Sŵn Festival 2021: Cardiff – live review

Sŵn Festival, Cardiff 15th-17th October 2021 Keith Goldhangers’ voyage of discovery continues in Cardiff at the annual Sŵn Festival. This is his third visit this month to a multi-venue event offering opportunities to catch one or two bands we may already know about as well as a few more bands we may not have had […] The post Sŵn Festival 2021: Cardiff – live review appeared first on Louder Than War.

Sŵn Festival 2021: Cardiff – live review

Sŵn Festival, Cardiff
15th-17th October 2021

Keith Goldhangers’ voyage of discovery continues in Cardiff at the annual Sŵn Festival. This is his third visit this month to a multi-venue event offering opportunities to catch one or two bands we may already know about as well as a few more bands we may not have had the pleasure of hearing yet.

After recent trips this month East (Ipswich) and West of London (Reading) chasing after new bands and catching up with a few that have been around for a few years that still need our undivided attention, we head further West to the Welsh capital for the annual Sŵn Festival, which this year may have been ‘scaled down’ but provided enough fabulous music and a few more new discoveries that we expect may keep some of us entertained for even more months ahead.

There are very good reasons why we come to Cardiff for The Sŵn Festival. This would be the sixth or seventh year that we’ve reported on this particular event, therefore it should go without saying that the reason we keep coming back is because we trust that what will be on offer will be to our liking. We arrive in the Welsh capital aware that there may only be only one or two names that we’ve already come across before. Yet we trust our instincts enough that with a bit of pre-planning we can probably find a few more unfamiliar names that will tempt us to seek out some more new sounds and get more info on what we’ve been missing out on via a quick Google search, or by grabbing the attention of the individuals responsible in the street during the weekend to find out who they are, where they’re from and when we can see them again.

ALICE-LOW-courtesy of Bethan Miller

We haven’t even considered there’d be a couple of additions kept secret from everyone until they walk onto the stage. BUZZARD BUZZARD BUZZARD of course don’t literally walk onto any stage as our favourite small venue in the world (Clwb Ifor Bach – Lwr) doesn’t even offer such luxuries. Although the baby brother of the larger space upstairs, this small intimate room has played host to quite a number of fabulous shows that we’ve witnessed since we first started visiting Cardiff for Sŵn, and their show this weekend gets added to that list along with on or two others.

Sŵn 2021 may be smaller but it makes for an even better experience having all five venues just a few short steps away, and any pre-weekend anxieties regarding repeats of the one in one out situation that we saw a couple of years ago (when Squid and The Murder Capital played side by side on the Sunday afternoon at Clwb Ifor Bach) don’t materialise.

Friday night is simple. Just as one band ends downstairs at Clwb Ifor Bach another begins upstairs, therefore between 7.30 pm until just after midnight we have very little time to pause for breath.

Opening band PIGEON WIGS get the weekend started with their early ’70s rock and roll, and ANNA B SAVAGE (featuring William Doyle AKA East India Youth on keys and guitar) performs her intimate personal tunes to a glorious guitar/electronic sound track. BLEACH LAB play us their dreamy pop tunes and are victims of a wonderful comedy moment when someone gets a bit over enthusiastic with a smoke machine during the few minutes the band are playing their recent single Real Thing. The smoke is still clearing as the refrain ‘I really want to see you again’ is being sung.

Upstairs, and within a minute of the previous show downstairs ending, ALICE LOW pulls in a large crowd to perform one of the most energetically fucked up shows we’ve seen for a very long time. Alice, who identifies herself as trans woman is based in Cardiff and has obviously made an impression with the music loving public here. More than one or two in the crowd seem to be singing along to the tunes being performed that are very long uplifting songs played though what appears to be a large cassette deck alongside a guitarist/ backing vocalist, who is also an integral part of the show. We get what we think might be a country & western intro’ before the opening song merges into foot stomping segments of prog’, bouncy, heavy pop that flow into each other, chop and change and confuse the heck out of those of us unaccustomed with this person’s music. Part Iggy to look at, part Marilyn Manson but most importantly a huge part of this was Alice Low’s own thing. One to investigate further once we get home, especially on learning that debut release Ladydaddy is a quarter of an hour long. A fabulous energetic new discovery for those of us here to see something we may not have experienced before.

Top of our pops tonight for us on the opening night however, and one of many of this weekend’s highlights and bands we can see are already turning up at all the right places, are Yorkshire teenage four-piece THE LOUNGE SOCIETY who may be the youngest gang in town tonight but also the coolest. They give us the impression they’ve been going through these songs ten times a day since early 2020, and everything they do whilst performing simply doesn’t seem to be anything they need to think twice about. Every guitar change, in fact every song is slick, disciplined yet raucous and ready for the music-loving youth in 2021 to embrace. They sound at times like a faster version of Shame or a louder angrier Rapture and provide us with multiple vocals, manic guitars and fist in the air tunes that even on first listen make us realise this certainly won’t be the last we get to hear of this band.

