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'Freaky Dancing' Was the Original Acid House Fanzine

We spoke to Ste Pickford and Paul Gill about their ode to ecstasy, acid house and the Hacienda.

by Daniel Dylan Wray
06 March 2019, 12:04pm

All images courtesy of 'Freaky Dancing'

Between July of 1989 and August of 1990, Ste Pickford and Paul "Fish Kid" Gill created a fanzine called Freaky Dancing that encapsulated their world as young men in Manchester. That world was full of ecstasy, acid house and partying at the Hacienda with the same devout regularity as lifelong church-goers.

The pair, who had drawn comics for years, would spend the week making the fanzine and use the work photocopier to make hundreds of copies, which would then be taken to the club and given out – initially for free – to those in the queue. It was an unashamed celebration of clubbing, E and acid house, commemorating a newfound drug culture as much as a musical one.

It was acerbic yet silly and frequently poked fun at central characters in Manchester's music scene. Most often on the receiving end of such piss-taking was Tony Wilson, who would call the short lived fanzine "the most important piece of journalism I've read in the last 20 years".

The Quietus has recently published an anthology of all 11 issues, so I spoke to the creators of Freaky Dancing about their time making the zine.

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VICE: What made you decide to put all of these fanzines together and release them 30 years on?
Ste Pickford: I was initially reticent. I was quite happy leaving it in the past. I was a bit scared that I was going to be horrified by re-reading it, or really disappointed, and so it was easier to keep it as a happy memory. But it's now been long enough in the past that I can look at it and say, "This is great. We did something quite cool here." It was a case of wanting to document the tiny little corner of the contribution to pop culture that we made.

What turned you on to acid house?
Paul Gill: The Hacienda, basically.
SP: Before acid house kicked off it wasn't a successful nightclub; it was a weird, big, cavernous, empty nightclub that nobody went to. Even then we wanted to go in, but we were too young and too drunk – we'd roll up there and the bouncers would just laugh at us. They let us in eventually; I think they just needed someone to buy a drink at the bar because it was empty. Then, when acid house kicked off, it was almost like overnight you couldn't get into the place. You'd be queuing up from about 8.30PM.

Was the queue its own party and culture in a way?
PG: Definitely, yeah. It was part of the thrill of it. You'd get talking to people you met last week dropping a pill and form real friendships.
SP: At the launch night for the anthology there were some people saying, "Oh, we could never get hold of a copy because we were on the guest list and walked past the queue," and we were like, "You were the people we hated!" The fanzine was to keep people like us entertained in the queue when people like them were all walking past and getting straight in.

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Was the acid house boom enough of a cultural shift in the club that you felt the need to document it?
SP: We'd been several times prior, but we didn't really feel any great need to make a fanzine about it. But the combination of ecstasy, acid house and the Friday nights at the club changed that. All it took was two weeks of that to realise that this felt massively important. That this was something happening to us and we had to get it down on paper. It sounds a bit daft, but we wanted to give something back to people in the club. You instantly felt a sense of community with everyone in there. It was really special.

You started off giving it to people in the queue, but soon enough it got into the hands of the people at the Hacienda. Did they all like it?
SP: I think so. We were very nervous about it to begin with and thought we'd get in big trouble about it, and that they might ban us or something. By giving it out in the queue, part of the thinking was that they can't get us because it's on the street.
PG: The worst thing that they could have done was bar us. That would have been worse than death at the time.

Why did you feel it was time to stop?
PG: Seeing fights in the Hacienda. There was lots of violence that came into it all. I remember going to a club after the Hacienda just around the corner, and this guy comes in with a gun and starts shooting around. We all dived to the floor and it was just like, "This is fucked up. This is rubbish. Fuck this." It was horrible. It drifted into territory that just wasn't us anymore.
SP: We had a few pages written for the next issue, and the last issue doesn't state it's the final one. We planned to carry on, but there was a feeling that the scene we were in was going all horrible. Also, the scene got bigger and spread out more, so it wasn't as focused on the Hacienda. If the fanzine was just general then it would have been like i-D or Mixmag, documenting the whole international music scene wasn't something that we would have done a great job of. It was about capturing that special time at the Hacienda.

Buy the 'Freaky Dancing' anthology here.

@danieldylanwray