The late 80’s, the Second Summer of Love, The Hacienda, Acid House… Manchester was without doubt a major catalyst for the explosion of electronic music heading into the 90’s.
It’s post-industrial, dilapidated setting was perfect in giving rise to what we now know as the Rave. It’s also a time that’s exceptionally hard to write about without it sounding like a lost script from 24 Hour Party People. Now I’ve said that, I’ll give you a tenner* if you manage not to read it in Steve Coogan’s voice. I guarantee you won’t be able to…
The Hacienda was central to a massive shift in what got people dancing, and it was down to more than the psychadelic indie of the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses that people so commonly associate with the ‘Madchester’ scene. It was the resident DJs, the likes of Dave Haslam, Mike Pickering and Graeme Park, dropping what were then little known tunes like A Guy Called Gerald’s ‘Voodoo Ray’ to hundreds if not thousands of people who were ‘ravers’ before the term ravers was even invented. Speaking of which, what do Kangol do now the 80′s/90′s are over? Even Jamiroquai can’t be keeping them in business any more.
Manchester became a mecca for fans of acid house, and a significant part of it’s legacy was born of two of it’s pilgrims, namely Ed Simons and Tom Rowlands. They came to university in Manchester primarily for it’s music scene, but would later become The Chemical Brothers.
Manchester’s underground scene is still of huge importance and continues to have a massive influence on what’s happening more generally in UK music and clubbing. Countless nights have come and gone since the Hacienda closed its doors for the final time in 1997, but in recent years, a night whose atmosphere very much echoes that of the much fabled nights of old, is Micron.
As resident Bodidily (That’s Bod, to you or I) says himself, ‘Club years are like dog years, so 5 years is like 30 years or something silly’. If that was the case, Micron would be the Andrex puppies of Manchester, never growing old, never losing what’s made it so influential. Rather than stagnate and fizzle out like various others have along the way (the dogs from Blue Peter), Micron has simply grown with age.
Despite very much remaining an underground night, Micron’s influence can be felt not only in Manchester with nights like Idiosync and Zütekh, but as far afield as Sheffield and even Russia. Infact some kind words were shared with us by Tom Banham, resident of the recently featured ‘Drumro[ll]’, who said “I don’t know how they do it. They’ve become so big and so influential. To bring people like Kiki, and Ewan Pearson into Joshua Brooks… massive acts. It’s impressive”. It’s clear to see that the calibre of acts Micron have played host to, particularly this year, is enviable.
Their monthly parties have themselves become the stuff of Manchester legend, emulating the nostalgic ‘family’ feeling of Manchester as it was in the early 90’s. As the guys hurtle towards a very happy 5th birthday, things look set to get even more legendary, as we found out when we spoke to Micron’s Bod and Gaz at the club nights spiritual (and physical) home, Joshua Brooks…winner of CityLife’s ‘Best Venue’ award don’t you know…
*Disclaimer – I won’t actually give you a tenner, what if you’ve never seen the film? I win again….
Gaz: I’ll do the long version of everything…about five years ago now myself and Isaac had just finished uni, and we went up to [Manchester’s student area] Fallowfield to pretend that we were still students. With the temptation of free booze we went to what is now Font to find a really strange looking guy on the couch. He turned out to be Matt Earnshaw aka Zillo aka The Countach. I’ve called him other names but obviously you’re not going to put that in the printed version… We got talking and we realised that yeah, he was strange, but we had loads of things in common. Mainly music, primarily house, house and techno.
Matt met Ronnie, one of the other guys we do it with, at an afterparty, battling to get on the decks and he, strangely, just asked him if he wanted to start a night. The first time I met Matt he asked me if I wanted to start a night too. I dunno if that’s an indication that Matt didn’t have any friends at the time… So Me, Isaac, and Matt, all came here to Joshua Brooks, went downstairs and met Ronnie. Upon first impressions, Ronnie was just this old, bald guy…still is old and bald and isn’t getting any younger or hairier. We just hit it off and agreed on music policies. A few other people were involved as well, and we all had the time to push it really hard. We were all from different places and all had different sets of friends too, so we just made everyone come down on the first night. It got round through word of mouth that it went really well, and everyone came out. That’s more than any poster or flyer can ever do. If you can get people saying ‘yeah, that was amazing’ it just keeps getting better. Then here we are still, getting bigger guests than ever. Nearly five years, every month without fail.
