Time erodes memory. Especially when you chuck in a shed load of Drugs and mix it up with Acid House. Which is precisely why you need to (re)read this collection of Manchester’s long gone, though not forgotten Freaky Dancing. Euphoria can get lost to the cynicism of age but perhaps the remedy to that is contained somewhere inside the crazed, wild-eyed excitement that played out at the cities Nude night, as the shock of the new sent waves of inspiration charging through the minds of its creators Paul Gill and Ste Pickford. The first issue appeared for free in July 1989 and ran its course by August 1990 after eleven issues, in-between the so-called second summer of love and before The Hacienda closed for the first time in 1991 due to the surrounding violence engulfing the venue – an ironic state of affairs, even then. Billed by Tony Wilson as “the most important piece of journalism I’ve read in the last twenty years” a typically overblown pronouncement, there is however a grain of truth to that given that you feel part of the experience, living the lifestyle as it happened like a diary of events. Consequently, in ways the graphic content illustrates better than most studied books on the subject have the significant highs and lows of experience revolving around the turn of that decade. And yet in amongst all the youthful zeal and resolutely, idealistic belief in pill formed culture (alongside its institution) there lies an acceptance of the enviable downfall. That resulted, by the end, in the collapse of a dream and a demolished club. Which thankfully is now poignantly, though starkly contrasted via the evangelical conviction in the transformative powers of ecstasy celebrated throughout the pages, without the substance it would have meant a lot less content – in fine style even that is joked about in October’s Volume 5, as are students, i-D, Boys Own and ‘the south’ basically in general.
So what’s left? A document and a bagful of memories. A bunch of worn records. And that maybe you were part of something that felt important – life changing.
Freaky Dancing: The Complete Collection is published February 21, by TQLC
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.
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.
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.
Hello Al and welcome along to Magazine Sixty. What have been the highlights for you in the past 15 years, as 3am Recordings has been releasing music since 2003!?!
Hi & thanks for having me! There have been several along the way, I guess the ones which stand out are the first time I heard something off the label being played by DJs we really looked up to (that was Silicone Soul playing a track from TAM001 at Basics in Leeds in 2003), then Rob Da Bank playing Alex Moran’s “New Fish To Fry” on Radio 1 too, a pretty cool moment. I think at that point I expected to take over the world haha. Gig-wise really the highlight was having fabric host us for the label’s 10th birthday – it seemed like a real recognition for the hard work put in, plus naturally it’s such a brilliant venue to play at.
How have you seen the ‘industry’ develop in that time for better and worse – which I guess may run parallel to the rise of the Internet, easy access and streaming?
I believe there are pros & cons to how it’s changed; in one respect, the internet and digital aspect has really blown open the old level of ‘control’ (for want of a better word) that labels had, for all genres, whereby artists needed a label to get their music out there. People can really follow a DIY path now, so it’s much more democratic in that sense – you don’t necessarily need thousands of pounds to get something out there now, via digital platforms. However the flip-side of this is that artists don;t seem to take their time now; as soon as someone has finished a track, they’re desperate to get it out there, so the number of demo emails I receive which have one track on there, CC’d into about 4000 email addresses, is ridiculous. This leads to a huge amount of disposable music and what seems to be a bit of a desperation just to get stuff ‘out there’, rather than developing a selection of sounds and targeting labels which are appropriate to what you want.
What is it about four on the floor that still ignites your excitement after all this time?
Good question and I don’t think I have a real answer! I bought my decks in 1991 and thought it’d just be a passing fad, but here I am 27 years later…. There’s an energy in house music, people are still reinventing how it sounds, new people (much younger than me!) find it and want to push it forward and create fresh excitement, so there are constantly changing nuances in the sound; I guess those are the reasons it still has a hold on me really. There’s just something about getting some records & putting together a mix, playing in a club, or just checking out new music with a friend to compare what we have, when you hear the beat and the energy contained within, it just still works for me. When I received the TAM088 vinyl, which had my first ever track on 12″, I got all emotional when the first kick on my track played throguh the speakers. It’s a bit ridiculous really, but that’s the kind of hold it has on me!
Celebrating the anniversary is the labels next release on June 4 which features four tracks by four artists. How does the release represent 3am’s direction in 2018 and can you tell us about how you choose these productions in particular?
