Hewan Clarke is the quintessential Manchester DJ. If medals were given out for services to the city’s nightlife, based on overall contribution coupled with sheer longevity, he’d be first in line. As the original Haçienda resident, he was a fixture of the club during its difficult formative years – his perspective on this period absolutely vital for anyone wishing to gain a fuller understanding of the clubs evolution. Yet, rather than being regarded as a central figure in Manchester’s rise to prominence during the 80’s, the decade in which the city became world-renowned for its dance music scene, Hewan has been cast as little more than a bit part player. Maybe this is because his association with The Haçienda has obscured everything else he’s done, not least his time at three of the most influential venues of the pre-Rave era – The Gallery, Berlin and The Playpen (not to mention Moss Side’s gloriously notorious Reno). The irony being that The Haçienda could never have exploded in the way it did without these three clubs, along with Legend, laying the groundwork. So, whilst Hewan will always be named in the history books in connection with The Haçienda, his greatest contribution was surely his role as a major player on the all-important black underground.
Hewan was the obvious choice to work alongside me at the Broken Glass Reunion in August 2004 – an event that marked the 20th Anniversary of ‘Style Of The Street’, an early British Rap single by the legendary Manchester breakdance crew, which was part of the experimental ‘UK Electro’ project. It was on the back of this that I arranged to interview Hewan a few days later:
GW: How did you start out as a DJ?
HC: What happened was Mike Shaft used to be the Soul DJ at Pips and had a support DJ with him – they always used to have two DJs doing each room to give the other a break. The other guy was called Johnny Washington – that was his DJ name anyway. When Mike Shaft left, Johnny Washington took over the room full-time. I was a good friend of his and so I became his support DJ so whenever he wanted a break, I started DJing and it basically built up from there.
GW: Can you remember what year that was?
HC: I would say maybe about ’79.
GW: I’ve never come across the name Johnny Washington.
HC: Well no, he was basically an in-house Pips DJ. He wasn’t part of the All-Dayer scene.
GW: And at this point he was doing the Soul room there?
GW: Was he a white guy or a black guy?
HW: He was a white guy.
GW: And so you worked alongside him and that was how you got your start?
HC: Yeah – that’s how I learnt DJing to crowds of people.
GW: Can you remember what kind of stuff you were playing back then? Just a couple of tracks that would stick out for you from Pips?
HC: Dale Jacobs ‘Cobra’. Wilton Felder and stuff like that.
GW: So it was pretty much on the cusp of the whole jazz-funk thing really?
HC: Oh yes, of course, even though the other scene was existing. Well there were loads of clubs around at that time, there was the Village in Stretford, which is now the B&Q Showroom, that was a major club where Andy Peebles would play, and you had what was going on over at Placemate 7. We had one record shop that was supplying the whole scene, remember – that was Spin Inn, and everybody went and bought from Spin Inn. Everybody had the same stuff, in a sense, but there were variations between clubs. There was some stuff that one club would play and the other club wouldn’t play.
GW: So you can remember Andy Peebles when he was playing in Manchester?
HC: Oh, of course, yeah. Andy Peebles was one of the DJs I went out and listened to. I used to remember him playing David Bowie ‘Fame’, Doobie Brothers and things like that.
GW: It was like the Parliament track, ‘P Funk’ – ‘Doobie Brothers, David Bowie – it was cool’!
HC: Yeah – all that kind of stuff. Bar Kays. All this early stuff that was around at that time. I didn’t know Andy Peebles was going to go on and become what he became. He was just a DJ who was playing in there at the time.
GW: And this is the Stretford gig you’re talking about?
HC: Yeah. It was interesting because I didn’t just play in the Soul room. I covered all the different music. I used to play in the Bowie room – I used to play a lot of Bowie, Public Image. and Kraftwerk – all that kind of stuff. So I got to know all that alternative stuff from very early on.
GW: That kind of echoes Afrika Bambaataa.
HC: Oh yeah, of course it does.
GW: That was quite open-minded.
HC: When that stuff came in, I was ready for it because I knew Kraftwerk.
GW: How did that work out? I know at that time on the black scene, people were generally expected to stick to their own areas.
HC: What I did was I covered in the Bowie room. I mean, all the black people were in the Soul room.
GW: Yeah, of course, but didn’t the black people say “what are you playing this stuff for?”
HC: No, because at that time I wasn’t known. I was just a DJ who was there playing music. At that time, DJs didn’t have that… You know, unless somebody was really big and famous like Mike Shaft, you were just an ordinary DJ playing tunes.
GW: It is quite open-minded from your own personal point of view that you were open to that type of music.
HC: Well, yeah it was interesting. It was interesting seeing how different music interacted with different crowds. That was quite interesting. Knowing that the stuff I was playing in the Bowie room, I could never play in the Soul room. And the stuff I was playing in the Soul room, I could never play in the Bowie room.
GW: Going back, where would that influence have come from that opened your mind to stuff like Bowie and Kraftwerk?
HC: When we talk about Bowie, we’re not talking about Major Tom or anything.
GW: From the more ‘Fame’, ‘Golden Years’, ‘Young Americans’…?
HC: Yeah it was that kind of stuff. It was the very soulful Bowie stuff that I played. I didn’t play any of his rocky stuff or anything like that. It was interesting because the main impetus of the Bowie room was that Kraftwerk beat, which was very four-by-four beat. It was very funky. It wasn’t kind of like wham, like a rock track. And so it was interesting because there was a crowd in there that liked dressing up in black, wearing make-up. They were doing this very robotic dance. I’m trying to remember the dances now! Doing the hand in front of the face and stuff like that.
GW: I remember these nights. They were the forerunner for the Futurist scene.
HC: Yeah, of course. It was very, very funky, so I picked up on that really easily. If it wasn’t funky I don’t think I wouldn’t have been there. Stuff like Public Image, Johnny Lydon – the one he released in the silver disc.
GW: Was that, ‘This Is Not A Love Song’?
HC: I can’t remember what it is. A lot of stuff we used to play by him was very dubby, bassy sounding.
GW: It was Jah Wobble on the bass.
HC: Yeah. It was quite interesting really and that’s where that wide variety – that taste – came from.
GW: Going back to Andy Peebles, obviously Peebles had the Soul show on Piccadilly Radio before Mike Shaft took over. I presume that was something you were listening to as well.
HC: Oh yeah, definitely. I had a key moment – I remember hearing Lamont Dozier ‘Why Can’t We Be Lovers’? on there for the first time and I remember being mesmerised by the track. I went out and bought it straight away! Andy Peebles, I definitely used to listen to that. Before Andy Peebles came up, I used to listen to Radio Caroline.
GW: Right. How old are you Hewan?
HC: Me? I’m forty-seven now (laughs).
GW: Right, right.
HC: People don’t realise how old I am. Radio Caroline was brilliant. I used to love the way it used to fade in and out. You had to really strain, you know when your favourite track’s on. It’s fading and then a couple of seconds later it’d come back again.
GW: Were there any particular DJs you used to look out for there?
HC: No, not really. I suppose at that time I hadn’t really developed a particular taste. I was just listening to everybody and just picking up what I was picking up.
GW: Peebles must have been doing the Picadilly show from – I’m not sure of the date – was it ’74 or ’75?
HC: Probably. Something like that. I mean I didn’t listen to the radio all the time. There was a time, you know like when Top of the Pops was on, there was a time when everybody used to sit in front of the TV and watch. Well there was a time when our little group would get together and listen to some early Beatles stuff and then going down to the club and dancing to it. I never listened to it constantly.
GW: Going back to the later period of the ’70s. The big clubs on the scene – I wasn’t about in Manchester at the time but I remember reading about places like Rafters, which was John Grant and Colin (Curtis), wasn’t it?
