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INTERVIEW with Peter Hook: Shedding Some Light

New Order’s music is easily some of the most distinguishable from the New Wave/Electronic era. From the synth-driven melodies to those catchy. yet impenetrable lyrics, but more than anything else it was those deeply etched bass lines that separated New Order as one of the most distinctive and seminal bands of the 80’s, 90’s and even into the 2000’s. Peter Hook played the bass for New Order, a bass that resonated through each New Order track and influenced several other bass players, so much so, you could say they were “Hook inspired.”

 They say the more things change, the more they stay the same, which is exactly what can be said for this tour of Peter Hook and his band the Light who are making their way to the Magic Bag on Wednesday, Sept. 11 and playing the first 2 New Order albums, Movement and Power, Corruption and Lies. Both of these records hold a special place for me as they were early and prized additions to my 80’s vinyl collection. I interviewed Peter Hook through an email correspondence, which Peter was a real gentleman about, providing thoughtful answers on his past visits to Detroit, playing New Order tracks in contrast to Joy Division and more questions relating to each of those legendary records.

MCB: When is the last time you played Detroit?
P. Hook: Wow... Now that's got me thinking! I know we played there as New Order in 1987 and 1989... I remember the one in '89 because we had to postpone it by a couple of weeks because Barney lost his voice! And I remember the show in '87 being a great crowd, probably one of my highlights of that tour. I think that one was the Pine Knob amphitheatre? But I could be wrong...(ed. nope he's right)
MCB:   (Detroit) Good memories or bad?
P. Hook: Always good! It's actually one of my favourite places in America, it has an edge to it which I really like, and as I said I remember two great New Order gigs there in the 80s, so it will be nice to go back again. We couldn't make it to Detroit on either of our last two American tours so I am happy to finally make it back this time round. I think it's the smallest show on the tour as well, so should be really great in terms of getting up, close and personal with the audience. They are always the best gigs.

MCB:  What made you decide to write a book about Joy Division?
P. Hook: Well I guess the short answer to that question would just be that I was getting a bit sick and tired of reading books about Joy Division by other people who simply were not there at the time and so whose books were not entirely accurate. After the success of my Hacienda book I felt spurred on to write the Joy Division book as I also felt that it was the right time for someone in the band to give their side of the story. There is a lot of myth and conjecture about Joy Division, especially surrounding Ian, and I think in a way I wanted to show that we were all human and that essentially the band was just a normal group of lads.
MCB:  Do you consider “Movement” a proper New Order record or just an extension of what Joy Division was doing?
P. Hook: I definitely consider Movement to be a New Order record. How could I not? It's our debut album!
I know what you mean in terms of it possibly just feeling like an extension to Joy Division as it is still pretty similar musically to Joy Division, the Closer album in particular, but for me, no, it stands alone as the first New Order record. We had made a conscious decision that Joy Division was over once we had lost Ian - so when we regrouped it was under a new name, a new identity, and with new ideas. I remember writing the bass line to Dreams Never End on my 6 string bass just a few days after Ian had died. To me, Movement is a great album which is often overlooked so it will be fantastic to play it live again - there's songs on there that haven't seen the light of day for over 30 years.

