Frank Worrall confronts NEW ORDER's PETER HOOK. Photography: Zhysiu RodakEven Michael Fagan would think twice before confronting New Order. Apart from their famed reluctance to so much as look the press in the eye, there are other more worrying factors to take note of, like the litter of uncompromising security "people" blocking every conceivable avenue to the band. See, this is The Hacienda, Manchester, the introspective four's own palace. New Order actually own shares in the club, so it's hardly surprising they've taken staunch steps to safeguard their privacy. Luckily, there's a stooge in every crowd. Luckily, he's the one who demands to know our identities as we bid to breach the backstage cordon of heavies. Somehow, I manage to convince him we're in the sharp pop group, Cabaret Voltaire, and that New Order are expecting, nay waiting for us! Within seconds we're hot on the heels of actual Cabman, Mal, and in the dressing room. Inside it's a confusing, sweaty hive of superficial activity. Voices screech and fools make bigger fools of themselves. But I breathe a sigh of relief at the sight of some more invigorating personalities, like Mark E Smith, A Certain Ratio, Section 25 and Mike Pickering. The driving force behind the Hacienda's push to it's current status as Britain's best club, Pickering is talking to Rob Gretton. Gretton is New Order's manager and seeing him sends ominous warning signals scattering across my brain. I recall a negative telephone conversation with him two months earlier, when he'd blown me out after I'd attempted to set up an interview with his group. "I'll get back to you," he'd pledged. He never did. Still, we'd got this far... I grabbed Mike, asked him to see what he could do for us and found myself face to face with Gretton. "I spoke to you on the 'phone!" he said. "Now you want to talk?" I nodded. Gretton shouted across to Peter Hook, exchanged frivolities, turned his face back to us and smiled. We were in business. The New Order interview proved to be surprising, sincere and well worth the 50 minutes of tape it gobbled up. In fact, it was similar to the music Britain's most outstandingly inventive group have just put down on record. New Order contend their "Power, Corruption And Lies" album, due out next month, is the most impressive statement they have made so far. Having heard half of it's eight songs on stage a few hours before, I readily agree. "Power" sees New Order taking daring steps forward - way ahead of anything they have created previously and hopefully dismissing once and for all the "extension of Joy Division" albatross around their necks. "Power" documents New Order flirting with soaring rhythms and irresistible passion and honesty. "Power" is no dozy escape: it's an intensive insight into life and it's delicious idiosyncracies. "Power" is a warning to those who would shrug off New Order as purveyors of gloom. It tackles typical subjects - pride, anger, depression, sadness, happiness, jealousy - and emerges triumphant. "Power" is the story of a group building upon it's obvious strengths, building effectively upon the glory of "Temptation" and it's themes. It represents the true blooming of the seeds of originality; a destruction of the Joy Division ethos. With their new songs New Order are shouting, pleading with a public, obsessed by the Joy Division aura, to give them a break. To see them as a new band! Personally, I'd admired their singles - the power of "Ceremony", the mystery of "Everything's Gone Green" and the sweet pop insecurity of "Temptation" - but felt that New Order were still nowhere near any sort of zenith. The album, "Movement", exemplified an uncertain, almost unstable desire to break new ground: unfortunately it wasn't even a glorious failure, sounding more like a mirror of a group sucking in too many past influences and drowning any new ambitions amid a sad lack of self-confidence. Now it's the other way round: now I believe we can expect New Order to climb mountains. Peter Hook sits quietly in a corner. He's winding down after New Order's brilliant performance only minutes earlier on the Hacienda stage. He smiles apprehensively as I approach, waves his hand to the seat in front of him and eyes me curiously. I remember the times on stage when Hook used to push himself to the point where the veins in his neck bulged frighteningly. I remember the time when he used to seethe next to Ian Curtis on stage, bass lines cutting through the unforgettable chaos. Now I remember Peter Hook as an intelligent, perceptive man. In contrast to the crazy days of Joy Division, he now appears refreshingly lucid and coherent. When he talks, he tugs his chin pensively, keen to set the record straight. Hook has become New Order's eloquent leader: while we chat, Bernard will keep at a distance with acquaintances. And there's no sign of Gillian or Steve. At first, Peter leaps to the defensive. Probably, he's a little worried about committing himself to black and white questions. Probably he's a little worried about the interview situation itself and how to handle it - given the almost total media black-out New Order have constantly maintained. But as the questions get more interesting and probe deeper, he starts to wake up and tackles them with increasing thought and ferocity. We