Manchester legend MVITA talks of Stones Roses, raves and the Madchester madness
We all know Manchester is the party capital of the UK and Mvita were central to that Manchester underground house/garage movement of the late 80’s, from their origins playing their local pub and putting on their own underground raves to producing the sound track to the Manchester bands after show parties like The Happy Mondays and New Order and many more Mvita mixed the music, good vibes and a suss that went on to influence some of the cities most iconic artists and bands we know today,
LTW talked to Mvita’s larger than life Alfonso Buller about the old days and the present
When was Mvita born, its origins
It all started around the late 80’s at the Midland in West Didsbury and formed at the beginning of 88. We went from The Midland to playing the after show parties for most of the firms back in the day, The Mondays, The Stone Roses, New Order, 808 State, did loads of afters shows for 808 and others parties and got a name for just being our selves, you know and that’s how it all started. Called Mvita, flying the flag with the pyramid, sun and a moon, Mvita translated- ‘Manchester Vibes in the Area’ ( Alfonzo gives out a loud whistle) and that was the rallying cry
What was the Midland
The Midland was a pub in West Didsbury we turned into our own night club playing on a Thursday and Saturday night’s, the landlord was great because he’d let us do want we wanted so we’d get the curtains shut blocking the day light out, turn all the lights off, cover the pool table then bring in our own gear, put our flag up and we were away, it was just absolutely mind blowing really, it was brilliant.
All those bands really got Mvita and what you were doing didn’t they, what was your relationship with them like
Some were band members and some were of the rave scene, party people and organisers, it was like there were members of each band that came to the Mvita gigs in the Midland in the early days, for instance before Liam Gallagher was famous and blew up with Oasis he’d always coming to the shows. We started off with Dominic and Andrew then after them Darren Green and Stephen Truenipper came on board and coming from the Burnage end they were good friends with Liam and their little crew he ran around with, they used to say ‘This fuckin kid thinks he’s Ian Brown’ you know, meaning he had something about him.
He was one of our DJ’s mates and he’d come all over with us then next thing you know he forms his own band and you know the rest, so we’ve always been on the fringes doing some top stuff with the some mega bands from Manchester or else where as well as those that fell by the way side not getting the breaks or recognition and that, but others did go on and that’s great, were still alive and kicking.
From what I understand there was always a whiff off gangster-ism around Mivita because it was an underground scene but it was all about the music wasn’t it
Yeah well its like us as a group, our percussionist Hibbet, the guru of house who’s now a Yogi but back in the day he was just a Sikh Indian and our percussionist, along with the 2 DJ’s and me MC’n so like the band there was a spread of different people who followed us when we were doing our parties in the city and else where. We had people who were from the fringes of gangster-ism, professional people, all types of scenes, not just one group of people because what we were doing was unique and it drew a lot of people in, we were the first sound system back in the day that had a live percussionist and did the main stage at Glastonbury for 6 years on the bounce, so it was new and all sorts of people got into it.
What was it like playing Spike Island
What we didn’t realise was it was more a festival scenario than a gig and we didn’t realise how big it actually was but for us it was just like a dream come true because we were working with one of the biggest bands in the world at that time, it meant everything to us. The film based on Spike Island looks good and I’d like to see how that pans out, when they made 24hour party people I was fortunate to be asked to be in that and this would of been good as well but I’m really looking forward to see how it comes out.
So whats your take on the reunions this year
With The Stone Roses its long overdue because people have waited so long to see them play together again haven’t they!, I was really pleased when it was announced and I think its great for John Squire and Reni more than anything because Ian and Mani have been playing for the last 15years so its really interesting to see them all back together again.
Same with the Happy Mondays, really supporting Bez and I think its great to see Shaun Ryder turn his life around. As well for Gaz and Paul because I know them two well and its great to see the lads get a bit of the limelight you know, and whats good is that the other members of the band can get some wages this time round as well as a bit of recognition for all the hard work they’ve put in. I’m buzzing they’re back and we really enjoyed working with Bez at the after show and we’d love to do it again, its great that some people haven’t forgot Mvita and what were still doing rather than just what we did back in the early rave-scene.
