Interview: Peter Hook and The Light

When I first interviewed the former Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook, he told me of his eagerness to tour New Order’s material, just as he did with Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures and Closer. One year on, and Hooky’s ambitions have been thrust into realisation. Having already toured the albums Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies around the US, Peter Hook and The Light are now taking New Order’s first two albums around the UK and Ireland. I caught up with Hooky as we talked about the tour, his plans for the future and the ‘Madchester’ music scene.

How was the American leg of your tour, Hooky?

“It was great. The audiences were fantastic, and it was nice to be able to seize the crowd back after the great pretenders had been over there previously.  The shows were all good, pretty much capacity but the bigger shows like New York, LA and San Fran were also complemented by some really good gigs in Detroit, Austin, Seattle and others, overall me and the band really enjoyed it.

“We also did three dates in Canada, returning to Toronto and Montreal and going to Vancouver for the first time. We got to see lots of friends in both America and Canada and it was nice to see them return to support us especially as we were doing the New Order material for the first time over there.”

How does touring predominantly New Order material, with the albums Movement and Power, Corruption and Lies, compare to the Unknown Pleasures tour from last year?

“Playing the New Order material is much more intricate and you have to concentrate.  The band really have to mesh together with each other but luckily the guys have worked really hard and really, really do it well, especially Pottsy who’s only just joined up with us. He’s found a way of really meshing with the others very well and quickly, I’ve been very proud at how quickly he’s taken to it, in fact.”

What sort of reaction do you get from the crowd when you perform in America/abroad compared to when you perform in the UK?

“Well I’ve not done the UK in full yet with Movement and Power, Corruption And Lies but the gigs in January went very well, I was elated with the reactions of friends, fans and the press. You are always worried about the reactions with something new but I think the experience with playing Unknown Pleasures and Closer made me feel able to rise to the challenge of these albums.

“I was looking forward to returning to the States actually. I think that the people in the States are well disposed to the album format. And I got this impression from the book tour I did in February.

“I do love playing in America. I’ve always found the audiences to be very open and warm. I find Americans very straightforward, if they want to know something they come straight out and ask you, there’s none of the stand-offishness or reserve you get in England with people. I admire that.”

How was it playing with Moby as a guest vocalist for the first time since 2011?

“Moby is a great friend and a wonderful musician and he’s always so happy to do it. He always seems to be nervous while doing it but he honestly does a great job on the vocals. He’s a great fan and supporter of both Joy Division and New Order and now the Light, I hope. It was Moby who took us back to the States as part of his Area One Festival tour in 2001 around the time of Get Ready so there’s a long standing relationship there.

“This time it was kept a complete surprise which is always nice, people were totally not expecting it in Seattle. Decibel Festival were also really pleased. He is a really good guy. Moby, I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”

How do you find singing on New Order songs compared to Joy Division songs?

“It’s as tough for me as singing Joy Division in truth, maybe even more difficult. There is a distinction though, performing Joy Division I really had to be the singer because no one else would do it and with New Order, Bernard is in a different octave so I’ve had to work around that.

“I always felt I was a bass player first and foremost. It did take me a long time to learn to be a lead singer, my learning curve was through Revenge and then by the time I got to Monaco I felt I’d become okay with it, so I’m fine with it. It was hard to step into Ian’s shoes and I was very nervous. I was also nervous about stepping into Barney’s shoes with the New Order material but I’ve managed to do it and it’s 95% effort, 4% skill and 1% luck.”

Did you enjoy playing South America for the first time since 2011?

“We only visited Mexico and Brazil in 2011 and as it came after three weeks of touring the States and Canada, it was very hard and we were knackered but the crowds made up for it. I have been over DJing though and really to do all those countries in eight days, six gigs was an experience to say the least. It was nice that the crowds were very young and sometimes I think the reaction can be a little bit mixed. Playing the albums in full can be a bit of a challenge for the audience and requires a lot of attention but I think we managed to win them over in the end.”

Are there any plans to record any new material with The Light?

“I know I should do it and I have been thinking to myself that I will do it, but I would like to get the legal struggles out of the way first, it does really colour everything that is going on. The lads have got a few ideas which they’ve been working on, which sound really good, so I would hope to get something done when the touring schedule lets up, which at the moment isn’t until well in 2014.”

Do you have any plans to tour with any later New Order works/albums, i.e. Low Life, with The Light?

“Well, yes, I plan to do the albums, singles and everything in between and next Autumn, in 2014, we are looking to start with Brotherhood and Low Life, then on after that. I’m serious about doing and playing the lot before I shuffle off this mortal coil. It’s a great pleasure to be able to rediscover all of the work, and as we recently played Monaco, ‘What Do You Want From Me’ at the Denver gig for the first time, especially with Pottsy back in the band, you never know, I might get onto Revenge and Monaco as well.”

How do you find playing DJ sets compared to live shows?

“It’s completely different, with DJing the audience is often more of a challenge because they haven’t often come to see you directly, so you have to measure what they want to hear, something I’ve become a lot better at, in fact. When playing live, the audience have made a decision to come and see you live so that makes it easier in truth.”

Why was it important for you to play and tour with these two New Order albums in particular?

“Well the idea of The Light is to revisit the albums and singles of the period in full. Previously we toured doing the Joy Division albums, Unknown Pleasures and Closer and now we have got to Movement and Power, Corruption and Lies the first New Order albums. We play the albums in full along with the singles from the period and I think it’s more respectful to the work and we take great care to replicate the albums as faithfully as possible.

“I hope it’s more satisfying for the audience as well.  We play a lot of the lesser heard tracks which wouldn’t’ get played otherwise and run through the material chronologically so the current set begins with the first New Order single ‘In A Lonely Place’ and ‘Ceremony’ and then runs into Movement, the singles, then Power, Corruption And Lies, ending up with the likes of ‘Temptation’ and ‘Blue Monday’ so you get to see the journey between Joy Division and New Order, which many people have said they enjoy immensely.”

Was there any particular album, song, event or even moment that defined the start and/or end of the ‘Madchester’ scene for you?

“Not really. In a lot of ways it developed around the Hacienda and around the bands. It was quite a gradual process. It’s very hard to pinpoint a particular event as it was growing throughout the eighties and especially from 1986 onwards. In many ways it came out of all the musicians enjoying the acid house nights, so that collective of wanting to draw those influences into your own music and what was around you. That’s what happened with a lot of bands, us, The Mondays, The Roses. There were so many memorable and special nights that stand out: the Northern House Revue in 1987, which was the first time Graeme Park came to the Hacienda; the Chicago party where artists like Adonis played for the first time outside the US and Hot, where Mike Pickering and Jon Dasilva properly introduced acid house to the club.

“There were many, many nights, and the one that always gets talked about is when New Order headlined G-Mex in Manchester with the Mondays and A Certain Ratio in December 1988. Bummed had just come out, the Mondays’ second album and it was a sensational gig – we had an after party, Disorder, beneath The Hacienda which has passed into legend. I didn’t even get to go to that in the end ‘cos Iris, my first partner, dragged me away. You know, we earned £10,007 at GMEX and Disorder cost ten grand, so we made seven quid on GMEX, fucking Rob Gretton, man. You don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

“That was one of ours but in truth the great nights and gigs came in quick succession from ‘86 onwards, it just got bigger and bigger. After that concert, The Roses played The Hacienda in February ‘89 before they released the album and then The Mondays went onto headline G-Mex on their own. It really had momentum though following on from ‘88.”

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