The past year has been a whirlwind for Peter Hook, with the legendary bassist publishing a book (“The Haçienda: How Not to Run a Club”), opening a new club (FAC251 The Factory) and label (Haçienda Records), releasing new music by his Freebass and Man Ray projects, and — somewhat controversially — going on tour to perform Joy Division’s 1979 album Unknown Pleasures.
Slicing Up Eyeballs caught up with Hook a few weeks back as he was en route to a gig in Valencia, Spain; following a trio of Italian shows later this week, Hooky brings his band The Light — with son Jack Bates on primary bass duties — to the U.S. for a nine-date Unknown Pleasures run beginning Dec. 1 in Washington, D.C., a tour that coincides with the U.S. release of Freebass’ debut album, It’s a Beautiful Life (see U.S. dates here).
In the interview, Hook addresses the criticism surrounding his performance of Unknown Pleasures and his surprise at fans’ reaction to the shows; he admits frustration with New Order’s latter years (“We got into a rut of hardly doing anything,” he says); and shrugs off the implosion of Freebass after ex-bandmate Gary “Mani” Mounfield took to Twitter to accuse Hooky of profiting off the death of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.
Hook also announced plans to record a new EP of Joy Division songs, a collection that will feature re-recordings of Unknown Pleasures’ “Insight” and “New Dawn Fades,” plus 1980 single “Atmosphere.” The set also will include the debut release of “Pictures,” an unfinished 1978 track that Hook completed and debuted live earlier this year.
Read our full Q&A with Peter Hook after the jump…
SLICING UP EYEBALLS: I understand you’re in Spain right now with the ‘Unknown Pleasures’ show, and you just finished some dates in Australia. How’s that going?
PETER HOOK: Wonderful. In Australia we did seven shows and they were all sold out. It was absolutely fantastic. Last night we had 800 (in the audience). It’s going great. Great reaction. I couldn’t ask for anything else, really.
EYEBALLS: Have you been surprised by that reaction?
HOOK: I am, actually, because of how negatively the idea was received before we did it. All sort of charges were leveled at me, so it made me very wary and quite worried. But now since we’ve been playing, they are the ones that matter, the ones who buy the tickets and come to the gig. Everybody’s been having a great time, so now it’s all systems go. It’s wonderful.
EYEBALLS: Why do you think some people — your own bandmate, even — have been so negative about the idea of you performing ‘Unknown Pleasures.’ You were in the band, after all.
HOOK: Well, you’ll have to ask them, won’t you? I mean, the thing is, Internet criticism is like a snowball going downhill, isn’t it? It’s a amazing how easy things get away from you, and that’s proved with the Mani thing, with Freebass and Twitter and how hungry for news everybody is, It’s amazing how these reactions start and become as big as they do. But like anything else in life, we have to get on with it, don’t we?
EYEBALLS: But did you ever think ‘Unknown Pleasures’ would be anything more than the one show you did back in May as a tribute to Ian Curtis on the anniversary of his death?
HOOK: You know what? Naively, no. I honestly thought we’d do it the one night at The Factory and that would be it. I was amazed when we got two nights at The Factory. And then I was amazed at the amount of offers we’ve had. Literally, everywhere I’ve gone and played. I’ve been invited to do it. It’s just great news and that’s one of the wonderful things about America — I’ve always loved playing in America. I always found American audiences to be so much more responsive than English audiences. It really is — after the split of New Order — wonderful to get the chance to go back to America. You know, going to all of my favorite places in America, playing one of my favorite records with some of my favorite people.
EYEBALLS: Because, honestly, you didn’t get over here a whole lot with New Order.
HOOK: No, we did in the early days, our halcyon days, I suppose you could say. But no, basically in New Order we got into a rut of hardly doing anything, which I found always to be very frustrating, which is one of the reasons I don’t find it hard to say yes to anything — I say yes to everything now.
EYEBALLS: Is must be somewhat liberating to have that freedom now.
HOOK: Well, yeah. I mean it’s a two-edged sword, isn’t it really? Because you do a lot of things, then some people don’t feel it’s very special because you did so much. So it depends. It’s about keeping a balance, really doing good things and not getting too greedy — greed, whether it’s financial or just simply the fact that you want to work. You do have to be careful.
EYEBALLS: Doing these ‘Unknown Pleasures’ shows, I know you’re singing and not really playing all that much bass — has that been an interesting transition on stage?
HOOK: Well, I play (some) bass as well, it’s just that my son plays the (primary) bass parts because I can’t do a Sting — I can’t sing and play at the same time. It was weird, as soon as I got the idea together to do this, we tried a couple of guest vocalists and I had a feeling that it didn’t seem right, it didn’t seem somewhat respectful enough. I thought, “I’m going to have to sing it.” I thought that quite early. Because Jack is playing bass, it doesn’t really bother me that I’m not playing bass, because I’ve got the next best thing in the world — my son. The first time we played (Unknown Pleasures) with Jack, it was really a little freaky. It was like looking into a window to the past.
