On Friday 10 August, former Factory records boss Anthony Wilson, who signed Joy Division and Happy Mondays, and built Manchester’s legendary Hacienda nightclub, passed away after a long battle with cancer.
In February last year, Q’s Andy Fyfe profiled the Factory boss for a Q special edition on Mancunian music. Typically, the interview was a fascinating ramble through the histories of three of the important characters in British music: the city of Manchester, Factory records and Tony Wilson himself.
Space meant only a fraction of the conversation was published. Here it is in full.
Were you Manchester born and bred?
No. Salford. Yvette and I were guest editors of Building magazine. Along with everything else we do we’re regeneration experts now, and as regeneration consultants with a bit of a reputation we were invited to guest edit Building Magazine. In it I made the point that neither of us have forgotten our backgrounds – my partner comes from the Ribble Valley, I come from Salford – but by the mid-80s we came from Manchester. Now, until about 1980 when people asked where do you come from I’d have done what I did then, “I come from Salford”. And people would go “Ah, Manchester”, and it’s “No, it’s fucking Salford.” Albert Finney would have said that to you, Ben Kingsley, Alistair Cook, we come from Salford, and there’s a real pride about it.
Suddenly in the early ‘80s, the word Manchester came not just to mean the centre of Manchester, it came to mean “the project”, being the rebuilding of this whole Northern place. I always say that in the early ’80 s when we built the Hacienda we thought we were idiots, just individual crazies for some strange obscure reason in love with our city and putting some of our money back into the city. It was only by about ’84, ’85, that we realised there were a lot of other people doing exactly the same thing, also individually, on their own, separately thinking they were just the same idiots. Our city fathers, council leaders, were doing, and we all thought it was in isolation, and suddenly by the mid ‘80s were realised we were all doing it.
So I’m quite happy to say that I come from Manchester, even though for many many years I would have denied it completely.
What is it about Salford that makes you so proud?
Salford is what it is. It was the working class city. Manchester became the city centre as it were, although Salford is separated from the Manchester city centre by just a river. So Manchester and Salford are a bit like Minneapolis and St Paul, two sides of the same city. There is of course a romance about being working class. Rock’n’roll is meant to be working class but it never is. Elvis Presley was working class, The Beatles were all grammar school boys, admittedly I have to accept that John Lydon – after he once had a go at me in a seafood restaurant in Malibu where we bought him 16 seabreezes for lunch – was actually working class, but Strummer was diplomat’s son and the origins of punk were in nice middle class intellectual boys having those idea. The fact that Bromley in Kent was the hub of it says it all really.
Obviously New Order were grammar school boys in certain ways, and then suddenly you get another burst of real working class rock’n’roll activity with the Mondays and the Roses, which is one of the reason why they’re not still around while the nice middle class work ethic boys of U2 and Coldplay do very well.
Why? Because they have better financial advisors?
No, it’s the work ethic. If you’re middle class you have a work ethic where it’s a wonderful job and you work at it and you make lots of money and take it seriously. If you’re working class in the music industry it’s like robbing the bank. Rob the bank, take the money, shove it up your nose and fuck off. I’m quoting Happy Mondays’ agent Martin Gallagher there.
What did your parents do?
My father was an out of work actor and my mother was a shop-keeper. The core of the family were German émigrés. My grandfather Herman Maximillian Nuffal arrived in Salford in 1900. He’d gone to America and the family said come home, but he said “No, I’ll come nearer home and move to Salford.” Although it sounds very weird – I always thought it was until I realised that if you’re the second son and the Kaiser is bringing in conscription in 1899 and you’d think fuck it, I’m going to America. Fair enough, I can understand that. But coming to Salford?
Then about 15 years ago that I did a documentary about Haim Wiezmann, who was a Manchester German scientist (and first president of Israel). Of course, doing this film about Weizmann I discovered – which I should have known anyway when you think back about because Engels was here – but if you left Germany in the 19th century, you came to Manchester. Whalley Range, now our prostitute area, used to be called Little Germany, and all the large houses there were built by German émigrés in the 1870s, 1880s. The Halle Orchestra was of course founded by a German. The amazing thing I learned making this documentary was that the only language you would hear spoken in the cocktail bars during the interval at the Hallé was German.