Two acts that seem to be getting out and about as much as ourselves end the night; SINEAD OBRIEN and LYNKS complete a wonderful end to day one. Five hours, seven gigs, not a bad one amongst them and we didn’t even need to leave the building.

Saturdays opening act BLACKABY provide us with some well-written radio-friendly songs that we know we want to hear again a few more times, and ODD MORRIS seem to be struggling a bit with their Radiohead-sounding tunes, however the material they have available is certainly worth persevering with until we get another chance to hopefully see them again one day.

BUZZARD BUZZARD BUZZARD tear the place apart and are the only band all weekend that have three or four songs we are already familiar with.
We thought they’d be either no one here today or we’d arrive to a room full of groans once you realise it us  states the local frontman who switches between piano and guitar and jumps around with a constant smile on his face as he belts out the songs. It’s a fabulous show, we get all the hits and it seems that the first big surprise of the day is a popular one with everyone in the room.

PANIC SHACK, another local band have packed out the upstairs venue at Clwb Ifor Bach and entertain us with their multi vocal punk rock tunes, whilst downstairs PLASTIC ESTATE have the equipment, the ideas and the songs to set them apart from many of the other local bands we catch a glimpse of as we try to take a punt in one or two of the other venues, before deciding to take a break in preparation for tackling a Saturday night back inside the largest venue available this weekend.

THE GOLDEN DREGS were definitely going to be worth a look as soon as we found their latest tune John. Nonchalant, deep voiced Cohen/Berringer vocals and gentle songs aplenty arriving one after the other that sound fabulous even after one listen tonight make this a band we may be coming back to.

Past shows from (Secret additions) AUDIO BOOKS have been frustrating affairs that usually end early for those without the patience to wait for the crowd-pleasing hits. Unfortunately, we feel short changed on the performance tonight (we didn’t get Bubble Bath) and the high hopes and expectations of seeing them one day entertain a huge crowd in a 2AM festival dance tent slot don’t feel as likely as we thought a couple of years ago. Audio Books have some fabulous tunes but we only seemed to get two or three tonight.

Sunday has always looked like a strong line up and we are certainly not disappointed. The final day is so full of ridiculously satisfying exciting incidents of noise we have to ask ourselves when the last time this was matched (and decided it was probably at this same festival two years ago).

Starting with the sublime DD DARILLO followed by the sweet and sublime SISTER LUCY, we enter The Fuel Bar for the first time this weekend where we planned to spend most of the day in between quick hops across the road or along the road during the changeovers.

Local band BLUE AMBER get the thumbs up. Spoken word vocals from man in a boiler suit with a strong local accent over a sound track of tunes that remind us of Lemon Jelly from a few years ago make this a very enjoyable show to witness. Welsh Girl, released earlier this year, arrives half way through the set and the nice laid-back beginning to the day continues.

ENOLA GAY- courtesy of Nadine Ballantyne

With some preparation before leaving the house and a convenient schedule available to us, Sŵn 2021 then takes us on one of the most thrilling white knuckle rides we’ve been on for quite some time. Five bands that have all fueled our enthusiasm this week to ram these names and the music they are making down your throats (not for the first time in one or two cases) in the hope that you’ll take notice of if they are currently unknown to you. LADYBIRD at the Moon Club start the ball rolling as the volume of the guitars gets louder and the vocals more aggressive. ENOLA GAY from Belfast we’ve seen before and are equally as impressive today. As with LICE over the road immediately after. The skill in the use of the guitar pedals carefully placed on stage makes for waves of noise that complement the driving bass crashing percussions and intense vocals. Very much like Girlband and a very welcome period of noise.

DEADLETTER (top pic) have tunes available impressive enough for us to make sure we’d see them and they become our highlight of the whole weekend. Gang of Four rhythms, multi vocalists, a driving bass and a set of songs ready for us all to fall in love with and listen to on repeat leave those inside the tiny venue breathless and joyous that we’ve managed to be in the right place at the right time. This is the feeling we had when we first saw New Model Army back in the early ’80s. They’re exciting, sarcastic and angry with songs the listener will love after a first play. Fit For Work has already become a new favourite tune this week, however there appear to be many more like this available that we’ll investigate further and we recommend many of you do too. A mouth-watering tour with Dublin band Sprints is forthcoming, you’d be wise not to ignore this band.

CHEAP TEETH at Fuel are also worth noting for further examination one day; a cool as fuck four piece from Edinburgh with a bunch of tunes they could possibly one day sell on to The Fat White Family and retire gracefully on the proceeds. Definitely another band we want to see again, and one of many bands we fell for the moment we hit play on the morning of the event that made us decide that anything else on at the same time could immediately be discarded.

