A Certain Ratio's Martin Moscrop talks about his history with Factory Records.
A Certain Ratio were very lucky, as far as getting a record out quickly goes. We were members of the Manchester Musicians Collective along with Warsaw, Joy Division, The Fall, Frantic Elevators (Mick Hucknall’s band), The Passage and many more. The night was fortnightly at The Band on The Wall and the members would rotate which meant you played about every two months. The audience consisted mainly of the bands in the collective and their friends. ACR played with Joy Division in September 1978 and Rob Gretton, Joy Division's manager was there and he really liked us. He mentioned us to Tony Wilson who had just started the Factory night at The Russell Club (the label didn’t exist yet but Tony was well on his way to starting it.) Tony booked us to play at The Factory and he really liked us and thought that we were Manchesters answer to The Velvet Underground. Within a couple of months we were recording our first single 'All Night Party' and 'The Thin Boys' with Martin Hannett at Suite 16 recording studios in Rochdale. We were drummerless at the time and the recording session was very 'interesting' to say the least...
Martin Hannett was a young, fairly healthy guy at the time but he had the same production techniques he had many years later. The famous story about him saying "play it faster but slower" was actually during this session when recording 'All Night Party'. He liked to inject an element of confusion and tension into his production and when you listen to these recordings now you will hear what I mean.
Factory Records were like a family in the early days and at the start we used to gig constantly as a Factory package. Having Tony Wilson as our manager was an advantage in some ways and a disadvantage in others. Tony asked us if we wanted to tour with a band from New York called Talking Heads. We liked them and thought it would be good to play larger venues to get a bit more exposure. It wasn't the audience we were exposed to but David Byrne who really loved us and watched us from the side of the stage every night. It was no coincidence that their next album was funk influenced and David Byrne later admitted that ACR had influenced them on that tour.
Tony decided that it would be a good idea for us to record our first album in New York because we had now developed our Punk Funk sound together with our new drummer Donald Johnson and he thought that recording it there would influence our sound. We were the first factory act to go to the US and in 1980 we recorded our first proper studio album ( the first one was The Graveyard and the Ballroom which was only available on cassette) with Martin Hannett at E.A.R.S. recording studio in East Orange, New Jersey. This was a fantastic experience for five young Manchester lads. We also played some gigs in New York, Chicago, Boston and Canada. The first gig we played in New York was at Tier 3 - a small venue with a brand new New York band, ESG supporting.
Tony hired a loft in Tribeca which was just one big open plan room with windows overlooking the Hudson river. This was before lofts took off and Tribeca was one of the cheapest places for property in NYC and cheaper than staying in hotel for six weeks. Tony bought six mattresses, six, pillows, six sheets, a plant, and we had a home for six weeks. We put the sleeping equipment into storage and came back the following year and that time we stayed in the loft below Robert DeNiro. We were told off for playing basketball in the loft by his partner when in fact we were playing football. That's how big the lofts were!
The third time we went to New York we played at the Danceteria and an unknown dancer/singer supported us called Madonna. Hip Hop was taking off in a big way and every time we came back to Manchester from the US we had to deal with little crappy clubs. It was at this time that Tony and Rob started thinking about the idea for The Hacienda. This would be Manchester’s version of a New York club and it certainly was. It was to become as famous and legendary as The Loft and Studio 54.
Copyright - Martin Moscrop - 2009
ACR hit the road again soon and are playing the Barbican, London with ESG on March 3rd.