Peter Hook is a legend. While his place in history was cemented in the brief but genre changing Joy Division, he later was part of the rebuilding of the electronic music scene in New Order, and branched in his bands Monaco and Revenge. From producing critically acclaimed albums, creating and running dance clubs, DJ gigs, he has had his hand in many pots and he shows no signs of slowing down in Peter Hook and The Light, the vehicle used to play his storied back catalogue in full. Playing 30 cities straight is a lot for any band and eight years straight is a career in itself. You couldn’t tell Hook that, and you could not tell watching Hook fronting Peter Hook and the Light. Playing Respectable Street’s 31st annual free block party headlining 30 other bands, this was Hooky’s third to last night of tour, playing only Orlando and St Petersburg before setting into the next step in his discography.
In peak form, Hook tore through an opening set starting with Unknown Pleasure’s “New Dawn Fades” and into New Order’s “Ceremony”. The crowd was eclectic in the very sense of the word. From people who were there from the beginning wearing faded Joy Division/New Order/newly purchased Peter Hook and The Light tour shirts, to those born long after Joy Division became New Order and all those in between, the crowd stretched from the outdoor stage framed and punctuated by shipping trains in movement to over halfway down the block. Bodies were swaying, dancing, so many people stayed until the 12:15 AM time slot to catch The Light. “Digital” was next, punctuated in Hooky’s husky growl and had the audience moving steadily. “Warsaw” and “Shadowplay” rounded out the Joy Division opening and then into “Everything’s Gone Green”, “Thieves Like Us” with backing vocals from David Potts, lead vocals of Monaco. The unmistakable opening of “The Perfect Kiss” brightened the set and went into “Subculture”, “Temptation”, and finished with an extended pulsing “Blue Monday”, which had everyone from the many different decades dancing.
Running as long as the time slot allowed, Hooky said goodnight and the stage went black. The MC came out and stated in the many years of doing this that they had never seen so many people. Requiring the audience to cheer in hopes of an encore which *surprise* worked the band returned to the stage and played some of the most beloved songs in both bands repertoire. “Bizarre Love Triangle”, “True Faith”, and “Transmission”, which was done so emotionally by Hook that one wonders if anyone really danced to the radio before that moment, and finishing with “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. If anything Peter Hook and The Light gives their very all to the material that is so beloved to so many. This was how the songs were meant to be played, by the person who was there, who made them, and whom after all the decades and the strife continues to give everything in each performance.
QRO: When you booked the show did you know that you were playing a free festival?
Peter Hook: No, not really. I don’t look at the list. [laughs] I just presumed it would be a normal. I knew it was a festival, I didn’t know it was a free festival. Free festivals are always more difficult, because it means that your audience…
QRO: More varied?
PH: So it’s very difficult to please everyone. Sometimes it’s a good idea, and sometimes it’s not. Rodney [Mayo], who organizes it, is a huge fan, you see. So for him it’s like a dream come true, but usually for the groups involved it’s a nightmare come true. You can’t please everyone.
You know the thing is, it’s a great job, so I’m not complaining. Some people have to work for a living! So no, I’m fine.
QRO: You’ve been there from the start of punk, made post-punk, worked on creating a new style of electronic music. What comes next in music? Where is it going?
PH: I’m afraid my stint’s over. I’ve done my 40 years; somebody else can do the rest. The thing is, one thing we have in this day and age is a huge variety of choice. Choice doesn’t really make things better. You just get swamped and overwhelmed. It’s like looking at an Instagram feed, isn’t it? You don’t know where to look. It all looks interesting, but you don’t know where to look. It’s more difficult.
I think that things in the past, before the Internet, things sort of grew more organically and were slower and also more earned. It’s difficult for an ‘80s musician to relate to 2018 I have to say. In fact, you’re supposed to give your music away, and I can’t get my head around that.
QRO: On making original music…
PH: Peter hook and The Light is the vehicle to play the old stuff. If we are going to do something original, it would probably be as Monaco. But really to be honest with you, because of the court case, I’ve been working for six years just to pay cost. So I’ve not have the luxury of being able to sit there and go, “Oh you know what I’d really like to do a new record,” because I’ve been having to gig to pay the cost of the case. It’s over now, well it’s not really over, but has come to a halt if you can even contemplate something like that. We’ll have to wait and see.
You know the thing is, it’s a great job, so I’m not complaining. Some people have to work for a living!
QRO: Totally #teamhooky here.
PH: It’s very well documented what they did. I’m not too sure it made them many friends, really. It was just an unusual way to do it, and it was very sad after all those years. To be in New Order for 31 years one minute and then to not, with no consultation. It’d be like your missus locking you out and throwing your boombox through the window. It was that much of a shock. I think that we can all safely say that it wasn’t handled very well on any side. [laughs]
But you know groups – we weren’t not the first. We won’t be the last. It’s just something that happens to groups. They’re always there to be taken advantage of various people through your career. I think at the end of your career most groups seem to be taken advantage of by the legal system or lawyers.
QRO: They are the ones that stand to profit most from the situation…
PH: Always. They profit from the argument and they always wanted to. It’s not like if you go to a lawyer and say, “I’m thinking of divorcing my husband.” A lawyer is not going to go, “Well I’ll tell you what, why don’t we go talk about it in the coffee shop round the corner.” It doesn’t happen like that, to my mind.
