Despite it having been almost 20 years since its closure, it’s been a busy year for all things related to Manchester’s most infamous nightclub The Hacienda. A series of Hacienda Classical events proved a roaring success, with favourites from the club being translated into fully orchestrated versions, plus there were several Hacienda club dates. Even without such official happenings it would still be impossible to forget this one club’s impact on Britain’s nightlife, not least in Manchester, where events such as The Warehouse Project and others take inspiration from the halcyon days of The Hac.
Unlike many large capacity clubs these days however, The Hacienda’s music and musical reputation was overwhelmingly delivered by its resident DJs. And it is to these faithful selectors that The Hacienda returns for its final hometown party of 2016, a residents party at Sankeys Soap on Tuesday 27 December.
Prior to the date, Louder Than War caught up with Jon Dasilva for a chat . The former resident of the club’s midweek Balearic dance night Hot and perhaps The Hacienda’s most singular resident DJ, Jon now lives in Stockholm where he has just helped set up Moire Artist Management, a management and DJ agency and where he still produces music and DJs.
Hi Jon! I interviewed Sasha this year and he told me that a key influence on your Djing was NYC tapes from Djs like Larry Levan. Where did you come into contact with stuff like that? That was a long time before any disco revival had started.
“There was a magazine called Collusion which David Toop edited and which Sheryl Garratt wrote for in the 80s. There was an article in 1982 written by Steve Harvey where they interviewed all the greats, Francois Kevorkian, Larry Levan, Shep Pettibone which is how I first learned of that New York scene. So it wasn’t tapes. I started to buy bits of the music that I’d read about, as I moved from post punk to black American music. That whole disco, punk, hip hop crossover which Tim Lawrence has just deliniated in his new book was very inspiring to me. If I had a time machine that would be the time I would go back to, if I had the chance. So, I was just picking up what I could, Prelude 12″s, whatever the stores in Preston had at the time. So, it wasn’t quite as romantic as me picking up Larry Levan tapes in 1982 unfortunately.”
He mentioned your use of acapellas in The Hacienda setting that was something that was quite unique to you. You instigated that kind of creativity without having actually heard others doing it on tapes?
“Well, it wasn’t new. It would have been pretty hard by 1988 to do anything particularly new with Djing. It had all been done already. My style was long mixing, trying to keep the records together for a long time, which is kind of a New York style. And also the use of acapellas and sound effects, which is also from New York. So, I wouldn’t claim to be original in that respect.”
“That style, I think, just presented itself to me, it seemed quite obvious. I knew that Larry Levan was playing thunder sound effects, which I also did, but also Lee Scratch Perry had used sound effects like that on his records, Can had used the sounds of water. Often it was the case that I’d actually run out of record or bpms, I’d be on +8 with nowhere left to go because the next record was too fast or too slow to mix in, so I’d drop a sound effect to get myself out of a sticky situation. It wasn’t always a creative decision, it was almost by accident. Ha! Other times, of course, you knew it would be a great place to drop something like that, to create an atmosphere, build the night.”
When Hot on a Wednesday was such a success, if that happened in a club nowadays it would seem natural to many to have the DJ installed as a weekend resident. Why didn’t that happen?
“Well, there was the Friday, which was Mike’s night and which Graeme joined later, in August of 88, after Martin Prendegast had gone missing. I did end up doing Saturday’s with Dave Haslam, but it was actually an anti rave night, an anti house night. I was instructed to play as far away from what I’d been playing on a Wednesday as possible. So I played a lot more disco. I remember the flyers for the night, I think it was called Wide, and it had a smiley with a cross through it, no smileys allowed, ha! I was supposed to keep doing that, but when Laurent Garnier came back from national service, both dave and I stopped working on Saturdays. There were some internal politics involved. That sort of thing was difficult, at times. It was a can of worms and I didn’t want to delve into it.”
How did the crowd differ from the weekend crowd?
