Peter Hook's Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division

Written by Matteo Sedazzari
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Getting it from the horse's mouth is definitely the best way to hear a story, and that certainly is the case with Peter Hook's Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division. A title that says what it does on the tin, as Hook shares the highs and lows of the short but successful career of Joy Division. A band that only spawned two albums, Unknown Pleasure and Closer, records that have stood the test of time and still cited by many as a major influence. The story of Joy Division is as tragic as it is inspiring,

their career cut short by the suicide of their lead singer Ian Curtis on the eve of their first US tour. After three years of hard work and belief, the remaining members of Joy Division were faced with a massive personal loss and huge dent in their career plan. But as we know Peter Hook, Stephen Morris and Bernard Sumner did find fame and fortune with New Order. However, from reading Hook's account, they would have loved to have shared their worldwide success with their friend Curtis.

Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division follows on nicely from Hook's first book The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club. An insight into the legendary Manchester club. Unknown Pleasures starts like the diary of the Artful Dodger, as Hook recalls his early school days and the art of thieving coupled with youthful anecdotes, making interesting reading. Hook seems happy to just have a laugh until he sees The Sex Pistols at the Lesser Hall and then, along with Bernard, they decide to form a band. The build-up to this point in the book is raw and could be viewed as a modern day Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, as Hook drifts from situation to situation with life in a northern town as the backdrop. Then, with one goal in mind, to make it as a musician in a "rock 'n roll" band, we are taken on a unique journey into the rise and sudden fall of Joy Division.

Hook doesn't boast nor does he ask for understanding; he is writing a factual account from a bird's eye view of the workings of a band, and all the highs and lows that came with it, from the unattended gigs, cramped van journeys, fights, signing a deal, their first TV appearance and much more. Moreover there is always a strong focus on Ian Curtis, as Hook writes with such honesty over the loss of a friend. In short, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division is brutal, witty, powerful, affectionate and honest, with a great attention to detail in the making of the Joy Division sound. You don't need to be a hardened fan of the band to appreciate the book, as it is a great book on the life and times of a band and counter culture as a whole.

In addition, ZANI had the pleasure to chat to Peter Hook as he discussed his book and much more.

ZANI - Pleased with the overall response of the book

Peter Hook – Yea, it is always a peculiar time when you have finished it and you are waiting for everyone to react. You're happy with it, your publisher loves it, you put it out there and you think oh shit, what are people going to think.

ZANI - Did you feel that this is a story to be told and you were the best person to write about the history of Joy Division?

Peter Hook – The thing is, I got sick of reading books by people who weren't there. I had moderate success with the Hacienda book, it is a real sense of accomplishment when you can do something, get it out and people really like it. So it was quite obvious really to be resurrecting the music into 2010 to remember Ian's death thirty years on, so I had become an expert on Joy Division. This is a nice position to be in, so I was confident that I could do it.

ZANI - Your second book, did you find the process of writing easier or harder due to the subject matter?

Peter Hook – The Hacienda's period was a long period to write about, sixteen years, whilst Joy Division's period was much shorter. We have talked about Joy Division over and over again, that's been installed into the memory quite well but to delve into it and put it all down in black and white was a bit traumatic. Like remembering suicidal potential and Ian was back at work, or the self harming. It wouldn't happen today, if one member of One Direction did that, you wouldn't have a management team taking them out to a gig. But in those days, that Northern philosophy of grit your teeth and get on with it, never bothering about anybody else's feelings.

The Hacienda's period was a long period to write about, sixteen years
ZANI – It was very much the way of the seventies, eighties and nineties, if people were ill, it was swept under the carpet.

Peter Hook - People never talked about epilepsy, it was like witchcraft. Everyone was scared, that was through lack of education and that was the problem. We might slag off the world today but some of it is for the better.

ZANI - In saying that, it is a positive book and a great insight into being in a band, warts and all. Would you say the book acts as an insider guide what and what not to do in a band ?

Peter Hook - (Loud laugh) More like how not to run a band, and New Order would be how to run a band, just kidding. In this day and age I actually judge a lot of talent contests at schools and music is more readily available in schools these days. Being a punk and wanting to be a musician in 1976, was about being anti-social and anti- establishment, nowadays it is recognised as a career choice. There is a different way at looking it, I always think when I see these kids who have these Gibson Guitars and Rickenbacker basses, I think it's the parents who may have missed out on Manchester buying them all this equipment. These kids are spoilt rotten, and I wouldn't say it makes a better group. Music is usually better when you are miserable and on the edge.

ZANI – Agreed

Peter Hook – Tony Wilson always used to say to us, "you have got a lot to thank the taxman for, he kept you poor and you kept creating great music", so it is an odd situation to be in. Is the book a template for music? With any role in life, you are better off paying your dues, learning your trade from the bottom up. Shining the shoes, making the tea, there is a lot to be said from learning the hard way.