HC: Yeah, that’s right.
GW: Did you check that out at all yourself?
HC: What happened with Rafters was that while Rafters was going through its most innovative period, I was in Placemate actually. I remember a couple of dancers coming over from Rafters and dancing in Placemate and I’d never seen dancing like that in my life. It was the dancing that eventually became the Jazz dancing, because at that time John Grant and Colin were playing a lot of Jazz. And when I saw this dance, I went over to them and said, “come on, where did you learn to dance like this?” And they said, “Oh, Rafters.” And I remember going into Rafters for the first time and I was totally like, wow! That place was amazing. It was a really good place to be doing a night at the time.
GW: Also, there was the Reno. Persian was playing there at that time. Did you go in the Reno at that point?
HC: The Reno for me was like some kind of rebirth really. The Reno was just something totally different. The Reno opened at eleven and it shut at six in the morning. It used to get totally packed. It was a dive basically. The toilets were like – oh – we won’t even talk about that. The Reno had been going since, I believe, the fifties. In the fifties and the sixties it was a respectable Jazz club. The road that it’s on, Princes Road, they’ve cleared it now and widened it but at the time the whole of Princes Road was just filled with buildings.
GW: Yeah, I just about remember that period. They widened it after the riots, didn’t they?
HC: Yeah. The Reno – that was the club for that area, you know, that people went to. When I first went in there and listened to Persian playing and the stuff that he was playing! Colin and John – they would play mainly twelve inches, but Persian would be playing album tracks, which is a bit different. For John and Colin, if something wasn’t released on a twelve inch, they’d just play maybe the obvious track off the album. And yet sometimes on these albums, there are four or five good tracks. Persian would play the other ones and that’s how he built up his name, his fame, by doing it. Some of the stuff he was playing was amazing!
GW: And also he’d augment what he was playing with the Reggae side as well?
HC: He augmented the Reggae side? No – what happened with the Reno was that on top of it was another club called the Nile.
GW: Ah, right. Okay.
HC: And the Nile was where they’d play the Reggae. So anybody who wanted Reggae went upstairs and anybody who wanted Soul, Funk and Jazz went down into the Reno and that’s how it worked.
GW: So who was playing in the Nile?
HC: In the Nile it was mainly sound systems – Reggae sound systems. Lord Caz or B Rocket, people like that.
GW: Did they have traveling systems coming in as well?
HC: Oh yeah, of course. But there was an in-house system. Lord Rocket was the main guy. His gimmick was that his amplifier was made like – you know they made their own amplifiers – was made like a rocket! And he had all the knobs on it! It was brilliant, he was really, really good.
GW: Getting back to Persian, how many nights would the…?
HC: The Reno was open six nights a week.
GW: With the exception of which night was it?
HC: No, no, wait. Why am I saying six nights? Sorry, it was seven.
GW: I always remember it – it was always open. So was Persian playing, basically, all the time?
HC: All the time. All the time. He’d have a guy called Coolie helping him now and again.
GW: I met Persian in Spin Inn, but it was like a different world. He was separate from the established scene.
HC: Yes, he was. Basically what you had was the town DJs, what we called the townie DJ’s, and then you had people like Persian who were out on the periphery, doing their own little thing. He wasn’t part of that town, All-Dayer Soul scene. He was totally separate from that. It’s interesting. A lot of the town DJs actually went into the Reno and listened to what he was playing, even though they had the albums themselves… Because they’d built up their audience on a particular style of music, they couldn’t get away with playing some of Persian’s stuff. It was really interesting. And he went to listen to them and he thought they were pretty restricted in what they were playing because, like I said, there were four or five good tracks on an album and he would play all of them. He wouldn’t just pick one, he would play all of them. And that was the main difference between Persian’s style and the town side of it.
GW: It was the same in Liverpool. There was a DJ called Les Spaine who was a big influence on what I was doing. I went to his club, which was called the Timepiece, which was the first predominantly black club I’d ever been into. It was just a different world. I’m not just talking about the people who were in there but musically. The level of all that was going on. I wrote a piece about Les recently, I’ve interviewed him recently, and I figured that in every major city in the country that had any kind of black population, you would find people like Persian and Les Spaine – all over – unsung.
GW: They were so influential but haven’t even been mentioned. It’s good to get that lineage into place. You went on to work at the Reno, didn’t you?
HC: Oh yeah.
GW: What year would that have been?
HC: I remember I was at The Academy at the time when it was happening so it probably would have been, I would say maybe about ’83 onwards.
GW: It was quite late in its life span wasn’t it?
HC: Yeah, yeah.
GW: And Tomlin followed you in there as well didn’t he?
GW: So did you follow Persian into there?
HC: No. Persian left and the owner of the Reno, a guy called Phil, he had a son called Moses and Moses, I believe, came after Persian. I came in there after a long break because at that time in Moss Side, there was a lot of blues and shebeens. The Reno was just one of many places where you could go and I went to a lot of the other Blues’. I wasn’t in the Reno all the time so there was a long period when, after hearing Persian, I didn’t go to the Reno for a while. Then I went back in again and Persian had gone and Moses was in there. When Moses left, I took over after him. This was maybe about ’84/’85.
GW: This was after your time at the Hacienda?
HC: Round about the same time. Basically I’d just leave the Gallery and go straight to the Reno. There’d be a crowd in there waiting and then play till six in the morning. Really really good. Really good.
GW: Just taking you back, you were working at Pips. Where did you go to from Pips? Because I know you opened The Haçienda in ’82; you were the resident DJ at The Haçienda from ’82 onwards. How did it get from Pips to the Haçienda?
HC: At that time, I was very strongly into Jazz. There was a club I used to do called Fever. I used to do that on a Wednesday night and basically that was what Fever was. Fever was just like a space where we could practice and when I say ‘we’, I’m talking about people like the Jazz Defektors and all the really good dancers that came out of the end of Rafters. We had nowhere to go really. And we were still into the up-tempo Jazz and stuff like that. So I did this night at Fever’s and there were probably about fifteen / twenty people in there on a Wednesday night. It was free to get in. I knew the manager he’d just sit at the bar chatting to his friends and I’d be there playing Jazz. I’d put a track on then get on the floor and dance. I used to dance all the time. In the corner of the club, there was this group of white kids that we’d never seen before. Every other week or so, they’d come in. And every now and then they’d get up and come over and ask, “What was that you were playing?” You know, when I was playing an Airto track, they’d come over and be like, “who was that? who was that?” and I’d be showing them. They turned out to be Kalima – including members of A Certain Ratio. They said to me, “look, we really like the stuff you play, we’re going on tour, would you like to come and support us?” and I was like, “yeah, of course!” So they did a British tour, university campus’ and stuff like that, and their manager at the time was Tony Wilson and that was how I met Tony Wilson. Me and Tony Wilson got into a conversation and he was saying to me, “who’s your favourite DJ?”, and I said, “Frankie Crocker” and he said, “woah, Frankie Crocker, that’s my favourite DJ!”
GW: How did you know about Frankie Crocker?
HC: Because I used to get tapes from America from WBLS. So I knew about Frankie Crocker. And it was through listening to Frankie Crocker tapes, I knew, in advance, what was going to be big over here! So I’d be there in the shop, buying them and playing them to death, knowing that they were going to get to number one. It turned out Tony Wilson was also interested in Frankie Crocker and basically he said, “look, in a couple of year’s time I’m going to open a club in Manchester and I want you to be the DJ.” And that’s why I became the Haçienda DJ! (laughs).
GW: Where was Fever, by the way? Was it in the centre of Manchester?
HC: Yes it was. It was at the other end of the block from where Pips was. It used to be an old Soul club but for the love of me I can’t remember the name.
