Peter Hook, Joy Division and more: A candid chat with New Order

Peter Hook, Joy Division and more: A candid chat with New Order

Words by Tom Parker

The legendary outfit arrive in Melbourne this weekend.

When New Order revealed they were returning in October last year, the news stopped the nation.

Locally, the announcement shuddered through Melbourne like the 2019 renaissance of Tool or Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Suddenly, the chimes of ‘Age of Consent’, ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ and the hallowed ‘Blue Monday’ ran out through music industry offices. Shit was real.

The legendary British rockers have seen three forms since they arose from the Joy Division ashes in 1980. Original bassist and since belligerent figure Peter Hook left the band in 2007 following disagreements with frontman Bernard Sumner.

This paved the way for the fledgling Tom Chapman to join the troupe. Chapman teamed up with Sumner following New Order’s second breakup in 2007 to form the band Bad Lieutenant. A band only together until 2011, this short-lived adventure proved to be Chapman’s biggest masterstroke and suddenly the Manchester journeyman was whisked along for the second revival.

Hook left a blazing trail behind him, but sky-high expectations only motivated Chapman to make full use of his opportunity.

“I guess it was big shoes to fill. When I joined the band, I knew some comparisons were going to be made,” Chapman says.

“I was recently thinking about the famous example of Fleetwood Mac who got rid of Lindsey Buckingham. I think we’ve got two people with one of them being Neil Finn. But because he has history no one has questioned his talents or his integrity as a musician.

“I think for me it was very different as I was very much an unknown musician [coming in], so I think I was an easy target if you know what I mean … But that only made me more determined to want to do well and if anything, it really encouraged me to be the best that I could be.”

As New Order found its stride for a third time, the response was positive. This was all the validation Chapman needed to know his place was safe.

“The shows went really well and the rest is history really. I don’t think New Order would be where they are now if we wouldn’t have worked well together. I probably wouldn’t be talking to you right now.”

New Order’s most recent release comes in the form of the curiously-titled ∑(No,12k,Lg,17Mif) New Order + Liam Gillick: So it goes.. The 2019 live album captured the band’s five-night residency at Old Granada Studios in 2017 as part of Manchester International Festival.

For this, Sumner summoned the idea of backing the core five-piece with a 12-piece synth orchestra. Their July 13 show would produce 18 tracks and an audio documentation would follow.

Alarmingly, the LP features the band’s first performance of Joy Division’s ‘Disorder’ in 30 years. ‘Atmosphere’ and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ are New Order regulars but the opening track from Unknown Pleasures is a recent addition to the setlist. It’s been 40 years since the predecessor disbanded following the tragic death of Ian Curtis, but these tracks are just as enduring.

“[Joy Division songs] are part of the musical history of Bernard and Stephen [Morris] and they’re very proud of the music they wrote in Joy Division,” Chapman says. “They’re very important songs, those songs still resonate a lot with the fans. I think it’s important for us to still play those songs and represent them the best we can with our own interpretations.

“It’s also recently the 40th anniversary of the release of Unknown Pleasures so we’ve been concentrating on playing a lot of these songs live again.

The last time New Order played in Melbourne was in 2012, soon after Chapman joined the band. Chapman remembers that fateful Festival Hall night fondly and was quick to make a familiar comparison.

“The last time I was in Melbourne was 2012,” Chapman admits. “That was my first time in Australia – it seems a long time ago and a lot of things have happened since then.

“I remember it being a great show, a really, really great show. I like Melbourne a lot, it reminded me of Manchester – I don’t know why. But I thought it was a really, really cool city and I’m really looking forward to coming back.”

New Order perform at Sydney Myer Music Bowl on Saturday March 14 (sold out) and The Forum on Sunday March 15 (sold out).