ZANI - Had any feedback from Debbie Curtis or other ex members of Joy Division?

/peter hooks ian curtis zani 1Peter Hook – No, the other two did ask to see the book, and it came with a rather nasty threat but that didn't happen. I did ask Debbie if I could put some of Ian's lyrics in the book, she said she would get back to me after the weekend, and that was about a year and a half ago. There is no relationship between us anymore.

ZANI - I see you owned a Lambretta in the early seventies, I suppose they were going fairly cheap with the original Mod thing dead and buried

Peter Hook - It wasn't really dead and buried, we were probably at the start of it, it started probably two years before that in 1969 with the Suede Heads. I got my mine in 1971, because they changed the licence from sixteen to seventeen. Barney fixed his application so he got his Lambretta before mine, and I had to wait for mine because my birthday is in February. So I got my SX 200 for £150.00 and sold it again in 1976 for £135.00. I rebuilt the engine about four times and the same with the clutch, I knew that Lambretta inside out. Other mates had Vespas, and they used to start them up and ride them, and I was like wow. I have been tempted to buy another but I moved onto motorbikes after I sold my scooter. Mani of The Stone Roses has still got one.

ZANI – The book does remind me of a kitchen sink type drama of the sixties like Taste of Honey , was that your intention ?

Peter Hook – No, that is how it was, that's what happened to me. If you look at Taste of Honey as a cliché, then it is very Northern, a very Coronation Street thing but that is what I am like, I hate to say it (laughs). It's quite odd when you look at the story when it is written like that and you look at the ramifications, and the influence Joy Division have had over the years, it's incredible to think we only lasted two and a half years, only professional for six months, if you can call being professional getting paid seven quid and being in a band full time. The actual impact you have is amazing, we started quite humbled and finished before we had any measure of success. Only sold 10,000 copies of Unknown Pleasures album, wasn't the most success record by any means, and the group was only playing to about 400 people at a gig. We were very young when the career of Joy Division finished, it is a sort of Cinderella and you are getting to the point when you going to make it and somebody leaves the glass slipper on the stairs.

ZANI – That is a sad point about Joy Division, but you did achieve success with New Order. Another thing about the book is the great social observations, not just in the UK but such as the Jamaican education system being better than education in the UK – that was an interesting point, do you still see faults in our education system.

Peter Hook - You do have to bear in mind, that the contract that my father went to Jamaica was very privileged and a high paying job, went from a two up two down with an outside toilet in Salford to a detached bungalow with gas and it's own garden, company car and private education. So I was thrown into private education after being educated at the age of three in Salford, and the difference was unbelievable. It was a real struggle at first because all the teachers thought we were stupid, because it was a different pace of learning compared to England, but once you got into to it, it was fine. Then you advanced, and when I came back to school in Salford, I realised how far behind we were, so I coasted through school, it was a doddle for me when we got back. I didn't have to do anything, because I had done it all before. It probably was the only time in my life that I was ahead from that point of view. But when I got to Salford Grammar, I did nothing, left school at sixteen with no qualifications.

That's why it's hard to motivate my son to go back to college, because he turns round and says "why is it important to get your exams, you never got yours and you did all right". You end up in a funny position, it's not do as I do, it's do as I say isn't it?

Only sold 10,000 copies of Unknown Pleasures album,
ZANI- You're very open about your early days as a tea leaf, but it was for survival, did you get pleasure from it ?

Peter Hook – (Long loud laugh), It's addiction. I remember going into the Priory for my alcohol, and there was a Risk Taking Addiction clinic, where people are addicted to risk. I went in one day, and found these people addicted to things like shoplifting because it creates a buzz, again there is recognition of the problem nowadays. But we had nothing; it felt natural to take it, because everybody did, like I said I wasn't an armed robber. It was more teenager naughtiness, but I was lucky I found a way to escape from Salford, and make something of myself. It's sad when you see the news from last Boxing Day, when that poor kid got shot in Salford. It's nice to say to people I was born there, you have got to have hope, there are things you can do and where you can better yourself. So you do try and be a bit of an inspiration in my view, it might not be rags to riches, but it is rags to a comfortable life. You do hold yourself up as a beacon of hope.

That's the weird thing about The Sex Pistols. I had seen The Pistols as we all know at Lesser Hall in 1976 and Led Zeppelin a week before, Led Zeppelin never inspired me whilst the Pistols inspired me to form a group, just because they were bad or your perception was bad. There was this huge explosion of rebellion and telling people to fuck off, dealing with the confusion of being young and the uncertainty of what you were going to do in your life. God knows how a kid feels nowadays, because at least in my day everyone of my classmates got a job. That's a luxury we had in our day, and our children will never have, that's shocking.