GW: Right, right. That kind of makes sense. In that little in-between period, after Rafters and before Legend opened in 1980. The Jazz-Funk night there was the Wednesday night. John Grant would have been doing that throughout the back end of ’80, into ’81. It was relatively successful on the Wednesday during that time. I don’t know if you ever went down there when John played there.
HC: No, no I didn’t.
GW: But then he left to open the Main Event at Placemate7, which was promoted by Blues & Soul and also Piccadilly Radio. He did it with Mike Shaft. Him going across there almost wiped Legend out on the Wednesday. The residents took over it and it was really struggling. The Main Event was huge on a Tuesday.
HC: Who were the residents?
GW: The resident DJs there at the time were Paul Rae and Ralph Randell, who really made their name doing the Futurist night on a Thursday. If you remember back to that time, Legend’s Futurist night between ’81 and ’82 was absolutely huge. Probably a lot of the early Hacienda crowd would have gone to that night. On the Wednesday, with the Jazz-Funk night, the fact John Grant had so much power on the scene and Mike Shaft with the Piccadilly Radio and Blues & Soul behind it… It meant that a lot of people, as you know, didn’t have the money to go out two midweek nights, that was stretching things for people and so the Main Event was packing them in at Placemate 7 and Legend was dying. That’s how I came to Legend because I was working at Wigan Pier – the people who owned Legend also owned Wigan Pier.
HC: Don’t tell me his name… I know his name.
GW: Terry Lennon.
HC: Terry Lennon! That’s right. Lennaine?
GW: Terry Lennaine was the BBC Radio Merseyside DJ – another influence on me. He did the Soul show at the same time Andy Peebles was doing the Piccadilly Soul show.
HC: I knew he was a DJ but I only met him as a manager.
GW: No, no – they were two different people. Terry Lennaine was a different person to Terry Lennon.
HC: Oh yes, you’re right!
GW: Confusing! I don’t know if you remember Lennon’s supermarkets?
GW: Well, there was a chain of supermarkets called Lennon’s around the North-West.
HC: Really? He owned that as well?
GW: He didn’t, his dad owned them. And that’s how he got the money. He got talked into putting the most amazing sound and lighting into these clubs. And Legend was his second club that he’d opened. I got the job at Legend as a result of knowing the guy who was DJing at Wigan Pier before me. He had residents there who worked the four nights. And the resident from the Pier was a guy called Nicky Flavell who went on to open Legend in 1980.
HC: He was a Bacchus DJ wasn’t he?
GW: Yeah, Bacchus installed the sound and lighting at the Pier, and provided the all the DJ’s, before I got the job there. Juliana’s became the parent company around this point and fitted out Legend. I met Nicky when I was a DJ out in Europe, working in Norway back in 1978.
HC: In those days, I’m telling you, Bacchus DJs had legendary status.
GW: Definitely, those guys were like top notch. Nicky, who’d worked extensively in Europe throughout the 70’s for agencies like IDEA and Europa, had gone on to work for Bacchus. This was how he came to be at Wigan Pier, following on from a DJ called Kelly, who was the club’s first resident, when the Pier opened in ’79.
GW: What are your memories of Legend?
HC: Memories?… The sound system… an amazing sound system, Absolutely amazing! I remember there was some kind of control on the sound system whereby you could get the sound to run around the room.
GW: That’s called the sound sweep, yeah.
HC: That was amazing! And then there was a loudness button on it, wasn’t there? Where you could really pump some bass out.
GW: Yeah, well it was the first club I ever worked at that had a sub bass unit.
HC: Yeah, it was a sub bass unit, that was it. The sound that came from that. The lighting, I mean, that was something totally different. Nobody had ever seen lighting like that. If I remember right, the lighting could move, couldn’t it?
GW: I don’t think there was any hydraulics on it, but there was so much happening there that it would definitely give that impression. It was bouncing light all over the place.
HC: It had an amazing effect on people, I mean, a lot of people still talk today about their first venture into Legend and that sound system. It was the perfect club for a DJ really. You know when you go into some clubs sometimes and things are not working properly? In Legend, everything was always working. It was perfect. It was so good cos you could just concentrate on entertaining the audience rather than worrying about whether the EQs right or something like that, it was a really good club.
GW: It was a dream, an absolute dream. When I took over on the Wednesday, it was a dying Jazz-Funk night. As a result of me doing the Tuesday night at Wigan Pier, which was their Jazz-Funk night and that was going really well, and so they gave me the night to see… you know… it was almost like last chance saloon for it, you know, see how you get on – and over a six month period I managed to pull it back and then it went through the roof!
As you know, it was from May 82 onward. I stopped Djing at the end of 83 and for all that period of time, every Wednesday it was packed to the rafters. It was just an amazing scene. Interestingly enough, May 82, when Legend went through the roof, was also the moment that The Haçienda opened. It’s funny, in juxtaposition, cos I remember from my time later on down the line at The Haçienda, what you were saying about the sound system at Legend and all these things, about it being perfect for the DJ, I always thought of The Haçienda as almost the direct opposite.
HC: Yeah, totally.
GW: Everything was made difficult for the DJ within that.
HC: It used to do my head in, The Haçienda. I remember spending a lot of time in the managers office complaining about that. The thing with The Haçienda….I mean… as a DJ, the tool that you work with is the sound system and what you’re selling is music. People come into your club to buy music when they’ve paid to come into the club, what they’re doing is buying the product that you’re selling and in order to sell that product, you need the perfect medium which is the perfect sound system. For me, The Haçienda didn’t have that and it was really infuriating cos there were certain sounds that I couldn’t play on their system. Do you know what I mean? It was just terrible and I remember writing a little note to Howard…
GW: Oh yeah! It was Howard Jones, wasn’t it?
HC: …who was the manager at the time and telling him that we needed some extra bass bins on the dance floor. You see, what happened….they’d been to America and they’d seen places like Paradise Garage and The Loft and all these places which had brilliant magnificent sound systems, you know, they brought it back to Manchester, they brought the size and the idea but they didn’t bring the sound system with them. That was the main thing that let The Haçienda down.
GW: Well, definitely and also the fact that………
HC: The DJ box….
GW: The DJ box…Ah!
HC: Which was hidden at the side of the stage and you had this little darkened slit that you could look out of. Nobody could see into it.
GW: Yep, that’s what I remember. There was no contact with the audience there at all. It was just very cold and clinical.
HC: It really was. When it opened, I worked Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Obviously Friday and Saturday were the biggest nights, but in the early days The Haçienda was much more experimental – they had, like plays on and bands on and stuff like that. But on quiet nights like Mondays the place was like a cathedral, an empty cathedral.
GW: That’s exactly how I remember it.
HC: I remember one time we had Richard Searling in there as somebody decided to present a Northern Soul night. Sorry it wasn’t a night it was an All-Dayer. For some reason somebody had forgotten that we had a glass roof and so, you know, you open at 12pm and people pour into the club and the club was bright a s daylight. Nobody danced for the whole day (laughs) d’ya know what I mean? Nobody had thought of putting some blackout boards over the glass roof to darken the place down.
GW: When I came in there in the summer of 83, on the back of all the success of Legend, I think what they wanted to do was bring across that kind of audience and, straight away, I remember one of the first weeks I was there a coach load came from Birmingham and couldn’t get in because they weren’t members – so they ended up around the corner in Rotters! They weren’t going to come back on a coach to Manchester again. There were so many different problems and so many misunderstandings and, also, there was a lot of resentment to the type of music that I was playing. The regular people that were there were not into the New York Electro style that I was coming with. They wanted Bauhaus and Siouxsie and the Banshees and everything. So, I always thought, from your respective as the resident in there, you had a thankless task in a way, to try to kind of……
HC: I had to try and play everything. The thing for me about The Haçienda was, when it opened, previously to The Haçienda, Antony Wilson and his group had run The Factory.
