SALT LAKE CITY — During the 1980s, New Order was both a critical success and a groundbreaking, highly influential group.
The Manchester, England band’s mix of new wave, alternative, post-punk, rock and electronic-synthpop made them mainstays in the underground scene and on alternative/college radio for the entire decade.
But it wasn’t until the band released their Substance album in 1987 that they became a commercial success. Substance, a double LP collection of all the band’s singles in their 12-inch versions, sold two million copies in the U.S. alone and made Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
“This assemblage of twelve-inch singles and remixes charts New Order’s transformation from gloom rockers to electrodisco pioneers. The highlights – club hits including ‘Blue Monday’ and ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ — are full of bass melodies that young bands such as Interpol are still trying to figure out,” Rolling Stone wrote.
And yet, New Order’s bass player and co-founding member Peter Hook said if the band had its way back then, the album would never have been made.
“We didn’t want to do that album. We thought that Tony Wilson, who was the head of Factory Records, our record label, was being ridiculous. He had bought a new car that played CD’s. And he simply wanted to play a CD of all our hits in his car. We said, ‘Well mate, whatever you want to do,’” the dry witted Hook said with a laugh during an interview recently with the Deseret News before the first night of the new U.S. tour for Peter Hook & The Light.
On May 15, Peter Hook & The Light will perform both Substance albums from New Order and Joy Division, sequentially and in their entirety, at Metro Music Hall. The two-and-a-half hour show in Salt Lake in November of 2016 was such a success that Hook said they were invited back for an encore performance.
“It’s interesting with this tour because it’s the first tour where we’ve ever been asked back. We’ve done (Joy Division’s) Unknown Pleasures, we’ve done Closer, (New Order’s) Movement, Power, Corruption & Lies, Low-Life, Brotherhood. But the two Substances are the only ones we got two bites of the cherry,” he said.
Hook, 62, was born in Salford, England. He, along with Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris formed Joy Division in 1976. After Curtis’ death in 1980, the surviving members continued under the name New Order. Throughout the 1980s. New Order was on top of the new wave/alternative music world. Hook’s melodic basslines drove many of the band’s songs, which managed to blend both guitar rock and the electronic sounds of the dance clubs of the era. New Order broke up in 1993, then got back together in 1998. That reunion lasted until their acrimonious second split in 2007.
And that’s when band relations really went south.
Hook told one publication that New Order was done. Sumner disputed that in another publication. Finally, New Order reunited again in 2011, but this time without Hook. And the two sides continued to quarrel.
New Order didn’t like the way Hook was using the Joy Division and New Order brand names with his new band. Hook felt the band was cheating him out of royalties and sued the band in 2015.
In September, New Order announced. “a full and final settlement has been reached in the long running disputes with their former bassist Peter Hook.”
Hook is the type of musician every reporter loves to interview: he’s well spoken, easy going, funny, and he doesn’t need much coaxing to get a good answer out of him. He’s also isn’t afraid to speak his mind.
With his band Peter Hook & The Light, Hook said it was important for him not to just do a greatest hits set each night. Which is why he’s been touring sequentially on each of Joy Division and New Order’s albums since 2010.
The reason for doing the album sides, he said, was not to mimic his former group.
“I went to great lengths to make sure that I was not perceived as something I was not,” he said. “I didn’t think that was fair on anybody.
“I find that most of our fans that come to see us and then go to see New Order – so called – they have opinions about both. And some of them are good and some of them are bad. But I’m still here. I’m still playing. They’re still here.They’re still playing,” Hook continued.
Hook said his band will move on to playing the albums Technique and Republic this fall.
“It was quite odd saying goodbye to them once in New Order. It was bad enough. Unfortunately in my career, I get to say goodbye to the albums twice, which this time around is absolutely heartbreaking. I can’t say it had much effect on me the first time. But this time around I’ve been sorry to see every single one of them go,” he said. “Once we finish the tour, we won’t be playing the Substance albums again.”
On Tuesday, fans can expect to hear classics such as “Ceremony,” “Blue Monday,” “Bizarre Love Triangle,” and “True Faith,” a song that was written for the Substance album and became one of New Order’s biggest mainstream hits.
But just as Hook didn’t initially like the idea for the Substance album, he wasn’t thrilled with “True Faith” either.
“I can’t say, from my point of view, we had a great time making that record,” he said. “It was that point that everyone goes through in every relationship where you just got a bit fed up with each other.
“We fell into a right way of working with ‘Truth Faith.’ I wouldn’t say by any means it’s one of my favorite songs. The bass, in particular, was put on very much as an afterthought, which I wasn’t happy about at the time. Stephen Hague, the producer, concentrated 5-to-10-hundred percent more on every other aspect of the group rather than the bass. But I still managed to leave a mark on it, which was wonderful, and I think added to the overall sound,” said Hook who admitted he “sat there twiddling my thumbs with a very sour look on my face for most of that session.”
