form, instead of just playing the same old greatest hits set or something like that. I think playing the albums in full demands more concentration from both the audience as well as the band. Our last gig in Warsaw was a great experience for example.
musicis.pl: You have written a few books. What similarities do you notice in working as a writer and a musician?
Peter Hook: Well the first similarity I suppose would be that both are very hard work! It is very hard work indeed to write the books and it takes a long time but it is always worth it in the end. At the end of the day whether I am writing or playing music all I am trying to do is present things as well as I possibly can do.
musicis.pl: You are planning to write a book about New Order. Will you contact Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris during the work?
Peter Hook: No I will not be contacting them – we do not have any kind of relationship at all anymore, it is a great shame as we achieved so much together but that is just the way it has all turned out. They tried to stop the Joy Division book being released because they were thinking that I would be saying lots of nasty things about them but this was not the case I think I have been very fair in the Joy Division book. I am sure they will be just as un-cooperative when it comes to releasing the New Order book!
musicis.pl: You often say that you and Bernard Sumner had different ideas, different attitudes, different ambitions. How is it possible that you worked together and made plenty of great material?
Peter Hook: Well I suppose it is like a marriage in a way. People get together and everything is great for a while, but then as time goes on people can drift apart and drift away from each other which is when marriages end in divorces! Myself and Barney had different visions for what we wanted New Order to be and by the end of the band I found him very difficult to work with and I just could not carry on doing it otherwise I would have driven myself crazy.
musicis.pl: Apart from fights with Bernard, would you like to make something with him? Not necessarily under the name of New Order.
Peter Hook: I do not like the fighting and all the legal battles, I am sure that nobody does, but while the other side will not negotiate with me then that is what has to happen. It is a shame and I hate it but I cannot sit back and let them get away with what they have done to me, the business side of their New Order reformation is in my opinion very unfair and I am fighting it. We made some great music together and possibly could have carried on doing that in the future but it was not to be. I doubt that we will ever have the chance to make anything again, whether it was New Order or some other project. Its not a good position to be in I admit, but there is no choice. Barney is a fantastic musician and he always will be, but I do not agree with how he handled the so called reformation – but good luck to him, I am glad they are all playing gigs again as I tried to get them all to do that for 30 years.