Greg Fenton: Legendary Manchester DJ Gives Us His Top Ten Albums
Greg Fenton, is one of the key Manchester DJs and renowned producer whose love of music is reflected in his mix of records. Making his name in the dance era and clubs like the Hacienda he was a key fixture in that mad period but is still out there on the cutting edge. (check out Greg Fenton Soundcloud).
Since 1985 he has been involved in residencies at legendary clubs around the British Isles, originally from Belfast, he has been cited as an influence by artists such as The Chemical Brothers, and with regular slots at Hacienda, Golden, Back to Basics, and Shindig, Greg is a man who knows and loves his music, and has years of experience in knowing how to work a dancefloor.
Greg Fenton has DJ’ed, produced and written about music for the last 28 years.
He began life as a DJ in 1985 playing Belfast club The Orpheus, as well as notorious after-hours venue The Plaza. June 1989 saw Greg move to Manchester and it was there he held residencies with the likes of Mike Pickering (Circus), Jon Da Silva (Spacefunk), and Justin Robertson (Spice/ Konspiracy/ Most Excellent at Venus) by the early nineties. He was also cited by the Chemical Brothers as an influence in their Channel 4 documentary, Block Rockin’ Beats. From there he went on to DJ extensively across the UK at clubs like Golden, Back to Basics and Shindig, along with European dates including Paradiso (Amsterdam) for i-D magazine.
Greg’s choice of music has also supplied the soundtrack for many of Manchester’s late-night bars including Prague V, One Central Street and Barca. Prior to this Greg was resident for 2 years at Factory Records’ flagship bar Dry 201, which resulted in a Saturday night residency at the world renowned Hacienda.
His support of music also comes from his reviews, which he began back in 1991 for DMCs weekly Update magazine (formerly Mix-Mag Update). He currently reviews and interviews for magazinesixty.com and DMC Magazine (www.dmcworld.net/reviews.html), having previously written for i-DJ and M8 among others.
Greg’s participation in UK Dance culture has also occurred through his production work. Debuting with Silver City “Love Infinity” which was Essential New Tune on Pete Tongs Essential Selection the song achieved nine consecutive weeks airplay. He has since co-produced as Soularis releasing five singles on Chicago’s seminal Guidance Recordings and has gone on to record for labels such as Hed Kandi.
Since 2011 Greg has returned to production releasing tracks on Manchester Underground Music, Channelled, and Mad-Hatter Recordings. 2013 will see further releases for MUM and others…
In no particular order:
1) Ramones ‘Ramones’ (1976)
My favourite Ramones album. A very fond memory in 1978 was seeing Joey Ramone holding up the ‘Gabba Gabba Hey (we accept you, we accept you, one of us)’ placard in the Ulster Hall, a place that at times has hosted part of what I hated about growing up in Northern Ireland – that irony remains sweet. However, for quite possibly three of the most furious chords committed to vinyl try ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’. The first band I played in was with Belfast Punk ensemble The Defects, sort of playing Bass. We used to practice at my house doing Clash covers etc but The Ramones energy and humour were always an inspiration.
2) Joy Division ‘Unknown Pleasures’ (1978)
The year I got into Punk three things happened: I saw the Ramones, Siouxsie and the Banshees (supported by The Cure) and then this album was released. I’m not a Factory snob and New Order bares zero comparison with the haunting poetry of this classic Martin Hannett produced album. All of the first three choices remind me of late seventies Belfast and record shopping at Good Vibrations (they also had a great second hand section), sometimes Caroline Music and Dougie Knights’ place at the back of the City Hall which was tiny but carried a very cool stock. This, along with The Banshees debut ‘The Scream’, Wire ‘Chairs Missing’ and Public Image Ltd also released in 78 signalled new and exciting possibilities to me. Being into playing bass at the time Peter Hook, Barry Adamson and Jean-Jacques Burnel all had their own style and all left an indelible impression.
3) Magazine ‘Real Life’ (1978)
Another Manchester band that made listening to likes of Sham 69 seems inconceivable as the first flash of Punk fizzled out. Magazine were one of my favourite bands and the tracks from their debut album works on so many different levels – not all of them pleasant. Sometimes your age gets in the way and this was certainly the case when they played at The Pound in Belfast that year, as I was too young to get into a licensed premises – missing them still disappoints me to this day.
4) Van Morrison ‘Cyprus Avenue’ (1968)
Perhaps an inevitable choice for someone who grew up in East Belfast, not far from Cyprus Avenue itself. A beautiful, serene street (almost). There’s something uniquely soulful about the way this albums plays and the way Van Morrison sang that’s both so poignant and so uplifting. A never realised that the R&B scene in Belfast was so vibrant, like the city itself, in the sixties before reading Johnny Rogan’s hugely informative book on Van Morrison – despite its crap title and obvious loathing of the man.
5) Thelonious Monk ‘Straight, No Chaser’ (1967)
Got into Monk relatively late (Jazz having always played a major part) via the Clint Eastwood/ Charlotte Zwerin documentary from 1988 shown again recently: ‘Straight, No Chaser’. Hard to put into words how I feel about Monk’s music, in particular his piano playing which seems to seek out the notes in between the melody lines. No one else came close…
6) Talking Heads ‘Remain In Light’ (1980)
The one person that seems to run throughout many of my favourite records is Brian Eno. This album covers all the bases for me from interesting wordplay, to funky rhythms that play between light and dark. Strange to think how fast music evolved back then from three chord, three minute anthems to this expansive sound only a matter of a few years later. The album incorporates so many of the elements that inspire me today.
7) Kraftwerk ‘Autobahn’ (1974)
My dad ran what used to be called a Hi-Fi shop back in the seventies. And he once brought home a 7” copy of Autobahn and I remember playing it to death. It was certainly my first introduction to synthesizers and music that wasn’t Rhythm & Blues (American) based. The full length album version is of course the closest thing to spirituality you can get via machines. Stereo never seemed quite the same again…
8) Brian Eno ‘Another Green World’ (1975)
Another massively influential album on me. Extremely hard to choose between this, Music For Airports and My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. I didn’t get to hear this till the end of the seventies but it still resonates in the same way. Particularly like St Elmo’s Fire – an early introduction to the joys of Robert Fripp’s guitar.
9) Linton Kwesi Johnson ‘LKJ In Dub’ (1980)
This album still sounds incredibly fresh even now. Dennis Bovell’s production is simply stunning. Saw Linton Kwesi Johnson in early 80’s in Belfast without music…his inspired words talked to you.
10) Gwen Guthrie ‘Padlock’ (1983)
Never tire of playing this album. It contains so many personal favourites and all of course produced by the legendary Larry Levan! In ways it was this album and Grace Jones ‘Nightclubbing’ that helped shape the early to mid 80’s for me, typified by Thursday nights spent religiously at The Crescent Arts Centre. I distinctly remember the first time I played Seventh Heaven at a club in Belfast not long after I began to Dj – her vocals remain sublime.
11) The House Sound Of Chicago (1986)
Perhaps one of the most important albums to me since I had started Dj’ing the previous year. By 86 I was playing a mixture of Hi-Nrg, House and chart Dance stuff at The Orpheus (the only licensed Gay club in N.I at the time). I first heard Chicago House on John Peel and remember it sounding like a breath of fresh air – he always had that knack of introducing you to something new. There were a couple of tracks I used to play from this album by the summer of 1986 at The Orpheus, and it went on to inspire my music choices at Taters and most importantly The Plaza before moving to Manchester. It was a godsend really as you couldn’t buy imports in Belfast so this UK release was incredibly valuable to me.