Questions from John Robb – for a feature in the Sunday Times – July 2007

What was special about the Hacienda?

It’s a venue so many thousands of people saw as their special space, and it’s culturally significant in so many ways, yet it all evolved in a very unforced and instinctive way. For example, there was never ever a meeting about the music the DJs should play; we just got on with it, did what we felt was right. Since then I’ve become aware of how much cultural activity isn’t like that; it’s all marketing theories and focus groups and corporate sponsors. So for me the Hacienda was an amazing creative space that no-one controlled. The haphazardness was probably its downfall as well, though; eventually the real world took its revenge.

What is the history of your involvement with the club?

I was a member, a customer, then I started DJing before bands – warming up the crowd at Soft Cell and Birthday Party gigs, for example. Then in 1986; there was a decision to go for some DJ-only club nights and Mike Pickering hosted Fridays and I was given Thursday and then Saturdays. At the Thursday night Temperance Club I played a slightly bizarre mix of the Stooges, the Smiths, and Public Enemy, but that crossover vibe reflected the way music making was going in the city, so Thursdays helped define the indie dance scene that the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays were a part of. I ended-up DJing at the club nearly 500 times. In 1986 it was a very casual job which just involved turning up with a bunch of my favourite records but by 1990 I was DJing in Paris and Detroit.

One anecdote that sums up the club?

One of the unsung heroes of the Hacienda was Paul Cons. He worked hard, devising the marketing, and booking the entertainment. His most conspicuous contribution was the monthly ‘Flesh’ nights which were probably the best thing about the Hacienda in the 1990s. But even before then, he dreamt up cool entertainments. I remember one week he’d hired these semi-naked people and they were covered with silver and gold spray-paint and hung from the back wall. They stayed as still as statues for a few hours (while the paint dripped off them) and then were allowed down and they ran around the club all night.

What difference did the Hacienda make to Manchester?

Manchester’s always had a lively music scene but often it’s very fragmented and had to get a handle on – like now, for example – but the Hacienda became a flagship, a focus. You could take anyone down to the club in the late 1980s and show them unignorable evidence that Manchester had something special going for it. Unwittingly, the Hacienda kickstarted the city’s regeneration; it’s when a grim post-industrial city was given a future.

Was it sad when it shut down?

Being closed and demolished has helped its reputation; it’s like James Dean dying young. He’s always going to be legendary and so is the Hacienda. If it was open now, as some nostalgic Madchester theme park, or some club like every other club, would anyone be interested?