Art. Music. Culture.

District is a digital & physical magazine that focuses on the internal and external creative influences on Ireland that make it culturally significant. Our magazine is published quarterly. Get Issue 001 here and Issue 002 here. We also publish a weekend preview every Tuesday highlighting the best things going on in Dublin. For music submissions or if you’re interested in contributing contact For advertising queries get in touch with our head of sales in Ireland & UK Craig Connolly

February 13, 2017Feature

Eric Davidson sat down with Mike Pickering in Dublin for a conversation about subcultures, social classes and football for District Magazine Issue One.

“…all the England fans in a campsite in Sardinia all on E, all having big parties. All the Italian hooligans were outside trying to get at them, and they were all like “Fuck off, we’re having a party!”, it was hilarious, the Italians couldn’t understand it.”


It was 2016 and The Stone Roses were in Dublin. That meant Haçienda regulars Mike Pickering, Graeme Park and A Guy Called Gerald were brought in to supply the soundtrack to the thousands of revellers flocking into the city centre from Marlay Park.

The concept of this issue is exploring different concepts of home. So to start off simply, do you feel at home in the club environment?

Myself and Graeme Parks were having a drink earlier talking about it, it’s still in our blood really. Most people would look at a space and say it’s just a room with black walls. I cherry-pick where I play and the gigs I do. It’s hard to play somewhere that’s not very good after you’ve played the Haçienda.

It’s a bit like playing at Bury’s football ground after you’ve played at Wembley.

Stone Roses are selling out the Etihad and Kasabian played The King Power after Leicester City won the league. You just mentioned a couple of stadiums, but what do you make of that intrinsic link between football and music?

Well we’re Man City fans, and they’ve always been very linked with music. Noel and Liam Gallagher, and Johnny Marr are season ticket holders, Mark E. Smith’s a big fan. United have got Ian Brown and Mani, Liverpool have got Ian Broudie and Ian McCulloch, so it’s always been like that. Music’s a lot posher now though. All the young kids who’d work in the industry used to be working class kids, and now they’re all posh kids. I’ve got two scouts, and one of them went to Cambridge. They’re the only ones who can afford to work there, because the jobs don’t pay. And bands that come in, they’re all called Tarquin or Crispin or something weird like that. Whereas all bands used to be scally working-class lads.

So that link between football and music was always there?

Yeah, especially in acid house. It’s funny, I remember playing at The Trip in the Astoria, going to the toilet there and walking out and thinking “Fucking hell, this is all Millwall!”

A few years earlier you’d shit yourself, and then all of a sudden they were all hugging each other, it was fantastic. There’s a great video at the Italia ’90 World Cup of all the England fans in a campsite in Sardinia all on E, all having big parties. All the Italian hooligans were outside trying to get at them, and they were all like “Fuck off, we’re having a party!”, it was hilarious, the Italians couldn’t understand it.

I remember them all singing “Let’s all have a disco!” and doing the conga, and from that moment on, hooliganism, to the scale it was, kind of died off, and the whole continent took it on.

House at the Haçienda took off very similarly to Northern Soul. Northern Soul was a secret society as well. You used to get the train up north for the football on a Saturday, and these kids who’d support Wigan or Blackpool, they’d know each other and they’d think “No one knows what we’re doing here” and they’d go dancing all night, which was dead cool.

In fact, when I first started playing a lot of house at the Haçienda on a Friday night, pre-ecstasy times, probably ’85, ’86, there were loads of old Northern boys who used to come and dance, because it was the same four to the floor. It was a bit harder for them, because they all lasted five, six minutes and they were used to two minutes and fifty nine seconds. But it was great.

A coming together of different people. Obviously ska brought a lot of people of different races together, your movement brought a lot of people together…

Like a fusion of cultures and musical cultures. I think that’s what British music has always done better than anyone else, even The Happy Mondays who I signed to Factory, they were a fusion of indie and dance music. You listen to modern stuff and there are so many influences, usually from immigrants into Britain; Jamaicans like you mentioned with ska; Indians and Asians you get bhangra influences.

“The name actually came from an Italian anarchist manifesto ‘The Haçienda must be built’. It was Tony Wilson that was totally into this Italian anarchy thing. But it was our home, the Haçienda was weird, because everyone just thinks of it as acid house and stuff, but when it opened in ’82 it was a meeting place for like minded, creative people at a time when there was no place like that for people to go.”

Do you think there needs to be another movement like that? It seems like there are some racial tensions in Britain now.

I don’t think there is a massive problem with that. I know in London there isn’t anyway. The smallest things are highlighted by the media at the moment, but it doesn’t feel different, no. It’s given a voice to the halfwits, but they’re immediately slapped down.

London is totally multicultural, it’s one of the reasons I like living there. We feel a little bit separated from the rest of England anyway. You know, we’re all immigrants. London, Manchester, Glasgow, all those cities voted to remain in the EU. In Manchester we’re all Irish, and Liverpool as well.

You were very into punk at one stage?

Yeah, in 1977 that’s what really changed my life. I loved David Bowie before that, but he was kind of punk really, a man dressing up as a woman.

The big hippie thing happened in ’66, then punk happened in ’77, then acid house happened in ’88. So Tony Wilson and I were convinced in 1999 there was going to be a huge new musical movement, and then ’99 came along and we were there saying, “Come on! Someone do it!”.

But we really need someone to come along and just shock everyone. See, acid house was exactly the same as punk. Punk was learning three chords on a guitar, and acid house was getting a drum machine and a synthesiser and making a song in your bedroom, which we did. People ask me what the next big thing is going to be, and I say that it has to be something that we’re all revolted by, something that we fucking hate, because we’re too old.

We should really revile it and say, “Jesus, that’s too much”. Otherwise it’s not acceptable, it’s not going to work. Something that my son likes but I hate, that’s what it should be. Although, it’s going to be difficult to find that, because I am an old punk. An awkward old punk. It’s all very safe now, isn’t it? Everything’s very safe. People want to be entertained rather than create, and I think creative spirits came about from darker times.

Do you feel that the crowds that you play to today have that same energy they used to?

The crowds that we have in Manchester are quite young, and they have a great energy. It kind of goes older as you get to the back of the club, to be honest. But nights that are advertised as Haçienda nights, I think it’s great that there’s a whole new crowd who want to come to these things. But do they have the same energy? Yeah I suppose they must.

I think the difference is back then that was the first time. The big thing that made 1988 and 1989 really special, those first two summers of love, was that no one from the authority had any idea what was going on, so it was like a secret society. That made it even more special. It was only when those London promoters let The Sun and The News of the World in, then overnight it was like this evil new wave. Then we immediately said that’s it, it’s over.

Photo Credit: Andrew Gilbert

This was an extract from District Magazine Issue One. To grab your copy click here.


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