By Stella Gardiner
Last week I caught up with Peter Hook ahead of returning down under for Australasian leg of the Joy Division and New Order Substance tour. We had a great chat about the spirit of punk, what it takes to write a book and why shows like the X-factor are so unhealthy…
Hi Peter, thanks so much for taking the time to chat this evening.
It’s my pleasure.
So you’re heading back down under next month as part of the Substance tour. Can you tell me a little about that? Why choose that album?
I’m on a chronological journey through my back catalogue and Substance is the next stop. It’s the eighth or nine record that I’ve played since I began in 2010. After that will be Technique and then Republic by New Order. But it’s interesting that Substance New Order is not what you’d consider to be a normal album, because we didn’t put singles on our albums. Tony Wilson who was the record company boss at Factory Records bought a new car. The car had a CD player, it was one of the very few, and he wanted all of New Order’s singles on one CD, which is what he did. Ironically by doing that he created our biggest selling album, which sold two million in America alone. We weren’t really that interested in it, we were more focused on an LP but Tony was absolutely right, as a commercial decision to play in a car, it worked wonderfully.
We then followed that up with Joy Division Substance, which is why chronologically it wasn’t the first, Joy Division Substance came afterwards; Joy Division Substance was a collection of basic tracks we gave away as Joy Division, because we were so prolific. The idea of writing new songs was not scary and we gave a lot of it to minor labels,as we were very philanthropic shall we say as a group, and Joy Division Substance is a collection of those records. New Order Substance actually turned out to be very commercial because the singles were all great successes, whereas the Joy Division singles were much more adult, much more rocky, a different collection completely but amazingly when we play them together which takes quite a while they work very well.
The last time you were here was 2015. Are you looking forward to playing in New Zealand again?
We first travelling in 1981 I think, or 82, to New Zealand and Australia and it was a fantastic discovery for us because unfortunately the English audiences were mostly male and that came with a lot of inherent problems, there was a lot of violence. When we came over to you, because we actually became more popular in Australia and New Zealand than we did in England for a while, the audiences were very mixed and much more friendly, much more of a party atmosphere, shall we say. It was very refreshing to be in and when we came back to England it sort of highlighted the, shall we say, imperfections in that regard. So yeah I always enjoy playing in New Zealand and Australia, it’s great to be back. I’m looking forward to it.
Will you get the chance to see the sights at all?
At my age I must admit the thought of sitting in an hotel room watching a film is very appealing, but my son plays bass in the group and he is young and full of life and it’s quite nice, he spurs me on to take in more of the atmosphere. It’s quite interesting when you’re faced with the choice of staying in and watch Netflix or going out and see the Seven Wonders of the World. As you mature I can see that both have their valued points, they’re both enjoyable so the thing is not to dwell too much on either and take a bit of relaxing time for yourself. What I’ve found, ‘cause I don’t drink anymore, I found travelling is absolutely killer. I mean I’m quite fit but my god you’re exhausted with the travelling, you really are, so you do have to look after yourself from my point of view.
Back in the early days when we had a little artificial sustenance and were helped along chemically, with booze as well, include that and you get to the point where you think my god getting to Australia is no mean feat. Especially when you’re expected to do a concert, have a few hours rest and then immediately the next morning to move on to another one. So you do have to be realistic about your sightseeing time shall we say, and I have to factor in that like most older musicians, that a lot of it is about looking after yourself while you’re doing it.
But the great thing is I still enjoy it and there’s nothing better. I remember the first time we played in Australia and New Zealand; the very first time we made it to Auckland, which wasn’t a great gig actually. It was an awful, awful gig and the audience being very puzzled by our attitude. But the skinheads had a great time, which made up for it (laughs). If you read my book – when we toured there with John Cooper Clarke it was hell of a thing to go through. But I’ve got many great memories and I do have to say I am very lucky to be given the opportunity to go back is great, and play a fantastic record with like-minded people. You have a great country and I still enjoy it.
You mentioned your book. Is that the same book you released book earlier this year?
My first book was about the Hacienda, the club we had in Manchester. My second book was about Joy Division, primarily, and my third book and final instalment was about New Order.
Any plans for another book?
