May 2011 10

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Peter Hook’s influence on modern music is undeniable; known for his melodic and high bass lines, a style developed out of necessity due to a poor amplifier, Hook singlehandedly created a style of bass playing that continues to resonate in goth and indie rock bands to this day. His work with Joy Division and New Order has earned him the status of a living legend, delving further into other more electronic styles with later bands Monaco and Revenge and contributing to tracks by such groups as Hybrid, The Crystal Method and Perry Farrell’s Satellite Party. In 2005, Hook began working with former Primal Scream bassist Gary “Mani” Mounfield, former Smiths bassist Andy Rourke and former Haven singer Gary Briggs in Freebass, releasing the It’s a Beautiful Life album in 2010. Having opened the FAC 251 nightclub, situated in the old headquarters of Joy Division and New Order label Factory Records, Hook was also the co-owner of the Haçienda nightclub, an experience that led to the publication of his 2009 book, How Not to Run a Club. In 2010, Hook switched from bass to lead vocals with his band The Light, performing on May 18, 2010 – the 30th anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death – the Joy Division LP Unknown Pleasures in its entirety. Due to popular demand, Hook is taking the band and the performance on tour, joined by his son Jack on bass.

In a rare turn, ReGen Editor-in-Chief Ilker Yücel conducted an interview with Peter Hook for Annapolis, MD-based web publication What’s Up? – the audio for the InterView can be heard at the following link:

Hook speaks of the upcoming tour, touching on the family dynamic, his pervading influence over the years, and the current state of the music industry and how up and coming artists can survive in the modern era.

You’re now playing in a band with your son, Jack. What’s it like to now be involving your son in music, and what is the dynamic like between father and son?

Hook: Well, it isn’t exactly as simple as that. What I’m doing is playing the LP Unknown Pleasures, the Joy Division LP, so it’s not exactly new music, although I suppose the fact that I’ve not played it for 30 years might mean that it’s new in some way. What happened was that I premiered it in England to celebrate Ian’s life; it was 30 years since he died. And basically, we’ve been inundated with offers to play everywhere. What happened was that I tried to get some singers into sing it while I played bass, but it didn’t work. It was very, very difficult. A lot of people were put off by, shall we say, the Internet criticism of even attempting to play Unknown Pleasures. So I said, ‘Fuck it, I’ll sing myself’ because I can’t sing and play. I don’t like the dynamic of singing and bass players; I don’t think it ever works. I needed someone to play bass. Jack, my son, is 20 years old, or he was 20 when he started; he’s now 21. So he’s exactly the same age I was when we recorded Unknown Pleasures, and that is what makes it weird, because while we’re playing Unknown Pleasures and I’m singing it, and I look around and see myself 30 years ago…strange thing. He’s a very good bass player. He’s not really into the same music as I am; he’s more of a Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters-type guy. But now that we’ve been playing the music, he has developed a love for it. So yeah, it’s nice to keep it in the family, and there can’t be many men that know exactly where their 21-year-old son is every minute of the day, is there?

On that note, because you mentioned that he’s into different music, and this is material that you haven’t touched in 30 years, in terms of your influence over the past 30 years and what you’ve achieved as a musician yourself, having influenced and taking part in so many different types of music, people think of you as a legend now. What are your thoughts on that?

Hook: Well, when I’m clearing up the dog shit in the yard, it doesn’t really make much difference, to be honest, whether you’re a legend or not. You still have to get on with life, don’t you? A legend is a handle and a title, a complimentary title most of the time, that people give you: ‘Oh, you’re a legend.’ I suppose it’s because you’re an established musician that has actually lasted and whose influence has lasted. I always take it as a compliment, and to be a living legend is even more of a compliment. It’s a damn sight better than being a dead legend.

What’s the music you’re working on now that is actually new, besides the Unknown Pleasures tour?

Hook: What I’ve just finished was Freebass. So, I suppose really in a funny way, I suppose I’m in quite an enviable position, in that I’ve got a new record that I’ve just finished, which is Freebass, It’s a Beautiful Life. And I’m ‘reprising,’ if you like, Unknown Pleasures. I’ve also got another group that I work with a friend of mine, a keyboard player and programmer called Man Ray, and we do new music, as well. It’s quite a nice way to be. It’s quite funny, really, because I never thought…I’ve always carried on making music, and I’ve never thought to hark back to the past. It was only when we opened my new club in Manchester, which is called Factory 251, that my partner asked me to look back at my career, because he was a New Order fan and a Joy Division fan, and play some tunes. As a musician that’s used to moving forward, it seemed a little bit too narcissistic to dwell on the past, because it’s something that we’ve never really done. New Order never did it with Joy Division or anything; it never really occurred to us, shall we say. So it came as a bit of a shock, really, to see how much people have enjoyed it.

