Shit Gets Real in Peter Hook’s Memoir on New Order

The new wave band's former bassist hits S.F. on his book tour this Saturday, February 4.

Peter Hook (Craige Barker)

In the past few years, the British new wave quintet New Order has experienced a renaissance of sorts after nearly a decade on the sidelines. The notoriously tour-adverse outfit has spent the better part of the past four and a half years on the road performing their hits, which was buoyed by an appearance at the closing ceremony at the 2012 London Olympics. They also released their tenth studio album, Music Complete, to generally positive reviews and will perform in a prime slot at Coachella this year.

But, while the current lineup of New Order is doing well, beef has been stewing for years with former bassist Peter Hook, who left the group in 2007 and later sued for unpaid royalties. (“It’s a dreadful shame that breaks my heart,” Hook said of the lawsuit.)

On Saturday, Feb. 4, Hook will speak at the Jewish Community Center about his new memoir, Substance: Inside New Order. In addition to Substance, Hook has written two other books: One about his former band, Joy Division, and the other about the famed Manchester nightclub, Hacienda. Using the same wit and sardonic tone that he did in his past works, Hook captured the decadence, feuds, and fables of New Order, and Substance goes deep into stories that were only uttered privately among the Mancunian outfit’s tightest group of friends.

When Hook first started writing the book, he had every intention of discussing the recent squabbles he’s had with the band. But, Hook says, “it turned into this wonderful, lengthy tale with lots of ups, downs, and in-betweens. I thought it was too cheap a jibe for something this substantial.”

Stories about New Order, like the band’s disastrous first trip to New York, are rampant throughout the book and provide rare glimpses into the notoriously tight-lipped band’s tumultuous past.

“When I was drunk, I used to tell these stories for free to friends,” Hook said. “Now that I’m sober, you have to express them in a different way.”

In fact, some of the funniest stories in the book — as foreshadowed in the intro —  occurred when the band was fucked up.  Access to drugs was easy then, Hook said, especially if you were “a spoiled, pampered ‘80s musician. You were getting a lot of treats, shall we say. …One time, I got hooked — no pun intended — [and] it was like a snowball running down a hill. It was destined to come crashing. … I can’t believe I got sucked into it, to be honest. It’s one of my great regrets in life.”

Hook’s relationships also come up in the book. Being on the road for eight and a half years wasn’t optimal for his first marriage, which ended in divorce. The same went for his second marriage to comedian Caroline Aherne, the breakup of which made headlines in the U.K. because Hook accused her of attacking him with a knife.

From 1980 through the band’s recording of “World in Motion” — a single from 1990 that was used by the England national football team at the World Cup — New Order was at its peak. But Hook’s still puzzled about how 1993’s Republic remains the band’s best selling album in the U.S.  “It sounds more like the Pet Shop Boys than New Order,” he said.

In the book, Hook joked that he and singer/guitarist Bernard Sumner had been butting heads since they were schoolmates, and he makes fun of Sumner’s 2014 memoir. “My god, I could never do something that bad,” he said.

Like his previous books, Substance ends in 2007 around the time he left the band. There is no happy ending — as New Order fans already know — but Hook says writing the book proved cathartic nonetheless.

“When you’re stuck in a legal battle, you think that it’s shit and everything has been shit,” Hook said. “The great thing about doing the book [is that it] showed me that for 10 years, we had a ball. And while we may not have seen eye-to-eye all the time, we still really achieved so much that we should be slapping ourselves on the backs and not stabbing ourselves in the backs.”

Catch Peter Hook as he discusses Substance: Inside New Order, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 4, at the San Francisco Jewish Community Center. More info here

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