The weekend ends for us still inside Fuel where one or two members of bands we’ve been watching and hoping to find out more about are busy throwing themselves around in the mosh pit to WOOZE, a fabulous band whose only appearance here previously was at this festival in 2018 but made a big enough impression to draw a big raucous crowd on the final evening to close the Festival.

Sŵn 2021 has been top notch again. We’ll come back and rant on more about some of these bands on this site for sure as the next few weeks pass by. We’ve seen 25 shows in three days (that’s about a third of what was available) and returned home with a long playlist of music we need to listen to and share with the uninitiated. We’ve been saying this for years, but the new music coming from every corner of the UK and Ireland at the moment is still as strong as ever. We found many gems amongst the vast list that Sŵn made available to us again this year (and no doubt missed a few as well), and we’ll continue to revert back to this list now that we have memories to share that will be with us for a long time.

Well done Cardiff, well done Sŵn – big respect to everyone who played a part in arranging this and allowing those of us who can’t get enough of these events to cram in so many quality acts yet again.

We’re still catching our breath after all that. Stay tuned, keep reading and once time allows us to we’ll be reporting on many of these bands even more as the next few months go by.

If you get the chance to visit Cardiff then this is always the best time to do it. See you again next year.


Words and photos by Keith Goldhanger except Enola Gay – courtesy of Nadine Ballantyne and Alice Low courtesy of Bethan Miller

More writing by Keith on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive. You can also find Keith on Facebook and Twitter (@HIDEOUSWHEELINV).

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Insight 3: Dave Haslam’s War Is Louder Than Yours: Art Decades- review and interview.

Insight 3: Dave Haslam’s War Is Louder Than Yours: Art Decades Confingo In-depth interview with legendary, modern polymath Dave Haslam about his ongoing Art Decades series. A beautifully compiled trip through various moments of history that, through the gentle overturning of some small stone, through the scholastic thumbing through old newspaper copy, has revealed to […] The post Insight 3: Dave Haslam’s War Is Louder Than Yours: Art Decades- review and interview. appeared first on Louder Than War.

Insight 3: Dave Haslam’s War Is Louder Than Yours: Art Decades- review and interview.

Insight 3: Dave Haslam’s War Is Louder Than Yours: Art Decades


In-depth interview with legendary, modern polymath Dave Haslam about his ongoing Art Decades series. A beautifully compiled trip through various moments of history that, through the gentle overturning of some small stone, through the scholastic thumbing through old newspaper copy, has revealed to us all, the treasures beneath our feet, the reifying delights at our fingertips. 

Dave Haslam’s books are about Dave Haslam.

I mean, they’re about Slyvia Plath in Paris, they’re about Courtney Love in Liverpool, they’re about Keith Haring in New York, they’re about the far-left terrorist organisation the Angry Brigade in Manchester, but they’re about Dave Haslam really.

He’s a character on every page. With blistered skin and the immoveable mark it has made on the man with golden ears, positioned upon the podium, stood in the pool of what the bubble, once burst, has allowed to flow forth in all its eclectic, eccentric, electric cosmic sprawl. The skin he has shed, the blood he has spilt on, the sweat he has poured into, all contained within each groove of his mouth-foaming records. Each inch of dust that coats the vinyl, and, as one of his books, A Life In Thirty-Five Boxes overviews, upon selling his entire record collection, is now carried around the world by Seth Troxler; the spirit of the tunes, the inexhaustible energies, still poignantly resonate with and through the lives of many.

With We The Youth: Keith Haring’s New York Nightlife, Haslam’s silhouette is cast upon the walls, the blank, black canvases, the drapes of desolate spaces, himself, a graffiti piece. A voyeuristic presence imprinted upon the empty streets, the unavoidable examples of the East Village and all it encompasses from empty cans of paint to boomboxes on every street corner, eventually collapse and relinquish. Monuments to hot activity relinquished in an instant into estates of insurmountable, optimal gentrified paradigms for the imperial, proprietary plans of a post-industrial utopianism to flourish with a tidy smile and parasitical, capitalistic touch. Plans that, when all has been flattened and in turn, unfolded onto the map, conclude with the liberating escapism and underground activities of the Mud Club on White Street, or more optimistically in Manhattan, the vibrancy of Club 57, and the serrated sounds of the B52s blasting their high-voltage, psycho-surf no-wave throughout the stretches of city streets.

He’s a shadow at the Tuileries or a reflection in the Sein where Plath strolled along. An equally brilliant reflection from the impenetrable void of the sunglasses worn by Ian McCulloch since birth, and surely, until death. That figure, metaphorically followed by Haslam, swanning around Eric’s in Liverpool, Armadillo’s tea room or Cafe Tabac, where Cope and Wylie, Burns and Sergeant, Drummond and Pattison, Johnson and Love, are seen spinning in distinct directions at the same time, in the same cool nucleus where everything is hot like a deranged, naked lightbulb, fresh from being flicked into non-existence, the glass still intensely violent.

