Peter Hook, the bass player for Joy Division and New Order, is touring with his band, the Light, to perform albums from both of his previous acts. He's done this sort of tour before; this time he will be playing from the two Substance albums: that of New Order from 1987 and the Joy Division edition released in 1988. Both albums are collections of singles that never quite worked on other albums. Both, in some ways, exemplify and even helped to define '80s music.
“They were the finest LPs, if you like, that never were,” says Hook.
Substance is New Order's best-selling record to date, with three million units sold in the U.S. and more than ten million worldwide. The project was cooked up by Tony Wilson, the head of Factory Records, who bought a new car in 1987 with a stereo that played CDs; he wanted to listen to all of New Order's singles while driving. The band, which wasn't precious about its back catalog at the time, agreed to release an unconventional greatest-hits record comprising singles the outfit had never included on a full-length.
With the massive success of New Order's Substance and the band's subsequent world tour – including a date at Red Rocks in 1987 – Wilson's Factory put out the Joy Division edition of Substance in 1988 with the same concept in mind. Both albums remain genre- and era-defining works in the post-punk canon.
For Hook, performing all of the songs back to back is a challenging exercise in positive nostalgia. Playing the songs with the Light and writing his 2017 book about New Order, also called Substance, has helped Hook heal from some of the rupture that occurred between himself and the other members of New Order and Joy Division.
“Playing the albums since 2010, I like how it's required a lot more effort from me and from the audience,” says Hook. “It's not the greatest hits things that many bands fall into. My biggest bugbear when I was in New Order was the fact that that they ignored the old material, which I thought was fantastic. And to be able to revel in it, shall we say, and play the albums in their entirety and the B-sides, as we do, it's just really good [for me]. I was listening to 'As It Is When It Was' from Brotherhood, at the gym, and I was thinking, 'Thank god, I got to play them again.' Writing the book made me realize we worked well for quite a long time, we were friends for quite a long time, and we created some wonderful music and some magical moments. So it did give me little bits of that enjoyment back.”
At the show, Peter Hook & The Light will bring back to life an era and music echoed on the soundtracks of current films and television shows, including Stranger Things, Drive and The Guest. "If I hear a track, I go, 'Oh god, that sounds like the '80s!'" says Hook. "I don't say that with a snarl. I say it with a smile on my face because it was such a great period. New Order was very much a product of the '80s. We started in May 1980 after the death of Ian Curtis and we broke up for the first time after the England World Cup song in 1990."
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The '80s are considered a landmark era for remixes, and surprisingly, New Order's Substance is an example of this trend. The outfit worked with disco producer Arthur Baker, hot off his work with Afrika Bambaataa's “Planet Rock,” on the New Order song “Confusion,” a piece that sounds more like something from 1989's Technique than music the band was writing in 1982.
Initially the bandmates felt like they were betraying their own music working with another artist but subsequently became close friends with Baker. The idea of a remix wasn't something Hook, specifically, embraced at the time.
“I remember the first kid that suggested a remix of 'Blue Monday,' and I nearly hit him in the head with a bottle. It was the grossest thing that anyone had ever suggested," says Hook. "That just shows you how soon you get used to the changes in the music business, isn't it?”
Peter Hook & The Light, 7 p.m., Saturday, April 29, Summit Music Hall, 303-487-0111, $25-45, all ages