Peter Hook On The Cobbles

Written by Matteo Sedazzari
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“Well, it’s a good life and a good world, all said and done, if you don’t weaken’” states Arthur at the end of Alan Sillitoe’s novel Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. An angry young man, who works in a bike factory, resists authority, drinks too much and sleeps with the foreman’s wife. Yet after receiving a beating from his foreman’s brother and his friends, who happen to be soldiers on leave, Arthur questions his life waking up to the fact that to lead a fulfilled life you have to exercise self-control and strength.

Sillitoe’s novel was the voice of the angry young man movement from the late fifties.  A group of writers and playwrights ; such as Harold Pinter, John Osborne, Colin Wilson,  John Braine, David Storey, John Wain, Arnold Wesker and Stan Barstow. Men who wrote with passion, rawness and aggression. Many of them self-taught writers from mundane occupations who gave the British working class a voice in the arts.

Moreover it wasn’t long before this literary movement inspired film makers, and the Free Cinema movement was born. Co-founded by Lindsay Anderson and Tony Richardson (A Taste of Honey) these were dramatic documentary style films that were bleak and angry yet optimistic, powerful and truthful.

The next natural progression for this philosophy would be music. You could say the jazz scene of the late fifties certainly acted as a companion to the movement, with its tuneful but sinister overtones. Yet their philosophy to say it ‘as it is’, and write about their surroundings and experiences, positive or negative can certainly be seen in the bands that emerged from the Sixties. Bands such as The Creation, The Kinks, The Doors, Sly and The Family Stone acted as a template for bands, like The Jam, The Clash, Public Enemy, The Smiths, The Fall, The Libertines - bands who were also angry and used their music as a positive form of expression.  

But perhaps one contender for crowned kings of the ‘angry young movement’ is Joy Division (formally known as Warsaw).  Formed in 1976 by four working class lads from Salford, Manchester these lads felt alienated from society and they wanted to express themselves. Despite their lack of experience in music and largely inspired by the Punk Movement they simply got off their arses and formed a band.  

Joy Division’s sound, like the Free Cinema films or the plays of Harold Pinter was certainly distinctive. The combination of musicians was a fascinating blend of sound and energy. The haunting and melancholia vocals of Ian Curtis, who sometimes strummed the VOX Phantom guitar, the industrial and commanding drum style of Steve Morris, the razor-sharp, piercing sound of Bernard Sumner’s guitar and synth, plus the thumping and riff style bass lines of Peter Hook. The result was a sound that was unique and distinguishing.

Signed to Tony Wilson’s Factory Records, a recording contract was signed in Wilson’s blood and managed by local Manchester promotion and DJ, Rob Gretton; the foundation for success was laid. After much media attention, airplay and sell out gigs, the break-through hit finally came with the now iconic single, Love Will Tear Us Apart, a song that explored the complexity of relationships.

Yet the success was marred on May 18th 1980, by the tragic death of Ian Curtis, who tragically hanged himself. The mainstream perception of Curtis was that he was a manic depressive, yet this was a man who was fun loving, with a great sense of humour a contrasting and conflicting persona. A man who was clearly in a dark place and feeling vulnerable and alone on the day he died. Many have speculated that perhaps his mind may have been altered by the wrong medication for his epilepsy. Sadly we will never know.  Joy Division officially broke up 29th July 1980.

The remaining three players performed their final gig as Joy Division just before Gillian Gilbert joined them on keyboards and Sumner took over as vocalist. The name changed appropriately to New Order and another chapter began.

Since New Order’s formation, they have become highly successful across the world with a career spanning three decades and vast record sales, with the biggest selling 12 inch of all time Blue Monday. In 2006, Peter Hook declared that New Order had split, even though up until 2009, Morris and Sumners (Gilbert left in 2001, and was replaced by Phil Cunningham the same year) stated that New Order would work under that name. Yet since 2006, there have been no New Order releases or gigs.