GW: That’s right, yeah
HC: That was a Punk club, and so on the opening Wednesday, moving from The Factory over to The Haçienda, the crowd came with them. On the opening night you had mohicans there and goths and whatever there were at the time, and Tony Wilson had expressly told me that he wanted me to play black music and so you had all these people who had grown up on Siouxsie and the Banshees and stuff like that in The Haçienda and here I am playing Sharon Redd ‘Can You Handle It?’ (laughs). It freaked them out and they freaked me out, you know, cos of their reaction. There was no way they were gonna move to it and they couldn’t even find me to complain about it (Laughter). And so, for me, as the DJ, that did my head in sometimes. I’d go out and buy poppy stuff like Stray Cats and I’d mix them in and it worked really well. I’d kind of like mix the odd track in every now and again just to coax them onto the floor and then maybe play something like Klein and MBO or something like that. I learnt a lot from that. It was an amazing learning experience for me really. I had to make those people dance. I had to fill the dance floor. I had to come up with ways of doing it. It was just really interesting just mixing stuff in and out. Whenever I’m playing a Funk track and there’s a break I’d play like… erm… I used to play a lot of Kraftwerk. It’d get their imaginations and after a while they got used to my style and I got to know what they liked. I was able to use it that way and introduce them to new stuff and it was quite interesting.
GW: Yeah, I kind of understand that cos when I worked out in Norway, we all wanted to play black music, but in Norway they were more into Rock and the more creative DJ’s out there would like play stuff like Stanley Clarke. I remember they played “Hot Fun” as a rock track and the rock crowd got into it. You’d try to get stuff into it, almost slip it in there quietly. You mentioned a track there that was quite a pivotal track, Klein and MBO “Dirty Talk”, this was a monster track from Legend.
HC: It was a monster track for me as well! The thing was with The Hacienda, I remember getting it and wow! This is an amazing track, especially that clapping bit half way through. I remember the first time I played it in The Hacienda it totally cleared the floor. But I believed in it, you know what I’m saying? I kept on playing it, kept on playing it and that’s how it grew and then it became absolutely massive and there’s an interesting story that came out of that because at one point, members of New Order came to the DJ box and asked what that track was and asked if they could borrow it and I gave them a copy and they disappeared with it and then I got it back and then a couple of weeks later, they gave me a white label copy of “Blue Monday” which had been fashioned off the beats.
GW: Yeah, I’m aware of its influence on Blue Monday but weirdly enough, there was a piece that I read recently about Italo-Disco, cos it turns out Klien and MBO obviously was an Italian track and nowadays with this trend towards Italo-Disco, they put it in that bag, although I’ve always maintained, as far as we were concerned, it was an Electro track. It came in from that side. In this piece about Italo-Disco, it mentions about it being an influence on New Order but it says that Barney heard it via a friend he had in Berlin, which I thought that can’t be the case because it’s around him in Manchester. It was like the biggest track with the black kids in Manchester.
HC: Of course, it was massive in The Hacienda. It was MASSIVE! Seriously.
GW: That’s what I thought and I knew that you were playing it….
HC: The thing is, he probably did hear it in Berlin but didn’t know what it was then heard me playing it and then came over and borrowed the record and obviously sampled it or did whatever but some part of it ended up as Blue Monday. And as you know, Blue Monday became a really defining track which switched pop culture over to House.
GW: Well, definitely without a doubt. One of the main things why I’m speaking to you now… you know I told you about the Broken Glass reunion, all these things link into the necessity to come back to that period of time, especially within Manchester, and say the influence from the black side of Manchester has not really been given its proper dues and respect because, I mean, only Bristol could be comparative for the time, for being creative from that aspect and open minded and new ideas…
HC: Really? Oh yes, yes sorry
GW: And we didn’t know what was going on in Bristol and they probably didn’t know what was going on here, but London at the time was complacent on the black music side, it was too controlled by the whole Funk Mafia side of things. But Manchester was like… it was a real golden era and this history and this aspect of it has never really properly been respected. Obviously, you were in The Haçienda but you were also very aware of what was going on within the black scene in Manchester.
HC: Oh yeah definitely you see, I could move between the two. I was in the Reno, you know it was a DJ’s dream really – you could play what you want. The audience didn’t want to come to the Reno and hear what the DJ’s were playing in town and so you could really stretch out there. With me having that dual nationality, as to say, I could work… I knew the town people and I knew the Reno, the left-side crowd – it was really interesting. I would pick up on certain stuff that was played in the Reno that wasn’t being played in town and play it for them in The Haçienda. It worked.
GW: And obviously of course you were also doing the All-Dayers as well?
HC: Well, yes, we done the All-Dayer scene.
GW: This is where we met on a personal level.
HC: This is where we met, yeah. I can’t remember how I got on the All-Dayer scene, playing places like the Ritz and Blackpool Mecca. These were clubs I used to go to as a punter, then here I am years later and I’m actually playing as a DJ. It was quite freaky. But the All-Dayer scene was really interesting. The All-Dayers were basically the time when… a period of reminiscing really. We very rarely played any new stuff at the All-Dayers. They were just like, a look back on all the stuff that had been big in the last six months. The All-Dayer scene was really interesting, very open-minded. People would come from all over the country to go to the All-Dayers. Everybody just got on with everybody and they were just really nice times.
GW: I remember you always played lots of Jazz at the all-dayers.
HC: Well, for me, I started out as a Reggae DJ and then I heard some Herbie Hancock and I stopped listening to Reggae and got into Jazz and I stayed in Jazz ever since. Soul, Funk and Hip-Hop, I only played that to make money. Jazz is where I’m at. I think the way that I got onto the All-Dayer scene was meeting Colin Curtis cos I’d go out and listen to Colin Curtis and Colin would be playing a lot of stuff that I had in my collection. It was amazing. We were both listening to the same type of stuff like Latin, Samba, sort of up-tempo Jazz stuff, and we just got talking really and he had a lot of stuff that I’d never heard of and I had a lot of stuff that he’d never heard of and we ended up nicking stuff out of each others boxes to take home and listen to and that’s how we met really. It was through Colin that I got onto the All-Dayer scene.
GW: Can you remember where it was that you met Colin?
HC: It definitely was in Rafters, cos I remember at the beginning of Rafters – they had some pyrotechnics. The way it would start… I can’t remember who did the track… it was like the start of a rock track “I am the God of Hellfire…”
GW: Yeah, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, ‘Fire’.
HC: Yeah, That was how it started…
GW: Did he play that?!
GW: Wow! (laughs)
HC: “I am the God of Hellfire and I bring you….Fire” and the pyrotechnics go off and everybody would start cheering and that was the start of the night. That was their little gimmick. I always remember that and that’s how I met Colin too. Because he was really interested in a lot of the stuff I was really interested in and that’s how we met and we’re still good friends to this day, you know, 20 odd years later.
GW: Yeah, obviously Colin’s seen as the definitive Jazz DJ and yourself, you were always respected for what you were doing at the All-Dayers and everything. I originally saw you as a Jazz DJ and, to be perfectly honest, when I realised you were doing The Haçienda, I was quite surprised! I was like, Hewan doing The Haçienda – what’s going on there? Cos I knew the type of people who were going in The Haçienda in the early period and everything.
HC: A lot of the people that came to the All-Dayer scene didn’t really come to The Haçienda. I mean, at the time The Haçienda was the trendy place to go. Everybody wanted a membership cos, remember, in the early days you couldn’t get in without a membership and everybody just wanted to get in there but, erm… you’d get the very trendy blacks in there, but most of the ordinary punters that went out on the Soul scene, they didn’t come to The Haçienda. Those that did, they didn’t enjoy the sound cos you know, Soul people, they need to be able to hear, to feel that sound and if the sound system is crap in itself then everybody is going to go home, you know what I mean?