So this was German town. This is why I always say there were two reasons for Manchester music, and the second was Manchester’s openness. Which city in Britain was welcoming Chicago and Detroit house music in ’86-’87? The answer is Manchester. I always remember even though I think (London club) Shoom!, which was an important part of acid house, probably preceded the Hot night at the Hacienda by about a month, which was April or May ’86, I remember Mike Pickering Djing at the Astoria in January and being bottled off stage and heckled because he played house music. But the history of rock’n’roll is the history of being open to influences, and that’s why things happen.
Anyway, my grandfather apprenticed himself to a jeweller and watchmaker called Mr Ranks. When he died my grandfather got some money out his family in Freiberg and he took over the shop as Nuffal’s. Then it became Nuffal Brothers as my uncles came into the business. The second shop was in Caddeshead, and then Karl the eldest took over the Salford shop and Edgar, who was my immediate uncle who I lived with for many years, had a shop in Eccles. So there were three shops called Nuffal Brothers and they were watchmakers and jewellers. My mother took the money she inherited from my grandfather and bought herself a tobacconist and card shop at the end of William Rd. She married my father in 1948. He was an out of work actor, who then began to run the shop.
Did you go straight into television from university?
When you’re at Oxbridge you know what jobs are coming and you knew your competition. There were two general traineeships at the BBC every year but they were cancelled the year that I left Cambridge, so there were six Thompson newspaper traineeships in Cardiff, two Reuters traineeships, two ITN traineeships, and there were six BBC news trainees. You applied for these knowing that there were 20 others from Oxbridge and maybe five from York or somewhere else, and I just got very very lucky. I went for my interview at ITN knowing I didn’t get the Reuters job, didn’t get anything at the BBC, and at my interview they said, “Was there anything that we could have done better”, and I said that I didn’t think much of their coverage of Jimi Hendrix’s death. I said, “It might not matter much to you but from the culture I come from Hendrix is a very important person and it seems to me that you should be able to cover it with a little more insight and not treat it as something from the counter culture that means nothing to you.” About four days later a telegram arrived at my room in Cambridge and I’d got the ITN job. There are some core moments in my job and getting into Cambridge was a core moment, the ITN job was a core moment, and I have to say that very recently getting the second stage of the regeneration project we’re doing right now felt exactly the same.
What was it about TV that attracted you rather than any other media? (Wilson worked at ITV, then at Granada in Manchester where became a local celebrity thanks to music shows What’s On and So It Goes.)
It had words and pictures, I suppose, which rather excited me. I went to ITN which had just reinvented TV news with News At Ten which didn’t have people wearing bowties, and at that point in the early ‘70s the esprit de corps at ITN in Wells Street we were the second best TV news organisation in the world behind CBS News New York, just. If you put yourself up there with CBS New York and its traditions and way of doing things it meant you felt you were the top of the pile. I learnt so much in those two years.
The way you learned at ITN was by becoming a scriptwriter and I used to write the stuff that Andrew Gardner or Sandy Gall or Gordon Honeycomb or Reginald Bosanquet would read. It was a wonderful thrill and wonderful job, and you progressed to doing end pieces or the occasional small item, but I wanted to be a reporter, felt the need to go out on the road and do the next stage.
I have to say, and this is something important actually, that it never occurred to me that I would ever be famous. It never occurred to me to be on television just to be on television. I thought that to short circuit the process I would go to a regional ITV company on a local magazine show for two years, learn my trade on the road and come back to ITN a fully trained reporter. The very first advert I saw was for a different post in my home town of Manchester, but I thought I’d apply, and strangely, even though I completely screwed my interview up I got a job as a reporter.
