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New Order, Corgan Ready

“We’ve got Billy Corgan playing with us, we’re doing a lot of old stuff, new songs that nobody knows, and we’re reaching a lot of young people,” New Order bassist Peter Hook says. “It’s got all the recipe for complete disaster, to be honest.”

It’s a week before he and reunited band mates Bernard Sumner (vocals) and Stephen Morris (drums), as well as keyboardist Gillian Gilbert and guest guitarist Corgan, join up with Moby’s Area: One tour for a few dates in the U.S. (beginning Tuesday, July 31st in Mountainview, California). And Hook – who says, “The excitement in Get Ready [the group’s forthcoming new album] is worthy of being eighteen. I listen to the new album and I feel very energized” – sounds like he has dipped his toes into the fountain of youth. And they have not, as he feared, been bitten off.

The record won’t hit the states until October, but early U.K. notices have been kind, and a recent preview gig in Liverpool – Corgan’s first with the group – was a smashing success, according to Hook. “Even Billy enjoyed it,” he says, “which was amazing, because he was absolutely terrified. He was actually more nervous than me, which I didn’t think was possible.”

Few people get to see the ex- Smashing Pumpkins frontman display stage fright, but Hook has seen a lot of Corgan, as the two are old friends. “I first met him when he was fifteen and thinking of forming a band. He was a big fan of Joy Division and New Order, and he came to dinner with us one day as a friend of the promoter,” Hook recalls. “Lo and behold, five years later, I was watching the band he was thinking of forming, the Smashing Pumpkins, sell out arenas in Manchester.”

Corgan turns up on Get Ready’s “Turn my Way,” harmonizing beautifully with Sumner. “Bernard had just recently been introduced to the Smashing Pumpkins by his son, funnily enough. His son said, ‘You should hear this band, dad. They half sound like you.’ Bernard liked his voice and he could hear Billy singing on ‘Turn My Way.'”

That recording session became the genesis for Corgan’s touring with New Order, though the whole thing came about in a surprisingly simple manner. “We were in the studio together,” Hook recalls, “And Billy was asking us what we were doing. We told him we were doing Moby’s tour, and he said, ‘I’m not doing anything. Can I come and be your guitarist?’ We said, “Yeah, if you want.’ So it was as simple as that.”

And what of New Order’s other chrome-domed touring mate – Moby? That union also came about via a recording session, though one that for fans sadly never came to be. “We got asked to do the whole tour by Moby, who’s a self-confessed Joy Division and New Order fan, because we were actually hoping to collaborate on Get Ready,” Hook says. “But our timings didn’t mix. So after it didn’t happen, Moby said, ‘Well, why don’t you come and play?’ We got offered the whole tour, but, to be honest with you, it was a bit too much ’cause we just sort of finished recording, getting everything ready for the record, and we were right in the middle of rehearsing. So we thought we’d do the last part of it.”

Given that the collaboration never came to pass, one wonders about any onstage unions. Moby, speaking from Toronto later the same day, says, “I’d love to sing a Joy Division song.”

But Hook has other ideas. “Maybe I’ll come out and play the real bass line for ‘New Dawn Fades’ [a Joy Division track Moby frequently covers],” he says. “But only if he asks me nicely and offers me fifty cents… I’m a very cheap date.”

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