Little Martin


Photographed here in this iconic shot by Kevin Cummins, with Mike Pickering at The Haçienda in 1986, Martin Prendergast aka Little Martin aka half of MP² (with Mike) is a fascinating, if somewhat obscured figure in the Haçienda pantheon. The fact that he left the club for pastures new (a US adventure that continues to date) at the very point he did, just before the club launched full-tilt into the ‘Second Summer of Love’, makes the period he worked there on the Fridays, the pre-Rave years from May 1986-July 1988, all the more intriguing, as this is when The Haçienda moved on from its original alternative leanings, with dance music (and in particular House music) coming to the fore. This coincided with Nude night’s popularity with black dancers, its audience diverse and ahead of the curve.

The big bang of Rave was primed back in these days, New York Electro setting the charge before Chicago House and Detroit Techno offered up their own electronic mutations. Ecstasy would blow the whole thing up on a mainstream level, but the underground was already thriving, the music in place and Nude night already established well before Acid House arrived. As Martin pointed out, a number of the records that are now viewed as ’88 classics were tracks they’d been playing in ’86 and ’87.

Having just celebrated its 40th anniversary, I thought now would be a good time to shine light on a key part of the clubs legacy that, for many years, was largely overlooked – the events of ’88 rendering everything that went before as unimportant when, in reality, ’88 was built on these very foundations.

This is, surprisingly, given just how much has been written about The Haçienda, the first major interview with Martin to be made available online. Martin has also, below, provided a playlist of records featured during his time as Nude resident – from May 1986 until July 1988.

GREG WILSON: Where are you based nowadays?

MARTIN PRENDERGAST: I’m in Houston, Texas. I’ve been here for about 20 years.

GW: That wouldn’t have been where you first went to in the States, was it?

MP: No, I was in New York for a little bit, and then I ended up in Vermont.

GW: So when did you actually start DJing, Martin?

MP: So, I was more of a Punk, I guess, Punk Goth. I left home pretty young – I was about 16 when I left home and I was the first of my friends to have a flat in Chorlton. When I was talking about you and your influence, you know, everybody had your mixes on tape. I mean, your tapes were constantly playing in my flat. But me personally, I had come a different route than some of my friends. I started listening to John Peel in around ’77 and so I was very influenced by that. I mean, I feel very fortunate because he used to play so much, you know, everything from Dub Reggae to African Highlife to Joy Division. You know, an unbelievable education I got, listening to him, but I wasn’t so much into Black dance music, but my friends were. So they were, sort of, planting the seeds for what was to come.

There was a Thursday night at Berlin, a venue you’re probably very familiar with, more of a Punk Goth/New Wave night. My own story with music was, from the age 10 I was obsessed with vinyl and buying vinyl. My mom would give me money for lunch and she gave me money to ride the bus and I would walk to school and walk home from school and not eat lunch so I could save money to buy vinyl. It was beyond passion. It was more of an obsession.

So then, I was going to Berlin on Thursday night and I was always bugging the DJ, you know, “Play this, play this, play this”. I was going every Thursday for about a year. Even there, they played quite a variety – they would play some of the Northern Soul stuff. It was going through that, sort of, Hard Times Denim era – all the scooter boys would be there, you know, Manny and Ian Brown and it was a great little vibe in there. Anyway, after about a year, he said, “I need someone to help me set up, I’ll train you how to DJ. You can open up for me. I’ll pay you a little bit and you’ll drink for free”. So, that’s what it was. I started working. I think he paid me five pounds. (laughs). His name was Steve Bracewell and he had previously been the DJ at the Roxy Room in Pips – he had also mentored Dave Booth, who also went on to play at the Haç. They used to do quite a bit of decoration in there. They put up all this netting and they’d have projector screens and, you know, they used to put a bit of work into it and, as it turned out, Ang Matthews, who was the bar manager at the Haçienda, she used to go every Thursday. I didn’t really know her, but I knew her boyfriend Ian at the time from around Chorlton. What happened was, there used to be a student night on Tuesdays at the Haçienda. I don’t know what happened to the DJ, but in some meeting, they were like, “We need a new DJ for Tuesdays”, and she said, “Oh, I know this person from Chorlton and he’s great” and that’s how I ended up over there.

Ang also accidentally gave me my ‘DJ name’ Little Martin. They asked what my name was and she said Little Martin, as that’s how she distinguished me from Martin Mittler from the band Laugh. He was taller, so she called him Big Martin. When the flyer for the night came out, it said DJ Little Martin.

GW: Can you remember what year that was?

