Dave Haslam, Tony Wilson

Abbas Ali 11/08/2010

Legendary founder of Factory records Tony Wilson died three years ago on the 10th of August. So to commemorate the anniversary of Tony's death, GIITTV's Abbas Ali interviewed Dave Haslam - Dave DJed at the Hacienda for 12 years, and as the author of a couple of books, including Manchester, England, he's a good authority on the area, and he had some interesting things to say about the man.

What are your memories of Tony?

Where can you start? I remember one time, way before the Hacienda was famous. He was a big TV personality in region. I can remember putting on an event in Fallowfield in about 1986. It was a James gig, I put on them on in an old function room of a shop. The guy running it was a grumpy, miserable Manc bastard, who told me when I hired the venue under no circumstances, could I sell tickets for the event, cos he didn't have a licence for ticketed events. Obviously, I had every intention of selling tickets. So I sold tickets to this James gig, and he got to hear about this, and turned up on the night, and he was full on grumpy. Anyway, I said it's too late now, people have paid, everyone's gonna come down. We did the sound check, the support band played, and he wouldn't even speak to me, he was being properly miserable. And then Tony walked in.

And this guy came over and he said, “Is that Tony Wilson?” And I said, “Yeah, yeah, he's a mate of mine”. And from that moment on, his whole attitude to me completely changed. Because for him, Tony was the biggest celebrity he'd ever seen. The man off the TV had come to his poxy little function room in Fallowfield. And suddenly it was the best night of his life. And this is a guy who was totally untouched by pop culture. A guy who was never gonna go to the Hacienda, never gonna know what Factory Records was. Even him, in his grumpy little world, was touched by Tony's presence, and always think that gives you a perspective of how far he reached.

Being a Broadcaster on local TV and involved in the music scene give him a dual influence, which is quite unusual, really.

It is. The funny thing about Tony was that he wasn't shall I put, as knowledgeable about music as people think he was. He wasn't one of those people that I meet at as a DJ all the time, and we talk about new bands and their influence, and hot remixes, and they know every track on every album. He didn't have that knowledge. I started DJiing at the Hacienda in about 1985, and I was still there in 97. And I DJed there nearly 500 times, and in that period, I had two conversations with Tony about music. One of them was , he said “Is that Inner City album as good as everybody says it is?”, and the other one was when he'd been down to London and got some reggae records, so he came to me and knocked on the DJ booth door and said “Do we play reggae?”

So for him, his view of music was much more, what you might call instinctive.

He was a fan in a way?

He was a fan. And he actually liked the mechanics of the industry. He liked knowing about how...the role Malcolm Maclaren had played with the Sex Pistols was more interesting to Tony than the Sex Pistols. That's what he was always intrigued by. One of the people he made friends with later in his life was Andrew Loog Oldham, because he wanted to know, how did that work between Andrew Loog Oldham and the Rolling Stones?

It's a weird, intangible area, that isn't it?

It is. He was interested in how music changed culture. And how music fitted into culture, rather than just into the tunes. That's kindof the level that he liked to operate at.

It is. It brings back my memories of him a bit. I didn't know him anywhere near as well as you, but I remember him talking about it. In The City conferences would be a place where he would bring a lot of that stuff up.

Yes he would. That's why he was so good at In The City, because it was all that extra stuff. The people who are into music, in a way they can't see the wood for the trees, because they're so wrapped up in it, but for him he was all about the wood. He was all about the big picture. That's what made him interesting. Even in 24 Hour Party People you get the feeling that Tony was reliant on people around him, and to a certain extent, he was. He had a tendency to cultivate friendships and relationships with people that he thought were interesting, and to an extent, they all became part of his world.

From my experience working for him, but also the people I saw, he was quite an influential personality, he seemed to really encourage and develop the people around him.

I've always thought of him as what I would call an enabler. Someone who believed in people's innate creativity, and actually rejoiced in giving them an opportunity to express that creativity. That's what the label was for him. It's what the Hacienda was for him. He didn't get involved even on a small level with the nuts and bolts of DJing, or marketing the club, or what bands should sound like in the studio. For him it was much more about, “I'll open that door, and let them get on with it”. And that's why he sowed so many seeds in a way. That's why there are so many people walking around Manchester and elsewhere who owe him a debt. He opened that door and gave that opportunity to so many people.

You don't get many people like that in pop culture and when they do come along, the make a massive impact. As you say he did surround himself with other really talented people, and I think that's sometimes underplayed, in the Factory story. But it still comes back to him, there's something about him.

If you look at Factory, even if just look at the Factory setup and you take the Hacienda out of it. Without Gretton, there wouldn't have been Joy Division. Without Martin Hannett, there wouldn't haven't been Unknown Pleasures, without Peter Saville, there wouldn't have been the artwork. But without Tony, there wouldn't have been any of them. And that's the relationship he had with a lot of people, I think.

Can you think of people working in music now who have been influenced by him?

It wasn't so much an influence of music as much as the attitude. He tended to go on at one point about Manchester should challenge London, and he had a real bee in his bonnet about London dominating not so much music, as broadcasting. I think he hated the fact that Granada was so marginalised. So what he did was he tried to help Manchester become much more self contained and much more able to run its' own affairs. Self sufficient. That's what he wanted. He didn't want us having to get approval or cash, or anything from London. And I thought he was a bit obsessed with that , really. But the good thing about it was that he's created...a lot of younger people take that for granted now. A lot of younger people think, “I can be in Manchester, I can make stuff happen”. And before Tony came along, that was not the attitude. The attitude was always “I need to go to London”. “I need the approval of the London media”. “I need to sign to a major London record label”. And that's a massive change. Young people take it for granted. I don't think they're even aware of the cultural battles that Tony fought. But if they were then they'd realise that they do owe him that debt.