On the heels of a series of successful tours supporting Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures and Closer as well as New Order's first two studio efforts, Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies, famed Manchester bassist Peter Hook is continuing the effort by performing, in their entirety, New Order's third and fourth albums, Low-Life and Brotherhood, an artistic high point for the band.
Performing in Portland at the Wonder Ballroom on Thursday, November 20, Hooky’s current tour features the singles and B-sides from New Order’s most prolific period. From August 1983 up to 1987, the band will take the audience from “Confusion” to “True Faith” with both Low-Life and Brotherhood performed in full alongside plenty of other New Order fan favorites. Peter Hook And The Light will also be supporting themselves by performing a selection of Joy Division material prior to the two-album set.
Vortex had the opportunity to ask Hook some questions about the upcoming tour celebrating some of New Order's most critically praised work.
While revisiting this specific era in New Order’s history, were there any songs that the band had no intention of ever performing live, either due their complexity or just because they didn't fit in?
There are lots of songs in our new Low-Life and Brotherhood set that have either not been played for a very, very long time or that have never been played live at all! It's such a shame because they are great songs, and that is why I am very happy to now be able to play them all—my band are very capable so it makes it possible, which is fantastic. When we were together as New Order, the other members of the band would not play any of this material and would just refuse to play a lot of the old stuff, I think out of sheer laziness. They would rather play the same greatest hits set every night and just phone in the performance. Now, I am delighted to finally be able to play everything.
Of the material from the Low-Life and Brotherhood era, what has been the most difficult to reproduce live?
It has been a lot of hard work getting everything ready for the tour. Some songs have never been played live before so you have no reference point. It is with things like that that I am very grateful to my band who really do such a great job in bringing the songs to life. As always, the most difficult ones to reproduce are the synth-based, more dancey tracks where you are relying on sequencers and a lot of electronics. Getting that right can be a painstaking job but it is so worth it in the end because people are so happy to hear these tracks again.
What were some of the influences the band felt while writing these albums, especially compared to the previous records Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies?
Low-Life is a great album because it is a total mix of rock and pop, which is New Order at our best. With Brotherhood, we made an album of two halves: the first five are acoustic, the last four are electronic. I was skeptical about that at first, but over time I have realized that it does work for that album. We were always being influenced more and more by synths and electronics and we continued to use new equipment all the time, which helped to create some of the biggest songs on these albums like “Sub-culture” and “Bizarre Love Triangle.”
What was the general atmosphere during the writing and recording process of Low-Life and Brotherhood compared to some of the band’s previous ones?
The general atmosphere during this period was pretty good. Bernard [Sumner, New Order’s lead singer] and I were getting on, and we were writing great songs. It was only later on when the wheels started to fall off! Movement was a very difficult album to record because we were obviously still reeling from the death of Ian [Curtis, Joy Division’s lead singer], but as things moved on to Power, Corruption & Lies and then Low-Life and Brotherhood, it got easier and felt more comfortable.
Are there any songs you've rediscovered or gained a newfound appreciation for on this tour?
Absolutely, yes. I was unsure how a song like “Face Up” would work for example, but the crowd response to playing that one again has been unbelievable! A song like “Murder” too, which has never been played, sounds great and just makes me think, “Why did we not play these?” “Sub-culture” is another one that is very good to play live. I also gained a new appreciation for the last three tracks on Brotherhood: “All Day Long,” “Angel Dust” and “Every Little Counts.” It's just great to be able to get the songs back.
What have been some of the most enjoyable tracks to perform on this tour so far?
I love the fact that we can play “As It Is When It Was” again—that has always been one of my favorite New Order tracks that was overlooked for far too long. It's great to get “State of the Nation” back too for the same reason. “Confusion” is one that the fans love so it's great to see their reactions to that, and “Lonesome Tonight” seems to have a cult following, so I'm just pleased to be able to play them all and make people happy.
With the huge success of your book, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, do you have any plans of writing a book detailing your time with New Order?
Yes, absolutely. I am writing my New Order book at the moment and it will be called Power, Corruption & Lies: Inside New Order. Barney has obviously put his own book out recently so this will be an opportunity for me to set the record straight after that. I am looking forward to putting it out, hopefully it won't be too long now.
Something I always appreciated about New Order’s music were your 12-inch mixes and B-sides. Some of my favorites include “Kiss of Death” and “Perfect Pit,” both from “The Perfect Kiss” 12-inch. Another standalone B-side is, of course, “The Beach.” Was there any specific process the band went through when releasing 12-inch mixes or B-sides?
We really liked to dub it up. You'll find that a lot of our remixes and B-sides are basically just dubbed up versions of the actual tracks. “The Beach” was the dub version of “Blue Monday” of course; then there was “Beach Buggy,” which is a dub version of the dub version! The good thing about playing the songs now is that we can include elements from these versions in our live performances.
One of my all-time favorite New Order songs is “The Perfect Kiss.” I read that the song wasn’t performed for a significant period of time due to its complexity. Did you have any trouble figuring out the arrangements for performing this song live on the current tour?
“The Perfect Kiss” is a very complex song because it has so many different parts. But the most important thing is that all those parts come together to create one of our very best songs. When I came to figure out "The Perfect Kiss” for this tour, I knew I had to do the 12-inch version—the definitive version in my eyes. The version we used to play as New Order was too short and was missing some great bits. Now, our version is totally complete and people seem to really appreciate that. It took a while to get it going, but now we have it! Frogs, cowbell, bass solo and everything else!