Joy Division made an immediate mark on the world of music with its two full-length albums, 1979's Unknown Pleasures and 1980's Closer. The desperation, anger and psychic torment of those records is all but unparalleled in the annals of rock music. Singer Ian Curtis's tragic suicide, two months before the release of the band's final album, abruptly ended what might have been the long career of what was already a remarkable band.
After Curtis's death, the three remaining members of the group reformed as New Order and went on to become an influential band in their own right, in the process becoming unlikely pop stars.
One of the things that made both bands so distinctive was bassist Peter Hook's unique playing style. Over the last year, Hook has been touring both Joy Division albums live, and he's currently traveling the USA playing Unknown Pleasures in its entirety. We recently spoke to the witty and affable Hook from Majorca, Spain, in advance of his Denver show.
Westword: What has been most surprising and rewarding to you in revisiting those Joy Division songs for the recent tours you've been doing — in terms of what you realized about the music that you didn't fully appreciate before, and in terms of audience reaction to the material?
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Peter Hook: The thing it brought home to me was how fantastic a lyricist and how fantastic a wordsmith Ian was. I never took much notice when I played with him. He kept his end up admirably, and he went for it, so I didn't really need to know every word he was saying. I just knew that every word that he said was delivered with passion and belief and a wonderful, wonderful sense of theater.
While Unknown Pleasures is quite aggressive, quite rocky, quite confident, when you contrast it to Closer — it's a hell of a contrast — you go through two completely different emotions with each album. It's been very nice to sit down and read his words and concentrate and focus on them. It has been a revelation to me, actually. There were a lot things about Ian that I took for granted. I use a lot of his tricks, that I noticed, in new things that I do, which is great.
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Audience reaction: While the idea was greeted rather badly, shall we say, the practice has been fantastic. The audiences are a complete mix of young and old. I thought they'd just all be old. It's really heartening, because the thing is that when Joy Division finished, New Order basically ignored it for thirty years. And even when New Order split, we were still ignoring it.
It's nice to hear people say to you, "Oh, God, I thought I'd never hear 'New Dawn Fades' played live. I love it!" I must admit — and this is the honest truth — not one person has come up to me after a gig and said, "You shouldn't have done it." There's always been someone who has said, "Man, you should have done it years ago!"