Interview / Adrian Gent / Luvdup

Here’s the first of few interviews – shining a spotlight on folks who played a key part in the acid house / balearic “revolution”. Folks who might have been sidelined in the wider retelling of tales – who perhaps haven’t really had a chance to recount their own story before. 

Adrian “Luvdup” Gent might be best known for the hugely successful parties he co-hosted with fellow resident DJ, Mark Van Den Berg. Luvdup were Manchester-based events that helped keep the balearic spirit alive all through the 90s. But Adrian also DJed at Hulme`s infamous squat party, The Kitchen – one of the first places where house music took a hold of the city – so saw the scene start, and was there in the thick of it, watching it develop. 

Currently hosting the Eclectic Circus – with Paul Hughes – I asked Adrian to travel back some 30 years – and take us on a Mancunian magical musical history tour. 

adrian luv dup photo

Where are you from?

I’m from Manchester, born and raised in Whalley Range.

Where are you based?

I now live out in Hadfield, near Glossop – the actual town of Royston Vasey from The League of Gentlemen and in many ways it’s quite similar to the fictional town in real life!

How did you get into DJing? Where were your first gigs, and what kind of music were you playing?

I got my first ever “proper” DJ gig in early 1988 at The Gallery on Peter Street – a club which played exclusively “black” music to a predominantly black crowd – which I used to visit regularly. The manager/boss was a larger than life character in a cream suit called Omar – I’m sure his dubious nickname might have been “Gaddafi” – and one night whilst quite drunk, I summoned up my Dutch courage, told him what a great DJ I was – I’d never DJ-ed in my life at this point – and managed to blag a spot at the club! I expect I must have been pretty awful but I got away with it!

At that time I was playing UK Street Soul like Deluxe and Thomas Esterine`s Your Loving Drives Me Crazy and Tongue’n’Cheek`s Nobody, stuff by 52nd Street, Loose Ends etc. alongside tracks by Roger like I Want to be your Man, Keni Burke’s Rising To The Top and Casanova by LeVert… All a bit “Quiet Storm” in retrospect!

After that I started to blag a few more gigs here and there around Manchester – The House nightclub at 49 Piccadilly and Isadora’s at Hanging Ditch beneath the Corn Exchange spring to mind. House music was just starting to establish itself in the city’s clubs and I also made a brief appearance on the BBC aka the Blackburn Buzz Corporation – or something silly along those lines – which was a pirate radio station that gave out details of where the illegal raves in Blackburn were happening back in 1989 and 1990.

Can you tell me how you met Justin Robertson, Greg Fenton, and Moonboots?

I can’t really remember the exact circumstances, but I think I just got to know them initially through us all going to the same clubs. I was working in Vinyl Exchange from around 1988 / 1989 and I got to know Justin pretty well through buying all his unwanted dance promos for the shop. It was in Vinyl Exchange that Justin kindly asked me if I wanted the warm-up DJ residency at Most Excellent. I shared a house for a few months in South Manchester with Richard and a few others around 1990 / 1991 as well.

vinyl exchange

Did you go to the Jam MCs parties at Konspiracy?

I did, and I also DJ-ed there. It was exciting but it really could be as dodgy as legend has it. One night when I was DJ-ing someone got stabbed, the police turned up and everyone was held in the club. I was told I couldn’t leave as I was considered a possible suspect – even though I’d been in the DJ booth playing records all night!? – and the knife might be hidden inside my record box!

konspiracy-body-image-1465314814

Did you go to places like Stuffed Olive and The Kitchen? Nude and Hot at The Hacienda? Did you go to The Thunderdome?

I first discovered house music back in 1986 at the Hacienda’s Nude night courtesy of DJ’s Mike Pickering and Graeme Park – although when I first went it was Mike and Martin Prendergast, Mr Pickering’s original partner, and the DJs were billed as MP². I`d had high hopes for the evening after seeing an advert in the Manchester Evening News for a Night called “Nude”, but alas, there was no nakedness at all.