Anyway, a friend said to me, “So you’re going to be a reporter? Oh my God, you’ll become famous.” I asked him what he meant, and he said, “My mate went to Central TV in Birmingham and he got a letter from a woman saying, Oh, I’d like to do this to you, and there was a drawing of a woman performing an obscene act on him.” I was utterly shocked. I hadn’t connected being on television with being famous. I had always wanted to be an actor, but when I went to Cambridge I discovered that I was either a shit actor or an OK actor, but I wasn’t a great actor, and the whole idea of being famous had removed itself from me. I really was surprised that by being a reporter I might actually be known. So I turned up at Granada to do two years as a reporter, and I got stuck.
So when did the magazine programmes come along?
That was a bit like Broadcast News. It opens with the title, and some guy says “Good evening, here is the latest report from John Thompson in Namibia”. Then it cuts to this incredibly exciting film of a reporter in the jungle dodging bombs, doing incredibly exciting things and pieces to camera and directs the whole thing, and it cuts back to the studio and this guy says, “Thanks, that was John Thompson, we’ll see you next week.” The guy who says “we’ll see you next week” is higher up the food chain than the guy on film. I was expected to be in the studio as well as being the reporter, but after my first summer there Granada, instead of making me the number two anchorman they hired someone else. I’m thinking, How do I get in the studio? One of the guys had been doing What’s On, an arts round up one night a week, and the guy who’d been presenting it went off to write some novelisation of Blake’s Seven. I liked movies, I liked music, I was into the theatre, I had an arts degree, so I asked if I could do the arts show, and they said yes. From summer 1974 What’s On ran for about four years, and many things that people think were on So It Goes were actually on What’s On. So for example when I wasn’t allowed to have Blondie on So It Goes because the producer thought they were crap, so I put her on What’s On and she did Rip Her To Shreds. Many north west kids remember, much the same as many people remember seeing the Sex Pistols on TV for the first time, me saying, and now a young singer who’s come up from London, he’s actually from Liverpool, Mr Elvis Costello. And we turned round and there’s Elvis with on a little podium with his electric guitar in his arm, and he’d got up there to do Less Than Zero, but he’d said that he’d written a new song two days ago and could he do that instead, and I said yeah sure, and he did Allison. Two days old, amazing.
What’s On was about getting me back in the studio, but it became a cult show because it was very whacky and we’d hang parrots around the studio, a camel once ran through the set, it was a weird show. I remember once having (creator of Spider-Man) Stan Lee on and he brought a Spider-Man costume with him and Clive James, who was a friend doing the show with me, spent the whole time walking around in the back of the shot wearing Stan Lee’s Spider-Man costume.
So you were given carte blanche to run riot.
Absolutely. It was a wonderful show. There were some wonderful producers there who just thought, “Why not?” It was anarchy and everyone loved it and let me do exactly what we wanted. The one night they didn’t let me do what I wanted I resigned and walked out. It was 1976. Granada decided to do a What’s On music spin off, hoping it would be a network ITV show to rival Top Of The Pops. We did one pilot and they went, “Well, it’s not a Top Of The Pops rival but we’ll give you a late night series, and that was So It Goes.
Anyway, November ’76, the Anarchy tour, and my friend Roger Eagle from Eric’s in Liverpool rang to say that he had to cancel the Sex Pistols after Merseyside police had been round and told him his licence wouldn’t be renewed later that month if he put the band on. I had a graphic made up saying “What’s Off, Sex Pistols at Eric’s”, but my bosses said I couldn’t use it. I argued that this was the most important thing happening, the greatest band in the world being censored and we had to say something, but I lost the argument. Being what I thought was a professional I did the show without the graphic then walked upstairs, tore up my cards and walked out the door. They got me back in about five days later and made me sign a piece of paper saying, “I’ll do whatever you tell me, because you fucking pay me.”
I learned so much from that. People who worked for me, I used to say, “You don’t like this? I understand. Start your own fucking company. The tragedy is that I pay your salary, so I can tell you what to do, it’s a tough life but you can also leave.”
So did you set out to make What’s On a whacky or funny show?
God no. I’m not a funny man, I can’t tell a joke. Recently I started telling a story about Steve Coogan, John Thompson and Caroline Ahern at a BAFTA thing and Coogan actually interrupted and shouted, “For fuck’s sake Tony shut up”, and told the story and it was hilariously funny. But I used to write jokes and one producer actually said to me, “You’re not a funny man, you can’t tell jokes, but What’s On is a funny programme, I’m astonished.”