begin on predictable territory. I ask why New Order won't talk to the music papers. Has it been a deliberate ploy to promote an image of mystery - and, ultimately, to help sell records via that image? "No! It's never been a ploy. We just don't like sitting down in front of somebody who's got a prepared list of questions. It's so artificial that it doesn't seem worth wasting time on. And any answers we give will never come out that well in print, anyway." He's distracted by Kay Carroll, The Fall's manager, talking nearby and I begin to wish we'd already got the basic questions out of the way. I apologise in advance and ask if they've got over Ian's death. "We've accepted it with the passing of time but, of course, we still miss him. It would have been nice to have seen how we'd have developed if Ian was still around. I wish we'd had the chance, you know." I wish I'd never asked the question as we both temporarily drift off into some interminably sad space. I try to get us back on stronger ground by remarking that talking to New Order and not mentioning Ian Curtis is like talking to the Germans and not mentioning the war. That sets us smiling again. Why, I wonder, do you not tackle topical subjects? New Order has none of the contemporary edge that Joy Division had. "You mean unemployment, the Falklands and things like that? Well basically we couldn't give a shite about those things! We do what we do: we write music and play it. we play it and record it because we think it's good. Simple as that. "Last week I saw The Au Pairs live. They were doing songs about womens' rights. But that sort of thing doesn't interest us. That's not what it's all about. Doing our job well is all that matters to us." We toy with the idea of New Order being topical in the sense that they concern themselves with every day emotions. "Yeah, we write personal songs - about relationships between people - and explore areas of them. Now we all help write the songs, whereas Ian wrote them when we were Joy Division." Considering that New Order have turned into such an intimately positive group, I put it that they should perhaps spread a little more of this warmth to their fans when they play. "But why should we tell them what to do? They don't come to hear us waste their time with stupid talk. I don't want us to patronise them like that!" But would you not be upset if they stopped coming to see you because they considered you aloof and arrogant? "I don't give a shit if they come or if they don't! They will come if they like what they see the first time round - if they can relate to something we've got on offer." If I were a fan of yours reading this, I should be mighty upset by the comments you've just made - about not "giving a shit" about me. "No, what I mean by that is I credit them with the intelligence to decide for themselves. If they want to listen to us and watch us, then they will do. I don't think anyone could be stupid enough to worry about me saying 'goodnight'!" Do you worry about the sort of audience you attract, though? I mean New Order are emerging as an uplifting dance unit, so does it not upset you that so few people actually move, let alone dance at your gigs? Peter pushes his hand swiftly through his hair, looks me straight in the eyes and appears to be slightly exasperated at the line of questioning. "Why should I worry about what the audience do? If I just wanted them to dance I'd be up there at the front giving it the old crap, 'I wanna see you all dancing out there!' If they want to dance, then great. I'm all for it. But if they don't, they don't. Fair enough. It's their lives!" Given that New Order are becoming a magnificent rhythm machine and that the kids do need hints to put them on a new direction, I disagree with him. I believe New Order should be encouraging their fans to have fun: to help them realise it's no longer "the done thing" to stand around analysing. New Order are definitely no longer a gloom band. Still, that's by the way. I tell Peter many people are worried by the length of the New Order set. Isn't a standardly brusque 45 minute show something of an insult? "No, and what a pile of shit to say it is! When I go to see a band I'm bored silly after 40 minutes - it seems a right length of time! We only play 40 minutes because that's the perfect length for the set. See, it's compact; we can do everything we want to do in that period of time. "And I'm not interested in the idea of playing out the encore game, anyway. We respect our audience too much to have them waiting around like mugs for us. I hate the idea of coming back on as a matter of fact. Encores are so cold!" You only do a select few concerts each year. Is that why you demand such a mercenary fee when you do play live? Are you respecting your audience in charging £2,000 a gig? "That's not big money, though, when you think about all the expenses we've got to take out. What about the PA and things like that? We don't get any money from concerts - it goes towards paying for the practice room, the road crew etc. You accuse us of being mercenary - well, I'm on 72 quid a week!" I doubt if the public would believe that when your records shift such extraordinary numbers of units? "Look, I don't care what they believe! It's the truth!" We dash feverishly along