Dave Haslam is the world famous broadcaster, writer and DJ who has been at the heart of some of the most iconic nite clubs and gigs ever to grace the Northern Quarters and all over the world. This month see’s the publication of his latest book which doesn’t disappoint with plenty of his memories of such events as The Stone Roses Blackpool gig, The Happy Mondays Blackburn gig and many many more. Matt Mead previews the book and interviews Mike exclusively for Louder Than War. All pics by Matt Squire
In the late 1970s Dave Haslam was a teenage John Peel listener and Joy Division fan, his face pressed against a ‘window’, looking in at a world of music, books and ideas. Four decades later, he finds himself in the middle of that world, collaborating with New Order on a series of five shows in Manchester. Into the story of those intervening decades, Haslam weaves a definitive portrait of Manchester as a music city and the impact of a number of life-changing events, such as the nightmare of the Yorkshire Ripper to the shock of the Manchester Arena terror attack.
DJ and writer Dave Haslam made his DJing debut at the Hacienda in 1986. He played there almost five hundred times, including on the final night of the club in 1997. Laurent Garnier, Ian Brown, Tim Burgess, Justin Robertson, and the Chemical Brothers were regular visitors to Haslam’s ground-breaking DJing events at the Hacienda, and all have credited Haslam as an inspiration.
His journalism has appeared in NME, the Guardian and many more. His first book, Manchester, England, a cultural biography of Manchester, was published in 1999. On World Book Day in 2003 Manchester, England was declared one of the ten books that best represent England (alongside books by Jeremy Paxman, Zadie Smith and George Monbiot). His latest book, Life After Dark: A History of British Nightclubs & Music Venues, was published in 2015.
The cast of Haslam’s life reads like a who’s who of ’70s, ’80s and ’90s popular culture: Tony Wilson, Nile Rodgers, Terry Hall, Neneh Cherry, Tracey Thorn, John Lydon, Johnny Marr, Ian Brown, John Squire, Laurent Garnier and David Byrne. From having Morrissey to tea and meeting writers such as Raymond Carver and Jonathan Franzen to discussing masturbation with Viv Albertine and ecstasy with Roisin Murphy, via having a gun pulled on him at the Hacienda and a drug dealer threatening to slit his throat, this is not your usual memoir.
So as you can tell the book is laden with the sort of stories you or I would only dream of happening in our own humble lives and that’s exactly the kind of person Dave comes across as, friendly, accommodating and probably, most importantly, a key figure in the history of modern music culture.
Interview with Dave
LTW: Can you please tell us a bit about your upbringing?
Dave: I’m a middle child of 3, middle children are supposed to be the most well-adjusted. I had a very loving home, my parents were the last pre-rock & roll generation. What I mean is, by the time the Beatles hit the charts, they had 3 kids under the age of 5. So they weren’t exactly in a position to drop out or whatever Sixties parents could do! It was mostly my big sister and her friends who first got my listening to pop music.
What was your first memories of music? What was the first music you can remember listening to?
Motown was everywhere when I was 6, 7. Wonderful, really, to be surrounded by music by the Four Tops, Tears of a Clown, the Supremes. Then my big sister’s crew got into Slade and Bob Dylan.
What was the first serious music you remember hearing? Who were your first musical influences? What was the first record you actually purchased?
What’s the difference between serious and non-serious music? I don’t really get that. I bought Telegram Sam by T-Rex, that was my first record, a single. I don’t think I bought at album for years. One minute……I remember being bowled over by The Sound of Silence, but also disco, and also Television, then funk. I’ve always had eclectic taste.
Was wearing the right clothes as well as listening to the right music a big thing for you?
Not at all, no. Never has been. I remember seeing a Birmingham band called the Prefects. They were a punk band who supported the Clash, and played the last night of the Electric Circus, they were as uncompromising as you could get. But there wasn’t a safety pin or a pair of bondage trousers or any of that cliché stuff anywhere near them. They were brilliant.
Why did you move away from Birmingham? You moved away in the early 80’s, did you see the 2 Tone movement in full swing before you moved away?
I left in 1980 to come to university in Manchester. In the book I talk a lot about my influences and experiences as a teenager, seeing the Prefects and other bands like the Au Pairs; they lived close to me in Moseley. Then there was Dexys Midnight Runners, I saw them a couple of times before their first album came out, they were fabulous.
