Recently, CADIZ music announced the release of “K÷93” – three-song EP recorded by Jaz Coleman, Peter Hook and Geordie Walker back in 1993.
The K÷93 comes out on the 5th of March. Dan Volohov sits down with the co-founder of Joy Division and New Order, Monaco and The Light. Peter Hook discusses old recordings and upcoming releases, the production side of things, songwriting, Martin Hannett and more.
The upcoming “K÷93” record is an intense, almost orchestral collection of songs. What drove you exploring those tendencies?
PH: I’m afraid there’s no special answer. What happened was I was invited to jam by a German promoter we worked with as New Order. He invited 16 or 20 musicians to a studio-complex in Cologne. It had four studios then he split us into teams, and we each were to go into the studio and jam two or three tracks. The idea was to mix them later and make an LP from the result. So, I was fortunate, because I was very nervous – to be in a team, shall we say, with Jaz Coleman and Geordie Walker whom I knew very-very well from when we used to play very competitively with them, as Joy Division. I’d also become friends with them over the years and went to see them whenever they played in Manchester.
So, we were friends, anyway. It was wonderful to see them there. There were also loads of great German musicians. Some from Faust, some from CAN and various very well-known German musicians. As well as people from around Europe. I have a list of musicians, but unfortunately, it’s with my New Order Memorabilia. I’m getting ready for my auction – which will be in May, this year. And I can’t go and get it because of Covid so, I’m unable to quote who was there or show it to you or anybody because it’s stuck in the auction house – because of the bloody lockdown. So, it’s a shame.
But yeah, we assembled our team. There was Jaz singing and playing keyboards. Geordie on guitar, me on bass. We had a drummer and a percussionist. We went in, we jammed two tracks, which turned out very well. One of them is on EP. And the strange thing was we then had a massive bender overnight (laughs) Then the boys actually asked me to join Killing Joke because I play bass and because they were having trouble with Youth. I had to decline. Because I didn’t think I could do that role justice. So, we finished on a little sour note from that.
But after we came back to England, we ended up re-convening in my house and working at my studio in Manchester. We were literally just making it up as we were going along, we were just jamming to make the tracks. So, there was no masterplan. It was just what happened when we started playing live in a studio.
How did it feel to step from the band interaction you had in Joy Division and later New Order and doing something more spontaneous?
PH: ( laughs ) I can not say New Order weren’t spontaneous. The predicament we were in – because of the Haçienda and with Factory Records had added a lot to the vitriol, shall we say that surrounded us. It was an unfortunate predicament that we ended up in as New Order. Especially coming out after the way Joy Division finished. That was a sad period when we broke up, and I never thought we’d get back together again!
We got back together again to try and save the Haçienda financially, by doing another New Order record and saving Factory for the same reason. Unfortunately, it was impossible to save either of them so making that album [Republic] was a complete waste of time because we all hated it and hated each other. It didn’t do any good anyway.
We obviously, would have been better not making it, for us as people, I think. New Order would have fared better if we hadn’t made that LP…but we did! And we ended up getting back together again in the 2000s when I didn’t think we would again. And I have to say after 14 years of legal wrangling with the others, I sometimes wish I had have stayed with Monaco. But that’s life. Isn’t it?
How does feels to you right now, to find and re-discover these recordings from 1993 recently?
PH: You know the strangest thing was when I came to do my New Order memorabilia, I had about five hundred cassettes – A massive collection of cassettes. Most of them had nothing written on them. So, I always thought, because the only one that disappeared had been this Killing Joke session. That’s the only session I’ve ever lost. And it was quite funny because I played it to some of my friends, at the time who loved it. And over the years, they would always ask me: “Have you found that Killing Joke-session, yet?”. And I always thought that when I came to sort out my cassettes, I would find it but I didn’t, and it wasn’t there I don’t have it. It was Jaz that came across this cassette of three songs. We actually did 8 songs.
