Published Oct 30, 2007Known as the bassist for two of Britains most celebrated bands of the last 30 years, Joy Division and New Order, Peter Hook has achieved legendary status within musical circles by forging his own unique sound that is responsible for some of pop musics most memorable rhythms and melodies. He now finds himself being immortalised on the big screen for the second time, in Anton Corbijns debut feature film, Control, which documents the rise of Joy Division and the devastating downfall of their singer Ian Curtis. We managed to get Peter on the phone, right before he started practicing with his latest band Freebass he points out, to discuss Control and Joy Division, a new documentary directed by Grant Gee (Radioheads Meeting People is Easy) as well as the current status of New Order, among other things.
What do you think about Control and Grant Gee's Joy Division doc?
Thats a hell of a question. Well, Control is the cinematic version of the story made for that purpose, to be shown as a movie. Joy Division is a documentary, and to be honest with you, I was very sceptical at the beginning, but when I saw them both I was amazed, because the two of them went together so well. As long as you see it the right way round wait, I saw Control first, and then the documentary, which I found to be perfect. I spose Ill have to try it the other way round to see which ways better.
It was quite a treat for me because I dont hear Bernard or Stephen talk about what we went through because thats just not something that we do. So it actually gave me a nice education to it all again, because I got to hear how they felt. It was quite a revelation, to be honest.
In Control, would you say Ian was portrayed the way you remember him? [Laughs] Well, if theres one thing Ive found about memory, its that every single person remembers every single thing completely differently. And 24 Hour Party People was a very good way of looking at everything differently all joined together. What we did [for that movie] was everyone remembered it differently, so the script writer just put everybodys different memories together just to come up with something entertaining. Nothing happened that much in Control; its much more straightforward. There are only some little things that surprise you really thats different to how you remember it.
What about the actor that played you?
What about him?
Umm how would you say he did portraying Peter Hook?
[Laughs] Well I spose in a way, yknow, 30 years down the line sometimes I hardly recognise myself from all that time ago. He seemed to do alright to me. I seemed much more tuned in to that portrayal than I did the one in 24 Hour Party People.
I was just going to ask you how you felt about that Peter Hook
Well, I mean, he was just less. Its a funny thing, 24 Hour Party People, it was a completely different vibe. I knew Anton was going to make something that was much grittier, much more real. I knew that was gonna happen anyway. 24 Hour Party People was a bit of a pantomime, but it achieved what it set out to do. It was enjoyed by so many people it was fantastic.
The moment in Joy Division that stands out most for me is when you explain how you felt when you found out about Ian's death. Was it something you saw coming?
No, no, no. I didnt expect it at all, to be honest. Because I was with Ian on the Friday night, and I drove him home in my car to his parents. We were really jumpin about in the car, excited about America. So, unless he was a very good actor, in my mind something really changed his mind between Friday night, when I dropped him off, and Saturday night, when he killed himself. The thing is, none of us will ever know what that was. You have a theory, but you dont really know.
When can we expect the New Order biopic?
[Laughs] Erm, well I dont know! When somebody decides to make it, I spose. The funny thing about the New Order story is that I think its just as interesting in many different ways as the Joy Division story, but the New Order one lasts much, much longer. We were New Order for 30 years. Was it 30 years? No, 26 1981 to 2007, so New Order lasted for 26 years. So it could be just as interesting, but itd have to cover a much longer period.
The New Order Story doc that came out in 1994 showed it would make a great film. And next to Joy Division, the pair of them work beautifully together in telling the story of you, Bernard and Stephen.
I can almost admit, just by hanging around as long as we have, weve certainly got a wealth of material to draw from, without a shadow of a doubt. But I know what you mean about the New Order one, its so much lighter, which is quite a contrast. As a musician, Im very proud of what Anton has done with Control and Im very proud of what Tom [Attencio] and Grant Gee have achieved with Joy Division. I look at it and I go "Fooking hell, yknow it staggers me what happened, and also because I know what happened after. Its amazing to pull back from what happened to Joy Division to becoming New Order as we did. And it does make me immensely proud of what we achieved and we werent really thinking much about it while we were doing it, which is the oddest thing. Yknow what I mean? Im grateful for it as a musician. All of the bands that can come up and try to sound like you, none of them have been able to pull it off. Bands like the Editors, Interpol, and none of them have been able to knock you off. Yknow, Nirvana didnt, theyre all so different. Im amazed.
Well, considering New Order and Joy Division are my two favourite bands of all time, I can certainly agree with all of that.
Well, its quite a new thing with New Order because Ive not really gotten used to living without New Order yet. Its only been six months or so since we split up or whatever Its quite easy to put Joy Division to one side because it ended quite logically. New Order, even when it stops and starts has been quite illogical really. It stops you looking at it straight. But I have to admit, Im quite proud of what we achieved and that we lasted as long as we did. New Order was an incredible feat.
I think over the years fans have gotten used to New Order going on hiatuses. Can you tell me what the current status is of New Order? It seems a little unclear at this point.
As far as Im concerned weve split up and thats the end of it. Weve agreed that were not going to be working together on any future projects.
Was there anything going on in the studio after Waiting For the Sirens Call?