I was out dancing at the Hacienda at least twice a week from around 1986 to 1990 but although I loved their cabaret / club night Zumbar on Wednesday nights I was a bit bemused initially by Hot – the legendary night that replaced it. I loved house music but I`d not yet discovered the “chemical cause” of the “Trance Dancing” that the massive crowds were now indulging in – and still looked up to incredible dancers like the Jazz Defektors as role models for how to try and dance in a nightclub! It was all to make sense soon enough…

hulme the kitchen

I only have vague memories of the Stuffed Olive but I was actually the DJ on the first night The Kitchen opened. I was living in a squat in Mallowdale Close in Hulme around ’88 / 89 and got friendly with some new age hippie-traveller-type squatters who lived nearby. They knew I was into my DJing and even somehow blagged it for me to travel down to London one weekend and play at Heaven! I’m not sure what night it was but I remember meeting Trevor Fung who was also DJing upstairs with me and he was very friendly. We’re still friends now and he DJed the pre-party for one of of my Eclectic Circus boat parties a year or so back. This DJ spot at Heaven came before Spice, Most Excellent or Luvdup existed.

Anyway, these traveller new age hippie guys took me over to meet a guy called Jamie, a quite posh sounding bloke – to my Mancunian ears anyway – who was in the process of actually knocking two squats into one in The Crescent to create “The Kitchen”. He showed me what he was planning and I was asked to be the DJ on the opening night. I distinctly remember playing tracks off the Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit compilation which I`d just bought and was very excited about, so this dates it to early May 1988. I remember some reggae chaps kept on wanting to toast over every single record I played so I kept turning the mic volume down. As I was leaving the party in the early hours I got jumped on the stairwell by the same chaps who obviously took offence to my lack of appreciation for their toasting talents and they gave me a minor kicking but thankfully left my precious records untouched. Another night at the kitchen I remember everyone stumbling out into the daylight at 6 AM or whatever ridiculous time it was and the police were there taking photographs of every single one of us as we came out!

I only went to the Thunderdome once – it was way too scary for a soft lad like me to go again! A very moody venue and the music – as well as the crowd – was too hard for my tastes, although I ended up DJing there, once, further down the line. 

When did you first become aware of the term balearic / balearic beat?

I’d read the “Famous Last Words on Clubland’s Class System or ‘How We Learned to Love the Balearic Beat‘” article about it in Mixmag in July 1990 and I think there might have been something in Record Mirror too but basically it was through hooking up with guys like Justin, Greg and Richard amongst others. I remember there was a cassette of Paul Oakenfold DJ-ing at The Future or Spectrum that we all loved and we devoted all our spare time to tracking down the full track-list from it.

Did you DJ at Spice?

I never DJed at Spice but I went there as a clubber and bought the rather nice Spice long-sleeved T-shirt! I don’t think it ran for very long at all, maybe a few months at most. I always regretting missing out on the rather stylish Spice pendants they did.

How did you get the gig at Most Excellent? What sort of tunes were you playing?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, I worked in Vinyl Exchange when it first opened, around late 1988 or early 1989. I was their very first employee and was originally brought in to specialize in soul, but I soon convinced them that this “new-fangled house music malarkey” had “legs” so to speak and basically established the size-able dance department that exists in the shop to this day. Justin was one of a number of DJs at the time who used to bring in their unwanted promo 12″ singles to sell for cash – this also gave me access to a lot of stuff I wouldn’t have been able to get otherwise, as I wasn’t a big enough DJ then to receive promo records myself. One day he just came in and asked me if I would like the warm-up residency at Most Excellent which was moving to The Brickhouse. By this point I was a regular devotee of the club and obviously bit his hand off.