The release I feel showcases what the true ethos of 3am has tried to remain true to over the years; it’s not easy pushing new artists right at the start of their careers, but it’s something I’ve tried to do throughout. So on this release it has Ceri, whose debut ever release was for 3am (a remix of Askani), plus I’m giving Helsinki-based Twisted Puppies their debut on vinyl. Michael Lovatt is an artist who has become close to the label in recent years, representing us at gigs in Berlin several times, plus he’s an artist who is on the rise, so it wa the right time to get him on the label. Danny – aka Dubble D / Moodymanc – featured on 3am a few years back, so he is making a return as a long-time friend of the label. So this EP represents artists who’ve been involved with the label one way or the other over recent years, plus for Ceri she was always going to be back on 3am and it’s a pleasure to get her onto a 12″, likewise for Twisted Puppies – they’re the fifth artist making a debut on vinyl from the last three 3am 12″s, so that’s something I’m really proud of. Especially after I was told I couldn’t sell records without big names…
How did you first get into Dance Music? Which clubs and DJ’s initially inspired you? And how would you describe the scene in Leeds now?
I’m originally from Stockport so it was ventures up the road to Manchester which kick-started it all; predominantly the Hacienda but also The Boardwalk & Konspiracy (!!) were places I went. The Hacienda was the main influence though, I was actually there on the last night it was open too, I’ve got the ticket framed in my hallway even now (geek alert…). Outside of Manc, Leeds was a regular place I visited, Back To Basics and the residents there really adding a new dimension to the music I play; Ralph Lawson & James Holroyd in particular really showcased sounds which still influence to this day. For a relatively small city-centre, there is so much going on – you’ve got smaller places such as 212 & Distrikt which have great DJs on and free entry, then venues such as Wire & Mint which showcase a brilliant selection of styles and nights, up to Church and Mint Warehouse, which have the A-list DJs housed in much larger venues. So there really is something for all tastes; it’s a very strong city for electronic music right across the board, definitely.
Can you tell us what inspires you outside of the world of House Music. Any authors, artists, musicians, writer’s etc you would care to share?
Well my favourite writer is George Orwell; people immediately think of “1984” by him (which is, for me, the best book I have ever read), but his fantastic use of language and his clear distaste for the upper-classes (despite coming from a well-to-do background, which he shunned) is evident in his writing. “Coming Up For Air” is another of his books which still has a relevance in its story today, plus “Down and Out In Paris and London” is a really amazing insight into the North of England at the time of writing. I’m also a bit of a film geek; I tend to watch more films than general TV really; I’d say some of the films from the 70s would be my choices (Godfather, Apocalypse Now, Serpico etc), but more recently films like Shutter Island & There Will be Blood are favourites too. I listen to plenty of other music too, there was particular excitement when confirmation of Arctic Monkeys live tickets was sent to my friend Lyndsey, who managed to sort us two for Sheffield! Really looking forward to their new album, their previous one “AM” is an absolute gem & up there with my favourites of all time.
What are your feelings on nostalgia? Does such great emphasis on the past stifle creativity or enhance it?
Another good question! I’m not too keen on the word ‘nostalgia’ really; what has happened in the past of course is hugely important (otherwise why would I have a Hacienda ticket framed on my wall, from 1997 haha!), but I suppose it’s how these things are done. For example I’m not really a fan of “classics” type nights, where all the music is from say 1989 through to 1991, primarily because that’s not a true representation of what was played, it’s just the biggest/most well-known tracks from that period and it wasn’t really like that at all. I play old records in my sets, I love old records, but I play them within all the new stuff I have – I’ll do it as a little reminder of something from the past and also because it’s something I like and it fits with what I’m playing, but I wouldn’t want to do a whole night of “Hacienda Classics” for example. it’s correct and important to learn from the past, but don’t get stuck in it… When people say “the music’s not like it used to be” or whatever, that does bug me a bit – of course it’s not what it used to be, if it had stayed the same since 1988 then it’d be a bit stale! The whole reason I believe electronic music remains so vital is because it changes and progresses. Yes look back and get excited by old music, see what the early tracks were, that’s valuable and crucial to involve yourself in, but treat it all as an ever-expanding and changing sound – that’s the key for me.
And finally. Can you talk us through the process of creating music for you, from where an initial idea might spring from to how you then produce it, including a favourite piece of hardware/software you like to refer to?
I guess it just all comes from the music I hear and have heard over time – whether that’s consciously or subconsciously. As I’ve been buying records since the mid-80s, It probably explains why I’m rubbish at sticking to one sound. Production-wise I use Ableton; I tend to just muck about with basic ideas of drum/percussion and bass initially, then go from there. Software-wise I do tend to use Sylenth a lot, it’s something of a go-to bit of software for me really. The Eventide plug-ins have also been regular favourites, easy to use and great sounding. I’d love to say I have a studio full of expensive gear and name-drop some super-expensive synths, but I’d be lying I’m afraid! I can’t remember who said it to me, maybe Rob Small who does the 3am mastering, but it was something like “it’s not the gear, it’s the ear” – I’ll use that line anyway 🙂
Hello and welcome to Magazine Sixty, Richard. Aficionado is due to celebrate twenty years in 2018. Congratulations and what do you remember about, and the reaction to, those first nights you ran along with Jason Boardman?
