Here in an exclusive interview, promoter Phil Loraine talks nostalgia, Manchester’s acid house scene, and what’s in store for the night…
Date published: 6th Nov 2009
Welcome back to the north Phil –
Although you’re no novice, are you nervous about the reaction you’ll get from Mr Scruffs’ fans when House Trained jump in the DJ box and take up residency at The Music Box in Manchester in Nov?
Thanks for that loaded introductory question! Ha ha… Well, Mr Scruff will continue to do his thing at another venue in Manchester, we’ve just been given the opportunity to step into his shoes. I’ve been to his night and I know all about its history. The Unabombers had an incredible following with their Electric Chair nights too, and while both are extremely tough acts to follow, we are not out to emulate either formula. I think both nights were unique because they did things in an unconventional fashion and that’s why I believe House Trained can befit the Music Box perfectly too. Ultimately, the common denominators are the 20k funktion one sound system and the reputation of the venue; partner those factors with hard work and consistently good line ups and hopefully we can steer the club into a new era with a similar success story.
What made you decide to head for Manchester?
The Hardcore Uproar track had such a strong legacy from the Hacienda days, so it all started when I suggested to Suddi (the artist) we do a warehouse party in Manchester to celebrate the single re-launch. As luck would have it, Scruff was already moving on so we ended up pitching for his monthly residency on the first Saturday of the month.
I was born in the north-west and lived there most of my life, but having spent the best part of a decade in London I have been harbouring the desire to escape its clutches for some time now. After the closure of The Cross, it seemed like there was a bit of a confidence crisis, particularly as it was timed with the minimal explosion. Don’t get me wrong, minimal worked great in DC10, but in London during the winter months it was way too moody – it just zapped the soul out of clubbing. I can’t wait to get started and it will be great to be back amongst old friends again too.
So, tantalise us with some teasers – who’s gonna be there and what should the crowds be expecting – should girls be wearing fancy heels or is it a night for trainers and comfy shoes?
The beauty of underground venues like Music Box is that you have the freedom to dress as you please, but if I was to put myself into a girl’s shoes I would probably play safe and punt for the latter!
The first night features Sharooz, Lee Mortimer, myself and my long term DJ partner Disco Stu Bear. There may be a surprise guest on the night too, but you’ll have to wait and see. Despite the name, we don’t want to be pigeon-holed as just another house night – the name ‘House-Trained’ is just a loose term to define the discerning kind of punter we want to appeal to… anyone with a penchant for dance music in all its different forms really. Be prepared to expect a broad variation to the line ups in the months ahead.
It goes without saying, you truly are arriving with an almighty bang as the first night will also see you re-launch the legendary dance anthem “Hardcore Uproar” – quite fitting as the guys who created it are from oop North – how did this all come about?
A friend of mine alerted me to the fact that Suddi had updated the track and as a proud owner of the original 12” from back in the day I was immediately keen! I was worried some people would take umbrage with us for messing with a piece of rave history that’s best left untouched, particularly in light of the tragedy surrounding Jon and Emma’s death all those years ago, but there were already loads of crap bootleg imitations doing the rounds anyway so it only seemed right to involve the original artist and do it properly. Last year some DJ from Ireland re-jigged a few notes and released a version of his own called ‘Uproar’…. not content with stealing someone else’s work he then had the cheek to put a Youtube video up of his version over the top of some priceless footage of thousands of ravers bouncing around to the original being played by Sasha at the Zone in Blackpool! I guess that’s just the world we live in now but this is the first time Suddi had attempted a new version in twenty years and when you consider the number of times tunes like Candi Staton, Inner City and Robin S have been picked apart in recent times, I think the timing was right and our decision was justified. We spent a year honing the package so there’s a lot of love gone into it - it’s not as if we were just thinking about cashing in. The D.O.N.S mix is a modern day electro beast and Grum’s mix is a fantastic ‘Balearic’ interpretation and true to the original in many ways, so I am extremely happy with the way the remix package has come out.
“Hardcore Uproar 2009” we expect will be an almighty release and it will be great to unleash it again on old and new ravers. Are there any other classics you’d fancy getting your hands on and giving it a little House Trained magic?
I’ve got a massive collection of old skool records and there are a lot of less obvious tracks I’d still love to see resurface. We’ll have to see what unfolds, I don’t want to get a reputation for just farming out classics but I do feel there’s a flipside to that too. Some of the best and most timeless dance music was made in the late 80s early 90s but now we have a whole new generation of clubbers who are used to a sound that is extremely polished and rubberstamped with big shiny production, which makes playing some of these tracks out almost impossible. I think we have a duty to keep the fire burning and make sure that some of these priceless records don’t just get forgotten, although the great thing about Youtube is that it has unwittingly become the most comprehensive resource for underground music on the planet!
This re-release is going to get some memories flowing of the old Madchester rave days – you’re only in your early 30’s now, but did that era have an influence on you and your path into the world of dance music?
Yes, absolutely. One of my very first DJ experiences was at a club called ‘Bowlers’ in Manchester funnily enough but that was a very long time ago now! It was basically a sports centre converted into a marathon rave centre by weekends. It had a very mixed reputation, but for thousands of clubbers it was an institution, although that came later than clubs like the Hacienda and was a different clubbing experience altogether. I got all my early references from old Quadrant Park and Shelly’s mix tapes, likewise DJ Vertigo’s mixes were hugely inspirational for me and obviously Sasha’s too. Not wanting to keep harking back to the ‘good old days’ but there’s a 30 second clip on You Tube of Quadrant Park going off to ‘Anthem’ by N-Joi in its heyday… it’s packed to the rafters and everyone is going completely ballistic under a strobe light. Check it here
I think it’s every promoter’s dream vision to be responsible for creating a party atmosphere like that, simply because it’s questionable whether it can ever really be done again. That said, I think The Music Box has all the right credentials!
