CINCINNATI - Peter Hook, founding member and bassist in the 1970 and 80's English bands Joy Division and New Order was in Cincinnati to promote his new book, "Unknown Pleasures."
Joy Division gained notoriety in 1980 after their lead-singer and front man Ian Curtis committed suicide. The surviving members went on to form the commercially successful band New Order. Hook left New Order in 2006 and currently records and tours with his band Peter Hook & the Light.
The 56-year-old from Salford, England signed copies of his book Monday night at Joseph-Beth Booksellers on Madison Road.
On Monday, Hook sat down with 9 On Your Side reporter Jason Law to discuss his career and new book.
Below is an excerpt from their interview.
Jason Law: "Unknown Pleasures" was published 32 years after Joy Division disbanded in 1980. Why write the book now?
Peter Hook: "It's quite interesting. This is my second book in England, but my first book in America. My first book was about a night club that we owned and it did give me the confidence to make me think I could write. I'm used to reading books about Joy Division. Whenever I read them, I don't quite recognize the people in them. They always seem to write about the band in a certain way: Very gloomy. Very serious. Very ironic, northern working-class. Very dour. It wasn't actually like that all the time. What happened was I literally read one book too many. I've got one book and I just started writing. I've done one book in England before, and I thought, 'Now's the time. I'm going to tell the real story about the people behind [Joy Division].' I think the thing that is played down in most Joy Division books is the humanity and the human aspect of the people. It was very hard work. There was a lot of struggle involved and a lot of inspiration needed to get through it. That's what I felt was lacking from the way most people portrayed Joy Division, was that it was lacking that human touch."
JL: You told Rolling Stone there was a lot of humor too, that you guys did have fun.
PH: "We did make a lot of mistakes that we had to laugh at, so there was a lot of humor."
JL: A lot of those stories are shared in the book.
PH: "Yes they are, and the interesting thing about northern English men is that there is a tendency to be very sarcastic, very ironic with each other. It's something I've noticed Americans don't really get, because it seems very harsh, but to us it's really quite normal. This self-deprecating way that you act with people you love is sometimes very shocking to Americans but it's something we've grown up with. It's very much in our culture. There's actually a big culture of playing tricks on each other, putting each other down, 'keeping it real' is how you would say it in America. There is that aspect to it and we did do a lot of it in Joy Division. I suppose that is the thing I was worried about when I came to do the book. I was thinking, 'Oh, God. Is this going to debunk the myth too much?' As a musician you don't want to destroy everything to do with it. You want to just show a side of it that was, to me, normal. More normal than you were portrayed."
JL: Which is interesting too, because a lot of the reasons Joy Division lives on is because there is a mythical aspect to the band. There are not many interviews [with front man and late singer Ian Curtis] that survived.
PH: "The biggest gig that we had done at that time was about 400 people. We thought we were...huge. Yeah, we did very little [promotion]. We sort of learned early on, because we were punk, and we were very interested in keeping the ethos going, the whole ethical side of punk, 'Be true to yourself,' 'Just push the music,' 'It's not about celebrity,' and we didn't feel any need to talk [to the press]. We didn't feel the need to project ourselves. Our management and our record company said that's fine. We were all independent. We were all learning as we were going along. They said, 'If you don't want to do it, then don't do it.' I know that these days, that's the exact opposite. If you put something out with a record company and then you say, 'I don't want to do any promotion,' they go, 'No.' It's a different world. Back then, because were independent, we were able to make our own rules as we were going. So we did very few interviews, we had a few, 'near misses,' shall we say, where journalists seemed to misinterpret what we were trying to do. We just backed off. Ian Curtis in particular was very happy to back off. It makes life a lot easier when you can just concentrate on the music."
JL: All the fans have is the music.
PH: "I was actually quite surprised. When I started playing the music again in 2010 I thought all the audience would be full of fat old blokes like me. You know, with lots of gray hair. But all of a sudden, when you get there and you play, the wonderful thing is so good and so timeless. you've attracted a young generation of fans. These kids are very, very interested in what
you achieved. Really, in a way, that's what makes it easier to write about, because of all the hard work involved to make the band so successful. It was a difficult time.
JL: How do you explain seeing a 13-year-old or a 14-year-old wearing a Joy Division T-shirt?
PH: "Well, to me as a musician, I've got to say it's the music. The music draws them in. When you listen to the music, you get a feeling for the band and a feeling for the time, and it takes you somewhere in the true tradition of great music. I understand it as a songwriter. Great songs are timeless. We know that is true."
JL: Was it hard to separate writing about New Order from "Unknown Pleasures?" Did you go into this saying, '"This is only going to be about those years in Joy Division?"
PH: "Yes. I would not let the fight that we're [New Order members] having now impinge in anyway on that. To be honest with you, that was a great time when we we're all together. We were all going in the same direction. Everyone was very happy with what they were doing. The only thing that was a problem in Joy Division was Ian's illness, and then Ian's personal circumstances compounded by his illness got him to a point where he felt he couldn't cope."
JL: Do you have any good stories from young fans, fans who may have had thoughts of suicide?
