As a founding member of iconic alt-rock bands Joy Division and New Order, Peter Hook’s melodic bass lines were a key component of both groups’ success. His signature low-end sound helped form the bedrock for seminal albums like Joy Divisions ‘Unknown Pleasures’ (1979) and ‘Closer’ (1980), as well as New Order’s ‘Power, Corruption & Lies’ (1983), ‘Low-Life’ (1985) and ‘Technique’ (1989). But that foundation was irreparably cracked in 2007, when — amidst a flurry of public insults and accusations — he infamously parted ways with the bandmates he’d played alongside for decades.
In recent years, most press coverage about New Order has focused on the increasingly heated animosity between Hook and his former cohorts — singer Bernard Sumner, drummer Stephen Morris and keyboardist Gillian Gilbert. And most of the tension centers on the remaining members’ decision to reform as New Order in late 2011 minus its original bassist.
Featuring a lineup that now consists of Sumner, Morris, Gilbert, guitarist Phil Cunningham and new bassist Tom Chapman, New Order has since toured extensively around the globe, and hit the U.S. in fall 2012 for its first run of Stateside shows in seven years. (They will return to U.S. shores in April when they play the annual Coachella festival in Indio, Calif.) Hook has also been busy touring with his new band, The Light, and controversially performing full albums from both Joy Division’s and New Order’s catalogs. He has also authored ‘Unknown Pleasures,’ an acclaimed account of his time in Joy Division, which is released this month in the U.S. via It Books.
Speaking exclusively to Billboard ahead of a two-week national book tour, Hook sets out to answer his former band’s criticisms and set the record straight. “I’d be the first to admit if the things (they are) saying were true,” he says, “but they simply are not.”
Billboard: This month sees the long-delayed release of Lost Sirens — an 8-track album of songs recorded during the making of New Order’s most recent album ‘Waiting for the Sirens’ Call’ (2005). Given the fact that you are no longer in New Order, how do you feel about the record today?
Peter Hook: What was really weird was when I heard it; it reminded me of the good times. After the year I have had, and the legal wrangling that I’m going through with them lot, it was nice to be able to listen to ‘Lost Sirens’ and go, ‘Oh, my God. We did do some really good work, despite all the arguing.’ Even though we were at each other’s throats, there was still chemistry between us that was absolutely fantastic.
It’s something of an understatement to say that relations between yourself and the other founding members of New Order have not been good for a long time. But the animosity between you all seems to have increased in recent months.
I think I’ve short-circuited any disagreements between the three of them because their hate is obviously all pointed at me, as opposed to the old days when we all used to point it at each other. What Barney (Bernard Sumner) is doing is washing his dirty laundry in public. If I wanted to wash my dirty laundry in public, then there’s a lot of things that I could say about them all. I’d be the first to admit if the things he was saying were true, but they simply are not.
Okay then. Let’s start with Sumner’s claim in a recent interview with Spinner that New Order was unable to finish what became ‘Lost Sirens’ because you were too busy DJing?
Surely people are not daft enough to think that when I go off DJing, them lot are just [sitting] there twiddling their thumbs and waiting for me to come back? That has just not happened. We all did things outside of New Order and the schedule would be moved around to take care of that. It’s just so childish for him to try and insinuate that I was off DJing, so everybody had to wait. The fact that you were away would be of no interest to Barney because he was doing it on his own any way.
So you’re saying that you didn’t decline Sumner’s offer to contribute to the ‘Control’ soundtrack or the ‘Lost Sirens’ album due to DJing commitments?
He’s absolutely wrong and completely mistaken about this… Steve and I did the music [for ‘Control’] on our own and then it went to Bernard to be… the polite term is finished off. The impolite term would be messed about with. The thing with ‘Lost Sirens’ just did not happen on those occasions. If I was DJing, they just carried on without me. They’ve been carrying on without me and hoping that I wouldn’t turn up for years [laughs]. It was always a real squeeze to get on the bloody records because he’d be doing it on his own and then when you turned up with your bass he’d be like: ‘What the f**k do you want?’
We’ve been in this business for thirty odd years and if somebody couldn’t do a session then you just rescheduled. We spent three years writing and recording ‘Waiting for the Sirens’ Call’ and I missed the last week because I went into rehab. I came out a month later and that’s [the period] he is referring to (in the Spinner interview) when he says: “He was a worse person, in my opinion.” That’s because I was sober and I couldn’t get drunk anymore to put up with his outrageous behavior, so I was standing my ground.