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Since then Peter Hook has been involved in a number of projects, such as writing a book entitled The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club, which documents the rise and fall of one of the most exciting clubs to spring out of Manchester, The Hacienda, a true hedonistic experience. Much of New Order’s royalties from Factory Records had been used to finance the club (money they will never recoup) He has collaborated with Mani of The Stones Roses, and Andy Rourke of The Smiths, to form Freebass which seemed destined for great things, until Mani openly attacked Peter Hook on his twitter page. Since then Mani has apologised, and Hook has accepted, but it seems doubtful whether they will play together again for a long time.

Peter Hook is currently touring with his new band The Light, and performing Joy Division’s debut album Unknown Pleasures in its entirety. He has opened a club The Factory, which stands where the final office of Factory Records was, and DJ’s across the world.  He also had a successful spoken word and music tour across the UK with Peter Hook's Unknown Pleasures, Tales from Joy Division, New Order & The Hacienda presented by Howard Marks.

Hook’s style, attitude and music has been of interest to ZANI readers so when we were invited to interview him at the Groucho Club we were curious to meet the man.

ZANI –I heard you were at a press conference with New Order in Australia, and a journalist said to you, ‘For the first fifteen years, you have been quiet and for the last fifteen years you haven’t shut up.’ Did you get up and chin him?

Peter Hook - Yes, I did, but it was in Canada, for the premiere of the Joy Division documentary, but I thought it was one of the funniest questions I had ever heard, as well as thinking what a cheeky bastard, but every body laughed because it was one of those awkward situations.

But you see it was our Manager Rob Gretton who made us quiet when we were in Joy Division. He said to Barney (Bernard Sumner) and me “You two cunts, have got nothing to say, why don’t you just shut up”. That started the image of Barney and me being quiet, and that the music should speak for itself.

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ZANI – I remember with New Order, that interviews were seldom.

Peter Hook  -  We used  to do the odd one,  I remember we got offered a big interview with Sounds, Rob phoned us up and said this will be a good one, front cover do you want to do it ? We hadn’t done an interview in ages. We went down and met this kid, who said to me, “The LP, Power, Corruption and Lies, is different to Movement, why is that?” I was actually thinking it wasn’t that different. Then he said he couldn’t understand the album, so I said come here you cunt. So we got thrown out of the Royal Exchange, but we still made the front cover of Sounds.

ZANI – So you don’t mind giving a slap to the odd journalist?

Peter Hook – I have been known to, so watch your step.

ZANI - I remember seeing New Order on the front cover of Smash Hits.

Peter Hook  - We did Smash Hits, ‘cos Barney got caught with some birds in his hotel room, and it got in the magazine. The journalist Sylvia Patterson was in his room. He said to her, if you tell anybody what has happened here tonight I will cut your legs off, and the headline in Smash Hits was “You Tell Anybody What Happened Here Tonight and I will cut your Fucking Legs Off” and that was our interview.

ZANI – Let’s move on to one of your recent projects, Unknown Pleasures , Tales from Joy Division, New Order & The Hacienda, how did it come about ?

Peter Hook  - Well it wasn’t planned, it came about because a comedy promoter saw me talking at some charity do. He said to me “you are quite good at that, why don’t you get paid for it?” and I replied “it is obvious it is something I do for nothing” He said “Why don’t you do a speaking tour?” and bear in mind, I had nothing else on and I was struggling to do Freebass.  The Comedy promoter said he could set up the tour, and I said I don’t mind doing it as long as I can share it with someone else, to handle the nerves. He thought that was a good idea, so I picked Howard Marks, he’s got bags of experience and I knew he would do it, but it turned out he was more nervous than me.

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ZANI – But you are both seasoned performers?

Peter Hook  - We are, we got into the groove, and we pulled it off. Howard used to tell me off all the time because I used to ad lib, he said you should do one act and keep to it. But I like it being different every night. But I had a lovely time with Howard; he’s an easy guy to get on with.  But I wanted to make it more interesting than a speaking tour.  So I would go up on stage and play bass, with no vocals, which I thought sounded ace. Also I had all this memorabilia stored in Manchester, which no one has ever seen.  So I thought fuck it, I will take them with me, because The Hacienda exhibition had done so well, I thought people would like to see my Sex Pistols ticket, Unknown Pleasure master tape, and they did. So the package was the memorabilia, Howard and me speaking, with me playing (and on the back of that we were offered an exhibition in Macclesfield)

Macclesfield Town were finally going to celebrate Ian Curtis’s life with a gig at Macclesfield Town Football Club. So they got me and Stephen Morris involved but it fell through.  I thought fuck it, it’s been too long since we celebrated Ian’s life, I have got my own club and I will do it myself.