Art-anarchists against the archaic figurines, each individual in the mix, educated and enriched by what Year Zero flattened and in turn, threatened to bloom and burst through the cement of the moment; bricolage and creation in the place of its preceding philistines, its parochial dinosaurs. Those myopic arseholes, and prog ogres. Those tweed beasts and bearded hammer horror wet lepers. Bands bland as sand, each spiritual creep lost to the depths of their own solos, scales, and consecrated triple albums.

But again, they’re about Haslam. His haunt, his hunt, his mask, his magic trick, his closeness, his distance, his detail, his perspective, his edge.


”In my head, it’s a bit like a band deciding they’re gonna concentrate on singles. Some bands are a singles band. Buzzcocks are a singles bands. Albums are great. But they’re a singles band. I thought I’d give that idea a whirl’‘ – Dave Haslam.

Let’s talk about these, the Art Decades books. Why this format?

After Sonic Youth Slept on My Floor, my agent said to me ‘you’re hot. You’re a hot author’. What are you going to write about next? Sonic Youth Slept on my Floor was my fifth, full-length, proper chunky book. They take me about three years to write. Anyway, I sent my agent my best three ideas. He got back to me and said they’re all great, that he wouldn’t have any problem doing any of these ideas. He said, ‘pick one, let’s get you a deal’. I was bang into all three. If each one was going to take me three years to write, I didn’t feel like that was necessarily what I wanted to do. I thought maybe there’s a different format I could use. To still say all of what I wanted to say about the ideas I proposed to him, but in a concise way, in a slightly different way, and in a slightly different format.

One of the interesting things I got from the book was this idea of, ending up with this assortment of bits and pieces of history, snippets of your life, but, by erasing those mementoes contained within each record, they’re able to be passed on to someone else with the intention of creating new memories with new energy. The other thing was this idea of records as the continuation of the self by the cultural historian whose surname I’m not even going to attempt pronouncing (Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi), that objects contain us and our lasting impression on the planet, that’s why we cling to them so dearly…

I think of my generation, who were lucky enough to be participants in an era of the ’80s, what should be our role? I’m okay with some of my contemporaries just milking it. That’s fair enough. They’ve earned that right. But for me, personally, I didn’t want to go down that route. My responsibility is to remember how people were with me in the ’80s, older people. Who opened doors for me, who gave me ideas and inspiration. So I think of it like the passing of the baton of anything that you have. Any ammunition. Any inspiration you have. Express them yourself. But also find a way of passing them onto the next few generations.

Because that act is instrumental to cultural progression right?

Because that’s how the culture needs to progress. The long revolution. That’s how I feel. That idea is at the back of the mind of a lot of things I do. The MIF festival, every year, I’m given carte blanche to book some talent. The first year I did it, I actually think they thought I was gonna book the Happy Mondays and put them on at the Ritz or something. I didn’t need to do that because those sort of gigs happened anyway. I just feel more comfortable in that role of music fan and enthusiast. Not somebody who is going to spend their life looking backwards.


Curiously stood beside the rock lobster under the killing moon, Haslam behaves as a consistent bond between all the books. The literary architect building intelligible bridges between distinct worlds, and in some cases, a vital life force pumping blood throughout the bright arteries of each event, each experience.

An interview during lockdown about these books reinforces the integral ingredient of high emotional content. If that kind of connection isn’t there pulsating throughout Dave’s veins as it would pump through each page, then what’s the worth of the words we are being told? Nothing but a point of view to sell

Yet, in an interview with our own Carl Stanley, Haslam said he can ”only write about things I am genuinely passionate about and I only write if I think the material or the angle is new. I can’t fake it at all”.

This is Dave’s edge, his angle, his filter through which experience is fed, and emerges shining as something new.

He performs as a corporeal conduit for the context of historical script. A living, breathing, common theme between them all. His emotion forcefully flowing, deft and adept, intact, interested, intellectually supercharged, and charmingly intrigued by what he sees on the scenes, but also, what surrounds this marvellous epicentre.

An author, seamlessly stretching and umbilically linked from one event to the next. Details detectable throughout every sentence, history here ripped apart under the gaze of the magnifying glass Haslam holds above it, and stitching back together with the detached, ever-changing intricacies of time, sutured into a syntax that makes sense of what would, if not for Haslam’s abilities as a chronicler of the peripheries pulsating with their own breaths and beats, disappear adrift into the great ethers of history’s jaws, the oceans of lonely moments.

