Sunday 22 April 2018

The Hook, his bass, his bands and their albums

Rock legend: Peter Hook will bring the New Order sound to Dublin's Academy later this month
Rock legend: Peter Hook will bring the New Order sound to Dublin's Academy later this month

Nick Kelly

Carlsberg don't do legendary indie rock bass players, but if they did, he'd be Peter Hook. Most bassists' fate is to be hidden away somewhere between the drum kit and the keyboards – invisible, unnoticed, unheralded.

Not Peter Hook. The coolest thing with four strings bestrides the stage like a colossus, legs stretched at gravity-defying angles, thrusting his instrument like it is an AK-47 and this is a stick-up.

He's been a legend for most of his life – since the late 1970s, when Joy Division helped reshape the history of music after punk, and repeating the trick with New Order, whose marriage of dance music and indie rock is, weirdly, the template for how so many bands sound in 2013, from Coldplay to Arcade Fire (just listen to New Order's 1982 hit 'Temptation' side by side with the new album from Win Butler's gang . . .).

As is so often the way in the rock 'n' roll circus, Hooky fell out with his old band mates, and so New Order's latest reunion in 2011 took place without him. Undeterred, he formed his own group, The Light – which features his own son on bass – and they've been on the road working their way through the back catalogue of Joy Division for the past few years, playing the whole of Unknown Pleasures and Closer (both masterpieces) to an audience who would never have had a chance to hear most of the songs performed live before.

Now, Hook will be playing the first two New Order albums, 1981's Movement and 1983's Power, Corruption & Lies, from start to finish in Dublin's Academy later this month.

"The songs on Movement and most of Power, Corruption & Lies have been so ignored for so long that they actually feel like new songs when we play them," says Peter. "One of my great frustrations about my time in New Order was that the other two – Bernard (Sumner) in particular – just wouldn't play the older stuff. I understood in a way. But it seemed to me that we were stuck in a greatest hits rut. It was the easy way out. It was doing as little as possible to get by.

"From our fans' point of view, if you want to hear indulgent versions of the hits, you can go and see New Order; and if you want to hear the entire back catalogue done just like the record, come and see me!" he laughs.

It's notable that Peter sings lead vocals on 'Dreams Never End' – the opening song on Movement – a rare occurrence. In the aftermath of the suicide of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis in 1980, was there a debate in the band as to who would step up to the mic?

"Yes, all three of us were jockeying for position, shall we say," says Peter. "Steve (Morris, New Order drummer) seemed to be the best at writing the vocal line because he did most of the vocal lines on Movement. Bernard was the best at singing them and so it worked out that way.

"Recording Movement was not a great process because Martin Hannett (Joy Division and New Order producer) absolutely hated our voices. It brought it home to him what a loss to our music it was that Ian had passed on. In a way, he took it out on us and made no bones about telling us how shit he thought the vocals were. He thought the music was great – but he mixed the vocals right back in the mix, and they're all echoey.

'One of the nice things about doing it now is at least you get to bellow it out with 36 years' experience. By the time we got to Power, Corruption & Lies, we were a lot more confident."

Power, Corruption & Lies marks the point where the band metamorphosed from doomy post-punk bedsit heroes to euphoric dancefloor kings. You can tell it came out in the same year as the timeless four-to-the-floor anthem Blue Monday. For a band to change their musical direction so radically is as rare as a dog that speaks Norwegian.

"It's poppier. It's more positive. It fits in with the Thatcher, filofax generation. We'd had a trauma; we'd had our struggle," he says, referring to his friend Ian Curtis's death. "Then there was a lightness which we started to feel. You do feel that lightness as you get older anyway. That's one thing I can say at the ripe old age of 57 is that life does get a bit easier once you get out of that angst period in your late teens.

"Punk probably over-emphasised the angst. We had a very near miss with our career with the demise of Ian and Joy Division. When something like that happens, you develop a different way of looking at the world. We did brighten up and loosen up.

"Also, Bernard and Stephen's interest in technology really bloomed from 1982. I was the old stick-in-the-mud saying 'can't we just rock out?' Funnily enough, the amalgamation of rock and dance is what every other band in the world is doing these days. If you listen to Blue Monday, it sounds as good today as it did in 1983. Either we are very, very clever or very, very lucky!"

Myself, I'd go with clever.

Peter Hook and The Light play The Academy, Dublin, on Friday, November 22

Irish Independent

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