MP: I started there (The Haçienda) in 1985. So we would have been listening to you around ’82/’83. I started going to the Haçienda about… it wouldn’t have been that long after they opened because I remember, I had this really weird job where, it was something in the Evening News job adverts – they were looking for people to sell pens and there would be a transit van with about ten of us and they would drop us off in like, Altrincham and these really nice areas of town and we’d knock on doors and sell people pens, and it was going to some fictitious student charity. But anyway, I remember we’d get back into town late and they used to pick us up and drop us off very close to The Haçienda. I’d already got my membership and sometimes I’d run in and use the toilet, or run in and have a pint or something and there was never anybody in there. I mean, it was completely empty, but I’d be going and remember the first track that really, really grabbed me was Harlequins Fours, ‘Set it off’ – Mike (Pickering) used to play it. I used to think it was the Strafe version, but I talked to him and it was the Harlequins Fours’ version. There was something about that track, I think he used to play it in its entirety -it was about nine minutes long. Just that hi hat in that building – it was like a trance. You know the sound (at The Haçienda) was horrible, but in that track, in that building, that’s what stopped me and sucked me into dance music, and I think that more than anything else, too. You know, like I said, my friends were all listening to Electro and I bought the ‘Electro’ and ‘UK Electro’ compilations and stuff – everyone bought them, but that was the track that really switched me over to dance music. Then it turns out the same Ian, that was Ang’s boyfriend, he was working at Manchester Polytechnic and the entertainment director at the time was also Mick Hucknall’s manager.

GW: Elliot Rashman.

MP: Yeah, so Simply Red had this gig in town, that all the labels were coming to – they hadn’t been signed yet. Prior to this, Mick used to always DJ before. He’d DJ before and after, because he was actually a great DJ, played great music, but, you know, this was a big deal, this gig they had. I want to say it was at Rafters or somewhere. All the all the labels are coming up from London potentially to sign them, so he wanted to focus on that and Ian said, “Oh, I know this great DJ.” Well, you know, I really wasn’t playing…I mean, I had some Reggae, but I didn’t really have a big collection of black dance music. But I scrounged up some records from friends and, I guess, Mick was happy with it. Then he used to do a Wednesday night at the Poly called Black Rhythms, I think it was. Mick then trained me to take over his Wednesday as Simply Red were taking off, so all of this stuff was coming together around the same time and transitioning me away from the Punk and New Wave stuff.

GW: So, just on timescale, Berlin, you were there in 1984 – how long would you say you were there for?

MP: Yeah, I was there for a year.

GW: Manchester Poly? How long would you reckon you were there?

MP: Well, I worked for the Poly on and off for several years because they would have me whenever they had a band come in. They would have me play before and after the band. But the Black Rhythms night, it probably didn’t last much longer than six months after Mick Hucknall left.

GW: Did that work concurrent with the Haçienda or was it before?

MP: Yeah, it would have been around the same time.

GW: OK. So you came into the Haçienda and, originally, it was a Tuesday night. The title of the night was quite a premonition, really, wasn’t it? Because it was ‘Summer of Love’.

MP: Yeah. My best friend at the time was Stephen Cresser, who eventually went on to do stuff with the Stone Roses. Actually, I think Dave Haslam has a book coming out right now about him. It might be out already or it’s due to come out. We were starting to get more into this Los Angeles scene at the time called the Paisley Underground, and it was these bands, Rain Parade and The Three O’Clock – Prince signed The Three O’Clock actually, to his label, a little later. The Bangles were one of them, and Dream Syndicate. I guess, the real movement behind it was also happening in Glasgow too with bands like Jesus and Mary Chain and Primal Scream, and we were starting to get into this stuff. There was a big focus on ’60s music, Psychedelia. So we started digging and digging and getting more into this. So when they asked me what kind of music I wanted to play on the Tuesday, I said, “This is the format I want to do”. I mean, I was playing Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, stuff that you couldn’t dance to whatsoever. I’m not sure why or how they even went for this. (laughs), but anyway, we ended up doing it. It lasted about two months upstairs, and there was nobody coming, nobody. So then, that’s when they moved it downstairs and they would only open the Gay Traitor, but it was a good little vibe down there. Like, you know, The Roses would come. Phil Sachs would bring The Mondays down. It tied in with the whole Mod thing too. So I mean, I think he’d been a DJ at the Twisted Wheel, so he wanted to expose them to some of this music too. Then, of course, Inspiral Carpets would be down there. So there was a lot of members of bands that would four years later create quite a stir, but it was not making any money at all. Financially, it was a disaster. So, one week after Paul Mason arrived, he was like, “This has got to go.” (laughs)

GW: He was the rationalizer, wasn’t he? He’d been in Rock City in Nottingham and I think that once he came into play, bit by bit it started to get its focus as a venue because, obviously, during the time I was there it was still very higgledy-piggledy. But you didn’t have to subject yourself to that DJ booth down the side of the stage, did you?

MP: No, no. I mean, I went down there. I can’t even imagine.

