I’m Celebrating Joy Division – Why Isn’t Bernard Sumner Doing The Same?

Last week NME’s Rick Martin questioned Peter Hook’s upcoming Ian Curtis tribute. Here Hooky defends what he says will be a fitting salute to his bandmate.

The thought behind me doing a gig in celebration of Ian Curtis’ life actually started last year. For the first time in the 30 years since the end of Joy Division, Macclesfield Borough Council decided that they wanted to mark the anniversary of Ian’s untimely death, the 30th anniversary no less, with an exhibition.

The talks got quite advanced – but then it all fell through. It seemed really sad to me. I thought, ‘I let 25 years go, I let 20 years go, 15, 10…’ I’ve never done anything to celebrate what really was a fantastic start for a group and a milestone in my life. I mean, ‘Unknown Pleasures’ was a milestone in my life. It’s given me my whole fucking life, and I’m delighted about that. So I thought, ‘Fuck it, I’ll fix something up’.

I don’t know why this geezer Rick Martin would imagine that Ian Curtis wouldn’t like nostalgia when he got to the ripe old age of 53. He didn’t know Ian Curtis – he knows him less than I did. I think you should celebrate stuff like this anytime, anywhere, any place and in any way you can.

So I’m playing the album on May 18 at FAC251 with my band The Light. I’m singing some of the songs too, because obviously Ian’s not there. When I sing, my son’s going to take over on bass guitar. As a parent it’s fucking wonderful!

I’ve got a few people helping me out as well – Rowetta [ex-Happy Mondays singer]’s gonna do a couple of songs, as is Simon Topping who used to be in A Certain Ratio, hopefully. Funnily enough, we’ve also got the guy who used to stand in for Ian when he was ill in Joy Division. He’s in 24 Hour Party People in the bit about Bury Town Hall when we had the riot.

Obviously, in an ideal world I’d love to do it with Bernard [Sumner] and Steve [Morris]. But Barney’s big thing when we were in New Order was that we traded on the past too much – he actually agreed with your writer.

Then again, Bad Lieutenant are playing loads of Joy Division and New Order in their sets at the moment. Why doesn’t Rick pick on them?

I’m celebrating Ian’s life – I think that a more valid question would be to ask the other members of Joy Division why they aren’t. Though in a funny way I suppose Bernard is doing his own tribute by doing that.

I loved the bit in the piece about it being a ‘boozy singalong’. Have you ever been to an Irish wake? You celebrate life by grabbing it by the balls and squeezing it.

That’s what we do in Manchester. And to do it in the old Factory building, surrounded by the pictures of Tony Wilson on the wall… I mean, you can call me an old melancholic fool, but I’m actually really happy to be doing it.

We’re doing the gig in collaboration with the mental health charity Mind, too. If you read the statistics about how prevalent male depression is in the age group from 17 to 25, it throws a whole new light on the mixed-up attitudes that the youth have always had. It was very sobering to sit down and read those statistics of what Ian went through.

I went through it too. You probably have as well. But luckily we survived. A lot of people don’t. We’re using the tragedy of Ian’s untimely death to hopefully bring some awareness to the fact that some of us do struggle with mental illness.

I accept that everyone’s entitled to their own opinions – that’s what makes life interesting, isn’t it? But I’m celebrating Ian’s work in my own way, which is the only thing I can do. And I’m willing to discuss the matter further with Rick any time he wants…

Read Rick Martin’s original piece