Peter Hook played bass in Joy Division, the short-lived but highly regarded post-punk British band, as well as Joy Division’s massively popular successor, New Order.
Hook left New Order in 2007, frustrated that the group had become, in his view, a greatest hits band. In 2010, he formed Peter Hook and the Light to perform the Joy Division albums “Unknown Pleasures” and “Closer” at a concert honoring Joy Division’s late singer, Ian Curtis.
This April and May, Hook and the Light are playing a mostly Southern U.S. tour, including a Wednesday show at the Republic in New Orleans. The tour features complete performances of 1979’s “Unknown Pleasures” and 1980’s “Closer.”
The American tour is a prelude to “So This Is Permanence,” a May 18 celebration of Curtis’ life on the 35th anniversary of his death. The concert will take place in Macclesfield, England, at Christ Church, where Curtis attended Mass as a child.
“It’s gonna be a hell of a concert because we’re playing every song that Joy Division ever wrote and recorded, in one go,” Hook said recently. “Forty-eight songs, average four minutes a song. I’m hoping for seismic shift. And we’re doing it for charity (the Epilepsy Society and the Churches Conservation Trust). It’s nice to celebrate and give something back.”
Celebrating Curtis and Joy Division, Hook said, was something that New Order, the band that he and the other two surviving members of Joy Division formed after Curtis’ death, never did. Ignoring their own legacy, Hook said, “somehow it didn’t seem right.”
Hook set things right through the Light’s performances of Joy Division’s music. Originally formed for a one-off event honoring Curtis, the Light is now in its fifth year.
“When we first played we had no other gigs booked,” Hook said of 2010’s 30th anniversary tribute concert to Curtis. “So, yeah, it’s grown.”
Curtis, the inspiration for the Light, suffered from epilepsy. He was just 25 when he committed suicide on May 18, 1980, two days before Joy Division’s scheduled flight to the U.S. for the band’s first American tour. That summer, the Joy Division song “Love Will Tear Us Apart” became a hit single and the band’s second album, “Closer,” reached the British Top 10.
Hook, guitarist Bernard Sumner and drummer Stephen Morris carried on as New Order. In the early years of that band, Hook recalled, it was OK to move beyond Joy Division.
“I must admit that attitude enabled us to make New Order a huge international success and stand alone from Joy Division, which was exactly how we wanted it to be,” he said.
In the 1980s and ’90s, New Order released well-received albums and hit songs, including “Regret,” “Bizarre Love Triangle,” “Blue Monday” “True Faith” and “Round and Round,” on both sides of the Atlantic. But as the years passed, New Order’s on-stage emphasis on its popular singles irritated Hook.
“When we first started New Order, we changed the set every night,” he said. “A lot. And then you can see, over the years, we got more conservative. You get to 2001 and we’re playing the same set every night. And I’m thinking ‘How did that happen?’ It was so boring, to be honest.”
And Sumner, Hook added, refused to play early New Order material, which also had quite a following.
“Bernard got stuck in a rut where he just played the hits,” he said.
Since forming the Light, Hook has performed complete Joy Division albums and complete New Order albums, too. He likes the challenge in playing albums in total and, in this song-oriented, fragmented age of iTunes and Spotify, presenting the complete musical statement albums represent.
“As I grew up, the LP was such an important moment, and that moment was 45 minutes long,” he said. “It was wonderful to put on one side of an album, listen to 25 minutes, and then have the ceremony of turning it over and listening to the other side.
“Albums took me to some wonderful places, with some wonderful people. Ian Dury. The Velvet Underground. Iggy Pop. So many people who I’ve had these fantastic journeys with, on an album.”
An engaging blogger and the author of two books, 2013’s “Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division” and 2009’s “The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club,” Hook is working on a book about New Order. It follows Sumner’s version of events, “Chapter and Verse: New Order, Joy Division and Me,” published last year.
“I read Bernard’s book about New Order. He dispatched 26 years of amazing albums in about 80 pages. And 60 of those pages were slagging me off! So, yeah, Bernard’s book, it brought home to me that a great book about New Order still should be written, shall we say.”