Harley Young speaks with music legend Peter Hook about Joy Division, New Order and the upcoming intimate gig in aid of mental health
Ex Joy Division and New Order co-founder Peter Hook and his band, The Light, will perform an intimate fundraiser gig in aid of mental health support.
The 200-capacity Headstock event will take place on Friday 12 April 2024 at one of Manchester’s best-loved independent music venues, The Star & Garter. It will raise money for Shout, the UK’s only free and confidential 24/7 text messaging support service designed to help those who are struggling and need in-the-moment support.
The Star & Garter is the home of the Ian Curtis mural from AKSE, making the event a fitting tribute to the late singer-songwriter who died by suicide in 1980.
During the evening there will also be a live Q&A giving fans the opportunity to ask Peter and special guests questions about the band, Ian, and their time together.
I spoke with Peter to find out why he and his band felt this event was important.
Manchester supported us enough to get us going…we’re still here. Still doing things like this for our home, which I think is very, very important.
How did the idea for this event come about?
That's a very convoluted question, actually. The Ian Curtis murals have been appearing for quite a while. I worked with the mayor of Macclesfield on doing the one in Macclesfield Town Centre, there’s one planned for Stockport, and, of course, this one at the Star & Garter.
That one came about because it was first done just between Ancoats Street and that weird house that sits on its own between the car parks. Headstock (the mental health fund raising festival) paid for it to celebrate a certain day and then it was removed as it was just an advertising hoarding. It caused a lot of bad feelings when it went.
People were very drawn to Akse’s rendition of Ian Curtis’ look of obvious passion and the hurt in his eyes because he was suffering. It actually became important to Manchester at that point. I was devastated when it disappeared but it was only an advertising board - people forget that. It wasn’t there for good. I know Aitch got a lot of stick for going over it with his LP, but it was an advertising hoarding - you buy it for a certain amount of time. But people were coming from far and wide, so it became culturally very important.
There's so few things that celebrate Joy Division in Manchester, that was one of the only things, so I think [Headstock] recognised how important it was and managed to fund another permanent one at the Star & Garter. Now, when I saw that, I got in touch with them and said ‘Listen, anything you need to help this, whether it's with financing or a charity gig or whatever, just let me know,’ and they did. I said ‘Well, let's kill two birds with one stone. Let's celebrate The Star & Garter too because its survival has been amazing, let's celebrate the charity for what it does, and celebrate something that I love dearly, which is Joy Division and Ian Curtis. It was so easy.
I’m delighted to be able to do this with my band. We have been playing Joy Division songs for 12 years. It’s quite an obvious thing for me to do. I’d like there to be a mural in every town, so it gives me something to do to work towards that aim.
Why do you think the Star & Garter is such an institution for Manchester musicians, both new and established?
The thing is, when you start out in a band, you need smaller venues to play. Obviously, you've not got a following. People don't know you. You need to be given the opportunity to play. Without places like the Star & Garter, there would be no people in The Warehouse Project next door. I mean, you go from the sublime to the ridiculous with the Star & Garter to The Warehouse Project - from a 200 venue to a 12,000 venue - and without the 200 venue, the 12,000 wouldn't be there. That's how important these kinds of places are.
When you’ve made it, when you don't really need anything, is when you get into those massive venues like the Arena and Co-op Live. These little, ground-floor starting-point venues are what gives us everything. Being involved in this is absolutely wonderful, and means a damn sight more to me than Factory (Aviva Studios), for instance.
It's just nice to be able to get back to my roots. I mean, let's face it - when I was playing in 200 seater venues I didn't know any better. The people that ran them were mostly independent and always looked after you. They always gave you hope. I mean, how many bands starting out can look at the Arena and go ‘Wow, that gives me hope’? We all want to play to 19,000 people, but it looks so far away.
What the Arena should do is have a small venue underneath and say ‘Listen, we're helping little bands as well as the big bands’. That's what we did at The Hacienda. We realised the upstairs room with 1200 capacity wasn't much use to smaller bands, so we actually changed the basement round so the smaller bands could play.
With the EU as it is, Brexit and COVID, we need to support these independent, small venues.
What can people expect from the intimate gig?
It's going to be right back to our sweaty roots. I’m going to make sure they take the lid off the toilet, because that was the hallmark of all these little venues - there was never a toilet seat. We're going to remove it for the night and get back to our roots.
We're doing the gig, which is an absolute pleasure, but we're also doing a Q&A. I've got Kelvin Briggs - Ian Curtis’ best friend from school, the best man at his wedding, and also his best friend until he sadly died - doing the Q&A with me. Our first ever roadie, who's still my best mate, Carl Bellingham, will be doing the Q&A with me as well. So you're going to get a quite different outlook. You're gonna get to understand how Joy Division was when we were touring at grassroots venues and a great insight into Ian Curtis himself as a person, through his best friend. It's going to be good, I'll tell you.
Can you tell us what songs fans can expect to hear during the set? Will there be any rarities or curveballs?
I'm not sure what we're going to play yet. The Light can play all Joy Division’s songs very well. I'm wondering whether to let the audience shout them out…I don't know.
When we played in Macclesfield at the church that Ian went to when he was a kid, we played every song that Joy Division ever wrote and recorded in one go at one concert - 54 songs.
It's such a small audience it’s going to feel very, very intimate and very wonderful. Maybe I'll take suggestions on a postcard.
