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The Haçienda DJ Booth

Not the iconic one up on the balcony, but the initial side of stage location.

This bit of history comes courtesy of Hewan Clarke, the original Haçienda DJ, who had to put up with what was one of the worst thought out DJ booths I’d ever come across, located in a separate room down some stairs to the side of the stage, with a narrow slit window enabling you to view little more than the feet of those outside in the club. With the eccentric French VJ, Claude, for company, Hewan, and the other DJs that would work in there during the venue’s first few faltering years, myself included, had never experienced the like – it was more akin to being in a radio control room than a nightclub. This was all topped off by the infamous Akwil Digitheque mixer, a state of the art piece of kit, but far too clever for its own good – I’d built a reputation for mixing by this point, and people, who’d seen me at Wigan Pier and Legend, now had expectations of me, but this mixer was the bane of my life. For starters, it was positioned at an unnatural height, as you’ll see in the photo - 5 years on the dancers there became legendary for their hands in the air vibe, but back then the only hands in the air were those of the DJ in that bizarre booth. Another thing I recall was the automatic crossfade on the mixer, where you pressed a button when you’d lined up the beats, so it, in effect, took control and mixed the track for you. It’s one of those things that might sound like a good idea, but was far more hindrance than help. I just wanted something more hands-on functional - this was just a load of confusing knobs and buttons when it was faders I was used to. So I’d say to the manager, Howard ‘Ginger’ Jones, “Can’t you get another mixer? I can’t work with this one”, and he’d look at me as though I was some sort of heathen, telling me there were only 2 of these mixers in the world, as though this was validation for what I had to put up with. Needless to say, when the DJ booth moved to the balcony, it came complete with a new Formula Sound mixer (too late for me though). Akwil would go on to install equipment into other clubs, including Stringfellows and The Hippodrome in London, and later Sankey’s and Bowlers in Manchester, and is nowadays a successful audio visual company of 40 years standing.

So, as the Friday night resident there during the final third of ’83, I can totally empathise with Hewan’s predicament. Seeing this photograph (actually 2 photos expertly spliced together by Trojan Dan) was a real trip down memory lane, and not necessarily an altogether pleasant one – as I’ve said elsewhere, working in there was like deejaying with a hand tied behind my back. Thankfully, after constant badgering, the management ended up taking our advice and re-located the DJs to somewhere suitable, where they had direct contact with the audience they were playing to, rather than having to run up the stairs onto the stage to try to gauge the atmosphere. Madness!

Blues & Soul’s Frank Elson reported at the time that:

Factory records (The owners of The Haçienda) is, of course, owned at least partially, by Granada TV personality Tony Wilson whose much used quote about being totally against recorded music and totally for live music may well be the reasoning behind tucking the deejay console away in a room behind the stage. Instant paranoia for a jock who cannot see much, except through a spyhole, of the club itself”

Hewan dug out these significant snapshots when we asked if he had any images we could include in his Electrospective interview, which has just been uploaded at Electrofunkroots:
http://www.electrofunkroots.co.uk/electrospective-event-hewan-clarke-interview/

It’s a fascinating interview, with some wonderful insights into The Haçienda during those early days, when the venue was still struggling to find its direction. It shines a light on what it was like to DJ at this World famous venue, but before it became famous – when it was far more likely that it’d turn out to be a heroic failure, forever regarded as Factory’s folly, than a cathedral of dance.

Back to the photograph, and if you look to the right hand side of the window you should be just about able to make out a proto-photoshopped postcard of the then Lady Di with hubby to be, Prince Charles. It was the official engagement shot that was everywhere at the time, with his hand on her shoulder, but this altered version, thanks to a bit of jiggery-pokery, had her topless, rather than in the conservative blue suit she was really wearing. I laughed when I spotted it there, it took me right back into that booth – Hewan was buzzing about me remembering the pic, as it was something he put there himself – it had the title 'Subject or Object'. Not only that, he still has the very postcard, reclaimed when the booth was moved.