Hi. Yeah it was a funny time back then. Both Jason (who I knew as a customer from Eastern Bloc) were both bored with the scene in MCR. We’d tried and failed with a couple of experimental nights before starting Aficionado as a Thursday night party at the (now closed) Agua Bar during the ‘98 World Cup. It was only due to run for the Summer until we ended up moving it to a Sunday at Zumbar. That’s when it really started to kick off. It was crazily packed out in there, if you turned up after eight o’clock you couldn’t get in. Think they paid us £50 each and a pizza. Good times.
What makes the night and its accompanying label, Aficionado Recordings as important to you after such a long time in existence?
The night is definitely the place where myself and Jay can play whatever we like. We’re not restricted by genre, tempo or fashion. If we like it, we’ll play it. The label runs off the same ethos. If we like it, we’ll release it.
You are running an exhibition of artwork at Electrik in Manchester. Tell us about the history of the artwork and who currently has been designing it?
The current exhibition has just finished unfortunately. It was the work of our designer, Topsy Von Salkeld. She’s done all the label design, club/gig flyers and also the cover of my compilation. Super talented.
Tell us about the process of compiling your ‘Moments In Time’ compilation for Music For Dreams? And do you feel it’s more important to listen to the message conveyed by an album’s entirety, rather than random choices generated by streaming?
It’s been a slow burn. Kenneth from the label is a good friend and he asked me to start thinking about it 18 months ago. I came up with around 25 tracks which had been whittled down with a couple of new bits added later.
With regards to listening to the album as a whole, that seems to be a generational thing. I love listening to whole LPs. You pick out tracks you like first listen and the tracks that aren’t the most instant end up being the tracks you love the most. However, I have no problem with people cherry picking tracks on Spotify. It’s the modern way.
Does DJ’ing and playing vinyl ever feel ‘old-fashioned’, rebellious and simply a good thing to do, in the digital age?
Ha! No not all. It can be a pain in the arse lumping a heavy bag about sometimes. Plus if I’m playing abroad I’ve been know to play the odd CD or two now. No USBs yet though. Proper witchcraft they are.
I remember you telling me about Danny Rampling playing at The Hacienda (I guess in 1988) and you finding yourself the only person dancing to Barry White ‘It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me’. At what point did the club and the music being played there began to lose its appeal?
That was the Shoom night (12th Oct ‘88). I still have the poster. I think it was Mike Pickering on before him, banging out some Latin acid stuff. I was on the stage, Rampling comes on, first track is big Barry and the stage and dance floor pretty much emptied. He totally tear gassed it apart from a bunch of Shoomers who had come up for the night. They were all going crackers on one of the podiums. I loved it. The Hac was an incredible club. Those two Summers of ‘88 & ‘89 were amazing. And yet by 1990 I was happy never to go in there ever again. It got far too moody.
Do you think Dance Music culture has developed in a good way since then? And what appeal, if any, does it still hold for you?
Yeah of course. It’s such a splintered scene now that you can take whatever you like from it, loft parties or mega festivals. I still love getting on a plane, visiting beautiful settings and playing records to people I’ve never met before. Who wouldn’t?
Who are the most influential artists for you, musical and/ or otherwise?
I’m very fortunate to have many talented friends who make incredible music too. People like Begin, Colorama, Cantoma and Brenda Ray who kindly let me listen to their stuff way before it gets released. Hearing great new music develop is what excites me the most
And finally. Please tell us about your and Jason’s plans for moving into 2018?
Not too much I can tell you right now bar our first party of 2018. It’s an intimate live gig with our dear friends John Stammers, Luca Nieri & Miles Copeland from Wonderful Sound: Jan 31st @ Night People. All future events will be announced via our Aficionado Recordings Facebook page though.
‘Back To The Tower’ is your new single for Jamie Jones & Lee Foss’s Hot Waves. How did your relationship with the label come about?
I have known Jamie for I guess around 6 years or so now. We met really through Jamie doing regular guest slots for us at Back to Basics and I first met lee about 3 years ago in Leeds when some friends brought him to play a house party for their birthday. Also it was round that time that Jamie had remixed a track that I made with Jon Woodall called Kitsch n Sync, which was the 1st release on the Basics label that had started up again after 15 years. Although, I had already sent Jamie and Lee some tracks that they were digging and interested in for Hot Creations but then they chose this for Hot Waves – even though I already had the connection with the guys it was really Richie Ahmed who made sure they heard it.
