Peter Hook: soundtrack of my life

The former New Order bassist on stealing his first single by Kenny Rogers and why Underworld's Born Slippy is the DJ's best friend

Peter Hook was born Peter Woodhead in Salford in 1956; he took his stepfather's surname when his mother remarried, just like future bandmate Bernard Sumner. In 1976, they saw the Sex Pistols at the Manchester Free Trade Hall, and formed Joy Division with Ian Curtis and Stephen Morris soonafter. After Curtis killed himself, New Order were born; Hook's high, melodic basslines were a distinctive part of the sound of both bands.

After breaking up in 2007, New Order recently reunited without their bassist, and are currently recording new material. Last week, Hook sold out Manchester cathedral with his new band, The Light, playing New Order's first two albums, Movement, and Power, Corruption & Lies.


Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition (1969)

We loved country songs in New Order. That's our big secret! Listen to Paradise off [1986's] Brotherhood and you'll hear Jolene. I stole this from a shop in Salford, I'm afraid to say. I'd used all the money I had in the world – £11 – to buy a record player off a friend, but didn't leave enough money, cleverly, to buy a single to play on it. This was a very good song, about a Vietnam vet in an awful situation. It still gets you there [thumps chest]. My wife bought me new decks last Christmas, so I've started playing my old records again too. It's a great feeling to put on something you've had, and you've loved, since you were 13.


Sebastian by Cockney Rebel (1973)

This is such an unusual song – very arty and attention-grabbing. I heard it on a lads' holiday to Rhyl when I was 17 on Radio Luxembourg. When I came back to Manchester, their first LP [1973's The Human Menagerie] led me to Roxy, which led me into Bowie. To that serious side of music beyond crap pop like Mud, Gary Glitter and Racey. I still rate bands from that era – Jethro Tull, Family, Free. You get a musical education through them.


Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) by The Temptations (1971)

I'm not musical. I didn't start thinking about being in a band until I saw the Sex Pistols, and only became a bass player by default, because Bernard [Sumner] had a guitar. But then I developed an interest. There was this woman bassist in the Motown house band called Carol Kaye. In this song, you hear her over the beginning, fantastic, a very musical bassline. I spent years trying to emulate it, but I was never that good at it. I don't find imitating other people's music easy at all. I remember being fifth in line for a Rolling Stones tour, early 90s, when Bill Wyman left, and I was hoping against hope that I wouldn't get the call to audition. I wouldn't be able to play a Stones song if you put a gun to my head. The fact that my style on the bass is influential, I can't fathom it, really … it's just something that was encouraged by Ian [Curtis]. My excuse for playing high was that I couldn't hear the bass when I played low – our amps were that bad – but Ian liked it. Every time we practised, he'd go, do it again, Hooky, do it again. Whereas Bernard would go, can't you just follow the guitar? [laughs] I can't actually.


Leave Me Alone by New Order (1983)

My favourite New Order song ever. Getting it back just by virtue of playing it live over the last year … that's a very nice feeling. While the band have been sort of plundering, shall we say, I've felt very odd... they've tried to play down [my] importance in New Order. Also, what was always wrong with us back in the day is that we played the hits over and over again, and neglected these fantastic songs that we'd written earlier. I remember writing this one summer in London with Stephen [Morris] and Bernard, the same time as I was reading F Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is the Night, and it feels just as melancholic. It's funny, if you analyse Movement, musically it's very Joy Division, but lyrically, very New Order. Plaintive, unconfident. It's a little in-between stop.


IOU by Freeez (1983)

After Ian died [in 1980], not much music helped. Kraftwerk did a bit, partly because we used to play Trans-Europe Express before Joy Division gigs ... people say they come across as quite Germanic, quite cold, but I always found tracks like Computer Love very romantic. Then when we went to New York in 81/82, the disco and electro started to sink in. I knew we weren't going to go disco. We were going to offer a white northern take on black disco music – and then we started working with Arthur Baker, who wrote IOU. His attitude to writing dance music was like a punk writing punk. Very adventurous, off the wall, anything goes. I like the modern versions of him too – Calvin Harris, Soulwax, David Guetta. My dream for the 30th anniversary of Blue Monday [later this year] is for them all to do a mad commercial remix of it.


Old Ways by Neil Young (1985)

The whole album. I love old Neil when he goes really country. Bernard got me into him; he was always trying to rip him off. Being in a rock group, on your days off you want to listen to something a bit different. The lyrics of this song, in their entirety, that's my softer side.


Born Slippy by Underworld (1995)

When I started DJing years ago, I took great delight in annoying the audience. Playing Johnny Cash in the middle of a banging night. But now with my own club [Factory 251 in Manchester], I can't! Born Slippy can rescue a shit night, or take a great night to heaven. So can [the White Stripes's] Seven Nation Army. Play that riff and the roof's off. DJing is much harder than playing your own music, as you've got to win over people every single night. I've had some shitters, though. Bottled off in Rimini. Asked to leave in London. Been absolutely fucked playing to under-18s with the attention spans of gnats. But when it works – when it really works – there's nothing else like it.

For information on Peter Hook's latest book, Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, and forthcoming gigs, go to


Jude Rogers

The GuardianTramp

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