Everyone else who went to see the Sex Pistols at the Lesser Free Trade Hall in Manchester on 4 June 1976 seems to have formed a band, but you started a record label.
No no, no I didn’t. My job was as a television presenter, and I went back the next day and screamed to my producer that we had to have this band on the show, it was the most exciting thing I’d ever seen. They said OK, but I had to take Malcolm the researcher to see them to make sure he liked the band too. I remember bright blue skies driving from Golden Square in Soho to the Walthamstow Assembly Hall, and walking into the hall at 9 in the evening, still this bright sky, and into this completely dark hall, with 20 people watching in a semi-circle stretching across the whole hall. I soon realised that it was because John was gobbing and they were just out gobbing distance.
So a label didn’t enter your head at the time?
Not at all. That first series of So It Goes was pile of shit except for the last show when we had the Pistols on, before that we’d had Eddie And The Hotrods and Be Bop Deluxe and other safe middle of the road stuff like that, but the second series was brilliant. I would put Buzzcocks and Slaughter And The Dogs on What’s On through the autmn of ’76 and spring ‘77, but I was told I had a new series of So It Goes in autumn ‘77, and would wake up every night that summer in a sweat worried that someone else was going to beat us to it. It was a disaster.
We launched again and were able to put on Iggy Pop and Elvis Costello and the first Jam appearance, Magazine, all this great stuff, and we had it all to ourselves because the Old Grey Whistle Test only put on people who were accomplished musicians or had American accents. They had The Ramones and to my annoyance Patti Smith, but hey. Iggy caused all sorts of trouble by swearing during a rambling bit in the middle of The Passenger and my boss wanted to cut it.
So this was my hobby, my passion, my life, and suddenly I realised that I was clutching this thing had seemed so distant when I went out and bought Jefferson Airplane album and listened to it on the floor going nuts. You know, Elvis Costello would walk on stage and smile at me in the audience! Malcolm McLaren would give me a T-shirt and ask how things were going, even Lydon would grunt at me. Suddenly I was connected to my heroes and this artform, and I still feel it as an utter, utter privilege. Then I was told, that’s it, no more, but I wanted to stay involved. Then on 24 January 1978, which is why several of our companies are called something to do with the 24th of January, I got a call from my best mate Alan Erasmus who had been managing a band for about nine months called Fast Breeder - since my stag night when we took Dutch speed and went to see them. There’d been a coup and he was thrown out along with a couple of band members. I said, don’t worry, we’ll form a band around the remaining guys, and that was the moment that got me into the music business. Those two, guitarist was Dave Robotham and the drummer Chris Joyce, who later became Simply Red’s backing band, but we put them together with the ex-Albertos bass player and the guitarist from the Nosebleeds, Vini Reilly, and two singers and that was Duritti Column. We had a group, we needed a place to play, and Alan said I know a club in Hume that we might be able to borrow, so we went and met …. Blah blah
So, starting Factory in 1978…
The thing I remember specifically about starting Factory is that independents are set up to get bands signed to majors. Everyone thinks that punk was all about some anti-capitalist response to the majors, but it wasn’t at all. Malcolm signed the Pistols to anyone, The Clash’s first single came out on CBS, and Buzzcocks signed to United Artists the night I saw them at Electric Circus, which was the same night Elvis Presley died. It was all major label stuff until this wonderful distribution network called Rough Trade started, and also Pinnacle. Independent labels at the time were to get your band signed to a major label. I remember interviewing Tosh Ryan from Rabid Records during the What’s On days and saying to him why did you sell Jilted John to EMI and John Cooper Clarke to CBS, and he said “Don’t be such a twat, living in this mythical past, that’s what independence is all about, getting your act signed to a major. Alan and I were doing what we thought was the right thing and trying to get Duritti Column and we managed to get Orchestral Manouevres in the Dark signed to Virgin after a bidding war. I did two or three trips to London with (Joy Division and New Order manager) Rob Gretton to talk to Andrew Lauder who was the leading person to sign Joy Division to Warner Radar Genetic. Then one night at Band On The Wall in Manchester, Rob says to me, “Er, why don’t we do the first Joy Division album and then go to Warners?” I said, “Are you sure? How much will it cost.” He said Martin Hannett had told him about eight grand, which was a complete lie. I didn’t jump on it because it was a complete surprise, but looking back on it that was the dawn of the British independent movement, all from Rob thinking, well the first single Tony spent £5000, we got £5300 back after paying all the costs and we all made £100. If we made an album we would make real money, which would mean, and I quote Rob here, “I wouldn’t have to go to London every week and talk to cunts.”
