Peter Hook is not happy that online piracy and digital downloads have decimated the music industry.
At a New York City signing for his new book “Unknown Pleasures” on Tuesday night, the co-founder of the bands New Order and Joy Division said that journalists and musicians are alike in one distinct way — people don’t expect to pay for their work.
Hook expressed astonishment that in the internet economy, consumers act aggrieved if musicians ask to be compensated for their music or if reporters object to having their stories re-purposed by other news organizations without getting credit or cash.
“If you love and respect music, you should pay for it,” Hook said.
The bassist said that the lack of financial incentives is part of the reason that certain unreleased concerts and outtakes from Joy Division and New Order are not commercially available.
The event was hosted at Strand Books and was moderated by New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones. It attracted a standing-room-only crowd that included “American Horror Story” actress Chloë Sevigny, who could not find a seat and left roughly 10 minutes into the talk.
“Unknown Pleasures” documents Joy Division’s rise to stardom and the birth of the Manchester, England music scene. It also offers an intimate look at the short life and dramatic suicide of Ian Curtis — the epileptic and baritone lead singer and lyricist, who Hook described as a William S. Burroughs-like figure with a soft side.
The story of Joy Division and Curtis has factored into two critically acclaimed films, Anton Corbijn’s “Control” (2007) and Michael Winterbottom‘s “24 Hour Party People” (2002). Hook said on Tuesday that he preferred the Winterbottom film, because he thought Sam Riley, who played Curtis in “Control” was better looking than the real version. Hook added that he thought he was more attractive than Joe Anderson, the actor who played the bass player in that same movie.
Curtis remains the brooding heart of Joy Division, his onomatopoetic inflections invoking the urban decay around him — but the music did not die when he hung himself in 1980. Instead, the band reformed under a new name, New Order, and merged New Wave and dance music in albums like “Power, Corruption & Lies” and “Technique.”
Not everything went smoothly. When New Order performs at Coachella this spring, for instance, it will do so without Hook. He is estranged from the group since it reformed in 2011. His relationship with New Order frontman Bernard Sumner has deteriorated in the public eye, and the bassist has said he feels that he has been denied his proper share of the band’s profits.
The early days of the band were also dicey. As Frere-Jones pointed out repeatedly during the discussion, the book recounts the thuggish, bar-brawling crowds that Joy Division had to contend with when it first came on the scene. Hook said that he even occasionally had to use his instrument to push back fans who became unruly, and dodging beer bottles was common practice for the group.
That’s a rough-and-tumble scene he claims is largely gone from the industry. Hook said that he attended a recent Killers concert, which had to stop after only a few songs because lead singer Brandon Flowers lost his voice.
Hook said he was braced for a riot but was amazed to see the crowd calmly dispersing with a few audience members even expressing concern for the singer’s health.
“It’s amazing how middle class, or refined … audiences have become,” Hook said.