Filed under: Interview
Imagine doing a job you love for twenty-nine years and still going out and making a twat of yourself. Can’t be bad – at least that’s Peter Hook’s irreverent take on his own career, one that has earned him a leviathan status in the often hubristic worlds of rock and dance music. From the death of a genius, through the vicissitudes of Factory mismanagement, the havoc of the Hacienda heyday, and the vagaries of a generation that discovered summer and love could be bedfellows once again, the New Order story is the stuff of legend, and Peter Hook has played no small part in shaping it.
But how to explain the Manchester-bassist-turns-DJ affliction that has gripped himself, Primal Scream’s Mani and former Smiths’ bass maestro Andy Rourke?
“I think we can safely say it’s Mani’s fault. I think I was born with the gene by being a bass player, because it seems that most bass players in Manchester are DJs. I don’t know why that is…”
To pay the rent, perhaps? His band, after all, famously calculated a net loss of 10p for every copy of “Blue Monday” (at the risk of disappearing down our anorak: the best-selling 12-inch ever), and ten pounds for every Hacienda reveller, speeding up the club’s untimely demise. To discover more, a partially inebriated Higher Frequency found him in his hotel lobby before his set at Air last month, where we were able to pay our dues for purchasing a copy of “Blue Monday” while we were at school…
Interview & Introducion by Matt Cotterill (HigherFrequency)
HigherFrequency (HRFQ) : Thank you for your time, we know you’re very busy and we’re chuffed that you’ve taken the time to talk to us today.
Peter Hook : That’s alright.
HRFQ : Fuji Rock last year, the reason we wanted to say thanks was because it pissed it down for three days, and we were covered in mud, and Sunday night we were feeling a bit green behind the gills, then you guys came on and just made that night to be honest. A good laugh.
Peter Hook : It was a funny one that one, because it was raining the last time we did it in 2003, but it wasn’t muddy. I think people expect mud at festivals, I think you’d be asking for your money back if you didn’t get it.
HRFQ : Bernard was hilarious, he said some funny stuff, like “yea, I know what it’s like, it’s been raining, you’re cold and wet… I know what festivals are like, a friend told me about them!” Thought that was classic.
Peter Hook : Sarcasm is a Manchester trait.
HRFQ : Ha ha! But did you see what he was doing during Bizarre Love Triangle?
Peter Hook : Erm, no, I can imagine, what was he doing? Was he hopping on one leg?
HRFQ : I think gyrating might be the word.
Peter Hook : It’s a form of expression, it’s what we call in England “Dad Dancing”, which is a popular pastime when you become a father, your sense of rhythm tends to disappear and you turn into somebody who embarrasses his children, very much like your own father I suppose.
HRFQ : After that you went to the Red Marquee, you did a DJ set. It was quite a hard set as we recall, there was a lot of vocal, hard house that you were putting out.
Peter Hook : Yea I like hard house.
HRFQ : Would you say that’s a direction you’re going in?
Peter Hook : Musically, no, DJing.. it’s a very peculiar thing because what I do is I just listen to as much stuff as possible and I pick out very little actually to play, and what I pick out could be punk, it could be rock, it could be dance, it could be vocal dance, anything really, there has to be something in a song that grabs me. That’s it really, at the moment I wouldn’t say I was influenced by any one thing in particular. I love dance music, it started with me in ’88 and has never left me. It’s what I consider to be my driving music, whenever I’m in the car! I love it, which is why putting the Hacienda album together was such fun because I found that one of the negative sides of having children was that the only time you get to listen to music is in your car when they’re in school, or when you’re DJing, so I put things together for my car. And they do tend to be fast and up, because that’s how I like to drive.
HRFQ : Your lad’s what, 15? 16?
Peter Hook : 16, my son.
HRFQ : What sort of stuff is he listening to?
Peter Hook : He’s into Pearl Jam actually, he’s been reminding me to get him Pearl Jam tickets for days and days! He listens to rock, he’s not a dance fan at all, and it tends to be American rock, which is beyond me, I don’t get that, but it’s nice to do something to rebel against your father, innit. It’s always good to annoy your parents.
