It was suggested I should persevere when trying to get hold of Peter Hook, the Joy Division and New Order bass guitar legend not always likely to answer his phone.
The moment I was told that, I was reminded of our previous interview in December 2017, when it took a few days to get to speak to him, my interviewee finally calling back on a Saturday afternoon after a soundcheck in Belfast. But he picked up straight away this time.
“I’ve just been out with the dogs. I’ve done my bit. I was just tidying up you lot, then I’ll be watching Netflix with the rest of the bloody country.”
Anything else lined up (I asked, mischievously)?
“Are you joking? Mate, I thought it was bad in January and February last year, watching all my dominoes fall down. But someone put all my dominoes back up, moved them to 2021, and now they’re all fucking falling down again!”
Despite the gruff exterior, Peter’s enjoying a rare bit of dedicated family time at present, locked down with his good lady and one of his children.
“Me and the better half have done very well, I must admit. After being away for 40 years … ha ha! … being thrust together for a year and a half has actually worked out fantastically. I could actually count our major arguments on one hand.
“The weird thing about being away all the time is that you get nothing done … and when you come back, you’re fucked – you don’t feel like doing anything. But because I’ve been here, I’ve managed to get loads of stuff done, which has been very satisfying.
“I’m keeping fit, and as a grumpy old bloke who never goes anywhere … we went out the other day to Sainsbury’s, and I realised I’d not been outside the door of our house, apart from walking the dogs, and haven’t mixed in public with anyone for three and a half weeks.
“I’m in the vulnerable category – I’ve got asthma, pneumonic scarring on my lungs, so have to be really careful. It’s weird, isn’t it. How are you coping?”
We talk some more about having our children home, university studies carrying on from home – from Sheffield in my case – for now. And I suggest it’s the younger generation I feel most sorry for – missing out on vital life experiences. They should be out, living life.
“Doing what we bloody did! My daughter was at Sheffield, graduated last year and is now doing a Master’s in Newcastle. I took her back to have a picture with the name of the college. There was no graduation do, but the kids were going down, posting pictures of themselves next to the name.
“It’s been awful. It’s going to be two years we never get back … and at our age it’s maybe more important! It’s quite odd for me as a musician. I had a massive hit with ‘Aries’, then – lo and bloody behold – Jaz got in touch with me, told me he’s found this fricking tape!”
The single ‘Aries’ was from the latest Gorillaz LP, Song Machine Season One – Strange Timez, and he’s also talking about K÷, described as a ‘unique collaboration between kindred spirits’, namely Peter, the afore-mentioned Jaz Coleman, and his Killing Joke bandmate, guitarist Geordie Walker.
On March 5th, they’re set to release the K÷93 EP on numbered 10” clear vinyl in a gatefold sleeve, limited to just 2,000 copies worldwide, also including a gig flyer postcard and exclusive sleeve notes by Jaz and Peter.
Recorded in 1993 at Peter’s Suite 16 Studios, the former Cargo Studios in Rochdale where Joy Division recorded as far back as 1978, the recordings were lost until last November, when Chris Kettle (formerly of E.G. Records) handed Jaz a DAT cassette at a record signing for Magna Invocatio in a London record store, saying, ‘Look what I found’. Remastered from the original cassette, the session according to Jaz, ‘could be described as spontaneous and magical. I think it surprised all of us. Peter encouraged the softer, lower tones of my voice. And then we emerged from the haze and went our separate ways.”
Jaz added, “When you listen to this rare chemistry, you will understand why I’ve always felt this experience begs for a full opus magnum somewhere in the near future.”
I’ve had those three tracks on repeat for a while now, and I’m impressed. Not at all what I initially expected … even though I’d read the advance publicity. My favourite track is ‘Scrying’, the gothic feel you might expect beautifully fused with melodic touches. Think where the more commercial Cure and Damned were headed in the mid-‘80s, add a little more menace and elements of electronica, Jaz building upon Geordie’s accomplished guitar and Peter’s distinctive bass. That said, it’s not over-obviously Hooky, and as for the vocals – switching between beautifully under-stated and more impassioned but still not over-wrought – it’s definitely not what I’d associate with Jaz, who adds more pegged-back but still brooding and powerful (alternating between gruff and more sensuous) vibe among the minor chord workouts, while stirring synth floats above Geordie’s subtle touches.
