Peter Hook’s custom Chris Eccleshall bass weds the scale and feel of Hook’s 1981 Yamaha BB1200S with the semi-hollowbody design of a Gibson EB-2.
Which bass guitar are you playing these days?
I’ve used the same guitar, a custom-built Chris Eccleshall, since the mid 1980s, so it’s practically a vintage guitar now. It’s a copy of my 1981 Yamaha BB1200S. And it’s also sort of bastardized into a Gibson EB-2, so it has all the attributes of the Yamaha with the body shape of the Gibson. Also, because it’s semi-acoustic, it allows me to use controlled feedback, which is quite nice.
My dream guitar was a Gibson EB-2. Unfortunately, because they’re medium scale only, they don’t hold the tuning well enough for my purposes. So, the thing is, I wanted to combine all the great attributes of the Yamaha BB1200S—the EQ and the neck, which is straight-through—but have the advantage of the hollowbody. It was just a matter of being able to afford to have my two dream guitars amalgamated into one.
I should add that I’m very lucky to have been nominated for a signature model this year. Yamaha is building me some new BB1200Ss, which is a great honor.
How did the new live album recordings come about?
The live album project was quite a gift, actually. I was being courted on behalf of Joy Division by a merchandiser. And he didn’t get Joy Division, but he came to a gig and said to me, “Ah, your band plays really well. You should do a live album on my label.”
I liked this guy—he’s Steve Beatty and works at Plastic Head, which is a big merch company in England. And I said, “Well, yeah, our keyboard player has been recording loads and loads of gigs—some 24-track, actually.” So, we were doing it for fun, which I think was a nice thing because it means that none of the gigs have the pressure and feel of being recorded for a special occasion. They’re quite relaxed.
And we were able to choose from a hell of a lot of recordings. My gimmick, if you like, is that I’m working through the whole of Joy Division and New Order’s back catalog, from start to finish, hopefully before I die. The idea was to chronicle each LP with a release, and we’re up to the eighth and ninth LPs in the series.
You play with your son, Jack Bates, in the Light.
I’m very lucky in that he plays bass with me. In the group, he’s very good at emulating me, and that makes me very happy. We work quite well together. But I’m also glad he’s been able to leverage this work into getting a gig with the Smashing Pumpkins, where he plays in a completely different style than the one he uses with me. I couldn’t do that job. It just shows how much more versatile my son is than I am.
What’s it been like for you to revisit these Joy Division and New Order songs?
It’s a bit different for me because I’m singing, whereas before I was just the bass player. I’ve had to look into the singer’s psyche and step into the singer’s footsteps. In Joy Division there was a lot of expectation, and Ian Curtis’ shoes were very big ones to fill. In New Order, Bernard’s shoes were a little bit snugger, shall we say. And because we’d written the vocals and the melodies together in New Order, it was easier to feel part of that. I gained an insight into the lyrics and the lead singer’s job.
Has getting into the lyrics and the singer’s headspace changed the way you approach the bass lines?
It hopefully hasn’t changed my personality, because we all know lead singers can be very difficult. [Laughs.] The thing is that the LPs were a great way of me getting to listen to the music, because when I’m singing I don’t really listen to the music. And it’s been nice for me to hear what the boys do. They play very well. I’ve played with them off and on since 1990.
I’m very happy that guy [Steve Beatty] came along on that night. It was a real twist of fate, if you like. I never expected it to snowball in the way it has. It’s been fantastic. It just shows you that, as a musician in this world, you really do have to keep plugging at it, because even for me, with 41 years now of being a musician, I’m still coming across people who can be very handy. So, yeah, the best advice you can give any musician is to keep going.
Peter Hook displays his melodic style of bass playing during the grand finale of a September 2013 gig in Mexico City in a rendition of the Joy Division classic “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” As the song unspools, the audience picks up the melody and Hook leaps off stage.