Peter Hook: I am not living in the past
- 7 March 2011
- From the section Entertainment & Arts
Nostalgia has become big business in the music world, with cherished acts regularly resurfacing to the delight of their maturing fans.
But it does not always go down well. Former Joy Division and New Order bassist Peter Hook, who has been on the end of a barbed backlash, answers his critics.
From The Sex Pistols' pantomime reunion roadshow to Take That's record-breaking comeback tour, the nostalgia circuit is chock-a-block with ageing idols who are harnessing the power of the past.
But few have come in for quite as much stick for doing so as Peter Hook.
For the past nine months, he has been performing Joy Division's seminal debut album Unknown Pleasures around the world with his own band.
He has opened a nightclub called The Factory in the old offices of the legendary Mancunian record label that launched the band.
He has staged an exhibition of Joy Division memorabilia and written a book about the Hacienda nightclub. He even made a range of limited edition bass guitars from the Hacienda floorboards.
He has now announced plans to perform Joy Division's second album Closer and release an EP of the band's songs he has re-recorded with ex-Happy Mondays vocalist and X Factor contender Rowetta.
Some say they were great achievements in seminal times, and deserve to be celebrated. Others have accused him of milking it.
But there is something else behind the criticism - the impact of Joy Division's short existence was so profound that many see their canon as sacred. The argument goes that some things are better left untouched.
And most other nostalgia tours do not see the bassist taking the place of a singer who committed suicide 30 years ago, with none of the rest of the original band on board.
The objections were summed up most pointedly by another Mancunian music legend and fellow bassist, Mani, who claimed Hook's wallet was "stuffed with Ian Curtis' blood money".
Mani was in The Stone Roses, is now in Primal Scream and was - until those comments - Hook's bandmate in bass supergroup Freebass.
"Well I don't agree, do I?" Hook responds.
"If you want to bring it down to a base level then Mani's out touring [Primal Scream's 1991 album] Screamadelica."
The pair have patched things up and spoken "many times" since, Hook insists. "We're great mates.
"I suppose in a way it was very hurtful at the time but I spoke to him immediately after he'd done it and he apologised profusely immediately and I believe him. So that's it. It's over."
What about the other people who have been unhappy about his activities?
The Unknown Pleasures tour was "all about celebrating what Joy Division meant to me and what Joy Division did for me", he says, pointing out that the gigs have been well received around the world.
"A very wise man once said to me said that the people that come to see you will decide whether you live or die," he says.
"Everywhere we've been has been fantastic. We've not been bottled, we've not been stoned off.
"And if I had £1 for every 45-year-old bloke who was in front of me crying when you launch into Insight or New Dawn Fades, I probably wouldn't have to do it in the first place."
Hook is not the only person to have been indulging in Joy Division nostalgia. Two acclaimed films have been made about the band in the last five years, while 24 Hour Party People starred Steve Coogan in the story of the Factory Records years.
The appetite for the band, their story and their music is clearly as great as ever.
Hook will perform Closer for the first time with his band The Light at his Factory club on 18 May - the 31st anniversary of Curtis's death.
The EP will come out on 2 May on Hacienda Records, featuring a previously unfinished Joy Division song, Pictures In My Mind, which Hook has recovered from a demo and completed.
The release will also include three classic Joy Division tracks - Atmosphere, Insight and New Dawn Fades - rerecorded by Hook's current band, with vocals from Hook and Rowetta.
For some fans, this will be seen as meddling with sacred recordings.
"You have to approach the world with an open mind," he responds. "If Rowetta didn't do them justice I would be the first to say they're sacrosanct, they're seminal, leave them alone.
"What I think that Rowetta brings to it is a different passion and a different emotion.
"Once people hear it, you're not trying to copy it, you're not trying to better it, you're just simply capturing something that Rowetta gives those songs."
Tours, club, book, exhibition, EP. Hooky, you're living in the past aren't you?
"Mmmm, no I'm not actually," he replies with a rankle. "If you look at Freebass last year, we did 17 new tracks. So I suppose no. The answer's no.
"And I play on a lot of new material," he continues, mentioning a recent session with electronic duo AutoKratz.
"I do a lot of new stuff and I do a lot of old stuff and to me the interesting thing is doing both.
"So no, I'd have to say that with all the things that I'm doing and all the things that I've done, I'm happy.
"And I hope that annoys 'em even more."