Fuc spoke to Mojo recently for a piece about Manchester. It's in the July issue, the one with
If even the heritage mags are looking forward now, then maybe we're winning. The unabridged interview follows over the jump.
M: When was FUC51 founded?
Fuc: 1981. We lost money for years, it was mental! Then we were just in the right place in the right time, the drugs were right and people started coming in their droves.
Fuc: There's been something of an elephant in the collective Mancunian room. Manchester has always been a great city for music, from the Halle orchestra straight through to the burgeoning folkie scene in the fashionable leafy bits of South Manchester. However, every time you pick up a magazine or newspaper, Manchester is little more than a Factory Records theme park. All music that comes from Manchester is tied to The Happy Mondays, Joy Division or whatever. The irony here, is that there's a lot of Mancs who really despise Liverpool for being something of a BeatleWorld, when really, this city is just as bad - if not worse. At least Liverpool are fawning over the most famous band in pop history, whilst Mancunians are still in a circle jerk over three or four indie LPs.
M: Was there a pivotal event, a “that’s it, I’ve had enough” moment?
Fuc: Not especially. It would appear to many that Peter Hook's re-opening of The Factory nightclub would be it, but to be completely honest, we were just fortuitous that it opened when it did. The debate had already started a long time ago, there was just no central platform for it. It's been more of a constant nagging that won't go away - building steadily over the last 15 years perhaps, rather than an apoplectic 'Falling Down' moment.
M: What situation is the modern Manchester music scene in and how does that relate to the Factory/Roses heritage industry?
Fuc: Manchester, like any other city worth its salt, has a great music scene. There's still a lot of bands breaking through and being popular. The Ting Tings did alright for themselves and Egyptian Hip Hop are making a stink in the music rags. Both of these bands, regardless of whether we/you like them or not, managed to forge a career without leaning on Tony H. Wilson's corpse.
There's a healthy amount of promoters sticking their necks out and we're in a much better place venue-wise than we have been in a long time. The city's always been good at that DIY ethic, and if there's any kind of legacy worth wearing around our necks, let that be it.
M: Why do you think this has happened?
Fuc: There's always going to be revivalists in the music world. Chimp Magazine [for example] do favour Madchester artists and we eagerly await their Northside special, however, it's a localised version of Mojo's use of '60s and '70s artists on the cover. That said, national publications have the rest of the publishing world to fall back on. Don't like The Stones? Buy The NME. In Manchester, no local publication is given a chance because people are far too keen on using the same, tired old faces again and again.
It's a comfort thing - no matter that Ian Brown's not really doing anything that interesting any more - it's as simple as 'he played in that band we first got drunk to and let's have a reminisce'. There's a real culture of 'paying your dues' in Manchester as well. A mentality where if you once sold 500,000 records you get elevated to 'untouchable' status. Nonsense - you're never untouchable, you're only as good as the last thing you did.
M: Who is your bete noire, the Manchester figure(s) you most bemoan the appearance of?
Fuc: Peter Hook features quite heavily on our pages and seems to rile most of our readers. That said, he's not the problem as such. He's just a musician trying to earn a living and if he can exploit his back catalogue, then it only seems fair. Our main bugbear is the press. Whilst we may poke fun at Hooky for reopening The Factory, broadsheets and music magazines are by far the worst offenders with their continued use of Factory records every time a new band appears.
M: What is the most pathetic example of the Manchester/Factory heritage industry you have witnessed? (A list is acceptable).
Fuc: One Guardian article, about the folk scene revolving around Chorlton, managed to crow-bar in a reference to the Hacienda regarding an artist called John Stammers. Here, we have a bloke who makes pastoral Nick Drake-ish music being prodded and poked with the acid house stick. It is possible to make an album in Manchester and be influenced by music away from the city. There's bands that are more inspired by Detroit or New York than they are by their immediate surroundings, just like any other band from any other part of the world. A new band, Delphic, are continually likened to New Order because their brand of pop uses guitars and synthesizers, despite the fact they continually reference krautrock bands.They even said "We're very proud of Manchester but we were inspired by what we didn't like in Manchester, and that was Manchester refusing to move on. We felt it was in danger of drowning under its heritage. We wanted to help it look forward and were sick of the Madchester stereotypes." Not that anyone took any notice.
M: What kind of support have you had from within Manchester?
Fuc: The response has been great both positive and negative, which is wholly the point of FUC51. Many have praised us for daring to kick a thing that's been canonised by those that were in it and, more importantly, those that were hangers-on. Others have chastised us for not promoting what is good about the city, which is fair. However, we wanted to start the debate about Manchester's future and people /are/ talking. Tony Wilson's son, after reading the blog, was prompted into asking if Manchester is becoming a Madchester Theme Park on a TV show and former Hacienda DJ and writer Dave Haslam was critical of the revivalism. Naturally, there's a certain irony in both cases, but support has come from the most unlikely of places.