GW: It was a nightmare, mate. It was a nightmare. So I think that at that point you’re talking about, with Paul Mason coming across and stuff, that’s the original seed of what’s going to explode three or four years later.

MP: Yeah. Now, the only thing I would say, is that, fast forward to when Mike brings me in to help him with Nude night, we were getting more of a rough scally crowd on Fridays. You weren’t getting the hairdresser’s, etc, on Friday nights. There was one Friday night where, I think, there were a couple of people stabbed and Paul Mason wanted to cancel Fridays. In fact, I think we closed the following Friday. I think Mike stood his ground. Mike said, “You’re not stopping this night.” You’d have to ask Mike, but as far as I’m aware, if Paul Mason would have had his way, Nude night would have been cancelled around 1986. So it could have been a very different story.

He’d do a great job managing – yeah, absolutely, but, you know, that’s one little detail where he didn’t – you could say no one saw the potential. I was too young to go to Legend, but a lot of these people, they didn’t have anywhere in town to go. There was a lot of racism, I’m sure you remember that, they would be instantly knocked back at a lot of clubs, whereas that wasn’t an issue with the Haçienda. So in a way, the kids that got into House music in the beginning, they were the Youth Club kids, they were the same kids that were listening to your tapes three, four years earlier. In a way, that Friday night, it offered them a place to go. Where else would they go?

GW: From when I was there on the Friday, and I suppose this is like that period of time, it was very difficult because of where the DJ booth was. It was difficult because of the membership situation, obviously – the black crowd had no money and you had to get a membership or get signed in by a member – so it was all those problems. I remember we had a coach come up from Huddersfield once and they couldn’t get in, and they ended up around the corner at Rotters or whatever, having a shit night out, and they weren’t going to come back in a hurry, you know. So it was problematic, although we had some really good one-off nights there, like when we had Whodini and we had the breakdancing championship and Newtrament, and it was like seeds. I think that, from my perspective looking back on it, Broken Glass played a big part because they were loved in there and they’d dance on the stage. They’d get me in to do the Saturday for an hour as well to try and acclimatized their normal crowd to what I was trying to do on the Friday, and Broken Glass would dance on the stage. They were all given lifetime memberships and looked after, and I think they gave it a kind of street credibility with the black crowd, and bit by bit that started to take on more and more.

So by the time that you’re there, and obviously Mike with Nude, you’re getting in this dancing crowd. You’re getting the Foot Patrol guys in and Gerald (Simpson – A Guy Called) and people like this, and they loved it at Haçienda because it was a huge space that they could use to dance. People later said, when the whole Rave thing exploded there in the Acid House days, that the black crowd wasn’t really to be seen. You could see a few black people in that footage, but they weren’t there in the numbers that they had been, and the reason why was a simple one – it’s that their dance floor space had been totally invaded by an audience who a few months earlier would have told you dance music was shit, but now they’d taken a little pill and they were loving it, but it was all, kind of, sardined in and everyone was just doing these hand movements and arm movements. That wasn’t what it was about to the black crowd. It was all about the foot movement and everything, and having the space to do their thing really.

Just going back a little bit because you said something when we were talking via email that interested me was, you said when people like the Mondays came in on your Tuesday night, that this was a really scally crowd and it was very strange to see that kind of crowd in there.

MP: Yeah, yeah.

GW: I think that was a thing with The Haçienda, in the overall story of The Haçienda – by opening the doors for people like the Mondays, they opened the doors for a lot of the people who were from those areas, and a lot of that scally mentality came into play and, later down the line, when the drug scene went big, it was like the wolves had come in – they could see that ecstasy was selling for 15-20 quid a go. Someone was making serious money and that’s when the gangsterism began because the portal for them to come into the club had already been opened up in those days that you’re talking about.

MP: Yeah, even that Tuesday night, or even when I would go in myself, we were smoking, you know, skinning up in there and if the, (I wouldn’t call them bouncers, because they never were bouncers), if when the doorman caught you, they would tell you, “Oh, you can’t do that in here”, whereas, if it was somewhere else, you’d be instantly kicked out – maybe even get a kicking on the way out. It happened to me in The International, I got caught skinning up and it wasn’t pleasant, whereas the doormen at The Haçienda almost tolerated it – they didn’t mind it and that was a big thing. I mean, where else in town could you go and smoke a spliff and listen to music?

GW: Yeah, exactly.

MP: That reminded me, some of Foot Patrol/ Fusion Beats, I went to school with some of them – they were in my year. So that was again, it was this generation coming through. You had planted the seeds a few years earlier. We were too young to be going out. Maybe some of them got into Legend. I don’t know, but we would have been, you know, 15 at that time.