Also, being Rob, he then said, “Here’s the deal I suggest: 50-50, and you pay publishing out of your per cent. And that deal, done that day, is the most generous ever for a band, because I didn’t want to make money, and it applied to every Factory act ever, most particularly Joy Division and New Order. That’s why Blue Monday never made money. The sleeve and the vinyl and everything cost 79p and the average return from Pinnacle our distributor was 91p, so we made 2p a copy, which was 1p to New Order and 1p to us, and out of that we paid publishing at 3p a copy, which we had to pay.
Not the greatest business deal you ever made, surely.
No, but I’m a catholic, and the most profound moment of my life was as a young journalist, about 1977, I was asked by my newsroom if I wanted to interview the arch bishop of Sao Paulo. I went along, a good catholic boy to interview, and I was taken to the cathedral and met this rotund prelate. About 15 minutes in I realise this is Cardinal Arns, who was Mr Liberation Theology, in other words the man who put the shits up the Vatican for 30 years, the leading light behind liberation theology who ran the Catholic church on Marxism in South America. Towards the end, and I’m a good altar boy and playing theology with him and all that, and I said, “But Cardinal, are you saying that to be rich of itself is a sin?” And he leaned back and said with a grin, “Yes my boy”, as if to say, “It’s only taken me 45 minutes but you’ve finally got it.”
If you believe that it’s very hard to make money. I’d love to have a yacht and a house on Lake Cuomo, but they’re numbers 98 and 99 on my priorities.
So was this around the same time you decided to sign a contract in blood?
Yes, We agreed the deal and a couple of weeks later Rob had his lawyer write it up and sent it to me. It’s not like the film where I write the whole thing in blood, but as a joke I think I just signed AHW to this formal contract in blood.
How do you actually sign with blood?
You just prick your finger and let it onto the page then take a dry pen nib and write through it. The central feature of the contract, which caused us disruption later, was the phrase “The musicians own everything, the company owns nothing, all our groups have the right to fuck off.” When Polygram and Roger Ames were buying us, it was going along very nicely until a meeting where someone said, “But you have no contract.” I said that we had a kind of a contract and they looked at it and all the faces on the other side of the table dropped. Roger waved it at me and said, “Tony, don’t you understand, if you have no contract at least you own the catalogue because you paid for it to be recorded. That is, unless you have a piece of fucking paper that specifically says you own nothing.” Far from being the heroic moment portrayed in the movie, I just sort of went, “Oh well.”
So how did Factory make its money?
Selling enormous numbers of albums. We also didn’t market for the first two years. And although I’m accused of refusing to let us have a dance label, all I said was that to make money in dance you have to be a good businessman, and all we’re good at is finding bands no one else wants and getting them to sell a million albums around the world.
So even for overseas sales your 50-50 contract held?
Absolutely. Except that because we felt we weren’t doing as much to sell overseas, that split became more like 60-40, rising to 66-33.
You say Factory was about finding bands no one else wanted, who were the bands you didn’t want?
I don’t think we missed out on anybody, but the bands I didn’t sign that were successful were obviously The Smiths and The Stone Roses. I always thought Steven (Morrissey) was going to be our novelist, our Dostoyevsky, in fact I lost a one act play he wrote about eating toast in Hulme. But I got a phone call one day asking me to come over because he had something to tell me. I went to his mum’s house and he took me into his bedroom with a poster of James Dean on the wall, and he told me that he was going to be a pop star. I had to stifle my laughter because I thought this was the last person in the world about to become a pop star. I had a conversation with Richard Boon, Buzzcocks’ manager and a mutual friend, saying can you believe he’d ever be a pop star? Four months later I went to either their first or second gig at the Manhattan club and being utterly stunned. I remember walking out and Richard saying, “Now do you believe me?” Obviously I did, it was stunning.