We did two in Cologne, and we did another six in England. So we’ve still got five missing (laughs). Somewhere, there may be another cassette lurking with five more songs on. Because, I remember, at the time, I was desperately trying to rip off the bass-line from Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking”, and I managed it! On the Killing Joke-session, we managed to use that bass-line in a rip-off In one of our songs. And unfortunately, that wasn’t the three we found. So, I’m still looking for that illusive use of that wonderful bass-line.
Your playing style has always been different from what most of the bass-players of your generation are doing. How do you see your role in the writing process – if we’d speak about composition, and what usually defines your playing mechanics?
PH: (laughs) That’s an interesting question; I must say I don’t really know. I always, up to the present day, even if you’re looking at “Aries” with Gorillaz, I literally go in the studio with nothing and just play. Most of the time, I’ve been lucky to be able to find a riff that, on some occasions, that defines the song. I was very pleased with these particular three tracks because the bass-riffs are very strong, memorable, and actually define the music’s flavour, making me happy.
I have to say it’s luck because it sometimes works and sometimes, it doesn’t. In this session, I’ve always been a great fan of Jaz and Geordie. To actually, play with them and hook in, into their style was just an incredible relief. As you quite rightly say, I wasn’t having a good time with New Order. It was sort of in-between or maybe just before Monaco. So, it was a delightful thing to do. We had a fantastic time in Manchester. We painted the town red, we lived together, like Big Brother and it was a wonderful three weeks. I have very very fond memories of the whole session.
We did talk about forming a group afterwards, and we actually went to meet their manager. We talked about starting a group, and we all were up for it! He even gave us homework – we were to go home and think of a group name. Thinking of a name for any group is the most challenging thing in the world. And that was obviously the straw that broke the camels back. Because, basically I went off to work again with New Order – to do Republic and they patched things up with Youth. I think they did that by telling him that Peter Hook would play bass if he didn’t come back ( laughs ). And that scared him to come-back to Killing Joke. So, I was very pleased to be of use in that way.
How important is the improvisational component for your songwriting?
PH: To be honest with you, it’s the only thing and the only way I do it. I cannot do it, to be honest, in any other way. And I must admit that even New Order, for all Bernard’s talk of the way he would have liked New Order to work, most of the songs were written from jams, from improvisation. We had nothing on tape, and we’d go: “Right! Let’s play!” – and we’d play together: Bernard, Stephen and I. And that’s how we created the massive most significant bulk of New Order songs. So, to be honest with you, I don’t know any other ways of working. And I’m pleased to do it. I have confidence in myself.
The last time I did, it was with Damon Albarn for Gorillaz – with “Aries”. I went into the studio with nothing, and he said: “Come on, Pete! Play!” (laughs). And the next thing – we got “Aries”, which became fantastically successful. A lot of the time it works. Some of the times, it works fantastically, and some of the times, it works ok. I have to thank God for what I have at that time.
Getting together as New Order you started avidly using synthesizers, loops and slowly moved from this band-type-of-interaction to a point where the work process also included collaging and using different samplers. How much did that transition affect you on a creative level, within your songwriting approach?
PH: Hmmm… That’s an interesting question! If you read the New Order book, you get an excellent indication of how. The joke in music circles is “Drum-machines were invented! So, the drummer doesn’t have to talk to the singer. And bass-synthesizers were invented. So, the singer doesn’t have to talk to the bass player.” By being able to do it yourself, shall we say, the most gregarious person in the room can lead the way which can sometimes be good or bad. And sometimes it alienates people, and sometimes it doesn’t.
Republic, for instance, with New Order, was written very synthesized, very sequenced. And then, I got to play at the end. Stephen Hague, the producer, managed to squeeze me back in. Its swings and rounds about isn’t it? My preferred method of working was for great musicians to play together and make great music – that, to me, is the most enjoyable part of being in a group. And I must admit that the important thing in a group for me is that everybody’s happy! For certain people, the most important thing was that they were happy and all about the song. Whereas for me, as a person, it was all about the group. So, there were some disagreements.