Maybe that’s the byword and by-product here – subtlety. From all three musicians involved. It’s certainly difficult to equate with the might of Killing Joke’s ‘Millennium’ the following year … and yet, I see more similarities there than with New Order’s Republic, released that summer. More to the point, whatever they decided to conjure up in the studio, it worked. But what’s Peter’s take on it all, 28 years later?
“I played that session – we did eight songs together – and a lot of my friends who heard it, loved it, and kept asking, ‘Where’s the tape?’. I told them I didn’t know, I’d lost the cassette, and also – which I’m a little more annoyed about considering it was my recording studio – we didn’t have the master tapes. So they must have been skipped somewhere.
“When I came to do the New Order memorabilia for an auction last May, they were asking, ‘Have you found that tape yet?’. I’ve since been through the whole of my tapes – 500 of the buggers! – and it’s not there. So when Jaz phoned to tell me he’d found three, I was absolutely delighted. And when I heard these three tracks, I was even more delighted, because they were really fucking good!
“It was an odd session. I was asked to do an experimental recording session in Cologne by a promoter who’d put New Order on, a nice guy I’d got to know quite well. He came up with this concept of hiring out this four-studio complex, getting 20 musicians from different walks of life – including a lot of older German musicians from Faust and Can – and putting them all together.
“It was like reality TV, putting them into teams, and I was delighted because he shoved me in with Geordie and Jaz. I knew them both very well. We used to play with Killing Joke as Joy Division, there was huge rivalry between us, which has never gone away – we fought like fucking cat and dog!
“But I always liked their attitude, I love Geordie as a guitarist, thought Jaz was stark raving fucking mad! I knew (Paul) Raven really well as well. I’d go to the Embassy Club with him, Siouxsie and the Banshees roadies, Richard Jobson, and the DJ who owned the club … oh, what’s his name?”
We paused there while I tried to work out who Peter was referring to.
“We’ve got a senior fucking moment, mate! I can fucking see him! It’ll come to me … anyway, we had a wild old time.”
“Yes, and the wife will go, ‘No, not again!’ Ahh – Rusty Egan! That’s who it was! Phew! He’d have killed me if I’d lost his name.
“Anyway, we had a lot to do with each other, and when Killing Joke came to Manchester, I’d go and see them, meet up with Jaz, Geordie, Raven, and then Youth. We were very good acquaintances. If the boys needed anything in Manchester, they’d phone me.
“So, on FreeSpiel (the name of the project), we worked in the studio, did two songs very quickly, which turned out really well. I had a few words with Jaz though. He started singing like in Killing Joke. I said, ‘Mate, have you ever thought of just singing?’ He went (adopting shouty Southern tones), ‘What do you fucking mean?’
“We had a bit of a ding-dong with that, but I got him to sing, which I was delighted about … and he sounded great. And sometimes we need pulling up, whatever we’re doing.
“The session worked very well, then that evening we went out, got absolutely plastered, and they played me their new record. They were having problems with Youth at the time. He’d left, and they asked if I’d join Killing Joke. I was like, ‘What a compliment,’ and New Order weren’t getting on much better, so I considered it, but realised when I listened to the music that I didn’t play bass like that. It just didn’t feel right for me.
“I remember Jaz got really pissed off with me, saying I couldn’t do it, but we parted on good terms, and when we got home I got another phone call off him, asking if they could come down – him and Geordie – if we fancied doing more tracks.
“I said, ‘Yeah, fucking great!’, offered them my studio, so he said, ‘Right, we’ll come down, three weeks, see what we can come up with.’ I said great, no problem. Then, literally within hours my doorbell went, and there was Jaz and Geordie with all their bags. I said, ‘Eh? What are you doing? I thought you were staying in a hotel, not fucking moving in here!’.
