Since they hit the Manchester scene in the late ’70s, Joy Division has hardly left the spotlight. Two solid albums, an iconic story, and one tragic death may tell it all on paper, but over 30 years later, their energy and passion continues to bleed into other forms of art. Having trekked on with New Order, which formed following frontman Ian Curtis’ suicide in 1980, surviving members Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook, and Stephen Morris refused to let the scene turn their heads, carving out some of the most iconic music of the past three decades.
In 2007, after recording eight studio albums together, the group disbanded. Sumner and Morris, alongside fellow New Order latecomer Phil Cunningham, formed Bad Lieutenant in 2008, while Hook focused on opening nightclub FAC 251 – The Factory, and issuing material on his own label, Hacienda Records. For the past year, he’s been touring with The Light, performing Joy Division albums Unknown Pleasures and Closer in full. Last November, when Consequence of Sound last spoke with Hook, he left us with these words: “I love the group. I love the music. I love what we had and created. So, I’m happy.”
Recently, there’s been some bitter news. New Order has announced a reunion, only Hook’s not on the lineup. And although he’s about to embark on another short U.S. tour, in which he’ll dust off Closer, Hook recently sat down with Consequence of Sound to discuss the recent reunion, his reasons for leaving the band, and his relationship with his former band mates. He also digressed further on his passion for his past accomplishments, specifically his time in Joy Division.
With your tour around the United States, Canada, and Mexico — what did the decision process look like when deciding what album to be played (Unknown Pleasures or Closer) at each venue?
[laughs] Well, the idea in our pretty little heads was, if it was the first time we were there it was Unknown Pleasures. If it was the second time…Closer. So it’s chronological. It’s quite an odd thing doing the albums, it’s even odder doing more than one. Yet, when you play an album, it sounds “okay” yet when you play a set after years of playing sets…you get used to it. Playing Unknown Pleasures is great from start to finish as well as Closer but the only trouble with Closer is that it’s a lot more downbeat, mellow, and vulnerable than Unknown Pleasures. Still they’re both pleasures of mine.
Which album do you connect with most? Why? What song?
I connect with Unknown Pleasures. It was our first, we were intensely involved, and I remember the awful disappointment when I listened to it. It didn’t sound the way I wanted it to. I wanted it to sound much like Sex Pistol’s Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. That was what Joy Division sounded like to me…in my head. [Producer] Martin Hannett gave it a fantastic production influence that took me 30 years to appreciate. He made it sound like a wonderful record made by wonderful people and I wanted the record to be made by angry young men. Looking back, I am really glad I didn’t get my way.
With Closer, because of Ian [Curtis]’s illness, the difficulties we were facing…there was a bit of a detachment from it. When Ian died, the detachment towards it…it was total. I didn’t particularly listen to Joy Division and I took no interest in anything that was written. We just moved right onto New Order. Funny enough, that’s enabled me to listen to Closer and not connect with it. When I say that I can enjoy it I mean I can enjoy it just as if I listen to an album by Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Editors, or…you know, Snow Patrol, Arcade Fire — that level of really weird detachment, because of the grief involved, enables me to enjoy it in a different way and more traditional way.
Where did the infuence come with your other projects, like say Ad Infinitum, Monaco, Revenge, The Light, Freebass, and Man Ray?
It’s where you are at the time, it’s like looking at old aews articles and saying, “Well I can’t connect with that one.” I mean I’m sure I can look at them (the different musical projects) as a thread and say, “I can see that I’m getting better and I can see that I’m enjoying it more because it’s becoming easier…” The biggest influence I have ever had, was the influence to start [musically] and that was given to me by the Sex Pistols. The true inspiration, something Bernard Sumner was experienced in, he would hear something and be able to emulate it and not sound like it. That’s a true art.
In regards to sound…what direction was to be seen after Closer from Joy Division?
It would definitely have been what you’ve experienced with New Order because Bernard and Steve [Morris] in particular were getting really interested in technology — which we aptly demonstrated in Joy Division. As the technology got better you were introducing them more and more so I definitely believe that Ian would be singing “Blue Monday” without a shadow of a doubt.
How does a band like Joy Division, and New Order (with songs such as “Disorder” and “Bizarre Love Triangle”) stay relevant in sound to the 21st century?
Well I have to say it was skill. I have a feeling it was a lot of luck…maybe mixed with some talent. [laughs] I think it’s that thing when you go into the studio you want to satisfy yourself; you begin to get demanding, you start to push barriers and your get right to the edge. I thought we were quite extreme when we went into the studio, yet when I met other people like Arthur Baker…you realize you’re not very extreme. [laughs] The thing is it’s just about pleasing your ear and I always think Joy Division and New Order were the best they could ever be when they didn’t listen to anybody. You start to lose your edge when you listen to other people.