ZANI – Aren’t you campaigning to try and get a bridge named after Ian Curtis in Macclesfield?

Peter Hook - We are going to try. Anyway Macclesfield Council fucked up there with the celebration with their red tape, and I thought I am not going to let this go. So I will celebrate Ian’s life by playing Unknown Pleasures. When I read about Primal Scream playing Screamadelica in its entirety, I thought I could do that with Unknown Pleasures.

ZANI – It must have been moving the first time you played it?

Peter Hook – Well it was terrifying actually, because the rehearsals were terrifying, and yes moving.

ZANI – Are there any songs from Unknown Pleasures that Joy Division never played live?

Peter Hook - Candidate and I Remember Nothing, were rarely played. When we started rehearsing, my idea was to get the vocalist in, who stood in for Ian when he was ill, Simon Topping from a Certain Ratio. He would sing and I would play bass, but Internet criticism and the fans scared him off. Simon didn’t want to sing more than one song, so I thought fuck it I would have to sing  it myself. So I started singing it, got the band together, and it sounded good. But we needed to get a bass player and my son is a bass player and twenty and half years old, which is exactly the same age as me when I started Joy Division, so I got him in. (Big smile) It’s just like looking at myself thirty years ago, and he’s just as good as me.

ZANI – Your vocals are very different from Ian Curtis’s.  

Peter Hook - I don’t sing like Ian and don’t try to either. But what is good about singing from Unknown Pleasures, is that the lyrics are strong, upbeat, direct, aggressive and positive. But I am not looking forward to doing our second album Closer because that is completely different and darker. 

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ZANI – So you are going to do a similar project with Closer?

Peter Hook- It’s in development, but I would like to do it.

ZANI – Do you have any intention of releasing the tour of Unknown Pleasures as a DVD, CD or download?

Peter Hook - We recorded it when we did Goodwood. But the thing is it costs so much money to do a proper live recording and you might not get your money back because of all those people who illegally download. They are shooting themselves in the foot, because most musicians are losing interest in recording, ‘cos they aren’t getting any money.

The last New Order album took three years to record, you have to be insane these days to spend three years recording an album, because you are only going to get about ten grand back. The final New Order album cost around seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds to make. There is no chance, that we will recoup that money. So you have to record and work in a different way, so it is a difficult time to make money from music.

ZANI – What about live performances?

Peter Hook - You can make money, if you really strip it down to the bone. Look at a band like Muse, they charge a fortune for their gigs, but their shows are so expensive to put on. The only way you take any money home, is not to have a big crew, the moment you have a big crew, you don’t take any money home.

ZANI – Strong point, there is a major dilemma over downloads in music.  From what I have read about you, it seems that you have embraced the internet because it gives you freedom.  But from talking to you, you feel it is fucking up musicians as they are not getting the money.

Peter Hook  - If you were a plasterer, you went to plaster somebody’s house and after you did the job, you ask for the money and they say fuck off I am not paying you. You would go fucking mad, wouldn’t you?

ZANI – I don’t know, ‘cos my plastering skills leave a lot to be desired

Peter Hook - Fuck off, you know what I mean, but musicians are meant to go, ‘That’s all right, we don’t need paying. You are downloading our music for free’. The point is we watched New Order’s record sales go down from three million to three hundred thousand. That’s a decrease of ninety seven per cent. So going back to your point about making money from playing live, you can, but if you are like my old mate Barney, you don’t like to play; you are in an odd position.

Lily Allen was totally right, she said ‘If you baked a cake for someone, and if it had a price tag of £1.50, they took the price tag off and ate the cake, you would go, what are you doing you cunt?’ It’s a weird situation to be in, and if you bleat about it, people don’t like you, that is what happened to Lily Allen, she came out and told the truth, and people didn’t like her.

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ZANI – She has dropped out of music for while.

Peter Hook - I don’t blame her.

ZANI – True. The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club came out last year. Did you find it hard making the step from being a musician to a writer and are you a natural writer?