Most-Excellent-1992-Manchester-Dance-Music-Rave-Flyer

I wish I could remember what I played back then a bit more clearly but it is nearly 30 years ago. There is one old cassette in existence that was recorded at Most Excellent and it’s very, very Balearic! Obscure Paul Hardcastle promo B-sides, quirky Italo stuff like Rotation by Mr Luthero, Ben Liebrand mixes from the DMC releases, the Arthur Baker remix of Fleetwood Mac’s Big Love, early Weatherall remixes… I could actually only name around half the tunes on that cassette when I heard it 25 years after it was recorded!

Did you also DJ at Glitterbaby?

I loved Glitterbaby and Greg Fenton was an unrecognized champion of disco when disco wasn’t “cool’ and he was undoubtedly as huge an influence on my DJing as Justin was. I only DJed there as a guest, but what a great, sweaty, hedonistic night that used to be!

glitterbaby

Were Glitterbaby and Most Excellent running side by side? Most Excellent on Thursday, Glitterbaby on Saturday?

Yes they were, and both were at the same club until Most Excellent moved to The Brickhouse on Whitworth Street. Both were initially at The State. This club used to be on the former site of the legendary Twisted Wheel but by then I believe it was a gay club with a very hardcore BDSM club next door called The Mineshaft – which got closed down a couple of years later when police raided the premises and arrested 13 men for the shocking crime of indulging in naughty acts with each other!

When, where, and why did you start Luvdup?

Well, I’ll tell you first how the Luvdup name came about. I went along one Saturday with Justin, Ross – Justin’s manager of sorts and hilariously insane back then, Greg and a coach full of balearic reprobates to Nottingham’s Venus for a Most Excellent special. I had a good friend from school who`d gone to university in Nottingham so I arranged to meet him there at the club for a catch-up. At this point I`d never “done” Ecstasy and once various people on the coach discovered this there was a “whip round” and the money was raised to purchase me one white “Dove” tablet. With only the briefest hesitation, I took it on the coach and off to Venus we went. I met my old schoolfriend in the club who was keen to reminisce about our schooldays and catch up but unfortunately I was starting to “come up” rather dramatically and told him we HAD to dance right now as this was the BEST music EVER! The poor lad was just bemused as I ran onto the dance floor and spent the rest of the night dancing on the dance floor, dancing on the bar, and hugging strangers.

The following Monday I was in Eastern Bloc records for my usual vinyl fix – Monday was a big day for imports arriving – and “Andy E” who worked there, who had also been at Venus that night, gave me the nickname “Adrian Luvdup” since I`d been so incredibly “loved up” – in the vernacular of the time – on that Saturday night! The spelling “Luvdup” was a pun on our Northern pronunciation of the phrase. Just like Richard became “Moonboots”, I became “Luvdup” and the name stuck!

luvdup flyer

Was Luvdup running at the same time as Most Excellent? Why did Most Excellent and Glitterbaby stop? Due to gang violence? I can remember being in the queue for Most Excellent when someone fired a gun, and like Fela everybody scattered. 

I think there was a crossover of a few months. Most Excellent was at the Brickhouse in early 1991 and we did our first Luvdup in Spring of 1991 before going weekly at The Venue later that year. Most Excellent moved around to other venues like The Wiggly Worm – I think the Wiggly Worm was the venue where the door was rammed by disgruntled “gangsters'” in a car after being refused entry. It might have been that night or another when Justin appropriately played Ghost Town by The Specials to make a point. Glitterbaby closed and became the excellent Spacefunk, which Greg Fenton did with Jon DaSilva at The Pavillion from March of 1992.

The gang violence was always there in the background back then, but we all just did our best to soldier on through those “Gunchester” days. “Gunchester’! What a silly name! Who coined that? It’s as bad as “Brexit”!!!

How did you meet Mark and Mike? Where there any other resident DJs? Alan Stephens?

