Publications > Freaky Dancing < FAC 51 The Hacienda

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Culture Shock, tales from the Stripey Girders and Ecstasy Man

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Christmas with Mr Big, Gaz 'n' Baz and the Freaky Dancing board game

Archived interview with one of the fanzine's creators together with long-lost archived copies retrieved from the defunct website.


We track down one of the creators of Freaky Dancing...We managed to get in touch with one of its creators Paul Gill. We grabbed him for a few minutes to get his thoughts on the whole shebang:

When did you first start going to the Hacienda and how did you hear about it?

First started going in the summer of '87, so before ecstacy and stuff like that. It was just the best place to go in Manchester. There was either a goth place or a place to go fighting. The Hacienda was more than that. The music was great, playing a cross of hip hop and dance music, The Smiths and Prince and stuff like that, it was a very eclectic mix.

Was it really busy then? Had it reached its peak?

No, it didn't reach its peak until a couple of years after then. Sometimes there'd only be 500 people out there from a capacity of 1500. But the main part was moderately full but nothing like it became later.

Why did it feel like no other club?

It just had a great attitude and atmosphere about it. They'd always put on events on. For instance, in the birthday party in 1988, they had a whole ghost train at the back, things like that. They liked spending money on things that were interesting artistically. It just made a difference between that and everywhere else in town.

Were drugs an important part of the scene back then?

I was young and impressionable then. We started taking acid then ecstasy. I do remember ecstasy when it first started in 1988, it was 25 quid a shot, which was very expensive, especially if weren't getting paid that much, but it was great!

Is it fair that the start of E culture is widely attributed to the Hacienda?

From my experience it's definitely down to the Hacienda. We used to go to other clubs, we used to go to Gallery, a black club which was playing acid house around the same time. That wasn't for skinny white kids, you know what I mean, which was more the Hacienda. But also parties were kicking off towards the end of 88 which we used to go to - they were terrifying to tell you the truth. Certainly it was a focal point, starting from 1988. I think there was clubs in London and Southampton, but certainly in Manchester, it was a definite focal point for all that.

In 1988, it exploded. Can you tell me a bit about that?

I suppose I was completely in the right place at the right age, because I'd just come through this angsty, New Order/Joy Division stuff. Suddenly, virtually over the space of two or three weeks, the atmosphere completely changed. I didn't take ecstacy until the end of 1988. I was still taking acid but the atmosphere was tangibly different for that period. It was quite an incredible thing in hindsight, it was history being made, certainly cultural history.

What was the difference between the acid atmosphere and the E atmosphere?We were acid-heads, got into E a bit later on. The whole atmosphere at the Hacienda was geared towards, no matter what drugs you take, everything was so friendly, and this is not just because of the ecstacy, because a lot of people were still taking other drugs. For instance, speed never went away, throughout the whole period. It was just geared towards people having a good time on drugs, basically.

What kind of figure was Tony Wilson to you?

We love Tony Wilson! We used to take the piss out of him mercilessly in the magazine, but I still think he's a great patron of the arts. Part of the piss taking we did do in Freaky Dancing was part of the general rough and tumble - people in Manchester take the piss out of the people they love the most. I think he's a great patron of the arts - he's been very important to Manchester since the beginning of Factory right up to what he's doing now, which is internet music.

How did Freaky Dancing start?

Well it's mainly me and Steve. I'm also known as Fishkid in the magazine, due to the fact it's all about drugs, and we didn't necessarily want our bosses finding out. We were doing fanzines anyway, and were part of the ecstacy explosion towards the end of 1988. Really for us, it really came into it at the beginning of 1989. At the beginning of 1989 there was no one writing about it. There was a bit in the NME but I hated The Face because it was all about the London fashion scene and we weren't into that at all. It was just so alien to us scuffbags taking Es in the Hacienda. We thought if there's no one doing this, we'll do it. Steve used to work virtually next door to the Hacienda, which was very handy. We used to go in there on a Friday night and write the comic strips and articles during the week, and use the photocopier there. Get there at about 7 o'clock, photocopy until about 9 o'clock, then get our mates to come down and staple them together, and go and hand them out, and take drugs with everyone. It was a halcyon summer, really. Mainly me and Steve did it, then we roped in our friends to add to it. It was just a great crazy period for everyone. Everyone was just so excited. Not just due to the drugs - the drugs brought everyone together but it was a lot more than that. There was a changing atmosphere in Manchester at the time.

Why was the magazine developed for the queue? What was so special about the line people outside the club?

