THE OLD ADAGE that being in a band is a lot like being in a marriage certainly holds true for Peter Hook and the other members of Joy Division and New Order. Since the latter experienced a rift in 2006, Hook and members Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris have aired their laundry publicly. It has not been particularly becoming to their legacy.
As it stands, Sumner and Morris continue to tour as New Order, while Hook has formed a new band, the Light, which is currently knee-deep in performing both bands' catalogs. Even though one gets the impression Hook would like to resolve any differences, the 57-year-old bassist doesn't sugarcoat his feelings on the matter. "I'm not pretending to be Joy Division," Hook says. "My big beef with the others is that they're pretending to be New Order. And I think they're about as much New Order as I am Joy Division, and that's the thing I find most galling."
Hook's trip into the past began in 2010, around the 30th anniversary of Joy Division vocalist Ian Curtis' final performance. Hook decided to play the band's 1979 debut Unknown Pleasures in its entirety, an idea that came to him after reading an interview with Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie, who was giving their seminal LP Screamadelica similar treatment.
Hook says it was not only a celebration of that particular album, but also of the art form of full-length albums in general. He formed his own band and set out to perform Unknown Pleasures for one show only on May 18, 2010. That soon turned into two shows, then three, then three years. "Then it sort of struck me," Hook says. "Wouldn't it be great to play every song you'd ever written once in your career? You know, before you shuffle off this mortal coil and go and join the great band in the sky."
This time around, Peter Hook and the Light are performing New Order's first two records, Movement and Power, Corruption & Lies, which he says has been an emotional and ear-opening experience. Hook says he's tried to stay true to the original versions, which over the years have been altered slightly in live performances by New Order.
Released in November 1981—just a year and a half after Curtis' suicide—Movement has been the most affecting. "Musically it's very much a Joy Division LP," Hook says. "Between me, Stephen, and Bernard, there's fantastic interplay on the record. But Martin Hannett, the producer, seemed to miss Ian, if anything, more than us three. Our singing just made him very, very unhappy, and as a result of that the vocals are very insecure, very shy, they're very far back in the mix. What's been great is to be able to attack the record at the ripe old age of 57. And after three years doing Joy Division songs, [I'm] able to deliver it with much more gusto, and much more presence, and to my mind give it that final icing that makes it a great record."
For the most part, performing these albums in their entirety seems to have overshadowed the squabbling and the drama (Hook is also in negotiations to retrieve the original tapes containing outtakes from the Unknown Pleasures sessions). "We worked very hard to make those long-players very special," Hook says, adding that the form of a full-length album remains vital. "I feel like that art is getting really lost in this world. From my point of view, it's more difficult for the artist to play. And it's also more difficult for the audience to listen to—which I like."