Unknown Pleasures: Music legend Peter Hook & The Light celebrates the enduring influence of Joy Division

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Peter Hook

ONE of rock’s iconic figures, Peter Hook will bring his celebration of the legacy of Joy Division back to Limerick for a show at the Milk Market. The founding member of the band will perform both Joy Division albums ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and ‘Closer’ in full plus singles and B sides along with an opening set of New Order material.

If you have seen Peter Hook & The Light at one of their three previous visits to Limerick, you know what a class show you are getting, the band faithfully reproduce Joy Division’s music with a punk energy making for a visceral live experience.

These Joy Division album shows have become much less common for The Light as they move through their progression of touring the New Order albums in succession since 2012.
Chatting on the phone to Peter Hook, the legendary bass player is looking forward to his return to Limerick playing another show for Mick Dolan.

“We always have an amazing time. it’s one of those places that has a wonderful vibe to it. As soon as you get there you know you’re going to have a great night.”
As these shows are covering Hook’s early days – it gives us a chance to chat about the earliest days – The first record he bought was ‘Ride A White Swan’ (T-Rex).
“The first record I stole was ‘Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town’ (Kenny Rogers) because the choice was limited.”

Joy Division was formed by school friends Peter Hook and Barney Sumner joined by Ian Curtis and eventually drummer Stephen Morris.
Hooky wanted to play in a band because he wanted to be exactly like The Sex Pistols after seeing them play in 1976. He ended up playing bass because Barney already had a guitar that he got for Christmas.

The “wannabe Sid Vicious” was a bit miffed initially that his guitar only had four strings but his “lead bass” playing style has influenced generations of musicians, The Cure, Nirvana and Interpol to name just a few.

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On many Joy Division tracks such as ‘She’s Lost Control’ and ‘Disorder’ Hooky’s guitar playing leads the song’s groove and melody with distinctive bass-lines.
Has he any concept of the huge influence that has had?
“I don’t dwell on it much maybe because let’s face it, you know, we still have to put the bins out, clear up after the dog and do as we are told by the missus.”

“Every time someone comes up to me, and says that I influenced them to do anything, it really is a wonderful compliment, because I always go up to Glen Matlock, and whenever I see Glen Matlock, I always go – This is all your fault!
And he always says exactly the same thing to me.
“He always goes – F*ck Off Hooky!”

Hook recorded eight albums with New Order before announcing in 2007 that he and singer/guitarist Sumner were no longer working together. In 2011 New Order reformed but without Hook in the band.
Hook has collaborated with many musicians over the years, notably among them, Perry Farrell, Mani and Andy O’Rourke but he revealed that he applied to join a band who were very influenced by his playing style and heard nothing back!
Peter Hook applied to be the bass player with Interpol!
“I was unemployed and I applied to be the bass player in Interpol.
“I filled out the internet form and it said, you know, what’s your history? and I put down that, I was in a band called Joy Division and I was in a band called New Order.

When asked how many gigs have you done? Oh, you know, 2000 plus or whatever. I filled all this out and I added my name and my address, and I never heard a bloody thing.”
The most likely reason for Interpol’s rejection is of course, they didn’t believe a word in the application and figured it was someone having a laugh.
“It’s quite funny because for the first time ever, we’re actually playing with Interpol. We’re doing a festival in Mexico next year. I’ll remind them!”

Hook’s distinctive playing style makes his stand out and no one can do Hook better than the man himself which means he probably isn’t the player to blend in with other bands.
“You know, I’m not very good at being told what to do so I’d make a lousy session player. I got turned down to be a bass player with Primal Scream as well. They felt that they’d sound too much like New Order with me in the band.”

Joy Division formed in 1976. While the music they made was dark and dischordent, did Peter Hook and the band have a lot of fun in those early days touring the small venues?
“You know why it was the fun part? Because it was so new. It’s not fun anymore!
“But yeah, we did. We were very young. Everything was very exciting. And we knew every last shit dressing room!
I mean, I didn’t even see a toilet seat until it was about 30 odd. I always thought toilets didn’t have seats!.

“We called it in the old days paying your dues. It was a tough life. I mean, we never earned any money as Joy Division.
In fact the only time the band did earn some decent money was when singer Paul Young performed a cover version of Love Will Tear Us Apart on his million selling pop album ‘No Parlez’
“We were so hard up and we really didn’t want to do it because it was Paul Young. And he paid us I think it was 20,000 quid for the privilege.”
Grace Jones also made a Joy Division song her own covering ‘She’s Lost Control’.
“I think we got seven grand for that. It didn’t help Joy Division much and the fact that they all went into the bloody Hacienda. (The nightclub in Manchester run by New Order’s record label)

“It was a nice compliment to realise that the group hadn’t disappeared. As I play now, watching the amount of people that are there to share, no pun intended, the joy that I feel playing the music it’s great to be amongst people that love Joy Division as much as me.”

