Peter Hook and the Light played Joy Division and New Order classics at their concert in Madrid’s Mon Club on 24
November 2017, and Guitars
Exchange interviewed band member David Potts about Ian Curtis, Hooky, and the specific challenges their music presents.
If there are any doubts about whether Peter Hook and the Light are going to nail the sacred songs of Joy Division and New Order, they are soon swept away as Hooky’s driving bassline breaks into Ceremony, and the faithful erupt.
By the time the band are into Transmission, the whole audience seem to be joining in the deep chant of “Radio, live transmission… Radio, live transmission…”. Among the sea of black Unknown Pleasures t-shirts and silver-haired warriors, the fact that the mosh pit is full of pogo-ing 18 year olds is testimony to both the enduring personal importance and global appeal of these songs.
Just before the words of Atmosphere kick in - “Walk in silence, Don’t walk away in silence, See the danger, Always danger,” - Hooky says “I’d like to dedicate this to Ian Curtis, God rest his soul,” and for a single moment, it feels like we are in a church.
Peter Hook is the bassist and co-founder, with Bernard Sumner, of Joy Division. Following the death of lyricist and singer Ian Curtis in 1980, the band reformed as New Order. During a break in New Order’s career, Hooky co-worked with David Potts (‘Pottsy’) in Monaco, which released two albums and had a hit with "What Do You Want From Me" in 1997. In 2013 Hooky and Pottsy reunited in ‘Peter Hook and the Light’.
Before the Madrid gig, Guitars Exchange chats with Pottsy about the legacy of these mythical bands, and what the future holds.
GE: How would you describe Peter Hook and the Light?
DP: Well, we are not a tribute band because we’ve got an original member. Perhaps we might be described as a ‘celebration band’, as we celebrate the music of Joy Division and New Order.
When Joy Division wrote songs, all four played an equal part; nobody took precedent, and Hooky liked that. Hooky missed playing those songs – even 20 years ago when we were in Monaco, he had the idea that he wanted to do this, because he loves playing those songs so much.
GE: You’ve had a long and varied relationship with Hooky. How do you view it now?
DP: (laughs) Probably better than it ever has been, to be honest. When you are writing together it is very different to performing for somebody – and that’s what I’m doing now. I am in his band. Monaco was the two of us and we were always at loggerheads because he was such a big character and had quite an ego having been in a big band, and I had to fight my corner with my ego to compete with his. But with this I am well aware that I am playing and/or singing Bernard’s part, so it is a very different feel to how it was before.
Hooky is 13 years sober so he’s a lot easier to get on with (laughs). We haven’t got that competition now; it’s easier.
GE: With Monaco you both recorded the hit ‘What Do You Want From Me?’, which reached No.11 in the British music charts, and your album ‘Music for Pleasure’ also reached No.11. Do you feel that something special clicked at that time?
DP: Yes. We found it very easy to write together. Peter had gone off to do Republic with New Order and when he came back I had quite a few ideas and we bashed them out, but then we thought this is getting quite good we shouldn’t be mucking around, we need to do this seriously. So in around ‘95 we started to tout the music around - Brit pop was going crazy at that time so it was good timing for us.
GE: You auditioned for Oasis as their bass guitarist at one point. Can you tell us what happened?
DP: (laughs) In a way I couldn’t see it working and nor could they. They wanted a ‘yes man’ in their band, and as much as I love the music and as much as I love Oasis, I had come out of Monaco where we were at loggerheads, and had to go our separate ways, and it looked like I was walking into something similar. Noel was lovely on his own, and Liam was lovely on his own, but as soon as the two came together it was horrible, it just didn’t have a good feel to it. In retrospect I should probably have behaved myself and done it, but it just didn’t feel right. And Noel probably saw that I was not fully into it at that time, as much as I loved the music.
GE: What were your feelings when you first started to listen to Joy Division’s songs?
DP: I approached it the wrong way round. I hadn’t experienced Joy Division apart from the big ones: Transmission, Shadowplay and Love Will Tear Us Apart. I was into The Jam, and The Police, and after that I got into New Order, so a lot later I backtracked into Joy Division’s albums.
Later the more I listened to Closer, I saw it as very intense, great to play, and so simple in its own way. New Order is sometimes very complicated to play.
GE: Do you seek to recreate the Joy Division/ New Order album sound?