“They proceeded to move in with me, like fucking Big Brother, for three weeks! You can imagine, it was a very interesting time, we’d go and work at Suite 16, with my mate Rex (Sargeant) as engineer. The tracks came very quickly and easily. In three weeks we had eight tracks, many with vocals, and – achieving one of my ambitions – I managed to rip off the bass from Nancy Sinatra’s ‘These Boots are Made for Walking’. We had a song featuring that, which I was over the moon about, thinking about that for so long.
“So we went out, got fucking hammered at the Hacienda, had a wild three weeks, then they went back to London, and it wasn’t long after that I came down to talk to their management about forming a group, the three of us. I remember that meeting very well. It was very positive, the music was great, we were all quite happy, but then the manager said, ‘I’m going to set you the biggest task of all, you’re going to have to come up with a name’.
“We’d all been through that – a name can be the most difficult thing in the world, and I’ve no idea what happened, but I ended up going back to bloody New Order, and they told Youth I was thinking of joining .. so he came back. Ha ha!”
Perhaps that was all the inspiration he needed to return.
“Well, I’ll take that as a compliment. And basically, we forgot all about it and got on with our lives. I’ve only seen Jaz and Geordie a few times since … and we’ve never mentioned it. It was just left. So when he found the cassette, I was delighted. All we had to do then was think of a bloody name!”
That, I guess, is part of the positive side of this past year, being given the time to breathe and get the grey matter properly going. And it’s also given people the chance to root out these gems from darkened cupboards.
“Yeah, and I was delighted. That was a wonderful time, and I remember it very fondly, realising one of my ambitions by playing with Geordie, having always rated him – he’s an amazing guitarist, I love his style and everything about him. To me, he’s as cool as Paul Simonon.
“I don’t know how the record will be received, but whatever it leads to, I’ll be absolutely delighted.”
Last time we spoke, just over three years ago, you were in Belfast for that evening’s Peter Hook and the Light performance at the Limelight. Having the time of your life, I seem to recall.
“Yeah. Listen, the only thing that’s blighted my life has been this bloody legal battle with New Order. I’ve had a fantastic time apart from that.
“I’ve heard of some group battles, but this one now has been going on 14 years, and I cannot believe the amount of energy, time and money we’ve put into it. I’m completely baffled. And with covid and what we’ve all gone through, people we’ve all lost throughout this period, it’s makes our fucking stupid arguments ridiculous.
“But you know, I keep saying to the wife, the good bit of my life – like The Light, what we achieved with ‘Blue Monday’, and what we’ve achieved throughout the whole 40 years, this is the price I have to pay. Ha ha!”
“Oh, thanks for agreeing with me! Ha! It’s like wearing a bloody hair shirt, innit!”
I have to say, it saddens me, those situations, bands I love, like The Jam, Slade, New Order, whoever, falling out …
“It’s weird, isn’t it. It’s that combination of ego and money, it seems to be the worse combination. I’m sure there are people in the business world that argue about money all the fucking time, but because they’re not in the public eye and they’re not fighting for fans or whatever …
“It’s very difficult, and it has to be said, you know … I’m not too sure how much I can tell you … but it’s very difficult that people expect you to act in a certain way, yet do nothing to deserve it, and you get stuck in a vicious cycle.”
You don’t think you’re any closer to resolving all this?
“No, I’d say we’re as far away today as we were on this day in 2007. In fact, if anything, it’s worse.”
Let’s talk some brighter anniversaries instead then, and there’s a big birthday coming your way (last weekend) – your 65th. Is that a scary proposition, or just another number?
“Ha ha! Is it scaring me? I guess in the way a number can scare you, considering my Dad died when he was 58, I suppose I’m lucky to get to 65. The odd thing is, I was doing an interview about John McGeoch the other day, and you start realising how many of your contemporaries you’ve lost. It’s absolutely awful, and just here in Manchester, losing people like CP Lee, Mark E Smith …”
Both names I was about to bring up.
“CP was such a nice guy. I didn’t get to go to his funeral. And we lost one of our roadies a couple of weeks ago, with us from Joy Division days, and again couldn’t pay our respects. It’s like a surreal grief.”