Everyone is aware of The Haçienda’s legacy, but usually only from ’88 onwards, when it became nationally, then internationally known, following the Rave explosion. Tim Lawrence’s ‘Discotheque Haçienda’ liner notes, unlike most of the writings about the club (including the Wikipedia entry), doesn’t skip over the early years, but makes the less known pre-Rave era its main focus, asking not only ‘what happened?’, but, more pertinently, ‘why did it happen in the first place?’:
http://www.timlawrence.info/linernotes/2006/Hacienda.php

Peter Hook’s book also helps put the record straight. Here’s my blog post about it from just over 12 months ago:
http://www.gregwilson.co.uk/2011/01/hookys-book/

To whet your appetite for his interview, which also includes a wealth of information about the black scene, I’ll leave you with Hewan’s thoughts about how House music lost its original audience in Manchester (and the initial Jazz Fusion inspired dance style), when the music policy at The Haçienda became House, House and more House:

What we did (on the black scene) was we integrated the House with all the other different styles of music. It wasn’t just House music all night long. You know, you’d play four House records, then you’d play your Soul, then your Funk and your Disco, and whatever… That was the point that really killed it for the black audience in Manchester because the black audience definitely took House music off me in The Gallery. Definitely, they were into it, they were moving with it. Because of the tempo of the music, and the energy of the dance that goes with House music, it couldn’t last all night long, and so you’d play like a couple of House records and then you’d break it down. The thing that The Haçienda did was that they played House ALL night long, from 9 o’clock ‘til 2 in the morning. That was when, for me, I felt that the black audience in Manchester just kind of like “well, we’ve had enough of House now, we don’t want to listen to House anymore” and I think that was that period that sort of like killed House music for the black audience in Manchester, so we just went back onto the Jazz and the Funk and the Soul and everything, and left The Haçienda to do whatever they wanted to do with the House music"

Check out this remarkable footage from Manchester’s Moss Side in 1986, at a time when House music was very much the domain of the black clubs in cities like Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield and Nottingham, and Ibiza was but a faraway isle. As you’ll see, the style of dance is vastly different to the 'big box little box' movements that most people associate with House circa 88/89, when it’s audience became predominantly white, with, as Hewan mentions above, the black kids moving on:
http://youtu.be/46jB4yohiKA

By way of contrast, here’s some footage from The Haçienda in 1990:
http://youtu.be/4ZxDAKJfELI

Big thanks to Hewan, Dan Smith, and Andy & Eddie Akka at Akwil AV for pulling these fantastic images together.

There’s a further in-depth interview with Hewan here:
http://www.electrofunkroots.co.uk/interviews/hewan_clarke.html

*UPDATE - APRIL 2012
New information has emerged and is now outlined in a follow-up post, 'The Haçienda Disco V Fiasco!':
http://www.gregwilson.co.uk/2012/04/the-hacienda-disco-v-fiasco/

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17 Responses to The Haçienda DJ Booth

  1. Dan Smith February 10, 2012 at 2:43 am #

    It's been interesting talking to Hewan and the guys at Akwil. This post all came together in the last 24 hours, prior to publishing Hewan's Electrospective interview on Electrofunkroots. The images we've sourced really illustrate Greg and Hewan's stories well. So thanks to Hewan and Andy for digging out the pics above at such short notice.

    For those who'd like more info on The Haçienda's early technical spec, Andy Akka @ Akwil AV has just kindly emailed me the following details:

    Regarding the Hac setup, I have kept a complete set of the original Hardware Utilised for the Akwil Zone Mixer with Sound to Light Setup which would have been implemented in the first fit of the Hacienda when the booth was on the ground floor.

    The 5 Channel Mixer was called the ‘Akwil DiscoV’.

    This would be connected to the ‘Akwil Digitheque’ 6 channel mixer for 2 Decks with Remote Start/Stop Control, Aux, Tape, 2 x Mic Inputs with individual EQ’s, LED Monitor Cues/ Output Cue, Digitally Controllable Input and Output levels, Assignable Crossfade Control for Fade In Speed, Monitor and Cue Outputs, and a Stereo/Mono Output option.

    The Akwil Digitheque was linked to both sound and light utilising the ‘Akwil Video 4k’ Audio Sound to light Controller with additional chase options. This enabled the Par Cans to jump colours to the beat as well as bpm the chase options. Lighting Dimming quality was important so the Video 4k had full inductive dimming capability and Multifunction with Memory Scan.