HC: I mean, you couldn’t really have a really good Soul night in The Haçienda at the time with the sound system that they had cos the sound in The Haçienda was centred on the centre of the dance floor. If you were standing on the middle of the dance floor it was a brilliant sound. You heard everything cos all the bass bins were facing towards the centre of the dance floor and all the bins that were suspended in the air. So if you were on the dance floor it was a brilliant sound but if you were either upstairs in the bar, all you heard was the reflections coming off the walls really. Not everybody’s a dancer, people like to stand with their back to the wall and enjoy the music that way and they couldn’t do that in The Haçienda. So none of the Soul crowd really came into The Haçienda.
GW: That’s right, it wasn’t until further on down the line with the breakdancing period that Broken Glass used to come in there. That gave it, for the first time…I mean obviously Salts and the Jazz Defektors were going down there, but I think it wasn’t until Broken Glass started going there….
HC: The thing with that… I mean… the Electro sound, it sounded good when it was echoing really, cos it was a very broken sound if you understand me. There was hardly any melody, there was no lush strings or anything like that that could get lost in the echoes. You know, Electro was very sharp, sort of like, hammered sound. It sounded good in The Haçienda, it really did cos it would bounce around and come back at you and sound like an echo of itself and it actually sounded good. The Haçienda sound system actually helped, in a sense. I remember playing stuff like, when ‘The Message’ came out, I remember jacking the system up in the Hacienda and it used to bounce all over the place but it sounded brilliant and that tune became a massive tune in The Haçienda just because of the way it sounds, you know that Electro sound. Electro actually sounded good in there whereas Soul didn’t, cos Soul had a different structure.
GW: For sure, yeah. The whole package was difficult. Maybe after I stopped doing it there, maybe six months later, that’s when they built the DJ box up on the balcony. I think that made a big difference then cos you were closer to an audience but I just felt, when I was there I was so detached from it. As I say, it was difficult to get the people into The Haçienda because of the reputation that it had in the first place, and also the membership problem that was there. I used to do an hour on the Saturday night and that was when Broken Glass danced on the stage, and I think that that kind of tuned a lot of people in cos, even if they weren’t into the music that I was playing they were into the visual aspect of Broken Glass being in there cos, at that point in time they were just like stars, those guys, everyone loved them.
HC: At that time I was in The Gallery so I wasn’t in there on a Saturday night. I missed a lot of that.
GW: So how did you come to leave The Haçienda? How did that happen?
HC: Hmmmm… taste and egos really (laughs). The manager at the time was Mike Pickering and Mike Pickering… erm… I think they had a dream of The Haçienda becoming like Paradise Garage or The Loft and they’d go to America and they’d see what was happening in Paradise Garage and The Loft and places like that and… I don’t think that they understood that a British audience is totally different. (laughs) You know what I mean? They had a totally different musical history, a totally different musical upbringing. At one time, they brought… I can’t remember his name, an American DJ over…
GW: Was it Mark Kamins?
HC: Mark Kamins. They brought Mark Kamins over and this was on a Saturday night… I had the Saturday night full, packed, working, and I knew what the audience would accept and they knew what they were going to get off me, and they put Mark Kamins on. I think he did an hour and people in The Haçienda were just, like, stood there going, oh my god, what is this? Cos they’d never heard it. It just didn’t work. It was interesting to understand that that was the kind of thing that Mike wanted to happen in The Hacienda. They wanted that American scene to just materialise over here and work full-time. It definitely wasn’t going to. America’s a big place, you know, and a lot of the influences that were playing in The Haçienda came from all over America. It didn’t just come from New York. I mean that scene that Mark Kamins was playing on was a very particular… I think the sounds he was playing, thinking back on it now, it was a very, very, very early hybrid Electro sound coming out. A lot of people at that time hadn’t heard certainly not an hour’s worth of it. They’d probably get the odd one or two from me during the course of a night, which they could handle but, you know, a whole night handed over to that, they couldn’t handle it and erm… I got fired by Mike Pickering (laughs) and what happened was… the club died completely. The Saturday night just completely died and they were making most of their money from the Saturday night and a couple of months later they asked me to come back and I came back and the Saturday night picked up then the same thing happened and I eventually left but, I don’t know, I think Mike had aspirations for being the DJ himself.
GW: Within that, I look at the documented stuff about that period and I’ve seen things that have been written that I thought were very harsh to your time there. I’ve seen a quote saying that you tried to play a style that suited the kind of people you thought The Haçienda were aiming to attract, and you ended up playing records by Blancmange which I thought was…. you know, I understand what you had to do there was be all things to all people. At the same time as that, I’d seen a quote from Mike Pickering where he was saying that before he started at the Haçienda, all the Dj’s just wanted to talk, which, from a personal point of view, my reputation was built on mixing, you know, so I wasn’t even using a microphone then so… It’s almost like, what they did was… that period of time… I mean the way I look at it, I don’t think it’s anything sinister as such…..
HC: They tried to wipe it out basically….
GW: Yeah, it wasn’t at its busiest, you know we were struggling… Let’s wipe that out let’s just talk about when it really took off and everything. All the period leading up to that, the Nude night and stuff like that which I think was really unfair…
HC: The thing was, if it wasn’t successful in its first period then obviously it wouldn’t have existed in the second period and they totally forgot that aspect of it.
GW: Well, they always talk about the fact that New Order bankrolled the place and everything but, it’s like you say, they had so many things wrong with it. It wasn’t the DJs that were wrong, it was the fact that the sound system was wrong, the fact that the DJ was box was hidden. It was a club built around live bands. The way that I look on it was, if they were trying to build the Paradise Garage in Manchester, why were they putting the emphasis on the live band side?
GW: They needed a DJ box like what Larry Levan had in that club and everything for the DJ to be in control of that situation. I’m trying to remember back to that, they had a mixer there and if I remember rightly you had to push a button to get the fader up.
HC: Yeah, it was called an Akwil Digitheque and there were only two clubs that had it at the time. The Hacienda and a big, big club in Paris had it as well. I remember that.
GW: I remember saying, right, for me as a mixing DJ, it was totally disabling what I could do because I couldn’t throw a fader up now. I had to press this button.
HC: Yeah, I used to do all the mixing through it. I got to know it quite well. It was quite interesting. Basically, it would work out when the beats were running similar and then you press the button and it switched over to the other one.
GW: Which is bizarre, cos from my point of view I was used to throwing faders up and down. I wasn’t even using cross faders then I was just, like, having that instant get the volume right up on one of the decks….
HC: Yeah, but what you don’t understand, the way this mixer was situated in the old Hacienda DJ box, you had the two decks in front of you as normal and then at head height, that was where the mixer was.
GW: God, yeah! It was bizarre!
HC: It was.
GW: I just felt, how on earth can I do what I do at Legend and Wigan Pier, here? And I remember saying to them, can you get me a mixer and that’s what they said to me… I think it was Howard… he was like, he was flabbergasted, “but there’s only two of these”! And I’m like, “I’d rather just have a bog standard mixer. I just need something I can work with”.
HC: I worked in the clubs and then to go to The Hacienda and work with that was, like, mind-boggling.
GW: I mean, it was just too fancy for its own good and too impractical for what we were trying to do. So I understand the predicament you would have found yourself in at The Haçienda because of that period of time that I spent there. Like I said, people now say “Oh you worked at The Hacienda!”. They don’t understand that what I had at Legend was just so far in advance of what I could do in The Haçienda. So I’ve always found that quite disrespectful to you, to be honest, Hewan, that people haven’t….
HC: Well, I’m not bothered about it. I know and there are people who know, people like yourself, so it’s getting documented now so the truth will come out really.
