Even though New Order has officially split up, bassist Peter Hook isn't exactly resting on his laurels. The 52-year-old now travels the world as an in-demand DJ, in between writing and recording new music with Freebass, a project he's formed with ex-Smiths bassist Andy Rourke, ex-Stone Roses/current Primal Scream bassist Mani and ex-Haven vocalist Gary Briggs.
Before New Order's dissolution, however, Hook and his bandmates oversaw a new DVD, New Order: Live In Glasgow. The two-disc set features interviews, a gig filmed in October 2006 at the Carling Academy and archival concert footage of the band dating back to 1981 — soon after it formed from the ashes of Joy Division. Remastered versions of New Order's early albums — with b-sides included — are also due later in the year.
Annie Zaleski: You are a very busy man. I was reading your MySpace blog, and it made me tired just reading it.
Peter Hook: [laughs] Well, the unfortunate thing about DJing is you tend to have to do a lot of traveling. I've only been DJing for four years, and after four years of doing it, I must admit I do get used to it. It always amazes me when I get to the airport and see people who are really excited that they're in an airport. Literally the week before, when I went to Asia, I did nine flights in three days.
I know, it's amazing what you can get used to, isn't it? I do six flights in a weekend, that's just normal for me. It's hell, I must admit. It's become a big part of my life. In fact, I do admire the way that Roger Sanchez, God bless him, he said, "Listen, man, I play for free. People pay me to travel." It's so true.
Is it easier DJing or having been in a touring band?
DJing is easier...it's just you. But again, you have the problem that it's quite lonely. And also, if you have a great gig, there's no one to share it with. And if you have a shit gig, then you just feel like shit. It's interesting DJing, because every gig's different, whereas with a band — especially when you're an established group — each gig's the same. The recognition level from the audience is the same, they know your stuff, they're there because they're your fan. Whereas DJing, you can put yourself in some very, very tricky situations.
What's the trickiest situation you've ever been in as a DJ?
God, there was one in Italy, when I got bottled off. Really pissed me off. So I put the Sex Pistols on. [laughs] And then sat back and hid under the desk with all these bottles raining down on me. Fucking 'ell, mate, it was really scary. I came off and the guy said, "Oh, maybe I should have put you on Saturday night." I said, "Oh, fucking thanks a lot."
Just like 30 years ago — you're playing the Sex Pistols, you're getting stuff thrown at you...
Oh yeah, it was great! It's true the Sex Pistols can have that effect — thirty years later. That was wonderful. It just made you always think, there's that thing about being a punk and liking to annoy people. And I thought, "What can I do here?" not to protect myself or anything, "I know, I'll put 'Anarchy in the U.K.' on!"
You've been looking back a lot, on this audio and video footage of New Order. What's surprised you the most, looking at all this stuff?
Probably the haircuts. It's like an endless line of dodgy haircuts. No, I mean, what has amazed me a lot of the time is how good the material is. Listening to the remastered New Order LPs, as I've been doing recently, getting ready for those coming out, I was amazed at how good they sound, how powerful. The remastering's really helped them, which has been great.
We were so pissed off, Stephen [Morris, New Order drummer] and I, with the way [2002's Live at] Finsbury Park turned out, the editing and the sound, that we wanted to be involved in this one, which we were. Luckily it came before New Order split, so we managed to amicably work on it well together and enjoy it. It was a matter of making it look good, and making it easy and enjoyable to watch. [Some videos] it's like they've been edited by a hyperactive five-year-old after [having] a bowl of [British chocolate candy] blue Smarties. I'm going, "Who watches this shit?" because I cannot watch it. It's frightening.
Thank you! It's just like, it's so fast. Am I just getting old?
I can't believe it, we had so many arguments with the guy. We were going, "Don't fucking cut! You hold it, let people watch what you're doing. Why are you doing it?" It's just like, "Well, that's what everybody does." "Fuck everybody." We wanted it to be much more Old Grey Whistle Test. I think it's a really sad aspect, I think it ruins performances, and it ruins New Order Live at Finsbury Park. Stephen and I were adamant that we wouldn't let that happen again.
I saw the Joy Division documentary, the one that came out last year. I loved how it interspersed old and new Manchester scenes. It really made everything real.
I did the launch yesterday of the Microsoft Zune. It was funny, I was in LA in this beautiful art space while we were doing it. I had been pissing around all day, driving around, going shopping on Melrose, having a great time. And then they put the video on of where I used to live, and I was like, "Oh fuck!" [laughs] "Shit!" Seeing old Manchester like that, I was like, "Oh my God." It's amazing how easy it is to forget where you came from.
Especially with you in recent years, it seems like you've really had to confront the past with Joy Division...
Yes, I must admit that sometimes I sit there and am absolutely sick of being surrounded by fucking dead people. And talking about the past. As a musician, when we started, you were always taught, "Look forward." It was always your next thing that you wanted to talk about, the next thing that was the important thing. It's hard to get used to, and it's a hard balancing act, really, to be able to talk about the past and also stay interested and excited about what the future's going to hold.
Tell me about Freebass, it seems like it's coming along very well.
It's coming along very well, we're up to eight songs at the moment. We've got four with the new vocalists and four with guest vocalists. We've still got a lot of the guest vocalists that are being very tardy. [Ex-Stone Roses vocalist] Ian Brown in particular.
That's not surprising...
I wish he'd tell me to piss off, at least I wouldn't be waiting for him. He goes [Hook assumes a heavy Mancunian accent], "No, Hooky, no Hooky, man, I'm doing it for you, man, 'cause you did it for me with 'Elephant Stone' [ed. note: Hook produced that song], I'm gonna make it..." I'm going, "Fine, that's great, Ian, could you just fucking get on with it?" It was a wonderful compliment that all those people were able to help, were up for helping us, really. They are our friends and contemporaries, and I'd do it for them.
Who has shown up, who is confirmed and has their stuff done?
[Charlatans vocalist] Tim Burgess, Pete Wylie, Howard Marks has done one for us. I'm singing one, Gary's done four. We're waiting for the others, basically.
How is it balancing three basses?
To be honest with you, Andy Rourke plays a lot of guitar. And Mani and I play together quite well, actually, because he plays very low and I'm obviously the high...[assumes exaggerated falsetto] the high melodic stuff. But we do have three songs where all three of us play bass, and it works, it's very interesting. [There's] quite a lot of reggae, English Northern Soul influences in the music — which is something I didn't expect. Most of it does sound like a combination of New Order, Joy Division, Primal Scream, the Stone Roses and the Smiths. Hopefully, we can't go wrong.
Any idea when it's coming out?
It's coming out next spring, or I will go mad. I want to get rid of it now, I want it to be done so we can start playing. We're all desperate to do some gigs, we've spent a lot of work on writing the songs and writing the music, we want to start enjoying the other side of it now.