It’s interesting to know that it’s lasted 30 years and that influence has lasted.

Hook: Good songwriting will last. If you listen to Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, a lot of their music will last. Kate Bush, Radiohead, you name it; it lasts over periods of time. That’s the thing, and it doesn’t surprise me, because I thought Joy Division were a fantastic group, and I thought they wrote wonderful songs, and so it doesn’t surprise me, really, that people think those songs are wonderful now, and especially when you’re playing. We do the Unknown Pleasures thing, and I was expecting the audience to full of old blokes like me. And it isn’t. It’s full of young people – 18, 19, 20 – who have an interest in music. The interesting thing to me is that when I became a musician, it was all about, ‘Don’t listen to them old farts,’ and it was very ageist. Punk was very ageist; it was all about getting rid of the old musicians and the old ways. Nowadays, thank god, now that I’m an old musician, there doesn’t seem to be that ageism, and young people seem to be able to appreciate music that is just good music, regardless of who made it or when they made it. I suppose you have to thank god for that.

Indeed, and on the subject of running the nightclub now – and you’ve obviously touched on different types of music in your career – but now that you’re running this nightclub, how has that exposed you to new music that’s going on today and how it’s influencing the music that you’re making now?

Hook: Well, I won’t lie to you, and I hope you’re not naïve enough to think that I stand there every night listening to every new band that comes through town at my age. The idea of starting the club is that really as an older musician, there aren’t many things that I can do. We quite successfully ran a club from a reputation point of view but not from a financial point of view, which was the Haçienda. Getting into this club was about using the past and using the name and using the legacy to help people in the future. It was about celebrating Manchester’s past and using it to give new bands, new DJs, old DJs, old bands a future, and it’s done very, very well. The audience is very young, so even when I DJ there, I have to really be on my toes, because they are very demanding and they don’t know a lot of old music, so you have kept your hand in, shall we say, and you to listen to a lot of new music to stay in a way that you can please what is primarily a very young audience. So it has been a bit of a shock for me, to be honest, because you can’t play a lot of old stuff, which is what I sort of dwell on – from my era, if you like – from the ‘90s or from the ‘80s, because these kids want to hear new bands. So it’s been good; it’s made me look at it in a different way. It’s an education for me, as well.

On that note, what sorts of new music have come out that has excited you and has really taken note from you?

Hook: There are millions of bands at the moment which I actually like. It was actually quite funny, because everybody compares Joy Division to White Lies, and I actually like White Lies quite a lot. And with bands like The Cortinas in Manchester, and the Ting Tings even, and when you go through that like everybody and everything; in Manchester, there’s a band called The Hurts, and there are still a hell of a lot of groups that start and seem to be quite successful in Manchester. Other music, there is just loads of music. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that, but there are millions of bands, so it’s not very difficult to hear good music these days, because there are so many groups. But it’s interesting; DJing is primarily what makes you have to listen to music, because you sort of don’t want to dwell and don’t want to hear all your old catalog all the time. You really – or I do, anyway – have to intersperse it with new music. Otherwise, it’d get boring, so you do have to keep going.

You are DJing yourself as well?

Hook: Yeah, I DJ. Funnily enough, I was actually DJing quite a lot. I can’t DJ and do Unknown Pleasures, so I’ve been quite enjoyably playing, although because I’m singing, it’s not as physical as playing your instrument, but I’ve certainly learned to enjoy. The gigs have been fantastic; we did literally a sellout tour of Australia and New Zealand, we did really well in Spain, and we’re going to Italy just before we come to America, and it’s going fantastic. The depth of feeling and the passion and the appreciation that you’re getting from playing it comes as a real revelation to me, because I thought I’d play it once in Manchester. I got to play it twice in Manchester because we sold out two nights in my own club, and to get this interest from everywhere has been fantastic; I never expected it.

Factory Records was in many ways a progenitor of the independent record label, which is now a big thing today, and so many artists are starting their own labels, and it seems like the old modes of record labels as they existed years ago are dwindling away. What are your thoughts on the current state of the industry as you’ve had to deal with it and where it’s going?

Hook: The saddest part of the industry has to be the illegal downloading, so it’s basically cut your income completely. It’s quite a strange profession to be in, in that you make music and don’t get paid, especially in the way that you used to. For you, writing an article and people publishing it in other papers and not paying you for it, you’d be pissed off, wouldn’t you Unless you’re very charitable. So the thing is that the Internet on one hand has led a revolution in music in that these bands can start their own label, and they can reach people, and they can reach people all around the world, but the problem with that is that because they can reach people, people can take the music for nothing.

From your standpoint, what do you think should or can be done to change things and get people interested enough to buy music again?

