As a founding member of legendary bands Joy Division and New Order, Peter Hook easily secured his place in music history. Now, 30 years after the death of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis, Hook has taken to the road reviving the band’s albums Unknown Pleasures and Closer in live form, a show which makes its way to North America this week
Just before setting off, Rocker’s Chris Adams got a chance to chat with Peter about his career, legacy, and what fans can expect from the upcoming string of shows.
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Chris: Since the end of Joy Division, while you’ve been doing New Order and side projects like Revenge and Freebass, Joy Division has become this iconic, legendary thing,
Peter: It’s interesting, especially when you consider that Joy Division’s life was so short. Literally, from the beginning to when Ian died, was just three-and-a half-years. It’s amazing, the effect that two records can have on people. There’s a section on JoyDiv.org, with hundreds of pictures of people with Joy Division tattoos; I found that absolutely amazing; that people would be that moved by the group, the lyrics and albums – it’s absolutely incredible.
Chris: The myth and iconography has been perpetuated by the two films “24-Hour Party People” and Anton Corbijn’s “Control.”
Peter: 24-Hour Party People was very much Michael Winterbottom’s comedic look at New Order, Joy Division, and the carryings-on at the Factory. But I enjoyed it for that, and the places that it reached – it was a very successful film. In Control I recognized myself and the others, because Anton’s more intense. So, although they were completely different, they both worked.
Chris: And there was also that documentary.
Peter: Yeah, the documentary and Control, I think, are the perfect explanations of Joy Division. Because Bernard and Stephen and I never talked about Joy Division – never – seeing the documentary was the only time that I heard their perspective. I think the only reason New Order worked is because we managed to ignore Joy Division so unanimously.
Chris: So after Ian died, the mentality was “We’re a new group”?
Peter: Yeah, none of us thought Joy Division could exist without all four of us. None of us wanted to go back to work, to be “normal,” to be told what to do. That was the reason we threw ourselves so wholeheartedly into New Order, because we knew there would be no Joy Division without Ian. We locked the whole thing in a box, threw away the key, and started with New Order. I think from a grieving point of view, it was the correct thing to do; it stopped us from dwelling on the loss. In some ways, now that I’ve got older, I realize the value to grieving and concentrating on what you’ve lost – that changes with age. But at 23, I think we were glad with the diversion, the distraction, and New Order was a way to get away from it. One of my great frustrations with New Order, when we initially split, was the fact that they could carry on as New Order, and without all three of us. That was not the deal when we began. I was very unhappy about that.
Chris: Because of the different ways you’ve been represented, what is the biggest misconception that the average fan might have?
Peter: It’s that we were very miserable; everybody seems to think because the music was very ethereal, very intense, that we were like that, but none of us were – Ian wasn’t. We were very serious when it came to the group, but we weren’t serious about anything else, we were just boys, enjoying ourselves, in charge of our own destiny.
Chris: Last year, you toured an Unknown Pleasures set, and this time around, you’re doing Closer. What initiated the return to doing Joy Division material?
Peter: When it started, it was literally just to do two gigs in Manchester to (recognize) the 30th Anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death. But the pleasure I got from doing it, and the feedback from people who saw it, really inspired me to take it everywhere. It’s a great compliment that people want to see it, and when they do they are very, very happy. It’s an odd position to be in, because you’re not plugging a record; the records were 30 years ago – an interesting juxtaposition from what you’d consider a “normal” group. It’s been wonderful to get the songs back, because I missed them.
Chris: Do you get a lot of people coming up and saying they heard certain songs 20 or 30 years ago and it changed their life?
Peter: Yeah! I was in San Francisco, and this old guy came up to me – come to think about it, he was about my age [laughs] — and he said he’d been waiting 34 years for us to come and play. It’s moments like that that make me happy about my decision to do it. The great thing is, most of the audiences comprised of the whole age range – 16-year-old kids up to people my age. That’s a fantastic testament to the quality of the music, the chemistry of Joy Division. It makes me very happy and proud.
Chris: When you take this show to America, how will it be structured?