ZANI – Sadly your ex school never saw you as an inspiration. Because when Bernard and you went back to your school, you got chased away by the headmaster (who taught you before he became the headmaster) as he remembered you and still hated you all those years later.

Peter Hook - Ha, but we did used to give Dave Kane a load of shit. Caused loads of trouble in class, with these two yob punks turning up and bragging about being stars, I suppose it would just completely annoy him.

ZANI – I see what you mean. You profess to being tone deaf, but from reading your book, you certainly know your way round a studio and rigs for your bass, did that come naturally?

Peter Hook – Martin Hannett, our first producer taught me well. My wife says I take everything to the extreme, in everything I do, whether it's the gardening, fixing the guttering or producing in a studio I take it to the extreme. It is part of my personality, whatever I do; I do it right to the full and as well as you can possibly do it. Like Djing, started off not knowing how to do it, made a few mistakes, now I can, it's just another quiver to your bow. I did enjoy it, and watching Martin Hannett was a bit like watching a magician at the start. There was a lot of witchcraft about that, and you were very puzzled how he did it. He was a great teacher, but he taught himself out of a job because as soon as Bernard and I were comfortable in a studio and trying it ourselves, and because it was difficult at that point, we just got rid of him, poor bugger.

ZANI - Another aspect of the book, which I like, is also about the camaraderie of friendship, and you cover all emotions, like jealousy and selfishness – and the poignant ending realising that Debbie and child, Ian's parents and sister had all suffered a great loss. That was honest and moving, did that conclusion come from writing the book?

Peter Hook – It was a shame really because the guilt we felt when he died was that we couldn't help him, it is still there and it's never going to go away. That's what happens with tragedies you are always left to pick up the pieces, so you can't do anything about it. You still feel a responsibility of being unable to help him through that rough patch. If you stack up the things that were going wrong for him, his health, his marriage, the group because of his health, you start thinking quite logically this is going to cause problems.

I liked in the Joy Division documentary that they analysed his prescription, and a modern day expert of epilepsy looked at them, and said this is guaranteed to kill him. This is how medicine and the understanding of the condition has come along, thank the Lord.

ZANI – As you said if it was today, Ian would be receiving the right treatment and would have taken a break from the band.

Peter Hook – Now you would approach it more logically, just because he has taken a few months off, it's not going to jeopardise the band. You do things the right way round now but that comes with age. In those days, you lived to work, and as you get older you realise grow up to live. We were very much into this, all in this together.

ZANI – It's exciting times when you're young.

Peter Hook – The person who most enjoyed reaping the fruits of his ambition and his work, was Ian. He fought bloody tooth and nail against his illness.

It was a shame really because the guilt we felt when he died was that we couldn't help him, it is still there and it's never going to go away
ZANI - You didn't cover much about your beloved Man United or is that another work in progress

Peter Hook - Where I used to live in Ordsall, was in the shadow of Old Trafford. I could see the ground from my house so I had lived most of my life there after I came back from Jamaica at the age of ten, sneaking it, being part of Stretford end with the mad fights and the tumbles, it was a big part of my life up until I think when I joined Joy Division it kind of faded, because of the travel.

It's quite odd now because I live near all the footballers. I live in Cheshire, near Rooney and such like, see them round the village all the time. I am a Man United fan, I have been all my life but I wouldn't count myself as an expert.

ZANI - What is your next writing project ?

Peter Hook – I suppose I wasn't going to do a New Order book, because I felt it was normal rock 'n' roll but I did the Joy Division book because it wasn't a normal band. But I do feel now, because of what happened, it is a story that needs to be told as well. Nose to the grindstone yet again

ZANI – Well you are a hard working Northern Lad

Peter Hook – Yes I am.

© Words – Matteo Sedazzari

Peter Hook And The Light Announce "Unknown Pleasures"

Full UK Tour For November 2012

Fri 16th Nov - Kasbah, Coventry

Sat 17th Nov – 53 Degrees, Preston

Sun 18th Nov - Chimneys, Southend

Tues 20th Nov – Phoenix Theatre, Exeter

Weds 21st Nov – Waterfront, Norwich

Thurs 22nd Nov – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth

Sat 24th Nov – Sugarmill, Stoke

Sun 25th Nov – Guildhall, Gloucester

Mon 26th Nov – 02 Academy, Leicester

Weds 28th Nov – Concorde 2, Brighton

Thurs 29th Nov – Cockpit, Leeds

Fri 20th Nov – Academy 2, Newcastle

Peter Hook & The Light Announce Three Date Tour Of Scotland

Tuesday 4th December The Garage, Aberdeen (Unknown Pleasures)

Wednesday 5th December Fat Sam's, Dundee (Unknown Pleasures)

Thursday 6th December The Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh (Closer)

Read 6496 times Last modified on Friday, 08 May 2015 15:23
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Matteo Sedazzari

Matteo Sedazzari

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