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Peter Hook

Unknown Pleasures

In a business as cutthroat as music, it helps to have a bit of a reputation as a badass.

You couldn’t find a much better illustration of this theory than Peter Hook, though former Joy Division bandmate Barney is also a strong contender. After all, Joy Division was the band that famously once had its manager sign a contract in his own blood — wimps they were not.

“It does come in very handy,” says Hook, bass player for Joy Division until the band dissolved in 1980, about his rather imposing reputation. Yet underneath the weight of Joy Division’s legacy as a band for people who don’t exactly shy away from their own dark sides, what remains is the same passion for music and brutal emotional honesty that made Hook such an influential figure in the first place.

“I haven’t got any money,” he says as to why after a career spanning more than 30 years he has no plans to retire any time soon. “I have to work for a living because I lost all my money on the hacienda.”

Of course, it’s never just about the money. Beginning as a tribute to Ian Curtis’s life on the 30th anniversary of his death on May 18th, Hook’s current project grew into a decision to play the whole of Unknown Pleasures live in part because he was inspired by the Bobby Gillespie tour based around the Screamadelica album. It’s turned out to be an unexpected moving experience for him.

“It was actually great to get the music back,” Hook says. “I’ve studiously ignored it for 30 years, and now I’ve finally managed to get it back and I’m out enjoying it. Sometimes I look back at my friends in the band and I’m so happy I can’t believe it.”

This may not sound like the Hooky that we all remember, but bear in mind that he’s a lot older now, and with age comes wisdom and the tendency to get a bit philosophical.

“I started with the attitude that I want to die before I get old, and here I am carrying on like the bloody Rolling Stones and all the people we despised when we started out,” he says. “It’s a quandary really from that point of view.”

It’s an odd thing, really, that transition from snotty young punk determined to change the music scene to elder statesman. Hook says that although he appreciates the admiration, it is a bit weird.

“I’ve lived with it for a long time,” he says. “It’s a great compliment to your skill as a songwriter and your attitude as a musician. For people to call you an influence is a compliment, but ultimately it doesn’t help you much in your life, does it? When you’re sitting there wrestling with a new song, you’re still very much on your own.”

There’s the issue of who to make music with, too, which has followed Hook throughout his career through a series of short-term projects, including the sadly short-lived Freebass with Manny from the Stone Roses. Hook’s philosophical tendencies extend to his attitude toward the difficulties that plague relationships within bands, too.

“I think it’s like any relationship,” he says. “Once you get used to each other and get over the initial excitement, you start focusing on other things, don’t you? The thing is that over a period of time, ambition changes, people’s ideals change, and it’s very difficult.”

Accepting the mistakes you’ve made in the past is never easy, but it’s inescapable when your past has been pored over and scrutinized the way Joy Division’s has over the past few years.

The shows on the new tour, though, have been pure joy, with fans both old and new often breaking down in tears. The old Hooky would probably have mocked them without mercy, but even the biggest badasses mellow eventually.

“It’s a very moving and very humbling experience, actually,” Hook says. “It was really important to me to capture the importance and the reverence, in some ways, that people put on this album. Because, to be honest with you, it’s the most important album I ever made — my first one, which set the path for my whole career and my whole life. I’m immensely proud of it. Anytime I can play it, I’m happy.”

Peter Hook peforms the entirety of Unknown Pleasures at Mezzanine on December 10th. Doors open at 9 PM. The show is sold out.