DP: I do, but I also take a lot from their live stuff. I try to amalgamate the two because the record is nothing like how they played it live, so I’ve incorporated whatever Bernard has done live and mixed it with the record. I can’t take credit for any of it! (laughs). There is a creative part, but I am playing someone else’s stuff and I have to roughly stick to the ‘guidelines’, otherwise I wouldn’t be doing my job.
GE: In 2013 you gigged with the Light in Italy, Ireland and France. Did you ever imagine it would continue now?
DP: No - when they started I didn’t think it would last six months! But the demand is there all over the world for this music. New Order don’t really touch the Joy Division stuff, but we do, and I think we do it very well. We play the early stuff by New Order, like Movement and Power, Corruption and Lies, but the actual New Order don’t touch it, so it is good for other people around the world to hear it done live.
GE: Are there any special challenges of ‘covering’ those bands songs and guitar parts?
DP: Not guitar-wise, but singing, because in the early 80s Bernard’s voice was so high - it sounded great to me, he just used to push it. If he went out of tune it didn’t really matter because he was so enigmatic as a singer, his anger on stage pushed it all along; it all just added to the feel of the gig. Guitar-wise they are really interesting parts to play as they are quite unique; some leave you wondering ‘how did he do that?’ I suppose it comes from that punk ethic of not really knowing how to play, you can think ‘that chord doesn’t really go with that.’ If you listen to something like Procession, for example, I think that the bass is in A and the guitars are in C – you just wouldn’t put them together as a learned song writer – it breaks the rules, but it sounds great, so fuck it, it doesn’t matter does it? What I like about Bernard’s playing is he plays quite hard, he does a lot of the scratchy stuff, it is passionate isn’t it? I’d go for that a lot more than a riffy-kind of slash-type guitarist just noodling it for the sake of it, that doesn’t really turn me on.
GE: Hooky has said that he developed his high bass lines when he started playing with Joy Division because his speaker was so bad that he had to play high to be able to hear what he was doing...
DP: From what Hooky has told me, Ian picked it out because he struggled to hear it over Bernard’s amp, so when Hooky played high Ian went ‘hey, that sounded good, do that again’, so the more melodic, riffy, things Hooky did higher stuck out, and he picked up on it and thought ‘I’ll do that bit again’.
GE: Do Hooky’s high bass lines affect your playing?
DP: No, not really, you just make sure you don’t clash. I’m only playing their part, I suppose they played around each other. It doesn’t affect me, only the volume! (laughs).
GE: What guitars do Hooky and you use?
DP: Hooky is using a Viking, custom built. He uses Yamaha BB200s to record with. As for me I have tried others but nothing quite gets the poke, so I use an American Tele, because it has the bite I want and seems quite versatile with the pedals that I have got. I’ve tried a few other things but it has never quite pulled it off. I have quite a simple set up. The guy from Yamaha gave me a Line 6 Helix and I just could not get my head around it at all, there were about 300 amps in there to start with before you even got anywhere, so I just use a very simple set of seven pedals in a chain. There is a tuner, a Sparkle Drive (Voodoo Lab), and then I’ve got this round (laughs) …this round thing… Exporia it’s called; a RAT ProCo, a chorus (Marshall Supervibe) and two delays (Boss DD-5 and a Shadow Echo by Dr. J.) – one for really going a bit daft and sound-effectsy, which is made by a company called Joyo based in Manchester, and then a short delay for the slapback stuff, because a lot of the Joy Division stuff had been put through a simulator. The early New Order was also really effected, with a lot of short slaps and chorus, and so we try to incorporate that into it. It kind of gives it a distance. So the bits I need to poke out, poke out.
My amps are a Vox AC30, Fender Twin Reverb and the Fender Deville.
GE: What plans have you got for 2018?
We’ve got a break in the New Year so Hooky and I hope to have a go at writing. It has been nearly 20 years since we wrote together. After that, we have a huge tour of the US and then festivals; and hopefully we’ll fit in more writing. We have plenty of ideas…
Peter Hook and the Light end their Madrid set with Shadowplay, and it seems appropriate to close with lyrics from the song:
“To the centre of the city where all roads meet, waiting for you, To the depths of the ocean where all hopes sank, searching for you, I was moving through the silence without motion, waiting for you, In a room with a window in the corner I found truth.”
As the ecstatic crowd dance, chant and wave their hands above their heads in the haze of the purple spotlights, Hooky stares out over them, into the middle-distance, and mouths the words: “Rest in Peace, Ian.”