Freaky Dancing Q&A

Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Ste. Along with Paul Gill you started Freaky Dancing back in 1989 and it has now been republished by TQLC (an imprint of the Quietus). Tell us about the story behind how that happened?

Paul arranged the publication of the book with The Quietus, so I’m not quite sure how that actually happened. My role was more technical, preparing the book itself. Paul had been keen to get the fanzine restored and republished in some form or other for a while, and to be honest I was always a bit reluctant. To me it felt like a great memory, a lovely moment in the past, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to bring it into the present. Paul persisted and eventually convinced me it was worth doing. We were originally going to get the book out for the 25th anniversary, in 2015, but that date came and went. We were both busy with work and it was hard to find time to give the book the attention it deserved. I think hooking up with The Quietus gave us a bit of a kick up the arse to actually get it finished.

On the technical side, I had most of the original artwork, so my job was to scan and clean up every page, and design and build the book itself. There were a few missing pages that had been stolen or returned to the original artists over the years, so a few of them had to be put together from scans of the fanzine itself, but most pages were scanned from the A4 sized originals. We also wanted to do some new material, so I drew a three page comic strip, as an intro, which ended up taking me about six months to complete! Paul drew a page at the end of ever issue of me and him chatting about the contents, and reminiscing about the time.

One major issue was that we weren’t actually in touch with all the contributors. In fact, some pages were anonymously submitted, so we never knew who drew them. Also, a lot of the work was done under pseudonyms, so we had to consider how or if we needed permission from all the original contributors, IP rights, and how we would split any money the book might make. Taking everything into account, particularly the fact it wasn’t possible to contact everyone involved, and that the spirit of the magazine was to give it away where possible, we decided to stick with the pseudonyms for all the contributors, and once we’d covered the costs involved in making the book, we’d donate any money we made the the Manchester Digital Music Archive https://www.mdmarchive.co.uk

What influenced the comic-book/ graphic style in which it was constructed? Who did the artwork and who wrote the text? What was the philosophy behind it all and how important was it for you that it was free?

Both Paul and I both wrote and drew our own comics, and had made our own fanzines and small press comics before Freaky Dancing. That’s how we met, in fact – I picked up a copy of one of his fanzines from a small press fair in Piccadilly in 1986 or so, and he picked up one of mine from the same place. We noticed each other’s’ addresses, both in Stockport, and we started writing to each other about comics and video games and music, both in our early teens, and before either of us had ever had a pint of beer, let alone been to a pub or a nightclub!

But, once we had the idea for Freaky Dancing, everything happened so fast. We didn’t really plan very much, we just spurted out whatever was going in our heads into comic strips and printed them. We both worked separately, writing and drawing our own comics, and bringing them together every week or two, to see if we had enough stuff to make a new issue with. What was really surprising, and exciting, was that our friends joined in. Friends who weren’t especially into comics, or who weren’t writers or artists. They just caught the same wave of excitement and enthusiasm that gripped us, and threw their own pages into the pot. Some of the early issues were literally put together between 5pm and 7pm on the Friday night they came out, with people turning up to my office after work, handing in pages they’d drawn, while Paul and I would arrange them into some kind of order. Then we’d start the photocopier running at about 7pm, to get 100 or so copies ready to hand out next door by 9pm.

Giving the magazine out for free felt massively important at the beginning. It was almost the main idea behind Freaky Dancing – giving something back to the people around us. Over time that idea receded and covering costs and becoming self-sustaining became our goal. If we’d carried on, we’d probably have wanted to turn it into a money making business. I guess this is a natural trajectory, and perhaps it was for the best that it never went that far.

Why was the Hacienda and Friday’s Nude night in particular, as opposed to the other nights, such an important place for you at that time?

I feel a bit reluctant to mention the drugs, but you can’t get away from the drugs. We all started taking ecstasy together – and by ‘we’, I don’t just mean our friends, but I mean everyone in The Hacienda on a Friday night – and it was incredible. I’d been going out for years in Manchester already. Generally indie nights at The Venue, Boardwalk, The Ritz and places like that, and The Hacienda sometimes on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Clubbing was ‘alright’, and I enjoyed it, but suddenly in 1989 (for me – I know it was earlier for some), it was like I’d been woken from my sleep, and going out on a Friday became a mystical experience. It felt IMPORTANT. Once I’d been grabbed by the place, then I started to appreciate just how bloody good the music was as well, and I think the music has stayed with me more than anything else.