HRFQ : The transition from bass playing to DJing, was that all Mani’s fault?
Peter Hook : Yea, yea, I think we can safely say it’s Mani’s fault. I think I was born with the gene by being a bass player, because it seems that most bass players in Manchester are DJs. I don’t know why that is. It’s been one of the problems with Freebass, with myself and Mani and Andy Rourke, coz every time we try and get together one of us is fucking DJing! But it’s an interesting thing DJing, I find it as nerve-racking as playing live, and in some ways more nerve-racking, because if it all goes wrong you’ve got nobody to nod at or smile at. I’d DJ’d for a couple of months, and my friend who’d DJ’d for years said to me that DJing can be the loneliest place on earth. And I thought, “what does he mean by that?” and now all of a sudden, one night, I found out why it was the loneliest place on earth, because if you can’t do anything right it’s a fucking nightmare! Coz you’re right on the spot, aren’t you.
HRFQ : You feel maybe more vulnerable, you haven’t got the bass or anything?
Peter Hook : Yea yea you’ve got nothing to hide behind, you’ve got no people and no one with you really. But I suppose I’d have to say I’ve risen to the challenge! For me it’s an extension of being in a group, I always have this discussion with Bernard, where he says “it’s just a PA, that’s all you’re doing, it’s just a PA!” but it’s not as simple as that, and also if it was just a PA I don’t think you’d get much pleasure out of it, because it’s the playing, the music and the sharing, the interaction that I think is interesting.
HRFQ : Is it harder than you thought?
Peter Hook : Yea, it’s fuckin a lot harder! Because you have to be on it, you’ve just got to be on the ball coz otherwise it’s sloppy (laughs). But then I quite enjoy when something goes wrong, because when I watch DJs that take it very seriously, it’s nice when you make a mistake and laugh about it.
HRFQ : Now something that intrigued us that you’ve said before is when you play, you like to put on tracks that will annoy people.
Peter Hook : I do do that, yes.
HRFQ : If someone asks you to play The Smiths tonight, what will you say to them?
Peter Hook : “No”. I find it quite interesting that people would think you’d fly as far as I’ve flown to be told what to play! (laughs) And I’ve noticed that Americans in particular take it really badly when you say no. To be honest with you nobody’s ever done it to me in Japan before, I’ve only played here twice, maybe tonight’s the night! There’s several things as a DJ that amuse me greatly, it’s great when someone comes up and says, “will you play Happy Mondays?”, and you’ve just played it! (laughs) That always gives me a real chortle, and then when someone comes up to you and says “will you play The Smiths?” and you go “No”, and they go “why?”, and you go “coz I fucking think he’s a twat!” It’s quite surprising coz I suppose most DJs go “yea, yea I’ll put it on in a minute”, which I have been guilty of, depends on how big they are is what you say really.
HRFQ : There’s some great stuff on the Hacienda CD, we’ve got the tracklist here, did you have free reign to choose this yourself?
Peter Hook : I did it myself completely. The people that make them said to me they’d get somebody to do it, and I said “No, no, no, good god no, I’ll do it myself!”, and I realized once I started doing it why they get someone to do it for you, because once I’d listened to about 400 acid house tracks without the benefit of drugs, I was fucking hanging on for grim life! It took me 6 months and repeated listenings to get it to that. I worked really hard. That [tracklist] is wrong, it’s the one I wanted, but a lot of them, like Lil’ Louis “French Kiss” you couldn’t get, and you couldn’t license them so we had to do a lot of juggling about at the end.
HRFQ : There was a track that you mentioned you really wanted on, and you might put it out as a different CD – Robert Owen, ‘Back in the Day’.
Peter Hook : MThat’s right, and, hilariously, we’d been listening to it thinking it was a Hacienda track, and we were looking for it and couldn’t find it, then we discovered it was actually released in 2003, seven years after the Hacienda closed! (laughs) but it sounds like a Hacienda track, and I was gutted because they wouldn’t let me put it on, the bastards! The people who put these out are real purists, real fucking trainspotters, and I was going, “nobody’ll fuckin notice, stick it on, it’s a great track!” I mean, it sounds like it was Hacienda, and I was absolutely devastated I couldn’t have it on, it was one of my favourite bloody tracks on the whole thing!
