Its never easy to live down one legendary band, let alone two.
Peter Hook played bass on both “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “Blue Monday”, played with two bands that shared personnel but had very different ideas on how a band would operate. Joy Division remain iconic, but New Order are also still filling dancefloors across the world – their records fusing dance and rock culture as never before.
For thirty years Peter Hook has stood in the eye of the storm, bass slung low, surveying the changing tide of British pop culture. Clashmusic.com caught up with the man to find out more.
Q – What was it that drove you to form Joy Division?
…of course, afterwards, it was an uphill struggle with the world
My God that’s a pretty loaded question! It was of no interest to me at all, until I saw The Sex Pistols, and then for some strange reason that I’ve never been able to truly analyse, seeing The Sex Pistols made me want to go out and form a band. Now I don’t understand why, because that decision to form one doesn’t bear any comparison to how difficult it is going to be once you’ve formed one. So I think it was a means of escape, having seen something that was so alien to us, but so exciting and interesting you just thought “well I’ve have a bit of that!” Quite odd, really, because we’d never considered it before – Bernard and I – until we saw the Sex Pistols, and did make that ‘flash’ but of course, afterwards, it was an uphill struggle with the world.
Q – Where did that Joy Division sound come from?
If I knew the answer to that I’d be a very rich man! I don’t know really, as corny as it sounds it was just chemistry. It’s what comes between four people and its intangible. It’s like, some bands with four people with get together and sound magnificent while another band of four people will get together and sound crap. The interesting thing with Joy Division and New Order is that we never sat down and tried to concoct what we were looking for, we didn’t talk a good fight before we did it, we literally just sat there and played – without thinking about what it would sound like. So maybe that was the secret, just not thinking about it too much and letting it come.
Q – Reggae influences on the band? Did you listen to dub?
No, not at all. I didn’t get introduced to that kind of music until our sound guys played it to me, they were dope heads and had it on all the time. So no, the thing about it is that Martin Hannett’s style of production was dub-like in that he liked to leave a lot of room between the instruments, making everything very spacial. These huge sounds, which you can’t do in something that is very full, it has to be very empty for you to feature these huge sounds. So it was Martin that had that vision.
Q – Martin Hannett – how did you personally get on with him?
Well Martin was like talking to Professor Stanley Unwin! It was like talking to a space creature, he didn’t speak the same language as you. The only thing we came together on was music, really. He was just a really, really unique, exceptionally weird character. I suppose we were kids to him, in that he was an established producer and we were up and coming, snotty nosed kids, so he treated us with quite a bit of disdain really. It was quite an odd relationship to say the least.
Q – The early Factory era – community of artists?
Yeah everybody felt as if they were in it together and whenever a band came in they felt like part of the extended family. The interesting thing about Factory is how much – as musicians – we did for the other bands in terms of productions. Stephen, Bernard and I really produced a lot of the bands on Factory so I suppose you were literally propagating what you were doing immediately which was quite nice because you didn’t get paid for it. I’m not sure if that would happen now, one of those unfortunate things really. The thing is, really, that then we had plenty of time – as you get older time becomes very important to you, and when you’re young you just filter away.
Q – Favourite Factory band?
Stockholm Monsters, probably.
Q – New York in early 80s, with New Order – what was it like?
What happened with New York was that Tony, very cleverly, he picked on people that he met. He had a very good eye for picking people who would be useful, and in New York he picked on a guy called Michael Shanberg, and he actually ran Factory USA. Factory USA is fairly unknown, but they actually put out some quite interesting records. It was Michael Shanberg who introduced us to New York and that whole electro sound in the 80s, it was his idea for us to go over to New York. Of course when we went over there we got introduced to the club scene, which led to the Hacienda. It was also when Arthur Baker helped us write “Confusion” and “Thieves Like Us”, which provided a different direction for New Order. It was an important time, really, and all came from Tony and Rob picking some guy, just like they did with Factory Benelux.
Factory had a lot of interesting things going on. There was a Factory Zimbabwe. What happened was that some guy got in touch with us from Zimbabwe, who wanted to put out Factory Records, and there were no trade agreements. When they put out the records he couldn’t pay us, they weren’t allowed. So Tony and Rob, in their infinite wisdom told him to take the money they made from selling the records and use it to build a recording studio, record some local artists, send them to us and we’ll see if we can use them. They did that again and Poland, and it’s the same thing where the guy wanted to put out a record and couldn’t pay us. So Factory Poland went on and did the same thing. The guy came up with a way of paying us – he phoned up Factory and told Tony “look I’ve bought six containers full of nails, with your money, I’ll send them to England and there’s your money”. Since you were allowed to send concrete goods, and not money. Of course Tony and Alan were like “fuck off mate just keep the money”. We had tons of money waiting for us in a Polish bank account, waiting for the iron curtain to fall and unfortunately by the time it took for us to get it the money had shrunk down to about three grand. Tony and Rob, it was quite a wacky thing there were always doing things like that, I think there was a Factory Greece, but basically anyone who phoned up and said “look I’d like to release your records but I can’t pay you” they’d say “yeah!”. You wouldn’t get EMI doing that.
Q – You mentioned the Hacienda, what were the early days of the club like?
It took real skill to balls that up
In the early days it didn’t feel like a risk. The problem that Tony and Rob had was that they had their hands on a lot of money, and didn’t pay any tax on it because they didn’t know how to. So there were sat there on a load of money so they could afford to open the Hacienda, and even though it was losing a little bit of money it wasn’t a problem. It was only when the taxman came later claiming tax on the money they put in the Hacienda that it became a problem. Tony said he was interested in art, but it wasn’t much of a risk because there was all that money. The band weren’t earning money; I mean I was in my thirties before New Order started earning what you’d call decent money. So it wasn’t that much of a risk, we were really enjoying it and worrying about the consequences later. It wasn’t until much later with the Hacienda that the consequences started to outweigh the money coming in and it just couldn’t survive.
