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Dave Haslam on DJing For Free

Reported by JontySkrufff on July 24, 2010


Acid house pioneer Dave Haslam hosted a conference in Preston about how to break into the music business this week and chatting to the Lancashire Evening Post beforehand said he had no regrets about playing for free repeatedly at Manchester’s Hacienda in the 80s.

“I just used to offer to play the records before bands played at the Hacienda, and didn’t even expect to get paid. I’d get the bus into town with my records in an old cardboard box for the love of it,” Dave recalled.

“I didn’t realise how much good experience I was getting, I was learning so much, and also I guess I was proving myself to people, doing the job well.”

I don’t regret the years of not getting paid – just pitching in and doing bits of writing and helping put on gigs and doing some DJing,” he added, “But I’d like to have moved that all up a level earlier than I did.” 

Eventually playing over 450 gigs at the seminal Manchester club, Haslam became one of England’s first bona fide superstar DJs and continues to spin worldwide today as well as working a day job teaching journalism at Manchester Metropolitan University.

His earlier experiences as a struggling club DJ matched those of late great tech/trance pioneer Tony De Vit who started his career in 1976 as a wedding DJ before becoming a resident DJ at Birmingham’s legendary gay club Nightingales. Initially spinning hi energy and disco, Tony switched to techno in the early 90s becoming an overnight star when he performed at Birmingham superclub Chuff Chuff in the early 90s, earning just £35 for his first set.

Speaking in 1997 when as Trade’s definitive resident he had become one of the world’s most popular DJs, he admitted being plagued by self-doubt throughout most of his career.

"In the early days of DJing I collected glasses after playing a set for my 50 quid,” he recalled.

“My Mum told me I would never make a living playing records, and, to be honest, I tended to agree with her.”

I’m Mr Safe, really,” he added. “I’m a DJ who broke through onto the scene aged 35, and I only stopped working as a stock control manager in a factory making thermal insulation tiles for the Space Shuttle, three and a half years ago. I’d worked there for 17 years." (Fantazia interview in full)

Tony tragically died 18 months after the interview in 1998 after complications resulting from being infected with HIV. He was just 40.

Jonty Skrufff