EYEBALLS: There must be some pride there, too, seeing your son on stage next to you.
HOOK: Yeah. I mean, he’s a great bass player, as well, which makes life a lot easier. But it’s nice. There can’t be many men my age who always know where their son is — always, all the time.
EYEBALLS: Any special plans for the U.S. shows?
HOOK: Obviously, by the virtue of the fact that we’re playing the LP, you’re set in a certain way of doing it. But to be honest with you, every single time I’ve played it — it’s still quite young, coming up to 15 gigs I think — it still felt really good. Normally in a set you start slow and you go in and go faster and faster and then finish, but because the LP goes up and down, it has peaks and troughs, it’s actually quite interesting. It’s amazing, really, watching people while they’re watching you. You tend to get the older members of the audience who sit there with their eyes closed. And you get some younger ones that are crying. You know, you do get the sort of full range of people listening in a different way. I must admit, I appreciate the audience last night in Madrid, they were very excited. But then we did a gig last week in Brisbane in Australia that was all seated and they were all very thoughtful and it went down really well because it was really thoughtful. So you see both aspects to it. Because you’re playing the record, I think people are used to listening to an LP in a certain way, generally in your car or at home when you’re reading or doing something else. It’s nice to see that aspect of it.
EYEBALLS: You must be getting a lot of younger fans who never had the opportunity to see Joy Division.
HOOK: Yeah, the audience is 50-50, without a shadow of a doubt.
EYEBALLS: Do you feel this is a good way to keep Ian Curtis and Joy Division alive for a new generation of fans?
HOOK: Well, you know, the test of good music is when it sounds as good when it was made as it does now. You listen to Led Zeppelin, you listen to Fleetwood Mac, you know, in the early days with Peter Green, you listen to music like that and it’s fantastic now. And I think Joy Division is one of those groups that sounds just as good now as it did 30 years ago, and I think that’s a great compliment to our songwriting skills — all of us, Bernard (Sumner), Steve (Morris), Ian and me. The people I have playing it now are very passionate about playing this music, they have a love for the music, and that’s why I chose them. When we play it, a lot of people come to me and said, “Wow, you look like you’re really enjoying it.” And I’m thinking, “I am.”
EYEBALLS: ‘Unknown Pleasures’ is obviously just one of a number or projects you’ve got going on this year. You opened The Factory, you’ve got Haçienda Records and you published a book, plus there’s new music with Freebass and Man Ray. You’re doing a lot of different projects with different people — is that to help keep your creative juices flowing?
HOOK: Mainly it comes down to, as I said before, I find it very difficult to say no to anything, so I get myself in some very strange positions. But ultimately the job that I do is so enjoyable for me I can’t turn down any aspect of it. It’s much better than working for a living. When I travel around the world and see the jobs some people have to do, it doesn’t compare to what I have to do. What I get to do in my life is wonderful. I really enjoy it and I’m very grateful I have the opportunity to do it. That’s what keeps me going.
EYEBALLS: Did you ever think you’d find yourself running a club again?
HOOK: (Laughter) Um, not when I wrote the book, no. But I must admit that the culture and the climate in Manchester is so different now that it’s an actual pleasure to have a club, where in the old days it was actually a chore and it was very dangerous and very difficult. Nowadays it’s just not like that. It’s much easier now, people are nicer, there isn’t any gangland culture in the center of Manchester, the police are much more proactive, but luckily the people are the same — they’re mad for it.
EYEBALLS: Your Freebass album just came out in the U.K. and we’ll be getting it here on Dec. 7. It must be somewhat bittersweet to have that finally out on CD just as the band breaks up
HOOK: Well, yeah. I mean, that’s just one of the sad aspects of being a musician. When you put musicians together, they do generally fall out, and that’s what happened with Freebass. But I mean we’re great friends again now, so I’m very happy about that. And the thing is, the record exists, and I was delighted to finish it and I’m actually quite proud of it. I think it’s a very good record and I was glad we got to play the gigs that we did. But what will be will be, and that’s just it, really. And I thought we could have presented it as if we were carrying on or whatever and the record would have come out, but I felt you needed to be honest about it.
EYEBALLS: I suppose in this day and age, any publicity is good publicity for a project, but still, probably not the way you wanted to launch Freebass — with Mani attacking you on Twitter.
HOOK: No, it was just sad the way it worked out. But that’s life. Both Mani and I are like that, we’re very quick to react and I think one of the things New Order taught me was how to react when you have a difficult situation that can carry over to the public. And I think Mani’s learned that lesson now as well, you know. So no, he’s OK now and we’re happily together again.
EYEBALLS: Do you think at some point you’ll do something with the Freebass songs, maybe incorporate them into your own sets?