With Pete Shelley gone not so long ago, of course.
“Yes, of course, the one who got me and Barney going. Without him, we wouldn’t have known what the fuck to do. He was so generous with his time, and so nice when we were starting. He was literally the only one that encouraged us. What a lovely man.”
One of the last gigs I saw in 2019, not long before the shutters started to come down, involved Steve Diggle’s latest Buzzcocks line-up playing Gorilla, Manchester. Such an emotional night, back there on the band’s home turf.
“Yeah, and I played with the Buzzcocks – with Pete – that summer. They were on just after us, and I was saying to him, ‘Fucking hell, this is weird, innit – me and you still here! Ha! The way we started, almost together.’ Of course, his group was formed to support the Sex Pistols that second time (they visited Manchester).”
And this summer marks 45 years since the first momentous Lesser Free Trade Hall happening in Manchester.
“Yeah, we were running neck and neck. I’m very blessed, mate, and think when I do wake up Saturday morning, I will be thanking my lucky stars. And I’m raring to go!”
Seeing as you mentioned CP Lee, I have to ask about Gerry & the Holograms’ self-titled EP lead track.
“What’s that one?”
The one some might suggest shared key characteristics with New Order’s ‘Blue Monday’.
“Oh, the piss-take?”
Well, maybe … but that was out first.
“Yes, it was. You know what, CP, I’d known him a long, long time, and he taught my daughter at college. Amazingly, he arranged for me to give out the prizes – me and Mrs Merton (Peter’s ex – the late Caroline Aherne) – one year at Salford College, a fucking hoot ‘cos we were both pissed.
“He was such a great friend. As the singer of the Albertos (Alberto y Lost Trios Paranoias), I used to see him and Bruce (Mitchell, also of the Albertos), and CP would go to great lengths to tell me it was him who shouted, ‘Judas!’ at Bob Dylan at the Free Trade Hall, when he played electric guitar. Yeah, the guy’s a fucking legend!
“And I believe they’ve made a little shrine to him in his pub, with his umbrella, which he left last time he was in. I’m really looking forward to visiting that … soon as we’re allowed.”
There seems to be real kinship between all those Manchester and Salford acts from back then. You’re still out there, give or take the last year, as is Jez Kerr with A Certain Ratio, while Johnny Marr’s in a continued rich vein of form, and somehow John Cooper Clarke seems to get younger by the year.
“He’s the only bloody one! Ha!”
And from the previous generation, someone like Graham Nash’s still coming up with the goods.
“Yeah, and we’ve played with Graham quite a lot, supporting the Hacienda Classical, so I see him quite a lot.”
I was briefly baffled at this, later realising he mis-heard, thinking I’d mentioned Graham Massey, of 808 State. But we’d already moved on.
“Yeah, so really the only ones I’m not friendly with are the rest of fucking New Order! Ha! How bonkers is that?”
As for Mark E Smith, it’s now been three years since we lost him. How did you rub along with him, and the rest of the band for that matter?
“Yeah, the band were gorgeous people. I knew them all very well. But Mark was very difficult. We were really in competition ever since we first played with them. We did the first punk festival in Athens when Greece first opened up and became democratic.
“I also played with him at a Derek Hatton benefit, and saw them play a lot, but every time we did an interview together it was very caustic. I remember doing one for Melody Maker and he was proper off on it. We were arguing like fuck, taking the piss out of each other. He said, ‘Listen, I’ve got a fucking plastic bag ‘ere, with all my takings from Ireland in. I’ve just come back off tour’. And I said, ‘I bet that’s not very heavy, you twat!’
“We were proper going at each other, then I got up, went for a wee. We were both having a drink, put it that way. While I’m in the urinal, he walked in, and I thought, ‘Ay up, he’s going to have a go, the twat!’ And he just got his nob out, went to the next urinal, and went, ‘How’s it going? Not bad this, is it? Good craic.”