They are all the more accessible, but no less sumptuous in what they evoke, in what they splendidly unveil, because of their approach to the overall flow and force of the book as snapshots, not paperbacks. “They become more like snapshots of the subjects that I’m writing about. Snapshots hopefully that also manage to somehow absorb other different ideas and details and make connections so that you leave wanting to know more, but also happy with what you’ve got. And also, in reality, the format works for lots of people. people say to me ‘ I took the train to Glasgow, and it was perfect for me. I slipped it into my bag, read it’.”

The newest addition to his latest Art Decades series, All You Need Is Dynamite is…well it’s dynamite. A tale, like a lot of the books, of not just the lives of the souls, lost or not, forgotten in states of unparalleled mindfulness or mid-fade where space’s seas touch time’s shores, in their own distinct eras, amongst their own distinct people, but brilliantly encapsulates the vehemence, the vitriol, the light, the love, and everything else, as it resonates aloud from the poetic core, akin to the conditions of our own twisted realities, our own beautifully bruised-beach futures.

The other book as part of the ongoing series, A Life in Thirty-Five Boxes: How I Survived Selling My Record Collection, is fantastic. Articulating the obsessions rooted within people, their compulsion to collect and consume.

It was highly amusing to hear Will Sergeant of the Bunnymen bewildered to the point of being utterly appalled at hearing Dave announce he sold everything to a DJ. Will has a soft spot in his soul to hold onto childhood relics, each containing a piece of his history, a source of escape from the greying landscape (as well as Eric’s where, as mentioned in Haslam’s Dynamite book, Rodger Eagle, was an essential mover in its culturally enriching scene of lunatics and dissenters, a sense of the people popping up and colliding with their unique voices heard an electric episode next to the rest).

However, Sergeant’s ghosts still live with him. In his tapes, his records, his toys. Haslam’s are in his records. Records he no longer has, but the memory of the ghosts still haunt his head, still ring true in his heart with some lovely, humming numbness.

In his biography of a collective of neo-Marxist intellectuals armed with critical theory and Freudian psychoanalytical incisiveness from Germany called the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, Stuart Jeffries highlights its main players, Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno, in his recapitulation of this idea that objects are symbolic of something. Those objects irradiate different meanings for different people, sometimes surpassing our attachment to humans, their overriding potency blinding us with something inexplicably important. “Each object contains the ghost of a human presence, a history, the hear of attachment” says Jefries. With Benjamin, in his autobiography Berlin Childhood Around 1900 written in 1932, musing on the encapsulation of memories in the tactility of hoarded ephemera, he “laments the irretrievability of what, once lost, congeals into an allegory of its own demise”.

The difference with Haslam, Haslam the postmodern neo-Marxist-punk, one of a handful of humble, appointed chroniclers of the pop cult capital and beyond, is that along this journey, upon this landscape where both desert and treasure converge, where the Frankfurt School comprised of Adorno, Horkheimer, Benjamin, and Marcuse, meets the dancefloor comprised of Photek and Fall, Big Flame and Dub Sex, Smiths and Saint Etienne, DAF and ESG, when the deal was done, when the records were boxed, when ghosts were sold, there was no time, despite the size of the space such removal of such a colossal collection would’ve surely have created, for elegy.

This was about celebration.


The Immortality of Things: Säurehaus, Punk and Frankfurter Schule


”I say in the book I sold my past in order to create my future. It lightened the load” – Dave Haslam.

A Life in Thirty-Five Boxes: How I Survived Selling My Record Collection…In the book, you say, ‘If I’d stuck to vinyl only, I’d have denied myself the pleasure of playing many of the best tunes I was listening to and wanted to share’. You didn’t let that transition when you made that leap of getting rid of your vinyl deter you from making the music that was important to you, and inspirational to you, be heard. You were able to play it at the push of a button, at the click of a mouse, and that was a perfectly fine substitute for you. Was that hard?

One of the reasons I got rid of the vinyl was that I wasn’t playing it very often, for various reasons. A lot of the stuff I wanted to play wasn’t on vinyl, I could have had some kind of workaround on that. I also did a gig, a vinyl-only night, but when I turned up, they didn’t know how to wire up the turntables.

This is in the book, isn’t it?

Yeah, it is. I just thought…it’s a different generation of sound engineers or something. There’s a lot of pop-up clubs here, pop-up clubs there but, to play vinyl, you want it on a good system. Where the audio is tweaked so it sounds great. So it wasn’t really working for me. So I ditched the vinyl. What do I do with these things? On the one hand, I had some attachment to them.