PH: "That is something that does frighten you. In the past, especially when Ian died, there was a lot of letters you would receive like that. It was pre-internet. These people are hard to contact. They came out of the blue. Nowadays, one of the perils of the internet, which has so many good sides and bad sides, generally you can get in touch with people. You would get a letter and there would be nothing on it. Many of them are written in blood. Ian's desperation did come across to a lot of people. I think when you're young and you're just coming out of your teens, it's a very confusing time. I can remember that. I watch it with my children now. It can be very powerfully effective by different things. Joy Division did seem to have the ability to affect people very powerfully, which is something you've got to be careful of. Ian wasn't a victim of success. He was victim of circumstance. You really want people to understand that his illness seemed to be the thing that dragged him down."
JL: What do you think is the biggest misunderstanding with Ian and his legacy?
PH: There is that 'Live fast. Die young. Leave a good looking corpse' aspect to the music. Because of the way New Order has talked about Joy Division, there is a lot of information about what we did and what Ian suffered from. So I'm not too sure there are that many misunderstandings about what you went through. There is a glamorous aspect to it that I think we went through that people can pick up on which can be a little bit dangerous. That's one of the reasons to do the book. I think you want to let people know it's not such an unusual thing to join a group and make it a success. You just want to make it appear less magical. One of the great things about punk to me was the fact that I could go and see a punk band, and I felt like I could do it. I'm walking around this record shop (Mike's Music on Vine Street) looking at pictures of Led Zeppelin and the Who and people like that I use to go see. When I went to see them I never looked at them and thought I could do it. When I went to see the Sex Pistols I thought I could do it. I think that's what I'm hoping to get across is that you are reading a book about quite normal people that did something extraordinary. The thing I'd like people to get from the book is you could do it. It's hard work and some people have to pay a rather high price, which is the unfortunate aspect of it but it is about inspiring people to do it."
JL: Eddie Van Halen once told an interviewer he thought the song 'Jump' best summed up the Van Halen experience. If they could only listen to one Joy Division song, what's the one you would want someone to hear?
PH: "There was a big poll in England, unfortunately about songs like that. What's the best song for weddings? It was Robbie William's [song] 'Angels.' What's the best song for funerals? 'Atmosphere' by Joy Division. I was like, 'Aww, God.' It's points like that that makes you wish you'd written 'Angels' instead of 'Atmosphere.' To me, the most uplifting songs like, 'Atrocity Exhibition,' and 'Love Will Tear Us Apart,' for instance is a wonderful pop song with a very dark lyric, a very desperately dark lyric. People don't notice. For me, 'Transmission' and 'Love Will Tear Us Apart.'
"As we were sort of getting into a very sort of pop-rock, we were learning how to subvert out songs with a pop edge. 'Love Will Tears Us Apart' was one of the last ones we wrote. That's the thing that frustrates me, it would have been really interesting to see where Joy Division would have gone because our songs were getting more commercial. Commercial may be the wrong word. We were very intense
rock but we were actually getting a lighter side as we got older."
JL: More melody?
PH: "I think it was about learning how to use melody in a rock format. It sort of had come to us, and that was right at the end of our careers. It does make you wistfully wonder what could have been."
JL: I loved when Nine Inch Nails did a cover of "Dead Souls" [for the Crow Soundtrack].
PH: "We got offered that actually to do it for the soundtrack of the Crow as New Order. The producer asked us to record 'Love Will Tear Us Apart,' as New Order. Unfortunately, we turned it down for one reason or another. We didn't do it. Nine Inch Nails, I like the band a lot, but they did the song very faithfully. It's a real complimentary interpretation of 'Dead Souls.' A lot of the time when I hear it, I think it's us. That's a great compliment from Trent [Reznor, founder of band Nine Inch Nails].
JL: It's got to be weird to hear your own songs covered. You have your own perception of them and then you hear someone else's interpretation.
PH: "I must admit, in the early eighties when it started happening, when remixes and cover versions started appearing, you did feel a little violated. You really did. It was hard to get use to it. I remember doing 'Blue Monday' as New Order. Some guy came up to me and said, 'I'd like to do a remix.' I thought, 'Remix? Get out of here. We've done it the best it can ever be. Don't even think about it.' Now of course, re-mixing songs is such a vital part of our musical lives, it's something you really take for granted and look forward to. Then it was actually quite shocking to consider. We've had some very strange from Grace Jones through Paul Young, a great pop singer in England. They're all good in their own way. It's interesting. It's just part of growing as a musician. It's a great compliment I must admit."
JL: What about the feud you mentioned [with former Joy Division and New Order bandmate Bernard Sumner]? Do you think this book will help?
PH: "I don't think if I was still friends with Bernard I would have done the book, to be honest. I would have been worried about what I was putting in there. I would have had to go through and say, 'Oh, should I mention [this or that]' and he would have gone, 'No. No, don't put that in.' So [the book] probably wouldn't have happened really.
Everything happens for a reason. To me, I actually feel I've told the story of Joy Division very well in this book and it's made me very happy. Playing the music again after 28 years of not playing it has made me happier still. You always want to move on. But it's been nice to indulge myself very much in what we did. When Joy Division finished, we literally put it away, locked it in a cupboard and never came back to it for years and years and years. So it has been nice to go back, I must admit."
Watch the entire interview in the media player above.
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