New Order co-founder Peter Hook reveals his unusual approach to fan mail

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When Peter Hook asks for “answers on a postcard,” he’s serious. The co-founder of the bands Joy Division and New Order actually wants letters from his fans.

In fact, he actively solicits them, posing questions directly to readers of his books. He says he answers most of them. We can confirm one case in which he did, responding via card after a few months. He’d clearly read the fan’s letter, and his handwritten reply ended with this loopily lettered sign-off: “Regards, Hook.”

There’s some incongruity in the image of the man whose pulsating bass underlined “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” and who helped define the last few decades of rock and dance music, quietly reading fan mail. But during a recent Skype interview from his home outside Manchester, he held one he’d just opened.

“I quite like humans, and I like human life,” Hook told MarketWatch. “I always thought that it was amazing that a group could have the effect on somebody to write to them.”

New Order and Joy Division are considered among the late 20th century’s most influential English bands. Joy Division, which ceased to be after singer Ian Curtis committed suicide in 1980, produced two albums of brooding punk that bands still emulate.

Its offspring, New Order — guitarist Bernard Sumner took over Curtis’s vocal duties — produced decades of electronic-heavy pop that hovered between darkness and light; it continues today, though without Hook.

Hook also still works the stage: His band, Peter Hook and the Light, recently begun a 30-date tour across the U.S. and Canada that will run through June.

Hook’s band is playing New Order’s 1987 “Substance” compilation album, and Joy Division’s 1988 compilation of the same name, in their entireties. A Los Angeles show on May 18, the anniversary of Curtis’s suicide, will instead cover Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures” and “Closer” albums.

On Friday night in Brooklyn, the band opened with the New Order set, Hook’s distinctive growl offering a fresh take on songs originally sung by Sumner. He was more animated during the follow-up set of Joy Division songs, which closed with “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” (Outside the stage door after the show, a couple introduced their teenage son, an aspiring bassist, to Hook. “It’s all because of you,” the boy’s mother explained to the artist.)

“I love playing those records,” Hook said. “Every record that I move on from, I miss terribly.” The “Substance” shows, according to Hook, could approach three hours.

Listeners can expect arrangements that sound familiar, though not note-for-note reproductions of the albums. “I’m playing them faithful to the way they should have been, in my opinion,” he said.

Hook also started side projects Revenge and Monaco; the latter, he said, he has discussed reviving with co-founder David Potts. But he is also frequently asked whether New Order might eventually reunite.

“It’s a very difficult question,” Hook said. “It’s like — you know when you do your festival ‘Top 10,” it would be ‘Led Zeppelin, original lineup; The Who, original lineup; New Order, original lineup.’ It’s what every fan yearns for: the magic of what they thought was the best time. I do that. I’m one of those people.”

But the band’s history — which included two breakups and a lawsuit over the use of the New Order and Joy Division names that Hook and New Order’s other founding members settled in 2017 — makes that difficult, Hook said.

“Maybe because I’ve got that thought in me, maybe it will happen again. I don’t know,” he said. “It was a very, very bad thing to go through, and I don’t think any of us enjoyed it.”

The legal reconciliation, Hook said, wasn’t accompanied by a personal one. “We settled our differences, but we didn’t settle them over a dinner, or a drink, or over a boisterous night out,” he said. “We settled them very anonymously, very coolly.

“Even though it’s settled, I won’t be going round for dinner — and I won’t be having them for dinner any time soon.”

Since he last left New Order in 2007, Hook has toured with his bands, performed as a DJ and written several books. “Unknown Pleasures” was followed by “The Hacienda,” about Manchester’s famed nightclub, and then “Substance,” about New Order, in 2016.

And he has continued reading letters, as he has throughout his career. In the 1980s, he occasionally took stacks of them on tour, writing responses while on planes and then mailing them when he returned home.

When fans forgot to enclose self-addressed envelopes, he would reply with brusque notes saying, “Send an SAE, you d—head.”

Today, Hook said, the letters he gets generally fall into a few categories: “Lunatics,” Hook laughed. “Scaries. You get flattering ones. … You also get loads of generic ones.”

Some ask for gifts — what he called the “My girlfriend is a mad New Order fan, and I’m trying to get her something for her birthday” kind of letter. Other envelopes enclose T-shirts, a tribute to an occasional post-concert routine in which throws his own into the crowd.

Fans who receive responses sometimes seek him out at concerts to offer thanks, sometimes years later. One reported “Peter Hook success” on an autograph-hunter website.

Photoshot/Everett Collection

Peter Hook

In the age of email and text messaging, the volume of letters has slowed since New Order’s heyday, Hook admits. Consequently, he appreciates the ones he gets.

“It’s a dying art,” he said. “Considering nobody knows how to get in touch with me unless they read my blog or buy a book, I think [the volume of mail] is pretty good.”

But there’s one letter he’s yet to receive: a response to the question he posed to readers near the end of “Substance,” his 2016 New Order book, in which he asked “Why be a bassist?” and then said “Answers on a postcard, please.”

He even followed the question with his mailing address — one he’s also posted online. MarketWatch has opted not to include the address and page number so as to leave a bit of work for the reader.

“No one’s ever sent me a postcard saying why you should be a bassist,” Hook grumbled. “So that gag fell on deaf ears.”