The Hacienda may be one of dance music’s most iconic clubs — but co-founder and owner Peter Hook never thought he’d be celebrating the club 20 years after it shut in a blaze of gang violence and squandered millions.
Hook and his New Order bandmates opened the Manchester club in 1982 with manager Rob Gretton and Factory Records’ Tony Wilson — bankrolling the club with band royalties all through post-punk and new wave, acid house and Madchester, and its no-chance mission against the 90s superclubs.
Hook even wrote a book in 2009 called The Hacienda: How Not To Run A Club, so you’d think he’d be happy to leave the nostalgia to ageing ravers and top 10 listicles.
“If you like being chased around the club by a kid with an Uzi, then manage the Hacienda,” Hook says, then roars laughing down the phone, a cackle repeated about 10 times over our 20-minute call.
It’s only 10.30am in New Orleans where he’s touring with his band The Light, but it seems Hooky’s now a morning person since cleaning up after years of painting the town white — documented in his recent memoir Substance: Inside New Order.
The Hacienda building has since been turned into — what else — a block of flats, but fans have welcomed another form of gentrification in the form of Hacienda Classical, with the club’s resident DJ Graeme Park touring with a full orchestra and plenty of special guests from the era including Hook, who plays bass and sings New Order’s most iconic hit Blue Monday.
The project follows the same formula as the recent show by Jenny Greene with the RTE Concert Orchestra at the 3Arena: take some classic house and techno records and perform them with strings attached — and the RTE crew are lined up for tomorrow.
It’s rave that’s all grown up, with the former Jilted Generation reliving all-nighters dancing to classics like Strings Of Life, Move Your Body, Voodoo Ray, Good Life and Ride On Time.
“We lost the record industry but people still seem to love seeing songs being performed,” says Hook. “They’ve lived with these songs for 30-odd years. They chronicle your life, when you start going out, when you meet someone, when you get married, when you have children. And when you get divorced, when you have your midlife crisis [laughs] all these songs are still there.
“And for a great DJ like Graeme Park to put them together, and for an audience to witness an orchestra perform them, you know it’s an amazing, magical occasion.
“I think our older audience are using it as an excuse to get out there and get a babysitter, and the kids who are just getting turned onto the music just love the spectacle. It turns into a bit of a happening.”
Hook says he was initially “a bit sceptical” about the Classical project but gave in when Park leaned on him, as he says: “Graeme was so excited. I trust Graeme, he taught me how to DJ, I knew in his mind it was going to work… and my God it did work.”
The project debuted earlier in Manchester this year, with Happy Mondays legends Shaun Ryder, Rowetta and Bez among the guests. Compared to Pete Tong’s grandiose and polished BBC Ibiza Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, the Hacienda has the edge, with an extra focus on underground acid house classics rather than the biggest chart sellers.
Hook laughs at the comparison, saying: “The BBC Proms one, I can tell you this because I know… they had 40 days’ rehearsal, and our lot have had about 40 minutes!
“Seriously though, it’s very much about the performance on the night…it was intoxicating enough without the intoxicants, shall we say. We bring a load of live percussion, we’ve got our own Hacienda choir, we’ve got a few special guests coming in doing their bits. You can see how well it went.
“That’s the thing, nobody has to take a chance these days do they? You can look at our Albert Hall show on YouTube, at the Manchester shows you can see everybody bloody loved it.”
In the Substance book, Hook refers to himself as a “daft twat from Salford”, and he’s still based in the area, regularly walking past the old haunt.
“Manchester is very much different to the place that I started in 1976, in the same way you walk around Dublin, you walk round Belfast you see great changes,” he says.
“I have an odd relationship with the club. It’s still there as a block of flats and we actually did a night in the car park which was the old dancefloor to celebrate 30 years of the Hacienda, and we’re also hoping for one next year, which is 35 years of the Hacienda.
“So in a way you never really lose it, we get it back for nights, you keep these things intertwined.”
Even though the last days of the Hacienda were “me and Rob Gretton running around like lunatics banging our heads off a brick wall”, it turned out to be a learning experience after all.
In 2010 Hook and Aaron Mellor turned the old Factory Records building into a new club and venue, Fac251, with the mantra “Give something back”.
Hook still DJs at the club, and says: “I wish I had a pound for every kid who’s come up to me and said, ‘Oh my dad said to say hello, he played for you in the Hacienda.
“It’s wonderful in a way, that parents trust you with their kids for their musical education in the future. I’m still here aren’t I?
“A lot of people are switched on to their heritage, it’s nice. We’re able to keep the heritage going and keep it fresh in people’s minds.
“I’m very proud to be an ambassador for Manchester. I must admit when you bring something like the orchestra over and show just how nutty you can be, it’s a great accolade.
“The thing about the Hacienda, once you lost all the violence and the financial aspect, you could actually celebrate the good stuff which was the music, the people, the spirit.”
He says they tried to laugh it all off at the time, adding: “I tell you what, it was the only thing that got us through. And to be honest mate, you poor buggers over there in Ireland are the bloody experts on it aren’t you? You do have to have that black humour… luckily enough we ended up with the staff that had this mad northern sense of humour about it all, and thank the Lord we never lost any of them, it was so violent.
“But what’s happened since then is that the brand has gone on to celebrate the great aspects… the spirit is what carries it.
“What Factory Records, Joy Division, the Hacienda and New Order did for Manchester, what we did was revolutionary, I don’t think it will ever happen again.”