MCB: Being influenced by Italian Disco, Power, Corruption and Lies marked a different direction for New Order – what if New Order hadn’t found Italian Disco? Was it inevitable?
P. Hook: To be honest, I think it was inevitable that New Order would have gone in that direction. We were all becoming more and more interested in electronica all the time and Barney in particular was always becoming more and more interested in working with sequencers and synthesisers. So it was just a natural thing that New Order veered towards that style of music. Finding influences like Italian disco and seeing the clubs in New York was certainly an influence, but I think the shift to that style of music would still have happened without them, it just would maybe have taken a bit longer.
MCB:  How do you compare performing the New Order set to the Joy Division set you did previously?
P. Hook: It's completely different. Different in terms of sound, obviously, but also different in terms of the way we play it and what we have to do to bring the different songs across in the live format. The best thing about the New Order set that we will be touring now is that I can play more bass - there are a lot of really great instrumental sections where I can let loose on the bass which is obviously my first love. Another difference is that with some of these New Order songs you have to incorporate backing tracks which we had never done before as this group, everything in the Joy Division sets was completely live but with this new set you can't get away without using backing tracks. But I think we have adapted well to that. Our backing tracks sound absolutely fantastic, we had a guy back in England rework them and he did a truly fantastic job with that, they sound so powerful at the gigs when they are at full volume. Another difference would be the vocals. Obviously, the Joy Division sets demanded a lot more shouting! As that is a lot more rocky or punky, whereas with the New Order songs I am really having to adapt to different singing styles.
MCB: What is your favorite New Order song to play live?
P. Hook: I would say Leave Me Alone, without a doubt - the last track on Power, Corruption & Lies. That has always been my favourite New Order song, and when I was in New Order the rest of the band would not play it, so it is absolutely wonderful to be able to play that one live again - I love the mood and the vibe of that song, Barney's guitar line is perfect and flirts around the bass so well, the instrumental breaks are amazing, and Steve's drums are him at his best. I love that song! But there are some others in this set that I love playing too - Cries & Whispers is a lot of fun, Denial is super intense, and then there's songs like Chosen Time which haven't seen the light of day for over 30 years! I am just really enjoying playing this set in general.
MCB:  I’ve read that you are giving the New Order songs a bit of a raw, punk edge for the tour…Is that the way you would have liked to have seen them when they were released? Or is just two different animals, live and studio?
P. Hook: Well, we're not intentionally trying to change anything to do with the sound or composition of the songs - it just sometimes happens that when you bring a song from the studio format to the live format then that's what happens, or the songs just demand that little bit more of an edge to come across well live than they do in the studio. It's the Movement songs I guess that we can bring this extra edge to, as they are completely acoustic (i.e no backing tracks) so we can really take them up a level, and I must say they sound absolutely fantastic being played at full pelt. We do try as much as we can to stick to the originals as we are playing the record after all. It's just that some of them do benefit from a little bit of added power and intensity.

MCB: A friend of mine told me that Barney became the singer of New Order because you found it difficult to play bass and sing, any truth to that?
P Hook: Sort of... The truth would be that all three of us had difficulties playing & singing together. When New Order first started out we all had a go at singing and we were all pretty terrible. But over time it got a bit easier. I mean look at Barney now, he has mastered the art of singing & playing, which is something I was never able to do. On Movement though, Barney found it difficult too and you could hear this in the music - the verses would have no guitar because he was singing, then there would be a lot of instrumental chorus sections where the guitar would come in full pelt as he wasn't singing. But as time went on and it was decided that he would become the full time singer, he got a lot more adept at singing & playing.
MCB:  I’m not sure most people know that’s you singing on Dreams Never End….
P. Hook: Yes, I sing on Dreams Never End and also on Doubts Even Here, both great songs and both songs which I'm really pleased to be playing again as part of this new tour. Dreams Never End actually has two vocals running together at the same time - both from me but one is high and one is low. When I sing it live, whether it was in 1981 or 2013, I always sing the high line.

MCB:  Besides playing the live shows, how do you pass the time in between shows?
P. Hook: At the moment I am spending a lot of time writing - I'm currently writing my third book which will be all about New Order. The writing process is very time consuming of course but then when you get there in the end it is all very rewarding - people seemed to really enjoy hearing a band member's perspective of the Joy Division era so hopefully they will enjoy the New Order book in the same way.
MCB: With this tour are you closing the book on Joy Division and New Order and moving back to your own material?
P. Hook: Well this tour is mainly composed of the first two New Order albums so in a way it is sort of re-opening the book on those two records. I am really looking forward to playing all of these songs again. I guess that does sort of close the book on Joy Division but we have tried to counter this by planning a special surprise early on in the set - if people want to hear Joy Division songs too then they should arrive early!

And with those last words, I am definitely arriving at Magic Bag early, with Slaves of Venus warming up the show.

This post by Mikel O.D. of MPAD Media