Umbro Interview With Mike Pickering

From the Umbro blog:

'In the lead up to the Live from City gig we caught up with one of the acts, Mike Pickering. He is an icon of the 90s ‘Madchester’ acid house movement. He is a former DJ at the Haienda nightclub and has been previously described as ‘England’s most revered DJ’ in Face magazine. But just what led him to this point is not necessarily what you would expect - it all started with him listening to Motown and Northern Soul and this soon led into Punk. “I started off by going to the Blackpool Mecca. It was a famous Northern Soul ballroom. Then when Punk arrived, I kind of changed my whole outlook. I started going to all the Punk gigs - Buzzcocks, Joy Division etc. I sang in one band and managed another.”

However, it wasn’t until Mike’s next move that he cemented his place in the world of music. He moved to Holland because, by his own admission, “[there was] nothing going on in Manchester, it was quite depressing times.” There he met a group of people who had access to a disused waterworks factory, they began putting on nights using Mike’s contacts from England. One of the nights was only the second New Order gig after the death of Ian Curtis, this prompted Rob Gretton (New Order manager, and close friend of Mike’s) to make an offer that Mike couldn’t refuse. “Rob came over and said ‘you need to come back - I have an idea of doing this club in Manchester.’ I was ready to come back by then, anyway. By then the building was bought on Whitworth Street [Haienda] and we started that adventure…”

Mike also worked for Factory records, signing both James and the Happy Mondays. Afterwards he went on to help set up the label deConstruction and spent a lot of time signing, producing and remixing other artists - as well as writing his own songs. Then Mike entered the pop arena in his own right. As he recalls. “I was writing and I met Heather [Small] and heard her sing, and thought I want to write for her. So that was the start of M People.” In the following years they had 10 top 10 hits, sold 11 million albums and, amongst others, added a Brit award and a Mercury Music Prize to their awards collection.

Nowadays, Mike is still heavily involved in music, as he says: “the music industry is a Peter Pan industry - you never want to leave.” He works as head of A&R within the Columbia label of Sony BMG, he has signed the likes of Calvin Harris and the Ting Tings, and works very closely with Kasabian. Also, Mike still does the odd DJ set, so it was only natural that he was asked to play a set at the Live from City gig - oh, as well as the fact that he is a huge City fan. “Music and City are the two loves of my life, so it’s great.” He says, with pride.

This took us neatly to Mike’s support of the club. “I think my first match was a United vs. City testimonial match and in those days testimonial matches used to draw full houses. I was lucky enough to start going when we were successful - late 60s etc. - with Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison. It’s weird, I grew up on success then there were many, many lean years that followed” Mike recollects. However, he is hopeful that the tide is finally beginning to turn. He sees no reason why the club can’t, over the coming seasons, force its way into the top 4. “I don’t see why we can’t do that.”

With a bright future for City on the horizon, and Mike hoping to see continued success for his acts, there is much to look forward to. More imminently, we are very much looking forward to Mike’s involvement in the gig.'