HuWho: Techno is having a bit of a resurgence of late and has become pretty popular again. Have you noticed a difference?
Bod: Micron’s weird, it’s never really followed a particular trend or a particular scene in my opinion. I’ve only been involved with running it the past couple of years, but i’ve always been coming to it. I came as a clubber before I started DJ-ing. We’ve always just played what we love and booked DJ’s that we love. Obviously as techno in Manchester has got bigger, there’s other nights starting up around that, which is great. But for us, we’ve never followed any particular trend, we’ve just played music we love. We are the bandwagon!
Gaz: I think at the beginning we did book DJ’s that we like even though they might not have been so well known. We booked people that we thought were kind of up and coming.
What’s happened now though with techno its that all these different things have merged with it. Like Sam over there [gestures towards the guy on the sofas] likes his techno crossed with dub, and that’s massive right now. It means that people are coming into it from different angles.
Bod: Loads of new nights have started with people that have come to uni in Manchester and have seen what’s on offer and wanna get involved by DJ-ing and putting on their own events. Not all of them, but a lot of them have started off by coming to Micron and enjoying it and wanting to put their own thing on, which is brilliant.
HuWho: Any nights worth keeping an eye on?
Gaz: My personal two favourite nights in Manchester are Idiosync and Zütekh. Idiosync are just good, they’re really young, have gained a young crowd, and have a lot of enthusiasm which is the best. Zütekh are simply getting some great bookings.
Bod: It all works brilliantly. Even though the music’s similar [to Micron], the bookings that Idiosync and Zütekh get are totally different to the people that we get. We’re good mates with both of them, we all go to each others nights and we all help each other out. You don’t get that in a lot of cities. Content too, they’re very much going for the Detroit sound. We’re all doing our own thing, but it’s all interlinked, its cool.
HuWho: There does seem to be a real collaborative feeling in Manchester…
Bod: Everyone knows each other, it’s small. It’s great that everyone works together. It’s been great at Micron when the whole front row has been the guys from Zütekh, the Idiosync guys and all their mates, and then all the Content lads, just going mental. You don’t get that in a lot of places. It’s definitely a positive thing that you’ve got more and more house and techno in Manchester.
Gaz: Yeah, I think in London there’s a hell of a lot more competition. There’s so much to do there that you can’t go to everything. Manchester seems to be good, in terms of the music we do, in that there seems to be one main thing on each Friday of the month that everyone goes to.
HuWho: Bit of a cheesy one, but what do you think is the secret to your success?
Bod: Just loads of cheese.
Gaz: Actually, yeah, really good cheese. There’s this really good cheese…[laments the middle class nightmare that is expensive cheese from Waitrose]…can’t believe you can buy a block of cheese for 21 pounds.
Bod: There isn’t really a secret, you play music that you love, and that’s the whole point of DJ-ing and putting on a night. You shouldn’t be doing it to make money, you should just be doing it because you love it. Sharing the music that you love with other people, and that’s all it comes down to basically. We book people that we like, and we book the DJ’s and producers that make the music that we play, and that’s it. There’s no secret to it whatsoever, we’ve got loads of regular followers that have phenomenally good taste in music and just enjoy what we do.
Gaz: We’ve never rested on laurels either. If you smash one month, its not like ‘oh lets take it easy’. You’ve got to start over again. Doing the same things, trying different things, the same effort every single time. It’s hard work but its worth it for those few hours on the actual night.
Bod: A lot of people know each other that come down here too. They will come down on their own because they know Micron’s on, but they’ll bump into people they know and that they’ve seen before and they’ll just have a good laugh on the dancefloor. There’s been many relationships formed on the Micron dancefloor…Couples Corner!
HuWho: Bit of a techno lonely hearts club?
Bod: I wouldn’t go that far, we’re not ALL complete loners!