But that point in time, there are three stories. The Smiths’ story is that Wilson was a cunt, blah blah blah, there is my version of the story which is that I had James and Stockholm Monsters and couldn’t sell their singles, and Factory was two and a half years old and a dinosaur. Not marketing and being weird had worked very, very well, but suddenly it had grown old and stale. I was very depressed at the time.
Why wasn’t it working?
I think that when everyone is promoting like mad and you don’t promote there’s a two year window when that works fantastically well, when not promoting is the best promotion there is. But then it all… I was extremely depressed about Factory at the time. Movement, the first New Order album, had sold extremely poorly, and I felt that I couldn’t sell the first James single or the first Stockholm Monsters single, and thought my company had lost something. I didn’t know what it was we’d lost, but I wasn’t going to saddle Steven with a shit record company. Now Rob Gretton, who was more significant within the company than me, was wandering around Manchester telling everyone that The Smiths were the new Beatles, but he was telling The Smiths that their demo was shit, and I’m not signing you until you’ve got a good demo. But whatever, The Smiths have their own version of the story, and Steven is a nightmare to work with. Historically though, Pinnacle went bust, and I probably lost about £150,000 in that, but if The Smiths hadn’t gone to Rough Trade that probably would have gone bust too, and the British independent movement would have ended right there, never lasted beyond the mid ‘80s.
The Stone Roses, I hated. I’d seen them in the early ‘80s when they were a goth band and badly dressed. By the time they started spreading their names all over Manchester they were managed by my ex-wife, my ex-business partner Martin Hannett, my ex-protégé from the Hacienda Tim, who’s now Ticketmaster, and the guy who used to run the Hacienda, Howard Jones. So everyone who was an ex in my life was involved with the Roses, so I completely ignored them.
One night I was at home, about to crash out in front of the TV, and the Mondays were playing Chester in the small basement of a pub. I had the strange feeling that they were about to break, I don’t know why because we were releasing the third version of Wrote For Luck, but I thought this might be the last time they played a small gig, and indeed it was. Anyway, I went into the dressing room and the drummer Gaz Whelan goes, “Hey, Tone, listen to this”, and put something in the cassette player, and the cassette plays and I’m like, “Fuck that’s fantastic, what is it?” The whole group go, “Nyah, it’s the Roses,” because they all knew I hated the Roses.
But I always say that they were a rock’n’roll band. That Stone Roses album, along with Guns N’ Roses, were the great rock albums of the ‘80s, but now we remember them for Fool’s Gold. What people don’t understand is that there’s no Fool’s Gold and no Loaded by Primal Scream without Happy Mondays changing music. Shaun Ryder once said to me, “I bet you wish you’d signed The Stone Roses.” I asked him why and he said, “They sell more records than us.” But I said to him, “Shaun, I only wanted to sign the most important groups, and you were the most important group.”
One of the reasons that I got involved with the 24 hour party people record is the Mondays. Joy Division and New Order are regularly regarded among the 50 greatest bands of all time, and the Monday are not. Over the years, particularly the last four years, people have come to accept that, but it’s only because they were working class and in the words of some writers looked like the kind of people who’d steal your stereo, they were one of the great groups.
Historical perspective will always win through.
True. In many ways Shaun didn’t do himself many favours, a rock star posing with scrubbers in a hot tub and so on, but in the end people are realising the quality of his work. The Manchester cancer event recently at Gmex (on 18th January 2006) with Andy Rourke, Doves, Elbow, New Order… someone rang me up and asked if Shaun would be interested. I was a bit shocked because Wrote For Luck has become quite electronic these days performed by Happy Mondays, and this was a much more guitar thing, but it was a thrill to see my two singers on stage together.