Coming from punk-rock, you got this very characteristic attitude – you’ve always been a punk-rock person. But at the same time, all the releases of Joy Division were recorded by Martin Hannett – who was very particular about the depth of sounds and all the factors involved in the recording process which was different to most punk-rock-recordings approach. How much did working with Martin, affect you on a creative level?
PH: Well, Martin taught me everything I knew about producing. And the interesting thing was – when we began working with him, we knew absolutely nothing! Literally, we didn’t know how to record or do anything in the studio. When we finished working with him, we were adept ( laughs ) at ripping him off, funnily enough! Martin went through a very very difficult period with drugs. And it came just after the death of Ian Curtis. Martin was very head-strong, and he thought he knew best, and maybe he did.
Because I have to say he was absolutely right with his production on Unknown Pleasures, he was absolutely right with his production on Closer; our ideas would have ruined those two albums. He made two perfect albums. Thank God, and thank you, Martin! In fact, where I am tonight, I’m very close to where he’s buried about 100 years away from me. Where I’m sat now, I can almost see his grave. How strange is that?
When Martin had his bad drug-period, Bernard and I decided to learn everything we could and get rid of him, because, he was impossible to work with. And it was unfortunate. He stayed that way for four or five years. And then, luckily saw the light, and got cleaned up and was sober for four or five years before he died. Sadly, he had a heart-attack moving house. But literally, I can say, without fear of contradiction: the production on New Order – on “Blue Monday” on “Power, Corruption & Lies”, on all our songs: “Temptation”…God, you can say and name any of them!…it was inspired and taught to us by Martin Hannett. He was a genius with sound.
By the time, Killing Joke, Joy Division, Public Image Ltd, to name a few bands of that era, started touring and got massive recognition, punk-rock had already ended. It became too commercial. But at the same time, there was a moment, when it felt like a whole new scene was formed – that later got this label “post-punk”. How did it feel to become a part of this movement, even for a short period of time? After you experienced punk-rock, glam-music and so on.
PH: Well, I mean we were in the right place at the right time, and we grew with the music. Can you imagine what a lineup for a gig it would have been now? To have Joy Division, Killing Joke, Public Image…Oh my God! You would die for that ticket! Wouldn’t you?
Yeah…Unbelievable. But we were in a good company. Punk was very spirited and a very innovative, very inspiring movement. It was actually, quite nihilistic and quite negative, but the musicians who came from it took the energy and used it correctly. I mean, if you look at Public Image – how fantastic and how adult they became, after the rock of The Sex Pistols – Quite a straight-forward rocky band. Public Image was on another level, musically. Keith Levene…Oh my God! Jah Wobble…What a lineup! Fantastic! Metal Box is one of my favourite records! It was groundbreaking music! It was wonderful at that time: Post-punk, was the music of the ’80s and how often do people listen to it now? It’s unbelievable.
I can’t wait to get my Spotify and Napster and Amazon payments. For next year, and 2020. Because everybody was playing music much more than they ever had before, weren’t they? We’re not going to get paid much, but I guarantee that 2021 will see a massive increase in people, listening to that years’ music, from ’80 to ’85 to ’88. Fantastic music! And then, of course, we moved through acid house. Public Image Ltd, with “Rise”, he moved into acid house and was very successful with Leftfield. It was a great band of people making great music. And a wonderful milestone for me to work with Geordie and Jaz to show what could have been there. It’s a delightful thing that has surfaced. I’m really pleased about that.
Speaking your recent activities with Peter Hook and the Light. Is it challenging to combine that element of punk\post-punk with orchestra joining you, or a choir which of course add some changes to the original interpretation?
PH: Well, yeah! I presume you’re referring to the Joy Division orchestral? Because it started with the Haçienda. And we did Haçienda classical, which was a mixture of the orchestra and the DJ backing track. That was so successful the conductor, Tim Crooks always said to me, whenever we played: “I’d love to get my hands on Joy Division!” and I was like: “…In your dreams…F*c* off!” ( laughs). Completely dismissive. But then as the years went on and I saw the relationship, it struck me with Joy Division and Martin Hannett.
