Peter Hook was on the phone from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam awaiting a connection to China where he was booked to DJ in Beijing and Shanghai. For a guy who was a founding member of Joy Division’s glorious pseudo-Goth, proto-industrial, pre-indie-rock-everything miserabilism, he’s a remarkably cheerful guy. After decades of fiscal disasters, alcoholism, bad investments, tax issues and record company crises that threatened to sink both Joy Division and its descendant, New Order, Hooky is still quick with a laugh, which is usually punctuated by a self-depreciating joke.
Hooky’s current obsession is preserving the legacy of Joy Division with his band, The Light. For the last 18 months, they’ve been performing JD’s classic 1979 album, Unknown Pleasures, live in its entirety.
“It all started in May 2010 with the 30th anniversary celebration of Ian (Curtis, JD’s singer who took his own life in 1980) — I celebrate his life, not his death with some shows in Macclesfield and Manchester. Then I was talking to Bobby Gillespie and his idea of having Primal Scream perform Screamadelica (their 1991 career-definer) in its entirety. I though to myself ‘Gor, that’s a good idea’ and in a bold moment, I said ‘I’ll play Unknown Pleasures.’”
A good idea in theory, perhaps, but a surprising number of Joy Division purists were not amused. Condemnation came fast and hard.
“Yes, and some of it has been oddly personal. Being criticized for playing your own songs in any format is an odd thing.”
After the Unknown Pleasures mission is accomplished to Hooky’s satisfaction it’ll be time to move on to Closer, Joy Division’s second album from 1980. And then? Album-by-album performances of New Order’s entire catalogue.
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“I've been thinking ‘Wouldn’t it be great to play every song we've written before I retire?’”
Peter Hook and The Light will be in Toronto tomorrow at the Phoenix Concert Theatre and at Club Soda in Montreal on Sunday as part of POP Montreal. Moby and Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction recently joined them on stage in LA, so who knows what might happen?