The split from New Order was bitter, but Peter Hook tells Duncan Seaman why he has never been happier.
As a marathon tour that’s crisscrossed North and South America playing the songs of his former bands New Order and Joy Division draws to an end, Peter Hook is, by his own admission, “absolutely exhausted”. Offsetting the tiredness, however, is a feeling of considerable job satisfaction.
“We’ve done 35 shows and I think 31 of them were sold out, so we can’t complain,” he says. “We certainly feel like we’re on the way up, shall we say, as opposed to the way down.”
His band The Light is currently only one of the strings to 60-year-old Hook’s bow. In 2016, along with DJs Graeme Park and Mike Pickering, he was the executive producer of Hacienda Classical, a project which brought clubbing culture from the 80s and 90s together with a 40-piece orchestra, the Manchester Camerata, for concerts in Manchester and at the Royal Albert Hall (more follow in 2017).
To top off the year, he published his third book, Substance, a 700-page tome which laid bare in powerful – and sometimes painful – detail the 26 years he spent as bass player in one of Britain’s finest bands, New Order.
Salford-born Hook says when the idea of taking dance floor classics once played in the legendary Manchester nightclub the Hacienda and adapting them for strings and wind instruments was first mooted he thought it was “ridiculous”. Then he saw Radio 1 DJ Pete Tong’s Ibiza Prom on the BBC.
“It struck me the thing people like about these songs is that they’ve grown up with them over the years,” he says, “especially in the Hacienda you’ve got this thing where people started clubbing, they met their partner, they got married, they got divorced, they had kids, they had midlife crisis – and they were all having it to this music. The music has been the constant in their lives.
“Now no one’s ever seen it performed, but thank God, as we know the Lord giveth with one hand and taketh away with the other. The fact that you don’t sell records any more so you’ve lost a huge part of your revenue; luckily for us people do like to see musicians perform.
“I thought this is why they like it because you’ve got these classic tunes – Black Box and all the rest of them, Strings of Life, you name it – and no one’s ever seen them performed. So you get to see a performance, it’s done with heart and soul, passion and enthusiasm and they adore it.”
Originally Hook had no intention of appearing on stage during the concerts; it was the players from the orchestra who persuaded him to sing and play bass on their new version of Blue Monday. “Then Graeme finally achieved one of his aims on his bucket list by singing it at a gig when I missed the plane,” Hook recalls. “The Camerata did both of us a favour there – they gave me a new career and they gave him one of his bucket list favourites.”
Especially in the Hacienda you’ve got this thing where people started clubbing, they met their partner, they got married, they got divorced, they had kids, they had midlife crisis – and they were all having it to this music.Peter Hook
The Hacienda nightclub itself might have ended in 1997 with crippling debts – Hook once estimated it lost £18m in later years – but recent experiences of promoting revival nights as well as writing a book about it had taught Hook its legend lived on.
“The Hacienda as a myth is like the Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall, it’s got those massive elements going for it, and when I came to do the Hacienda book I did realise how important it was to so many people.”
As regards his feelings towards New Order, who reformed without him in 2011, things are still raw. “Without them – in my opinion – stealing the New Order name and basically leaving me with nothing I wouldn’t have done the book,” he says candidly. “I didn’t want to air all our dirty washing in public but when Barney (Bernard Sumner, the band’s singer and guitarist) did his (book) it was a great inspiration to me because it showed me how not to do a book about New Order because it was awful.”
He adds: “In many ways I do feel we were the Motley Crue of indie rock. We all fell for our baser instincts and we all fell for every cliché in anybody’s book but we paid for it. I paid for it with alcoholism and drug addiction, you paid for it with massive fracas with New Order – we’re still arguing about how New Order ended and it’s 10 years after.
“It’s been one hell of a fight and it’s a shame because with it you’ve managed to drag down the heritage of two groups – Joy Division and New Order – you’ve managed to make yourselves look as though the only thing that matters to you is money and it’s not, there’s a lot of honour and a lot of pride involved. When they took New Order from me, I think they thought that I’d be like a beaten dog and just go and sit in my kennel, but I’m afraid we’re not built like that in Salford – if somebody kicks us we bite back and this bite back is taking a long time.”
Today it seems Hook couldn’t be happier performing with his own band, that features his son Jack on bass. “Now, as my wife never fails to tell me, I always come home happy.” Contrast that, he says, with his final show with New Order to a crowd of 120,000 in Buenos Aires 10 years ago.
“I had never been as unhappy and probably as successful, it was the most miserable affair I have ever been to in my life. It just seemed ridiculous that a group could have that much success and yet enjoy it so little. To be honest, I’m glad to see the back of that.”
LIFE IN MUSIC
Born in 1965, Peter Hook found himself at the forefront of music when he formed the band which became Joy Division with Bernard Sumner in 1976.
Following the death of lead singer Ian Curtis in 1980, the band reformed as New Order, and Hook played bass with them until 2007.
His new band Peter Hook and The Light will be at the O2 Academy Leeds on March 18. Hacienda Classical is at First Direct Arena, Leeds on April 14. Substance: Inside New, Simon & Schuster, priced £20. peterhookprivatecollection.com