GW: With Legend, it was like, the ACR guys were always going – they were regulars on the Wednesdays. You’d notice the white guys, because there were so few of them, and then at a certain point in time, you’d see Tony Wilson coming down early evening, checking it out and everything, and I think Mike must have come along, although I didn’t meet him at that point, Rob Gretton and people – and they started to get wind of what was going on, because you know, it was a bit odd for them, because they were going over to New York and taking in all that culture at Danceteria and Paradise Garage, Funhouse, all these places – they were wanting to bring a bit of that back to Manchester. Then to realize that, just down the road on a Wednesday night, all this music out in New York was being played, and it was the black crowd there and they wanted to merge that with their own crowd. It was a gallant idea, but it was never going to work – at that point in time you weren’t going to put these completely separate audiences together and hope that it would fuse somehow.

But they got it right five years later – that’s exactly what did happen further down the line when they managed to bring it all together. So when you say about Mike there fighting his ground for that Friday night, I mean, it was always about that for him, the Friday – that was his big thing, to make that happen. So after I’d gone, I think Hewan came back in for a while and then Mike took it on himself, which was the best thing to do because he knew the balance that he wanted to get, and it then started building from that. Do you know when Nude actually started?

MP: Well, that book, I have it right here (‘The Haçienda Must Be Built’ by Jon Savage), and in the calendar there’s so much information. Nude night started November 1984. Friday 2nd November. So it was originally Mike and Andrew Berry, who was a hairdresser. Do you remember there was a hairdressing salon in The Haçienda?

GW: Yeah, I do remember – it was bizarre the hairdressers in there.

MP: So yeah, November 1984.

GW: OK, and do you know when you reckon you started?

MP: Yeah, actually it has it in. It looks like May 1986.

GW: OK, so Nude had been going for quite a while by that point, they’d done it for about 18 months? You’d been doing Berlin. You’d been doing the Poly? You’d had your Tuesday night.

MP: Berlin was before the Tuesday night, but the Poly stuff would have been around the same time.

GW: How did Mike come to get you on-board?

MP: So I was doing the Tuesdays and I was a big City fan. Mike, of course is a big City fan and Mike’s girlfriend at the time… her brother Sean I think was a bar manager for a while. He was a huge City fan. Rob Gretton was a huge City fan. So the four of us were going to all the games. home and away. Then, when Paul Mason cancelled my night, for whatever reason Andrew wasn’t involved – he’d stopped helping out. So Mike then came to me and said, “You want to help me out?” You know, like, basically, you open up the night, sort of thing. We came up with this name, DJ MP², because we both have the same initials, but I was always Mike’s understudy – I’ve never claimed to be on an equal footing at that time, because I was still learning – I was a sponge. Mike was regularly going to New York and then bringing back the vinyl, bringing back the tapes from WBLS. I was just soaking it all in, and then I was going to The Reno and stuff too. They were playing, like, very polished Soul. You know, like that Loose Ends, “Hanging on the String” type vibe.

GW: So that would have been Persian playing there.

MP: OK – I was getting really into that stuff, too. So yeah, that’s how it came about.

GW: That great photo that Kevin Cummins took of you and Mike stood there with the poster. So that would have been ’86? It’s Electro still, kind of, front and centre there. I think maybe it says Electro, Soul and something else on there.

MP: I think it says Electro, Funk, Reggae or something, but we weren’t playing any Reggae. Now, I mean, I would be playing Sleng Teng and stuff like that elsewhere. All that early Dancehall stuff. You know, Barrington Levy ‘Murderer’, all that stuff? I was playing this, but we weren’t really playing it on Friday nights.

GW: The music at that point in time was much more varied. You know, there was bits of Jazz being played, probably a bits of Northern I would imagine.

MP: Yeah, Mike was playing ‘Landslide’ (Tony Clarke) and stuff like that. I wasn’t really involved in that scene at all – I appreciate it more now, but at the time we played bits of that even on Goth night. I remember playing Al Wilson ‘The Snake’ on the Goth night at Berlin, which is bizarre to me now, but that’s the way it was then. We really played everything.

GW: But not as bizarre as Trump quoting it. Do you remember that?

MP: What?

GW: Trump quoted “The Snake”.

MP: Oh, he did?! (Laughs)

GW: Honest to God, you got to look for it. It’s bizarre. I think it was like, early on just before he became president and he did this speech and he’s actually word for word quoting the lyrics of ‘The Snake’ (in reference to migrants on the Mexican border). Well, he changed it slightly, he buttered it up a little bit and added a word in there (‘the vicious snake’), but you have to look for that – a very strange and weird occurrence. I can’t look at the track in quite the same way. I don’t know where he got it from – maybe he went to Berlin. (laughs)

One thing Mike has said, in retrospect, was that the pre-‘House all night long’ period, were the special times for him, now he looks back. He feels that, at a certain point, it just went all one way and that took something away from that variation of the night, which was just the same as what I was doing at Legend – even though I’m known for Electro, I was still playing Funk, Soul, Boogie (or what was then Disco Funk) and Jazz stuff. So there was a varied selection of music being played over the course of a night – it wasn’t just all one way. Even Electro went from 130 BPM right down to 100 BPM, so it was such a varied musical landscape at that time, and that’s obviously what you observed.

