Q&A: Graeme Park
By Andy Malt | Published on Wednesday 31 October 2012
Graeme Park was working in Nottingham record shop Selectadisc when early house music records began to make their way over from the US to the UK. His interest in this new style of music soon led him to begin DJing, and as his profile rose he came to the attention of Mike Pickering at The Haçienda in Manchester. In 1988, Park was given a residency at the legendary club, and stayed there until 1996, a year before it closed.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of The Haçienda’s opening night and, amongst other activities surrounding it, Park, Pickering and the club’s former co-owner Peter Hook have put together a three disc compilation of classic tracks from the Haçienda era. With the compilation now out, CMU’s Andy Malt spoke to Graeme Park about The Haçienda, its legacy and how DJing has changed in the last 30 years.
AM: What was your first night in The Haçienda like?
GP: I first visited The Haçienda not long after it opened. I was a massive Factory Records fan and travelled up by train from Nottingham to watch some of the Factory bands play live. My first DJ gig there was a midweek night in February 1988, when Mike Pickering and I hosted The Northern House Review to showcase bands on the Deconstruction and Submission labels. As well as DJing, I performed live on stage with my band Groove, and Mike also DJed and performed live with his band T-Coy. Four months later I covered Mike’s Friday Nude Night when he was on holiday and I ended up staying until 1996!
AM: 30 years on, what is The Haçienda’s legacy in 2012?
GP: The spirit of The Haçienda lives on thanks to the love and support of the thousands and thousands of people who used to go religiously every week. It remains important to them because it was such an important part their lives, and because it was, without question, the first proper superclub in the UK, and was such a special, unique place. It became such a profound influence on so many people from so many different walks of life. Like early house music, it was fresh and exciting and like absolutely nothing else. As a result, the formula was copied but never bettered (apart from maybe financially).
I think Cream, Gatecrasher and Ministry Of Sound were heavily influenced by The Haçienda in so many ways, and even clubs today are subconsciously influenced by it, whether it is in artwork or interior design. However, no one has ever captured the true spirit of the greatest club there ever was.
AM: What effect did it, and has it had, on your own career?
GP: I was doing pretty well before I started DJing at The Haçienda (that’s how I came to their attention), but things just exploded for me afterwards. There’s not a weekend goes by without someone coming up to me to tell me their Haçienda story, and to thank me for the greatest nights of their lives. I do find it quite humbling, because without the people who’ve showed their massive support over the years I wouldn’t be able to continue to do what I love so much.
AM: After The Haçienda closed, did you think people would still be talking about it in such reverential terms all these years later?
GP: To be honest, for the first few years after the club closed it used to do my head in. I wanted to move on. But after a while, a lot of us realised just what we had achieved and started to do the odd Haçienda night. Things started to snowball, and now I’m proud to be involved in the amazing Haçienda parties that we throw around the UK, Europe and beyond every year. The parties at [Manchester club] Sankeys, in particular, are incredible and are as close as you’ll get to actually having being at The Haçienda.
AM: How does clubbing now compare to the 80s and 90s?
GP: Today there is so much choice, and so many clubs and DJs, that everything has become diluted. People don’t travel any more as a result. Another thing I’ve noticed in recent years is that people used to come to dance, have fun and just enjoy some great music, whereas today younger clubbers appear almost obsessed with the DJ and what tech and equipment they’re using, rather than the records they’re playing. As far as I’m concerned, it’s all about the music first and the DJ second.
AM: But there’s a lot more tech to obsess about now. Has that changed the way you DJ?
GP: To a point. I carry thousands and thousands of tunes on my laptop so I’m covered for any eventuality. But I choose to use Serato Scratch Live with vinyl, because it’s as close to traditional DJing as you can get. I still have to do all the work and you can’t beat the delicacy and nuances of mixing with turntables. When I discovered Serato I was overjoyed because I never really took to CDs but had no choice but to use them. I do occasionally use Pioneer CDs with USB drives, but only out of practicality and necessity, and to cut down on hand baggage too if I’m flying to Europe for one gig.
AM: As well as DJing live, you also have a podcast and iOS app. How has the internet changed how you work and discover new music?
GP: I love technology and grasped the potential of the internet and social networking very early on. The thing I love the most is connecting personally with people who choose to follow me. I love it! I also love finding stuff on the internet too and rely on technology to make my life simpler. I’m answering these questions on the train to London while downloading some tunes requested last minute by the celebrity bride and groom who’s wedding I’m DJing at tonight!
AM: How did you go about creating your mix for the ‘Haçienda 30’ compilation – presumably there were a lot more potential tracks than you could fit in?
GP: I started with a list of over 100 and waited to see who gave permission first. I chose tracks that were special to me and also some of the less obvious ones. Unfortunately some labels and publishers came up with some ridiculous conditions (eg no edits, no mixing for more that five seconds, you can use this track but only if you use three others too etc) that meant some tracks were immediately ruled out because I refused to be dictated to.
With the actual mix, I tried to use vinyl wherever practical, or Serato Scratch Live with vinyl discs where not. As a result, my mix is live and could well be the last ever live mix compilation ever to be released as nobody really does that any more. I wanted my mix to be as authentic as possible, and my eight year residency at The Haçienda was carried out exclusively with vinyl and three turntables. Listen out for the surface noise at the end. Glorious.
AM: Did you have to work with Peter and Mike to ensure there were no duplicate tracks in your mixes, or are your personal favourites more, well, personal than that?
GP: We each submitted completely different lists and there were absolutely no instances of duplicates whatsoever. What were the chances of that? But that was probably down to the personal nature of our choices more than anything.
AM: At The Haçienda’s birthday party earlier this year you DJed in the carpark under the flats that have replaced the club. How was it being back, but also not being, at the same time?
GP: Same place, same faces, same vibe. We actually travelled back in time. I will never forget that night. It was incredible and for a few hours we were all partying in the late 1980s.
AM: Which was closer to the real experience – that or playing in the recreated club for the ’24 Hour Party People’ film?
GP: That Haçienda set was uncannily and eerily accurate. It blew my mind. But the vibe of the 30th birthday was exactly like being in The Haçienda in every detail.
AM: Finally, where’s your favourite place to DJ now?
GP: I absolutely love The Sub Club in Glasgow and Sankeys in Manchester. They are proper clubs with appreciative crowds, great sound systems and amazing vibes.