M: Who from Manchester’s post punk history has managed to retain their dignity?
Fuc: Rock stars aren't supposed to retain their dignity. That's part of the trade we all make when we sign up with a band. When a rock star gets older, for the most part, all they have are memories. Mark E. Smith is by no means a dignified human, but at least he's still looking forward and making new, grumpy LPs. Then again, he's a Salford boy.
M: Who from Manchester’s post punk history has welcomed the site: “About bloody time” (I know Jon Savage is a fan)
Fuc: Apart from the aforementioned, no-one has explicitly come forward to support FUC51. Not that we know of, anyway. It's hardly surprisingly really as Manchester is a small city and everyone knows each other. Collectively, we all know everyone from the Factory set-up.
There's a bit of the 'mob mentality' as far as the music scene goes. Toe the line and don't speak up, your turn will come. There's a bit of a 'Manchester Mafia' in a way - consisting of balding ex-DJs and rhythm sections of bands from yesteryear. From what we've seen they're all closet internet warriors, and consequently people can be a little afraid to speak out sometimes.
M: What is your aim?
Fuc: Merely to start the debate. If people want to promote what's good about Manchester, then our shoddy little blog should show them just how easy it is to start their own. Invariably, the end result we want is to be completely and utterly revered and end up as talking heads on television shows whenever anyone wants to talk about Madchester. We'll probably build apartments on the site of FUC51's URL. In 5 year's time we'll start releasing strictly limited, numbered CDRs containing every word ever committed to the blog. Signed by Ian Curtis, natch.
M: Does the current Manchester music “:scene” suffer as a result of the manc heritage industry?
Fuc: Suffer isn't the right word. Bands that come through Manchester are often helped by lazy journalism and press releases. However, the Mancunian way of thinking is, in many respects, very backward. For such a musical city, you'd hope that more bands would emerge - especially the myriad of great artists that don't sound anything like Joy Division, New Order, Oasis or Happy Mondays.
You have this weird situation where bands like, say, The Longcut have in the past been given passing comparisons to New Order. Sorry, but they sound absolutely nothing like New Order. We all know how difficult it is to get a London A+R up here when it's not In The City - if the other 51 weeks of the year they're reading all this revival crap about bands across the press then well, there's almost a danger of it self-propagating. They then come up here looking out for 'the new Joy Division' and the cycle repeats.
M: Who from the current scene is worth checking out/is overlooked?
Fuc: Bearing in mind that we do actually like some of the old guard, there's a few bands that have been making waves around Manchester. Mazes, Ten Bears, Maladies of Bellafontaine, Sisters of Transistors - (the irony, they feature Graham Massey amongst their number!), Jim Noir, Voice of the Seven Thunders (he's from Bolton, still, the Charlatans are hardly Mancs either) , Working for a Nuclear Free City, Cats in Paris, Magic Arm, just for starters! Not to mention the likes of clubs and promoters like Aa, Up the Racket, Naive Melody, Hoya Hoya, The Deaf Institute... [list continues at length, you get the idea...]
M: What do you think of artists like Lonelady who are clearly in love with that old Manc sound but are also drawing on the current mood within the city?
Fuc: There's nothing wrong with drawing inspiration from the old Manchester sound. It would just be nice if the music press noticed that there were a whole load of bands that don't fit in the whole post-punk slot that has been foisted upon the city. FUC51 wouldn't begrudge a band from London listening to The Kinks, and nor will we deny the importance and legacy of, say, Unknown Pleasures. To assume that LoneLady is tapping into the mood of Manchester currently is exactly what's wrong with the perception of the city. Believe it or not, there's really cheery bands in Manchester who like The Beach Boys more than some assumed industrial romanticism. People in Manchester don't hang around disused warehouses dressed in black jeans. If you want to know where the kids are at, look at Egyptian Hip Hop or Dirty North and their brilliantly awful taste in clothes.
M: What question(s) have I stupidly forgot to ask you that you’d like to answer at length?
Fuc: Q: Are you nihilists?
A: No - Manchester's ace - we love it. The people behind Fuc have been involved with or been present at uncountable great moments over the years - from Sankeys to The Roadhouse. Almost all of the greatest moments have been spontaneous, forward-thinking and involved massive risk-taking on the part of the perpetrators, with scant regard for what's gone before. If there's a Manchester to go all misty-eyed about in reminiscence, then that's it.