As I say in the book I  knew the history of them. More than the soundtrack of my life, they measured out and documented my life. They meant a lot to me. On the other hand, they were sat in the cellar of my house doing nothing. I just made that kind of slightly instinctive, slightly unhinged decision to put them on sale as a collection. I didn’t ask anyone because I knew everyone would go ‘No! Don’t do it!’ I wrote about it in Sonic Youth Slept On My Floor, I still don’t feel like it’s an explainable decision. In the sense, I can’t give you five bullet points and say, ‘This is the reason I sold them’. Sometimes being instinctive and being spontaneous about stuff and not being self-conscious is a good thing. I think you probably miss out on a lot of experience if you think about things too much. I realised in Sonic Youth Slept on My Floor the big moments in life as written about in that book were not explainable in a rational way. I just decided I’d go with that.

That’s nice though. Are you happy with the notion that this alleviation of the baggage, that maybe was contained with the records, doesn’t really need to be justified or explained, even if you could sit there and state exactly why…

Yeah…I realised subsequently that because the records were a representation of my past, that in getting rid of them I was also getting rid of the baggage of my past. It was partly because me and some of my contemporaries were in that the world, [and] for whatever reason, however rightly or wrongly, decided we are all about the ’80s. I was all about the ’80s in the ’80s, but that’s the only decade I was ever all about the ’80s in. I wanted to make some kind of statement to myself. To push on.


I get a tad protective over Dave Haslam. Haslam the writer. The obsessed teenager. Haslam the fan, pushing against the passage doors to new worlds that albums often lead us to, allowing us to look through the portal’s otherworldly opening. He behaves as a reference point, an insightful projector, for an age long gone, but is still fantastically galvanised and feels the need to enrich the world by what experiences filled his own life with according to the turns of the earth.

A life kicked into motion by the iconoclastic spirit of punk, post-punk acid spit, and hot strip mill house that was instilled into him in the 1970s when he started his zine, Debris.

A life kicked into motion when he experienced John Peel, Joy Division, Dub Sex, Big Flame, The Fall. A spirit that succeeds in underpinning the wonderous pillars put into place and keeps the wheels of the world wonderfully rotating. His history will not be repeated. But his place in history is resolute.

Reputation performs as a springboard, but the gig that turns heads because they fail to connect The Stooges with any of what could be called ‘Hacienda Classics’ is justification that Haslam is living proof that the future is something to look to. A time mummified in black and yellow tape. But Dave writes, and speaks, and engages, and meditates on what makes sense to him NOW. Anyway from the ecstatic parties, the Situationist agendas surpassing standard, sensical business strategies, the mindless manifestos, the Appolonion delights contained in Dionysian exteriority, Hacienda as Manchester’s Pompeii, and prepared, the more he punches, the more he publishes new, interesting ideas, to move away from the shadows of his expected reputation; a withdrawal from the demands of his own past. In his words, “sometimes people complain about the music I’m playing. Which doesn’t happen often. I just tell them to get their money back on the door and go somewhere else. It’s one of those things, you’re in the wrong place. A meat-eater in a vegan restaurant. There’s nothing you can do”.


In a way, the limitations of what you had in the ’80s and ’90s provided you with…what, more of an edge maybe?

Yeah absolutely. You couldn’t fall back on your default top tunes. You had to think a bit harder. So I liked that. I’d pack a box. One-third of it I knew would be difficult to play, and one-third of it I knew would send everyone into a frenzy, the other third was random stuff really.

But the random stuff, and the stuff which induces frenzy, is good to play though isn’t it? Do you maybe think there’s a lack of randomness and frenzy in DJ culture now because of what methods are being used to play, in spite of how passionate they might appear?

I think in every era there are DJs that push things forward, that play the obvious, that are very limited and play, and want to play, and are only expected to play, a very defined genre, and there are DJs who are quite eclectic. I don’t really judge any of them. In this day and age, if you’re making a living out of DJing, you’re very fortunate and I tip my hat to you. But when I started, I only wanted to be a DJ that was eclectic and pushed things forward.

In that sense, the paradigm of DJ you embodied was one of eclecticism that mirrored your own tastes. It didn’t make sense to solely play acid house, but also introduce post-punk and hip-hop and suchlike…

No, it didn’t really. And also, I guess sometimes I just get bored of the kind of one-dimensional DJ. I was playing Elecropicales, an electronic music festival in the middle of the Indian ocean, I was headlining on a Friday night, this is about 3 years ago, a fantastic weekend. About three-quarters of the way through I thought to myself ‘I don’t know if people are going to remember this set’. I mean the music was good, they’re all dancing, I built it up from nothing but I thought ‘oh I need to do something here, I need to drop a bomb’. I played this fantastic version of I Wanna Be Your Dog, a long strung-out version, I think two-thirds of the audience was totally perplexed, and the other third would remember it forever. At least I made my mark. That’s what I like. I think if you’re going around getting DJ gigs on the back of being a legendary Hacienda DJ you’ve gotta do something different.

Yeah because as someone who derives from that family and network of people, if it’s anybody’s right to turn tables, it’s your lot.