So you were seeing, also, that these dancers were coming into play as well – the black kids from Hulme and Moss Side, like Gerald and Foot Patrol. Those guys that were coming in and taking the club to heart, and that’s what brought the House music into play as well – I mean, Mike talks about somebody bringing a copy of ‘No Way Back’ by Adonis to him.

MP: Right so. You had a blog where people from all over the UK were talking about the beginnings of House music and how it was really a black youth club music initially. I certainly didn’t know any of this.

Mike used to go Spin Inn every week and they would have tracks put aside for Mike in a bag. But, of course, we had J.M. Silk, ‘I Can’t Turn Around’ and we had stuff by Chicago artists, but we certainly didn’t have anything that was that raw, sort of, Trax sound you know. This black guy came to the booth one Friday night and he had two 12 inches, ‘No Way Back’ and Farley Jackmaster Funk ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’ that, back then, we weren’t playing. I mean, we played some vocal stuff like Joyce Sims, but we weren’t playing the vocals so much, so the Darryl Pandy side was painful to us – the vocal was awful. I mean, rest in peace, but we didn’t like it at all. But the flip side, the ‘dubstrumental’ with that horn – I mean, it sounded unbelievable in The Haçienda. The same with ‘No Way Back’, I think we played both of them twice that night, and then Mike went into Spin Inn and said, ‘I want more of this stuff, give me more of this’. I don’t know who brought them – I mean, who would even bring records into a club anyway? I don’t even know what made him think of that, but I almost think of him like a guardian angel. I mean, it’s just a bizarre thing to happen, but that’s really how it happened – our introduction to House music.

GW: Yeah. Obviously, you had Stu Allan on the radio, and that’s where he would have probably heard it because Stu was playing ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’. Stu doesn’t get anything like the credit he should and my feeling about it is because he ended up going down that Hardcore path. That where he ended up, people disregard him for that reason, but at that point in time, that radio show was absolutely essential.

MP: I mean, you’re absolutely correct. He was doing what you were doing. He was playing to that young black crowd. But there’s a lot of tracks from that ’86/’87 that have gone and fallen by the wayside, next to the ‘Promised Lands’ (Joe Smooth) and all that stuff, but, you know, there’s ‘Risqué Rythum’ (Risqué Rythum Team) and some really cutting edge stuff, and he was playing all that. Honestly, that’s what the dancers wanted, this is this music. It wasn’t stuff we could play at 1am – we could play it early on, when no one was in there, but that was the stuff that the dancers really wanted and he was playing all that on mainstream radio (Piccadilly Radio, Manchester).GW: Laurent Garnier was in Manchester at the time, training to be a chef. He talks about Stu Allan, and trying to get hold of ‘Love Can’t Turn Around’, and it taking weeks and weeks – going into Spin Inn and getting the cold shoulder from them, you know – it took him ages to get this track. So, yeah, a lot of that history got mixed up and lost for the fact that in London there was a different trajectory, because Rare Groove was so big, that it held sway with the black crowd there. House emerged in London from the gay clubs, a bit like Chicago, you know, whereas in the North, and the Midlands too, because it was all going off as well in Sheffield, Nottingham, Birmingham – it was a direct continuation from Electro. It was almost the new Electro – what became House music and what became Techno.

MP: They were playing the vocals in London. They were playing them, we weren’t.

GW: Again, I wasn’t playing the vocals. I’m just doing a series of mixes for Worldwide FM – I’m revisiting the early ’80s and it reminds me of just how, I’d say, more than 50%, maybe, you know, 60/ 70% of the tracks that I was playing, were either the instrumental or the dub on the b-side – that’s where all the action was, that was where all the creativity was, you know. So often like yourself, what you were saying there with the Farley Jackmaster, I was avoiding the vocal tracks because I didn’t think they were as strong as the other side, you know?

Another thing that people probably don’t understand is that they tend to perhaps think that The Haçienda, in ’88 with Hot and with what was going on on the Friday as well, when it all exploded and ecstasy came on the scene, that was the start. Whereas you already had a really strong night on that Friday. It was already going really well for a long time before that. You were getting good numbers in there and stuff.

