published: 18 /
Mark Rowland talks to New Order and Joy Division bassist Peter Hook about his new career as a DJ at one of his sets in Carlisle
“Where are you ?”
My mind pulls itself out of its groggy haze; “What?”
“Where are you? I’ve got Hooky here and he’s agreed to the interview. You’ve got fifteen minutes ‘til he goes on. Are you near the venue ?”
I get out of bed. This cannot be happening. A few hours ago I was pretty much told by text that the interview wasn’t going ahead. On television, Mark Wahlberg is fighting an army of monkeys. It looks like he’s winning.
In the practice space above the venue, Peter Hook, bassist with New Order and Joy Division, is listening to some enthusiastic flattery from assorted sources, one of whom is a man who looks like he’s in his 70's. Luckily, everything seems to have been delayed, so there is still around fifteen minutes until he starts his DJ set for the wasted and slightly fanatical clubbers at Carlisle’s Brickyard. Despite some initial celebrity behaviour when arriving in Carlisle (going straight to his hotel room and asking to not be disturbed until ten) Hook seems quite down-to-earth. He could, for example, have completely steered clear of Carlisle if he wanted to; it’s not as if he needs the money. The Brickyard is in essence a dingy indie rock venue, not a club normally capable pulling in big-name DJs.
It was another Manchester bassist, Mani, who persuaded Hook to DJ in Carlisle. Mani played at the even smaller Ku Bar last September, and described it as "mega" in typically Mancunian fashion.
Hook has only been DJing for a couple of years. For a long time, Bernard Sumner was New Order’s DJ, but Hook now DJ’s far more often, playing DJ sets on the side while touring with New Order and for something to do when he is on a break from playing bass. Perhaps he is making up for lost time.
Andy, the Brickyard’s owner, manages to drag Hook away from his well-wishers and introduces him to me. I apologise for being a bit late. “S’alright” Hook half shrugs.
PB : How did you get into DJing in the first place?
PH : I was asked by Mani actually when someone let him down when he was doing a gig in Barcelona, I’d never considered it. Bernard always asked me to do it, because he did it a lot in the 90's and I was never interested. I was always quite scathing about DJs, probably because of the Hacienda, because they were all such fucking prats. They were, and now I am. So I went to Barcelona with Mani and Mani was off his fucking head and he was unbelievable. He was chucking records at the punters, screwing it all up, putting on the wrong record, mixing wrong, putting on a record with loads of silence. All the punters going mad. It was a right laugh. It was proper punk, and I just started after that. He said it was just a great way of getting pissed for nothing. Which it was for a while, and then I just got into it, really concentrating on it, listening to music. It gave me an excuse to listen to music, because with recording all the time, you just got sick of music, you wouldn’t want to listen to music. So, when I started DJing, and-I must admit the early ones must have been quite shambolic-it just gave me a passion.
PB : How does it differ from playing with New Order?
PH : It’s completely different – is he playing 'Blue Monday' there, the twat? Tell him he’s a wanker from me when you go up there – It’s funny because I do it mainly because I don’t get to play as much. If I was playing all the time I wouldn’t DJ, but, as I don’t get to play, it’s the next best thing I suppose. It’s quite nerve-wracking, because you do everything on your own, you’re alone. It’s not the usual thing in a group. In a group there’s usually about 17 to 20 of you all the time. But the upside of it is that there’s no-one annoying me.
PB : What about people constantly requesting New Order tracks?
PH : When I first started I didn’t play New Order. It seemed logical not to because I was in New Order. Which didn’t agree with everybody else really; everybody else thought well you’re in New Order so you should play New Order. The last fucking thing I wanted to do was to play New Order, but life is about compromise. What I did was I started to seek out stuff that I found interesting; I got a lot of mixes and stuff that aren’t available really. They’re just mine, so I play them as like a compromise.
I don’t do requests really because I find when people ask for the Smiths and the Stone Roses it tends to be annoying. So I don’t do requests. It amazes me how people get pissed off when you don’t do requests, which I think is great. I don’t care because I like to piss them off. Part of the fun with being a DJ, especially a celebrity DJ, is that you can get away with murder. A normal DJ wouldn’t be able to get away with it. It’s interesting; you can sort of indulge your punk fashions quite a lot.
PB : What kind of music do you like to play in your DJ sets?
PH : I like hard dance. Nobody ever asks me what I play when they book me. It’s very, very rare that people will ask you what you play. What I love most is really hard dance music, like LCD, Le Tigre, Soulwax, so people get a bit of a surprise. I think they expect me to play like Madchester or stuff like that.
PB : Or the Smiths
PH : Possibly because I’m from Manchester they expect me to play the Smiths, so it’s quite weird sometimes you get a really bad reaction, and sometimes you get a really good reaction. One of my other mates, who is a DJ, said to me that if you’re Djing it is great when it goes well, but if it doesn’t it’s the loneliest place on Earth. I’ve experienced that; it can be the loneliest place on Earth. I’m blessed really, because if I go to many of the places that I do go, I get to play all around the world when I tour with New Order. There’s fans waiting for me everywhere so I get away with fucking murder – chat up their girlfriend, steal their drinks – ‘He’s in New Order, yeah!’ Mani was right.
PB : How have you found Carlisle so far? It’s not the coolest of towns.
PH : It’s a beautiful town. Don’t think we’ve ever played here though. I don’t think I can judge. I’m from Salford. It doesn’t bother me. Again, the thing about being in a group is that you sort of tend to go everywhere and make it your own. I’m just here to make it my own for two hours, then bugger off and leave you alone. That’s it really.
PB : Do you find crowds a bit tougher when you’re DJing? I assume you don’t get booed much when you play with New Order.
PH : You can get booed, if you play just all your new stuff. I always have this discussion with Bernard, I don’t think we should play ‘Blue Monday’, but he feels we have to, that it’s expected. I say fuck them. You don’t have to do what people expect. He thinks people moan too much, not that he sees any fucking people anyway. I wouldn’t do it out of sheer bloody mindedness. I wouldn’t play it.
PB : I guess you get quite a lot of people who want to hear Joy Division songs as well.
PH : We play Joy Division songs now. All they had to do is wait 30 years. What’s the matter with them!?
It is at this point that the interview is cut short. The night’s organiser, a young bloke with a Stone Roses style bowl cut, tells Hook that the support DJ will play New Order’s ‘True Faith’, then Joy Division’s ‘Transmission’, then he goes on.
“Don’t put on ‘Transmission’, anything but ‘Transmission’,” Hook says, agitated, as the sounds of ‘Transmission’ drift up from downstairs. “He’s put it on. I play it in my set. That’s fucked me now. Wanker.”
The organiser looks taken aback: “Sorry, I didn’t know! I can get him to turn it off if you want.”
Hook understandably rolls his eyes: “He’ll know in about five minutes! No, come on.”
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