The first time I saw Joy Division was when they supported Dexys in a mod club, bizarrely. Chapter 3 of my book; it’s all in there. I was becoming obsessed with Joy Division, which played a big part in why I came here in 1980. Thirty eight very long years ago!
You were a promoter first and foremost, promoting gigs by such esteemed acts as The Stone Roses, Sonic Youth and Primal Scream. What are your fav show that you promoted and why?
I was a fanzine editor first. I started a fanzine in 1983, it was called Debris, and I filled it full of my enthusiasms; not just music, but films, books and also I did interviews with barbers, a woman who ran a launderette, all sorts. The bands I arranged and staged gigs for in the mind-1980s were starting out, just making their mark, pretty unknown. That’s why I put them on; because the established promoters weren’t interested. This still happens today, there’s always underground activity.
My favourite was probably Big Black at a gay club on Whitworth Street. Steve Albini’s band. Their first ever show in Europe. In a gay club, because it was cheap to hire and small. I put on a show by them a year later too, at the Boardwalk. Albini said I looked ”underfed” which was ironic coming from him, he was only a mere slip of a lad himself.
Living in and Manchester you became a resident DJ at the Hacienda. How did you go from promoting gigs to DJ’ing at gigs? Was the Hacienda your first experiences of DJ’ing or had you done DJ’ing before the Hacienda? Looking back on your time at the Hacienda, what are your 5 fav memories from there?
In the book I talk about the places I played before the Hacienda. I enjoyed them all; the Man Alive, the Venue (not the one that’s open now, one that just down the road from the Hac). Playing my favourite music loudly to people appreciating my choices. Also trying to stick to principles about what to play, not falling into any lowest common denominator trap. From day one it was about sharing my favourite music; either by moving heaven and earth to get a band a gig or by playing the records in clubs.
You have seen a plenty of live acts throughout your time, DJ’ing for the likes of The Stone Roses, Primal Scream and New Order. How did you get ‘the gig’ with these bands? Were you approached or did you approach the bands? Can you detail your top 5 favourite gigs you have DJ’d at?
Ha! Another list of 5 things! I don’t really order them, you know? I never take gigs that aren’t going to have some merit to them. Stone Roses at Blackpool was more fun than Spike Island, I remember that and I write a lot about those gigs in the book. Another gig I describe in the book was playing with the Happy Mondays in Blackburn when there was a massive fight, that wasn’t fun, but it was very very memorable. Yes, crouching under the decks while bottles and glasses smash all around you; very memorable!
Since those heady days you have gone onto teach at Manchester Metropolitan Uni and host interviews with the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Kevin Rowland and Edwyn Collins. What do you prefer, DJ’ing or teaching/interviewing?
I’ve done very little teaching, I did a few years very part-time and didn’t enjoy it. Some of the students were fun, but it wasn’t really for me. Interviewing is something I have always enjoyed since I did my fanzine. I am a curious person, I like having a chance to sit down and talk to people about their lives The encounters I’ve had with the likes of David Byrne, Mark E Smith, Terry Hall, were all intense. There’s a lot about Mark in the book. He came to my wedding, he was such a funny, exasperating, genius of a man.
My favourite onstage interviews have probably been the one I did with John Lydon in front of 700 people at Albert Hall, and the one I did six or seven years ago with Nile Rodgers. The Nile Rodgers interview was so interesting, such joy and love in the room.
Your new book Sonic Youth Slept on my Floor. The title suggests that this will be a memoir of sorts to your promoting/dj’ing days.
It’s a memoir of all sorts. The gigs but also all those interviews, the backstage stuff at Roses gigs or at the Hacienda, the highlights. Falling out with Tony Wilson. Dealing with violence and gangs, death threats. Not just music; things in my head that needed discussing, like books, and politics. And it’s not a retro book, there’s lots of recent stuff; including an all-night rave in a yoga studio in Philadelphia, selling my records, hanging out on the lesbian electro disco scene in Paris. They are ace by the way – the Paris lesbians – they are my new crew. It’s not about looking back, it’s about moving onwards, adventuring onwards.
All words by Matt Mead. Further articles by Matt can be found via the Louder Than War author archive page.