MP: Yeah, a lot of the anthems from ’88, they’d been long established, I mean, stuff, like ‘Strings of Life’, Rhythim Is Rhythim, you know, ‘Nude Photo’, you know, ‘Promised Land’, you know, Sterling Void, all that stuff. That was well established music for a solid year to two years before ’88. Yeah, these were floor fillers before ’88 ever happened?

GW: Yeah, definitely, and so it’s funny because you ended up going to the States in July ’88, which was literally just before it was about to kick in with all the ecstasy and everything.

MP: I was good friends with the Mondays too – you’d have to ask them, but I think the story is they somehow met up with the London lot, you know, the Nicky Holloway and Paul Oakenfolds. Somehow they’ve gotten the ecstasy, so it was slowly coming in for a while. In the first half of 1988 more and more people were trying it each week, but I think The Mondays were the scout ants. When I came over (to the US) in July ’88, I didn’t get back till June ’89 – I walked in (to The Haçienda) and it was just complete mayhem. I mean, at this point, they’d got people lined up at nine o’clock in the middle of summer, it’s daylight out, trying to get in.

GW: What were the biggest changes you saw?

MP: Well, you had 1200 people that looked completely monged out (laughs), if that’s the right way of putting it. I mean, it looked like every single person in there was on one. My sister was working at Dry (the Haçienda-owned bar) during this whole period…

GW: Didn’t she do vocals on a T-Coy track as well?

MP: Yeah, yeah, but she’d got back from Hull University and so, even though I was gone, she was still very, very much involved. She was working at Dry. Everyone used to go to Dry first and then head over to The Haçienda, but she, by the time I came back, she was like…basically, I couldn’t wait to go and check it out and she was like, “You know, a lot of the people that used to go, they’re not there anymore. They’re not going anymore”. She wasn’t putting a positive spin on it. She made it sound like there’s a lot of tourists, but she would say half of those people were pretending they were on one. It just became fashionable to suddenly like House music and pretend you’re dancing on ecstasy.

GW: Yeah, I think she was right because I remember, down the line, speaking to people who’d been a big part of that scene who said, “I never took ecstasy”, and I was like, “wow” – you thought everybody did. But you’re absolutely correct there, there was a lot of people who didn’t – they probably had a few drinks and just got in the spirit of it or whatever. But that’s interesting that she saw that there was a big changeover with the crowd that you had there previously (the black crowd especially).

MP: Yeah, I mean, it hadn’t got heavy in there yet, that was going to come, but all my friends, all the regulars, basically, they’d stopped going. They would be going to… I can’t think of the names because I wasn’t there, but there was other places that opened up.

GW: Well, the one place that really took the black crowd that was open for a while was Konspiracy.

MP: Yeah. So they were going other places now. All my friends, all the regulars were going other places. They weren’t going to deal with having to line-up at 9pm to get in and all that business.

GW: So, just going back. When you went to America, initially, you were only going to go for a month or something was it?

MP: The truth of the story is that I got in a little trouble with the police. I was only coming on holiday, but I received some… (I got mixed feelings about it, but) I would say, bad advice in that I was told to… basically, there’s going to be a trial, plead guilty – I’d get a nominal fine, and then I’d be good to go. I didn’t have a lawyer or anything – they call them public defenders. So I listened to that advice, but the trial wasn’t going to be for about six weeks later, by which time Mike couldn’t wait any longer. Mike was going away and that’s when he asked Graeme (Park) to fill in for him. So that’s what happened, but personally, I needed to fix myself – I was doing a lot of drugs. Had I gone back to Manchester and had I been in the middle of all that, I don’t know where I would have ended up. I don’t drink and I haven’t done any drugs in, you know, 27/28 years now. I have some regrets about not making it back, but from a purely growth standpoint, and health and mental health standpoint, it was probably a good thing.

GW: Was it drugs related with the police?

MP: No, no, I got in a fight and got arrested. It was a very minor charge, but again, it was this lad from Manchester in Vermont, you know, it was just this whole other world. I was just going off advice I was given, which, in retrospect, years later, when I was trying to become a citizen, that one little thing was a big, big headache. I had bad advice from day one, but I didn’t know any better, I was still, kind of, a kid you know, I was 21, but I was still a kid. But I can say maybe in the long run, it was for the best.

I’d lost my employment and it was also a financial thing. I might as well stay here and try and make a go of it here right now. Mike used to write me letters – remember those, when people used to write? There was no email back then, but he wrote me letters about what was happening. But I couldn’t really understand it, you know, it wasn’t until I went there and saw it first-hand. He couldn’t convey in a letter exactly the carnage that was taking place (laughs).

GW: Did you keep those at all?

MP: Yeah, yeah, I have them. Yeah.

GW: That’s a nice thing to have. Did you continue DJing almost immediately in the States or did that take a while?

