Bassist Peter Hook on Rescued Joy Division, New Order Tapes: 'There Is No Happy Ending' (Q&A)
“The cache was unearthed by this knight in shining armor; now she’s holding them ransom,” says the legendary post-punk bassist, who also talks to THR about his latest New Order-themed tour and upcoming memoir.
When news surfaced last week that a treasure trove of master tapes and studio outtakes from Joy Division, New Order and other seminal post-punk bands had been rescued from a trash heap and put on the market, music fans the world over hoped that Peter Hook would bring the rarities to safety.
But in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the iconic Joy Division and New Order bassist says he may have failed in that quest. “There is no happy ending,” he reports.
Speaking on the eve of his U.S. tour with his post-New Order band The Light, he explained that he spoke by phone with Julia Adamson, the onetime record exec, sound engineer and personal assistant to the late producer Martin Hannett who found the discarded tapes. Although he offered Adamson “a substantial reward” for their recovery and gave her a week to think it over, Hook says the next day she called to say that the amount “wasn’t enough.”
“It was like someone finding a Pharoah’s tomb,” Hook says. “This cache of Joy Division tapes had been unearthed by this wonderful knight in shining armor. Unfortunately, she’s now holding them ransom.”
Hook made the offer to Adamson on behalf of Joy Division, New Order and other bands who have missing music in the recovered collection: Magazine, John Cooper Clarke and the Durutti Column. (Though Hook is currently in a legal battle with New Order over the band’s decision to reunite without compensating him as a founding member, his old group’s lawyer gave him permission to act on their behalf.)
The tapes had been in Hannett’s possession until his Strawberry Studios went bankrupt, at which time he’d attempted to toss them, Hook says. But Adamson scooped them up and has had them in her possession for about two and a half years.
Though Hook hasn’t heard the tapes himself, he believes that the Joy Division outtakes include a never-before-heard take of “She’s Lost Control” and two of “New Dawn Fades.”
“These things turn up, and people sometimes think they’ve found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow: ‘This is gonna make me a millionaire!’ ” says Hook, who had hoped to be able to release the content of the tapes before turning the physical artifacts over to Museum of Science and Industry in Joy Division and Hook’s hometown of Manchester, England. (Under British copyright law, Adamson cannot profit from the music on the tapes, he says.) However, releasing the outtakes to the public would not likely make anyone a pile of money. “Once it’s up on the Internet, it’s available to be bootlegged all around the world,” Hook says. “Sales will be affected by illegal downloading. So record companies can’t afford to lay out the money for these pots of gold because they cannot make the money back.
“She’s found it -- great! Brilliant! You’re our mate forever!” continues Hook, explaining the approach he had hoped to take with Adamson. “Here’s a finder’s fee, a thank you, and we’ll give you a credit on the record. We’ll even give you a point on the record, because we wouldn’t have been able to do it without you.”
But Warner Music Group is not likely to be as generous, he acknowledges. Ownership of the tapes was transferred to the label after parent company Warner/London bought Joy Division and New Order’s Factory Records. “Warner have gone, ‘Right, you had your chance,’” Hook says, predicting that Adamson, having turned down his offer, will now become entangled in a legal battle with the label.
“The only thing we will hope for is that Rapunzel will let down her hair, and I will climb up and rescue the tapes and cut the head off the dragon,” he says. “Can you imagine me and Barney [i.e. Sumner] on your white chargers, charging down together?”
Anyone who’s followed the Hook/Sumner saga knows that that would be highly unlikely. Read on for the latest round in that ongoing battle, plus details of Hook’s latest North American tour with The Light, a 15-show trek that commences on Sept. 10 in Boston and includes a stop at Chicago’s Riot Fest on Sept. 15.
The Hollywood Reporter: Earlier this year you released a memoir of your Joy Division years, Unknown Pleasures (It Books). What’s the update on your New Order one?
