GroundZero Manchester - In Conversation with Dave Haslam: Highlights (FoH2016)
Exploring house music history can't be done by focusing on the USA alone. The UK was a powerhouse of innovation and exploration the late 80s and 90s as far as house was concerned. And nowhere in the country was more revolutionary than The Haçienda in Manchester. Below are some highlights from the Foundations Of House interview with Dave Haslam (resident DJ, author and generally fascinating Manchester hero).
Taking a trip from the pre-Madchester sound, through the Hacienda (Faç51 for those catalogue geeks out there), to the second summer of love, through to the global acceptance of dance music; Haslam has been there, done that, and see it all. Don't forget to check out the specially created playlist for this interview too.
FoH: Can you introduce yourself in your own words? A quick, tiny, Wikipedia, blurb…
DH: I’m Dave Haslam. I’m a DJ, and also a write, and also a journalist.
FoH: And you’ve recently published your latest book haven’t you?
DH: Yes. My latest book is my fourth book. It’s called “Life After Dark”, it’s a history of nightclubs and music venues. A book that needed writing you know? I I think In all the books I’ve written I’ve always tried to paint the big picture because obviously online or wherever you can find out some information about some clubs. But for me it was about doing something more ambitious than that and kind of stitching together all those bits; where do they all connect? what venues are similar to others, how are different venues different? And also to uncover stories that aren’t online… which obviously takes a bit of doing. So as I said the big picture's important. I mean, there’s a two-hundred-year history in my book of the night-time economy and nightlife. But I probably could have gone back another two hundred, or four hundred, or two thousand years. And I think that that perspective is what actually gives what happens now more significance because what we do now is part of an evolving night club scene. And if you realise that it kind of gives you… I think it galvanises you to keep going and also inspires you to try other things.
FoH: While we’re still talking about the Haçienda before we move on, with regards to Temperance especially; can you tell me about the name and can you tell me about the logo? Where did they come from?
DH: I don’t really know. I think we just wanted something that was abstract. Again I think New Order and songs like “Temptation”, albums like “Technique”. You know, it’s like… and Temperance; obviously in Manchester there was the Temperance movement in the 19th century which was aggressively anti-alcohol. So we kind of liked the idea that there was a movement. And the logo I think was a semi-provocative thing. I mean it was a big cross… and we hung a cross from the ceiling of the club.
FoH: Oh really?!
DH: Yeah a big wooden cross as you walked in the door. So you had to go underneath the cross to get onto the dance floor.
FoH: Oh my gosh! That’s crazy!
DH: It was just… that kind of thing was a bit of leftover from the Factory’s early days which was in that punk period where it was about subversion, and it was about that kind of slightly Malcolm McLaren, Sex Pistols idea of being a little bit shocking. So that’s really where the idea of the… the title was meant to be kind of abstract but slightly evocative of the idea of a movement. And then the logo was supposed to be a bit provocative I think.
FoH: Because there’s obviously alongside the idea of religious temperance and I wondered if there was anything in there of that?
DH: Not really no. I think that what happened was it kind of ended up defining itself. It’s a bit like when someone names a baby, and then like ten years later that baby could have no other name.
FoH: Right (laughs)
FoH: In your own words can you try to define what house is and what it's about?
DH: Erm... well...
FoH: Not to put you on the spot or anything
DH: That's a fair question but what I'm trying... what I think I should do is actually answer it two different ways because when I actually was going into Eastern Bloc and spending £5.49 on import records from Detroit and Chicago in 1987-88 I didn't even really know I was playing something called "house" or "techno". It actually wasn't defined. I remember the end of 1987, on a Saturday night, I played some of the new records I'd bought from Eastern Bloc in a sequence and Jon Dasilva, who wasn't a DJ at the Haçienda at that point, knocks on the door and said "That acid house you just played? Brilliant!". And I actually didn't know what he was talking about. I'd not read The Face, of i-D, or whatever magazine had decided that's what acid house was. I didn't know. For me, it was just... and obviously now I know all those things about house having derived from disco, house having a little connection with New York boogie, a lot of the early house pioneers being interested in Kraftwerk and New Order and Depeche Mode, so now I've done all my homework and I've had 25 years... it's more than that isn't it? 30 years to think about it. So from an historian's point of view I'd give you a totally different answer.
But a more honest answer is at that time house music was minimal, drum machine, electronic, ethereal, soundtrack-y, BANG BANG BANG, bleep bleep bleep, music, that wasn't on the radio, that wasn't on the TV, and that was only available on import from Detroit, Chicago, New York and Belgium.
FoH: When I first started this project, the reason that kicked it off is; I was listening to one of those old house records that everyone knows inside out like Mr Fingers' “Can You Feel It”, “Baby Wants To Ride”, “You Got The Love”, all that stuff. And the thing that instantly struck me was... I've heard these records a hundred times before... but the thing that kind of struck me they're all inherently religious in some way.
DH: “Promised Land”! Joe Smooth.
FoH: Perfect example!
DH: Which was a big Haçienda record.
FoH: Why is that stuff in there? What, from your perspective, what do you think that's in there?
DH: Well a lot of the stuff that we played at the Haçienda was... I think we were aware there was lots of different... That's why we didn't really put a name on it until quite late because it almost seemed like there were three or four different kinds of music being made. And actually a lot of the Haçienda audience liked the almost purely instrumental stuff; “Voodoo Ray”, “Pacific State”, Adonis' “No Way Back”. Charles B “Lack Of Love”. The kind of records where they were 85-90% instrumental with little disembodied voices. Bam Bam “Where's Your Child”. Those records. That’s basically... a lot of the audience liked that. Then there were also more Chicago-y, New York-y type records that had Robert Owens vocals on them and... they, from a DJ point of view, almost seemed like two different kinds of music. And I think the one thing that people... I think the bleep bleep instrumental ethereal music very much keyed into the kind of disorientated but bathed with warmness feeling of people on ecstasy. And emotional people feeling that warmth and aliveness actually also took to the vocal music that reinforced that kind of message. Good Life. Positivity, coming together. You know, you call it religious or what. Again as a historian I'm kind of aware of the gospel roots of Candi Staton and Robert Owens and people like that, but at the time it was more about the positivity.
FoH: It was a utopian-y type...
DH: Yeah, and it felt like it was documenting and commentating on how people were feeling. And also, you know, a little bit I guess it was, in many way, it was that cultural divide which happened in Manchester and which also happened in other cities was that... you know you'd had those years of... great years of Joy Division and The Smiths and they seemed to be evoking a darkness and an alienation and... the music that was playing at the end of the 80s in Manchester seemed to be portraying a much warmer, communal and positive thing. And that was part of the cultural difference I think.