Yeah, that was one of the things I was very annoyed about. We kept telling everyone we would do another LP very quickly, and we had the tracks to release and we didnt do it. We kept trying to do it and we were going to do it, but when we had a meeting recently, Bernard, Stephen and I, we agreed that we were going to get those tracks sorted and get them out, which is something I think we should have done two years ago, really. I dont think theyll get better, leaving them standing. I think we should get those tracks left off Waiting For the Sirens Call out. They werent left off because they were b-sides, they were left off because there wasnt room on the CD.
Are there still songs from over the years sitting around waiting for a release?
No, I mean its been pretty exhausted actually. Its quite an odd thing because Ive been sort of taking stock of the tapes and stuff that I have, and I have a lot of versions of songs that would be nice to do something with in the future. Its interesting that people like to see the development of where songs come from, which I never really got. I cant really see what people want to hear that, dya know what I mean?
I can understand it from your point of view. That said, though, hearing "Ceremony from the Joy Division box set was a revelation for me.
I know, it was amazing to me that I found the versions of Ian singing "Ceremony and "In A Lonely Place. They were on a cassette that was literally holding the table up in my office. And I thought, "What is that cassette? Then I put it on and thought, "Fuckin hell, is that Ian singing? That cassette contained the only master of Ian singing those songs that exists, and its when you find something like that, its a wonderful, wonderful moment because you didnt think that you had it. So I was very happy to find that. There will be things like that to come. As I said before, I see New Order as finished, and thats just the way it is.
This can apply to both bands, but while you were making the music did you ever have any idea at all that the music you were making would be so important and influential for the next generations to come?
Nope, never, ever thought about it. The only thing we ever wanted to make was a great song that moved you, really. I think we were lucky that we did that for quite a lot of people, but I think musicians get quite deluded. Yknow, musicians write these songs and think theyre fantastic and dont understand why the rest of the world doesnt agree with them. We were lucky that the rest of the world agreed with us. I must admit, I thought we were great but then again, I thought we were great when we were Warsaw. A musician who writes a piece of music is usually the worst judge. Youve got to be pretty ballsy to stand up for the first two years and have people throw things at you. Youve got to have it in your blood. In the old days they used to throw things at you, nowadays its just Simon Cowell throwing bad comments at you. Thats the change its like a personal attack now, with X Factor, Pop Idol, things like that.
For some people that hurts more than a bottle though. Yeah, I know. Thats what I dont like as a musician. Id much rather have someone throw a bottle at me than tell me I couldnt play. Im afraid the pair of them would get the same reaction, which is a guitar over the head.
Can you tell me a little about your new band, Freebass?
Yeah, Im just doing Freebass this moment. Weve got the vocalist in, and were just working on the vocals for the band. I was very happy yesterday, Tim Burgess from the Charlatans came in and did a vocal for us and its fucking fantastic, Im absolutely delighted, I couldnt be happier at the moment, to be honest. Hes made the song wonderful. Im really pleased with the way its coming along now.
Do you have a vocalist? Or are you using different vocalists?
What happened was when we didnt have a vocalist, friends of ours, like Ian Brown, Tim Burgess, Bobby Gillespie offered to sing with us, Pete Wiley out of Wah! Heats doing one, Howard Marks, Ian McCullochs doing one a lot of people have offered to help us out and were sort of exploring that angle. But in between that I knew we needed our own vocalist because obviously we couldnt play live with ten vocalists. So we had to get a normal one, you know what I mean, singer. Now Ive got a young lad here whos called Carl White, and hes just about to start singing, actually. Youre stopping him! [Laughs]
Only a couple more questions.
Its okay mate, dont worry.
There are three bassists in Freebass, which leads me to wonder: Is there ever too much bass?
Well, its a funny thing, Ive just been away with Mani over the weekend doing some DJ work. I put it on my MySpace, actually, my blog. And we were talking about bass players, and it was funny, my wife said bass players have a complex. [Laughs] And I was thinking, "Fuckin hell, I think shes absolutely right! Basically its an inferiority complex. Guitarists suffer from a superiority complex. Lead singers have a "lead singer syndrome. And drummers are just mental, arent they? [Laughs] I thought as a bunch of gross generalisations, they were pretty good.
The three of you together arent exactly just three bassists playing together though.
Well, the reason why the three of us came together is because we think alike, and act alike that is the main thing that has brought us together. We also happen to be bass players. I dont know what to draw from that. People will listen to music and decide whether its good or not. Thats all we have to wait and see for. I did love it that we already got our first bad review on the internet, and were not even out yet! I thought that was great that we got our first bad review and were not even out.
Over the past few years youve been touring the world as a DJ. What do you get from DJing that you might not get from being a musician?
To me its the second best job in the world. Getting paid to go around and play music that you love for people. It doesnt get much better than that, apart from playing in a group. I think the thing is that groups change, and you might all be in it for the same reasons when you start, but invariably youre not in it for the same reasons after ten or 20 years. It becomes difficult. DJing, its just you! Theres nobody to annoy you, but also theres no one to share it with if you have a great night. And also if it starts going wrong theres no one to help you out.
How do you find the music you play?
I just listen, quite simply. Actually while working on the New Order album I stopped listening to music, but when I started DJing it gave me a reason to listen to music again and I was delighted about that. I wanted to be enjoying music, devouring it actually. I think its usually in the tracks that move me. Ill play anything from "No Fun by the Sex Pistols, the Charlatans, you name it. I love progressive house, a bit of minimal, right the way through to reggae, anything. I just put it all together and hope that people agree. You know when youre in love, and you make a tape for your girlfriend, thats what I do every night.