Peter Hook: ‘It’s weird, in the North of England we do not celebrate our achievements’

Peter Hook will be back on familiar turf when he opens his next UK tour in Leeds.

Peter Hook and The Light. Picture: Jody Hartley
Peter Hook and The Light. Picture: Jody Hartley

The bass player and singer is due to perform songs recorded by two of his former bands, Joy Division and New Order, with his present-day group The Light at the city’s O2 Academy in January 2022.

Forty years ago Salford-born Hook regularly crossed the Pennines with his then Joy Division bandmates Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris.

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“We first played Leeds with the Buzzcocks and whilst everything was a voyage of discovery in those days, there were certain towns which responded well,” he recalls. “Funnily enough Liverpool was one, which was brilliant because the music sort of cut across the divide, and Leeds was another. We always have a big football rivalry with Leeds and Liverpool but I found music, and punk specifically, cut across that wonderfully and we always had a great reception in Leeds.

“We played for John Keenan a few times including his Futurama festival [at the now demolished Queen’s Hall]. We played at the F-Club a couple of times; it was actually playing at the F-Club that I got arrested in the Yorkshire Ripper [investigation]. John was a big fan, he was very active on the scene, he was a great proponent of punk music, and Joy Division played there a few times. Not so much with New Order, I must admit, because New Order quickly moved on and concentrated on America, we never did a lot in England or Europe.

“So the weird thing was when New Order split up and we started out as Peter Hook and The Light because we were down the ladder we started to rediscover our roots and I must admit it’s been the most enjoyable discovery I’ve had for a long time.

“I now count the places we play in England as being very important to us. Now I feel very proud of where we began and I’m delighted to champion it and enjoy it whenever I can.”

Next April Hook plans to recreate Joy Division’s 1979 Futurama set when the festival is rebooted in Liverpool. He says: “One of the wonderful things about working with The Light, because the lads are so good at what they do and so amenable, whatever wacky stuff I come up with they are always happy to do. I think the wackiest was playing every song that Joy Division ever wrote and recorded in one go, which we did to celebrate Ian’s life.

Peter Hook and The Light. Picture: Juan-Luis Fajardo

“Everybody lives in fear of what nutty idea I’m going to come up with next. Of course when we were together in New Order these ideas were very swiftly despatched, there wasn’t much fun involved in that bit. But the thing is Joy Division setlists were really wacky.

“There’s a certain art to writing a setlist, it becomes very traditional: you start with a slow one, speed up, break down in the middle, speed up again, play your hits at the end, and then come back and play your biggest hit for the encore. In Joy Division we never did that. We seemed to delight in, shall we say, being tortuous with the audience, we’d throw ones together, finishing where you should with a real up, instead we finished with a real down. I look at them now and go, ‘Oh my God, this is madness’. So I’m actually looking forward to going into that. There have been a couple of occasions where we’ve been asked to recreate iconic Joy Division setlists and it’s never come off, so I’m hoping that one will be the first.”

Now 64, Hook says: “One of the wonderful enjoyable things for me is that at my age I can try all this wacky stuff – playing one, two or three LPs, playing the old sets, or every song you’ve ever written – because I’ve got the freedom. When we were together we just didn’t have that freedom for whatever reason. That was what really felt dull to me was the fact that there was nothing that pushed you in any way.”

Presently Hook is cataloguing New Order memorabilia for a charity auction in April or May. “The oddest thing is that you save all the stuff and the only person that gets to see it is you, and it feels a bit odd,” he says. “With this stuff, I would actually like people to see it. Over my legal tussles with the others, I realised that what was important is playing the music, as much of it as I can, to people who enjoy it just as much as I do. The other stuff I used to sit there poring over it was nice but I’m actually happier that other people have got it. I’ve had it for 40-odd years, it’s weird collecting – and I know bass players are renowned for doing it for some strange reason, they either drive the van or collect all the stuff. It’s an odd compulsion and I used to love it, I’d get such a buzz from seeing our name on a wall advertising our gig that I would literally take it home so that I could treasure them.

“I’ve tried many times over the years to get a museum that celebrates northern musical history based in Leeds, Liverpool or Manchester but I’ve never been able to find anybody to help. It is a real lack of what was such a huge thing and is still celebrated all over the world. From Oasis to the Buzzcocks, it’s a vast stretch of music that through this lockdown has become even more important and yet we don’t celebrate it here. It’s weird, in the North of England we do not celebrate our achievements, which, when you think about it, is pretty Northern.”

This year is the 10th anniversary of the formation of The Light.

Hook says he never envisaged it could become a long-term project. “I was desperate to play. I had nobody to play with because I’d fallen out so badly with the other members (of New Order).

“I was thinking about this other day as I drove past the Factory. I had a room at the Ibis and I was rehearsing Ian’s lyrics and I’ve never felt so nervous and so thrilled as on that day, May 19, 2010, watching the people start to arrive. It was such a strange feeling that the last gig I did with New Order was to 136,000 people in Argentina and then here I was at the Factory three and a half years later playing to 300 and I was more delighted at those 300 than I was with 136,000, and when we finished and realised that people were hungry to see us do it, it was such a wonderful thing and it really mushroomed from there.”

Peter Hook & The Light play at O2 Academy Leeds on January 11, 2022.