Peter: I’ve been playing the music chronologically. We’re starting with “Dead Souls,” “Atmosphere,” and the instrumental track on the flexi-disc that we gave away with Closer. Then we play Closer, and for the encore, we have other tracks that were recorded around that period, like “These Days” and “Ice Age,” plus a couple of older ones that were never recorded.
Chris: I’m looking forward to your show so afterwards I can tell people, “Hey, I just saw the light.” (sic)
Peter: That’s exactly why I chose the name! The older you get, the more stuck in your ways you get; everybody has an idea of what they want to do, and it’s very difficult to compromise. At the end of Freebass, I said to myself, “Bloody hell, I’ve seen the light now, I want to be in charge and tell everybody what to do.” The lads inThe Light are a great bunch. My son plays bass, the guitarist is from Freebass, and the rest of the band I’ve (previously) worked with.
The whole concept of just doing Joy Division stuff works quite well. They’re very happy to really get behind what I’m doing. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t have brought it out of Manchester. It had to feel like everybody meant it. These people have worked so hard and so long; they take it very seriously. My son is so passionate about getting it right, you’d think he wrote the songs, not me! I’m very humbled, sometimes; it’s very heartwarming.
Chris: The contrast between Unknown Pleasures and Closer is really striking, right down to the LP covers.
Peter: It is. It’s breathtaking. From singing the songs, I’ve gotten a real insight into what Ian is saying. Unknown Pleasures is very aggressive, and very clever; the way he structured the songs and his lyrics, in a completely different way… I’d never noticed it before. From my point of view, the fact that I looked around and he kept his end up with passion and fire was enough – I didn’t need to know what he was singing. I’d just look at his face and think, “That’s it.” But now, to go through every word and feel how strong and aggressive Unknown Pleasures is, then to do Closer and see how fragile and soul-searching . . . I adore the songs on Closer, but when you’re playing them, you can’t help but feel the way Ian must have felt at that time – a little bit naked, a little bit insecure, and very, very confused. I don’t care what the others say, and they can berate me from now until my dying day, but it’s been worth every effort, every criticism, to play “The Eternal,” “Passover,” and “Decades.” Closer is very soft, intense, and delicate. It feels like it needs presenting on a velvet cushion, very reverentially and carefully. That, to me, is the feeling of Closer, and I’m looking forward to treating it with that respect. And while it’s more difficult to play, I think it’s actually a better-sounding record than Unknown Pleasures. Closer is one of my favorite records, despite being by me. Not many records by me get into my favorite records.
Chris: Producer Martin Hannett played a big role on both albums. Was that something the band intended at the time?
Peter: Actually, we completely ignored Martin; we thought that we knew everything and could do it all better, which is nice when you’re young. When we recorded Unknown Pleasures, Bernard and I wanted it to sound like we did live; we wanted it to rip your head off. When you listen to the old Joy Division versions, say on YouTube, the interpretations of the songs are a lot different than the recorded versions. At the time, I was really annoyed that we hadn’t got our own way; I couldn’t listen to Unknown Pleasures for years, because I thought Martin had totally emasculated it. When I hear it now, I hear a mature, strong, very concise and impressive record. The songs and lyrics were written and complete, but Martin gave it a quality that’s enabled it to last and inspire people from 1978 to now, and that is one hell of an achievement. It’s exactly what a producer should do: they should have the foresight to make your music last and not let you make silly mistakes.
Chris: What’s next for you after this tour?
Peter: I’m writing all the time and I perform with a lot of other people. I’ve just done a track, called “Becoming the Wraith,” with a band called autoKratz, which has proved to be very popular. I’m also collaborating on some instrumental music, and I also have my own electronic music band, which is called Man Ray. Plus, I’m doing a soundtrack to the Hacienda DVD, and a book called “Inside Joy Division”, I’m about halfway through that, which has proven to be quite illuminating, but it’s also very difficult to put on paper my traumatic experience. I’ve shocked myself, actually; I never realized how intense and how focused we all were on working. Ian must have felt dragged along by his coattails, because we really didn’t make any allowances for his illness. It will be nice to get it out there. I’m also I’m tempted to write music with The Light, because the band is so tight and so together and are such great musicians in their own right.