In an interview with photographer Ian Tilton he cited you as probably the first guy with that Manchester swag/cool, what ever you’d call it, which was quite an influence on both Ian Brown and Liam Gallagher wasn’t it
If you want to talk about the influence I’ve had on Ian Brown or Liam Gallagher or other people in bands or even the art scene as well as the acting scene, and the sport scene because we know quite a lot of professional boxers and footballers its all because its part of our lives being northerners and in the know and mixing with a wide spread of people.
I look at Ian Brown as one of the family really, before The Stone Roses success. My brother took me to my first gig at The International in the mid-80’s to see one of the Stone Roses manger Gareth’s band’s playing and personally introduced me to the Happy Mondays and the Roses and from there I became hooked and just loved what both the Happy Mondays and Stone Roses were doing and saw them bring an early swagger to a music scene that was flat with no style and was basically shit and these bands were smashing it. To some one like me more into reggae, soul, funk listening to these bands it was like ‘fuck me, are these white guys?’ because they had a lot of soul, you know, they turned the music scene on its head and deserve all the accolades they get.
How do you feel about the ‘Manchester Vibes in the area’ saying living on, its legacy
Back in the day during the shows I used to use and shout out peoples lyrics over the top of the tunes and coined a couple of phrases, one was ‘Vibes’ and another was, believe it or not ‘Mad for it’. When Liam started saying ‘Mad for it’ it was quite bizarre really and the press got on it as well with a column in one of the papers which was called ‘Mad for it’, its became like a Manchester saying and part of the language and it came from Mvita which is pretty unique, but what surprises me is that still many people know the ‘Mvita’ and ‘Manchester Vibes in the Area’ phrases but have never put the two together and don’t realise unless some one tells them.
Some of the young kids that grew up around the rave-scene were too young to get into the clubs but because they could come to the raves we did we’d see a lot of kids there with their parents who were ravers which was quite strange at the time but that’s how it grew into a family, from the different generations that come to the shows. We played house music with garage but because we had a wide musical background we’d also play soul and reggae music at our parties for the people who appreciated that mix in sounds and styles. We’ve got kids coming to see us now who are the same age as our kids and into our kind of music and what we do so its quite flattering that younger generations have come along and got into it, about 6 or 7years ago we did a private party the ‘Mvita family Crew’ and when I told one my sons who’s now 33 now he said “Mvita, why don’t you just call it a day” so I actually put on the bottom of the flyer ‘Mvita, just don’t know when to call it a day’ and that just really summed us up you know. But also I must stress Mvita isn’t about drugs or alcohol, its coming together purely for a good time, you can just be anybody, any walk of life, any back ground or age because we play uplifting music for ‘everybody’.
what were some the obstacles back in the day, putting on the shows
When you had as many guests as we had it was hard to make any money, it was ridiculous really, trying to make a pound in a night never mind a fiver !, and through the years when it got real popular when we tried to scrape a little bit of a living together and cover expenses people would think it was alright to come in on the guest list or to come and not pay which did make it hard but that’s how it was.
and whats happening now with Mvita
Well like I said we did The Happy Mondays Manchester after show which was a great night and with Bez getting involved its been brilliant for us, him and Vince have been doing some management and promoting for us which has generated a lot of interest again and I’d like to put the word out to any one out there putting together Rave revivals and any kind of parties around Manchester, Liverpool, Nottingham, Birmingham, anywhere where there’s any kind of revival playing ‘back in the day’ House-Music and the early Rave-Scene music we want them to know Mvita are here and ready to get involved, and also anyone who has any ideas or plans for promoting and playing with Mivita in mind that would like to get on board to get in contact with us through here, because we can play 2 hour sets as guests and we can do the 3-4 hour sets, when we started doing Mvita we’d party in the evening from the sun going down to when it came back up again so we can put on a show as good as any DJ or live percussionist. We really would like people to experience what we’ve got to offer, that little glimpse of the past with what we do today because were still creating and performing and flying the Mvita flag of the pyramid sun and the moon, ‘Manchester Vibes in the Area’.