MP: Yes, the woman that I had come over with had different contacts throughout the US. Because we were in Vermont, she got me a gig in Vermont. I remember it was a university town. My first night, I remember playing Donna Summer, I Feel Love and it completely clearing the floor.

GW: Wow! That must be a first in human history. (laughs)

MP: Completely. I remember a few years later, because I ended up resident at this place, I remember playing it a few years later and just everybody losing it. It was so satisfying that I had finally broken Donna Summer ‘I Feel Love’ to this crowd (laughs). But when I came over, college radio in the US was massive at the time and they were very heavily focused on, sort of, Industrial Dance – that’s why New Order was so popular. They had these 12 inch remixes of Echo and the Bunnymen, they wouldn’t play the regular ones, like they would on a student night in Manchester. They’d have this stuff that was never played, at least not in my time, in England, but all that stuff was very popular in the US. It was very white, you know, it was white dance music. So I came in playing black dance music and it was a bit alien to them, but eventually they caught on.

GW: So you were there for quite a while? You were resident at this place?

MP: Yeah, that place was called Border, because it was close to the Canadian border.

GW: Do you remember the first time that anyone out there started to say, “Oh, right. You were at The Haçienda?”

MP: Well, the owner of the place, he was a huge New Order fan. Again, this is before the internet, I mean, MTV was out, but MTV was also very mainstream – they were playing stuff like Dire Straits and The Police. But college radio was absolutely massive – it’s hard to actually quantify now just how big of a deal college radio was. New Order were probably the biggest band in that college radio world. Then, you’d had ‘Pretty in Pink’ and all those sort of mid ’80s American movies that really appealed to that alternative generation of Americans, New Order on the soundtrack. So, New Order carried a lot of weight even then.

GW: So your connection with New Order, they picked up on that pretty much straight away?

MP: Yeah, yeah, right away. Now, the people I’m playing to presently, in 2022, are in their early 20s, and they’re into, I don’t know if you keep up with Hip Hop, but they’re into Pooh Sheisty and Kodak Black? The Haçienda and New Order means nothing to them.

GW: I look at what you’re doing now and you seem to have quite a thing going for yourself out there. You look like you’re doing some great gigs, a lot of outdoor stuff as well.

MP: Yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, I’ve reached a point where I, sort of, go where the money is now, because like many of us, we weren’t planning for our retirement in our early 20s (laughs). So, you know, it’s sort of playing catch up financially. But I’ve always liked new music and I do feel fortunate that I’ve been able to maintain some sort of relevancy with, I guess, what you call ‘the kids’ now. So I’m always listening to new music, playing new music, breaking new music – it still excites me. So I guess that’s helped out a lot too.

GW: Yeah, unless you have that connection to a younger audience you haven’t got the longevity, because, eventually, your crowd’s going to all get older and stop going out and you can’t rely on them. That’s what you’re seeing now with a lot of (older) DJs – they do the odd thing once or twice a year where they get the old crowd to come out. I appreciate that that’s the only option for some people, but if you can do what you’ve done there, always retaining this connection to a younger audience that’s coming through, it keeps you fresh.

MP: Now there’s people my age, my peers and stuff, they’re horrified at the music I play now – horrified. But you know, I still play black American music. There’s a whole lot we could talk for days about the lyrical content, and the way black America has gone, but it doesn’t get away from the fact that that’s what black American kids are listening to now – they’re not listening to what they were listening to in 1984 and that’s the reality of it. And you can say, well, I don’t like, you know, all they’re talking about is killing and drugs and, yeah, the lyrical content is not great, you know, but that’s the way it is. I am still more interested in the music and the production – I love the sounds that these producers come up with, with the 808’s – they’re always pushing it. I find that the Hip Hop/ Rap producers push the envelope a lot more than dance music producers do.

GW: But, in a sense, dance music… it’s like America finally latched onto dance music, but they missed all the good juicy stuff and went for like something that was a little bit more mainstream, should we say, with EDM.

MP: Now it’s very, very formulaic too. It’s intro, drop, then it comes back in and it drops out again. You know what’s coming, you know.

GW: Yeah, it’s funny, I did a festival in Detroit, Movement, which was amazing. I was looking at the crowd from the stage when somebody else was playing, one of the big American guys, and it, all of a sudden, struck me that I was watching, like, a fairground ride. The audience was on a ride, and the music at this point dropped out and then explodes – it felt like a roller coaster, and I just saw it in a completely different kind of context. Although it’s always been there, you know, the dance floor moves in certain ways, but now they know exactly how to do that to maximum effect, so that a sea of 5000 people or 50,000, whatever, is moving all at one moment, and it becomes almost a spectacle. I’ve never wanted to, necessarily, be a part of the crowd – I’ve always been too detached, being a DJ, but that’s what the people love, that part of this huge sea of something happening and all of them reacting in a similar way. But what has been lost along the way, massively, is what people might call ‘the soul’.

