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Interview: Hooky on being tone deaf, missing his writing mates and returning to Oz

Joy Division are a band dwarfed by legacy and defined by tragedy. The mythos spun by Anton Corbijn, Martin Hannett, Tony Wilson and a thousand revisionist journalists encases them in amber as something aloof and mystical, to be spoken of in hushed and reverential tones. But these four boys from Manchester were just that: boys. Albeit, boys who wrote some fucking awesome songs that, even today, beg to be played and allowed the space to breathe - free from the weight of their painful historical accoutrements - and celebrated for the sincerity and joy in which they were conceived.

And it’s just your luck that Peter Hook will be here in October to do just that. Play the fucking songs.

Embarking upon his third visit to these shores with his band The Light, this time around Hooky will be playing the Substance albums by Joy Division and New Order in their entirety. It promises to be an epic show that plots the once uncharted course from punk rock via the Hacienda to the dance floors of Ibitha.

This is your third visit to Australia, in the last couple of tours you were playing studio albums in their entirety - this time it’s the singles and b-sides compilations. Does that lend a different dynamic to the set? Revisiting things from a wider spread of time?

Well we’re still playing the albums but the order changes up so it’s a little bit more difficult. Finishing with ‘1963’ as we do gives a completely different vibe to the concert. The Joy Division album is played chronologically in full but it has a different vibe there too because a lot of the songs on the Joy Division album are not very well known at all and are really quite offbeat.

I’d like to think it’s a little bit artier. I’m not pretending to be the band so I’m not playing a ‘greatest hits’ set the way that bands normally play it. I like to think that it’s a little bit more difficult for the audience, 'cos it’s a little bit more difficult for us. It’s an album translation. A celebration of the album.

What’s it like playing with your son Jack? Is he a better bass player than you yet or what?

(Laughs) Well he thinks he is! I think that he has a better ear than me 'cos I’m tone deaf! When I come to play other people’s music, I can’t do it. I just don’t hear any differentiation between the notes. I can write but I’m not very good at picking up other people’s stuff. Now he’s not like that, he can pick it up quite easily so he’s got one up on me there - but he’s not got my writing history I suppose!

Do you think that’s part of why you developed such a unique and recognisable style, cos you couldn’t copy anyone else?

I couldn’t do it! I can’t do it now! Like I said in the book, when I was approached for the Rolling Stones job, Mick Jagger could have put a gun to my head and said “play Satisfaction” and I would have just gone “Mick? Shoot me”. I couldn’t do it, it’s just a weird anomaly in me as a musician. It’s really weird.

In the book you reveal that the New Order Substance compilation came about because Tony Wilson had gotten himself a flash new Jaguar and wanted a CD he could play in his car right? What do you think he would have made of the Light and the tour?

I think he’d be enjoying the music 'cos we play it to the best of our ability and with as much passion and enthusiasm as we can muster - but I think he’d be heartbroken by the state of affairs between the members of New Order. I think that that probably would have finished him off if the cancer hadn’t, but my God mate wouldn’t I give my right arm for him to be there.

You still seem to have a deep abiding love for the band and the music that you made together. It must feel like a celebration to be able to just get out and play the music without any of the bullshit right?

Oh man it’s fantastic! And I must admit that my frustration at not being able to play the old material was becoming worse and worse. New Order really got stuck in a rut of playing the same stuff over and over again, and they have just gone on playing the same set nearly. It’s fucking good that they did Music Complete because otherwise the fans would have become bored shitless with the repetition.

It is good… But, you see Barney and Steve were the best writing companions I’ve ever had in my life. The chemistry between us in Joy Division and New Order was amazing, and those songs were a combination of the three of us and it’s wonderful to think that you managed to leave that.

It’s a shame that it’s come down to this very messy divorce, but basically you just need an adult don’t you? An adult to come into the playground, give you all a clip round the ear and say ‘pack it in and get on with the bloody work’. Unfortunately none of the adults these days seem up to it. The adults that we’re paying seem happy to just take the money.

You still seem keen though. It seems as though it’s not your pride that’s hurt, it’s your heart that’s hurt. You wouldn’t mind having another crack at it yeah?

Well yeah, I mean it would be nice. I’m not in a writing partnership at the moment and I must admit that I miss it.

It was weird. Everybody’s ideas and ideals in New Order had changed - particularly Bernard’s. We just didn’t agree on anything and really, it was so far apart you just couldn’t get together on anything. Before there was always a ‘getting together’ but it had changed. It was time for the group to finish. It was definitely time.

Well can we expect any more originals from The Light?

We’re doing a chronological release in England on a label called ‘Plastic Head’ records that starts with Unknown Pleasures and Closer and goes right the way up to Substance, and I’m doing a lot of solo stuff at the moment which is nice and which is quite challenging and different, but yeah I’d like to do more originals.

Joy Division wrote and recorded 48 songs and there was one that we didn’t record called ‘Pictures in my Mind’ which The Light recorded. And I’ve since found two more songs that Joy Division didn’t record that I’ve got on tapes that I don’t know what to do with to be honest (laughs).

I definitely feel like I have another record in me, without a shadow of a doubt, so it’s just finding the time and the people to do it with. I’d love to do it.

Finally, what can we expect this time around from the Australian shows?

A very honest, celebratory rendition of two fantastic albums that I must admit, I am really enjoying playing. The tracks are quite diverse on both albums and. living so long with them. you can take that for granted - but I must admit the boys of The Light have pulled it off so well that I’m really proud of them. They’ve done a fantastic job and I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be great to be back. I’ve missed you mate!

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