In the same Spinner interview, Sumner claims that following your treatment for alcoholism, while on tour in Japan, you “tore strips off” him, blaming him for “everything that had ever gone wrong with New Order.”
I don’t remember that and I was sober then. But when he says, “He blamed me for everything that had ever gone wrong with New Order,” well, there isn’t that much that’s gone wrong with it, really, is there? There’s a lot of what he says that doesn’t make sense. I think he’s the only guy I’ve ever met that can actually contradict himself three times in a sentence. The other interesting thing is that he says I’m only [touring] for the money. Well, what’s he doing it for then?
One of the major sources of their grievance seems to be you buying the Hacienda trademark behind their back.
What happened there was that [Joy Division and New Order manager] Rob [Gretton] had heard that the [Hacienda] liquidator was selling the trademark at a public auction and he said to me, “We are going to have to buy it.” So I lent him the money. It wasn’t behind anybody’s back. So we bought it and he gave me half the trademark… [Years later], with Rob Gretton’s widow’s permission, I did the first Hacienda compilation CD. I was in the band then — we were doing “Waiting for the Sirens’ Call” — and nobody said a dicky-bird. Nobody was interested or bothered. I may have even asked them to help me… It seems strange to make it such a part of his beef now because the two reasons that he cites for reforming New Order behind my back are this Hacienda thing and me playing Joy Division, which, again, him and Steve both played Joy Division in (Sumner’s brief-lived post New Order group) Bad Lieutenant before I did and never asked me.
In an interview with Billboard last year, Sumner memorably said that your decision to tour Joy Division’s ‘Unknown Pleasures’ with your new band The Light had “opened the gates of hell.”
[Laughs]. Well, if that’s the worst thing in his life… I’m afraid that the world is full of much more important things than two fat old blokes arguing about [whether I] left the band or [we] split. I opened the gates of hell? Oh, pack it in, mate. We’re just fucking arguing and the sad thing is, when it comes down to it, we’re arguing about money, so that’s a ridiculous thing to say. You lot must love it, though. It’s a journalist’s gift, this argument.
It’s the gift that keeps on giving. In a recent Telegraph interview, Gillian Gilbert was quite disparaging about ‘Unknown Pleasures,’ your autobiographical account of Joy Division.
Obviously, they are unified in their hatred of me and their desire to belittle. I’m actually quite flattered that they still feel the need to do it when they’ve toured the world for a year as New Order, earned a shit load of money, and yet they still feel the need to let everybody know what a bastard I am. I’ll have to take it as a compliment that I have got up their noses so much.
What is the nature of your on-going legal action against New Order?
What we’re arguing about is the business side. It’s nothing to do with me trying to stop them (touring). I must admit that I was very shocked at first and angered by the fact that they had [reformed] completely behind my back. But the thing that I was most angry about was the business deal that they had left behind for me. Without asking me or consulting me, they just said: “Here you are. Here’s your cut of New Order going forward.” That’s what I’m trying to legally remedy.
You’ve previously stated that, despite everything that been said, you would rejoin New Order if they asked you to. Has it gone past that point now?
Yes. This does need to stop. It’s getting beyond a joke. Even I’m looking at it now and going, “Oh, my God. This is ridiculous.” I mean, we’re both musicians trying to earn a living and get on with it and this constant sniping is not good for either of us and it is very, very childish… This does really strike me as “the lady doth protest too much.” Especially when they have got everything back that they wanted… Maybe they are just feeling like a jilted lover.
New Order is playing Coachella this year. Do you envy their continued ability to attract high-profile, high grossing shows?
At the start it was quite shocking because when I was [with them], they wouldn’t gig. And then, all of a sudden, you have an economic crisis and they’re they all out there gigging, so God bless them. I take it with a pinch of salt. I say it’s more about financial stability than it is about music. The thing that I dislike about them most is the way that they just keep playing the greatest hits all the time. That was one of the things that I hated when I was there — when we were actually New Order, as opposed to a New Order tribute band, which is what I feel that they are now. They are as much New Order as I am Joy Division. In a funny way, now that I’m New Order, they are as much New Order as I am New Order.
Finally, what do you make of Sumner’s claim that the band members are all much happier now than ever before?
I would imagine that most people who have been backstage after a New Order gig can make up their own minds about that particular statement. But if they are happier, then it must have been me (making them unhappy). I think probably the thing that Bernard is happiest about is that nobody says boo to a goose now, because the whole mantra used to be don’t upset Bernard. Well, now he’s got nobody to upset him. He’s got what he’s always wanted, which is a bass player who does what he’s told.