HRFQ : Is it true that the Hacienda, ten years on, cost you ten pounds per person.
Peter Hook : That we lost.
HRFQ : So everyone who went there owes you a tenner.
Peter Hook : Yep.
HRFQ : And everyone who bought a 12-inch of Blue Monday…
Peter Hook : …owes me 10p.
HRFQ : Right. We never went to the Hacienda but 10p is about 20 yen, right? Here you go – don’t spend it all at once. We did buy a copy of Blue Monday.
Peter Hook : Ha ha! Well, you’re the first one who’s paid up!
HRFQ : Let it be known.
Peter Hook : God bless you son. I won’t gamble that, I’ll keep it as my lucky 20 yen!
HRFQ : Thank you very kindly. A few more general questions, you’re doing Creamfields later this year.
Peter Hook : Yea yea, [we’ve] arranged a Manchester vs. Liverpool duel.
HRFQ : Doesn’t it grate a little bit, listening to all these Cream mixes?
Peter Hook : Yeah they’re shite! It was the reason why I did the Hacienda one, was my friend who works at the record company has something to do with the label that the Hacienda came out on, and I was saying to him, “Fuckin ell, why do they do these things, half of the tracks are shit!”, and he said, “well, why don’t you do one?”, and I thought, “yea, that’s a good idea”, and he went, “right, ’bout bloody time and all”, so we did a Hacienda one in typical Factory fashion – ten years after it had closed! So I suppose people are lucky there really, aren’t they? Ten years later, and then all of a sudden everybody has decided to do one! I had Tony Wilson saying he was gonna do one, some guys in London saying they were gonna do one, and I was going, “fuckin ell, you wait ten years and then three come along at once!” (laughs)
HRFQ : Karl Bartos was here last week, we don’t know what kind of relationship you guys have had with him?
Peter Hook : I’ve met him a few times, he’s quite a close friend of Bernard’s, and I was very pleased to meet him actually, he’s a nice guy.
HRFQ : We read somewhere that you had some tracks that you’d billed as your ‘Kraftwerk’ tracks.
Peter Hook : Oh, we’ve always done that, every time we do a record, we invariably have one that comes from a Kraftwerk riff, which we always call ‘the Kraftwerk one’. And it was quite interesting, Karl Bartos told us that Kraftwerk do it as well, and they call it ‘the New Order one’! And he was pointing out on the LPs which ones were inspired by New Order, and it was fantastic! It’s funny when you think you’re the only person who does things like that, and we aren’t, it was quite nice. It’s quite weird meeting people who are your heroes. I mean, when I heard Kraftwerk in 1977, I’d never heard anything like it in my life. I can safely say it ranks alongside The Sex Pistols as being two earth-changing moments really, so to be sat with Karl Bartos was really weird, it was really strange. I mean, we played with Kraftwerk, and I didn’t have the balls to go and talk to the other two, which was quite strange.
HRFQ : You can ask them if they’ve developed any onstage shenanigans.
Peter Hook : Yes, they have, he turns his LED tie on halfway through, which I suppose for them is pretty wild.
HRFQ : “World in Motion” was voted the best footy song.
Peter Hook : By The Sunday Times readers.
HRFQ : Congratulations for that. You were quoted as saying Arctic Monkeys should do this year’s, with Wayne Rooney rapping. But it turns out Embrace are doing the official one, what was your feeling about that?
Peter Hook : I’m not a great fan of Embrace. It was funny because I was reading an article in The Evening News on the bullet train today, and the bit about me slagging off Embrace was in it, I didn’t realize I’d done it to be honest! It’s the press putting words in my mouth! But what I felt bad about was after slagging them off, in the little piece, the guy from Embrace said “we’re really looking forward to doing the track, and hopefully it can be half as good as World in Motion”.. I thought, “bastards! they’ve stabbed me in the back by being nice!” (laughter) Bastards, why can’t everyone slag everybody off, then you’d know where you stood then! But that’s the trouble with Embrace really, they’re too nice!
