Ahead of his headline slot at Highest Point with the Hacienda Classical, we caught up with Manc legend Peter Hook to chat all things Classical, his memories of the festival, and the lasting impact of the Hacienda
Date published: 5th May 2023
A man who needs no introduction and a musical hero of many, Peter Hook, is returning to Highest Point in Williamson Park this year alongside his orchestral entourage better known as Hacienda Classical. The 70-strong rave orchestra, which also involves Graeme Park, Mike Pickering, and The Manchester Camerata orchestra, will be playing the festival for the third time, with them even playing the first-ever edition back in 2016.
Now, in 2023, we caught up with Hooky to chat about his memories of the Lancastrian festival, the ways in which Hacienda Classical has grown and adapted since its inception, and the lasting impact of the Hacienda on global music. Here's what he had to say…
Hiya Hooky, so, you’re headlining Highest Point this year, which will be the third time that you’ve played the festival. What can you remember from the first time you played?
I must admit before I came that first time I never knew the place was that beautiful. I was in Lancaster House at School but had never visited the place, and when I got there I was amazed. You see a lot of different festivals doing what I do, and sometimes you just forgot how beautiful most of them are.
But yeah the first Highest Point, they were a great crowd, and it was a beautiful day, I fully expect it to be exactly the same this time. You know, the Hacienda is still delivering on every level with the Classical, Graham seems to be going from strength to strength with every setlist, which after all this time is pretty amazing; but he dusts off and brings out some absolute gems. We have such a great time doing it and the reaction is always wonderful, but the Hacienda one is different; it's a continual DJ mix exactly like you’d get in a club.
We are not like other classicals in my opinion, where it’s more of a concert, ours is much more intense. We’ve always wanted it to be like a proper club you know what I mean.
Head down. Boogie. Raving. Is. Forever!
Highest Point 2022 Aftermovie
Where did the idea to wed orchestral arrangements with classic club anthems come from?
It all came from Paul Fletcher. He’d seen someone do the concept in America, they did a short orchestral version of some of his songs, and thought well if they could; we could too. So he thought it was a great idea, but to be honest with you I really didn't think it would work at first. The scale of it, the technicalities of producing such a thing, and also just about the marriage between dance and classical.
But, I have never been happier to be proven wrong, and Graeme and Mike always go to great lengths to remind me about it.
How long did it take to not only curate a selection of tracks to play from the club’s heyday but then also augment them so they could be played by a classical orchestra?
That's all mostly Graeme's work, but we have definitely bumped heads over the years on what to include. We’ve revamped the setlist a fair few times now, so there are always going to be ones that don't make it, but these tracks are timeless and have run through all of our lives
The thing is the Hacienda was different; a lot of the tracks we're dealing with, that we play, are endemic to the club and the time. Most of them were one-hit wonders and most people have never heard them played live before. They were from guys who were underground, and many came from America from artists who never made it out, but for those there at the time, they’re absolute classics and this is a way to perform the dance tracks that have soundtracks a lot of people's lives.
Everybody knows them inside out so the thing is, and the great thing about classical music, you're able to give these tracks some more passion and gusto through the orchestra, and what we’ve discovered is that the reaction to 70 people playing it is literally almost 10 times bigger than if there were just seven like there used to be with New Order, it’s crazy!
Image: FAC51 The Hacienda on Facebook
How have you progressed the shows and improved the formula over the years?
We’ve always tried to bring that Hacienda ethos with us wherever we go, and Graeme has done a great job over the years of using the orchestra to replicate what could have easily been one of his live sets.
The thing is, on keeping that Hacienda Ethos, with Graeme playing the tracks over the top, the gig is never the same, anytime you play. He's always putting in loads of acapellas, doing loads of different tracks, and doing mashups all the time; however he feels like it. That is one of the nice things about seeing Classical, the fact that no two shows are ever the same.
When we get the bigger headline shows, and the budgets bigger, much like at Highest Point, then Graham gets more opportunity to bring more people out, more special guests and surprises, and an even bigger light show. Graeme always wants to maintain that club atmosphere, and we can't wait to show you what we’ve got in store for Highest Point; I can’t say anything now though, as that’ll ruin the surprise.
One of the things that always strikes me about the Hacienda Classical gigs is just how diverse the crowd are age-wise, what has that meant for you guys to see the younger generations coming down and showing their love for this thing they were never there to experience for themselves?
Well, there's so much nostalgia attached to the Hacienda, it was a place that was vital to British music history, and so widely loved by people from that era. But when we started Hacienda Classical, I thought the shows would be filled with middle-aged duffers like myself trying to recapture their past, but the crossover appeal has surprised everyone.
But with the set-up we have, in bringing these old one-hit wonders back from the dead, it means that the new generations can experience the same discovery that their parents did all those years ago. It keeps the songs alive and it also keeps the crowds alive as well. When we first started we had a few people complaining, as they thought it would just be the orchestra, even some of those who used to be old rave heads. But no, people quickly got it was an orchestral club night, and these songs can be passed on to a new generation who enjoy them and dance to them; as that’s what they were made for after all.
Image: FAC51 The Hacienda on Facebook
The Hacienda is widely considered a cultural icon that immediately comes to mind when you think of Manchester, How do you think it's managed to stay at the forefront of people's minds for so long?
It just shows the music's enduring quality. When you look back and see the cultural impact and how iconic those first gigs at the venue were. It really is that dance music equivalent of the Sex Pistols show at the Free Trade Hall.
We’ll be headlining Manchester’s Sounds Of The City at Castlefield Bowl for the eighth time this year, and we’ve sold it out every time, and it’s become one of those absolutely wonderful moments in the year.
It just goes to show that Tony and Rob's idea was 100% valid, and despite how it ended, the people of Manchester are still here, supporting them and their vision, and it’s just a wonderful thing to be a part of.
It must be a nice feeling, to keep the memory of Tony, Rob, and The Hacienda alive through the Hacienda Classical. What’s it been like gigging not only around the UK, but the globe, and seeing the impact the club has had?
I’ve travelled the globe, not only with the Classical but with New Order and other projects, and I couldn't even tell you the amount of Haciendas I’ve walked into, from Mongolia to Argentina, and if I had any name rights I probably wouldn’t have to work.
But it's not only the name and the music but the architectural culture of the building we designed that has been emulated all around the world. I know of quite a few clubs in America that have been influenced by it. So it's a weird thing, no matter where you go, you find people that the club mattered to.
But when it comes to the music, these vocal lines and beats are so well known, especially to those who used to go to the Hacienda - and these were people from all around the world, not just the country and those in Manchester - and that's one of my favourite things about playing with the Classical.
It's all these people coming together to enjoy a moment in time, to celebrate the impact of, you know, Tony Wilson, Rob Gretton, Joy Division, New Order, The Hacienda; to those who paid for it in the first place. So it's a wonderful compliment, and I’m very happy to be flying the flag for the people who had the vision to do it in the first place.
If you want to catch The Hacienda Classical live at their headline slot t Highest Point Festival, then don't worry, as there are still tickets available, and you can find them at the bottom of this page!
Or, if you would like to do a bit of research and find out more about the Highest Point, peruse the FAQs, and who else is playing, then you can visit the festival page on Skiddle by clicking, or tapping - HERE
Or, if you want to catch Hacienda Classical playing elsewhere this year, they have just announced a tour, which you can find information on - HERE
Check out our What's On Guide to discover even more rowdy raves and sweaty gigs taking place over the coming weeks and months. For festivals, lifestyle events and more, head on over to our Things To Do page or be inspired by the event selections on our Inspire Me page.
Header image credit: FAC51 The Hacienda on Facebook
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