Again, going back to listening to this early ’80s stuff again, I had to edit a couple of minutes out of the radio show to get in time. I wanted to do that so it wasn’t intruding on the music in any way, so just taking out of things that were repetitive. It was really difficult to find stuff because there was always new keyboard elements coming into play. The musicianship was clear to see at that point Going back, it felt like a lot of this stuff was very technological, but now we look at it there’s loads of musical elements and even with those drum machine rhythms from back then, it was drummers, a lot of the time, that were programming the drum machine. Now anyone can make a rhythm, you know, but they miss those nuances and everything that we used to have back then in music.

MP: Yeah, even like Adonis, or Mr Fingers and stuff. I mean the drums in the background, it’s like a seven minute drum solo, like the percussion solo, whereas now, everything’s just…the sound is very, very formulaic. I mean, it works, it gets a reaction, but in terms of getting me personally excited about it, not much comes along in dance music that is fresh to my ears or surprising.

GW: The people from back then, do you still keep in touch? When was the last time you saw Mike, for example?

MP: I haven’t seen Mike face to face in a long time. Probably in the ’90s. I used to talk to him pretty regularly on the phone, and then we had plans to meet when I was back in Manchester a few years ago. We had plans to meet before the game and then he was running late and so we didn’t. So yeah. It’s been a while since I spoke to him.

GW: You haven’t had chance to wallow in City success properly (laughs).

MP: We’re connected on Instagram, I think we talked about it, obviously. It’s the 10 year anniversary of winning, so I think we talked. We did talk about Rob – I think it was the anniversary of his passing last week. It was right around the same date, you know, the Aguero goal. It was like a couple of days difference and I remember we did talk about Rob looking down.

INTERVIEW 19.05.22

The Haçienda /Manchester May 1986-July 1988:

Adonis – No Way Back / We’re Rocking Down The House
Area Code 605 – Stone Fox Chase
Arnold Jarvis – Take Some Time Out (Dub)
Bam Bam – Give It To Me
Beastie Boys – Hold It Now Hit It
Big Daddy Kane – Raw
Blake Baxter – When We Used To Play
Ce Ce Rogers- Someday (occasionally the vocal, but more often than not, the Some Dub)
Company B – Fascinated
Cultural Vibe – Ma Foom Bey
Dennis Edwards – Don’t Look Any Further
Dhar Braxton – Jump Back
Eric B & Rakim – I Know You Got Soul
Farley Jackmaster Funk – Dub Can’t Turn Around
Fonda Rae – Touch Me
Grace Jones – Slave To The Rhythm
Hercules – 7 Ways
House Master Baldwin ft Paris Grey – Don’t Lead Me
Inner City – Big Fun / Good Life
Joe Smooth – Promised land
Joyce Sims – You Are My All & All / Come Into My Life
Just-Ice – Cold Gettin Dumb
Kennie Jammin Jason – Can U Dance
Liddell Townsell – Get The Hole
Lil Louis – Frequency
Liz Torres – Can’t Get Enough (Dub)
Mantronix – Bassline/ Ladies/ Who Is It? etc.
Marshall Jefferson – Move Your Body / Ride The Rhythm / Pleasure Control / Give Me Back The Love
Master C&J – Face It
Masters At Work – Alright Alright
Midnight Star – Headlines
Mr Fingers – Can You Feel It / Mystery Of Love
Mr. Lee – House This House / I Can’t Forget
Octavia – 2 The Limit
Phase II – Reachin
Public Enemy – Public Enemy #1
Ralphi Rosario – You Used To Hold Me
Raze – Let The Music Move U / Jack The Groove
Reese & Santonio – The Sound
Rene & Angela – I’ll Be Good
Rhythim is Rhythim – Nude Photo / The Dance / Strings Of Life
Risque III – Essence Of A Dream
Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock – It Takes Two
Robert Owens – Bring Down The Walls
Royal House – Party People / Can You Party
Rufus & Chaka Khan – Ain’t Nobody
Russ Brown – Gotta Find A Way
Schoolly D – Saturday Night
Serious Intention – You Don’t Know
Skipworth & Turner – Thinking About Your Love
Spoonie Gee – The Godfather
Sterling Void – Alright
Steve Silk Hurley – Jack Your Body
Sweet D – Thank Ya
Sweet Heat – This Is The Night
T Coy – Cariño
The House Master Boyz – House Nation
The Night Writers – Let The Music Use You
Thompson & Lenoir – Can’t Stop The House
Tyree – Acid Over
Virgo – R U Hot Enough
Wally Jump Jr – Turn Me Loose/ Private Party
Willie Colon – Set Fire To Me
Wired – To The Beat Of The Drum

© Greg Wilson, April 2022

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