HRFQ : Bloc Party last year, you did an interview with them for The Guardian. That was great, we enjoyed reading that! ‘You’ll get it coming lads, look at you now, you little upstarts, it’s all coming to you!’ [http://arts.guardian.co.uk/fridayreview/story/0,,1404817,00.html]
Peter Hook : Ha ha! Yea, again, I felt bad about that one as well! (laughs) I think destroying people’s hopes and dreams is what I’m becoming a specialist in! It’s quite ironic I suppose, it’s that thing about being in a group when you all start out as friends and then invariably end up hating each other. So I just thought they needed telling really, in case they were labouring under the apprehension that they were still friends.
HRFQ : Brilliant! Freebass, you mentioned earlier, what’s going on, because we haven’t been able to find anything.
Peter Hook : Ah, that’s coz I’m sitting on it. We came quite a long way very quickly, and then we couldn’t find a singer, and I think the reason for that is both Mani, Andy Rourke and I have been saddled, unfortunately, with some very very good singers, and if we’re going to have a hope in hell of holding our heads up high.. and musically it sounds great actually, it’s quite interesting, but we couldn’t find a bloody singer. And as Mani said, “We’ve gotta find somebody who’s unknown, Hooky, so we can fuckin persecute him!” (laughs) So we’re looking for someone who we can persecute, for all our years of persecution! But we’ve found a kid in Wigan, he’s been in a few bands before, and he’s done a couple of tracks, a couple of ideas that were really good. But, like I said, we’re sort of suffering from DJ-itis! None of us can sit down long enough to do anything because we’re so fucked from DJing at the weekends!
HRFQ : He’s just done an album, hasn’t he, Mani, with Primal Scream?
Peter Hook : Yea, it’s good actually, I heard a track off it called “Country Girl” and I was fucking pleasantly surprised!
HRFQ : They played that at Fuji Rock last year.
Peter Hook : Yea, it’s really really good. It’s got mandolin on it, though, on the record, I didn’t see a mandolin on the stage at Fuji. It was funny, coz I was watching them, and I thought, “who’s that twat on the end, another fucking guitarist!? Who the fuck’s that?” nobody knew! And I said to Mani afterwards, “who was that guy on the end?”, and he said it was some kid from one of the support bands who asked if he could get up, so they said yea! I was going, “are you fucking barmy, letting some kid out of a support band get up and play guitar with you!?” (laughs) I mean, that sums up Primal Scream really – fucking potty!
HRFQ : Do you agree with the following comment: “In an age where for many the click of a mouse button has sterilized the listening experience, the gathering of live acts has taken on a more urgent meaning, and the grassroots connection between music and audience has become ever more vital.” ?
Peter Hook : No, I don’t actually. Because I think that people will always appreciate the physical act of somebody doing something, and I think that even though you’ve got a generation of younger people that are used to having everything at the click of a mouse, I still think that there’s a lot that people give. I think the only way I can draw it is that I love seeing people perform.. even DJs (laughs), and I think that that will never change. And I think that when you have a virtual world.. I think it’s even more important. I mean, it’s like I played in Osaka last night, and it was great, there wasn’t many people, but it was a fucking great atmosphere. I was being told, “we’re really sorry, there aren’t many people here”, but I didn’t care, because the people who were there were fucking great! I’d rather have ten people who are mad for it than ten thousand who aren’t. It’s a funny thing, I’ve been very lucky in my life because I found a job at 21 that I loved, and have been allowed to do it for 29 years. And that’s saying something. And I’m still going out and making a twat of myself! And that’s not bad after 29 years! (laughs)
Peter Hook : You see, a lot of people do that, but they don’t have the 29 years of great music behind them Peter, so you’re not doing too badly! Thank you very much, it’s been a pleasure talking to you!
Peter Hook : And you mate, well done!
End of the interview
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