August 21, 2014

At Ibiza Summit, Larry Levan Grooves on...

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Mike Pickering (pic), a storied dance-music jack-of-all-trades who DJed at Hacienda, helped launch Happy Mondays, and who recently restarted Deconstruction Records, recalled at the International Music Summit in Ibiza last week how New York nightclubs in the early 1980s altered the world’s way of thinking about dance clubs.

“For a young Mancunian like myself, you’ve got to understand that back then, clubs in England had speakers the size of transistor radios, and if you were a thug who wore a tie, you got in,” said Pickering in his keynote address at the International Music Summit. “If you were wearing great street-wear, you didn’t get in—you’d probably get a slap from the bouncer.”

In the early 80s, when his Quango Quango project gained traction among American DJs like Larry Levan, he was invited to New York to play it at Paradise Garage. “Paradise Garage was probably the greatest club I’ve ever been in,” he said. “It was mind-blowing. In the Paradise Garage, the main-room sound system completely blew you away. There were six huge speaker stacks. They had built the sound and then the club around it. That was the first thing I learned: the sound has to be amazing. Mark Kamens was mixing Man Parrish with Rough Trade, there were no genres.”

“We came back to England, and we bought an old warehouse in Manchester and opened the Hacienda.”

Pickering booked all the acts at Hacienda and DJed there for 11 years. “There was opposition at first, but eventually it thrived. We had a sound guy come in and try to install a microphone in the booth….we said, ‘You don’t talk to the audience, you play records.’”

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