We spent a lot of our time adding orchestral sounds to Joy Division. If you’d listen to Closer, there’s significant use of strings and piano and a very orchestral order in the songs like “Decades” and “The Eternal” – they’re very orchestral pieces! So slowly, I came round to the idea. What happened was: we started working on a couple of songs, and we saw the difference! I just finished an EP of the Joy Division Orchestral we’re gonna put out, which is wonderful. I couldn’t use any samples of Ian Curtis. So, I had to find someone who sounded like him. And I couldn’t use any samples of Joy Division, because of my relationships with the others.
There were lots of challenges. But blow me down to sellout The Royal Albert Hall in England and then sellout Sydney Opera House, and get a standing ovation in both (laughs). For doing it, when I was terrified with the expectations by the fans who’d been listening to Peter Hook and the Light doing very faithful versions, shall we say, of Joy Division songs. Yeah, that was f*cking scary, man! And I was so delighted that it worked out well! Because, I got such a wonderful feeling from the girls’ singers, who made the interpretations, and Bastien Marshall who’s now my friend, who did Ian Curtis’ role in the orchestra. And it worked out very well, and we were thrilled. It’s nice to do these things.
The trouble with New Order is this; we always had such a difficult time with the Haçienda or between ourselves. Nearly every record is tainted by that atmosphere. The Killing Joke was a joy to do. Joy Division orchestral was a joy to do. And it’s much more rewarding in a way. But with New Order, that edge that we had through never been particularly comfortable actually made the music much more valid right the way through to the end. So really, we were never comfortable.
We were never particularly happy. There was always some moan or grief attached to whatever we were doing. So, it actually worked in a way! Tony Wilson always used to say to us, whenever we used to talk as New Order about splitting up, Tony Wilson would always say the same thing: “You can’t split up – ’cause you haven’t made a shitty record!”. We tried very hard with Republic…(laughter)…But it wasn’t a shitty record. It had a wonderful track – “Regret” on it. The rest of it was a joy when I played it live. It really was a joy. I thought Peter Hook And The Light did a fantastic job. Not only finishing off the LP but actually injecting a lot more New Order into Republic that was on the record. So, I was pleased. This is a strange thing. It’s life, isn’t it? You’re going through awful-awful time, but you have to put on your big boy-trousers every morning you have to wake up. And you have to get on with it, don’t you? If you don’t – only God knows what would happen. You have to keep going.
Since the beginning of your career, we know you as a wonderful songwriter. This partially refers to that Tony Wilson quotation – usually, songwriters need a certain path to pass through. Finding their style and musical accents. How do you define the period when you, as was formed as a songwriter?
PH: That is a hell of a question, to be honest! I think I was in my happiest songwriting with Monaco. With the first album that’s when I was happiest. Working with Pottsy – David Potts was wonderful. It was very nice to get back to what I did best. By the time, we got to the second Monaco album; New Order had reared its ugly head again shall we say and made that album difficult. If there’s a thing I regret, I have to say that my regret would be: I shouldn’t have gone back to New Order. I shouldn’t have got the band back together again.
In my opinion, I should have carried on with Monaco, but I didn’t. That’s life. And not to say that I didn’t love Get Ready and I didn’t love Waiting For The Sirens’ Call as a record, and even Lost Sirens, I think, has some wonderful songs on it. And I must admit, I’m really looking forward to playing them all as Peter Hook And the Light. Because it gives them such a wonderful life back, to play them live. And brings out a lot of new influences and gives them a lot of gravity. So I’m looking forward to doing that.
So yeah, it’s weird, isn’t it? If New Order weren’t still fighting as they are. We are still fighting, and we’ve been split up for 14 years… It’s absolutely unbelievable. We must be in love ( laughs ).
K÷93 EP tracklisting
To pre-order the K÷93 10” and exclusive merchandise including T-shirts and mugs go to https://www.kd93.co.uk