I hosted a conversation with Peter Hook down at Rough Trade East this week, in front of an audience that included a 16 year old Joy Division fan and a chap with the Unknown Pleasures artwork tattooed onto the back of his neck. Hook happily clambered into the photobooth with the latter at the end, providing the fan with a suitably ’80s memento of both Hook and of the evening.
The night was to promote Hooky’s new book about Joy Division, unsurprisingly titled Unknown Pleasures. It’s the follow-up to his Hacienda book and if propelled by a similarly dark sense of humour. It’s laugh out loud funny at times, even if that laughter is undercut with the knowledge that the end of the story is coming, and is as inevitable as it’s been since Ian Curtis killed himself on May 18th 1980. When a poster falls of the wall behind us, halfway through, Hook looks over his shoulder: “Ian again” sounding like he’s only half joking.
I’d recommend you read the book. In Hooky’s version of the story Joy Division was less depression and Dostoevsky and more about throwing eggs at The Buzzcocks. You get a real sense of the difference between the band and how they saw themselves and the version of the band captured so icily by producer Martin Hannett. “We would have made a great album for then,” says Hook in the book. “But he made an album that was great for all time.”
Hooky gave some good examples of the opaque instructions Hannett would give the band after a take:
“Faster but slower”
“More cocktail party”
I could hear people talking about Martin Hannett all day, but we did move on. Hook did a nice impression of manager Rob Gretton, and the way he’d always push his glasses up his nose, and shared his thoughts on how he’d decided what to include and what to leave out, and talked a bit about the New Order book he’s now definitely writing.
There was a great question from audience: “What would Joy Division have sounded like if Ian had done the right thing?”
“We would have sounded the same,” said Hook, animated and frustrated. “We were going that way anyway.” Ian loved disco, he said, and not just Kraftwerk. He loved Georgio Moroder. New Order, he said, was how Joy Division would have sounded, with the one simple difference that they’d have had Ian’s vocals and Ian’s lyrics. It was eternally tragic that Ian hadn’t stayed for the success, he said, for the good bits.
After we finished talking, Hook told me a good story about producing The Stone Roses and playing the demo of Elephant Stone to Geoff Travis. He’d travelled down to London, got to Rough Trade and proudly put the cassette in the tape deck. It sounded horrendous. A tinny, hissy mess. Turns out one of their entourage had bought a job-lot of tapes that didn’t work properly. Travis was infuriated, told Hook off, and sent him away – and missed out on the chance to miss one of the biggest bands of the ’90s. It’s a story that’s mirrored in the book, where the first Joy Division promos were sent out with an accidental interlude of roadie Twinny being called for his tea, with the sound of Coronation Street in the background. Some things never change, I guess.