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Peter Hook's Unknown Pleasures

New Order and Joy Division bass player honours Ian Curtis' death by playing JD album Unknown Pleasures in full

On May 18th 1980 Ian Curtis took his own life, immortalising Joy Division and leaving behind a young band to live with the legend that his suicide had helped to create. Having battled hard with epilepsy and depression, amidst a failing marriage, Curtis’s decision to end his life has been the catalysts for one of music’s biggest “what ifs”. Now, three decades on, former Joy Division bassist Peter Hook has announced a special concert to commemorate Ian’s life and contribution to modern music. The event, to be held on the day of Curtis’s suicide, will see Joy Division’s debut album, Unknown Pleasures, played for the first time in its entirety at Hook’s newly opened FAC251 club in Manchester. Dazed Digital caught up with Peter Hook to discuss nostalgia, Factory and having to live with the legacy of Ian Curtis.

Dazed Digital: Why did you choose to celebrate Ian’s life in this way and why after thirty years?
Peter Hook: I was originally drafted in to do something that I thought was very long overdue, which was an exhibition in Macclesfield. It was a decision by the council to finally celebrate one of their most famous sons, on May 18th, and I was pulled in by Jon Savage and Peter Saville. It seemed like a really good idea, the funny thing is that when I was with the band we never did any celebrating: we never celebrated 25 years, 20, 15 or 10 - nothing. And at last there was talk of doing something at Macclesfield football club to celebrate Ian’s life. We were going to draft in loads of bands and have the exhibition, the whole idea was fantastic – I sat there and I thought it’s about time. Then the whole thing fell through; it’s now been put back till the end of the year. Now if it hadn’t have aroused my interest I’d probably have let it go as well but I’d just opened the club, FAC251, and I played the opening night and did a retrospective of my career…it sounds boring but it was actually fucking great on the night to be honest. Then the two just seemed to click, I thought I’m not with the others anyway so why don’t I do something? In the same vein that I did the club to celebrate something which was very important to me. You know Unknown Pleasures set the template for the whole of my career and my life as a musician is down to that record. To me, to not celebrate it would be criminal.

DD: Do you think having your own family has made you view Ian’s suicide in a different way?
Peter Hook: Being a ‘family-man’ I think it’s awful yeah. The interesting thing is the charities we’re doing the gig for are: Mind, which specialises in young male depression and Searching for Keith, which is the foundation for Moors murders victim Keith Bennett. They’re trying to raise the money to find his remains on the Moors before his mother, Winnie, dies. Again, as a parent, I couldn’t imagine anything worse than having to go through what that woman has been through. But when you get involved in these charities and you get the material, you read that the problem of young male suicides is actually getting worse…it’s quite a sober moment. I suppose in a funny way it’s not nice to realise that Ian wasn’t alone but it does put into perspective what he suffered – there is a tendency to male depressive suicide. If you can highlight that and save one guy, because of what Ian went through, then I think it’s worth it… The thing with Ian is that he was desperately ill and he did his best to hide it and soldier on. I think he did that for our benefit. In a way you’re looking to say ‘well I was useless at the time’ but now that I’ve got a bit older I’d like to try and help you. Ian’s suicide was a long-term solution to what’s normally a short-term problem.

DD Were you angry at the time?
Peter Hook: I wasn’t angry for a long, long time actually. It was just absolute numbing shock, as a young person I’d never had to deal with anything like that before. I was very lucky to have all my parents and all my friends. I literally did not know what to do, what to say or feel. The only good thing was the strength that Bernard, Stephen, Rob Gretton, Terry Mason got from each other enabled us to carry on and made us a very tight unit. We were able to get on with it and put it behind us. The weird thing is that I live with Ian and the legacy of Ian Curtis and Joy Division everyday. I’m always dealing with something to do with the music, I’m always enjoying something or hearing a cover version – you know, how many people have done cover versions of Joy Division which are brought to your attention? It’s absolutely fantastic.

DD: Are you looking to revive Factory Records and start signing bands?
Peter Hook: I am looking for new bands to sign to the Hacienda record label yeah. It’s the label that I’ve got Freebass on but it isn’t easy to do – record companies don’t function in the way that they used to. Most bands now can put out there own music quite successfully; a musician isn’t the pampered pet that he was years ago. Now they have to get off their arse and work. I’ve actually been finding it quite difficult to get bands to go on the record label, we’re in talks with a few but even if you give them a 50/50 deal, they can do it on their own website and get all the money.

DD: Do you think in a similar way to you having the Joy Division and New Order’s shadow over you, Manchester now has the ‘Madchester’ shadow over it?
Peter Hook: I don’t look at it that way, I don’t see it as a ‘shadow’, to me it glows like a huge halo. Like the most brilliant sun in the world and I’m sitting on a pile of golden moments from Acid House to Madchester to Stone Roses to James to Factory to Rob Gretton and Tony Wilson. I’m sat on that Hacienda shaped pile looking down on all these people surrounded by bile and spit saying nostalgia’s bad. What I’m trying to do with FAC251 is use the past to give people a future so that new DJ’s and bands can come along and play. It’s all about propagating music. Rob Gretton and Tony Wilson used to say to us that the best record you will ever write will be your next one. Without people who are older than you, and are able to inspire you, there is no future.


Unknown Pleasures will be playing FAC251 on 18th May