Peter Hook & The Light will be at The Sinclair in Cambridge, MA, on Saturday, November 26. Here is the interview that I did with him following the publication of his book Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division. (Originally published on DigBoston.com, February 4, 2013)
“The Joy Division book is about boys chasing a dream, you know, coming from punk, not sullied by money or excess, drugs, sex, and rock ‘n roll.”
As a member of the English bands Joy Division in the 1970s and New Order in the 1980s, bassist Peter Hook helped to – in his words – “change the world of music not once but twice.” Now 56 years old, he tours with his new band The Light, delighting audiences with performances of his previous bands’ songs. Having first become a published author in 2010, he is currently appearing in bookstores across the US to promote his second book, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, which was published by It Books (a division of HarperCollins) on January 29.
“Hooky” recently spoke to me by phone from his room at the Prescott Hotel in San Francisco.
Do you still really not care if you, as you write on page 203, “piss off any journalist”?
(laughs) I’ve had journalists be wonderful and I’ve had journalists be awful. It doesn’t stop you really. You do have to learn to cope with that. You’ve got to trust what you’re doing, and believe in what you’re doing yourself.
As long as enough people like it so that you can carry on performing, that’s all that matters.
I was surprised to read that you and Bernard Sumner (Joy Division and New Order’s guitarist) had Santana stickers on your scooters when you were teenagers.
I’m still a great fan of Santana. I think you realize that there’s a place for everything in your head, isn’t there? Santana and that album in particular [1970′s Abraxas] reminds me of being 16-17 and just discovering life. I still have a great love for it, a great fondness.
I did love Deep Purple, you know. That idea of getting rid of all the old musicians and sweeping them away like sort of to create a new world was such a young and naïve way of thinking. It was actually quite weird because as a 56-year-old old fart, I wanted to get rid of myself, which is quite scary. I’m so glad I didn’t, because I enjoy being a musician just as much now as I did when I was 21, so I’m very glad I didn’t get my own way, to say the least.
Did you interact with Morrissey or Mark E. Smith (later of The Fall) at the Sex Pistols show in Manchester on June 4, 1976?
No. They were all strangers to us. There were very few people there, only about forty. The venue must have held three or four hundred. Once the The Sex Pistols came on…you were literally in awe. It wasn’t the magnificence of it. It wasn’t like seeing Led Zeppelin do “Stairway To Heaven” or anything like that. It touched a raw nerve in your body.
I walked into that Sex Pistols gig a normal kid, 9-to-5 job, and walked out a musician. It changed a lot of people’s lives who were in that room at the time.
After that gig, you said that the the band that you were starting would have two rules: “Act like The Sex Pistols [and] look like The Sex Pistols.” However, Joy Division never sounded like The Sex Pistols.
Never. Within six months we were writing songs that you’re going to be proud of all of your life. Bernard and I, while we didn’t sound like The Sex Pistols, we still felt like The Sex Pistols. But the songs we were writing were nothing like them. They were much more adult. They were much more mature, much more long-lasting, much classier songs.
The art is picking an inspiration, using it, and then not sounding like it. We were very good at that. There were a lot of bands that weren’t that great at it.
Throughout the book, you make it clear that you were very proud of Joy Division’s music as well as the fact that you “managed to stay cool, credible, and independent.” Were there any bands that you considered to be worthy adversaries in terms of creativity and integrity?
Psychedelic Furs, Siouxsie & the Banshees, Gang of Four. They all made fantastic, fantastic first records. Siouxsie were to me the closest thing to Joy Division. On the second album, when they got the proper guitarist and the proper bass player, to me they went a bit more normal, shall we say.
What about The Fall?
I’ve always had a very, very strange relationship with [Fall lead singer and songwriter] Mark E. Smith. I am so competitive. Because he was in Manchester, he was sort of too close and too much in competition to ever be friends. Whilst I like some of The Fall’s music, I think he’s a really clever geezer, [we] don’t have great relationship.
It took me years, actually, to admit to liking The Smiths. Until [their 1986 album] The Queen is Dead, I fucking hated them, for no other reason than that they were in competition with New Order. Morrissey was always very outspoken in his distaste for Joy Division. He thought they were miserable and gloomy, and shit basically. You sort of learn to live together. When I got to The Queen Is Dead, I heard that LP, I thought, ‘Ah shit, I can’t pretend I don’t like ‘em anymore!’ I had to give in. It’s a great record.
You name your favorite Joy Division song in the book. I won’t give it away, but I will quote you as writing, “I mean, it might change tomorrow.” Have you changed your mind since the book came out?
I did! (laughs)
Do you plan to write a book about New Order specifically, or do you consider The Hacienda, your previous work, to be that book?
I’m going to write a New Order book specifically. The Joy Division book is about boys chasing a dream, you know, coming from punk, not sullied by money or excess, drugs, sex, and rock ‘n roll. Once we got to New Order…it was a lot about sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll, so it’s a completely different story.