the same tangent and halt abruptly at the word "popularity". Does Peter believe New Order would have been as big a draw as they undoubtedly are now if Joy Division hadn't opened the way? "Who can say? I certainly believe that the music we are producing is worthy of a big audience. We're always maturing, always developing and that's probably why people develop with us. As Joy Division we moved on from the music of Warsaw and as New Order we're moving on from the music of Joy Division." With the mention of Warsaw, we muse about the current state of the pop industry. I tell Peter we're back in a pre-punk position, where London dictated all the moves. He disagrees. "I don't think London dictated what we did in the early days of Warsaw. It happened first in London with the Pistols, yeah, but that doesn't mean to say everything followed suit outside. We had our own ideas, our own motivations." But Joy Division weren't "punk" as, say, Warsaw were, in attitude? "No? You should have seen some of the early Joy Division gigs!" Well ,what do you think of today's music "scene"? You've told me you watch a lot of bands - what do you personally like? Duran Duran or The Box? "Duran's singles sound alright but I wouldn't go to see them. The Box, I've never heard of!" Peter indulges in a little chuckle at my attempts to break open his personal shell. We fly into a series of one-line question/answer briefs, before taking a five minute break. Why are New order so successful Peter? Is it due in a large part to the mystique you have encouraged. "No. That's the impression people like you have given of us. We've never deliberately isolated ourselves for any ulterior motives." You're a good guitarist but you do tend to emerge as a quaint parody of the axe heo? "I do? Maybe it's because I'm so involved on stage; I'm no hero!" Why are the concerts so infrequent? "Because we like to spend time in the studio getting the music right. And also because we do tours abroad - like recently we've been touring Australia." How did that go? "It didn't give me any thrills! It was alright. People are pretty much the same all over the world!" Five minutes adjournment, and then we talk about the important development of confidence within New Order. "Yeah, Bernard's voice has come on a lot, like the guitars and our sound. Put it down to practice. Yeah, we did think about getting a new singer after Ian's death. Now I'm glad we didn't." Do you consider yourself elitist? I mean you always play the "in" places. Why don't you play Hartlepool or Doncaster? "Because we don't get asked to play those places! But someone's asked us to play Stoke - and yes, we're going to!" Why is there not more of a visual challenge to New Order live? "Well, I think screens are superfluous - but the idea of nice lighting appeals to me." But hasn't the lighting been a failure in that it invariably depicts you as a gloom band? "I don't think Andy, our lighting guy, would like to hear you say that! We don't have gloomy lighting - I should know because I get blinded enough by the bright lights!" What's it feel like to be a star? "I don't know. If I ever get to be one I'll let you know! I don't like the way small bands get a bad deal now. Like, there are loads of little bands who have a real fight on their hands to even get a gig. I can remember the time when bands could get gigs all around Manchester, no matter how well known they were." What do you think of Manchester now as a thriving musical centre? "There are still bands who will come through. Obviously. We came through so why shouldn't others?" Why don't you plough some of your money back into helping up-and-coming groups in Manchester? "What do you think Factory's doing! The money Factory earns is put back into other bands." You talk about Factory with respect. Does that mean you would never sign for a "major" label? "It would depend if it was on our terms. Factory is major, in the sense it's got a lot of pull." Can I bore you with this question: Why the name New Order? "Thinking of a name is very much like thinking of a tune. You put forward suggestions and you pick the one you think sounds the best. People like to attach importance to the name New Order: there is none. It just came to us." You seem to revel in a clever anti-image that makes the public curious about you because you're unobtainable. Is that part of the reasoning behind the rather stoic record sleeve designs? "I don't think anyone wants to see my face on an album sleeve. I consider myself to be uninteresting. That's the reasoning." The time glass has all but run its course. People are calling to Peter every other minute: I sense the New Order interview is almost at an end. Peter's girlfriend has put her coat on and Peter has virtually lost his interest in talking. Time for one last question. When I've asked it, Peter's eyes are filled with a wicked sparkle. "No, I'm not really interested in doing any more interviews. Life's more interesting when people are talking about you all the time, just because you won't talk with them. I'm totally intrigued by it all, you know!" The last time I saw Peter Hook, he was slipping quickly out of the room, oblivious to a swarm of sycophantic admirers. Keeping ahead by keeping his head.
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