Yeah absolutely. If I want to play Upside Down by Diana Ross. It’s a cool record because it’s been played by a Hacienda DJ. I haven’t played that song for years but yeah that’s the spirit I like to play in. As we did in the Hacienda. That idea of being different to everyone else, being unpredictable.

Being irreverent

Being irreverent, having a lot of fun. But also being serious about the music. Certainly not being retro. So I still feel my philosophy for DJing is the same as in 1987.

Which is akin to what you mention in the books but also what is replete within the Hacienda bloodstream to approach things and attack culture from a Situationist standpoint and create something of a Happening here.

Yeah, and also a sense of responsibility when you’re  DJ.



Inevitably, his experiences, his cache of accounts, spill into the literary mix. But these aren’t entirely autobiographical, unlike Sonic Youth Slept on my Floor from 2018, or Life After Dark: A History of British Nightclubs and Music Venues, three years earlier.

But still, romantic flashes of desire, as well as hints and glimpses of his own narrative work their way into the books, and beautifully imbuing and brilliantly filling each page.

Despite the books being distinct from each other, their subjects interweave and coexist in ways more spiritual and profound than is obvious from a quick glance at the back blurb. One of the commonalities is the quality, the consistent interest of material which Haslam promised himself would be a factor forever put into practice from first to the last page. He informs me “the main thing for me is the books have to be quality. They have to be enlightening, they have to be emotional. They have to have emotional content. They have to feel like I am loving writing the book, sharing what I have discovered with the readers”.

The other commonality, as I’ve stated, is Dave. The living bridge between one world and another.

Another is this idea of retrospect pertinent to now. Everything connected. All currents then, conducive to the channels of now.


”Life is not closed off. Or if it is I’m going to break out of this cage and make something happen. That’s the link I think in a way between the books in the series” – Dave Haslam.


International Paris

The other books in the series are superb. My Second Home: Slyvia Plath In Paris, 1956 and Searching For Love: Courtney Love in Liverpool, 1982, interestingly so because of the similarities of the heroines involved.

Liverpool is Love’s Paris.

Paris is Plath’s utopia.

When I read the book it made a sort of ludicrously logical piece of historical information. That the character we know now as Courtney Love, Cobain’s widow, Francis Bean’s mother, Hole’s frontperson, along with her mate Robin was hanging around with Mac and Cope and interacting with characters like Pete Burns and observed by Bernie Connor who was a local at Armadillo Tea Rooms. It’s a fantastic allegory to know she developed a greater sense of herself, refined and strengthened herself in the presence of these people.

Yeah, and that idea of being…again it’s a little bit like the Sylvia Plath book. In the series there’s I think, a lot of it by accident. Lots of themes and connections emerging. It’s probably my favourite book so far. It has a lot of connections with Courtney Love. Two, young American women. Coming over to Europe for the first time. Love goes to Liverpool. Plath goes to Paris. The experiences that they have are pre-being defined by Cobain and Hughes. But both are experiences that seem to set them up for what happens in later life. We meet them at a time when we know what’s going to happen to them…they don’t. It’s part of the formation of their identity, their mythology, their careers, I love that connection. Like trying to capture that connection. It’s a bit like the Keith Haring book in parts. People feel like things are possible.

I think this one specifically, My Second Home: Sylvia Plath in Paris, 1956, reinforces that link more so in that it’s Paris and a tale of her experiences and perceptions of that particular place, but more broadly it’s a metaphorical, international Paris. Liverpool is Love’s Paris too and maybe you relate to that a little.

It was also, with Plath, it was a city where no one knew who she was. I loved that sense of her arriving and knowing that there’s no one with any preconceptions of her. There’s a certain sense of liberation in that knowledge. There’s a song by Ultravox called Young Savage and the lyric is something like ‘anything goes when no one knows your name’. That was kind of Plath’s experience in Paris. It’s her Paris. She brings her own personality to the city. It’s not like she’s being moulded by Paris. There’s a kind of dialogue between her and Paris. In the same way, there’s a dialogue between Courtney and Liverpool, it’s dialectical.

So in a way cities are people?

Well yeah. Cities are potential. Cities have an identity, don’t they? A vibe. Although they might have several vibes. That’s what you experience.


Were these subjects that you wanted to share, subjects you knew stuff about anyway? That they resonated with you but wanted to unfurl with greater standards of research and proficiency? Did you want to share them in such a way because of the emotional attachment and love you have of them? I imagine you knew shitloads about Liverpool…

Well, I knew absolutely shitloads about Liverpool and that era. About ’81/82, when I first started going.