Are there any young, up-and-coming bands from Manchester that you listen to now that embody the same energy as Joy Division?
If a band doesn't sound like Joy Division, it tends to sound like New Order. I hear so many, some of them are better than others. It's very difficult in this day and age when you can just go on the internet, listen to a million bands you’ve never heard of from all over the world. It makes you wonder whether it's a blessing or a curse because you've got so much choice. But the thing is that inspiration. I was inspired by the Sex Pistols to form a band immediately after their gig and then to try and hate the Sex Pistols very badly because we turned into Joy Division.
Whatever you use for inspiration is fine. I'm not talking about ripping somebody off or plagiarism to the point that it's obviously obvious, but [Joy Division] was inspired by punks to be punks for a long time. We're not punks now, it's impossible. With our success, it's impossible. But the inspiration was wonderful. When I saw Johnny Rotten, I nearly fucking wet myself. I've never seen anything like it in my life. It terrified me and inspired me in the same way. I thought ‘Fuck me. If he can do it, I can do it’. And you know, I never felt like that when I'd gone to see Led Zeppelin the week before.
I've been very lucky in my life to be at some wonderful, wonderful moments. You know, going into the Hacienda, Madchester, Acid house - we were very lucky to be in the right place at the right time. It was the Sex Pistols that put us in that place. So when people read our story, I hope they’ll think ‘Well if these fucking idiots can do it, I’m sure we can. Why not?’
People always ask me ‘How do we make it? How do we do it?’ but there's only one way you can do anything - it's the same in your job and it's the same in my job; you have to keep going. As soon as you stop, you disappear.
How long after Ian’s death did it take you and the rest of the band to decide to continue making music as New Order?
When we went to Ian's inquest, we stopped for dinner, afterwards. There was me, Barney (Bernard), Steve, Gillian who was hanging around with Steve, and Rob Gretton. It wasn't the happiest meal, as you can imagine.
But at the end of it, Rob said to us ‘I've not asked have I? What are you going to do, you lot?’ and we sat there like ‘We haven't got a clue’ and he said ‘Well, are you going to go back to work or are you going to carry on making music?’ The three of us looked at each other. None of us wanted to go back to work. So it was as simple as that. We didn't know how the hell we were going to do it without Ian. But we knew that we would carry on. You know, we had the instruments, obviously we had the talent. We'd lost a very, very valuable part and maybe we had to find a way - we didn't know whether it’d work or not. We met up on a Thursday and I wrote Dreams Never End on Sunday afternoon in the back bedroom in my little house. I took it in on Monday morning and that was when New Order began.
How would you say Joy Division’s music influenced, and continues to influence, not only Manchester’s youth, but the youth of a nation and beyond?
Joy Division was a very pure, very powerful group with a very final ending. Whether you like it or not, that kind of ending gives a group romance and myth. You know, you look at Nirvana, loads of other bands like that. Joy Division is very complete. The music is wonderful and, if I say so myself, it stands the test of time. Incredibly, it stretches across to every generation of listeners - particularly young ones - which I never cease to be surprised at.
The ending of Joy Division was very pure, very noble. New Order’s end was nothing like that. We managed to cut each other's throats, stab each other in the back right the way through our whole career and, to be honest with you. It made it a very, very difficult situation for the musicians to live with.
I never earned a penny when I was in Joy Division - we were as broke when it finished as we were when it started, so it was never soiled by anything. It was such a great shame. You know, The band was wonderful and showed fantastic promise. Yeah, it was heartbreaking.
But I'm very lucky. I'm still here. People listen to our music all the time and I have to appreciate that. If you look at the Chanel show, what a huge part Factory, Joy Division and New Order played in that Chanel show. It's still going and I'm very grateful and very proud of it.
What do you think Ian would’ve made of the event?
He loved Joy Division. He loved our music and he loved to play, anywhere, anyhow, and anytime. So he would just have been delighted to get our music out there. I mean, he was always Joy Division's rah-rah boy. Every time we got annoyed or got pissed off because we weren't getting gigs and we seemed to be getting nowhere, Ian would always pick us up, which was quite ironic with how he was suffering himself, you know, mentally and physically. But he was always the one that’d go ‘Come on, we're going to be in Brazil this time next year. We're going to be playing America…’ He was the one that got us all going and his wish was just to get our music out to everybody.
What are you most proud of?
Believing in Manchester enough to stay Manchester centric - not disappearing down to London. That's what I'm most proud of.
I'm most proud of the fact that I love Manchester. We started in Manchester. Manchester supported us enough to get us going and we've actually stayed true to our roots - Manchester and Salford, we’re still here. Still doing things like this for our home, which I think is very, very important.
It shows soul, it shows passion, and it shows that you can do it if you believe and work hard. You get sick of people saying it, but it's true.
Given the limited capacity of the venue (200), tickets for ‘Peter Hook & The Light: An Evening of Music & Conversation’ will be allocated via a ticket ballot on Skiddle. Each successful ballot entrant will be allocated two tickets to the event. The ticket ballot will remain open until Friday 2 February 2024.
Pricing for the ticket ballot is as follows:
1x ballot entry - £10
3x ballot entries - £15
10x ballot entries - £20
Money raised via the ticket ballot will go to support Shout’s free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope.
Follow Harley Young on X @Harley__Young
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