Peter Hook interview

Former Joy Division and New Order bassist talks life and legacy ahead of Dubai DJ gig


Peter Hook is a man you might describe as having a reputation. As the bassist in Manchester’s melancholic Joy Division he redefined the role of the bass guitar, with searing melodic lead hooks which chimed in the chasms of sounds left between Bernard Sumner’s chilling guitar and Stephen Morris’ funeral drum march. Then against all odds, following the suicide of iconic frontman Ian Curtis, Hook and the remaining bandmates formed New Order, again morphing the musical landscape as one of the first groups to allow house and electronic sounds into a rock band.

But Hook’s reputation is based on more than music – he’s someone you might describe lovingly as having character. As one of the leading forces behind Manchester nightclub The Haçienda he can be credited with igniting thousands of weddings (and breakups) and losing millions of pounds (an experience he documented in book How Not to Run a Club) – all by-products of helping kick-start the ’80s UK house scene. Hook recently branched out into academia – launching an MA course at a UK university – and then there’s the small matter of the bitter spat between Hooky and Sumner, ongoing since the former quit New Order in 2007. The band reformed without their bassist two years later, while Hook revisits old songs on stage with his new(ish) band The Light, as well as touring the world starting parties as a DJ – which is what he’s coming to Dubai to do (again). Ahead of the Friday April 18 date, we caught up with a legend.

What can we expect from your Dubai set? Last time you were here was a Hacienda tribute – but this time you’re playing an indie night. Even more guitar music?
What I’ve learned over my, blimey, eight years of DJing – and which all the DJ’s I’ve worked with have told me – is that you have to play to the crowd and read what they want, there really are no rules to it. A lot of my stuff tends to cross over with indie-ish tastes anyway, and always has, so it’s not difficult for me to play across both [house and indie]. People do always want you to play some New Order and perhaps Joy Division remixes at these sort of things, as well as the more up and coming tracks. I think we’ll be well served.

In the main: A crossover of a lot of my stuff with indie – like with New Order really – lots of remixes, and I suppose what you would call indie dance.

It is quite a pressure but I’ve always relished that really whether playing like, doing talks or whatever. I’ve got more used to and experienced at Djing and have been doing it over a decade now, I find I can read a crowd better and more intuitively and I always look to combine a great mix of material in my sets, whether remixes, new tunes or classics, I often get compliments on the variety of music I play in my sets which is very pleasing.

What do you get out of DJing that you don’t get out of playing live?
Well Djing is easier than performing live in some ways, and not in others really. DJing you’re on your own whereas with bands there is always people to hide behind, yet you have to take much less gear with DJing though. The two are different breeds as well, with Djing you’re concentrating on your mixing and with live on your overall performance. I do enjoy both, but for largely different reasons.

What are three tunes you can rely on to fill a floor?
‘Born Slippy’ – Underworld

‘Blue Monday (Todd Terry Mix)’ – New Order

‘The End (Richie G Remix)’ – Hot Since 82

Do you think most bands under-use the bass? You laid down basslines people can hum today – most rock bassists don’t.
Well it is always very nice to think that you have made a distinctive contribution to something, and I suppose that my bass playing has become influential and is an integral part of the sound we created, not just in indie music, but in dance music as well. There are other bands and bassists who use the bass. but just not in what you would call our style but I see a lot of it, and acid house in general across more melodic dance music. It’s good to have been seen to having contributed and hopefully inspired people.

Why did you get into education? What is it you want to teach the next generation coming up? (Hook launched a brand new Masters in Music Industry Management and Promotion at the UK’s University of Central Lancashire).
And on that note, I am not really an academic person, I did not do very well at school, so it is nice to now be involved with the degree programme as it is almost like a second chance for me to go back to school. I suppose first and foremost my roles is as a mentor, I come up with ideas to give the kids practical experience as well as experience in the classroom, as the first thing you get asked when you go for any job is what actual experience you have. By getting the students involved with our Preston gigs its one of our ways to make sure that they get practical experience, as well as them also being with The Factory club in Manchester. I do enjoy it, it’s great to go over and meet the students and be able to give them advice and assist them.

Graeme Park told us you’d worked out every single guest of the Hacienda owes you a tenner [Dhs61]. Was it worth it?
That was me actually. I worked that one out when I did the accounts for the Hacienda book. Well there aren’t many bands who educate or entertain a city for fifteen years are there in truth?

For me, I wouldn’t change anything, although I think certain people might not agree. I had some fantastic times there and had some of the scariest nights of my life there as well. I was out with all the bouncers the other week and they were are laughing about it with me and I think that shows how far we’ve come with it all. Doing the book [How Not to Run a Club] really helped me, it reminded me that there were great times within the disaster and it did change the world. It provided me, and I hope other people who read it, with some perspective, that the Hacienda wasn’t a failure, in many ways it was a huge success – keeping it open for fifteen years certainly was.

For me, there’s nowhere nowadays that seems to have that blend of idealism and creativity, with no boundaries and lacking any sense of financial considerations or consequences that The Hacienda had. And that is a huge part of the legacy and the respect for the Hacienda, the fact that we did it and lost a fortune, gives it a certain edge in music history and I’m very proud of that.

If you had one night to go back to any time and place in your life, when would it be?

That’s far too difficult to answer that one, I suppose I would like to do all of it again, all of the good times anyway. Even in one night, it would be like the good parts of your life flashing before your eyes, it’d be helpful for remembering things for the books.

We’ve got another world cup coming up. What do you make of ‘World in Motion’ 24 years on, and what’s your favourite footie song?
Well I’ve got to say that really looking at it, there isn’t really that much competition really, is there, for that title. What was nice about ‘World in Motion’ is that ourselves and Keith Allen always wanted it to stand alone as a song, and not just be about football, and we achieved that I think. I actually had an offer to go to Brazil off a friend over there Mark Hilary, who writes for the Huffington Post and has links to the British Embassy, but I was gutted ‘cause we couldn't get the dates to work with my other commitments

If you’d never met the others and formed Joy Division, where and what would you be doing today?
Thankfully I’ve no idea, I’m lucky that I’ve had 30 years plus of this charmed life. I think it would have probably been [very] hard work. I’d probably be working in a scrapyard, I’m just glad it worked out this way.

Peter Hook plays for Step On at Level 41, Media One Hotel, on Friday April 18. 9pm-3am – free entry before 11pm, Dhs100 after.

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