“The Friday, until July of 88, would have been 70% black, maybe more. The dancing was frenetic, jazz style. You had Foot Patrol in there. The music felt much more like a radio show, because Martin and Mike were working through tunes. It was a good way of hearing everything that was new actually. Instead of listening to the radio on a Sunday night or whatever, you’d go down to The Hacienda on a Friday and you’d hear just about everything that was new that week. The mixing and the way the sets were put together, or ratherthe lack of those things, certainly suggested that it was more of a radio show vibe.”
“Wednesday was already pretty much of a gay and student night when it was Zumbar, which Laurent Garnier used to do for a guy called Mark Fizz, so Hot kind of continued that vibe. The whole cabaret feel continued, because we had a swimming pool, you had whistles and ice pops given to you when you came through the door. That changed the atmosphere of the night, of course, but also you had the arrival of certain chemicals at the club.”
“I ask because, if you look at club crowds today, often the people who go out at a weekend will work all week, then go out and get mindless on a weekend. But those who might be able go out to a popular mid week night would be a more arty, student or industry crowd like, for example, Space which Luke Solomon and Kenny Hawkes used to do on a Wednesday night in London.”
“Yeah, sometimes it can be more touristy on a weekend and you might have a more connoisseur crowd in the week. It was hard for me to know that about the crowd there, I’d only moved to Manchester in the January of that year. Having been there for only 4 or 5 months it was hard to read the crowd. Looking back, at the people who came through that night, it clearly was quite an eclectic and informed crowd. It certainly wasn’t a tourist crowd.”
“But Manchester is not quite the same as London. In Manchester I think you’d be just as likely to find a good night happening on a Friday or a Saturday night. Certainly Friday. In London the tourist situation is such that you’d be tempted to never go out at the weekend, only in the mid week.”
Whose idea was it to have the club decorated with swimming pools and the like and was that idea fully supported by everyone involved at the Hacienda?
“I have no idea. I would assume it was Paul Cons. It was trying to create a mini Ibiza. It was irrelevant within a matter of weeks. The pool was punctured by Paul Mason trying to drag it somewhere. There was always blood everywhere, people slipping on the water, going in the pool with glasses and them breaking. It wasn’t the greatest of ideas. But I wasn’t privvy to decisions like that, I was just a young pup DJ.”
Was being an Eastern Bloc regular instead of one of the clique at Spin Inn, like Pickering and Park were, ever an advantage or a setback?
“It was when DJ’s such as myself starting going there that Eastern Bloc started to get more popular. Before that there were bugger all people going there. I’d had enough of Spin Inn, you just couldn’t get served. You had to go through the racks, waitanother half hour to be able to listen to what you’d chosen and then even longer to get round to paying for the stuff. It was so small too, the claustrophobia was killing me. I’d had enough.”
“I wandered into Eastern Bloc one day and it was like a teasure trove. They had stuff nobody had come across before. S.L.Y. “I Need A Freak” came out of their racks, it had been around for years and nobody had picked up on it. Straight away it was different in there, you had all this space to move around and they already had all this stock that nowhere else had. I started to buy up everything I could, that I liked.”
“Once I got the job at The Hacienda and people started to come up and ask “Where are you getting these records?” of course I’d say “Eastern Bloc”. I used to get all the best promos from Jon (Berry) or Martin Price, they’d sort me out every week with the one offs. That lasted for a couple of years and then everybody was there. You had to. It was a much more broadly stocked shop. The U.S. stuff, the Italian stuff, the German and Belgian stuff, they had everything. It was much more far sighted.”
What was Sasha like when he lived in the same house as you? Was there any indication that he would keep with the Djing?
“Not really, no. That was something that became obvious over the next few years. I didn’t get any sense of his vision at that point. I’m not sure there was one then. He would share his mixes with me and come round for a cup of sugar. I knew he was a good DJ, so that’s what I encouraged.”