    The ‘Akwil Video 4k’ would then link to control the Lighting Pack utilising the ‘Akwil Dimpac’, ‘Akwil Soundpac’, ‘Akwil Flowpac’, ‘Akwil Zonepac’, and ‘Akwil Matpac’ enabling the first modular lighting integration solution for each output to suit requirements. Each set consisted of 2 Power and 6 control modules with Dolby and Matrix Options.

    The Akwil Digitheque’s Audio Outputs then fed into the ‘Akwil MS3 Graphic EQ’s’ which fed the formula sound guardians and formula sound crossovers, which fed the Hill Amplifiers, which fed the Electro-Voice Speakers. The stage was built across the top of the EV Bass Bins which were bolted to the floor boards to shake the dance floor. The floor really did shake.

    The Audio System would have been linked to the ‘Akwil PS10 Programmable Switching Panel. The PS10 could hold up to 200 Programs in memory.

    The ‘Akwil Pulsepacs’ would have been utilised for the lights in the other areas as well as an ‘Akwil DiscoV’ 5 Channel Mixer.

    Other places designed and installed by Akwil include Sankeys, Stringfellows, Millionairs, Cinderella Rockafella, The Hippodrome, Madissons, Placemate7, Oscars, Number One’s & One Central, Rotters, Bowlers, and 120 Bass Leisure Pubs and Clubs, Center Parcs, Marriott Hotels, Pizza Express, Croma Restaurants, and numerous Bespoke Automated HD Homes for the Affluent and Footballers.

    The Concepts behind our systems back in the day still exist in the systems we build today for our clients. Bespoke Audio Visual Systems is still one of our specialties.

    Our Linear , 2D and 3D Lighting interaction with the DJs and the Clubbers immerses everyone into a once in a lifetime experience of the Music and atmosphere in the moment.

    We now design and manufacture and distribute our vast LED Lighting Range including Commercial and Domestic Retrofit LED solutions as well as our bespoke programmable LED Lighting Solutions.

    For more info on our current products please visit our website

    http://www.akwilav.com

  2. Mark February 10, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    Great read Greg and Dan.

    I think the mixer that replaced the above was a Formula Sound PM80. Amazing warm sound from them. Which if I remember correctly were hand built in Stockport. Excellent mixers and I believe Scruff still uses one to this day.

  3. dave February 10, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    yes I remember the old rotary faders. and locally built gear.

  4. Simion Tulbure February 10, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    Brilliant insights as ever Greg, but with regards to the style of dancing to house music and even the overriding preference for house itself, the key influence is the effect of MDMA. Good clubs need good drugs!

  5. Dan Smith February 10, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    This is the only image of the later Haç DJ booth that I could find:

    http://cerysmaticfactory.info/fac51_the_hacienda_dj_booth_as_bought_by_bobby_langley.html

    Strange seeing it so out of context.

  6. mike bradshaw February 10, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    I was an early member of the Hacienda/ joined around autumn 82. We used to go down there for a drink and a look around. It was always nearly empty when we were there. They used to show The Man Who Fell To Earth on the video screens/ sometimes we'd sit in the cocktail bar which was round the back/ downstairs or somewhere. It was always freezing cold in the Hacienda back then. It was lit blue... so the combination of the lighting and the actual temperature made it seem like an icebox. We used to go to see bands there too - The Fall, John Cale and Klaus Schulze spring to mind. The other big event was William Burroughs and the Psychic TV crew in October 1982. Burroughs read from his books and later I got my Call Me Burroughs ESP Disk original LP autographed when he came up to greet his fans by the stage.... must be worth a fair few bob now I dare say.
    Late in 83 I moved from Manchester and so missed the classic Hacienda years. As I say - all I remember is the emptiness and the cold really.

  7. GeeDoubleU February 10, 2012 at 3:08 pm #

    Excellent article Greg, I really enjoyed that. I remember the first time I went to the Hac in about 86 it scared the hell out of me. It was an intimidating place at the best of times to a young white kid from the burbs, but the first time I went in I just felt totally out of my depth – I couldn’t dance like these guys, I didn’t dress like them and I sure as hell didn’t look as old as them either!

