Off the Hook - Peter Hook interview
Since his acrimonious split with New Order, Peter Hook has seldom been happier. Ahead of his memoir about the legendary Hacienda club, the pirate captain of disco-rock talks to Stephen Dalton about being one of the 24 hour party people
PETER HOOK talks like a man newly released from jail. Although proud of his legacy with Joy Division and New Order, the 52-year-old Mancunian seems delighted to have finally quit his day job last year after three decades as the most recognisable bass guitarist in modern music.
In true rock'n'roll tradition, New Order's divorce is proving acrimonious. Singer and guitarist Bernard Sumner has challenged Hook's decision, lambasting his former Salford school friend as "arrogant" and "distasteful" for ending the group unilaterally. In turn, Hook has threatened legal action if Sumner continues New Order without him. It is safe to presume neither will be sending the other a Christmas card this year.
"It just got to the point where New Order wasn't achieving what I wanted it to achieve," Hook says. "It's too many factors. It's like asking why did you split up with the missus? Because she snores, because she leaves the suds on the pots when she washes up, because she keeps putting your shoes away… Is that her fault or yours? It's complicated, and I wouldn't say it's their fault – a lot of the time it's my fault. You have to compromise, that's what makes life work. But you get to the point where you just can't compromise any more."
The New Order story may have a whiff of vintage rock soap opera, but it is tinged with tragedy too. Formed from the ruins of Joy Division following the suicide of singer Ian Curtis in 1980, they went on to create some of the most forward-thinking pop of the post-punk era.
Hook's low-slung, high-pitched, soaring basslines graced timeless dancefloor epics including 'Temptation', 'Blue Monday', 'True Faith' and the England football anthem 'World In Motion'. All of which have been newly remastered for deluxe expanded versions of the band's first five classic albums, from 1981's chilly Movement to 1989's shiny disco-pop masterpiece Technique, reissued last week.
The band members managed to co-operate on these reissues, despite their frosty relations. "I don't talk to Bernard, which makes life difficult for the ongoing catalogue," Hook says. "But I can live with that."
This is not the first time these volatile Manc-rockers have split. New Order spent most of the 1990s in hibernation, with each estranged member concentrating on side projects before finally reforming at the dawn of the new millennium. But Hook insists this latest fall-out is final.
"Bernard and Peter have quite a complicated relationship," New Order's drummer Stephen Morris told me recently. "People don't change. To me it's still the same thing, going back to the bloody playground. It's very Spinal Tap."
Now a father of three living in the Premier League footballer belt on Manchester's leafy southern fringes, Hook has survived bitter feuds, financial disasters and superhuman levels of chemical hedonism during 30 years as the leather-trousered pirate captain of disco-rock. But he has also been chastened by a succession of untimely deaths including studio producer Martin Hannett, band manager Rob Gretton and Factory Records boss Tony Wilson, who succumbed to cancer last year.
"I think Manchester realised how much they took some people for granted when Tony died," Hook says. "All those wonderful people, like Rob Gretton, as soon as they've gone that's when it hits you how important they were to Manchester specifically. But everybody learns to cope, like we had to with Martin and Ian. It's like a phoenix rising from the ashes really. That's the way you have to look at it."
With or without New Order, Hook remains busy with multiple projects, all rooted in the glory days of Manchester's music scene. He is currently completing an album with his new band project Freebass, which features former Stone Roses bassist Gary 'Mani' Mounfield, Andy Rourke of the Smiths and vocalist Gary Briggs.
"We haven't got a record company, but in this day and age I don't know if I want one," he says. "You can do it yourself, which is nice, because it goes back to the old Factory punk ethic. But I don't know yet, we're going to see what happens. My main priority is to get the record finished."
Hook has also written a memoir about the Hacienda, the Manchester club co-owned by Factory and New Order, which became a launch pad for acid house before drugs and guns forced its closure in 1997. The book's blunt title says it all: How Not To Run A Club.
The original Hacienda site is a block of luxury flats, but last year the club was reactivated in the form of a touring DJ crew featuring Hook alongside former turntable regulars Graeme Park, Jon Dasilva and others. Asked whether he ever feels nostalgic for the club's fabled heyday, Hook laughs.
"No," he says. "God, it was hard work. Looking back over the memories, the difficulties we had, makes it quite painful having to relive it all again. But I'm very happy with the exploitation of the brand now, the way it's come back with me and the DJs going out doing Hacienda nights, playing Hacienda music. I'm really happy with that because you haven't got the stress of the club. You can use the good memories, the music, the attitude, without the bad stuff – the gangsters and the drugs."
Barely a week passes without a new book, movie, art exhibition or album that mines Manchester's golden age of post-punk pop. Three recent films – 24 Hour Party People, Control and Joy Division – have wrapped Hook's musical legacy in myth and legend. There are even plans afoot to rename Whitworth Street, the site of the Hacienda, after Tony Wilson.
But Hook bristles at my suggestion that Manchester is in danger of becoming a rock-nostalgia theme park. He cites the recent Mercury Music Prize success of local band Elbow as proof that the city refuses to rest on its laurels.
"Rob and Tony always insisted that we needed to look forwards," he says. "Graeme, Jon and I are very forthright about playing new music when we DJ. There's nothing worse than revelling in the past, and that's one of the awful things you get stuck with in a group, nobody wants to hear your new material. It's called Rolling Stones Syndrome."
Despite his reputation for blunt-talking belligerence, it is striking how mellow Captain Hook sounds in 2008. Having interviewed him on four or five occasions over the past 15 years, this is the first time he has radiated a kind of soft-spoken contentment. Perhaps this is the euphoria of liberation, or just weary resignation.
"I'm stressed and busy, but very happy at the moment," Hook says. "I've got a lot of things on the go, but they all sort of lead you to a good place. As I get older that's more important. Being in a group is completely different, because it's always about compromise, it's always a juggle and you never particularly get your own way. Maybe for once in my life, I'm actually enjoying having my own way."
All the same, despite Hook's tone of finality about New Order, a sneaking sense remains that none of the band has truly achieved closure yet. The bass player has already hinted that he would consider reforming for a one-off tribute to Wilson, and does not entirely rule out a future reunion. Some itches just need to be scratched.
"It hasn't actually stopped being painful yet, so I don't know," Hook says. "I'm a businessman. If people come to me with things I can do in my business, then I'll do anything. Like Mani says, we are all prostitutes, but if they're ugly we want more money."
• The Hacienda: How Not To Run A Club by Peter Hook is published tomorrow by Simon & Schuster
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