“I’m the Bruce Forsyth of indie music” – an interview with Peter Hook

Pic Fabrizio Di Bitonto
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Manchester legend Peter Hook and his band The Light are playing a triumphant homecoming set at the 02 this Friday. The legendary bassist will perform Substance – The Albums of Joy Division and New Order which, as the name suggests, features the hits of his two ground-breaking bands.

Substance is two separate compilation albums featuring the non-album singles and B-Sides of Joy Division and the complete singles of New Order up to 1987. The latter was a huge hit, becoming the band’s biggest selling LP – no surprise considering it includes classics such as Bizarre Love Triangle, Temptation, Blue Monday and True Faith.

Hello Mr Hook. How are you today? 

I’m very well thank you. It’s quite warm isn’t it?

It is indeed. Did you get caught in the rain yesterday?

I managed to miss it luckily. I was sat in our recording studio mixing for the next factory mix feeling very smug but then there was a power cut and we lost a bit of our work.

Oh no! Did you get it back?

We couldn’t get it back but luckily we managed to rekindle the magic that was there in the studio. How are you?

I’m alright but, in all honesty, a little nervous.

Oh really! Why’s that?

A bit of a big fan that’s all.

Well we’ll see what you think of me after.

Well, that’s reassuring. So in terms of proper business, you’re playing the 02 on Friday with The Light. How’s do you feel about it?

Well it’s definitely going to be special. I first played the Apollo in ’78 with Joy Division when we supported The Buzzcocks after they’d managed to sell the venue out. I can tell you I’d never been as nervous as that before in my life and I felt the same sort of nerves when I played again with New Order a few years later. I reckon I’ll probably get the same nerves when we turn up on the day. It’s been an important venue for me but Manchester crowds always deliver.

As an artist who’s been such a part of the scene in Manchester, what is it about these crowds that make them so special?

I’ve found that the crowds in Manchester are a lot more honest than those of other cities. They will tell you exactly what they think. There was always a sense of urgency about them and a need to impress from the bands. I’ve always been most on edge when playing in Manchester. Largely due to the crowds and also because of all the friends and family in the audience.

Can you summarise the significance of music in Manchester?

The music and the attitude towards music in this city is special. It’s totally unique. What people don’t realise is that Manchester musically wasn’t really on the map until the late 70s and through the 80s when bands like Joy Division, The Smiths, Simply Red and everyone started coming through. After that it just exploded. We pretty much invented club culture and people abroad are envious of Manchester for that reason. I read a quote the other day from Paul Scholes that made me laugh saying, “The best club in Manchester is United. The second best is the Hacienda.”

How do you feel about being the first of the members to be playing Joy Division records and how have the other lads reacted?

The original idea started with Joy Division. When New Order split up in 2007, basically I was doing nothing. While we were together as New Order it felt alright to ignore Joy Division as we were bringing in massive international success. The thing is when we split up and you were on the outside looking in I was thinking ‘Hang on a minute, how come we’re not celebrating anything to do with Joy Division and these amazing songs that I’ve helped create?’ It seemed a bit daft to be honest and it was approaching thirty years since Ian took his life so I made a decision to celebrate the music. I didn’t have a relationship with Bernard and them lot so I didn’t have a chance to ask if they wanted to get involved. They’d been pretty outspoken and critical of what I’d decided to do, but when I got the chance to do the songs it was like getting all your favourite toys back after all of those years. We weren’t even able to play Closer with the group initially at the time because of what happened. I decided to play and celebrate every song I’d played on and recorded with these two bands before I shuffle off this mortal coil.

What’s the significance of the two Substance records for this current tour? 

Substance is an interesting LP for New Order because it’s the one LP we never wrote. Tony Wilson actually decided to release the LP because he’d just bought a new car with a CD player in it and he wanted a CD to play whilst he was in it. It was the first time a CD had been in a car. That’s why he did Substance.

It went on to be our best selling record in the world selling 2 million in America alone and around the world selling a good 16 million. It’s a very important record for New Order. It gave us the leg up from being a good band to a mega successful band. We played to thirty thousand plus in the States. It made us bigger than Oasis ever were and even the Spice Girls. Unfortunately with the success we started arguing amongst ourselves. I guess the Joy Division version of Substance was done to cash in by Factory. The two LPs are very different. I’m very glad to be playing them both though. Listening to them the other day I felt that they capture the essence of what we did perfectly.

peterhook1
Pic Fabrizio Di Bitonto

What are you most looking forward to about Friday’s gig?

The thing is I’m very grateful for the support of the people of Manchester and the support of everyone in Manchester. This is a great compliment for me and something I’m very grateful for.

And the show’s being recorded for everyone who goes. Do you know much about that?

Luckily that’s something I’ve not got to think about. If I was to have to think about that God knows what would happen.

How do the songs that you’re performing now compare to when you were initially playing them?

They have more impact live. Our gimmick is to play the records as they were heard when they influenced so many people in the first place. New Order got into this thing of changing everything but Peter Hook and the Light play it similar to the record. I’ll let the other tossers do what they do.

How could you summarise your current status in the music industry?

If someone would have said to me when I was 20 and playing with the Buzzcocks in the Apollo that I’d come back here in 40 years on my own I’d’ve said ‘fuck off’. But here I am. The Bruce Forsyth of indie music.

As a local lad whose seen the world many times over, what makes Manchester different to everywhere else?

Same thing that makes Salford different to everywhere else. The people. Like you said I’ve travelled the world and I always look forward to coming home and when I do come home I always feel at home. And that’s the weirdest thing in the world. I love going to all of these exotic places and then coming to Manchester and just being told to fuck off. Because that’s what Manchester’s all about. They don’t give a shit.

Peter Hook and the Light will play 02 Apollo on 16 September. A few tickets are still available at http://bit.ly/TheLightSubstanceManchesterTicketmaster

A CD copy of the gig will be available directly after the gig. Pre order the triple CD/ download here http://bit.ly/TheLightLHNReleasesShop

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