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Guy Williams; Black Rabbit, Disco and Over-zealous Party Police (interview)

Reported by JontySkrufff on September 12, 2010

Starting his career at the Hacienda’s legendary queer night Flesh in 1983 in Manchester, Guy Williams has gone on to become a fixture of both the gay and straight global club scenes, holding high profile residencies at the likes of Ministry of Sound and DTPM and more recently at Ibiza’s We Love mega-parties at Space.  Focusing primarily on house, he’s also re-embraced disco’s latest renaissance, playing predominantly classic tracks at his monthly Black Rabbit parties at We Love.

“Personally I’m really happy that disco has become big again because my musical roots are based in 80s music and disco and it definitely still is big today,” he enthuses.

“There’s also loads of really good nu disco being made which is more musical and warm and through these hard times we’re living in right now people need that. Though I still love good deep house and tech house as well.”

He’s also firmly attached to the concept of playing quality disco and house music loud, judging by a recent angry message he posted on Facebook hours after returning from spinning a high profile slot at London’s Love Box Festival.

“Lovebox Nazi sound police take note- it’s a MUSIC festival!” he stormed, hours after the event, adding for good effect, ‘Dickwads’.

Today he’s decidedly more chilled, describing the East London outdoor event as ‘an overall good experience’ and one he hopes to repeat next year.

“In general it was a good day at Lovebox but the Art Against Knives/Jezebel sound system where I was playing at kept being told to turn the music down,” he explains. “They even closed it down a few times and it really wasn’t that loud.

Sound quibbles aside, he’s a no-nonsense, knowledgeable interviewee, reflecting his 17 year career working as a DJ, party promoter and experienced dance label executive, who though continuing to travel extensively, remains based in London for much of the year.

Skrufff (Jonty Skrufff): What’s your assessment of the health- or otherwise- of London nightlife right now; how does it compare to 3, 5 and 10 years ago?

Guy Williams: “Well as most people will know, partly due to the recession and partly due to people going to more live gigs and festivals and web related events quite a few clubs have closed down and nights finished in London. Three years ago was especially tough because three of the nights I’d played at for a resident for a number of years all finished, pretty much simultaneously. But there are still some great nights and parties on and a lot of pubs have become cool places to go with good DJ and cheaper prices so people will always want to go out and dance.”

Skrufff: I’ve read that many gay pubs are closing because people are meeting over the internet and via web 2.0/ mobile phone apps: how much do you see a difference in the strength of the gay scene compared to straight clubs?

Guy Williams: “I’ve long thought the gay scene has been a little on the slide for quite some time due to both the reasons you mentioned and also because of the fact that being gay is no longer underground and has become almost predictable. Though there are still great parties like Horse Meat Disco and various warehouse parties, thank God.”

Skrufff: You grew up in the Manchester suburb of Cheadle Hulme: what were you doing between school and starting DJing in 1993?

Guy Williams: “I left school in 1986 and after leaving I went straight into a telesales job which I did for a few mind-numbing years before landing a manager’s job at a clothes shop aged 19 which I did for five years. I started DJing in 1993 and when that started to really take off in 1994 I left the clothes shop job and concentrated on DJing. I also then started working for PWL - Pete Waterman’s company looking after promo for Eastern Bloc records, his dance label, before moving to London in 1997.”

Skrufff: You became a resident at the Hacienda’s legendary night Flesh in 1993: how did you land the first gig?

Guy Williams: “I had been going to Flesh since the very first one in 1990 so when I started DJing in 1993, Paul Cons, the promoter gave us a slot. When I say ‘us’ I used to DJ with a guy called David and we went under the name of Planet Janet. It was definitely one the highlights of my DJ career as Flesh was such a seminal night.”

Skrufff: Peter Hook’s recent book on the Hacienda (‘How Not To Run A Club’) is full of tales of hooligans and gangsters packing out the club and regularly causing chaos, how much did you have to navigate/ interact with those kind of characters?

Guy Williams: “I started going to the Hacienda when I was just 16 years old and it was very much a student/ indie kind of club until 1988 when dance music started creeping in, as did the gangster element. I used to go to a Wednesday night called Hot, Fridays called Nude and sometimes on Saturday as well; all of them straight nights and by end of 1989 it was definitely getting rougher. The gangsters eventually started appearing at Flesh too, which was a gay night. To be honest, the gangsters ruined Manchester’s club scene. By 1993 loads of venues and nights were closing down simply because it was just too dangerous, and that was partly the recent I left and moved to London after experiencing a few dry years.”

Skrufff: Danny Tenaglia booked you for a couple of his renowned Be Yourself parties in New York 2002, how did that happen?

Guy Williams: “Danny was a bit of a DJ hero to me in the early nineties and I basically became friends with him and his manager Kevin. When they first asked me to play it was one of the most flattering and daunting opportunities I’ve experienced though luckily a group of friends accompanied me to New York and the gig in the event was amazing, Danny came into the booth about an hour before he was due to play and asked if I would play for longer. And to get invited back a second time was ace.”

Skrufff: Do you ever go back to your hometown of Cheadle Hulme or to any old school reunions? 

Guy Williams: “I never really go back there but have driven past my old house, which I loved a few times. And there have been a number of reunions which I thought about going to but didn’t quite make it.”

Jonty Skrufff (