RAW Magazine sat down with Peter Hook in London in September 2012 to discuss music, image and Manchester. Now touring as a DJ, Hook was a co-founder of the post-punk band Joy Division along with Bernard Sumner in the mid-1970s. Following the death of lead singer Ian Curtis, the band reformed as New Order, and Hook played bass with them until his departure from the band in 2007. Here follows an excerpt of the conversation.
RAW Magazine: Why do you think New Order has been so influential and at the forefront of when music changes? We still hear, thirty years later, a lot of New Order on the radio… there's something timeless in the music. Because when you hear Love Vigilantes on the radio and it just pops up in the musical landscape of today, it’s hard to date the music.
Peter Hook: That has to be a gift doesn't it, given to you by God? Because it certainly isn't possible to create it without the help of some higher power. The thing is that Joy Division (which were post-punk) were quite different musically to punk. With New Order, we were trying to find our feet and we'd done the first album [Movement], it turned out to be quite Joy Division-ish musically, but not vocally. By the time you got to Temptation and Power Corruption & Lies albums, our music had evolved into what it would more or less stay as, which was the hybrid between rock and dance. It's interesting because Bernard [Sumner] and Stephen [Morris] were excited by the new technology. I must admit that I wasn't because I was just happy to be in a band – that played! But I did appreciate the new sound and I think the interesting thing was the amalgamation of me trying to stay traditional rock and them wanting to go forward into dance. It did actually give us our gimmick, if you like, our uniqueness. So it certainly wasn't planned and it came from a struggle, like the best things usually do.
RM: The thing with New Order is that there's this rebellious element that you couldn't plan for. There was also something very characteristic about how everybody looked – how Joy Division looked. But this was before the days of mega-influence of fashion and fashion magazines…
PH: Our look, to be honest with you, was more to do with how much money we had, because we were literally shopping in second hand shops, as Bernard was in the local Scout shop, so our look was very Oxfam by necessity. It is interesting because there was very little execution or plot with anything that we did. What we did first and foremost was make sure that the music was full of integrity and what Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton were very, very good at was letting you handle what you were good at – which was the music. They never tried to influence the music at all. The only time that Tony Wilson tried to influence the music was when he brought Ian Curtis a Frank Sinatra album, for some strange reason I didn't quite get. He was always happy with what you did, completely. Once he found what he was happy with, he stuck with it. That was the reason a lot of bands on Factory [record label] looked the way they did because he always went for the same type.
I look at the big thing about New Order that we're judged on these days, it's the thing that people found most difficult at the start, which was the art work. The fact that you didn't have your name or your picture on your album and Power Corruption & Lies by New Order didn't have anything on it… people were very irritated by that at the time but now they'll go "Oh, that was fantastic”!
RM: There's something Raw about Joy Division. Can you explain this?
PH: The interesting thing about Joy Division from my point of view is because it happened in a short period. When I was doing the Joy Division book, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, to look at the period – we were together for two and a half years and we were professional for just over six months. But luckily you didn't have much time to fuck it up. To do the normal things that groups do; bicker, fall out, argue about money, argue about publishing – you really didn't have time. And what happened when Ian died, it almost neatly put an end to that, and we were quite happy to buy into that end because we had New Order to focus on. So it was quite an unusual position. Because if we had carried on as Joy Division with a new singer, it probably would have meant nothing compared to how much it means now because of how pure we kept it. Thing is, music is the key to it all. If you don't write great songs, it's not going to last.
Joy Division is music tempered with shortness and purity and the awkwardness of that post-punk beginning. Leaving the singles off the albums, not doing interviews, doing everything you wanted to do, doing the opposite of what's good for you in a commercial sense, and usually in the way the music company would want you to act. We actually rebelled against it more when we heard bands who were our contemporaries like Siouxsie & The Banshees and The Cure signed up to major labels and started doing the 'normal' thing. We were actually more infused with the desire to go against it. And it did work. It kept you realistic. Another word for that would be poor. You didn't really have the opportunity to dilute what you're doing. Because we all know that there is nothing more diluting for an artist than success. Not many people, not many artists that I can see, throughout the time that I have been a musician, keep their edge.
> Explore our complete G-Star Collection