    It took me another 2 years until I went back again and everyone was in dungarees and there were Smiley’s everywhere – it was equally intimidating but felt like something I wanted to get into. The crowd had changed a lot though – and at least this time there were some more women in there. From then on I was going 2-3 times a week and went to all the birthday parties etc. I was also there in the 90’s when the Midsummer Dream night was on and someone got stabbed and they kept us all inside – with the music on ( I remember a chilled house version of Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water, like the DJ’s had been told to calm us all down a bit…), before finally opening the doors and throwing us all out onto the streets where there was a load of riot police and dogs. Hilariously I remember one black guy going up to an Alsatian and saying ’Come on then’ and offering the dog out….happy days.

  8. John Blyther February 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    (From Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DJGregWilson)

    great memory; it was a nightmare, you could not see the dance floor double glazed security glass gave you a view of a few legs of crew on the stage and that was it, we could not hear the sound on the floor we needed runners to tell it was too loud or to say that went down well etc., mixer had an auto cross fade not manual, mixer mounted at head height above the decks, one had to check volume levels on a light monitor, sync then press auto cross fade for mixing without being able to hear or adjust the result; i think volume control was touch pad so moved in steps cannot remember that bit; we suffered in there for year, before we advised Rob that the box needed to be moved to the balcony if he wanted the club to be successful, we oversaw the installation up top; we also advised on acoustic improvements the echo was poor; they never really sorted the latter out as the industrial aesthetic would not allow fabric. I think budget was an issue too as perforated metal screens on the back wall would have been expensive; but then the echo probably helped form the magic post 87 j

  9. Christopher Rayner February 10, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

    (From Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DJGregWilson)

    The formula sound PM 80 was much better! Great article.

  10. Scott Thompson February 10, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    (From Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DJGregWilson)

    Incredible vids and words

  11. Greg Evans February 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    (From Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DJGregWilson)

    wow, Greg. That picture sums up a "bad DJing" dream I've had several times over the years (where I also bring the wrong record bags).

  12. Ian February 11, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    I never got to see "inside" the booth but i guess with those huge Tannoys the music sounded better in there than out on the floor.

    With the cavernous roof with large glass sections the sound in the club would boom everywhere especially as it was (at best) quarter full in the early days.

    I remember some pretty strange play list .... Sivuca - Aint No Sunshine was an early Hac fave, next up would be Glenn Miller's -In The Mood followed by Class Action- Weekend etc etc ...... quality memory's !

    Also loved the video mash ups, Felix The Cat cartoons alongside B Movie science fiction and Russ Meyer flicks. Never did find out who was responsible for the Videos.

    Years later i went to the charity auction and the later DJ/Video booth was up for grabs ..... i settled for a strip of dance floor.

    Greg, I ahve a cassette of a TCOB show. On it, you and Mike Shaft discuss the sound system upgrade for the all dayer taking place that day!

  13. Mike Rez February 12, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    intriguing interview Greg

    thanks

  14. Andy Akka February 22, 2012 at 11:05 pm #

    A blast from the past... lol..
    Sounds like you were missing a vital part of the kit in the Hac, the DiscoV Mixer which linked to the Digitheque.

    http://www.akwilav.com/akwil-80s-product-set.html

    The Digitheque wasn't designed for Cutting, the DiscoV was.
    The Digitheque was designed to link the audio to the lighting utilizing frequency ranges to control the changes in lighting. Similar to what Madrix does with computers nowadays.
    I'm sorry the DiscoV was never installed with it. Eddie mentioned the position of the booth was chosen by the club though. It must have been odd playing in another room to the crowd.

  15. Chris Hughes March 21, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    Hi,

    I'm making a documentary about the Hacienda auction that took place in Nov 2000. All of our profits will be going to the charity Kidneys for life.

    In the film we are tracking down the parts of the club...and have found quite a few.

    We will be featuring the DJ booth in the film.

    If anyone has any part of the club and/or went to the auction, please get in touch.

    Cheers
    Chris

  16. Paul Langley April 10, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

    Are kid (Bobby) bought the rabbit hutch and raised it to the ground I believe.. I remember it well.. They'll never have another like that again!

  17. chris hughes April 10, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    Thanks for that Paul :) we're hoping to go and see him soon to see what's left of it.

    Do you own anything from the club? or did you goto the auction in Nov 2000?

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