Tell us a bit more about your experience in the music industry – where did it all begin and what have been the highs and lows?
My first DJ residency was at a club called the Void in Stoke-on-Trent where I got to warm up for the likes of Graeme Park, Tall Paul and Jeremy Healy. My first ‘proper’ music job was working for Giles Peterson’s Talkin’ Loud label. I spent nearly a decade working at major labels after that but I felt like a fish out of water the entire time. I spent a few years working for Def Jam, working on campaigns for the likes of Jay-Z and Mariah Carey, but in the background I was always organising my own parties and thinking about playing out at the weekends. The day jobs were a world of perpetual fear, paranoia and relentless back stabbing where hierarchies ruled the roost. There’s not a soul in major record labels these days that wouldn’t stand on your head to get to where they want to go! As much as the Hunter S. Thompson quote is over-coined ("The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There's also a negative side."),I’m afraid it’s also extremely accurate, although now the thieves and pimps are gradually being phased out by computer nerds! I did help orchestrate the Band Aid 20 marketing campaign one Christmas, which is about the only thing I can still feel proud about from that entire era. My Mum still has the disc for that one in her hallway. I was presented with other discs for working on some other big campaigns but I smashed them up and binned them when I moved house! Everything was about ‘selling units’ and in the end it was just a hollow existence and all pretty meaningless.
House Trained started as a club night where you developed the strapline – ‘no shit on the dancefloor’ – explain.
The credit goes to my former DJ partner Neil for that one. The night started out as a completely underground venture where we were booking DJs like Terry Farley, Bill Brewster and The Idjut Boys and we were very adamant about maintaining the right kind of reputation at that stage, hence the strapline. Then we booked Mylo and Mixmag came down and featured us as their #1 night in London with a picture of him wearing one of our t-shirts. I started doing a House Trained show on Ministry of Sound radio on Saturday nights and then Neil went off to work for Defected and we went our separate ways. I eventually persuaded the record company I was working for to let me develop the label but they failed to grasp how important the club nights were to the equation. We released a handful of commercially focused records and made some sexy videos, but deep down I knew I was killing the brand just to get the backing. Thankfully, I walked away retaining full ownership before I could do too much damage and now I have a great opportunity to take the whole thing back underground again. I guess sometimes everyone has to navigate off course a little before getting to where they want to go to… but the main thing is that I’m still persevering. It’s like that old adage about the postage stamp – to succeed you have to stick to one thing until you get there!
There are so many dance labels out there at the moment and as a whole the music industry is a tough place to be even for fearless terriers!! – what makes House Trained different from other dance labels and what will you be doing to ensure that your bark get louder and bite gets stronger?
These are undoubtedly tough times for labels and the digital marketplace is making it extremely difficult for many companies to keep the boat afloat. It’s sad the way the independent record stores have suffered too. At the moment I guess you just have to box clever, keep your focus small and your overheads to a minimum. I know better than to make any wild statements about our intentions but as long as my own expectations are realistic I think House Trained can go from strength to strength. If we can put on successful nights at the Music Box for half the length of time the Electric Chair did then I would be elated. There are no plans for a range of cosmetics just yet - I don’t think a line of perfume with a dog on it would make a wise gift purchase for the missus, do you?!
Ok, now for a little bit about you - Hardcore Uproar is a classic – what would you say are your top 5 classic tunes?
This is in no way definitive but off the top of my head:
Mental Cube - Q
After Dark – Cardiac
Cedric Winkleberger – Take It Easy
Friends of Matthew – Out There
Martha Wash – Carry On (full intention mix)
Thomas Bangalter & DJ Falcon – Together
Sorry, that’s six… oh well. … A strange, random nostalgia tinged selection, but had to get a couple of those rave anthems into the fold! We used to drop the Together track at the end of every night, it just loops continuously and seems to go on forever but it’s incredibly effective.
Who is your music idol?
I’ve never really gone in for idolising anybody but I think it’s safe to say there will never be another Jim Morrison! A rock n roll legend in his own right.
Are you clean living or a dirty devil that lives life to the max?
There was a time when I’d have given Bez a run for his money but these days I’m a pretty bog standard bloke just doing his best to lead a normal lifestyle. It didn’t happen out of choice though, it took burning out at 30 after one Ibiza trip to many for me to really begin to appreciate the importance of maintaining good physical health and emotional balance. Looking back I wouldn’t change a thing but the stakes are much higher now. Unfortunately there comes a point in all our lives when being consistently smashed ceases to be a good look!
Naughty girls or girls your mum would want you to marry?
Unfortunately being a bloke means that the things I think I want in life - including my tastes in women - fluctuate constantly. I think the smartest girls are usually ‘naughty but nice’ … you know, in a ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ kind of way… so I guess my answer is both!
Put these in order of importance: Sex, food, music, family, friends, success, money, happiness, travel, House Trained.
I think you already did it! ha ha…. I’m a people pleaser by nature, so friends and family definitely come first, followed closely by happiness. It’s pointless having all the externals unless you are at one with yourself inwardly, so on a good day the rest is superfluous.