GW: Now from The Haçienda, you went on to… oh! let’s just stick around that time for a minute cos I wouldn’t mind getting your impressions on what was happening on the black scene back then. I always saw you as, well… you kind of represented a neutrality in a sense. In ’82 and ’83, when it really took off for me as a DJ, I was in a position where I was getting a lot of criticism from all directions, from the traditionalists, the purists on the scene – people that didn’t like the idea of this new Electro, who didn’t see it as black music and thought it was going to mess the whole thing up. There was a lot of politics that went on at that point in time, I was the new kid on the block and ruining it for everyone – little upstart, you know. I know that all of this was going on and I stuck to my guns and I knew that deep down the crowd in Legend was a black crowd and they were into this music and who were these people to be telling me what black music was if this crowd was reacting to it – and so that’s the way I saw it. But with you, you kind of sat on either side of the fence really.
HC: The thing was, I didn’t have the kind of name that people like yourself and Mike Shaft and Colin Curtis and Andy Peebles had. I never really pushed myself for that really. I kind of like, hid in the shadows really, a lot of the time. I’d take second cede to other DJ’s. I was just into it cos, at that time, I was a dancer, so I’d spend most of my time on the floor dancing and let the other DJ’s do most of the DJing really.
GW: Well, what makes a lot of sense now was you explaining about the Pips thing, because you were open-minded and would have understood what I was doing and, at The Haçienda, you were playing some of the tracks that I was playing.
HC: Of course. I remember seeing people like, Birthday Party at The Haçienda and sitting downstairs in the dressing room chatting to them and on their rider was a crate of Jack Daniels and they sat down there and drank all the Jack Daniels and went upstairs and played Rock. It was the kind of Rock that I understood and at a point I got to quite like it and I played some of these in The Haçienda amongst the Soul, the Funk and everything else. People that were into it, got into it. I used to move the crowd around at The Haçienda. I knew where certain crowds were and I knew what they were into and so it was something that you could do. It was like a control thing. You know, if you’re DJing you get bored sometimes and you think, oh I’ll move that crowd onto the floor now and move that one on and so forth. I played a lot of Blancmange, Heaven 17 ‘Fascist Groove Thang’, I loved that and things like that. Things like Ryuichi Sakamoto ‘Riot In Lagos’.
GW: Which, again, was a big Legend tune.
HC: That was a big tune for me as well. I really like that, you know. All the Human League stuff that was out at the time. All that was played.
GW: I mean, you were probably playing Sakamoto before we were playing it at Legend, that came in on the back of Electro, it was a 1980 track that, from our point of view once the full on Electro stuff started coming through, made sense. Cos when it was first released it was just on it’s own, this one weird wonderful track.
HC: Yeah, all the Kraftwerk stuff, Einstürzende Neubauten, remember that. All that kind of stuff, they were all played. They were all mixed in. Whether, because of the sound system at The Hacienda, whether people realised what they were listening to, it was all in there.
GW: It was truly eclectic what you were doing, and you had to know your stuff to cater to such a diverse an audience, which is what it was. It was a pocketed diverse audience – you had to somehow make sense of a night and pull it all together, you know. That’s why, as I say, the respect you deserve for that period of time has never really been there. The hat hasn’t been tipped in your direction. You had to hold it together……
HC: I learnt a lot from it.
GW: Yeah, of course
HC: I mean, now I can play any crowd because of my experience in The Haçienda. If I had the records I could play Pop music to a Pop crowd, House music to a House crowd. Through my experience I learnt all the different aspects on how to make a crowd happy and what motivates them. Really interesting time, in a way. I mean, it could have been better but even so, it was a very interesting time.
GW: You were obviously aware, at the time, of the politics with regards to this new music, Electro, and everything?
HC: Yes, oh yes, cos I was involved in it. The thing about it was that those that weren’t purists, they left Legend and left the purists in there and other crowds came in to take their places and one of the things that came out of that was The Gallery, where I moved to and what we did in The Gallery. There was some Electro played – like Captain Rock all the stuff on the Nia label. I loved all that kind of stuff, the SOS Band and all that sort of stuff, they were being played. Loose Ends and everything like that. But I also played a lot of other stuff like Jomanda, the very early hybrid House sounds and stuff like that. When the early Trax came out I picked up on the very first ones of those. You know, maybe only 3 or 4 copies came into the record shop.
GW: Another unwritten part of the whole history is that the black crowd was the first into House.
HC: Yes, definitely.
GW: And also, someone like Stu Allan who doesn’t get even a mention was playing this stuff on the radio. And I know Stu looks up to you very much from The Gallery. He’s got a lot of respect, you know….
HC: I haven’t seen Stu for ages but I got on really well with Stu. I used to go up on the programme with him and just rap on the show, it was really good.
GW: So you started The Gallery after you’d finished up at The Haçienda so it’d be the back end of 83?
HC: The Gallery was going whilst The Haçienda was playing but I wasn’t DJing there. There were other people DJing there and when I left the Hacienda, I’d gone into the Gallery but I was at Berlin at the same time as The Haçienda.
GW: Right. Now, Berlin, I’d see that as a reaction to the kind of thing that was happening at Legend.
HC: Oh yes, it all came out of that because Berlin was basically the Jazz break that used to happen. Berlin was mainly a Jazz night and then we’d have a Soul break if you know what I mean, whereas in the Soul club would have a Jazz break.
GW: Which is what Legend was…
HC: Yeah Berlin was the other way around. It was only a small club. It only held 100 and odd people. It was Tuesday night and we got a regular crowd in there. Like I say, it was Jazz, it was mainly a dancers night, you know, people danced really really good. It was a very pivotal period …
GW: That was you and Colin?
HC: Yeah, yeah. You see the thing was….working at The Haçienda at the time, I was sort of like the trendy DJ in Manchester at the time and so a lot of clubs were approaching me to come and work for them. I got offers to work in a club in Spain, Germany and stuff like that, but Howard wouldn’t let me go. He’d say if I went I’d get fired, so in the end I didn’t. I didn’t do any of those things. But what happened was Berlin asked me to come and do the Tuesday and I said, “Well, I’d rather Colin DJ’d”. I’d rather somebody else DJ’d, and so what I did, I spoke to Colin and said, “Look, I’ve got this club on a Tuesday, I wanna dance, I want you to DJ”. And so that’s how it came down really.
GW: You used to do the early part, didn’t you?
HC: Yeah, basically I said to him “look, don’t rush coming over from Stoke, take your time getting over” and I’d handle the early part before he got there.” It was really good and the early part was just pure Jazz and all the best dancers would come in very early on and, like, all the Jazz Defektors. You know when I’d go up there’d be a little crowd waiting outside the door and we’d go in and just dance to Jazz for a couple of hours before Colin came and then he’d play, like, his Soul stuff and then his crowd would come in, you know what I mean?
GW: Right. It was a very influencial night, Berlin, for sure. What strikes me, you’re mentioning 2 clubs here, The Gallery and Berlin, from my perspective in Legend, I mean, as I say, from May 82 to the end of 83, when I stopped DJing, you know it was just incredible! There were like, queues up the road, it was just an amazing scene. But towards the end of the time I was DJing and part of the reason I kind of decided to move on…. When the breakdancing thing happened and started I got heavily involved in that. It was fantastic, it was so visual. I managed Broken Glass, of course. But at a club level, one of the things that was happening was, initially, whenever you had the breakdancers up, everyone was buzzing off it, but after a couple of months, people, especially the girls, start getting pissed off when every time I played an Electro record there’s like a huddle of guys breakdancing….
HC: Yeah, it was very male oriented.