Peter Hook - I am a writer now, because I am a blogger, I learnt to write because of my blogging. When I first starting writing, my mate said to me, you write like a South African talks.

ZANI – Broken English, so to speak

Peter Hook  - Exactly, but my writing got better, because of the blogging. How the book came about, was because we were doing a Hacienda Compilation CD. My mate was writing the sleeve notes and we were talking for about two hours on the Hacienda, he said there are too many stories here, for my notes, you should do a book. For me to write is like a non-musician making an Album.

ZANI – Who did you draw from for inspiration in your writing style?

Peter Hook - No one, when I was pissed I would tell those stories for nothing, for anybody who would listen. I remember Eric Baker said to me, at Glastonbury, funnily enough , when I was off my tits telling people about the club, he turned round to me, and said Hooky, you are becoming a bit of a Hacienda bore, you need to let it go. The book is a nice way of letting it go, but what is nice about the book, it’s not a full stop, because it starts leading to things like this.

Now there is an audio book, which is nice, because it has got music on it.  I insisted they put music on my audio book, because it has got to have banging house tunes on it, it’s great because the music captures the atmosphere of club. The hardback has sold 50,000 copies and I have the paperback coming out.

ZANI – I must say the deluxe edition does look good.

Peter Hook  - At first I thought these deluxe editions was just a way of cashing in on it, but I can’t stop it, because the book rights belong to the publisher, so the publisher decides what happens with any future publishing projects. So this would happen, without my approval.

But when the designer Andy, showed me some basic designs and asked if I had any suggestion , as soon as I saw his concept I knew that is how I wanted the book to be. I think it is a cool story, and the graphic identity of Factory and the Hacienda is rich and strong, and to not be included  in the original book, was wrong.

ZANI – Were the designs of the deluxe and super deluxe editions of the book, done by Factory Records original designer Pete Saville?

Peter Hook – No, but the designer Andy is a big fan of Saville and influenced by Saville.  He has got all the feeling, the direction and the image perfectly. 

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ZANI – It looks good, and I love the bass guitar made from the original floor of the Hacienda.

Peter Hook  - A dance floor  that has soaked up sixteen years worth of blood, sweat and tears and now that piece of wood is making music, I love the concept because it’s a another development in the Hacienda legend.  The bass seems so natural and it’s a copy of the Gibson EBO, I play live. They only made five bass guitars. I’ve got one, two are for the super deluxe, a famous tattooist in Los Angeles has got one and the guy who runs the World in Motion website, has also got one.

ZANI – The ethos of the book seems to be following your teachings from Rob Gretton and Tony Wilson, who always told you to think about moving forward.

Peter Hook - Tony and Rob always said to us, the best record you will ever make is your next one.

ZANI – True words.  Talking about Tony Wilson, at his funeral Joy Division’s Atmosphere was played, now I understand that Atmosphere is a popular record at funerals whilst Robbie Williams Angels is a favourite at Weddings. And I read that you said you wished you had written Angels instead of Atmosphere, I take it that was a flippant remark.

Peter Hook  - In a way yes,  there was a poll of songs, and the most popular song for weddings is Angels and the most popular song at funerals is Atmosphere, and when it was played at Tony Wilson’s funeral, I wish I had written Angels because it was heartbreaking to hear. And the other time it was heartbreaking, was when it was played in the film Control.

ZANI – Did you enjoy being a part of Control?

Peter Hook -Control was great, because we were involved in the film before the director Anton Corbin joined. We were doing the scripts and the music for about eighteen months, and when Anton came we knew it was going to be all right, because he is such a perfectionist. He banged a couple of heads to get it right, but not mine.

ZANI – Sounds a tough but a rewarding project. As the story goes, the basis of Joy Division was formed on 4th June 1976 when The Sex Pistols played Manchester's Lesser Free Trade Hall. Do you think, regardless of that famous gig, you would have forged a career in music?

Peter Hook  - It never crossed my mind to join or form a band until I saw The Sex Pistols and I thought I can do that , but it wasn’t about music, it was about screaming and telling people to fuck off.

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ZANI – So if you hadn’t ended up as a musician, what would you have liked to have done?

