The demise of legendary Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis has been heavily echoed over the last thirty years, though never has the story been told as intimately as in new book ‘So This Is Permanence’. A collection of the artists personal writing and notes, it offers an unrivalled glimpse into the creative process of the infamous tortured soul.
We sat down with former Joy Division bassist Peter Hook to get a glimpse of his memories spent with Ian.
In the past you’ve said that Ian was the glue which held Joy Division together, what made him ultimately so invaluable and irreplaceable?
Peter: Ian was like a conductor, he would sit there during practise and listen to us play and pick out the bits that he liked or that sounded the best, directing the music, like he would say “Hooky, carry on playing that high riff” or “Barney, do those chords again over the top of Hooky’s riff” and then “Steve, do some of those jungle drums along with them”. This is why when we threw ourselves into New Order after his death, we did feel a bit lost, in a musical sense as we had lost that direction which Ian gave us.
The Joy Division track ‘Warsaw’ reflects the early punk side to the band with Ian’s strong punk influence. How did this sound progress to more sparse tracks which can be heard on ‘Unknown Pleasures’ and ‘Closer’?
P: There was a natural progression in Joy Division’s music, we were becoming better and better songwriters as well as becoming more and more interested in electronics and electronic styles of music. So I think it was a natural progression that the sound you hear on Warsaw became the sound you can hear on Closer. To this day I still think that if Ian had lived, Joy Division would still have followed the same electronic inspired path that New Order eventually did and I do believe Ian would have been singing on Blue Monday.
You recently published your own book on your career with Joy Division, was it emotional revisiting the time in such depth?
P: I’ve been heavily immersed in all things Joy Division for a while now, ever since I first started playing Unknown Pleasures live again with my band The Light, so as that has progressed and we’ve ended up playing every single Joy Division song ever written, it kind of felt natural to be writing the book at the same time. Of course it is emotional because of the obviously tragic ending but also because I spent a lot of time reliving my childhood memories.
A big moment in Manchester’s music scene was when The Sex Pistols played at The Lesser Free Trade Hall in 1976. Only around forty people attended but amongst them were the people who would change musical history forever; yourself, Bernard, Morrissey and the guys who would later go on to form Buzzcocks. What are your memories from that gig?
P: I remember buying my ticket on the door from Malcolm McLaren himself, who was dressed all in leather and to us looked like a bloody alien! For just 50p. They sounded absolutely terrible of course but watching Johnny Rotten really go for it just shouting at the audience “Fuck off! Fuck off!” I actually thought, hey, I could bloody do that! I had never got that feeling from watching bands like Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple live, but from the Sex Pistols we all got a sense that we could do it. So Barney and I left that gig as musicians in a group, the next step was to get the instruments!
Just one to leave us with; after over thirty years what’s your favorite Joy Division track to get on stage and play live today?
P: In the early days we were all about the punk songs, but today, I have to say the song I enjoy playing the most has to be The Eternal. It’s a beautiful song and the lads play it so well. Sometimes I just like to close my eyes and listen to them recreating it.
You can pick up ‘So This Is Permanance’ right here.
By Rhys Buchanan