No joy for feuding New Order members

Peter Hook, a founding member of punk pioneers Joy Division and their new-wave descendants New Order, will be paying tribute to their music in Tel Aviv.

Peter Hook 311 (photo credit: Courtesy of Mark McNulty)
Peter Hook 311
(photo credit: Courtesy of Mark McNulty)
There’s nothing more sordid that seeing members of an iconic band in the annals of rock & roll snip at each other like scorned lovers. The splintering can often result in two separate musical fronts both tugging at the coattails of the band’s legacy.
In Peter Hook’s case, however, it’s not just one seminal band whose members are at each other’s throat, it’s two. The 54-year-old British bassist was a co-founder of the shortlived but hugely influential Joy Division, as well as New Order, the phoenix that rose out of Joy Division’s ashes following the 1980 suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis.
Joy Division, which emerged from the robust Manchester rock scene in the late 1970s, struck a chord among alienated British youth with their dark, dance-driven music, and their two albums – Unknown Pleasures and Closer – remain standouts of the post-punk era. However, Hook and Joy Division’s guitarist Bernard Sumner and drummer Stephen Morris enjoyed a much longer and more lucrative career as New Order, with their spiky new-wave sound creating a soundtrack for the 1980s.
After moving on to other projects for most of the 1990s, the band reformed in 1998 for another successful stint, this time as post-punk veterans. In recent years, though, relations soured between Hook and his band mates, with Hook effectively leaving the band and announcing its dissolution in 2007.
Somebody forgot to inform Sumner and Morris, however, who recently announced that New Order, with longtime keyboard player Gillian Gilbert, but without Hook, would performing in London for two charity shows in December, and then possibly going on a full-blown world tour.
“What they’ve done to me, to tour as New Order, is frankly disgusting. I don’t mind them touring as New Order, if they’d come to me and said that... but I think that people are intelligent enough to know that it’s not [New Order],” an angry Hook told Spinner magazine earlier this month.
Sumner has his own claims against Hook.
“In our minds he left the band and now we can’t embrace our heritage and he’s managed to scoop off the last chunk of it, which isn’t very nice after all these years,” he told the website Sabotage Times. “Yeah it doesn’t feel good, you don’t do the dirty on your mates.”
He was referring to Hook’s current musical lineup – The Light – who have been touring with a show called “A Joy Division Celebration,” often featuring one of the band’s albums played in its entirety. The show is coming to Tel Aviv on November 23 at Reading 3.
It sure sounds like the old punk spirit hasn’t died down in Hook and Sumner. But in an e-mail interview with The Jerusalem Post, Hook declined to discuss the feud with his Joy Division/New Order band mates, preferring instead to focus on The Light. He was particularly jazzed that the band includes his son Jack on bass and guitar, a situation that fills the often crusty, cynical Hook with delight.
“Jack really is a great guy and he really does looks after me,” said Hook.
“I’m lucky, really, as it’s not every father who knows exactly where his 22-year-old son is all the time, do they? He is a great bass player as well and very dedicated and devoted to the band.”
Hook added that despite enjoying making music with his son, he’s done his best to dissuade Jack from following in his father’s musical footsteps.
“I’ve told him plenty of times to pursue a different profession, and I did it again just the other week,” said Hook.
“But he always says the same thing back at me – ‘You’ve got no qualifications, not had a real job for 34 years and you’ve done alright!’ It’s very difficult for me to answer that one, to tell you the truth.”
With the other members of The Light – Andrew Poole on keyboards, Nathan Wason on guitar, and Paul Kehoe on drums – also about half his age, Hook said that their youthful enthusiasm for playing the music which has been codified for decades by Joy Division fans provided him with a creative spark.
“When I perform with them, it’s like I am permanently 21. It really does keep you young,” said Hook.
“Afterwards I am reminded of my seniority a little. I ache like a bastard, but they are a great bunch of lads and really fun to play with.”
AS POWERFUL and lasting as Joy Division’s music was, Hook admitted that part of the reason the band’s legacy is still so strong is due to Curtis’s premature demise, which turned him into the punk version of Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain.
“As a musician, I would have to say the music is behind Joy Division’s continued popularity with subsequent generations. But it’s a sad truism of the industry that death sells,” said Hook.
“Ultimately you have to say you would much prefer to be judged on the music without the emotional baggage that Ian’s untimely [end] brings to all of it.”
Numerous books and films have been devoted to Joy Division and the enigmatic Curtis. Perhaps most prominent have been 24 Hour Party People, the 2002 film about the burgeoning Manchester music scene in the 1970s, and Control, the 2007 biographical film of the band directed by Anton Corbijn, the accomplished photographer who was an original Joy Division fan in the Manchester trenches and often photographed the band.
Hook and the other members of Joy Division worked with Corbijn to enhance the film’s authenticity, and he said that the efforts show in the film.
“Overall, I was very happy with the film.
24 Hour Party People I have always thought was very ‘carry on clubbing,’ but with Control I thought it was much more true to us, probably because of Anton having worked with us all those years ago,” he said.
Uncannily capturing the time period was only one of the tasks Corbijn succeeded in realizing; he also was able to find actors to look – and play – like Joy Division, one of the most distinctive bands of the 1970s.
Besides Curtis’s deep baritone, what often stood out in their music, as well as later in New Order’s, was Hook’s unusually melodic and high bass sound which set him apart from virtually every other bassist.
Hook confirmed the urban legend that his style developed because he owned a cheap amplifier that didn’t enable him to compete with Sumner’s guitar, so he compensated by playing higher up on the fret board. The feedback he received from the band – especially Curtis – convinced him to carry on that way even when he was able to afford proper equipment.
“What happened was that Ian loved it and pushed me to develop it. Ian always had great ideas and really encouraged me all the time,” he said.
In addition to his vaunted work with the two bands, Hook also produced other British rockers in the late 1980s like Inspiral Carpets and The Stone Roses, a group with a stormy past that equals New Order’s. Their announcement this month of a reunion after over 20 years pleased Hook.
“I’m really happy for them,” he said. “Even though they burned brightly for such a short time, there is a myth and legacy that has grown up around them and people do want to see them. I hope it works for them. Judging by the reaction so far, I’m sure it will.”
However, regarding the possibility that closer to home, a reconciliation with his New Order mates was in the books, Hook remained mum. But based on what he told Spinner, not all hope is lost.
“Musicians are renowned for focusing on stupid, petty arguments,” he said.
“The things that Bernard and I are arguing about are absolutely f***** pathetic, and I’m hoping that some grown up will come into the schoolyard and stop it.”