Bod: There is a very loyal core crowd who will travel across the country to see us play every month which is absolutely brilliant. Obviously they love the music, but they have a great time too, they’ve made good friends there. There’s guys who we’ll meet up with outside of Micron to go watch the footy with, and that’s something that has a major effect on the kind of people that come and how much they enjoy the night.
HuWho: Any really dedicated fanboys?
Bod: There was Beaky… A while ago, you got a stamp when you came in which was the Micron smiley face. He loved it so much he got it tattooed on his wrist, in an attempt to stop paying…Then we changed the stamp…
Gaz: Isaac also has a massive Micron smiley on his arm. He doesn’t have to pay anyway so I don’t know why he did that. Dickhead.
Bod: Speaking of dedication our friend Lindsay came to the fourth birthday, and then at about 4am went and got on a plane to Tokyo, then Australia from there. We’ve not seen dedication like that since Roy Castle trumped his last.
HuWho: Stuff like that must qualify you for lifetime membership, surely?
Gaz: Beaky was one of the Micron blagger’s so it made more sense for him just to have his own stamp than to go through the rigmarole of ‘uhhh come on, I don’t need to pay, i’m your mate’. Its like ‘well, everyones our mate’. But that’s the point, it’s a club full of our mates. We’re also quite conscious about it not being pretentious. I mean, people who are pretentious don’t know they are but our thing was always that we take the piss out of ourselves. The music’s serious, but its always with a funny edge, so we’ll have fancy dress parties and stuff, weird little things like that.
Bod: Its not chin-stroking stuff. People dance and enjoy themselves…
HuWho: How do you think Micron in Manchester compares with Micron in London and even say Russia? I know you’ve played there, which is pretty unusual.
Bod: It is pretty unusual but it was fucking brilliant. Basically there was this massive guy called Anton who came to uni in Manchester, and shared a flat with a guy called Dimitri. The most Russian people you’ll ever meet. They used to come down to Micron and they absolutely loved it, so when he moved back to Moscow he said he wanted to do something and we sort of franchised Micron to him. We only did it for a few months but to go out there and DJ was a real experience. Totally different to Manchester. I had to change what I was playing in Manchester to play there. You go to clubs in Moscow and they’re playing what you were 3 or 4 years ago. But then they only got a McDonalds about five years ago so…
Gaz: Thank god McDonalds had started letting you pay on your card!
Bod: Musically it’s totally different but they’re so up for it; I don’t know if its because they’ve been a communist country for so long and they’ve suddenly got all this money to spend but there’s so many clubs, Funktion One systems everywhere, its amazing. It’s different in every city you play though. In London people like it a bit slower, a bit more disco-ey, they want it a bit deeper. They’ve got a lot of patience in London. Leeds, very disco-ey again. More vocals, they don’t wanna dance too much and mess their hair up whereas Manchester they don’t give a shit, they just wanna have a great time.
HuWho: How do you find London compares with Manchester?
Gaz: It’s definitely a different thing. It’s different because there’s so much for people to go to there, it’s being part of a scene whereas here it feels more like a family. Obviously we’ve just got a new crowd in London which is cool, its just that it seems better in Manchester. There’s not as much going on. I think people are more willing to pay more money in London, where in Manchester its very much a student city, so value for money is important. It seems that he London crowd are more clued up on the actual music, whereas Manchester people go out because they like going out, which I personally prefer.
HuWho: Are you saying northerners are easier to educate maybe?
Bod: I would never say as a DJ that you’re trying to educate people. You’re there to entertain them. You’re also sharing your taste in music. The whole point is you should be playing stuff people don’t know. Its boring if you’re hearing the same music over and over again….it just gets like a wedding reception then doesn’t it? You should always try and get new music in there, but when I’ve done it in London, they like what they like and that’s it really.
HuWho: Do you think Micron is still essentially a club night or is it more of a brand? Would you say it’s become synonymous with Techno in Manchester?
Bod: Good question! That’s not one of the usual cliché questions… for me its still a club night. Obviously through doing Micron you get booked to dj at other places and they don’t sell you as the DJ they sell you as ‘Micron’, so I suppose for other people they see it as a brand, and that’s quite important to them and being associated with it is brilliant. you get to do loads more stuff through it but for me personally it’s still just a club night.