The two American producers of the Joy Division movie were at the show and they said, “Tony, we don’t understand, when Shaun came out the audience were already excited but they raised to a whole other level.” Well, number one, Shaun is the singer of one of the five great Manchester groups, Joy Division/New Order, The Smiths, Happy Mondays, Stone Roses and Oasis. Second, everyone knows Shaun has taken more drugs than almost anyone else, and this is a drug town and people respect that.
When I went to the Peruvian jungle to take (psychoactive drink) Ayahuasca for a Channel 4 documentary I couldn’t wait to get back and show off to Shaun. I said to him, “I’ve been taking this amazing stuff in the jungle, Ayahuasca,” and he just goes, “Fucking great, in’t it?” I couldn’t believe it, “How could you know?” “I’ve fucking taken it.” And I’m, like, “I went to the far corners of the fucking rainforest to take it, how could you have had it. And he goes, “Oh, Bez brought some back from his holidays.” And he described this Peruvian jungle hallucinogen in more detail and more eloquently even than the 60-year-old shaman I’d been working with in Peru. He said that it did change you, and that Bez was a totally different person for six months after taking it until it wore off, and I guess I was too.
The third thing, actually, is that in Manchester we know that Acid House was as big a youth explosion as punk, and was as colourful and wonderful and exotic. In terms of acid house everyone is now slowly beginning to understand that Shaun Ryder is the Johnny Rotten of acid house, and that is a major cultural thing, and that is why people went nuts when he came on the stage.
I always say that my two main groups – notice that I say my groups, I even say my songs even though I never wrote any of them which is a bit cheeky – both achieved something very rare: they both created classic timeless albums back to back. I’m talking about Unknown Pleasures and Closer and Bummed and Pills N Thrills And Bellyaches. The rarity of that in the rock pantheon is that normally groups have to go through one or two, even three transitional albums to get to something new, but they got it straight away.
It’s been Britain’s immigrant city since 1200, and that openness is essential. But the other reason is a guy called Dave Ambrose. He was a famous A&R man, but I only recently found out he signed Duran Duran so I should have shot him. Anyway, Dave Ambrose signed Duran, and about 1990 I saw him in Deansgate and I asked what he was doing back here, everything was signed. No one was left, but he said he was back because Manchester kids have the best record collections. And that summed it up. When he said that I immediately flicked to a squat in Hulme in the early ‘80s, ACR’s place or somewhere similar, and there on this floor with no carpet and little furniture, will be 200 albums. And in those albums will be the entire Parliament, Funkadelic catalogue, and 20 Brazilian samba albums, and German metal noise albums. In a Liverpool falt you’ll find the entire works of Love, and The White Album. Tra la la. Also, Scouse bands tend to sing with an American accent and that’s just wrong. Listen to Arctic Monkeys. They’re the least American sounding band ever, you could cut steel with those accents. It’s that broadness that we’ve lost over recent years because we suddenly closed ourselves and became dance snobs.
Could Factory have thrived in today’s market?
Well, the bright group of the 21st century will always sign with an indie and grow with the label. Ryder always says the Mondays signed with Factory because no one else would have them, but in the 21st century there is a very real choice. And this century the two most significant bands so far, Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys, have both chosen to go with an indie.
Style and not being afraid of wealth seemed a big part of factory and Manchester in general.
Well, I used to have this 13 year cycle theory that British youth culture exploded every three years. It wasn’t much but I noticed that the Beatles happened in 1963, then punk in 1976 and ’89 was acid house. Then someone pointed out that if you go back 13 years from ’63 you get teddy boy. Anyway, it suddenly made some kind of sense. I thought that in normal British youth culture fashion we would take North America, invest it with English style and wit, and I thought that would happen with nu metal. Sure enough, someone did, and there were Lost Prophets and Funeral For A Friend who came out of the Rhonda Valley, who I thought were fantastic. They are wonderful, but there was nothing to it. I went to a Funeral For A Friend gig a couple of months ago but it was only music. The was no drug, there was no politics with a small “p”, there were no clothes, nothing that goes with a cultural explosion. And that’s why in Manchester all those other things went with it, the drugs, the loose fit look all of it.
4:41 PM | 13/08/2007
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