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PLAYING HOOKY: Legendary Musician, Peter Hook

Natalie Anglesey meets with musician Peter Hook of Joy Division and New Order fame

But for some time now Peter has been making a mark with his own band, The Light, which recently performed at the Royal Albert Hall. As we discussed the recent Manchester tragedy, his eyes darkened. “The first we heard was when our 18-year-old daughter Jessica rang from inside the Arena to say there’d been a loud bang and someone shouted 'It's a bomb'. Fortunately she was three rows from the front so it took much longer to get out as the exits were packed. 

“As a parent you can imagine our panic until friends brought her safely home. Now I have dad-guilt about letting her go without me and she has survivor-guilt which is only to be expected. It’s definitely a day Manchester will never forget.”

Sitting in the sunshine in Alderley Edge, with his beloved dog at his feet, it’s difficult to reconcile Hooky’s old hard-man image with this contented family man. “Those who ask why Manchester has proved so resilient, coping with this horrendous tragedy which killed 22 young people and injured 59, just don’t understand the spirit of Manchester. We survived two World Wars and an IRA bomb and that survival instinct is part of our DNA.

“Watching television footage of people, from different backgrounds and beliefs, helping the victims and offering free food and transport to safety – you realise that basically we’re all the same. My heart goes out to all those families who’ve lost loved ones.”

As we reminisce, it’s clear Peter is proud of his children. From his first marriage there’s his daughter Heather and son Jack, who plays bass guitar in The Light. “Jack thinks he’s better than me so I have to remind him who is boss,” he smiles. But he speaks sadly about his marriage to comedian Caroline Aherne which ended after three years. He subsequently married Rebecca with whom he had Jessica. “Becky saved my life and now I’m fit and healthy and running my eleventh marathon!”

Hooky, as Peter likes to be known, recalls that normally he would pick his daughter up after a concert. “I’d chat to the ticket touts at the entrance – so I’m lucky to be here. I also escaped the Japanese earthquake and the Thailand tsunami so somebody up there must like me!”

Born in Ordsall in 1956, Peter’s parents divorced when he was three and when his mother eventually remarried he took his stepfather’s surname, Hook, and eventually the nickname Hooky. Because of his stepfather's work, he spent part of his childhood in Jamaica. “As you can imagine, it was an idyllic childhood swimming in the sea every day and private schooling before returning to Ordsall and Salford Grammar School. I had a couple of jobs when I left but I was only passionate about one thing and that was music.”

Now the singer, songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist and record producer is best known as the bassist and co-founder, with Bernard Sumner, of rock band Joy Division in 1976. But when fame was at its height, the tragic suicide of lead singer Ian Curtis shocked everyone.
“Ian was a lovely, charming and very funny man. Nowadays his mental health problems may have been properly treated, but back then it was never openly discussed. His daughter Natalie still keeps in touch and comes to our gigs. We always pay homage to him and it’s always great to see her.”

Eventually the band reformed as New Order and Hooky played bass with them until 2007. In spite of success there were tempestuous times. “We’d row, break up and reform, row, break up and reform. So over the years I also worked with lots of other bands like Inspiral Carpets, Stone Roses and the Durutti Column. I also recorded with lots of bands.”

Hooky co-owned the Suite Sixteen recording studio in Rochdale where a blue plaque marks the site as they were major studios in the history of punk music. He played a special concert in Rochdale that day, with proceeds donated to the Back Door Music Project for youngsters.

In 2007, Hooky announced that he and Bernard Sumner were no longer working together. “In the end I formed my own band The Light. The following year we performed a selection of Joy Division and New Order songs in Paris and Brussels and compiled The Hacienda Acid House Classics. Eventually we performed them in concert which has proved popular.

“But the first time on stage I was nervous. One hundred musicians from the Manchester Camerata turned to look at me for guidance and, as I can’t read a note of music, I just started to play and they joined in! Now we’ve played in big venues all over the country and will be playing this summer in Castlefield and the Bridgewater Hall in November.”

In 2009, Hooky wrote a book about his time as co-owner of The Hacienda, along with friend and Factory Records’ supremo, Tony Wilson, entitled How Not to Run a Club. “The Hacienda was sold in the end but I loved the fact that there was no VIP area. The rich and famous had to mingle with ordinary clubbers and we thought that was democratic,” he grins.

In spite of that, in 2010 Hooky opened a new club in the old head offices of Factory Records in Manchester and on opening night of FAC 251 – The Factory, The Light performed. To mark the 30th anniversary of Ian Curtis’ death, on 18 May, the band played a set of Joy Division songs. It was the start of many popular recordings.

Two years later Hooky helped launch a new master's degree in Music Industry Management and Promotion at the University of Central Lancashire. A chance encounter prompted him to criticise existing programmes which lacked hands-on experience. “Now students combine academic studies with a placement in a commercial music industry institution” In return he was awarded an honorary fellowship.

Hooky also became an author writing Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division in 2013, an autobiographical account of the band’s brief existence abd rhree years later his book Substance: Inside New Order was published.

Two films have also been made about that heady period in Manchester music. 24 Hour Party People, focused on Factory Records, while the 2007 film, Control, focused on the life of Ian Curtis. “Control was the nearest to the truth and it’s sad that we lost Ian, and Bernard and I are still embroiled in legal battles. If we could just meet and talk, it may have been resolved by now. In fact it was he who suggested I buy a house here in Alderley Edge.

“I enjoy the café culture and the restaurants and after the rock ‘n’ roll days I feel calm here. Manchester is a cosmopolitan city and I'm a multi-culturalist.”

Looking fit and healthy, Hooky ran in the Manchester Marathon and now he’s looking forward to the Rewind Festival at Capesthorne Hall. “It’s great meeting up with old mates like Rick Astley and seeing all those happy families enjoying themselves. It’s a constant wonder to me that after 41 years in the music business, I’ve still got passion for it and my music is still being appreciated. I know how lucky I’ve been.” 

Rewind Festival, 5-7 August, 2017