Hook: The interesting part I thought was that they did a huge survey in England and they found that the most active illegal downloaders are young males, 16 to 19. They think that they should get music for nothing, which is absolutely fine, because that’s the culture they’ve been brought up in, and that’s what happens. Now, what interests me about that is that most people who join a group do so at the age of 16 to 19, don’t they? So those very people who are doing all the illegal downloading are joining bands, and when other people are illegally downloading them, they’re going to be rightly pissed off. So it’s quite an interesting way of looking at that section, that the people who do the most work will damage themselves. Musicians are suffering from illegal downloading. If you’re lucky, and especially if you gig, you can get around it, because people will still pay to come see your live music, but the thing has to be said that most musicians now give their work away, because they can’t find a way to earn the money from the music they make. It stops you recording. If New Order rebanded tomorrow and Bernard said, ‘Come on, let’s go write another record,’ we’d all be, ‘Oh, what’s the point in writing another record because nobody buys it?’ You don’t spend a year or two years or three years, as New Order took to do their last record – to record a record took three years out of your life – release it, and don’t get any money from it. And then the public goes, ‘Well, if you want any money, gig.’ But what if you’re a musician who doesn’t like gigging, like Blue Nail or Bernard Sumner, for instance? It’s a strange position to be in as a musician. I don’t think that people have much sympathy, and I thought the backlash against Lilly Ellen in particular when she actually chose to tell people who she felt, I thought that was absolutely disgusting, because I defy anybody to do work and not get paid for it and be happy about that. In any way of life, you would not be. It’s just sad. I suppose as a musician for me, I had the glory years; I had the ‘80s, I had the ‘90s. I had my glory years as a musician. Those years, no band will ever see the like of those again, and it’s weird. Rock & roll, man, is dead.

Mentioning the glory years, obviously musicians from older eras can and still do produce music.

Hook: I think that there was an excess period in music, which was at its highest in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s. Now, that excess wasn’t pretty and actually took a lot of casualties. So the fact that musicians now have to know what they’re doing is not a bad thing, because at least it will stop them getting ripped off. How many musicians do you hear about that have been ripped off by their management because they didn’t know what was going on? They were happy to bury themselves in this huge period of excess and just carry on like pigs in a trough. Now, young musicians have to be very savvy, they have to know what they’re doing, they know how to market their music, they know what they’re earning, and hopefully it will lead to a period of enlightenment that you won’t get a lot of musicians getting ripped off because they’ve had to do the dirty end, the bit where you make the money. A lot of musicians of my age wouldn’t even know where to begin on marketing themselves, yet these young bands have to work and work very hard to market themselves and to sell their own records to survive, and I think, to be honest with you, that’s healthy.

What sort of lessons have you as an older musician taken from that example and the way you’re approaching the new music you’re releasing now?

Hook: On a sweeping generalization, my advice to any artist of any age is to never sign anything that says ‘in perpetuity,’ because it will come back and bite you in the ass. I’m amazed that most rock musicians, especially from my era, don’t have ‘in perpetuity’ tattooed on themselves somewhere to remind them you should never sign anything, because you get taken advantage of. But the thing is that you do have to bear in mind that I’m still here; I’m still a jobbing musician, but you’re still making a living from music, so you’ve not done that badly. It’s just interesting the way it changes and the way it’s changed, but personally, I think for people being in control of their own destiny, I think maybe it’s a good thing that these record companies aren’t there to mollycoddle them and to treat them the way they did in the ‘80s. I think it’s better to be informed, especially about where your money’s going.

Having worked with New Order and bands like Monaco in the electronic medium, and as that has taken a lot of leaps in terms of the technology, what have you noticed about how it’s affected the way people are making music?

Hook: After 30 years of making music, to me, the computers and the electronics just enable you to waste a lot of time. A great song is a great song however you write it, and I think that that’s what people have to realize. You don’t need a computer; you don’t need ProTools. It makes life easier, but ultimately, some people are making music just sitting in a room with guitars. It hasn’t actually changed that much. It’s all about songwriting. You have to write a great song to last, and that’s the only advice and the only thing that I’ve learned.

Obviously, songwriting must be different each and every time for you, but is there a specific mindset that you go through every time you sit down and write a song? What goes through your mind every time you write?

Hook: You want to write the best hit ever. Fast, dancey, big chorus – it’s the same recipe for every song that you do, and it’s that simple. You want it to be as good as or if not better than the last one you wrote, the more difficult it becomes. You try to top yourself every single time, of course.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Hook: Quite simply, I am enjoying doing what I’m doing and most wonderful is the fact that other people seem to enjoy it too. I went through a period where I wasn’t enjoying much of music, and now I really am and I’m very happy at the moment.

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