Graeme Park & Mike Pickering live at The Hacienda ~ August 1989 (3 hour set)

You poked fun at Boys Own and London culture. Did it feel like there was a North/ South divide – what made the North better?

Haha, yeah, I think everyone in Manchester feels that north / south divide thing, don’t they? We used to read NME, and once the acid house thing started up, you’d read these articles where they’d send a journalist up to Manchester and they’d just be talking about a couple of indie bands and a few gigs, and not mention the house music that was in the air in Manchester, that was everywhere, they’d not mention acid house at all, and it seemed bizarre. They might be covering The Stone Roses in the article, but The Stone Roses would be dancing to acid house in The Hacienda that week, and that influence wasn’t being mentioned in the music press at all, or only in the most condescending ways, it seemed bizarre.

We did have a bit of a sneering attitude to London and the south, but on reflection I think that was a bit silly, and I can’t really defend it now. I think partly it might have been that we just didn’t get much coverage or recognition, as the main magazines were based in London, but I dunno.

Obviously the city gained a reputation (as did the club) for violence and gang activity around doors and the supply of drugs. What are feelings about that, both at the time and now, in relation to the Hacienda?

I guess it was inevitable. There’s a neat parallel with the effect of the drugs themselves. You start off with a euphoric burst of energy, and everything is amazing, then eventually you feel strung out and stretched too far, followed by twitchiness, paranoia and a feeling of doom. That trip played out over the life of the magazine, and over the course of a few years in Manchester’s club scene as well.

I don’t think nightclubs work as long-standing institutions, and the Hacienda not being around now is probably for the best. Let younger generations build their own legends, without any baggage from the past.

What for you were the original ideals (socially and/or politically) of Acid House? And how do you feel about the way in which DJ culture and Clubs themselves have evolved and changed into more of a business model?

It felt like we were at the dawn of something special in 1989. A whole generation (or so it seemed) full of optimism and effortlessly removing the barriers and the differences between us all. It felt like more than just hedonism, but only in the vaguest, non-specific ways. I guess that’s kind of evaporated since. Maybe that’s a feeling everyone has at that time of their life, no matter where you are or who you’re with? I don’t have any strong feelings about DJ culture or clubbing. I still like house music, still listen to people like Sasha, but very rarely go to nightclubs any more.

In terms of ethnicity and class. How well do you think each was represented at The Hacienda?

A few years ago I saw an acquaintance on twitter complaining about a clip he’d seen of The Hacienda, from the acid house days, saying it just looked like a bunch of straight white blokes getting off their head, and that rave culture was a load of bollocks. I can’t speak for rave culture, but The Hacienda wasn’t that at all. It felt to me like the best possible mix of people you could get in Manchester, in terms of ethnicity, class, gender, sexuality, etc. A wonderful combination of everything the city had to offer. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how it felt to me at the time.

Was Tony Wilson a spokesman for the generation? If so, how did you identify with him?

Tony Wilson was an odd character for anyone my age from the North West. We grew up with him as this super smarmy TV host on various news and current affairs programmes. The natural reaction for any young, cynical teenager was to hate him. Then you learn from someone at school that he’s got a record label or something, and you get an inkling that he’s not quite what he seems. You listen to what he says on those music programmes he presented a bit more closely – maybe he’s more than just a smarmy presenter? Then as you grow older you learn a bit more about Factory and The Hacienda, and the bands, and he changes in your mind into something else. Something inspiring.

I’ve been in business in creative fields a couple of times, and I can honestly say that Tony Wilson was a big inspiration in terms of how I went about things. I don’t mean writing terrible contracts on napkins, necessarily, but more in terms of wanting to make something great, something special, something that will be remembered, and getting the best out of creative people you’re working with.

From the time of Freaky Dancing could you name a couple of tracks which signified everything the magazine was about?

Ralphi Rosario – You Used To Hold Me. I think that was my first, stand out memory on the dancefloor, seeing the crowd reacting, the way everyone in the place knew the tunes, it was wonderful.
Kid n Play – 2 Hype (that UK mix, not sure the proper name of it). My second dancefloor memory. The way the whole place would just freeze when that intro started.
Stakker – Humanoid. Just incredible. Still sounds awesome today.

Why did you stop producing Freaky Dancing? And would you be tempted to do it again?

Mainly we were just knackered. We’d put out 11 issues in not much more than a year, while also holding down fairly high pressure full time jobs, and being in a band. The magazine was actually starting to get really good by the end, so I can’t actually remember exactly why we stopped. I think the energy from the scene itself, that had been propelling us, had dissipated, and we didn’t have enough energy ourselves to keep it going without that wave behind us.

