He proved to be far more cordial than the cantankerous bloke portrayed in movies, but Peter Hook couldn’t go 2 minutes before dropping a hard jab at his former bandmates.
“Fraud Order is still playing the same set we were playing back in 1997,” Hook said, referring to the group now touring as New Order without him. The Manchester-bred Englishman, 58, called them Fraud Order throughout a half-hour phone call from a tour stop in Uruguay last month.
With his high-pitched, melodic bass parts and songwriting contributions, Hook is widely considered an essential part of both the original New Order — they of synth-pop pioneering influence and “Bizarre Love Triangle” hitmaking fame — and the forever-missed post-punk band that preceded it, Joy Division. His childhood friends and former bandmates apparently see it otherwise.
Singer/guitarist Bernard Sumner and drummer Stephen Morris relaunched New Order in 2011 without Hook, prompting a verbal and legal war that persists three years later. The bassist simultaneously launched his own band, Peter Hook & the Light, which will perform both New Order and Joy Division songs Saturday at the Fine Line.
Whatever their allegiance, Twin Cities fans are happy to finally see at least one member of New Order playing those songs. The band’s last local gig was at the St. Paul Civic Center in 1989. That’s about the time Hook believes things started to go stale and sour.
“Bernard and Stephen had this attitude that those old album cuts weren’t worth playing somehow,” he said. “They were very reluctant and very lazy in my mind, and stuck with the same damn set of songs they’re playing to this day.”
He and his band are going much deeper. After previous tours in which they played Joy Division’s two studio albums and New Order’s first two records in their entirety, they are now performing New Order’s mid-’80s collections “Low-Life” and “Brotherhood” from start to finish, plus an abbreviated Joy Division set.
“Playing the LPs in full is much more demanding on the band, and demanding on the audience, too — and I like that,” he said. “Some of these songs have never been played live. It’s been wonderful to bring them back because they really hold up.”
Hook stands in as lead vocalist for Sumner and late Joy Division singer Ian Curtis. He’s more adept at re-creating Curtis’ parts — “It’s all in my vocal range” — but he actually feels more comfortable singing the New Order songs.
“At first, Ian’s shoes were just so huge to step into,” he said of Curtis, who suffered from depression and committed suicide in 1980. “When I got to playing New Order songs, it didn’t feel as much of a chore or as big an expectation, because a lot of the songs were co-written vocally and lyrically between the three of us.”
Hook actually pitched in and sang two tracks on New Order’s first album, “Movement.” Currently working on a book about the band — he already wrote a well-received Joy Division memoir — he laughed when asked why he did not sing on later records.
“I’m writing this book, and [expletive] if I can’t remember how Bernie became the lead singer, or else I blocked it out of me mind,” he said. “One minute all three of us were singing — including when we did our tour of America — and then the next minute it was just him.”
Sumner just published his own memoir, “Chapter and Verse: New Order, Joy Division and Me.” You can guess what Hook thinks of it.
“The whole book seems to be about justifying to the fans why they restarted New Order without me. It’s like any divorce, but in this case my ex-spouse is the one trying to set my alimony.” Hook hinted of a legal battle over New Order’s name and profits. “After 26 years of working on New Order, they’re trying to give me a pittance’s worth of the trademark. Anybody would fight that.”
Still, he said writing his book has helped give him perspective on the more positive aspects of working with his ex-bandmates, particularly on how they managed to rise from the ashes of Joy Division.
“It struck me: My god, I was only 25. I had lost one of my best friends, one of my good working colleagues and my group. It really was a tough time. We were rather bold — and right — to just sort of set Joy Division adrift and start anew as New Order. It’s amazing we got through it and achieved what we did.”
Maybe they can eventually see their way through the current tumult, too.
Here are more comments from our interview with Peter Hook:
His late friend and bandmate Ian Curtis: “It was nice doing my own Joy Division book to be able to put forward the fact that Ian was actually quite a nice guy and very hardworking, ambitious and loyal. But the thing was, he was battling such a dreadful illness in an era when they really didn’t know how to treat it.”
The two movies made about Joy Division (2007’s “Control” and 2002’s Manchester scene tell-all “24 Hour Party People”): “The ‘24 Hour Party People’ film was very much about all the myths. [Factory label founder] Tony Wilson used to tell me that fiction is always greater than fact. And I told him that on this one occasion, the facts about the Hacienda club, Factory Records and Joy Division and New Order were better. You couldn’t make those up. I like ‘Control’ because it was much more truthful. [Director] Anton Corbijn portrayed us as we were. It was uncomfortable, really, to watch somebody portray you in such a true way.”
His new band’s approach to bringing his old records to life: “Our gimmick, if you like, started with doing the Joy Division records, and the thing about Joy Division is it’s still a huge band today that almost nobody ever saw play live. Most people have just heard Joy Division on record. And Joy Division on record was completely different than it was live. In concert, Bernard [Sumner] would mostly play guitar. There were no keyboards, and if he did play keyboards, then there was no guitar. Now, obviously, we have more personnel, just as they do in Fraud Order. You can fill those holes. I’d never hope or imagine to fool people into thinking we were Joy Division. It’s as ridiculous as that lot pretending that they’re New Order.”