SHADOW PLAY: “There was always a lot of guilt with playing Joy Division songs in New Order, which was sad, really,” says Hook. “Because we should have been celebrating.”
Peter Hook has heard the criticism, and he does not care. He’s heard that circles of Joy Division fans, some critics, and even former Freebass bandmate Mani think Hook should not resurrect his old band’s debut album to commemorate the 30th anniversary of vocalist Ian Curtis’s death. The legendary bassist does not care if people think that touring the world playing the landmark 1979 post-punk album Unknown Pleasures — and assuming its sacred vocal duties — is an act of cashing in on the legacy of Joy Division. He simply does not care what you think.
“It’s that wonderful devil of internet criticism, those who do a bit of keyboard terrorism,” a chatty Hook says by phone from the UK. “The first thing they accuse you of, like Mani did in his rant, is cashing in. ‘You’re cashing in! You’re ripping off Ian Curtis!’ And, my God, I must be the worst fucking businessman in the world, because I waited 30 years to start cashing in.”
Mani’s “rant” was a series of late-night tweets back in September: “3 things visible from space, great wall of china, peter hooks wallet stuffed with ian Curtis blood money, man citys empty trophy cabinet! . . . used to adore the man, now he’s a self centred sellout reduced to hawking his mates corpse around to get paid. And he can’t play.”
Mani has since apologized, but Hook notes that it was Mani teaming up with Bobby Gillespie to resurrect Primal Scream’s 1991 album Screamadelica that inspired him to dust off Unknown Pleasures for a live spin. The first such show was in May at his Factory nightclub in Manchester, to honor Curtis exactly 30 years after his suicide.
“I read what Bobby said about playing Screamadelica, the way he felt it should be, and how he ignored a lot of great songs [in subsequent tours],” Hook says. “And in a way that’s how it was with Joy Division — we didn’t play half the songs on Unknown Pleasures.”
When Hook’s nine-date North American tour hits Royale this Saturday, the album will be played in its entirety alongside other Joy Division tracks like the Warsaw-era “At a Later Date” and the broken-hearted masterpiece “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” Joy Division’s music survives on virtual shelves as well, 30 years after the band’s demise. A new, seven-inch-singles box set, +/-, is available December 6 through Rhino Records (via mail order or iTunes). And Hook is offering a double CD of his new band, the Light, performing Unknown Pleasures recently at the UK’s Vintage at Goodwood festival, at mute.biz/thelight.
But the trade-off is that there’s only a quarter of the original Joy Division line-up on stage. The Light have Hook’s 21-year-old son, Jack Bates, on bass, while Hook himself takes Curtis’s role as vocalist. Enlisting a new singer was pointless. No one wanted to fill the shoes — or voice, rather — of the now-mythologized Ian Curtis, who, suffering from worsening epilepsy and a failed marriage, hanged himself in 1980, at the age of 23.