GW: Exactly, they’d go “Fuckin’ hell, we want our dancing space, and I could see now where there was going be this schism within what was happening at Legend. I could actually see it was going happen. I knew it wasn’t going be quite the same. I felt that that golden era of what we had wasn’t going to last that much longer .
HC: I think, maybe, if you had maybe female breakdancers that were around at that time. I mean, there were some, as you know, but the females didn’t really take it up as much as the men did.
GW: No, definitely.
HC: If there’d been a strong female following it would have carried on really.
GW: Obviously Legend carried on after I’d stopped DJing, but it was never quite the same after that.
HC: No, none of us really went back in there after that really.
GW: But the two places that I think emerged from that… The way I look at it is that audience that we had at Legend split into two factions… It wasn’t a clean split because they’d go to each. But the two clubs that came on the back of that, or benefited from that, were, on one side Berlin, with the people on a more soulful, jazzier vibe, and The Gallery where the original Manchester Hip Hop crowd evolved.
HC: Well definitely, cos at that point I was playing for them was the very early Hip Hop that was coming out at the time. Oh god, I can’t even remember the names of them, you know, the Captain Rapp’s and those sort of stuff. When Legend finished, there were other stuff that came out that was in a similar vein that I used in The Gallery, and then there was period where Hip Hop and House merged, and it became Hip House. I would play that for them. They’d be at the Gallery and some of them would break dance and some of them would do other dancing and then you got people like Samson and his crew who came in who and broke away from breakdancing and created a style of dance that was more suited to the House or Hip House beat. They were so good at that. Everyone copied them. We were able to supply what that group wanted.
GW: Define this Hip House a bit more because, at the back end of the 80’s, there was what people saw on a more commercial side as Hip House and that was very much, kind of, frowned upon but I think you’re talking about something a little bit different to that.
HC: This was the very early one. When Hip House first came out, I collected, maybe, the first thirty forty of it and then it died off. It didn’t become a viable music form and they die off. You get these little strands that come through every now and again. Like, if you hadn’t picked up on the Electro thing and took it to where it’s gone in this country, it probably would have just stayed in New York. People would have had to rely totally on people like Malcolm McLaren bringing the idea to them. Hip House was the same, there was nobody really to carry it forward and it disappeared.
GW: Can you name a couple of tracks on that level?
HC: Oh, wow! No I can’t. But a lot of them were Rap records. They used to rap on the top of them.
GW: Right, but with a more kind of dance beat as opposed to a Hip Hop beat?
GW: So Captain Rapp might even be one, would you say?
HC: Yeah, it could be. It could be a very early hybrid version of it, and like T/Ski Valley “Catch The Beat”. The thing is, with Breakdancing, you’ve got to have amazing stamina and when you go out to a club for a five hour stint, you know, you could dance for five hours standing on your feet, waving your hands in the air but there’s no way you’d breakdance for five hours…..what am I trying to say? – the breakdancing, cos it was limited in its energy levels, in terms of length of time you could dance. In The Gallery, I’d play the Soul and the Funk and everything, and then I’d have maybe a breakdancing break and then you go back to the Soul and the Funk and so, in a sense, the breakdancing thing moved with Broken Glass and wherever you took them – that went with you and the whole thing reverted back to the way it was. The music became more soulful again, more melodic and less Electro stuff, even though I was still playing Electro, but I’d just drop the odd track now and again and that seemed to work really well with a lot of the Street Soul that was coming out at the time. That was how we catered for a lot of them in The Gallery really. And you had the Reno as well – you see there was stuff that I could play in the Reno that I couldn’t play in the Gallery and so a lot of the people would move from the Gallery to the Reno and stay there ’til 6am to hear what was being played. So, while you and Broken Glass were wherever you were with the breakdancing thing, the whole scene sort of reverted back to normal. That was what happened really.
GW: But then the early Manchester Hip Hop scene began to emerge with people like Gerald and Tunes and the early Rap Assassins and the Gallery was obviously pivotal to this. You were still there at the time, weren’t you?
HC: Yeah, definitely, they were all in there and I knew them all, you know what I mean? Even now I’m just finding out people that were in there. I found out the whole of 808 State used to come in there and listen to me when they were young, you know. Out of that, when they did their first American tour they took me to America with them as a roadie. That was really interesting. Yes, The Gallery was a really influential place, there was a new sound coming out. You know, like yourself, when the new sound of the Electro came out, you picked that up and you took it out, for me there was a new sound coming out, which was House. The very early tracks, Farley Jackmaster Funk, ‘Jack Your Body” and ‘Washing Machine’ and stuff like that. They were amazing! I used to play them in the Gallery. Then I used to play all the Nia stuff , you know, ‘Captain Rock’ and a lot of the early Street Soul that was coming out and it was really interesting.
GW: Again, something that a lot of people don’t understand is the lineage between the Electro scene and the House scene. A lot of these early House records, they weren’t out of place at all within the existing scene – they fitted in straight away.
HC: Well, it was the same sound but it just a different structure, a different way the beats and the rhythm were put together. But it was exactly the same sounds, they were using the same machines. They were using the 808 drum machines that were being used a lot by everybody. So, in terms of the sounds you were used to on the Electro side, it was coming through on the early House and the Rap records, because they were using the same machines, it was just the rhythm was different.
GW: What I call the early Electro-Funk period, it covered all the bases. I mean, when I look back at it now, say if I go out and play on a retrospective level and I happen to be in a club that’s more Techno based, I can go that way with that period of time. If I go in a place that’s more House-based, I can still go that way. And the same with Hip Hop, because all those things were there within that kind of, vibe of music, it’s just that people hadn’t started to segregate them all and put them off into little areas and so on and so forth.
HC: That’s part of it really, you know, I just think that happens when you get institutions wanting to control each aspect of it really. It has to become compartmentalised. It has to be given a name and then it gets taken off and turned into what it gets turned into. But at the time that we were playing all this stuff all of it was melded into one really. I know what you’re saying.
GW: How did you see it when, eventually it exploded in The Haçienda and you had this Rave scene? From the outside looking in from The Haçienda, and also being aware of how it had developed through people like yourself and The Gallery and Colin Curtis and Stu Allen and these people – that all of a sudden the focus was completely on The Haçienda, and this period of time before The Haçienda was forgotten. What was your feelings on that?
HC: I think I kind of knew that eventually people would know the truth. The truth will always come out. I’ve always been really fascinated in the history of night clubs in Manchester because I used to go to places like Slack Alice and…
GW: Georgie Best’s club, yeah, which later, of course, became The Playpen, another influential club from that period.
HC: Yeah, the Playpen – that was an amazing place in itself. I mean that brought out a total scene in itself.
GW: Again, owned by the people who owned Wigan Pier and Legend.
HC: The thing I can tell you about the Playpen is that when myself and Colin and Mike were in there, and Colin would come in and one of the things we’d do would be to go through each of his boxes and see “what’s this like?” You know the thing that DJ’s do – “oh have you heard this one?”, “oh no, where’d you get this from?” blah blah blah – and Colin pulled out this record and said “only one copy of this record came in Spin Inn and I got it, have a listen to it” and it was a copy of ‘Jack The Dick’ by Farley Jackmaster Funk. You gotta remember all these guys were gay (laughs) People like Larry Levan, he was gay, the whole Paradise Garage, that was a black gay club. A lot of people didn’t know that, you know what I mean, and so the very first early House records that came out were like ‘Jack The Dick’ and all that sort of stuff. Colin said have a listen to this so I had a listen to it and I thought to myself it was either gonna go nowhere or it was gonna be the biggest thing ever. (laughs) He said “do you think I should play it?” Iand said “I think you should play it” and eventually people like Samson and Godfrey and the rest of them they got off on it. They were the ones that picked up on that music.
GW: Tell me about, what’s the relevance of Samson?
HC: Samson was just a very good dancer. He’s a poser basically (laughs), he only lives across the road from where I am.
