Peter Hook: Life Beyond Joy Division and New Order

peterhookArguably best known as the bassist of Joy Division and New Order, Peter Hook (aka ‘Hooky’) has had a long and colorful career, not only as an accomplished bass player, but also as a vocalist, DJ, club owner, record producer and author.vAs February 13 marks Hook’s 59th birthday, he is showing no signs of slowing down.

It has been nearly 35 years since Joy Division’s rise to fame came to an abrupt halt when frontman Ian Curtis hung himself on May 18, 1980, after a lengthy battle with depression and being diagnosed with a severe form of epilepsy. Yet, Joy Division have maintained their cult status as the post-punk darlings of the early 80s. I was embarrassingly ignorant of the work and legacy of Joy Division until I saw Anton Corbijn’s exquisite Ian Curtis biopic “Control” upon its release in 2007. It was only after seeing the film that I began to really fathom the widespread adoration for Joy Division, and why they have stood the test of time.

Along with guitarist and keyboardist Bernard Sumner, Peter Hook is credited with forming Joy Division (who initially went by the moniker Warsaw) in Manchester in 1976. Joined by drummer Stephen Moriss, and then Curtis on vocals, the band quickly changed their name to Joy Division (named after a group of prostitutes frequented by German soldiers during World War II). Joy Division rapidly gained a reputation as one of the up and coming acts in the Manchester scene. Hook’s basslines were an integral part of Joy Division’s dark and haunting beauty. Hook commented that his distinctive sound came about when Joy Division first started playing together, as his speaker was of such poor quality that he had to play higher notes so that he could hear himself play over Sumner’s guitar. Whereas out-of-tune guitars were one of the signature sounds of the post-punk scene of the late 70s, Hook’s distinctive style reiterated the importance of rhythm. At the time of Curtis’s death, Joy Division had only released one EP and the LP ‘Unknown Pleasures,’ which was met with widespread critical acclaim. Their second LP, ‘Closer,’ was released posthumously, again to widespread critical acclaim.

After Curtis’s demise, Hook, Sumner and Morris continued on to form New Order, stepping away from the post-punk somberness of Joy Division to a more modern rock sound, which is often referred to as a precursor to the New Romantic movement of the 1980s. As New Order moved towards a more sequenced and synth-heavy sound, Hook’s playing also evolved to become increasingly melodic. Hook also provided the vocals for two tracks on New Order’s debut album ‘Movement,’ namely “Dreams Never End” and “Doubts Even Here.” He also provided backing vocals on a number of Joy Division and New Order tracks.

While playing with New Order, Hook was also involved in several side-projects, including Ad Infinitum (with Factory boss Tony Wilson’s wife Lindsay Reade), Revenge (with Chris Jones and Dave Hicks) and Monaco (with future bandmate David Potts). He also produced for several bands, including the Stone Roses. Hook was also a one-time owner of the infamous Hacienda club in Manchester, which was one of the most famous clubs and music venues in the United Kingdom during the 80s and 90s. Hook wrote a book of his experiences with the club, “How Not to Run A Club,” published in 2009. He has since published a second book about his time in Joy Divison, entitled “Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division” (2013), which received critical acclaim.

Hook acrimoniously left New Order in 2007, seemingly after he suggested that the band stop touring. At the time Sumner commented “Peter Hook can leave the band, but this doesn’t mean the end of New Order.” Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened, albeit temporarily. New Order eventually reformed, minus Hook. 2011 marked the band’s first performance since 2006, and heralded the return of keyboardist Gillian Gilbert after a ten year hiatus, and the debut of Hook’s replacement, Bad Lieutenant bassist Tom Chapman. After departing New Order, Hook contributed basslines to a handful of different artists, including Perry Farrell, the Crystal Method and Hybrid.

In 2010, he formed Peter Hook and The Light. Their first performance marked the opening of Hook’s new club in central Manchester, The Factory, which was built on the site of the offices of Factory Records (which Joy Division had been signed to by infamous Tony “Mr. Manchester” Wilson). Hook recruited his son Jack on bass, Nat Watson (guitar), Paul Kehoe (drums) and Andy Pool (keyboards); David Potts (guitar) joined the band in 2013. The band is arguably best known for performing Joy Division and New Order albums in their entirety; the band is currently undertaking a tour playing the singles and b-sides from New Order’s Low Life and Brotherhood albums, with Australasian dates set for the end of February, the band’s second trip down under in two years. The band has also released several live recordings of their shows. Despite receiving some criticism from the remaining members of New Order over the choice of material played, Peter Hook and the Light have received glowing reviews from both fans and critics.

Adding another proverbial string to his bow, in 2012 Hook established a Masters Degree Programme in Music Industry Management and Promotion at The University of Central Lancashire, which offers students the opportunity to study the music industry while obtaining practical experience. Hook was subsequently awarded an Honorary Fellowship from the university in 2012.

Some may argue that Hook is riding on the coattails of the success of his former bands. Whether or not this is actually the case, there is no denying that Hook is an accomplished musician in his own right. Over the last three decades, Hook has continued to carve out a long and varied career, full of both highs and lows. Suffice to say, Hook’s influence reaches further than simply being the bass player from Joy Division and New Order.