I revisit a 1997 encounter with pop duo Monaco, during which I upset Peter Hook by asking him if their debut long-player, Music For Pleasure, was simply the album New Order never got round to making…
There is dissension in Monaco.
The duo, who are Peter ‘Hooky’ Hook – the bassist from New Order – and guitarist David ‘Pottsy’ Potts, are in dispute over their debut album, the sublime, all-out pop record Music For Pleasure.
I am backstage with them at Portsmouth Guildhall, shortly before they are due on stage to support The Charlatans.
“I don’t think it is pop,” says Hooky. “I think to call it ‘pop’ demeans it.”
But Pottsy doesn’t agree: “I don’t think it does.”
Hooky replies: “I think of it more as AOR.”
“Is that Any Old Rubbish?” quips Pottsy.
“Any Old Iron,” says Hooky.
To my ears, Music For Pleasure is undoubtedly a great pop album. It veers from chart-bothering romps like the hugely infectious What Do You What From Me? and the E’d up, hands-in-the-air, cheesy, hedonistic house of Sweet Lips, to classy, heart-melting ballads like Blue and Tender, and even finds time to stop off at a rave (Junk) and take its place on a football terrace for the big Beatles/Oasis-style sing-along that is Buzz Gum.
But, despite the fact that I love the album dearly, at the back of mind there’s something that’s nagging me every time I listen to it…. Isn’t it simply the album that New Order never got round to making?
Let’s face it – sizeable chunks of Music For Pleasure do hark back to the glory days of the Manchester band. Hooky’s trademark bass sound is all over the new record and Pottsy’s vocals even recall those of New Order frontman Bernard Sumner…
“This is definitely the album that New Order never made ‘cos they weren’t fucking round when I was doing it – the lazy bastards!” booms Hooky.
He adds: “No – I think you might be looking for something a little too much. People might say that the music’s as good as New Order – and it does have slight leanings towards it – but I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s New Order again.
“A lot of the songs are nothing like bleedin’ New Order,” he says, grumpily.
“They’re good, but the only thing that makes them sound like New Order is the bass, really.”
I’m sorry I asked…
‘This is definitely the album that New Order never made ‘cos they weren’t fucking round when I was doing it – the lazy bastards!’
Monaco were formed from the ashes of Revenge – the band that Hooky started as a New Order side project. Pottsy joined Revenge to augment their live shows, but the group soon fell apart and him and Hooky were left on their own.
Says Hooky: “The two guys I was working with dropped off. Pottsy was the only one that showed any interest. We started writing together – it was quite easy for the two of us to do it.”
So, Monaco were born.
Pottsy explains: “I wasn’t playing my songs in Revenge, so I couldn’t put my heart and soul into something that wasn’t mine.”
Hooky says that with Revenge, he deliberately tried to shy away from the New Order sound and do something different.
“I made a conscious decision that I didn’t want it to sound like New Order.”
He adds that he left behind the thing he was good at in order to learn something new.
Revenge didn’t work out, though, so is that why, with Monaco, he decided to return to the thing that he does best?
“Well – yeah, with a lot of coaching from Pottsy,” he says. “He was more into it than I was. There’s always that bit of a paranoid thing that I get whenever anyone says to me, ‘as soon as you start playing, we always hear New Order’.
“Sometimes I just think ‘cheers’,” he adds, sarcastically.
‘Everybody says that Electronic sounds like New Order without the bass. I bet Bernard fucking hates that, ‘cos he hated the fucking bass playing towards the end of New Order. He was sick of me!’
But returning to what he does best has certainly been a good move for Hooky. Monaco’s debut album is a triumph and it’s a stronger record than Raise The Pressure – the difficult second album by Electronic, the duo his New Order bandmate, Bernard Sumner, formed with former Smiths guitarist, Johnny Marr.
“Bernard’s always got a little problem,” says Hooky. “Everybody says that Electronic sounds like New Order without the bass. I bet he fucking hates that, ‘cos he hated the fucking bass playing towards the end of New Order. He was just sick of me!”
Both members of Monaco seem thoroughly content at the moment and the band looks like being a long-term project.
“At the moment, it feels very natural,” says Hooky. “I’m quite happy to go out there and watch the kids have a good time. I’m just doing it for the kids, but I’m actually enjoying it myself.”
He adds: “The album simply is ‘music for pleasure’ and even though some people say it’s quite melancholic, I always find there’s a certain pleasure in being melancholy – especially as you get older.”
The original version of this interview first appeared in Splash! magazine in June 1997.