Q&A with Joy Division's Peter Hook
View photos of Peter Hook performing live in Timothy Norris' slideshow, "Peter Hook Plays 'Unknown Pleasures' @ The Music Box."
After a Joy Division U.S. tour was thwarted 30 years ago, the opportunity for most Americans to hear the band's 1979 debut album live was, much like its title, an unknown pleasure. For the past several months, Peter Hook — without fellow Joy Division/New Order members Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris — has been modestly touring the entirety of Unknown Pleasures. We interviewed the bassist — on his way to a performance and Q&A at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland — about music, myth and memories.
L.A. WEEKLY: Prior to performing Unknown Pleasures live, you mounted a spoken-word tour and exhibit of your memorabilia.
PETER HOOK: The spoken-word tour with [Welsh author and convicted dope smuggler] Howard Marks was a collection of my life. Just talking about different aspects, from Joy Division to New Order to the Hacienda [a defunct Manchester club he co-owned] to the present day. Basically bits of Joy Division equipment that are left: correspondence, tapes and collector's items. Things that people might like to see. And my Sex Pistols ticket [from their debut performance in Manchester in 1976].
How was the album tour conceived?
Playing Unknown Pleasures came about simply because Macclesfield, where Ian Curtis was born, proposed a 30-year anniversary exhibition and celebratory gig, which I thought was well overdue because they've never celebrated anything to do with Ian in his hometown. So I was quite happy. The whole thing fell through, right at the last minute, which I thought was a great shame. So I said, "Fuck it, I'll do meself." It was very successful in Manchester. And I thought that was it. But we got loads of interest. I was being asked from all over the world to come and play. And that's why we're here.
For the tour, you're taking on the vocal duties and playing with your own band, the Light, which includes your son, Jack. Were you initially looking for other singers?
Yeah, I was, but no one was up to it. The people I found were a bit upset by the Internet criticism that was leveled at the whole idea. You know, me performing it alone, which is quite interesting, because Bernard and Stephen perform Joy Division songs in [Bernard's current band] Bad Lieutenant. Again, I thought, "Sod it, I'll do it meself."
What's been the reaction from those two?
I have no communication with them.
Over the years, you've made no secret about the difficulty in embracing the album's dark and heavy sound. Has that changed?
At the time, we were young and basically wanted to sound like The Damned or Sex Pistols. Thank God [producer] Martin Hannett ignored us and took it to another dimension. He gave it a sound that was very eerie, deep and open. And to be honest with you, it's the production that's given it the longevity. If Bernard and I had done it, we would've just rammed it down everybody's throats, just like the Sex Pistols. It wouldn't have had the melancholy or depth. And what I've done with it very carefully is taken what I like and what people like about the record.
Peter Hook Presents Unknown Pleasures, Sat., Dec. 11, at the Music Box, 6126 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; $28.
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