(Laughs) Well to be honest with you I’ve been very, very engrossed these past few years with the legal battle with New Order that will hopefully come to an end soon so it sort of takes your mind off doing anything outside you know, I have to play, it’s my job and I need it to sustain my family, my way of life if you like, but it sort of stops you doing anything else outside it. I have a lot of things I want to do; a new book is certainly on the cards, I do enjoy it but by god it’s a very arduous trek as you will well know being a journalist, going from your first draft, shall we say, to your final draft. It can literally take years. So yeah I’m hoping to do one on the history of Manchester actually about the history of Manchester music. It seems to be a little in the doldrums now, Manchester musically. You’ve got a couple of good groups coming up. Blossoms is for one, but it seems to have lost its place – nobody has taken that top spot. It seems as though Manchester is biding its time.
Now that would be an interestingread. Did you have much to do with other Mancunian bands, like The Smiths for example?
No there was a healthy rivalry with bands like that but I mean once you get in a group it tends to be a very, very close-knit community. And whilst in the punk days actually… well Bernard and I started out in 1976 and there was very much a spirit of co-operation at the time where everybody used to mingle and used to work together because you were trying to change a big thing. Punk was a big change in music, in attitude to what everybody was doing and you had to work together to do it.
But do-it-yourself efforts and not using traditional promoters and managers and stuff like that, you really needed help so you did actually to stick together. Once you got to the 80s everybody became quite obsessed with themselves, so you became very inward looking as opposed to outward looking, and you would bump into these groups but there was a very, very healthy rivalry. Wasn’t the Smiths first gig at the Hacienda? I could have that wrong. I saw them at a place called Rafters in 1981 I think, supporting Sham 69 would you believe. There was a very intense rivalry between us; we were very different groups I must admit now whilst I count Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce as friends, I’m certainly not friendly with Johnny Marr because of his association with Bernard, which is a bit silly really. I notice he’s very reluctant to talk to me because of his association with Bernard, and well Morrissey is a law unto himself!
Did you ever go to the Salford Lads Club?
The first time I went to the Salford Lads Club I was 10 and I went there to play football and got beaten up because I was from another district in Salford, which is further down called Ordsall. I go back all the time now.
I read somewhere that you aren’t a huge fan of shows like the X-Factor
No. Because it always makes me wonder what they would have said about Ian Curtis, or Ian Brown or Morrissey. What would Simon Cowell have said to Morrissey? That’s what puts me off you know the thing that being in a group is all to do with ultimate self image, and these programs are all about people tell you what they think of you. And I don’t think it’s a healthy way of projecting or creating your art. It’s the wrong way around in my opinion. The interesting bits are the auditions aren’t they. These people that think they’re great (laughs). That’s the interesting bit and then they all become much of a muchness. As we said before if you look at someone like Morrissey, he is a character, regardless of his fantastic music, his wonderful lyrics, he is a character as well and that is what music is about. X-Factor and Pop Idol tend to be very homogenised, very ‘pleasing everybody at once’ which doesn’t really work. We have so many different genres of music because so many people are different, every person is different. But don’t forget they are made by TV and TV is the work of the devil!
And finally something I also all my interviewees: what was the first album you ever bought?
The first album I ever bought it actually cost 99 pence and was called The Age of Atlantic. It was a compilation of groups that were on Atlantic Records in America, which were Led Zeppelin, Louden Wainright, a group called Cactus and it was a great record actually! At 99p it was an absolute bargain!
Have you still go that record?
I do still have it yeah. My brother tried to play the ‘A’ side of it with a nail when he was a kid. But I’ve still got the record at home in my LP collection (chuckles) how weird is that? I still have all my records from when I was a kid. The one I bought after that was 49 pence ‘cause I didn’t have any money, and it was called The Faust Tapes which was a collection of short songs by Faust that were put together to make a sort of budget LP. It was a great record and the interesting thing there is when we met Ian Curtis, when punk happened, it one of Ian Curtis’s favourite records as well. We had something in common straight away shall we say, The Faust Tapes.
Peter Hook and the Light Tour Dates – October 2017
Thursday October 5th – The Studio AUCKLAND
Saturday October 7th – Metro Theatre SYDNEY
Sunday October 8th – The Tivoli BRISBANE
Tuesday October 10th – The Gov ADELAIDE
Friday October 13th – Corner Hotel MELBOURNE
Monday October 16th – Astor Theatre PERTH
Tickets via Metropolis Touring