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 touring the entirety of Unknown Pleasures. He spoke to us before his upcoming LA show this Saturday at the Music Box.
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.
Speaking of the Pistols, a few years back, you and Stephen were on Steve Jones' Jonesy's Jukebox show on Indie 103.1 He's now on KROQ, which is far more mainstream.
You know what, I did one of the first interviews with KROQ when they weren't a mainstream station.
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 the 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 eery, 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've like and what people like about the record.
So much about the making of the album has become part of rock 'n' roll legend. Anything you'd like to share that even you're hard core fans aren't aware of?
The thing to remember is that the whole album was done from start to finish in three days. You literally walked in, played and then got out. It wasn't like with New Order where we spent months and months in the studio, and months and months disappearing up our own asses. With Joy Division, we just got in there and played. A lot of books have been written that don't get the story. That's one of the reasons why my next book (follow up to 2008's How Not to Run a Club) is about the band, simply because nobody whose written about us was there. So I supposed for things like you'll have to wait, haven't you?
Do you have a favorite track?
The one I really enjoy at the moment is "Candidate," which we downplayed in Joy Division. We hardly played it. That to me sounds fantastic.
Peter Saville's cover art -- white nova star against a black backdrop -- has appeared on everything from Urban Outfitters T-shirts to sneakers. How do you feel about the image becoming part of pop culture and the commercialization of punk in general?
I spend a lot of time trying to stop most of it because it's all bootleg, which is one of the unfortunate aspects of the business. I went into a shop and saw a Sex Pistols mug and thought, 'that's fucking gross.' And I bought it [laughs]. It's proudly displayed in my office. I guess it's nice that it becomes part of life. You have to take it as a compliment because of the impact it had on so many people. When I play a gig and look out at the audience, you're literally looking at a sea of Joy Division T-shirts. And it always makes me wonder, 'who had the last laugh?' The band for not doing it, or the bootleggers for doing it? Are you right in denying them, or should you give it to them? Then you become a whole new thing, don't you? You become a Walmart of Joy Division. It's a thin line that any band has to tread. You're bootlegged on the Internet, so you can't sell records. And you can't stop people from bootlegging your images. On the other hand, it's an acceptance, and they are part of your life. It would be better if the bands were benefitting from it in some way, but it can't be a hindrance in what you do.
There was a good five-year epidemic of Joy Division-sounding groups, going back to 2002 with Interpol. Were you a fan of any of the bands?
I don't mind it. Again, it has to be taken as a compliment. When Carlos left Interpol, they did an Internet application form to be a bass player. I applied and didn't get picked [laughs]. I applied as Peter Hook, and they turned me down.
How do you ultimately feel about the biopics 24 Hour Party People and Control?
The problem is that everyone remembers everything differently. Michael Winterbottom saw it as a farce. And I mean that in the nicest possible way, like a National Lampoon. He did 24 Hour Party People to show the mistakes, to show that we were quite happily laughing at ourselves, didn't take it too seriously and had a good time while doing it. He didn't have to show the people as they were. They all became caricatures. Anton, who knows us very well personally, got the whole atmosphere more truthfully. He wanted to portray the people exactly as they were. I could recognize myself in Control, but i couldn't recognize myself in 24 Hour Party People. But it didn't stop me from enjoying it for what it was.
Peter Hook Presents Unknown Pleasures, Sat., Dec. 11, at the Music Box, 6126 Hollywood Blvd., Hlywd.; $28.