The track features the vocal of Ives St Ange. How did you meet and can you tell us about what the words mean to you?
I 1st met Ives in the summer of 89, we were both 18 and in Bridewell police station, which is closed now, but used to be underneath the Leeds town hall. We had both been arrested for nonpayment of some stupid fine which we had both managed to pick up along the way for some nonsense or other, and that was really the 1st encounter. But by the end of that same summer we were pretty much hanging 24/ 7. A big group of us would travel to Manchester every Friday for the Hacienda and then pretty much crash at Ives place all week, which was a block of high rise flats in the Little London area of Leeds, called Lovel Park Towers. Which is why I called it: Back to the tower, as in back to them times.
At the time though when this was going on they were a crew who we were friends with, who used to rap and write rhymes round at Ives place, and of course Ives was one of them. Fast forward 20 years and there I am, I haven’t seen or heard from Ives in maybe 10 years (and before that another 5) so basically twice or so in 15 years. Anyway, I was making what started out as an album at the time and I found myself well out of what was then my comfort zone. All of a sudden I was working with singers, writing/recording lyrics, bringing in sax players, pianists and while all this was happening I randomly seen that Ives was on facebook. And, as I’m in the studio I said ‘hey do you want to?’, actually what I really said in a jokey way because it had been so long, and thought it maybe a funny ice breaker was: ‘Yo! Are you still spitting rhymes’ like I was all down and ghetto! By time I got him down to the studio I already had the basis for the track written and laid down with the bassline on it. I suggested that it might be cool to rap about what we did back then in a kinda tongue ‘n’ cheek way and touch on where we were when we didn’t see each other too much, then bringing it back to today and where we are now, and what we are doing. He totally 110% nailed it for me. It was the most fun and easy track I’ve ever made. I wasn’t even thinking about anyone liking it let alone signing it. It really did just come from the heart; I wasn’t putting any limitations on it. I just went with the flow and that’s how it turned out.
Can you give us an insight into the process of producing Back To The Tower?
I laid down the kick at 115 BPM as I knew he would come and rap over it. So didn’t want it too fast, this is all in my head at this point as he’s on his way to the studio. I already had the big clap which I wanted to use so played that over the beat, loop-edit and then played the bassline over it and that was all I needed for that point. We recorded the vocal then Ives left and I worked with it, as in putting some arrangement on it, getting a nice feel to it and it was there. It was like it wrote itself, as in it was easy to hear what I needed to do next. It was a great experience and being back with Ives after all this time, just for that project and then pretty much back off our separate ways we went. I loved it.
When/ where did you first begin to DJ and who initially inspired you to do so?
I bought my 1st pair of Technique 12.10s in 1990 from Sasha. The speed pitch was knackered at a certain point and the arm on one of the decks was bent, he had me over bless him. It took me about a year to realize it was the deck and not me! The story though, was that Sasha had been dj’ing at an 808 State gig and they fell off the stage, and that’s why it was broke. So I thought that was a quite funny history to have behind the decks, but it was 2 years later in 92 that I started to play clubs and was lucky as my 1st residency was at Renaissance, and by 93 the Hacienda so I had the best training ground ever to DJ. But without doubt my biggest DJ influences at that time were Mike Pickering and Graeme Park
From your perspective how would you say Dance (House) Music has evolved from the 90’s until now?
Its evolved in the way that technology is now available to make music on, which is much more out there, but I would say there have been many styles and fads that have come and gone, and still continue to do so, but for me the roots of it all are House. And even at the time when it looked like House was having trouble staying for good, it didn’t and it’s still here. But I do think the spirit of House Music from the 90′s to now is still the same…
You can hear a range of influences when listening to your productions. Can you tell us about some of the most significant to you?
That’s a tuff question really because I feel those influences are just in me naturally from years of playing and listening to music. It’s not like I’m always trying to do an old-school flavour or anything like that, or thinking I’m going to make a track like something that is a direct result of wanting to make a certain type of record. They just come out the way they do, but mainly always with moving the dance floor at the forefront of my mind.
Where you are currently Dj’ing? And what are your forthcoming plans for 2013?
As well as regular guest slots up and down the country, as well as around the world, I would like to play at DC 10 again and at as many festivals. I’m also resident at Back to Basics which I’ve held for over 10 years now. This year I intend to release more music and I have an EP coming out on Future Boogie around April time, plus I have a couple of irons in the fire that are yet to be unleashed! More tracks also for Extended Play – I have already released 5 tracks with them last year through a sampler and on my own EP.
I’m also really looking forward to working closely with the Blueprint Artist Agency who Ive recently signed to. So all that combined with as many holidays and staying happy, and healthy, and true to myself…..that’s my plans for 2013.