Unknown Pleasures

Peter Hook brings New Order's deep cuts into the light.


Hook's "twat-face" comment wasn't referring to anyone in the Light. He's talking about Bernard Sumner, a Manchester, England, native who in 1980, along with Hook and drummer Stephen Morris, pivoted away from Joy Division's somber post-punk in the wake of singer Ian Curtis' suicide and began playing as New Order. Hook left the group during the '90s, briefly returning to the fold a few years later. Now, Sumner is touring as New Order, without Hook. And Hook's not too pleased about it. 

What's revealing about Hook's discourse as he explains the situation, which includes a lawsuit over the use of the band name he believes could be resolved by "guys in wigs" sometime next year, is that he still perceives Sumner as a bandmate, tossing off superlatives about the guitarist amid unprompted jabs. But the reason the bassist began performing the entirety of New Order's increasingly electronic rock albums in 2012 was because part of the catalog was being underserved. Hook's not just playing hits.

"Most of it hasn't been played. The band actually settled into what I considered a big rut, just playing the really well-known singles," Hook says about his second stint in New Order. "It was a source of great frustration to me."

Hook, 58, says crowds are clamoring for Low-Life track "Sub-culture," a synth-streaked dance number laced with Sumner's melancholy lyrics. Inhabiting the frontman role hasn't presented any problems for Hook. But, considering his feud with his former New Order cohort, he sees the irony. After all, black humor is something that's always floated through the worlds of Joy Division and New Order. Appropriating Nazi discourse for a dour rock quartet and an electronic-tinged dance band shouldn't be lost on anyone.

"The thing about Brotherhood I thought was hysterical was that Bernard wanted it to be completely electronic," Hook says, declaring himself the troupe's rock proponent. "We were fighting so much about the music, that when we actually wrote the songs, you have four electronic songs and five acoustic. Bernard wanted to put them separately, so that the electronic songs weren't tainted by the acoustic songs. And frankly, I felt the same way. So, that's why we called the album Brotherhood, because there was none."

Terrific tension, though, often yields creative success. And that tension, seemingly omnipresent as Hook describes it, was exacerbated by the increased use of synthesizers and sequencers in New Order's music, alienating the band's acoustic players. It's the sort of experimentation, however, that enabled Manchester, an industrial town about a four-hour drive north of London, to offer up the Buzzcocks' take on punk, Hook's bands and the slew of dance music that circulated around the Hacienda club. 

"We've had a stranglehold on music for years," Hook says of Manchester. "I don't know why we deserved it better than any other city. But none of them have succeeded in world domination the way Manchester has."

The Light probably won't release new music, but its frontman says the band hasn't even gotten around to touring his favorite New Order album, 1989's Technique. Maybe by the time he undertakes the endeavor, some guy in a wig will have all this in-fighting settled. Or maybe Hook and Sumner will be bandmates again. Or maybe not.

"We will be tied together forever," Hook says. "But it's like a divorce—like when she won’t give you your suits or your hi-fi back.” 

SEE IT: Peter Hook and the Light play Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell St., on Thursday, Nov. 20. 7:30 pm. $23 advance, $25 day of show. 21+.