“I thought, ‘Fucking hell, what is this?’ So you did get that aspect of him being a wind-up merchant, shall we say. And I remember him getting his own back once, when I went out with Mrs Merton, and he came up, kept telling her I was shagging loads of women behind her back. Every time I moved away from her, he would go over … bastard, he got me in some trouble that night!
“So yeah, we had a very healthy, antagonistic relationship. But I went to his funeral, met friends there, and it was as nice as it could possibly be.”
Well, next time I hear ‘Carrier Bag Man’, perhaps I’ll think of you.
“Well, please do! I suppose it was one of those good-natured jibes at the Melody Maker interview, where I said, ‘I won’t be going to your funeral, y’bastard,’ and him going, ‘I’ll be going to yours, y’bastard!’. And unfortunately, he lost that one, God bless him.
“Y’know though, he’s an under-rated musician. It amazes me when you listen to some of their tracks, then hear the trouble they had making them. They always worked in Suite 16 with my great mates Rex Sargeant – God rest his soul – and CJ (Chris Jones), the keyboard player in Revenge.
“He’d say they were fighting constantly. How they got anything done … but by God, didn’t it give them an edge! And I was thinking today, characters like him are sorely missed. You don’t get characters like him anymore, do you.”
While we’re talking history and anniversaries, it’ll have been 40 years last month since ‘Ceremony’ came out the first time. A great single, and listening back, I see that as a continuation of where you’d been heading with Joy Division. And within three months, you’d be recording that first New Order album, although it would be mid-November before Movement was released.
“That’s a bit scary, 40 years, isn’t it. Perhaps I should pop round to Bernard’s with a bottle of champagne.”
Good call. Why not!
“Ha ha! I could lob it over the fence – ha ha! But I suppose it is … 40 years! And it always struck me, and one of the reasons I started The Light when I was unemployed, was because I couldn’t believe that as an entity we never celebrated anything to do with Joy Division. Throughout the whole of our career.
“And here we are now, not celebrating anything to do with New Order either! It was the anniversary of New Order’s first gig last year, we did nothing for that, and it’s just such a great shame. I’ll never … I just cannot admit they are New Order now. So we get off on the wrong foot right away.
“I do understand the survival technique needed, but … yeah, it is a great shame. And the thing is, the fans I’m sure would love any kind of olive branch – anything you could do would make everybody much better. But you never know, mate. Listen, we never thought we’d see a time like this in our lives …”
So when was the last time you saw a live band, or that you played in public?
“My God! We finished a tour of America at the end of November 2019, then I had three months off to do the New Order memorabilia auction … then covid came, I lost 150 gigs last year, and it’s looking like I’m going to miss the same amount this year, which is devastating.
“But listen, I’m fit and healthy …”
Is your vaccine jab booked yet?
“I’ve heard nothing … but I go up a category this Saturday. I’ve heard of a few people who have had the jab, so I can’t be far away.”
Maybe someone has been modifying your date of birth on the records.
“Hey! As long as they’re not modifying my jab! If I wake up with two heads, you’ll know who did it!”
As for this weekend’s birthday party, I’m guessing you’re not hiring a huge warehouse in Manchester on the sly. A quiet one at home, is it?
“Yeah, I’m not great at celebrating birthdays, I must admit. I’m a pretty typical, olden male. But every morning I wake up and thank God for another day … another day to waste, pissing about doing fuck all! But listen, we’ve all still got stuff to do. And I can’t believe it. I still feel fucking 24! Unbelievable.”
And long may that last.
“Well, thank you very much! You have a great time …”
And with that, he’s away, off to watch Netflix presumably.
To pre-order the K÷93 10”, featuring the songs, ‘Remembrance Day’, ‘Giving Up The Ghost’, and ‘Scrying’, plus exclusive merchandise, including t-shirts and mugs, head here.
For the latest from Peter Hook, head here. For news from Killing Joke, follow this link. And for details of Chris Bryans’ impressive A Prophecy Fulfilled, ‘a tale of pioneers and revelations’ and a people’s history written about and with the co-operation of Killing Joke (This Day in Music Books, 2020), head here.