GW: Like a trendsetter on the scene?
HC: Yes, definitely a trendsetter. Samson and his crew would travel all over the country. They’d go to Birmingham. They’d go to clubs in Nottingham, Leeds, Derby. All the happening places. They’d be picking up a lot of styles from clubs and bringing them back to Manchester. These guys were very innovative. In terms of the way they were moving on the floor because the way you move on the floor depicts the type of music that’s played to keep you moving like that. So, this new music was coming out. We knew you couldn’t dance to it the old way we used to dance to Jazz, Funk and Soul and stuff, and it was people like Samson that brought this new dance in and it really hit a vein amongst a young group of dancers at the time and people like myself. We looked at them, saw the way they were dancing and that was how the whole House thing developed. The scene became flooded with House, we had a choice of either going that way or keeping the path that we were doing whereby we’d play selected House in amongst the Soul and the Funk. We decided to do that. You’ve got people like Mike Pickering at The Haçienda, who decided to stop playing the Hip Hop and the Jazz and the Soul and the Funk and just concentrate on the House, and they did this on the Friday night on the back of the Nude night, and for me and a lot of the black people in Manchester this is when we kind of cut ourselves off from House. That was the point when I actually stopped buying it. Cos, up to that point, I’d probably bought everything that came out that I thought was good. I got all the stuff and some experimental stuff that came out earlier, but when The Haçienda on a Friday night decided to stop playing everything else and just continue playing House, maybe for the first two or three weeks it was interesting and then after that it just got really boring. It was just House, House, House. That was it for the black crowd, that’s when it ended for them really. So the black crowd virtually left The Haçienda and another crowd came in to take its place and then the whole Rave thing took off from there really. Madchester (laughs)
GW: As I say, you’ve got this history of clubs that we’ve mentioned like…
HC: You see, Greg, there’s other things as well, cos, like, in Berlin, when we were there, there was a guy who used to come up from London who used to stand by the side of the DJ box and he used to ask me and Colin, when we used to play a certain Jazz track, he was there with a little piece of paper, writing stuff down on the paper….
GW: I know what you’re going to say, Gilles Peterson…
HC: Gilles Peterson! And his first two releases were all classic Berlin tracks, you know. He’d got from us. So there was just so much that came out the Manchester scene. Anif and Colin (Chapter and the Verse), Anif knew Danny D – we sent some stuff down to London to Danny D to have a listen to what we were playing up here in Manchester. You know what Danny D said?
GW: Dancin’ Danny D…..
HC: Dancin’ Danny D said that House was never gonna be big in London. Never! I remember that to this very day. (laughs)
GW: He did that track, didn’t he ‘We Call It Acieed’ or whatever.
HC: Of course! He did that, yeah. You’re right. I don’t think he’d like to remember that. (laughs). It was just interesting, those times really.
GW: That was it, you look back at Berlin, Playpen, Gallery, Reno, Rafters, Legend, these clubs that were there. This is getting back to the whole point of what I’m trying to do, bringing to people’s attention the fact that these roots were in place, and yet the documentation of it is that it all happened in ’87-’88, when those guys came back from Ibiza, when The Haçienda exploded. But all this was going on already…..
HC: Oh yeah, definitely
GW: So the question I asked you before was how did that feel to you at the time? It wasn’t getting the props it deserved. How did that feel to you still being in Manchester and seeing what was going on?
HC: The whole truth about it is that it really didn’t bother me. As a DJ you try and move forward really. I still continued to buy records. I still go to gigs outside of Manchester. I did a lot of gigs inside Manchester, basically what you could call traditional Soul gigs. I still do them now. You know, a lot of my gigs are frequented by women. The only people who talk about the missing history are people who actually remember my time at The Haçienda really. I mean as a black person, as a black DJ, every day of my life I talk to black people and white people about those days even though it was never documented, it was never forgotten. People still remember it. People still come up to me and say “remember those days in Legend, remember those days in the Playpen, remember Greg Wilson, remember Chad Jackson”. You know, people still talk about it. They’re still there in people’s memories, it’s just that nobody has managed to document it down in writing or whatever. The memory will never die. It will always be there.
GW: Bringing everything full circle, that was the abiding feeling from the Broken Glass reunion, this coming together of people, and the younger people as well who were seeing it for the first time.
HC: The thing about the Broken Glass reunion is that there were a lot of people who would have come if the gig had been sort of, like, an open house, a mass advertising thing, you wouldn’t have been able to move in there. There was a lot of people that wanted to come. There were loads. The interest in that was amazing! Even now, people stop me in the street and ask me how it went and it was brilliant, you know. People that were there at the time turned up, all of Broken Glass turned up, Fiddler turned up and it was brilliant. It was really really good.
GW: Street Machine were there and stuff
GW: On the back of that one of the things I’ve been thinking of and I’ve already sounded out a few people out about it like Gerald and Buzz B about doing a old school reunion of getting people like Rap Assassins, Stu Allan, yourself obviously, you know, Tunes. All these people that were there kind of early doors.
HC: Yeah, that would be interesting and I think the place for that can only be Sankey’s Soap (laughs)
GW: Right, right. Why do you say that?
HC: Because that’s the sort of place that this kind of thing would fit in. I can’t think of anywhere else in Manchester that would suit this sort of thing.
GW: I’m playing there myself in a couple of weeks so I’ll have a look at it with that in mind.
HC: I don’t know if the club has changed. I’m talking about the Sankeys that was on the ground level. I believe they’ve got another level. I haven’t been there for years so I don’t know but it is… I just remember it being big and industrial with that sort of look and feel about it.
GW: I was thinking like Band on The Wall or top of my head, or even Music Box, the old Rafters.
HC: Oh Music Box, I haven’t been in Music Box. I think Band on the Wall might be too small for the amount of people who’d wanna come.
GW: Right, ok (laughs). So you think it could be huge?
GW: I’ll speak to you about this in due course but I’m just sounding out a few people about it. The potential of it is really….
HC: Well, all those people you mentioned all have massive followings.
GW: Yeah, exactly. It’s just part of the whole documentation. That’s what’s important. I mean we’re all getting older. That’s what’s important for me to have this conversation with you and for you to talk to other people. I think it’s like you say, the truth will out. But the detail of the truth is the meat of it. For me the detail is the dancer in the club who had no money but who got down there every week. They found a way. So, total respect to you. It’s amazing that all these years later you’re still in there. You’ve kept it all going. You know, you’re a credit to the whole thing. You stay within Manchester. You’re working, right down the line. You were there then, you’re there now.
HC: I could have gone down to London and made a load of money, but that wouldn’t have been me. I mean, Manchester’s my vein basically. It’s a crowd that I know and they know me and it’s always good. I’m out every Saturday. There’s a place that I play in Moss Side on Saturday that’s an illegal blues going on til 6am and it just amazes me. Crowds still come out, people from back in the day still come out and the music I’m playing is everything from ‘Joy and Pain’ right up to….oh something like Sunburst Band or summat like that. It’s really good.
GW: Well, that’s it, you’ve always moved with it and I know from the people in Fat City that you’re still in there like you used to be eager to hear everything. That’s a great thing to retain.
HC: There’s always new sounds coming out, new generation. Fat City is an amazing place really. Just that move from Spin Inn. Whereby Spin Inn was basically your Soul Funk and Jazz. Fat City’s so much more. There’s a lot of left-field stuff that comes in there that I listen to as well and I pick the odd one. Fat City opened me up to a lot more stuff. Course, Mike Stevens is in Fat City so I’m still kept in touch with the Soul thing. But the Fat City boys introduced me to a lot of new stuff, you know.
GW: Thanks Hewan, and all my best wishes in everything you do.
© Greg Wilson, August 2004