For the better part of the past decade, Peter Hook and his former bandmates in New Order have been at each other's throats over the details of the bassist's departure. In between arguments, both sides have been on the road, albeit in different forms.
Since 2010, Hook and his band, The Light, started playing Joy Division material to pay tribute to the 30th anniversary since the band's demise after singer Ian Curtis' death. Those performances gave fans a chance to hear classic Joy Division material live by one of its members for the first time since then. At his shows, the bassist tapped into the itch for nostalgia by playing the Manchester band's two albums in their entirety. On his current run, Hook has taken that a step further by including several of New Order's biggest albums. Estranged from his former band, Hook isn't afraid to take a jab at his long time collaborators. Before he played a show in Chicago that saw Billy Corgan and Jeff Schroeder of Smashing Pumpkins join Hook for "Love Will Tear Us Apart," and ahead of his upcoming show at the Glass House next Monday, we spoke to the bassist about his current tour, his on-going feud with Bernard Sumner and the odds of a New Order reunion.
OC Weekly (Daniel Kohn): Do you enjoy playing these classic Joy Division/New Order albums?
Peter Hook: It's an odd feeling. Because the split with the others is still so vitriolic, I don't think you can ever relax and enjoy yourself. I don't think any of us–me, Barney, Steve (drummer Stephen Morris) and Gillian (keyboardist Gillian Gilbert)–are in the position where we can enjoy what we do while we're waiting for the next missile to come over the barricade.
Do you think you all will put your differences behind you and reform the original lineup again?
The first thing you'd have to do is to come to an agreement. The bit where we went wrong is they never sought an agreement and started pretending to be New Order. They just did it legally in England actually without telling or asking me. I defy anybody to not be upset by that. The ultimate divorce, like any divorce, you have to split up your assets and property. While they chose to do it when I was away behind my back – and fix my alimony if you like – you're always going to be fighting until you agree. They, at the moment, aren't interested in it. No matter what I do with The Light, I don't pretend to be Joy Division or New Order. They, in my opinion, are pretending to be New Order. I think the people that suffer are the ones that have to put their hands in their pocket and shell out $100 to see them. When we came to do Control, Bernard had this thing with Johnny Marr who used to say to him, "You should never say you split, you should say you're on a break." I said, "What the fucking difference does that make?" If New Order came back in 2011, would they have had less people than they did if they said they were reforming? It wouldn't have made any difference, but obviously to him it does.
Does the material feel old or weird with The Light playing it instead of New Order?
The thing is that this material has been played so little that is like new material! I was looking at a wonderful website that detailed the last time we played "Age of Consent" and "Ecstasy" and things like that, and it had been 25, 27 years. That's not too far off of the amount of time Joy Division was ignored for. It was interesting for me that when I started playing Joy Division, it spurred them to action to play Joy Division as well! It was something that Bernard wouldn't do while we were together because he said he was too miserable. When I was in New Order before we split, it felt okay to ignore Joy Division because we worked very hard to make New Order very successful all around the world. I kept thinking that every year, the albums kept getting bigger and bigger and more bands cite Joy Division as an influence, I kept thinking why did we never celebrated anything Joy Division. So that's why in 2010, I said "Fuck this, I'm going to celebrate it." The fans get two outfits playing the same music. They get us playing it and a pantomime version.
You published your Joy Division book last year, are there plans for a New Order version?
Yes, I'm doing the rewrites and it should be out by May. I've been looking at the past and figured why we did what we did. Interestingly, Bernard's book on New Order is the probably the worst book I've ever read. I've been quite inspired by his book.
It doesn't have anything about New Order in it. He seems to concentrate more on me than he does himself! It's quite odd. But he ignored so many albums, he never mentioned how he wrote the music and what inspired him to write it, how adept he became at sequencers and synthesizers. There's quite an art to what he did, and he ignored it in the book. He left it wide open for me to do a great New Order book because in my opinion, that's a really bad New Order book. In my book, I never lied because there was no need to lie in it. In Bernard's book, in my opinion, is a bloody tissue of lies. Most of the lies are done to justify why he decided to put New Order back together again. But, remember, it wasn't a split in his opinion, they were just on a break. The whole thing is crap really. I can't wait to see him because we only live a half a mile away from each other.
That could get awkward.
He drove past me in the village where we live (Cheshire, eight miles outside of Manchester) about two months ago and it was the first time I'd seen him in three years, which is weird considering how close we live to each other. It makes the split and argument even more ridiculous when you look at it that way. But it's all about money.
Is it a punter's bet to assume that you'd ever reunite with them?
The thing is if we ever get to sit down and sort it out instead of this bloody useless arguing between solicitors and lawyers, the only people who profit there, it's like any relationship breakdown. There are only four people who can stop this are the ones involved. They refuse to meet or negotiate, so it's bad at the moment, but time is a great healer we know that. I'm looking forward to when we do get it finished, then we can all get on with our lives.