I’d publish comics again, and give them away, but I don’t think I could do anything at the speed we managed back then.

Tell us about what you and Paul are up to these days. And what would you say you taken from those experiences which has informed your life now?

I still design and make video games, now as an indie, working with my brother as The Pickford Bros. Our last game was nominated for a BAFTA, but made no money. We also do a comic together, Plok, featuring the star of one of our SNES games from the 1990s.

I think I’ve still got, and always had, the do-it-yourself ethic that led to us making a fanzine, and that’s reflected in the games and comics I’ve made since then. And I honestly thing the acid and the ecstasy have made me a better person.

The Quietus Presents The Freaky Dancing Book Launch at The Soup Kitchen, Manchester on Saturday March 2.

https://www.ticketweb.uk/event/the-freaky-dancing-book-launch-the-soup-kitchen-tickets/9142605?

https://thequietus.com

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Kath McDermott Q&A

Hello and welcome to Magazine Sixty, Kath. Let’s start by asking about your current involvement with BBC 6 Music. How you got there and why?

I’ve enjoyed being involved in radio over the years first on community radio and then Dave Kendrick and I had a show on Kiss 102 called the Galaxy of Love which I absolutely loved doing, we had a scream. I started working on BBC radio about 5 years ago and always really wanted to work for 6 Music as I’m a listener myself and think it is a fantastic network for music lovers. When I started working on 6 Music I felt at home immediately and I love being a part of the production team there.

*Photo by Mat Norman

And back to the beginning. Can you tell us who inspired you to start DJ’ing and something about the first clubs you played in?
Tim Lennox at the Number One club was a huge inspiration in the late Eighties, he was playing to an absolutely rammed sweatbox of deranged deviants every Saturday. It was incredible to be a part of that dancefloor. I was also going to Nude at the Hacienda and Mike Pickering would play hip-hop alongside disco and acid house, I loved the eclecticism of his sets. Around that time, my partner was organising an Aids Day benefit in Liverpool, but couldn’t get a DJ to play for free, so we decided to do it ourselves. We had a riot, so we started our own monthly night called Loose and there was a real gap in the market in Liverpool for young queer clubbers – they were a brilliantly friendly crowd to play for.

How would you describe Flesh to somebody who has never been?

The Hacienda was created in the image of American gay clubs like Paradise Garage so it was always going to be a buzz to see it full of queers with Tim Lennox at the helm. Each one was a real event with a different theme or happening taking place, so the punters would go to great efforts to be dressed for the occasion, and the space would be dressed to impress too. It was a massive crowd, always well over a thousand and mixed, you’d see drag queens, dykes, rent boys and even naked people wandering around and it was incredibly friendly. Anything went and I seemed to spend a lot of time laughing at the insanity and debauchery of the scenes there. My Flesh sightings include Leigh Bowery ‘giving birth’ to a woman on stage, the Fire Brigade pushing an ice cream van away from the dancefloor in case the petrol tank blew, a collapsed swimming pool which flooded the place, members of Kraftwerk and the Pet Shop Boys partying and people having sex. Not bad for a Wednesday night.

Which night or club was the most important for you in terms of Manchester’s history that you have DJ’ed at?

I feel tremendously honoured to have played at the Hacienda over the course of 5 years and Flesh is obviously very important to me, but I have a very special place in my heart for Homoelectric. We were getting really tired of the increasingly tired mono-culture around Gaychester in the late nineties and I was lucky enough to be involved right from the start as we tried to create a new club where all misfits were welcome and the music was very eclectic. Notoriously old-school lesbian club Follies outside the Gay Village was our well-matched home and Ryan Minchin’s fanzine The Homoelectric Chronicle was our manifesto. I was the first resident and played there for about 8 glorious years. The crowd were a dream come true, very open to whatever we played: disco, house, pop, jungle, hip-hop, funk. Philippa Jarman and I were running the 2 main record shops in town (Piccadilly and Vinyl Exchange) so we had all the music well stitched-up. I like to think we paved the way for the alt-queer clubbing scene in Manchester and Homoelectric is still going strong 20 years later with an ace team behind it.

What is it about radio and the way it connects with people which has seen the medium endure for so long?

