Peter Hook on playing Joy Division classics with an orchestra at Royal Albert Hall: ‘I shouldn’t have to defend myself’

"There’s a hell of a lot of responsibility to work with something that’s so cherished"

Peter Hook has defended his upcoming concert to perform Joy Division classics with the Manchester Camerata orchestra at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Check out ticket details and our interview with Hook below.

Following his previous work on Haçienda Classiçal, Hook will once again be teaming up with Manchester Camerata – this time to curate and orchestrate ‘an immersive concert’ of Joy Division staples in collaboration with musical director Tim Crooks.

Peter Hook Presents Joy Division Orchestrated will take place at London’s Royal Albert Hall on Friday July 5. Tickets are on sale from 9am on October 5 and will be available here.

“Well, it was quite an easy decision actually,” Hook told NME about the special one-off concert. “The interesting thing about working with an orchestra is that most of us musicians over the years spend most of our time emulating them. Joy Division in particular with ‘Closer’ and the addition of piano, strings and synthesizers – we were basically using a cheap orchestra. The feeling was there, it was just on the cheap.

“Once I transcribed all of the instruments for the Hacienda Classical concerts, you were actually listening to an orchestra, it was just synthesised. Once you use an orchestra to play out that passion and enthusiasm, you take it to another dimension. It’s a different take, but it gives it a much more passionate feeling. I just thought ‘this would be great for Joy Division’.”

Hook continued: “When I started celebrating Joy Division in 2010, the reception to the idea from keyboard terrorists was quite hostile. Then you have to prove that it’s a good idea and executed well and tastefully with the right amount of love. I shouldn’t have to defend myself, should I? Why am I defending myself for wanting to play Joy Division when I was a writer and a quarter of the band?

“But that’s just the way that the world works. I fully expect to have to defend myself on this, but I hope that they will look at how well we’ve presented Joy Division’s music and realised that we are doing it for the right reasons – with all the heart and soul. No pun intended.”

Will you be focussing on the more cinematic songs like ‘Atmosphere’ or is this a case of anything goes?

“No, I wouldn’t say anything goes. There have been a lot of interpretations of Joy Division classically over the years, and I have listened to a lot of them. I have a very firm idea of how I want it to sound, having listened to remixes over the years which have brought out more of the classical elements. I’ve got the setlist together, now I’m looking forward to working out the nuts and bolts – and all the enrichment I’ll get from doing it with all these wonderful musicians. It is only a one-off concert, and it’s been a dream of mine ever since people started doing orchestrations of it.”

Did you ever have doubts around this or ‘Hacienda Classical’?

“I was really skeptical about it, I was the biggest skeptic. I felt that it was indulgent and not purist. Then once it was done, you saw the work and love that people had put into it. Watching the Hacienda tunes played by an orchestra showed me that I was 100% wrong when I said it was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard. It became a different ballgame. It’s quite exciting, and there’s a hell of a lot of responsibility to work with something that’s so cherished. It’s not something you take on lightly.

“Sadly the other members of Joy Division aren’t involved, so you end up doing it on your own. But I do feel capable, and I do feel like this is something I’m ticking I’m off my bucketlist. Ian’s lyrics are very evocative and the music is very dramatic, nobody can deny the impact it’s had. It still touches young kids today in a way that’s surprising.”

Will you be singing yourself or will there be guest vocalists?

“We’re starting to put all of that together now. It’s no mean feat. It’s a difficult project, organising male and female vocalists alongside with percussion, string, wind and bass. When I play, I just look at one instrument – Tim looks at 70. That is an amazing gift that he’s able to orchestrate that and have a great time doing it.”

What can you tell us about the pressure of inhabiting these songs, knowing the frame of mind that Ian Curtis was in when he wrote them?

“To be honest with you, the first time I celebrated Joy Division around the 30th anniversary of Ian’s death in 2010, I was petrified. I had vocalists lined up and was going to play bass, then the keyboard terrorists turned up and did their thing. Then Rowetta bless her, she turned around and said to me ‘you’re going to have to do it’. It took a long time for me to feel comfortable in that role, but it’s given me fantastic appreciation for his work. If anything, I feel better about Joy Division than I ever have in my whole life. The reason we wrote ‘Dead Souls’ was because Ian wanted a song where he could judge the mood in the room, stand there and dig the music to see what the atmosphere was like.

“Now, I get to do that and indulge myself in that. Doing the classical would bring that to me. I’m being quite selfish here, because I’ve really enjoyed doing what we do with The Light and we’ve been do successful to go from 200 people at our first gig to 5,000 in Mexico. To go around the world with this music and make new friends is incredibly rewarding. Joy Division never really got anywhere, we never even got to Ireland. It’s so frustrating to feel so thwarted for Ian’s plans.”

  • Check back at NME soon for more of our interview with Peter Hook
Peter Hook

Peter Hook

Meanwhile, this week sees Peter Hook & The Light embark on a UK tour to perform New Order’s ‘Technique’ and ‘Republic’ in full. Full dates are below and tickets are available here.

Friday September 28 2018 – LONDON KOKO
Saturday September 29 2018 – MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Sunday September 30 2018 – GLASGOW SWG3
Thursday February 7 2019 – NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Friday February 8 2019 – HOLMFIRTH Picturedrome
Saturday February 9 2019 – LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Thursday February 21 2019 – COLCHESTER Arts Centre
Friday February 22 2019 – BRIGHTON Concorde 2
Saturday February 23 2019 – CARDIFF Tramshed