“Hi Peter,” even over a not wonderful mobile connection I could tell it was the laconic low-slung bass icon himself. “it’s Jon Bounds from Fused.”
“Yes, right… would you mind calling me back in five minutes? I’ve got to pick the wife up.”
“Sure, no problem.”
To kill time I make a cup of tea and take the dog outside for a wee. I’m staying at a very well turned out holiday flat at the base of the Shropshire hills. It’s perfectly placed for me to indulge my AE Housman poetic fantasies—in a modish leather-look jacket and Adidas hi-tops of course—but without a garden that the brown and white dog sharing it with me can just pop out to unaccompanied.
I’m breaking a conspiracy of silence here, not all interviews with rock gods are conducted over gin-soaked weekends on tour in uptown New York. Not all interviewers fly out first class and share hotel rooms and VIP sections with their quarry. We may strive for intimacy, but get maybe twenty minutes on the phone. I’ve not seen Lady Gaga go to the toilet. I had to carry a plastic bag for a poop scoop around the corner in case doggy number ones turned more solid outside Terry Jones’s Travel in Church Stretton. Trying to get that intimacy—or at least a bit of matey bonhomie—I tell Peter what I’ve been up to when I call him back.
“It’s nice that we’ve got normal things to do isn’t it? Picking up the wife, taking out the dog…”
“I always have loads of normal things to do Pete, I’m not a rock star.”
You get the impression that Peter Hook has lots of normal things to do too, and giving humorous, affable, honest and conspiratorially indiscreet interviews is one of those. In fact I’m pretty sure that he’s given enough of those to fill the pages of this magazine many times over, but you never tire of hearing them. The man has many stories to tell and tells them well, it’s how others may tell them that is concerning him right now. He’s just finished writing a book called Inside Joy Division, which tells the story of being inside Joy Division. Being one of only three living people that could really know must give him the insight to do that, and it’s a story not well told and that’s been he feels passed over by the others and not given enough time.
“When we started we didn’t have luxuries like a camera… it’s been hard to find photos, not like with New Order.
We started New Order the Monday after Ian [Curtis]‘s funeral…Bernard didn’t like the intensity of Joy Division which is why he doesn’t like playing those songs.
Our manager Rob Gretton held a wake for the band and he said ‘don’t worry Joy Division will be big in 10-15 years. That was the was he put it to say that the music would last forever.”
At the moment Hooky’s new band The Light is playing Joy Division albums in their entirety. And it seems to be going well, despite what he says was a cynical reaction when it was first announced (there were some “sarky barbs”, which sounds fantastic in that familiar North West burr).
“I thought it would be just fat 50-year-old blokes that came to see us, but it was 19-year-olds and I thought ‘wow, the music lives on’. The themes are the same as ’77… I wrote it so I’m biased but there’s still an appeal.”
I ask him if that’s something to so with the country being in a similar state now to that which it was then: I’m thinking something about the unemployment, the distrust of authority, the cold. I’m thinking mainly of the cold as it snowed unexpectedly last night and despite my tea I’m still not warm, I can see the grey sleet sliding down the hillside roads.
“I don’t think so, I’m not sure. The appeal of the music hasn’t changed. Also it isn’t nostalgia, it’s not a tribute band. Doing the LP as a whole gives it purity. I’ll leave that to the likes of Joy Revision. It’s got credibility, we’re not pretending to be Joy Division. Not like the others pretending to be New Order.
People remember the records but not the band. I was listening to the records and thinking what a genius [producer] Martin Hannett was—the records are sort of a cross between Joy Division and Martin Hannett. Joy Division live were much more raw, post punk.”
Yesterday we took a rough path straight up a hill near the Long Mynd, it took not minutes to get to a point where civilisation vanished. If you look the right way you can see not human invention before the sun breaks your sight over the horizon. If you look the other way, there’s a golf course; flattening, landscaping, commercialising what was once a force of nature. It’s the course designer’s take on reality. We’re most of us lucky that no-one feels ownership of our pasts, but if you’re part of cultural history you don’t get that protection due to lack of interest. I mention that Peter is the only person I’ve ever talked to that I’ve seen being played by actors in two different films.
“Ha. I didn’t recognise myself in 24 Hour Party People. It was obviously a comedy, they wanted to make Carry on up the Factory and they did. The funny thing was that Ralf Little who played me had worked a lot with my ex-wife so you’d think he’d have picked up a few tips.
It broke my heart watching Control. Anton wanted to bring out the tragedy, he’d known us for a long time. I knew he’d get it right.”
The end of May marks the 30th anniversary of the Hacienda, and it must be built. Again. By many other people, in clubs around the country and even in museums. The V&A are to host a ‘facsimile’ recreated by original designer Ben Kelly, but Peter and friends have a more fitting tribute perhaps.
“The Hacienda is coming back. The people that own the flats that are now where the Hacienda was are letting us have the car park for one last rave. I wasn’t sure, but I was told. You’ve got to do something for the 30th, you might not be around for the 40th.” You don’t get the impression he had to be persuaded too hard.
I get the feeling that Peter Hook is enjoying being in control of his own story, he tells it well and in many media. Only a couple of days later I’m sitting round a friend’s kitchen table and being shown a spatula bearing the scrawl “Happy Beating! Peter Hook”. Hooky, king of bass, guardian of history, autographer of kitchen implements. The past is safe in his hands.
Peter Hook and The Light play Unknown Pleasures at venues across the UK this May and June. Check here for dates and venues.
Words: Jon Bounds