Peter Hook: If I had my time over again, I wouldn't have gone back to New Order
Peter Hook is still on his quest to perform every song ever recorded by Joy Division and New Order. David Roy quizzed the Salfordian bass ace in advance of his Belfast show next month which will find Peter Hook & The Light playing New Order's Technique and Republic LPs in full, plus an opening set of Joy Division numbers
HI PETER, where are you at the moment?
I'm in the airport in Brussels just coming back from a festival concert. It was quite an eclectic line-up, I have to say. it was New Model Army, Jimmy Somerville and us playing Joy Division and New Order. So I'm mixing in esteemed circles!
The current tour is based around Technique (1989) and Republic (1993). How are you finding performing both albums in full, plus your now traditional opening set of Joy Division favourites?
It's quite odd really, compared to when I was playing with New Order we'd have about 15 to 17 songs that we knew how to play and they rarely changed. Now, I can play more or less a 100 to 120 songs, which is absolutely fantastic – I'm hoping it's a cure for dementia to be able to do all these tunes.
It's quite interesting to be able to chop and change as much as we do and it is quite a challenge for all of us, but it certainly keeps us on our toes.
You've been playing festivals over the summer as well as your own full shows – do you play a mix of Joy Division and New Order stuff for the festival slots?
We do and the main reason we always play the Joy Division songs is because we love 'em. It is sometimes a little odd: in some places you'll come on and there will be loads of Joy Division T-shirts at the front, then once you've played the Joy Division they're sort of replaced by New Order T-shirts!
But we always enjoy doing the Joy Division songs, especially now that we're playing Technique and Republic which are both difficult albums to play. The Joy Division stuff is easier to play, it's more simple and direct and very powerful – so it's quite a relief to do them first as a 'warm up'.
At your own shows, you're doing three sets of songs in one night. How does it feel to be working harder than ever at this stage of your career?
It is quite interesting that when I should be 'relaxing' I've actually decided to make life more difficult for myself. I stopped drinking 15 years ago and because addicts almost always 'cross-addict', I've cross-addicted to being fit. I'm very very fit – as my son [Jack Bates, who plays bass and guitar with The Light] keeps telling me, I'm fitter than I've ever been in my life, so it's actually OK for me to be doing it.
I mean, when we're playing for an hour like we did last night, it flies by – I'm used to doing three hours! So it's good. The main secret to it, I've found, is to enjoy it: and now I really do enjoy it, I have to say.
Unfortunately, a lot of the time with the proper New Order, it wasn't that enjoyable for whatever reason. It wasn't a happy crowd, shall we say.
Technique and Republic were the last two New Order records before the group went on hiatus for a few years in the late 90s. How does it feel to revisit them today?
It feels great: the songs on these two albums are probably the New Order songs that were played the least and are still played the least by the so-called New Order. Steve [Morris, New Order drummer] and I would try but there was always a marked reluctance to feature any of them, apart from [1993 single] Regret. Some of them have actually never been played live.
Technique was an important album: it was the last one we did for Factory and I've always thought of it as the quintessential New Order album. Republic was the first one we did for London records and we did it under great pressure because we were trying to save the Hacienda and Factory.
Nobody wanted to do it. Bernard [Sumner, New Order singer/guitarist] wanted to carry on with Electronic [his side project with Smiths man Johnny Marr] and none of us wanted to get together again to do Republic, so it was made under very difficult circumstances.
I must admit, because I'm trying to play every record we've ever written and recorded, I thought I would hate it when I came to do it – but by God, I actually quite enjoy it.
Because [the record] was never really finished off due to the relationship we had at the time, it's actually been nice to kind of finish it properly by revisiting it. I must admit, I think Bernard did a great job with the lyrics and the vocals. So its been nice to get that 'back', to dispel that myth.
I know it's difficult for you lot to write about me working my way through the catalogue because I'm actually enjoying it! It's hardly world-shattering news, is it? 'Musician enjoys career.'
You settled out of court with the rest of New Order after taking legal action when they carried on the band without you. Is there any chance of a proper reconciliation now that the lawyers are out of the picture?
No, unfortunately the lawyers are still very much in the picture. I must admit, this is the most ridiculous thing I've ever been through. That grown men and women could act like this, nobody can believe it. Everybody seems really bored with it and I don't blame them – even I'm bored with it.
There really does need to be a grown-up in the playground. But, that's life.
Finally, during the Joy Division Orchestrated concert in Manchester earlier this month, you and bandmate David Potts performed a brand new tune by your short-lived 1990s side-project Monaco. Is it true that you're going to properly reform?
Yes – just to make my life even more complicated! Me and Pottsy were so inspired by playing the Joy Division songs all round the world, we wrote Higher Higher Higher Love inspired by a jam that Joy Division did with Section 25 in 1978.
I'd always loved it and felt that it could have turned into something absolutely wonderful. So we used that as our starting point and it's just a way of saying 'thank-you' to Joy Division and Ian [Curtis] for what a great life me and Pottsy have had together. We've been threatening to write [new Monaco material] for years, so we did that track and in fact, we're going to record another brand new song on Monday.
We got dropped by Polydor because the head of the label came in one morning and decided that he didn't want any groups on the label, only girl and boy bands. That kind of put a nail in the coffin for Monaco, because then New Order decided to try and get back together again.
It was a weird period. If I had my time over again, I don't think I would have gone back – certainly not knowing what I know now.
Peter Hook and The Light, September 14, The Limelight, Belfast. Tickets via Ticketmaster.ie