One thing I’ve learned, I remember when Andy Rourke told me about The Smiths case. He said it was the worst thing he’d ever been through in his life. Undoubtedly the worst thing. He said it made heroin addiction look like a walk in the park. And I was like, ‘Oh what a drama queen,’ and then of course you get there and you realize that he was absolutely under-exaggerating, if anything. It’s just one of those things, but you learn the hard way, you know that’s what life’s all about. Experience isn’t it? There you go.
QRO: How do you choose which material to use?
PH: Well I mean it’s a bit different tonight, because normally my gimmick is to play the LPs in their entirety. So I don’t have a problem, and generally because New Order very cleverly left the singles off the LPs, you can always play them at the end. So actually our idea that we came up with in 1977 actually stood us in very good stead, because it meant that the singles, the most commercial songs were never on the LPs, so it always means you can play them at the end. So it’s great, it’s perfect.
So tonight is different because we were supposed to be playing the two Substances tonight, but they didn’t have enough time. They didn’t think about that, so we are down to an hour and a quarter when normally we would be playing two and three quarters. But it’s good – it means it will just go for me in the blinking of the eye. So no, I don’t have that problem.
The problem there with picking a set list, which I wanted to avoid, is that you fall into that trap of emulating or pretending to be the group. I’ve never pretended to be either Joy Division or New Order, so it was very important not to do that for me. So playing the LP means I don’t have to pretend to be the group, you see, I celebrate the art of the record and I play the tracks in the order that are on the record so it’s easy for me as it worked out.
I think that we can all safely say that it wasn’t handled very well on any side. [laughs]
QRO: But you are both.
PH: Well that’s generally not for me to say is it? [laughs] Well, it’s a very difficult thing in many ways. You could say that the fans are better off because they have two incarnations playing the music, than playing the same material it seems over and over again, and us going through the LPs. I must admit for me it’s been fantastic, because every time we wrote an LP and it disappeared into the ether, we’d play two or three songs off it. I always felt an immense longing for the ones that we never played, so to get them all back was fantastic and to work your way through them is wonderful. I must admit I’ve really enjoyed playing every single one and I’ve found that the music that I least liked when we did it.
This time has been the music that I most liked… which is a bit bizarre. So in that case I’m looking forward to Republic and Technique because Technique is my favorite New Order LP and Republic is my least favorite. So it’s going to be interesting playing them both to see what happens, whether Republic will become my favorite? Well, I don’t know. It’s interesting, it just strikes me that it’s a little more arty and it’s a little bit more difficult for the audience as well, which I like. I like it being difficult for the audience because they’ve got to listen to the LPs in the LP order, and it works.
If anything you’ve found a lot of likeminded souls that are happy do what you do, so it’s great, it’s been really good. I’ve watched it grow over the eight years amazingly, considering we started in Manchester for 250 people. Tonight’s not really an indication but to play in L.A. to three thousand is a huge compliment. It’s been worth it, the band did great. They really do work hard. In many ways I wished they’d written the material because they do it such justice.
QRO: So that’s what’s coming next?
PH: Yes. We start Technique and Republic in September. It’s quite a job, really. Technique isn’t because Technique we wrote the three of us, me Barnie [Bernard Sumner], and Steve [Morris], so it was actually really well done.
Republic was such a mess. When you listen to it, you can hear that would have been great if had been finished off. It was never finished off by us because we hated each other so much we wouldn’t even stay in the same room as each other, and the producer was left to do it on his own basically. Piece it together like a jigsaw. When you listen to it, when I listen to it I’m actually thinking, ‘Oh god, it’s going to be so much better ‘cause it needs finishing off.’ It’s never been finished it off really. We didn’t finish it off. Stephen Hague did to his satisfaction, but listening to it, I’m thinking, ‘It’s going to be so much better.’
I expect Republic will be a lot rockier which I think is what it needs to be honest. Some of them sound very Pet Shop Boys. Steven Hague was the Pet Shop Boy’s producer and I think that Bernard, because he loved them, just like I love the Pet Shop Boys, he loved them as well. I think he took the opportunity to sound like Pet Shop Boys because there was nobody there from New Order to make him sound like New Order, which is very sad, but that’s just life. We’re all still here. [laughs]
I’ve watched it grow over the eight years amazingly, considering we started in Manchester for 250 people.
QRO: So tell me, what your set up is for bass this tour?
PH: Right, well, the bass rigs are all hired apart from my foot pedals, so it’s not really worth talking about because, to be honest, I don’t know until I get there. I don’t know what it is. Yeah, you can’t carry it with you. We used to carry all our gear around as New Order. It was quite funny at the end. You turn round and go, ‘Where did all the money go?’ You look at the flight cases and you think, ‘That’s where all the money went.’ Flying all that shit around the world over and over again, yes, so it’s a silly thing to do. It’s not really good for your green, for your green credentials.
So it’s easy for us to just bring foot pedals and a guitar, and I just play whatever I do. You have to have the state of mind. There are probably a certain people who wouldn’t be able to handle that. You have to have an attitude and get on with it. You play. It doesn’t matter, does it? The spirit takes you through. That’s what you have to do, and that’s what we all do. We’re all really good at that. It doesn’t matter, you can be presented with a couple of dustbins, a piece of string on a tea chest, and we’d still say, ‘Ah, fuck it, we’ll give it a go.’ But some people won’t. So you have to find people with the right attitude. Luckily for me now, we all have the same attitude, so it doesn’t matter what you get. You just make the most of it; you make the best of it. What else can you do?