Reviewer: Brian Gorman
The Public Reviews Rating:
Salford-born Peter Hook is a living legend, but seemingly one of the most unspoilt and down-to-earth blokes in the music business. A founding member of Manchester post-punk band Joy Division, Hook achieved worldwide fame with 1980s electronic dance maestros New Order (formed from the remaining members of Joy Division following the death of lead singer Ian Curtis).
Last night, as a guest of the Chester Literature Festival, Hook was in town to talk about his new book ‘Inside Joy Division’ at The Laugh Inn, and enthralled a capacity audience with his no-holds-barred attitude and infectious humour. Flanked by two huge photographs of the late Ian Curtis, Hook seemed pretty happy and relaxed being interviewed by The Laugh Inn’s owner, John Locke, a self-confessed Joy Division fanatic whose informed questioning added much to the evening’s entertainment.
With its black walls, minimalist decor and low lighting, this was the ideal venue for an evening reminiscing about the post-punk era, and Mr Locke had obviously done his homework as tracks from key bands of the 70s and 80s blasted from the speakers to perfectly set the tone for Hook’s arrival on stage. Asked why he’d written ‘Inside Joy Division’, Hook said he’d gotten tired with so many books having been published about the band “by people who weren’t there”.
He felt a real need to put the record straight about such things as Curtis’ illness (he was diagnosed with epilepsy, and committed suicide in 1980, on the day before the band were due to tour the USA) and the experience of losing a fortune keeping Manchester’s infamous Hacienda club afloat. Before starting the book, Hooky (as he’s affectionately known) had blamed everyone but himself for his personal and financial woes, but after reliving the events through writing and researching, he had now realised he was as much to blame as anybody.
Ian Curtis had hidden the extent of his illness from the band, and Hooky revealed that the iconic frontman was anything but the enigmatic, moody, ultra serious image he projected on stage. “He was just one of the lads; one of us. But he was deadly serious about the music”. Asked about how he felt about the influence of Joy Division on bands such as U2, The Killers, and Editors, Hooky said he felt absolutely delighted and honoured, but that it had all come easily to him, and he was constantly amazed at how he was “still getting away with it after 34 years!”.
On the subject of the recently reformed New Order (or “New Odour” as he cheekily referred to them as), his attitude was one of sadness. The band have reformed without him, and there are still legal wranglings over their right to use the New Order name without one of its founding members being onboard. Chuckling heartily when describing the situation as “three fat old blokes arguing over money” Hooky was self-deprecating throughout the evening, and a perfect example of the punk ideal; no frills, do it yourself, and a great big two-fingered salute to anybody telling you what to do.
Not surprisingly, TV’s ‘The X Factor’ came in for a lot of expletive-ridden criticism, and the late great Tony Wilson lauded for putting individuality and love of music over the modern day obsession with instant fame and unearned riches. If Simon Cowell had been there last night, I’m pretty certain Hooky would have floored him.