This is an interview with Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook. The interview took place on behalf of ELECTRIC BANANA on 27th September 2012, leading up to the release of his latest book and his upcoming Unknown Pleasures tour.
“Electric Banana? That’s a wild name!”
Electric Banana caught up with the prominent bassist Peter Hook of Joy Division and New Order. With the exciting new of the release of the deeply honest and captivating Unknown Pleasures – Inside Joy Division written by Hooky himself Nick Pollard spoke to the muso turned author in regards to the book, live performances and the ever populating projects of Peter Hook.
Over the last couple of years, you have reflected a lot on Joy Division with your Unknown Pleasures tour and your book. Why now?
I started it two years ago, and around about the same time that I started playing Joy Division music again. The thing is… it’s an interesting point really because I got so fed of reading books by other people about Joy Division that weren’t there. So bolstered by the success of the Hacienda book (The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club), I thought ‘I’ll do it’! It’s as simple as that really.
The book contains a lot of insight into the dark side of the album’s creation and what happened behind the scenes. When writing, were there any times that you had second thoughts and felt ‘no, I can’t tell the world that’?
Yes. There’s load of stories really that whilst you can tell them orally, when you write them down you think ‘whoa, that’s a bit much!’. Writing them down does give it a whole different feel. So there are stories that are left out,. There wasn’t many of them, but there were some. Some of them while you might tell them in a pub over a few drinks, you certainly wouldn’t commit them to type!
Having not performed Closer before the end of Joy Division, was there extra pressure to make it perfect?
There was a lot of pressure which resulted in quite a lot of negative comments.
It’s interesting really because you have to bear in mind that most people who have heard Joy Division on record, haven’t heard them live. Live we were a hell of a lot different than on record. On record, Martin Hannett (producer of both Joy Division albums) had a great input to the sound, whereas live we were much edgier, much more stripped down, much more punky. It was only when I came to listen to the LPs again 30 years later that I realized what a fantastic job Martin Hannett had done, and what a pleasure it was to use his ambience and his effects. His sounds that he gave were such a gift. He really did make the music timeless. So when I play it live, I actually playing it very much like it is on the record. I must say that it has taken me 30 years to appreciate what a fantastic job he did.
Having performed Joy Division’s catalogue, you have announced two special concerts next year devoted to New Order’s first two albums. Again, why?
They’re just the next ones on my timeline. I was inspired by Bobby Gillespie (of Primal Scream) actually, who was doing Screamadelica, who gave me the idea to do the LPs. It’s quite an odd position to be in because if you’re just playing the music like a set, for me it’s just like The Clone Roses. You become like a tribute band of yourself. What I’m hoping, whether anyone agrees with me or not is that by playing the LPs, you are doing something a little more artistic. A little bit more dangerous. A little bit more difficult. The thing is, there are songs on the LP that people have never transcribed. Why? They’re difficult to play! (laughs). You tend to play the easy ones live and you think ‘oh god, that’s a bit… ugh shall we leave that off?’
How did you get involved with Africa Express?
I know Damon Albarn quite well, and funnily enough I used to see him a lot when he was having the fracas with Oasis and Blur. You know, that fight in the 90s. I’ve known him for a long time, and Alex James. We were all drinking buddies. Over the years he has asked me to do a couple of those African things. There was the one where he went to Ethiopia and another in England, and I was never able to do it. I was working. It was about the fourth time he asked me, and I was here and I was able to do it.
What is Damon like to work with?
Damon is one of those people who never rests. That guy is a complete music workaholic. You would think that somebody that successful would be in the south of France being fed grapes. [Laughs] He really does work, and strives for what he believes in. That music is capable of bringing people together and make the world a better place. That is really very admirable, the amount that he puts into it. I wish I had that!
A few days ago it was announced that Hop Farm Festival, where you performed early this year, has been cancelled amongst others. As a club owner yourself, how do you feel about the situation?
It’s very sad. Vince Power who ran it, the first time I met him was when we headlined Reading Festival in 1990. He’s a really nice guy, a real music fanatic and is someone who really should be in that job. But the current climate is very difficult. I have a club and… it’s difficult. I know how hard it is. To be honest with you, a lot of artists aren’t tuned and still charge a lot of money! [laughs]
It makes it very difficult to pull things off. It’s really sad news because, I’ll tell you what, I really enjoyed it. I thought it was a great festival. It had a very nice atmosphere. Because Bob Dylan was on, it was an older audience, which gives it a very nice, funky picnic-like vibe. We actually played while Bob was on. We started off to about 500, and Bob must have been a little bit… off shall we say because by the end we had about 2000!
You also DJ a lot. What are your all-time favourite dancefloor fillers?
The one that I always pull out of the bag is Born Slippy by Underworld. I know that if I put that on and it doesn’t get a great reaction then the night is dead. When you play in a band, your audience have come to see the band, so they’re usually on your side right from the word go, but with DJ-ing you do literally have to win them over every single night. Sometimes you’re looking into the abyss, and it’s very difficult. But I know if I put that on and it doesn’t get them going, I may as well just forget it.
Who was your favourite screen portrayal of you, Ralf Little (24 Hour Party People) or Joe Anderson (Control)?
Ha ha! Even though Ralf Little used to work with my ex-wife (Caroline Aherne, who starred with Ralf in The Royle Family), he didn’t really get it, for me. The reason Joe ‘got it’ was because he was coached by Anton Corbijn (who had worked as Joy Division’s photographer) who knows us really well. I knew that Anton is such a perfectionist that he would get Joe to do it, and he did it.
What is it like to see somebody play yourself?
There were some very uncomfortable moments where it was like watching a home movie, thinking ‘oh god, am I really like that?’. Joe got it bang-on, and all the other actors too. I could recognize Bernard, Steve and Rob. I went to the premiere in Cannes. At the end I was dying for a wee, so I legged it to the toilet. When I got in the toilet, next to me in the other three cubicles having a wee were the guys that played Bernard, Steve and Ian. The four of us were there weeing. I turned to the guy who played Bernard and said ‘where’s Joe?’. He said ‘he’s in Hollywood’. So I said, ‘if you’d have played me, you’d be in Hollywood!’. I like to think that Joe played me and I got him into Hollywood!