The Northern knife edge

As the resident DJ of the Hacienda and the brains behind the music policy, Pickering was one of the godfathers of Acid House in the UK.


History’s Interjection

“I met Rob [Gretton, founder of the Hacienda and manager of Joy Division] lying down under a hedge in a garden in Nottingham, being chased by Forest [football] fans; he got cut off, that’s how I met him. They chased us into a pub,and we jumped through the pub to these toilets in the back, and these fucking Alsatians or summat came and we were like, ‘awww shit!’ But the fans just wouldn’t give up looking for us. And we ended up slightly below on pavement level under a bush staring at each other and the Forest casuals’ Doc Martins. After they’d gone he turned to me and said “Rob Gretton, Wythenshawe” and I said, “Mike Pickering, Chorlton”. And the rest was history.”

Becoming A DJ

“I’d always DJ’d at parties, been the guy that put on the records and stuff. Also, I was involved in the punk scene. I had a fanzine, called Modern Drugs, with Martin Fry, who became ABC. And I wrote the first piece ever on Joy Division, so I hung out with them and that, I was just part of the punk scene really. I was a Northern Soul boy, but I never listened to black music until I was sixteen, seventeen. Bowie was the first white music I ever listened to. I was militant, almost militant about it, but then punk changed my…blew my mind really.”

Starting Hacienda In 1982

“Although it’s been reported differently it was Rob’s brainchild, it was his baby. It was Rob and the band that really wanted the club, but you know everyone mucked in, but some people were against it. Tony [Wilson] wasn’t as enthusiastic as we were. He just wasn’t mad on the idea, but he was totally supportive once we got it. Martin Hannett [Factory producer] hated the idea, because he wanted to use the money to buy equipment and get a recording studio, and all that kind of stuff. Ben Kelly was the designer of the Hacienda, (Peter was director of Factory, but he just did posters and membership cards.) Ben had the great ideas. It was revolutionary, you know, it looked like a fucking spaceship. It was so different you’d have thought aliens had landed.”

Disasters

“I had some real fucking disasters. No one went in for a year or two. It was brilliant, but no one went. I remember having Club Zoo on, which was Teardrop Explodes under a pseudonym. How fucking daft’s that? Go under a pseudonym so no one knew who they were. It was Julian’s idea [Julian Cope]. We locked the doors, and all took LSD. And had a fucking night of nights, and day of days, it was great. It was a huge beautiful club. We opened and there was a silver service restaurant near the entrance. Imagine having silver service food, in that environment, with music fucking blasting. We all went seven nights a week, no one came. I mean, there was a big drag against us. People didn’t like it.”

Upturns

“A major turning point was Chicago stuff, Adonis’ ‘No Way Back’ was one of the first ones that I was like, ‘what the fuck is this?’ Cos it’s just a bassline isn’t it? And the crowd reacted immediately. I wanted to start with Rob [Gretton] a dance label, a Factory dance label, and Tony, God rest his soul, said, “Darling, dance will never happen.” He used to openly admit that but I said, “No Tony, you’re wrong, it’s already happening, it’s gonna fucking explode right?””

The Change In The Club

“It was never just a club. It became just a club with ecstasy and acid house. It was an artspace. We had bands, we had art instillations. We had William Burroughs reading Naked Lunch, we had David Mack doing huge installations with 12” record sleeves. It was supposed to be a space for everyone to use, a meeting place. We’d all been to New York, and hung out at places like Danceteria, and the great thing about them - yeah they were fantastic clubs, but they were meeting places for like-minded people, creative people. Ecstasy changed it all. Because obviously everything went to the beat and to the instance on drugs. You know, the first two summers of ecstasy, of love, was the most special time you’ll ever have. But after that, it was just boring.”

When Things Turned Sour

“I walked away in ’91 with violence. I walked away when it re-opened. When it closed for first time, it had closed. It was the seventh birthday party when I got threatened, and David Morales got threatened downstairs, and we were like, ‘I can’t deal with this’. I got a knife pulled on me. It always had to happen, ecstasy pills were about 20-25 quid, so there were millions of pounds milling around. It was always gonna happen.”

Biggest Myths

“There’s been many after media’s ‘Madchester’. They were under the impression that we played Stone Roses and Inspiral Carpets, but we were like, ‘we’re playing stuff from America, where you come from, you know?’ But history always re-writes itself. One of the biggest myths is probably that the Hacienda started in ’88, it was a great club before that, but no-one ever writes that eh?”

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You can visit JUNOdownload.com to listen to and purchase a selection of the Acid House classics discussed in our retrospective.

Click here to visit JUNO.

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