Did you go to visit him at Renaissance, his big residency after Shelley’s?
“Yeah. I did the opening night of Renaissance with Norman Jay. That was in Stoke, before they’d moved to Mansfield. That was when Sasha became resident. I think I played twice in Mansfield. It was such an odd place. It was quite visionary of Geoff, a great venue out of the way and he knew people would travel to hear Sasha and the other Djs who were playing there. They had good line ups. And it worked. It paved the way, in many respects, for what would go on to be superclubs.”
Some people have very fond memories from the Hacienda throughout the 90s, but friends who were there in 1988, 89 and 90 have told me the club never again experienced such highs as what was witnessed at the birth of acid house. Would you agree? Was it difficult to see it go downhill?
“Well I left in 1991 and the halcyon years are considered to be between 88 and 91. I perceived the club to be more commercial going on from then. They booked some great guests and it was certainly an interesting club for a while, but it was kind of a victim of it’s own success. The problems with the gangs didn’t help. It’s difficult for me to talk about because I’d stopped playing and I don’t want to sound like I’m saying that it was shit after I’d left. It clearly wasn’t. But for me it became less interesting musically, more safe. In the mid 90s Manchester almost swung against house music, it became almost a hip hop city with the likes of Fat City, Grand Central. The next generation of kids came along and reacted against The Hacienda in many ways.”
What have been your favourite nights in Manchester outside of The Hacienda?
“Oh, Bugged Out and Electric Chair without a doubt. When Bugged Out started at Sankeys, whenever I could I would try and get there on a Friday night, after I’d played a gig somewhere else or if I had a night off. And sometimes we would end up back at my apartment with various members of the Bugged Out crew and whoever had been playing, like Cajmere. Bugged Out and Electric Chair, for me, were the best nights of the last 20 years.”
When those clubs were at their peaks, do you think they were at all comparable to The Hacienda when it was at its peak?
“Absolutely. Some might say that Bugged Out only attained its peak after it left Manchester. But Electric Chair, absolutely. It’s a shame I was never asked to play there (sobs), but maybe it was for good reasons in that they were definitely trying to deliniate different eras. Either that or they just thought I was shit.”
With the Hacienda residents party at Sankeys on the 27th December it’s nice to see some of the older residents get some recognition, people like Greg Wilson, but particularly Hewan Clarke and Chad Jackson. Being a relatively recent arrival in Manchester when you took up your Hacienda residency you would have missed theirs so how did you come across those guys?
“Hewan I met pretty soon after moving to Manchester. I met him through Dean Johnson who was a resident on the Saturday night and used to do a soul funk night at The Venue on a Friday. He’s such a lovely guy. Greg is, of course, a great music head. I first came across him because he was managing the Ruthless Rap Assassins and I did their first tour with them, as DJ and MC, alongside A Guy Called Gerald. Things that I’ve been involved with in disco since then is where our paths have continued to cross”.
Tell me why you’ve decided to do your new Moiré Artist Management and DJ agency and what else you have on the immediate horizon?
“I kind of fell into it really. I was on Electronic Soul’s agency books and the guy there suggested I come and help him out, because of my connections in the UK. I kind of got into it there and it’s taken over. I’ve hardly been in the studio this year. When Jerry wanted to stop doing that my current partners and I came up with the idea for a new agency with a more friendly approach to the business. It’s difficult work but I enjoy it. We’ve been opern ating for about four months now, so we’re just finding our feet. I’m also in the process of recording an album under my TVMR project name.”
Jon joins other Hacienda residents Mike Pickering, Graeme Park, Greg Wilson, Tom Wainwright, Allister Whitehead, Hewan Clarke and Chad Jackson at The Hacienda Xmas Party at Sankeys, Tuesday 27th December. Remaining tickets here – https://bit.ly/HaciendsResidentsXmasPartySkiddleTickets
Check out Jon’s “A Rainy Evening On Whitworth Street West” mix here –