HOOK: Probably. Yeah, the thing is I love a lot of the material. I was listening to the EP recently. I’ve been doing a bit of running while I’m away, actually, and I’ve been using my iPod in my phone for the first time, and it’s actually proved to be quite enjoyable. A lot of the Freebass tracks have been appearing in my headphones — Pete Wylie’s track and I think “Dark Starr” with Howard Marks and Tim (Burgess) from The Charlatans doing “You Don’t Know (This About Me).” And I was thinking, “Fuck me, these are too good to let slip.” So they’re there. I can find a way, maybe incorporate them into encores or something. I was also listening to “Denial” the other day, by New Order (off 1981 debut Movement), and I realized what a fucking great track is, and then I heard a bit of Monaco, a track called “Junk” and a couple other tracks I did with Monaco, and I was thinking it’s amazing how easy it is to forget how much work you’ve done.
EYEBALLS: Well, with a 30-year career, there’s a lot there.
HOOK: Yeah, you could say that. I could do a five-hour concert, no problem — like Bruce Springsteen.
EYEBALLS: With Freebass, you switched from largely using guest vocalists on the debut to EP to settling on Gary Briggs as singer for the full album. Why that shift?
HOOK: Gary’s a really good vocalist. The search for a vocalist was really. really difficult. It literally took two years to find Gary. It was funny, because he came into a position in a band where both Mani and I had a lot of exterior projects, like Mani’s gone off to do Screamadelica with Primal Scream, and I’m doing Unknown Pleasures. So really, Freebass had no chance, to be honest. It’s quite sad really, particularly for Gary. The thing is, in this day and age, starting a new group is very, very difficult. Even 16-year-old kids and 18-year-old kids run out of energy staring new bands. So I can understand why Mani and I were so easily seduced into doing something from the past, if you like – ready-made audience. You know, it makes life much easier. Which is sad, really, but I am in the enviable position of having a new record out with Freebass and indulging myself in an old record with Unknown Pleasures.
EYEBALLS: Speaking of making new music, do you have any plans to make a full album with your current band, The Light?
HOOK: We’re going to do something with Rowetta, our singer who we use in England, who worked with Happy Mondays. She wants us to record an EP of the four (Joy Division songs) that she sings, which are “Insight,” “New Dawn Fades,” “Atmosphere” and a track called “Pictures” that I finished up, which is an old Joy Division track. So we’re going to do an EP of that, just because the versions of the songs with Rowetta singing have a really nice quality. But I’m hoping we’ll do some stuff with The Light in the future. It’d be nice to write some new music; they’re such a great group, to be honest,
EYEBALLS: You’ve been very busy this year. What else is on tap for 2011?
HOOK: I’m already doing a tour of Germany in January. We’re doing a Brazilian and Mexican tour in February, March we’re going to do some Irish dates — and then I’m going to have a week off in April! It’s all good, isn’t it? It’s quite nice, actually. I never realized how well-received playing Unknown Pleasures would be. All of the peoples we played to, everybody seems to be able to relate to it, which I was worried about. I was worried people wouldn’t relate to it because it was done in a different fashion in a different time. I think it’s a great compliment to the other members of Joy Division that people still love those songs so much. Some guy came up to me in Auckland the other day. He said, “Thanks, man, I never thought I’d get to hear those songs live.” And that’s something I took for granted. It’s nice when people say things like that.
EYEBALLS: Have you talked to the other two about this?
HOOK: (Laughter) You mean Bernard and Steve? You know, no. I have nothing to do with Bernard or Steve. They play Joy Division tracks with Bad Lieutenant, so you’d have to say that, apart from me doing it in the concept of the LP, they’re doing the same thing, aren’t they?
EYEBALLS: And for your American fans, you’re going to be beating them here since they’ve canceled twice now.
HOOK: I know! I was having a wry chuckle about that. Actually. I always had a great time in America. When I planned this with my friend at The Windish Agency, he said, “Do you want to go to all of your favorite cities?” I said, “Yeah, why the hell wouldn’t you ?” So it’s been really nice. I’m starting in New York and finish in L.A., and I’m just playing a record that I love. I don’t think you could really ask for anything more, really.
PREVIOUSLY ON SLICING UP EYEBALLS
- Mani apologizes for calling Peter Hook a ’self-centered sellout’ on Twitter
- Mani accuses Peter Hook of ‘hawking his mate’s corpse around to get paid’
- Peter Hook bringing Joy Division ‘Unknown Pleasures’ tour to U.S., Australia
- The Smiths’ Andy Rourke no longer with Peter Hook’s Freebass supergroup
- Video: Peter Hook plays ‘Unknown Pleasures’ in tribute to Joy Division’s Ian Curtis
- Freebass — Peter Hook, Mani, Andy Rourke — releases debut, ‘It’s a Beautiful Life’
- Peter Hook plans Joy Division set at FAC251, ‘Unknown Pleasures’ spoken-word tour
- Peter Hook’s Freebass releases ‘Two Worlds Collide’ EP, sets live debut