Gaz: [deadpan] I don’t think it’s JUST a club night, It’s a way of life. [laughs] I think it has become bigger than just a monthly club night or whatever.
Bod: Well i’m wearing a Micron t shirt right now and I get loads of people asking where they can get them from and…they can’t. I just had it printed myself, its not about that, its about having a good time. So..it is just a club night, and people expect it to get bigger and become a brand but I don’t think it should, personally. I know people see it as that, especially other promoters when we’re playing for them they market us as micron as a brand but personally its just a club night. Its just your mates, having a good time, playing good music, its as simple as that.
Huwho: What’s next for Micron?
Bod: Basically we’ve been going for 5 years. This year has been the best year ever in terms of the bookings, and how popular it’s become. So I think, basically…Christmas and New Years Eve are going to be two of our last, regular monthly parties. We’ll still celebrate our birthday and we’ll still do 3 parties a year probably on bank holidays and stuff. So we’ll still carry on in some aspect, it’s not going to completely end, but in terms of a monthly party this is probably going to be the last year. We just don’t want it to fizzle out and be shit.
[HuWho: Quit while you’re ahead, almost?]
Yeah. We want to be able to focus on having really, really great parties. It’s got a lot to do with our personal lives, having real jobs and growing old and stuff. We just need to dedicate a lot of time to it, it takes a lot of time now to make it as good as it is and we don’t really have that time now. We never want it to be rubbish by not putting in the effort it deserves. For our 5th birthday, we still don’t know who it’s going to be but we’ll get something massive sorted for that. That’ll be in November. Massive 5th birthday, Micron classics in December and then a massive NYE, and then from that point onwards maybe about 3 Micron’s per year.
Gaz: [Takes off glasses to rub his eyes] Sorry, I’m not crying, i’m just rubbing my eyes. Honest. But yeah, a lot of nights have started and stopped in that 5 years, I think we’ve done well. It is the leading small club night in Manchester, and it’s the Manchester underground thing which we’ve done for a very long time. I just think it’s one of those ‘the time has come’ sort of things.
We’ve done the up and coming, we’ve done the residents and we’ve done the big names, I just think it’s the right time really. I would love to have 4-5 months to concentrate on one big party and get it absolutely right rather than do one and literally start all over again in the morning on the next. It’s been relentless for so long. It definitely won’t be the last ever party, they’ll just be bigger and better.
Bod: Like at the minute we plan things 4 months in advance. It’s very difficult to think of 4 months worth of parties all in one go and bash it out. It’s always great but we’d love to focus on 1 big party every few months. Something bigger than what we’re doing now. We obviously need more time to do that, so we can’t keep doing the monthly parties too. It’s too much work. I’M STILL A DJ THOUGH IF YOU WANT TO BOOK ME!
HuWho: So is it to do with getting bigger?
Gaz: Inadvertently. That’s by no means what we want to do. We are finishing because we’re adults now and we just don’t have the time. We’re not doing it primarily to get bigger, but obviously the parties that we are going to do will be bigger. We want to do it because we love doing it. We want to do massive parties yet still continue with our normal lives.
Bod: The last few parties are going to be absolutely amazing, even if it’s just residents. It’ll be phenomenal because it’s a celebration of 5 years of Micron. I mean last NYE was crazy, and the December party was mental, and even the January one when we didn’t have any guests, well I think we had Waterfall, but if you came to NYE you got into January for free and it was absolutely rammed, and that’s what Micron’s all about and that’s what the last couple of parties are going to be about, just celebrating the whole thing.
Gaz: Literally a massive guilt trip, but there’s certain people that if they don’t come to the last 2 parties, I’m never going to speak to them ever again. There’s a lot of people who came from the beginning and who we haven’t really seen because they’ve moved away or whatever, but if they don’t come it’s game over.
If for whatever absurd reason you haven’t visited Micron before then a, take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror and question ‘Why?’ and b, head down to August’s free Micron on the 12th. Grab them whilst you can.
Bod: From an advertising point of view this is probably a really bad thing to say,I’m not saying if you come to Micron you’re gunna get pissed on…but there’s probably a 35% chance that you will.
Written and edited by
Fiona Gales & Jack Needham.