One Haçienda devotee and DJ loved the place so much, he bought the flat where the famous Manchester club’s DJ booth was.
The film Do You Own the Dancefloor? went on release in June 2015. It’s an affectionate, sometimes hilarious, and decidedly good-natured account of the sell-off of fixtures and fittings from The Haçienda, Manchester’s famous club. In doing so, it explores the legacy of the club.
If The Haçienda’s time in the sun was something you weren’t part of, the film certainly makes you feel you’ve missed out. The Haçienda had more impact than any other to create the nascent club scene and put Manchester on the acid house and rave culture map.
The film was made by Chris Hughes and Do You Own the Dancefloor? is his first foray into film making. Chris told me how he feels extremely nervous when he sees the audiences waiting for the film to start but, so far, he’s had very positive feedback. He has further plans to release a DVD later this year.
After the club’s demise, The Haçienda was torn down and a block of modern flats built on the site. I interviewed a Haçienda fan, a Manchester DJ who ended up buying one. Christopher remembers the club from the 90s, and recalls the important part it played in his formative clubbing years. And when he moved into his Haçienda flat, he made an interesting discovery.
Which period of time were your Haçienda days? “I was a bit young for the club’s glory days when the Roses and New Order did impromptu sets. I used to go in 1996–97, at the tail end before it got closed down. We used to go on Saturdays when our favourite DJs were playing: Sasha and/or Mike Pickering. It was that really progressive house scene, American garage sound, which of course is founded on disco – Chicago house was petering out by the time I got to The Haçienda. It was becoming more trancey and progressive, like a soundscape, with big, epic sets – rumbling buildups, and epic drops. It was big hands in the air rather than just grooving along. Take a Haçienda track like Voodoo Ray, that’s the direction it was going in.
What was the club like? The Haçienda was like being at an indoor rave. It had that sense of danger, but in a good way. It felt like something could happen at any time. It reminded me of a rave because there was a shambolic element to it that was energising. Events were always being shut down by the police or generators would stop working. I think they had to have sound limiters at one point because the sound would just cut out. There would be lots of stamping of feet with everyone singing and clapping till the music came back on and it would almost take the roof off when that happened.
The Haçienda was like being at an indoor rave. It had that sense of danger, but in a good way.
I remember it was one of the darkest places I’ve ever been in, it was full of dark corners. And there were so many doormen!
Did you go to other clubs? We used to go to Sankeys Soap which I loved. And, as I said earlier, I used to go to a lot of outdoor raves with friends. We would travel all over the country to attend raves – we even went down to Devon from Manchester for one.
Who were your favourite DJs? Sasha was king, and I liked Mike Pickering too. What I remember primarily at The Hacienda was Sasha being amazing. He did a series of albums called Northern Exposure with John Digweed, and those two were the kings of clubbing.
What else do you remember? The Gay Traitor, named after Antony Blunt was downstairs, and it made a big impression on me. It was bar culture before its time. The Gay Traitor was seedy but a bit cool, you would go there to chill out. I remember they had original Chicago house going on there. It was the first time I experienced a proper chillout room at a club. Two rooms of contrasting styles to make up the whole.
What was got you into dance music? I was into bands and then the figure who got me into dance music was Paul Oakenfold. He was my DJ idol for a long while. Then rave culture came in, he got into trance and Goa trance and hard trance. But it got a bit acid drenched, which wasn’t my thing.
How did you end up living at The Haçienda? I wanted to live in Manchester city centre – I had recently got married and I was flat hunting with my wife. I knew The Haçienda had been rebuilt as apartments so we went to have a look. It just all fell at the right time. Within two days of moving in, I checked a blueprint and realised our apartment was where the DJ booth would have been. That blew my mind.
We were on the ground floor. Our apartment and the one next door to me would have spanned the DJ booth. I like to think that our half was where Sasha played, and next door was where Pickering played. From that, and a blueprint I got on Ebay, I looked for other artefacts. I got a piece of the original dance floor, which even has gum stuck to it, which is just great.
Tell me about the 30th Anniversary of the club… It was in the car park at our old apartment in 2012 – we’ve since moved. They got permission from the residents. Peter Hook curated it to look like a museum piece, he even gave it Factory Records serial numbers. The bar was the full length of the car park, there were DJ rooms, and framed photos of the DJs and ‘back in the day’ photos hung around… and those yellow and black warning stripes everywhere. Some DJs were there, Mike Pickering, Graeme Park… but not Sasha. That was the last time I went clubbing.