Terry Christian On The Manchester Of Today

We had a good chat with Terry Christian ahead of his unashamedly Manc celebration at Band On The Wall, 'The Mad Manc Cabaret'...

Jimmy Coultas

Last updated: 13th Oct 2014

Image: Terry Christian

There simply isn't anyone more Manc than Terry Christian. Those of a certain age will remember him particularly for his often-controversial presentation of The Word on Channel 4 in the early nineties, and his general association with the 'Madchester scene' (a phrase he hates) of the time.

Appropriately enough, he is curating a series of Manc-themed events at Band On The Wall, the first of which takes place on Friday October 17th. 'The Mad Manc Cabaret' brings together various luminaries from the past and present, such as Peter Hook of New Order fame and rising hip hop star Jun Tzu, in a variety show that combines poetry, interviews and live music.

Today Terry still pops up all over the place as a broadcaster and writer, with his own radio show on Imagine FM, regular appearances on MUTV as a presenter, and he is still very much in demand as a cultural commentator for TV and radio. He even made his way into stand-up comedy recently.

So it was no surprise that when we caught up with him, he was still full of beans. A man of many tangents but vastly knowledgeable, and still very much on the ball with the current creative output of Manchester, it was always going to be a tough job editing it all down.

We settled on his rationale for 'The Mad Manc Cabaret', and how Manchester's creativity has been perceived down the years...

Given how long you've been in the media and how long you've been paying attention to all things Manchester, what do you think Manchester stands for right now compared to the past?

I don't know if it ever stood for anything. Manchester always was a free thinking-type place. Everywhere changes and it moves on, and things have their time. What Tony Wilson's vision always was, and why he was annoyed that people like Paul Morley left Manchester, was he kind of wanted all that generation to catalogue their own history. It was quite a clever idea, and that has inadvertently happened.

A lot of the history… it's all bollocks, but having said that, at least it gives people a sense, a timeline, that something special happened in Manchester, and it gives the city a certain swagger.

There was actually a massive amount of jealousy about the whole 'Madchester' thing. When I went down to London in 1990 and got offered The Word, it was kind of like they wanted to scorn that Manchester scene out of existence, and a lot of the good bands who came just on the tail end of it were never given a chance.

They didn't actually want Oasis to break through you know (hear their breakthrough single 'Supersonic' above). It was only the kind of 'Brit Pop' thing where they tried to turn it into a Camden scene, a London thing. But none of the Brit Pop bands were from London.

Well obviously there's Blur isn't there - who were kind of adopted as the London opposition to Manchester but of course were from Colchester!

Exactly. How many miles from London is that?!? And it wasn't just Oasis. They hated The Stone Roses as well. When their first album came out in 1989, they hadn't even had a write up in NME.

So how do you think Manchester music is viewed now?

Well everything's shifted. The media's changed, the music business is a very different business now. There are bands floating around now who I know ten, fifteen years ago would have been signed up.

The problem that bands have now - so the ones that are good but who don't get signed because there's no market for them, because even the ones that are signed still aren't selling records - the problem is, that people just kind of take them for granted after a while.

So rather than people saying 'yeah, they're great', they just kinda say 'yeah, they're all right', so it's kinda devalued in some ways, what music is.

So maybe the bollocks history of the past was a good thing beyond swagger - that at least it helped create a scene?

In some ways, but a scene isn't really what you think, you know, what is it exactly? The only scene I've ever really known was the northern soul scene.

One thing you could fairly attribute to the Manc scene, or whatever it is, is the very strong black and white cross-pollination. Yes, it happens everywhere, but it looked like Manchester white guys and students were onto it very early, certainly in the context of electronic music anyway.

Yes, that's true. And it's interesting how black music's progressed - it's always moving forward. There isn't the same thirst for nostalgia in what you would call more white scenes. You get all kinds of mod revivals and stuff like that.

So do you think that maybe it's because a white, middle class-dominated media has a big enough influence to convince people that the past was brilliant?

I've never been able to fully understand it, but I think that could well be a reason. Most of the media comes from suburbia. And to put it bluntly, what could black people in the UK celebrate about the 1960s and 1970s? That they were getting called 'coons' in the street? Times like that are best forgotten in many ways.

You know that Chic 'Le Freak' (hear below) is about racism? They're basically saying in that 'we're black and there's more to us than just dancing and performing'.

I guess what you're doing at Band On The Wall is pretty nostalgic though…

Well it is and it isn't. I've got Jun Tzu and a 16-year-old doing a number, and yeah, I'm also going to do some proper in-depth interviews with Vini Reilly from the Darutti Column and Peter Hook.

Kind of a musical education then?

I guess all I wanna do is make it a good night… it's not some kind of mission of worthiness. But I suppose as an old git now I do also see myself as a bit of an archivist. So much good stuff has come out of Manchester that people don't know about.

Looks like there's all sorts going on anyway!

It'll be done more as a variety show; it'll move along quite quickly and it'll be good fun. Some of it will hopefully have some sort of cultural significance.

One thing I was trying to do with it is, say, if you went to Dublin for the weekend you'd want to see something a bit Irish. So if you're coming to Manc from Edinburgh or Milton Keynes for a stag-do or to see United or something, you'll be able to get an authentically Manc experience.

For a bit of that authentically Manc experience on October 17th, look no further than here for tickets.

Interview: Mike Boorman (follow him on twitter here)

Upcoming Events At Band On The Wall, Manchester

Here are the next 4 upcoming events At Band On The Wall, Manchester

Manchester Christmas Gospel
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Manchester Christmas Gospel

Band On The Wall, Manchester

Saturday 14th Dec

7:45pm til 9:45pm (last entry 8:15pm)

Minimum Age: 18

For ticket prices, please click here (Additional fees may apply)

Kick start your festive season at Manchester’s Christmas Gospel evening.

Baked A La Ska ‘Ska of Wonder’ Christmas Party
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Baked A La Ska ‘Ska of Wonder’ Christmas Party

Band On The Wall, Manchester

Thursday 19th Dec

7:30pm til 11:00pm

Minimum Age: 10

For ticket prices, please click here (Additional fees may apply)

Kick off the festive season in style with our annual Baked A La Ska Christmas special, now in itR...

The Manchester Soul Train
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The Manchester Soul Train

Band On The Wall, Manchester

Friday 20th Dec

11:00pm til 3:00am

Minimum Age: 18

For ticket prices, please click here (Additional fees may apply)

A night train at Band on the Wall taking you on an uplifting journey filled with funk, soul, disco a...

Band on the Wall’s Christmas Funk & Soul Party
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Band on the Wall’s Christmas Funk & Soul Party

Band On The Wall, Manchester

Saturday 21st Dec

9:00pm til 3:00am

Minimum Age: 18

For ticket prices, please click here (Additional fees may apply)

Kick off the festive season in style at Band on the Wall’s Christmas Funk & Soul Party, with v...