Ian Curtis may have famously sung “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” but there’s nothing romantic about the ongoing row between Joy Division’s surviving members. More than three decades after their former frontman’s suicide, and their subsequent reformation as New Order, these seminal post-punks are now mired in music’s heartless business side.

In advance of his new band The Light’s March 29 performance at Yugong Yishan, Peter Hook discusses what sets his rendition of New Order apart, and why he loves Beijing crowds.

Why have you been so critical of your former bandmates?
They just stick to the hits, which was frustrating when I was still part of the band. I focus a lot on the songs that they haven’t played for years, playing them very much like they are on the records. Bernard Sumner doesn’t admire that meticulousness. He told NME that he’d rather work on new songs.

Did you know most Beijing bassists also site you as a key influence?
Chinese people didn’t seem to know much about Western music when I first played Beijing in 2007, but they did know how to enjoy themselves, laughing together much more than us Westerners do.

You accompanied your stepfather on business trips to Jamaica as a boy. Did the music there have any effect on you?
I was only six years old, then we moved back to England and I got immersed in punk. So I missed out. If I’d stayed, it makes me wonder if I would’ve become a reggae bassist with dreadlocks, smoking dope.

In a recent interview you spoke of some serious regrets, admitting that Joy Division should’ve taken a break while Ian (Curtis) was struggling with depression and epilepsy.
The problem with Ian was that he never wanted to let you down. He’d always say: “I’m fine. Let’s carry on.” We should’ve said, “No, you’re not fine. It’s bleeding off you.” But really, it was the answer we wanted.

Does the New Order row not seem a little petty at times? Could you ever reconcile?
You’d think that, but they tried to steal the group from me. New Order wrote pretty good music right up until the end. Musicians work off a hell of a lot of angst and discomfort. I still get some of that while guesting with other bands – I don’t know them so it’s nice to still be pushed because I’m nervous. Hopefully when I come to play Beijing again it’ll be for a crowd that hasn’t heard me before so that I’ll
have to prove myself to the Chinese people too.

Peter Hook will perform at Yugong Yishan on March 29.

Read this and other interviews in the March issue of the Beijinger:

Photo: courtesy William Ellis and Eric Swalens

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