But in the end, Hook concedes today that “Substance really did work.” New Order found themselves playing in arenas and stadiums to crowds of 25-to-30,000 each night up until their first breakup.
“It made us a huge group in America,” he said. “It certainly helped our career…Our music was hard to come by until Substance. The original of ‘Blue Monday,’ you had to go and seek out the 12-inch, which I think was discontinued by then. If you wanted the original ‘Thieves Like Us’ you had to go and seek it out….It made our music, especially in a huge market for us like America, readily available.”
Substance is also the title of Hook’s book, published in 2016. The nearly 800-page long book – which Hook said was cut from 1,200 pages – is Hook’s very detailed look, and opinions, on New Order. But if not for Sumner’s book, Chapter and Verse: New Order, Joy Division and Me, Hook said he would not have written his book.
“I didn’t agree with most of what (Sumner) said. So it became very important for me to tell what I consider to be the truth,” he said. “It was very important to me to get the proper story out. I definitely would not have written that book if New Order hadn’t have reunited without me in such a fashion, shall we say. I wasn’t going to tell that story. I didn’t feel a need to. It had too many black moments in it, shall we say. And the fact it was even blacker than Joy Division’s story was certainly sad. But it needed telling.”
But writing the book was also cathartic for Hook as he re-lived New Order’s glory days of the 1980s.
“I didn’t realize how big and important New Order was to the 80s,” he said. “We achieved so much. It was incredible.”
Despite the cathartic feeling Hook had while writing the book, he said there has been no effort from either himself or Sumner to pick up the phone and mend fences.
“The sad thing is our relationship after we settled is just as sour as it was before we settled. And I think that maybe we are just unable to reach out. I don’t know. It’s the same for me as it is for them. There has been no communication between us, which is really sad actually. And the longer it goes on the sadder it gets, really. We should have been able to slap each other on the back and say, ‘Wow. Didn’t we do well? But hey, we do our thing and you do yours and get on with it.’ It is sad we didn’t manage to get a personable relationship,” he said.
But in typical dry witted fashion, Hook said New Order’s situation is a common scenario when lawyers become involved.
“To protect their interests, they need you not to talk. Because they want to talk to your lawyers so they can have a nice Christmas. They don’t want you talking to each other and sorting it out, do they?”
Hook said he’s “a sucker for original lineups as much as anyone.” But he also noted, “the very chemistry that makes great music and makes great happenings is bound to be the same chemistry that causes you trouble like any divorce does,” while jokingly saying the New Order story wouldn’t have been as interesting “if we got along and were as chummy as U2.”
“Just like any relationship, and work, and any work relationship, you know musicians are no different. It’s just that they tend to be a bit worse at sorting it out. Once ego and stupidity get in the way, musicians certainly will never lead the world, will they?” he quipped.
Fans may wonder what will happen after Peter Hook & The Light complete touring on all of New Order’s albums? Hook said not to worry, this isn’t a farewell performance.
“I don’t know, maybe I’ll have time hopefully before I join those great musicians in the sky, to maybe play it all again. Who knows?” he said. “I can’t afford to say goodbye. I still have to work for a living. One thing I’ve learned in life is when they used to say cocaine was God’s way of telling you you have too much money, I have since discovered that legal battles are definitely God’s way of telling you you have too much money and you should hand it over to various lawyers.”
Last May, Hook’s daughter, Jessica, was at Manchester Arena during the Ariana Grande concert when a suicide bomber killed 22 people, including some that Hook knew personally.
“It was the most awful moment,” he said of the phone call he got from his daughter. “It was a bloody awful thing. And what an awful world we live in when children cannot go and enjoy a concert. That’s just awful. My heart bleeds and I despair for the world we live in, to be honest.”
While Jessica, who was 19 at the time, was not physically injured, Hook said she suffers from survivor’s guilt and has not attended a concert since. But Hook said he’s proud of the way his daughter handled herself that night and attempted to help others. He also complimented Grande for showing “amazing maturity” throughout the ordeal.
Hook has been taking his daughter to Manchester Arena since she was 6. He said like all children, she went through the phases of going to concerts with her dad, then wanting her dad to wait outside the arena, “then they get to an age they don’t envy want you to be in the same city,” he joked. The area where he used to drop his daughter off and pick her up after a show is where the bomber struck.
“We as adults need to make sure the world changes so these things don’t happen. It’s our fault, not the kids’ fault,” he said. “What we have to show these people is you cannot bully anybody, There are just too many nice people int he world.”