While one could argue that the split between Peter Hook and Bernard Sumner does a disservice to fans of New Order and Joy Division, the end result has been an opportunity for people to hear their early material performed live, as each of them has toured more in the last year than in the previous decade. For most people, Hook’s iconic bass lines defined the sound of both bands, making the Hook-less (sorry, I couldn’t resist) tour by New Order seem enticing but flawed.
Meanwhile, Peter Hook has seemed more focused on going back and listening to the old records, analyzing the arrangements of the songs and giving them a new life via his touring band, Peter Hook and the Light. During the occasional conversations I’ve had with him over the years (including this recorded conversation from 2009), he’s discussed fascinating tidbits, like how learning the vocal melodies for the Joy Division songs led him to a new understanding and appreciation for singer Ian Curtis’s approach to songwriting and singing. When I heard that he was planning to give the first two albums of the New Order discography (Movement and Power, Corruption and Lies) a similar exploration, I reached out to him to discuss it. His intentions seem to genuinely be based on sharing these discoveries with an audience that didn’t get to see these albums performed when they were first released. As always, he was happy to share nuggets of information with me, that he hadn’t previously discussed, like his feelings on Martin Hannett, who produced Joy Division’s albums and New Order’s Movement. This is a man comfortable in his own skin, happy to share his feelings about music and history. A true joy to talk to.
Todd: I interviewed you here in Dallas several years ago and when I mentioned that Movement was my favorite New Order album, you were surprised. At the time you mentioned that the band were in such a bad place when it was recorded and really hadn’t found themselves yet. I want to touch on this first. Did your view of Movement change in the past few years, particularly as you had to prepare to play it live?
Peter: When I decided to revisit Movement, of course it meant that I had to sit down and really listen to it – which I had never properly done before! Some of the songs on there I had not heard for over 30 years! So it was great to go back and hear them but also quite daunting as you then have to think about re-learning them and bringing them back to life in a way. I think Movement gets a raw deal in general really – for me, when you consider the circumstances in which it was written, it is a fantastic record. We as the band were still reeling from Ian’s death and were still trying to recover from this and sort of find ourselves again, trying to figure out what we wanted New Order to actually be. When you consider all that, then you have to admit that we did well with Movement. I saw a comment of Barney’s recently about Movement that really annoyed me – he was saying that it’s not a Joy Division album, but it’s also in his opinion not a New Order album either, because he sees New Order as starting with Power, Corruption & Lies. But Movement IS a New Order album, it’s our debut! And that will never change… Neither will the great songs on it like Dreams Never End, Chosen Time, Doubts Even Here… So it will be great to take Movement out on tour and show people its power and intensity, both of which really come across when it is played live.
Todd: In retrospect, do you wish that the production on the album had been done differently? What would you have done that Martin didn’t do?
Peter: I think the album still sounds great – which is a real compliment to the band and to Martin, after all this time. So in that respect I wouldn’t want to change anything in terms of the production of it. But I guess with the benefit of hindsight I would make some changes to the recording process I suppose. Martin took Ian’s death extremely badly, which of course is fair enough, we all did too, but Martin really loved Ian and the way Ian worked. To him, Ian was the genius and the rest of us were the idiots. So when it came to recording Movement with all of the idiots and no genius, he made things quite difficult. Mainly this was because he absolutely hated the idea of either me, Barney or Steve singing anything. He thought we were all rubbish singers, which was a fair comment I suppose! I think it’s for this reason that the vocals on Movement are very tentative and quite shy sounding, Martin didn’t believe in the vocals enough to give them a proper representation. I understand all this now but at the time it was not an easy environment to work in.
Todd: Once and for all, can you tell us what “ICB” stands for?
Peter: Haha… this is an interesting one that gets talked about quite a lot. Firstly, let me just say that I love this song. It’s absolutely wonderful to be revisiting it now. The way the bass, drums and guitar all flirt around with each other on this one is great. As for what ICB stands for, I’ve seen a lot of speculation online that it stands for “Ian Curtis Buried” but as far as I’m aware this isn’t true… I think sometimes people just tend to read too much into things, what with it being a song on the first album we’d recorded since we lost Ian. But actually, I seem to remember us taking the initials ICB from the logo of a cargo company which we’d seen on the motorway, or something really trivial like that! I will have to rack my brains some more on this one but I’m sure that it was actually something as boring and trivial as that, sorry to disappoint everyone!
Todd: When you went into the studio to record Power, Corruption and Lies without Martin producing was it a liberating experience or was it a bit scary, as you’d worked with him exclusively in the past.
Peter: It was a bit of both… They are great words to describe it actually, liberating yet scary. It was liberating in the sense that as Martin had become very difficult to work with at this point that we were sort of free to do whatever we wanted, but equally scary in the sense that we were now out there in the big wide world doing everything ourselves, without Martin who had previously always been at the helm. But looking back I am happy that we made this decision because I think it improved our overall situation and I think that this is reflected in the music when you sit down and listen to the album. The mood is certainly a lot lighter than on Movement, that’s for sure. But there are still some moodier tracks like We All Stand or Your Silent Face. Overall I would say I’m really very proud of Power, Corruption & Lies as that probably was New Order announcing themselves properly to the world, but I will never overlook Movement as a very important album in our careers which served to bridge the gap between Joy Division and New Order.
Todd: I know you keep up a bit with the current music scene, so I wonder if you’ve heard the band, Savages who obviously owe you a debt of gratitude, musically.
Peter: Yes, I know Savages – my son is a fan, and he plays with me now in this band of course so I do get exposed to what he is listening to. I had heard the comparisons although I don’t REALLY hear it myself, I think in this day and age people are just keen to say something new sounds like something old even when that is not necessarily the case. I like what I’ve heard though.
Todd: Is there anything that you’ve heard in the past year that really interested you?
Peter: Yeah, I’m always looking for new things to listen to. People hand me their demo CDs all the time which is nice. I’ve just listened to and reviewed the new White Lies album for another website, I really liked it. They’ve progressed but still retained their core sound. I’m looking forward to hearing the new Nine Inch Nails album as well, the ones I’ve heard so far sound really interesting.
Check out Peter Hook and The Light during the European warmup dates and their US tour! For details, click here.