Q – By the time of ‘Technique’ New Order had expanded into house and Balearic influences – who in the band was the motivator for this?
It was Bernard, really. The first one we did that was of that genre was “Finetime” and basically what had happened was that he had gone to ‘Amnesia’, heard some tune and come back to the studio at 3 o’clock in the morning to try and emulate some of the tracks. To me, it was more about the atmosphere – I think “Technique” captures an Ibizan atmosphere, in that it’s summery, live and jolly, without being housey. The vast majority of “Technique” is acoustic, there’s only one track that’s housey. Other tracks we did, like “Confusion” or “Theives Like Us” have a bigger house influence than some of “Technique”.
Q – At the Hacienda’s peak how often were you there?
I think it’s easier to count the time I wasn’t there, to be honest. It was funny because I always used to go on a Friday – I had the kids on a Saturday and Sunday – and Bernard used to go on a Saturday. So our paths never used to cross while we were there, it was quite an odd thing. I spent too much time there, to be honest, it’s a funny thing the management meetings were so traumatic that the only thing left to you was to go and get off your nut – luckily you had your own private playground.
Q – How did you react to Tony’s ‘arty’ perception of the label?
Well we all came form a working class background while he was middle class. Bernard, Rob, and I were very laddy and working class while Tony was middle class – and so was Martin and Saville. It’s like a cocktail that makes life interesting, it was the collaboration of the people that made it interesting. You cope with it by going “oh fuck off Tony” because it’s quite an alien way of life to you. But it enriched our life, definitely.
Q – Factory’s become huge, how do you react to media exposure?
As blasé as it sounds, your job is surreal so things like that just get added in and you go “that’s OK”. Its quite a surreal moment to watch yourself on screen, but because of my surreal life it doesn’t matter really. Something happens and people go “oh that must be weird” but to you its not, because you’re in the middle of it. We were involved in the planning of “24 Hour Party People” so we knew that was coming, we were involved with “Control” and had a big input. We knew it was coming, so we were prepared – its not like it comes as a surprise, in a strange way you get used to the absurdity of that. Its quite a weird moment, but then there’s been some fantastically odd moments in my life. Watching the new Joy Division documentary, its quite interesting because Factory sold a hell of a lot of records, and had a hell of a lot of licensing deals all around the world, so they were quite a big label. We were one of the big labels in the 80s and 90s. Now it seems iconic and underground, but it wasn’t it was a powerful label. Everyone used to say to Tony – before he died – “look how did you manage to duff that up?” It took real skill to balls that up.
Q – When Factory collapsed, how did that affect you personally?
It was probably the worst period, personally. New Order were having a bad time anyway, and Factory going like that… Everything bad, personally, that could have happened to you happened: the Hacienda started to go, Factory went, New Order’s personal interaction was really bad and it was awful. The thing is that we were put under pressure to finish a record that none of us wanted to make. It was a horrible situation to be in and again it was that thing where they said “if you don’t finish that record then Factory will go bump, and the Hacienda will go bump – how do you like that?” The people of Manchester will have nowhere to go – and we were worried about that! The people of Manchester weren’t worried about us, were they? It’s a bit ridiculous really.
Q – Does Factory feel as much your possession as Tony Wilson’s?
It does, yeah. Without Joy Division a lot of bands like Happy Mondays, Section 25, Stockholm Monsters would never have gotten the opportunity to play, really. We were actually shareholders in Factory, since Tony couldn’t pay us we got these shares which was great because then it went bust and we lost that as well. We must have been mad. It felt very much ours, and still does in many ways – I do hope that after Tony’s sad demise that Oliver decides to keep the ball rolling. To keep the Factory number going, and keep the legacy going. I think that in this day and age of corporate moves the whole Factory thing of doing things for yourself, getting up off your arse and doing it is pretty important. You get the feeling that when you watch the TV, watch “X Factor” and get things pushed at you the whole time, it seems like total manipulation – just awful. There is a great need to fly that flag for independence.
Q – Hacienda reunion tour – motivation?
A lot of people in Manchester have made money off the Hacienda and I never bothered, because it took such a long time for the pain and the trauma to go away. Everyone used to say I should do, if only because these people were ruining it, and I used to “oh whatever”. I wasn’t really arsed, the only reason I came back to doing it again is because my mate who works at Warners was giving me compilation CDs and I was going on about how crap they were, so he just told me to do one myself. The lightbulb went on above my head, and I did it – I immersed myself in it. I realised how good it was – I talked to the people who worked there, the DJs, and realised that it did still have something. Just like Factory, the Hacienda still has something that people want to know about. Everyone you go to, DJs or whoever appreciate what the Hacienda did for Manchester and for clubland. So its quite an easy thing to do – we don’t make any money out of it, but I suppose Tony would probably like that. You do it to enjoy what you create. Its great to do it again, and I’m really proud that what we created in 1981, before Acid House, is still inspirational now. Its funny because 4 years ago when I started doing the Hacienda book it was very bitter, and I was still angry – but a few years on, because I’ve got the Hacienda name going again, and because people come along and enjoy themselves the bitterness have gone. In a strange way I healed myself, in a strange way, by bringing it to people and having a good time. That’s what its all about – it’s just a top night. It’s got a lot of heart and soul, and a lot of things just don’t have that.
Enjoyed this? Now read the rest of our special series of features on Factory Records!