“I must admit with the other members of Joy Division masquerading as New Order it makes me laugh that now, Barney and Steve feel that they have to bring it back by playing it (Joy Division songs) themselves, which is something they resisted valiantly while we were together as New Order.”

The tour is celebrating 40 years of the legacy of Ian Curtis and Joy Division and a celebration of a decade of performing as Peter Hook & The Light. Covid lockdown delayed this tour until now but the band have been making up for lost time and are sharp and ready for Limerick.

“I’ve been celebrating Joy Division’s music now since 2010, which was when we did 30 years of Ian Curtis’s life. As you know, we never celebrated anything to do with Joy Division whilst we were together as New Order. But when New Order split up it really struck me how sad that was.

“We are celebrating 40 years of Ian Curtis’s life and legacy which seems to get bigger and bigger every year. We’ve done an American tour, we’ve done a Holland or we’ve toured Belgium, we really are at the peak of our efficiency.”
And perhaps, this is as it should be that Joy Division’s short life as a band still has relevance around the world and Peter is in a position to share that piece of music history with fans.

“The interesting thing was when we were together, one of Ian’s greatest rabble rousing speeches to us all was how well we were going to be appreciated around the world.
“And he used to get us really wound up with it, you know, saying we’re going to be in South America. We’re going to be in North America. We’re going to be here. They’re everywhere. Everyone’s going to love it.”
“Whenever we actually make it somewhere today playing Joy Division that we’ve not played before and it goes well, it strikes me as another one that I’ve crossed off in Curtis’s bucket list if you like.”

Joy Division were working on their third album when Ian Curtis tragically took his own life. Tracks such as Ceremony, Dreams Never End and In A Lonely Place were written,
Peter does think about what the band’s future would have been had they not lost their singer in 1980.

“I must admit that it looked good for Joy Division. You know, my relationship with Barney and Stephen didn’t break down irrevocably until 2006. So if you think about it, Joy Division may have got another 26 years before we all imploded.
“It’s quite odd looking back, and realising how serious Ian’s illness was, because we were so close to it. Whilst we knew and saw the physical effects. Obviously, the effects we didn’t see were the mental effects.
“It’s the one thing that you can’t evaluate and you can’t stick a plaster on. So you know, it’s one thing that it taught me. It taught me to look at people’s wellbeing in a different way to try and make up for the mistakes I still feel we made. It’s, you know, it’s the guilt of the survivor, isn’t it?”

After Ian’s passing, the remaining members of Joy Division carried on making music as New Order and have never played the music on those first two albums.
“That was a sort of ignorance of grief. You had grief so you just ignored it. We drowned the grief with New Order. You know, by throwing ourselves into New Order as hard as we did in total ignorance of Joy Division’s music.
“It’s fantastic now to have the freedom to play the music, because there was no freedom in New Order to play Joy Division’s music. You know, we did a great job of ignoring the music and I can’t for the life of me think why we thought that was a good idea.”

Peter Hook & The Light is a rush of punk energy when they play live. Playing the two albums produced by music legend Martin Hannett in full, it is well documented that Hooky wasn’t super happy when he first heard Hanett’s mixes for Unknown Pleasures in ‘79. Is the live show a version of how you have always heard the songs?

“Barney and I in particular, thought we were a punk band. And we were convinced we were a punk band up to the recording of ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and when Martin produced it he turned this into, I don’t even know how to describe it, I mean, we sounded like The Doors!
We wanted to sound like The Clash and The Sex Pistols. We were 23 and didn’t know our arse from our elbow.
“Martin Hannett gave us something that was absolutely priceless. He gave us longevity. The job he did was so magnificent. It was actually easy to realise that I owed him an apology and I owe him a debt.

“When we play Joy Division’s music we cannot hide our exuberance and our excitement in being able to play the bloody music.
Joy Division as a group, were much more different than the albums would suggest. We were very youthful, very exuberant. So the songs were always fast. And they were very spiky.
“So Joy Division live was a lot different to Joy Division on record.”
“What struck me in 2010 was that most people had heard only on record, never heard or seen Joy Division live, but you know, they had the records.
“I cannot hide my joy in being let loose at the ripe old age of bloody 66 to prance around like a kid enjoying myself.”

Peter Hook & The Light present Joy Division : A Celebration Live at the Big Top, Limerick Milk Market on Thursday November 10. Tickets www.dolans.ie