Peter Hook - Working in a scrap yard, I used to like that, taking bits off cars.

ZANI – Hook and Son Scrap Metal Merchants, not bad money there. OK, you became a musician because of punk, and in a way you are a huge symbolic success of the DIY culture, spanning over three decades. Would you say you have become a musician now, not a DIY punk rocker?  

Peter Hook  - Well I can’t read music, and still can’t tune my guitar.

ZANI – Still can’t tune your guitar?

Peter Hook - No, tone deaf, can’t play other people’s music, can only play my own. I was fifth in line to play bass, when Bill Wyman left The Rolling Stones, but if Mick Jagger had put a gun to my head, and said play Satisfaction, I would have said, shoot me. Because I can’t do it, I can’t play other people’s music.  My mum always used to say to me, I can’t hold a fucking tune in a bucket

ZANI – Your mum sounds a driving force, because she used to say to you, ‘Do now’t and you get now’t’  

Peter Hook - True words, the thing that used to scare me about New Order is that we turned everything down. Everything we were offered, we would turn down, it used to drive me insane and some of the things we were offered were great. I found it depressing, and when New Order split up, I was delighted because I could say yes to everything, and I still do.

ZANI – So as a consequence, it gave New Order that mystique.  

Peter Hook - Yeah, and in a funny kind of way, you could say it worked, because it laid the ground work for something from you to profit from later on in life.  

ZANI – A pension fund so to speak. Have you thought about doing any film scores?

Peter Hook - The only film we have done a film score for is Control, it was fantastic and the reason why we briefly fell out with Anton, because he tried to tell us how to write the music for Ian Curtis’ death.  I said if you think you can tell me or you have to tell me, how to write music for that, you have got another think coming. I have been living with it for years, and I know exactly how it should sound.

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ZANI – What about the other film that features Joy Division and New Order, 24 Hour Party People?

Peter Hook  - That was completely different, that was light hearted, and Michael Winterbottom’s film has gone all around the world, it’s extremely popular. This in a way was responsible for rekindling an interest in the Hacienda, which was good for me when I resurrected the brand.

ZANI – What about Ralf Little’s portrayal of you in 24 Hour Party People?

Peter Hook – It was OK, but he had just come straight from The Royle Family, which was bizarre after appearing with my ex wife Caroline Aherne, then playing me.  That is weird synchronicity.

ZANI – I thought the star of 24 Hour Party People was Paddy Considine as Rob Gretton.

Peter Hook  - He was good, they were all really good even Steve Coogan as Tony Wilson , God bless him. But where they fucked up in 24 Hour Party people, is where God appears as Steve Coogan to Steve Coogan, if God had appeared as Tony Wilson to Steve Coogan, it would have been perfect. Tony playing God, because he acted and thought most of the time, that he was God.

ZANI – How’s The Factory going?

Peter Hook - It’s going good- I am down with the kids.

ZANI – By doing a lot of DJ-ing?

Peter Hook - I DJ there every month, been DJ-ing for seven years. Mani got me into DJ-ing, he told me it is the cheapest way to get pissed in the world, and it is, until I gave up drinking.  DJ-ing was responsible for my downward spiral into becoming an alcoholic.

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ZANI – How long have you been sober?

Peter Hook - Six years.

ZANI – Final question, what fictional character, literature, cartoon, film or comic sums up Peter Hook the best?

Peter Hook - Ha (laughs), my wife would say Daffy Duck, I would say Captain America, no, the one that is based in the jungle, The Phantom. I like him

Peter Hook is a charming man, both intelligent and honest, and completely down to earth.  Yet you know from talking to him, he certainly does not suffer fools gladly.

He has certainly led an eventful life and has had his fair share of successes and tragedies. However, his misfortunes in life, like the death of a close friend, have given him strength, and he is a living example of Nietzsche’s famous quote “That which does not kill me makes me stronger” Furthermore, here is a man that doesn’t seem driven by greed nor resentment that both his major bands may have not made him the money he deserved.

The slogan on his tee shirt on the opening night of The Factory sums up his career simply “We made history, not money” .

(c) Matteo Sedazzari/ ZANI Media Ltd

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Matteo Sedazzari

Matteo Sedazzari

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