Hook: I’m more than halfway through [writing] it. It’s interesting that Barney’s doing a book now, isn’t it? [In June, Sumner announced he had signed a deal for an autobiography with U.K. publishers Transworld.] I’m going to bring mine out on the same day as his [in] Oct. 2014. It’ll be like Blur and Oasis all over again. It’s going to be a much different book to the Joy Division one. I wouldn’t say it’s the most pleasurable thing I’ve ever done. There’s a lot of pain in that one. I must admit, the early days were a lot of fun; that was nice, remembering that. But very soon there were a lot of problems that crept into New Order -- a lot of things that you’re not very proud of. Joy Division was very simple; it was a short period of time, we were all very together, we were all very focused. The only thing was Ian [Curtis]’s illness. There was a wonkiness about New Order that got worse and worse and worse up until the split. There were a lot of financial problems we had to go through with Factory and The Hacienda. And there were a lot of power struggles within New Order that weren’t very pleasant and aren’t very pleasant to remember.
THR: After two tours of the States during which your band The Light played Joy Division albums "Unknown Pleasures" and "Closer" in their entirety, you’re now returning to play New Order’s first two records, "Movement" and "Power, Corruption & Lies." Will your son Jack be joining you again on bass?
Hook: Yes. And he’s the same age as me when I [recorded] "Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies": 24. And he was the same age as me when I did "Unknown Pleasures" and "Closer." That gives you a few spine-chilling moments, to look at him and hear the music and think,
Oh my God, that’s what I used to look like 30 years ago."
THR: Until you’d left the band, you’d been playing New Order hit songs in concert for decades. But playing "Movement" and "Power, Corruption & Lies" front to back means you’ll be playing album tracks you’d rarely or never played live before. What’s that like?
Hook: The intro to “586” is absolutely fantastic -- I couldn’t believe we never played it. And I’m pretty sure we never played “Ecstasy” live either. A lot of the songs on "Movement" got dropped very quickly [from New Order’s live set], so they feel very fresh and new. And it’s great to play “Everything’s Gone Green” again, because it’s something we’ve never seemed to be able to pull off with New Order. It always sounded like s---. It might have been a lack of conviction. The thing about playing the LPs in their entirety is is that it’s not your most comfortable of sets. It requires a lot from the musician and a lot from the audience, which is why it appeals to me. It’s a bit more arty, a bit more creative. And you don’t talk in between [songs]. I was getting criticized for not speaking, but when you’re listening to an album you don’t want somebody talking, do you? “How’s it going? Hey, you look good tonight. Let’s rock!” It’s like, “Shut the f--- up and listen to the LP!”
THR: What’s your favorite song in the set?
Hook: For me to play “Age of Consent” the way I do is so wonderful. It’s like getting the kids for the weekend after a particularly nasty split.
THR: Interestingly, some of New Order’s most popular songs -- “Ceremony,” “Blue Monday,” “Temptation,” for example didn’t originally appear on albums. Why not? Usually if a band releases a single in between records they tack it on to the next album as incentive for fans to buy it.
Hook: We stuck to our punk ethics that we had from Joy Division, which was “Why would you want to sell a track twice?” You would write a track and Tony [Wilson, Factory Records founder] would go, “That’s great, we’ll put it out next week.” Then we’d do an album, and you wouldn’t [put that single] on the album because you’d already released it. That only became a problem was when we got to America, because the American record company did not understand why you wouldn’t put your most popular track on your album. And we said, “We’ve already released it, so we don’t want the fans to pay for it twice.”
THR: Has playing those two first New Order albums helped jog your memory for the New Order book?
Hook: I’ve always felt that "Movement" was a perfect bridge between Joy Division and New Order. But [while recording] "Movement," [producer] Martin Hannett hated our vocals. He was really missing Ian [Curtis]. In some ways, Ian’s death affected Martin more than it affected us. I think that that album suffers from weakness in the vocal department. "Movement" is a Joy Division album with New Order vocals. You get to "Power, Corruption & Lies," it’s a New Order album with New Order vocals.
THR: So will there be future Light tours in which you play the rest of the New Order albums in their entirety?
Hook: My idea and my ideal is to play every song I’ve ever written and recorded before I join Ian in the great band in the sky.