By the first issue, in July, things were starting to happen, you could tell things were happening, so you would start queuing up and making friends in the queue beforehand. Again it's nothing to do with the drugs, although we would take the drugs beforehand. You'd hear all these mad stories from top crazy new people, and think "this is a great scene going on right here". And also we loved the Hacienda but we didn't necessarily want to be handing out drugs magazines under the bouncers, so we thought "right let's give it out outside". We found out later that Tony Wilson loved it and the manager at the Hacienda loved it. We needn't have been worried, but we were a little bit wary of that. It was just easier, rather than trying to walk into the Hacienda with 200 fanzines. It was just more practical to do it that way.

Did you have any problems from the Police or anyone?

No no. Like I said, the Hacienda, before the unfortunate gangster stuff came in, I wouldn't say encouraged, but certainly didn't discourage it, they loved it. Centre of the universe at that point. They loved it, and were fully aware of it. The only trouble came in a bit later with all the gangsters, which was unfortunate, but I think inevitable.

Do you think it's quite a sad statement about Manchester that that happened?

I think it would have happened any place. Towards the end of 1989, 1990, Manchester was on the front cover of the NME all the time, and on television all the time. So any gangster, or wannabe gangster, thought "right well there's loads of money to be made there then - loads of drug-fuelled kids? I'll have a bit of that" And you've got the problem with the Hulme gangs and the Cheetham Hill gangs, fighting over it. So it just went a bit sour.

How did you notice all that start?

We started seeing fights inside after the summer of '90. It was never like that. By that time we'd been going for three years, before ecstacy and when no one was bothered about it, gangsters weren't bothered about it. It was just a place to hang about. We started seeing fights and knives and horrible stories about people with guns in their mouths and stuff like that. It just went very sour after that.

How did you feel about it closing in 1992?

I think it had had its time and had had its place and should have stayed shut. But I do know that young people, some friends, started going in '93, '94, who loved it, which is fair enough, I suppose it's their time. But for us, we felt it should have called it a day then. It had had its time, which was brilliant, but nothing lasts forever, does it?

Did you go to the recreation of the Hacienda?

Unfortunately I didn't but a lot of my friends did and said it was strange because it was just like the Hacienda but made of really cheap cardboard, because obviously it's just a film set, there for the day. They said it was a very surreal experience.

What do you think about the idea of a movie about Manchester like this?

I think it could be interesting, if it's done correctly. It's going to be either really bad or really good. I think it would be interesting to see, to see what they make of something like this.

Has Manchester been the same since the Hacienda closed?

A lot of the culture has changed. There isn't a big youth culture explosion but I think we're due for one. I'm a bit too old for that now unfortunately, but it's all bar culture and everything, it's changed. It's just different. I hear a lot of things from people in London, saying Manchester's rubbish now, but I think that's just using an old cliché that we mock ourselves with. Things just change and move on, don't they? You can't stay in a summer taking Es with your mates all the time, it doesn't work that way. It's certainly better than it was before 1989, put it that way. Then, it was a dreadful place, because everyone was fighting basically. That period brought a lot of people together, and that still exists today.

Where do you see the focus of Manchester being today?

It's more dispersed in bar culture these days. Bars rule and there aren't even that many dance clubs. Before the Hacienda in 1989 there wasn't anything like that in Manchester anyway.

What have you guys been up since the Hacienda closed?

We still do fanzines on and off. We doing one right now. We're still friends with a lot of the people that worked on Freaky Dancing, great friends. Myself, I'm into this whole Twisted Nerve thing, Badly Drawn Boy and things like that. I'm showing my age now, because I'm 33 now. A lot of people I know are still into taking Es and going to Sankey Soap and dancing, which is fair enough.

Do you work with Ste on a professional level now?

No, we work in the same industry. We both write computer games. We both work for different companies in Manchester. He's working on the Playstation 2, and I'm doing Gameboy Advanced at the moment. A lot of my friends do that as well.

How do you look back on that period?

I think it was a great, wonderful time really. In hindsight you could see how important it was, culturally. I'm just glad that I was there, right place, right time, and right age. A lot of the people that did go the Hacienda, before it kicked off, were the school drop-outs, people who used to be into art or media or whatever, and basically your geeks. A big congregation of these people just hung around in the Hacienda, all the outcasts that dressed up in a white shirt and danced to Stock Aitken and Waterman in 1988. And suddenly the place that we all went to became the centre of the universe, so as my friends say, "We won."


Retrieved in 2012 from the archived version of the defunct website for the 2002 movie 24 Hour Party People.