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Music

Keanu Reeves reveals his favourite Joy Division song

It was hard to find a more promising action star than Keanu Reeves at the start of the Millenium. He’d helmed a cyber-thriller The Matrix, a vehicular thriller with Speed, and a probing surf drama set on land, sand and sea in Point Break.

Which made it all the more surprising for Rolling Stone to hear that the Beirut born Reeves envisioned himself as a bassist, particularly the sort of bass player who can meld melodies in his work. Naturally, Reeves was referring to Peter Hook, the mercurial performer who played his instrument with the stealth of a drummer, albeit with the fury of a heavy metal guitar player. Dazzlingly imaginative, Hook was rarely content to repeat what the guitar player had taught him but preferred to write his own part, pushing the bass high up in the audio mix.

“It’s kind of a bass line but a melody line,” Reeves said. “And kind of romantically epic, in a gothic kind of way.” Although they only released two albums, Joy Division’s impact on gothic and industrial rock was immense, earning them the respect of rock luminaries Moby and Bono. And they clearly meant something to Reeves, who regularly delivered emotionally coiled, yet deeply passionate, performances onscreen.

But that was in 2000, and Reeves had yet to hit middle age. Tastes typically change the older we get, but Reeves remains as committed to the band in 2014 as he was in 2000. During a Reddit interview, the Matrix star returned nominated an old familiar as his favourite song: “Today I am going to pick: ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division.”

He didn’t elaborate on his reasons, although the song features a pummelling bass hook that cements the melody line. Taking on the role of lead guitarist, Hook plunges into the work, providing a bass pattern of colour, contradiction and character. Soaked in melody, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ features a sound spearheaded by Hook.

But like most things in life, Hook happened upon the sound by accident, rather than providence. “It all came about because the equipment Joy Division were using was so dreadful,” Hook revealed in 2019. “It was hard to hear the stuff. Bernard was playing his stuff so loud. So, the only way I could be heard was by playing high. I learned to play high on the bass and Ian Curtis loved it. He loved the sound. He used to tell me to play that stuff. So, that became a signature for the sound. Barney told me once, and only once, and asked me could I just play what the guitar was playing? I was never into that and thought why couldn’t he just play what I was playing? Anyway, that was the only time he asked me, because I said no to that.”

Following Ian Curtis’ untimely death, Hook joined the surviving Joy Division bandmates in New Order, although he left the band rather acrimoniously in 2007. He no longer speaks to Bernard Sumner, although Hook does perform many of the songs they wrote together in his touring unit, The Light.

Reeves was exposed to his own “light” when he was handed the script to The Matrix Resurrections. Impressed by Lana Wachowski’s script, Reeves felt confident enough in himself to project his reality in hers. “I think of the ‘Matrix’ films as tools. They’re entertaining, there’s action; ‘Resurrections’ is funny. I find them as cautionary tales, like this can be the consequences of our technology in our interactions with machines and with each other. And I find them hopeful.”

Whatever can be said about love, hope will never tear people apart.