Chloe Sevigny Comes Out to Hear Peter Hook Talk Joy Division, New Order

hook4Anthony Pappalardo. Peter Hook signs books.

On Tuesday, the last 30 years of British music collided in the East Village. An appearance by Peter Hook, bassist for Joy Division and New Order, was followed by a performance by Drowners, a new band named after a song by Britpop champs Suede. The Local went to The Strand and then bounced over to Mercury Lounge to experience the British invasion.

Mr. Hook was driven to write “Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division after he watched several tomes about the band get published. “What annoyed me about all the books was that none of these people knew us,” he said. “I’d see another one and go, ‘Who is this person?’”

Speaking in a croaky Manchester accent, the musician marinated in his ego before a crowd of about 200, often citing himself, and not his co-conspirators, as the main reason for their many successes. Did you know, for instance, that he wrote the melody for Joy Division’s most popular song, “Love Will Tear Us Apart”? Another fun fact: “Blue Monday,” New Order’s most successful track and the best-selling 12” single of all-time, took six months to write, but “Love Will Tear Us Apart” was composed in only three hours.

Mr. Hook, or Hooky as many audience members addressed him, spoke with Sasha Frere-Jones, music critic at The New Yorker, for close to an hour before fielding questions from fans. The audience, nearly all dressed in some shade of black, spanned generations: weathered punk veterans in leather jackets sat next to middle-aged goths and teenage girls. Even Chloe Sevigny came to worship.

_DSC0185Ray LemoineErik Snyder of Drowners.

Critical and cocky though he may seem, Mr. Hook is humanized by a British sense of detached self-deprecation and gratitude toward his peers. He praised The Clash’s Paul Simonon for wearing his bass low, not high on the chest like a jazzman – which made Mr. Hook wear his bass even lower. Recalling a Sex Pistols show, he spoke highly of Johnny Rotten as an essential character in music. “When I walked into the gig I was normal: I had a nine-to-five, was just goin’ out with me mates gettin’ pissed,” he said. “After the gig I felt inspired by punk to start a band.”

New Order recently reformed without Mr. Hook, prompting him to call the current incarntion a “tribute act.” Tuesday, he snickered as he called the current bassist a “joker.” He quipped that there were “two New Orders touring” and he doesn’t play bass in either of them – a reference to his current band The Light, in which his son Jack is the bassist. Even Jack wasn’t safe from a dig: Mr. Hook outed him as a Pearl Jam fan.

Asked what influenced his unique and oft-mimicked style of bass playing, Mr. Hook said, “I hated the stereotypical view of a bass player following the guitar. I asked Bernard [Sumner, Joy Division’s guitar player] to follow me. It was all about ego.”

Erik Snyder, bassist for the New York-based band Drowners, is an admirer of Mr. Hook’s distinctive rumble, and is clearly influenced by it. “His sound was so distinctly punk, but broke free from the punk formula by focusing so much on high notes as opposed to the driving low end of most bands at the time,” said the younger musician.

On Tuesday, a few hours after Mr. Hook’s signing, Mr. Snyder’s band packed the Mercury Lounge with a crowd of skinny folk in leather jackets, ripped jeans and Doc Martens. An impressive turnout for a band with only a self-released digital EP titled “Between Us Girls.”

_DSC0192Ray Lemoine Matthew Hitt.

25-year-old singer Matthew Hitt, a successful male model, yelled the typical unintelligible British-isms as the band took the stage: “Berrcheah…thanks for…uh…comingoutonightttt…” Cue feedback. By the second song a mellow mosh broke out, with model girls slamming into floppy-haired boys.

The plucky post-punk pop of Drowners might take its beats and cues from British bands The Jam and Buzzcocks. On stage, Mr. Hitt also seems to channel Mr. Hook, but not musically. He’s confident, teetering on cocky, but with a boyish enthusiasm. His garbled in-between song banter — often times as long as the band’s short tunes — is endearing and engaging, fresh in a scene of mopey frontmen.

Toward the end of his appearance at The Strand, Mr. Hook went on a ramble about how music is the only thing that doesn’t sell these days: a band, he said, can sell used guitar strings, t-shirts, anything but music. He even posited that punk was dead, marking the trillionth time a punk rocker has declared it so.

Indeed, the chatteratti on culture blogs constantly make claims that “chefs are the new rock stars.” And yes, Eddie Huang drew a big crowd to his memoir reading at Barnes and Noble in Union Square. But no one is wearing Eddie Huang shirts or sporting David Chang tattoos. Meanwhile, at any moment there’s someone an arms-length away from you in an “Unknown Pleasures” t-shirt or Joy Division forearm ink. And bands like Drowners are still playing to packed houses.

Editor’s Note: The original version of this post referred to the band by its old name, The Drowners. They now go simply by Drowners.