An Interview with Peter Hook of Joy Division and New Order

Peter Hook is getting ready to hit the road AGAIN. The founding member and legendary bass player of both Joy Division and New Order cannot sit still even as he pushes into his 60s.

He and his band The Light will be coming stateside to play both Joy Division and New Order’s Substance albums in full, a continuation of a long-term project he started almost a decade ago attempting to play all of the bands songs live, something that neither band ever managed to do. The shows have become legendary with Hooky taking on vocal duties and guitar while his talented son Jack has taken his father’s spot-on bass.

“I’m sitting here (In the U.K.) looking at the dates thinking blimey that’s a long list!” he told Collide over the phone last week. “My son Jack (bass player for The Light) booked the dates then snuck off with the Smashing Pumpkins the bastard!” Don’t worry. Jack didn’t leave his dad in the lurch, he’ll be filling the slot with Fred Sabian who has played with Marilyn Manson and Chelsea Wolfe.

Tickets for his tour are on sale now. 

After writing numerous books about Joy Division, The Hacienda and New Order, there isn’t much you can tell us that we don’t know.  Any plans to pick up a pen again?
Funny enough I had an idea the other day. Somebody asked me about DJ-ing and we started talking about it and I thought oh no one’s ever done a book like that besides something like a  “How to DJ” book know what I mean? Nothing about our escapades you know? It would be entitled How Not to DJ (laughs)

Considering the amount of time that has passed and the amount of drugs it’s remarkable how good your memory is.  You really get into some fine details in each of the books.
The great thing about New Order fans is they’ve documented so much that all I have to do is sit there with a set list or something and it all comes back to me.  Funny enough all the great parts are the stuff we can’t print in this PC world (laughs) I’ve still got 100k words left over from the New Order book. It would be great to do a fan version one day.

A lot of music bios are dry, or encyclopedic but yours have the little nuggets fans really like.
The interesting this is that I wanted to write a book, because I read a lot of them but wanted to write one I wanted to read. I’m reading the Springsteen’s at the moment and Patti Smith’s as well. While they’re all good books, I miss the fandom, the lists, the gigs, the set etc. So, I wrote it for the simple reason that I wanted to read it. A lot of these people don’t write about the money, the root of all evil as well all know. So, I miss that. It’s a weird one, trying to make it truthful and interesting at the same time.

You’ve done a lot of these tours now. How much of preparation is there to bring these albums to life onstage. Especially the songs that haven’t been played often or ever?
Well for this it’s easy, this second tour of America is a bit easier because we’ve played the two Substances which I have to admit are very contrasting but work very well together. The promoters asked us to do another tour before we go into Regret and Republic.

This tour went down so well, and it was such a great show they felt it was worth doing again. And I wasn’t going to say no. Though I have to say now the list at my age seems to get longer and longer. Ironically my son booked it because he felt it would be great to do some of these places again and for the first time. The success we’ve had in America doing these tours has opened the door to some places we’ve not had access to before, which for a band of our size is a great compliment.

And now he’s gone off to join the Smashing Pumpkins (Jack will be playing bass on the Pumpkin’s upcoming reunion tour) the little sod! (laughs) He got poached and left me with a huge tour (laughs). [Fred Sabian who has played with Marilyn Manson and Chelsea Wolfe will be filling in for Jack on the upcoming tour].

It’s almost as if you’re breaking America again after all these years.
New Order had a bit of a habit that every time they broke America they would break up. It did prove to be a bit of a habit. I don’t know if they’re going to continue that now (laughs) I always felt like we under-exploited ourselves. I suppose now in a funny way that I’m free I can do the thing I enjoy the most which is to play live and to play in America is a bloody pleasure. I love America. It’s easy for me to go anywhere there and have a really fun time. We’ve always been massively appreciated since 1980 for Joy Division and for New Order. I was really sad that we didn’t exploit it more quite honestly.

You could have been bigger.
I’m comfortable where I am but its patently obvious we could have made loads more money in America if we had played the game. The one thing you crave the most in life is security and it could have given me security. Who knows? It’s hard to tell. With the feeling I get from the gigs now and the way I look at myself now, I wouldn’t have changed it. And its given us longer legs because we didn’t do it in the past, so it worked to our advantage.

No other band has really followed that path.
No, I think I can say that no other bands were as stupid as we are (laughs)even in this business. We certainly broke the mold when it came to stupidity (laughs) We acted in a strange fashion for a long time but it’s nice to play the music and whenever we do play I can say hand to my heart The Light have never had a bad gig and sadly I couldn’t say that before.

Besides touring with The Light, do you have any plans for new music?
I do. I miss being in a writing band, but I’ve been doing a lot of collaborations. Right now, I’m working with Wolfgang Flur (Kraftwerk) and Richard Norris (The Grid) who also records under the name Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve. Pottsy has been bugging me to tour the Monaco album which I’m thinking about.

We also might have another Monaco album in us. The thing is I just have to come to grips with working your dogs off for months writing and recording, poring your sweat and labor in and then basically sending it out for free. (Laughs)

Is it hard to play an entire album? Very few artists play every track because there’s always a dud or a song that just doesn’t translate to a live setting.
Sure, some songs were really hard, but we just went at it. Through cooperation and perseverance, we just power through and do the work. The great thing is The Light can’t really say no to me can they? (laughs) They have to listen to me. We’ve played every Joy Division song, every b-side, every album track.

I saw John Cale recently and thought if my fans are getting the buzz that I’m getting as fan right now then wow! I have a great job for a 62 yr old. When they put me in the ground they can say I played them all, even the b-sides.

Hopefully that is a long time from now as Peter has a lot of music left to play and hopefully even more to write.