‘I wouldn’t be here without the Sex Pistols’
- Credit: Archant
New Order bassist Peter Hook on the spirit of the Hacienda nightclub
Most musicians are lucky to surf the wave of one popular movement, but Peter Hook points out he’s been at the beating heart of three.
Fired by the Sex Pistol’s legendary June 1976 gig at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall, he helped form the band Joy Division. Later, with New Order and the Hacienda nightclub he was at the forefront of a scene that championed Acid House, electronica and dance music.
“There are very few life defining moments in music any more and I was lucky I was there for three: punk, post punk, Acid House and Madchester.”
“Just one live concert in Manchester and out of those small beginnings you get a music moment.”
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The bassist jokes that there were only 45 people at the near mythic Pistols gig, but all of them went on to form bands.
Morrissey of The Smiths, The Buzzcocks who orgagnised it, Mark E Smith of The Fall - and fellow Joy Division and New Order traveller Bernard Sumner.
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“It never ceases to amaze me the people that were there and what happened after that gig.
“For me to have never been a musician then decide to buy an instrument the next day – I didn’t even know how many strings it had on it!” he says.
“Whenever I see Glen Matlock and John Lydon I say ‘without you I wouldn’t be here’ and they look at me in bemusement. I do sometimes wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t gone, but I was lucky to be caught by that wave and to ride it to the top.”
It wasn’t easy says Hook, punk fought against staid conventions and was widely resisted. “It was so different to anything we had seen before like Led Zep or Deep Purple. We’d never seen an act that came on and told everyone to F*** Off. Those were very different times. But it came at the right moment it liberated me and all the people that were there. We went in as normal people and came out at 11.30 in a punk band wanting to change the world.”
That punk spirit has followed ‘Hooky’ all his life, when Joy Division singer Ian Curtis took his own life after just one album, Hook and Sumner formed New Order and as part of Tony Wilson’s Factory Record stable encouraged a generation of Manchester bands and a club scene. The success of tracks like Blue Monday bankrolled Factory’s famous Hacienda nightclub which blossomed in the late 80s and early 90s but closed in 1997 in a haze of debt and drugs, as detailed in Hook’s 2010 book How Not To Run A Club.
The ethic of The Hacienda was thoroughly punk: “Hacienda was championing Acid House music, there was a rebelliousness to it. At the time the government was clamping down on dance gatherings. The old punks would have been proud of us,” he says.
The club was Wilson’s idea he says: “The great thing about the Hacienda was Tony Wilson and Rob Gretton would indulge everyone who was passionate. They were never scared to lose money with someone they liked. Luckily they championed a lot of acts that were well attended and became quite legendary. The Hacienda played a role in changing England culturally but we were a bit befuddled and didn’t realise the ramifications of it.”
Hacienda listened to no-one he says. “Not to lawyers or accountants, for 16 years we created an almost fantasy adult playground with music at the centre, we were allowed to indulge and express ourselves, create fantastic happenings. The things that went on will never happen again. I am proud that we had that run but then people became addicted to risk taking, for me it was alcoholism, a visionary God gives with one hand and takes away with another.”
As producer, a now sober Hook has helped to reinvent the happier heyday of the club with DJs and a 70 piece orchestra performing the hits as Hacienda Classical.
Although Hook won’t be there, the Kenwood Concert on June 15 features DJ sets by Orbital and Leftfield and hits such as ‘Blue Monday’, ‘Voodoo Ray’, ‘Good Life’ and ‘Ride On Time’ as reinterpreted by original DJs Graeme Park and Mike Pickering.
Hook confesses: “I must admit I didn’t get it at first. I was mystified, what gave me optimism was Graeme Park thought it was a good idea. But when I sat down and listened to the music there is a lot of orchestral super-size strings and base lines that sound like beats. Once you get your head round it, it was great connection. We announced it and everyone want bonkers for it. So many people came up to me to pat on the back and said: ‘keep it going, we are having a great time.’”
Hook points out that because much of the music was made by people working alone and played in clubs, it had never been heard live. “It’s been great for people who started going to clubs at 16, snuck in, met their girlfriends bought the record, got divorced and spent their whole life listening to those tunes to hear them live. Those songs are still in people’s consiousness. Plus there is the joy in seeing an orchestra doing something they wouldn’t naturally do, which adds to the performance aspect of it.”
The 62-year-old, who tours with current band Peter Hook and The Light, has even learned to spin the discs and finds it enjoyable that the DJS have crossed over to perform some of the songs.
“I am very proud of it, with musicians crossing over into DJing - I didn’t realise what they did until Clint Boone let me have a go - and DJs being musicans. It’s given us a second lease of life.”
Unlike the usual classical concerts, they play right through “just like a club with no interval whipping it up and getting the crowd carried away with great mixes and great tunes put together really well. We’ve kept the atmosphere and people are having a lot of fun.”
He feels that the contemporary music scene is a bit jaded: “We seem to have exhausted everything to do with music. It looks as though we could be heading for a very prudish generation and that could be the impulse to do another punk.”
You wouldn’t bet against Hooky to be part of another revolution. “Punk was ‘if a bunch of tossers like them can do it anybody can’. Once you are scared in life and stop trying that’s when you are done - you have to keep trying, hear people’s ideas see a moment, have the inspiration to do what you want to do. We still want to change the world but we’re a bit wiser and what we really want is to have fun.”
In late life he’s rather taken to performing: “I love it but I have the freedom to play when and how often like. It’s not all about money it’s about people having a good time it’s as simple as that.”
The Heritage Live series marks the return of live music to Kenwood House after five years. They run from June 15-June 24 and include concerts by Alfie Boe, Kris Kristofferson and Rufus Wainwright, The Bootleg Beatles and The Lightning Seeds, a last night of the Proms with Katherine Jenkins and John Williams’ film themes played by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra. Tickets from heritagelive.net