To Erics…

Just after Erics. Pete Wylie from Wah! Was and is still a big pal of mine. I read something maybe five or six years ago about Courtney Love being in Liverpool as a teenager. So the idea of finding a way to write about the idea of Liverpool that I’ve always wanted to write about…

Without mentioning Ian McCulloch…

Well with that book, Searching For Love: Courtney Love In Liverpool, 1982, you know when you have a conversation with somebody, a proper conversation, and you just say, ‘Did you know this happened? Have you heard that happened?’ Or ‘I discovered something really odd the other day’, and you sort of swap those stories. So the Courtney Love in Liverpool thing was an extension of that really. It was me saying ‘Did you know Courtney Love was in Liverpool for six months in 1982, hanging out with Julian Cope and Ian McCulloch?’. The Courtney Love? Who married Kurt Cobain? In Liverpool? And not only that but now she says it was one of the most formative experiences of her life? You’re like wow tell me more, and the book is made.


Radiation Baby

”I think in my head I had Haring down as a colourful, expressive, free-flowing graphic artist, who went out to clubs a lot. My kind of a guy. But in my research and writing the book, I hit that moment. I kind of gulped” – Dave Haslam.


One of the interesting things I got from We The Youth: Keith Haring’s New York Nightlife, in keeping with this idea of experiencing a city with its own unique aura and distinct atmosphere and vibe, was your concept of Porousness. That notion you can be available and open and willing to absorb and engage and talk to a surrounding with its own idiosyncratic vibe going it…a synergy of sorts. Haring was the epitome of that idea, wasn’t he? He channelled it.

Yes, he absorbed it, he channelled it, and the fact that he moved between various different worlds. Obviously, the downtown art scene that he locked into was just starting out. The small little clubs and scenes that he found. He hooked up with the rappers and graffiti artists who were in the Bronx. The thing with the Haring one is that, as well as absorbing the city, he also influenced a city.

Like he coloured it in?

Yeah. Our idea of what New York is, in some ways, Haring is now a part of.

Like Warhol is?

Yeah like Warhol. Or Basquiat, or Madonna or Larry Levan. Almost on a level of Martin Scorsese who was absorbing New York. It was a character in his films. But he’s also helped the rest of the world perceive New York in a certain way. I think Keith Haring did that with his art.

Another thing I’ve always been fascinated by with Haring is that along with the sheer volume of stuff he was channelling, concurrent to that was its unleashing. There was this innate desire, this hyperactive drive, and the need to get the drawings out. He never paused for much thought or came up for air, especially on the subways where he would emblazon his style everywhere, seamlessness.

The thing that also intrigued me about him was… in all the books, I set off with the germ of an idea, I allow myself to be led by the research. The bigger books that I write, I map them all pretty much out so I know what’s going on in each chapter. Not quite a spreadsheet but you have to if you have 100,000 words to write. You have to create the architecture of the book before you started filling in all the details. Whereas with this creatively, it’s a different process for me. I just set off. With all of them, it’s taken me into areas I didn’t think I’d end up writing about, particular areas that interest me. I didn’t realise when I got to the early to mid-80s, I was going to be faced with the trauma of AIDS.


That somewhat gloomy conclusion aside, as Haslam reached the ’80s where Haring too met his end in 1990 at his home in Greenwhich Villiage, New York; a literary stalwart, a musically-minded but multidisciplinary devotee for the evolution of culture and all that underpins it. There’s always a taste of euphoria traceable on every page, even in the darkest of moments each character had to confront as a means of making sure the future unfolded with a piece of them filling it: ”in writing about Keith Haring I’ve realised that what happens next is as much a part of the story. Same with Ian Curtis I guess. At the end of the day, I’m writing about Keith Haring now, 30 years after he’s died”.

Culture as something as never fully dying, nor never truly starting from the blankness of the slate, but that flows, which is what is so beguiling about these books, these intuitive pop art displays of artistic skill on the streets, these 7-inch punk singles, these snapshots and snippets of history able to be held in one hand between the fingers of a young man aboard a bleak piece of machinery from Bolton to Blackpool North, from Wilmslow to God knows, and understand what Haslam has, and will always, set out to do when the first word explodes on the page like poetry igniting the cold bones of the temporal tourist attractions located at Interzone. Or like a brilliant gang of shadowplayers penning their savage blast of punk singles in a bloody run of hit-instinct, gutter-romance, drug-bunny and riotous art-resistance that, when talking about this trauma, this melancholy that greeted the doors of Plath, Love, Haring, Curtis, Vicious, Nico, “their life came to a premature end, but at the same time, they’ve absolutely lived on in their work. There’s still a residue with what they did and what they intended, used as ammunition for now and the future”.

The fruits of their labour are ours to pour over. A regenerative tree that Haslam, just bloody well has to tend to, because they bloody well had to.


Dave Haslam Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Website

Ryan Walker is a writer from Bolton. His online archive can be found here.

Photographs 1 and 2: Credit: © Greater Mancunians

Photographs 3: Chris Payne

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