As a lifelong radio consumer I feel it leaves my imagination to run free whilst I’m listening. There is something very passive about watching television but radio is a different kind of experience, it is the perfect companion to our days and nights. The buzz of hearing an old favourite or a brand new track is just as strong for me as it was when I was a kid. I listen to a lot of speech radio too and worked on Radio 4 for several years where the output is very different but equally inspiring at times. I just co-produced Marc Riley’s A-Z of Punk which was a big success and podcasts are going to become increasingly important over time as there is a huge appetite for them and we now love on-demand content.

Which artists, writers and musicians have inspired you most, both within and outside of electronic/ dance music?

When I was a kid I was very into Adam and the Ants, I loved the double drumming and thought he was the ultimate performer. In terms of dance music, when house music caught fire I was hugely inspired by Frankie Knuckles and that led me to seek out soulful house and garage by the likes of Masters at Work, Murk and Mood To Swing. In relation to dance music, I think Norma Jean Bell is an under-rated talent. Away from the decks the artists that have been mainstays over time for me tend to be female singers that plough their own furrow like Bobbie Gentry, Millie Jackson, Nina Simone, Betty Davis and Dusty Springfield.

Has too much nostalgia destroyed the creation of new music and culture?

I think it is disappointing that the emphasis is still on Madchester as so much of what is being portrayed is such a straight, white, male story. The reality was very different, Manchester District Music Archive are doing a lot to redress that balance. Also the City Council trade off the back of the heritage of clubs like the Hacienda whilst closing down most of the independent venues in town to build faceless budget hotels. However I think the club scene in Manchester and increasingly Salford is as vibrant as ever. Bollox is an incredible community space – very inclusive, but hedonistic and subversive. I’m thrilled that I’ll be playing there and the much-loved underground club Kiss Me Again over the next few months.

How did it feel to be included in the Suffragette City MCR exhibition at Refuge? What do you think the benefits will be moving forward?

The exhibition which reflects women from all aspects of the Manchester music scene has been a major success, bringing much-needed profile to some unsung heroines and celebrating the considerable talent in the city, it has been wonderful to meet some of the other women involved too. We had a big closing party with 16 hours of an all-female DJ line-up, it was an extraordinary event, the technical quality of the DJing was very high and we really rocked a great party. We got a mixed, very up-for-it crowd in, it was wonderful to be in such a warm supportive environment and we were all having a great dance to each other sets, there were no egos at all, a proper buzz.

And finally. Which programme have you most enjoyed working on at BBC 6 Music?

I really enjoyed working on Jarvis Cocker’s last live Sunday Service programme on Christmas Eve, we had the lights down low and twiglets on the go, it was very festive. I also produced a documentary about the queer roots of punk with Jon Savage presenting called ‘Queer as Punk’ which was a labour of love that I’m very proud of.

https://twitter.com/kathmcd22

https://www.facebook.com/kath.mcdermott.98

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Manchester North of England – 7CD Various Artists Boxset – Cherry Red Records

As Buzzcocks once sang: Nostalgia. Dreams are afloat and you can dive headlong into this epic, expansive trip down memory lane. Beginning at the (almost) point of Punk Rock with Buzzcocks Spiral Scratch EP (still got mine) this selection co-hosted by the indispensable Manchester music archive MDMA gets seriously disorientating by the breadth of records on offer here across several CD’s. Indeed it might be a smart idea to explore the site as the sounds unfold to add a visual context. This brilliantly realised sequence – yes the time worn Factory legends are present (as always) – but this compilation impressively digs much deeper to reveal inclusions from people you’ve never heard of, evoking a riotous celebration of colour. As the title says its ‘Independent’ music from 1977 through to 1993 – not sure why it ends there, maybe there simply wasn’t room for an eighth! And all sorts of my personal favourites from the era are present from Magazine: The Light Pours Out Of Me, Joy Division: She’s Lost Control and so on. But also music from the next decade’s Dance and then House explosion with Quando Quango’s Love Tempo plus 52nd Street’s Cool As Ice and A Certain Ratio predating T-Coy: Carino and of course Gerald’s: Voodoo Ray. The list then delivers more typically ‘Indie’ sounds via James, Happy Mondays and the rest providing all sorts of reasons for you to investigate further. In ways you should just ignore this review and go look at the tracklist for yourself, as when is it not a delight to hear The Fall’s speedy Rowche Rumble or indeed music by the Durutti Column. When they said: Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be, they were dead right.

Release: July 28
https://www.cherryred.co.uk/product/manchester-north-of-england-a-story-of-independent-music-greater-manchester-1977-1993/

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