I first met Mark Van Den Berg when we were introduced to each other at the Hacienda on New Year’s Eve 1990. Once the club had closed we went on to some illegal rave or other which was raided by the police. Mark was having a huge argument with some constable which I managed to pull him away from before he got arrested and we became friends from then on. Mark is South African, and he`d fled the country to avoid military conscription. He`d ended up DJing and was spinning at parties for The Farm in Liverpool as well as running his own clothing stalls in Liverpool and Affleck’s Palace. It was Mark who initially suggested we do a night together and as my name was “Luvdup” anyway, it seemed as good a name for a night as any! We started off with one-off parties at some very strange venues – a run-down club in the Chorlton suburb of Manchester, before Chorlton became “cool”, a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, a gay bar near the coach station – before launching our first weekly Luvdup night at the now long-gone Venue on Whitworth Street.

LUVDUP HELL

The music  was mainly provided by just me and Mark, though we did invite occasional guests up, like Steve Proctor who played for us a couple of times. It was a mad mix of house and balearic, and I remember doing stuff like mixing two copies of Madonna’s Like A Prayer together to create a “Luvdup Anthem”. There was a healthy dose of disco in the mix – thanks to the influence of Greg Fenton, as well as some US Hi-NRG from the likes of Bobby Orlando and Patrick Cowley. Me and Mike Smith – aka Mike Luvdup, aka Balearic Mike – were probably looked at with some bemusement by the staff on our regular trips to purchase old Hi-NRG 12″ singles on the Fantasy and “O” Records labels from the basement of Clone Zone in the Village! This was before the Hacienda did their “Flesh” night, and I think we were one of the first nights in Manchester to have a good mix of gay and straight in the club. We had a very lovely, flamboyant six-foot-something guy called Elton on the door – he’d also run the door at Most Excellent – and he did a great job of making sure a great, friendly, up-for-it, mixed crowd always filled the club. It’s so difficult to explain the atmosphere of those times to anyone who wasn’t a part of it, but my love of the club scene and dance music almost bordered on the religious back then. God, I miss that youthful exuberance and blind optimism!

luv dup cartoon

We’d given out a home-made fanzine – influenced by “Boy’s Own”, “The End” and Manchester’s own “Spice” – at our first party, and somehow The Face magazine picked up on that and published a small article about it and our nights. How much this helped with publicity, I’ll never know, but it must have contributed in some way as our nights were packed from the start. We made loads of effort, decking out the venue in little cardboard hearts, heart-shaped balloons and streamers, and we gave out Luvdup lucky bags – filled with goodies like hand-made heart pendant necklaces and love heart sweets – on the door and even took a photo of the crowd at the end of one night to print on the front of our own Luvdup Christmas cards which we gave out to everyone at our Xmas Special – where our mate Baldie did a very convincing job of playing Santa despite being very slim, young and black!

luv dup christmas card

From there, the Luvdup thing really took off. We moved from The Venue to doing our wonderfully sweaty “Hell” night at The No 1 Club – which we advertised with posters all over Manchester simply saying “Go To Hell”, our fantastic “Jolly Roger” night at The Paradise Factory and finally our packed “Sat At Home” residency at Home nightclub on Ducie Street – which was brilliant until gangsters went and ruined everything – again!

luvdup jolly roger

Regarding Balearic Mike – or just Mike as he was back then – I first met him when I interviewed him for a job at Vinyl Exchange. He got the job, we became good friends, shared a house together – which had one of the greatest house parties ever, with The Chemical Brothers – as they weren’t known back then – amongst the various DJs – and eventually he became one of what we called the “Luvdup Juniors”. Alan Stephens was an old friend of Mark’s from South Africa and he also joined us as a “Junior”. They played an awful lot of gigs for Luvdup, both as residents and on the road. Mike obviously went on to make quite a big name for himself and he’s still as lovely a chap as he was back then.

Did Luvdup interact with others in the UK “balearic network” – like Venus and Flying? Did you attend the Flying trips to Ibiza or Rimini? When was the first time you went to Ibiza?

Not really. I played Venus once but this was with Most Excellent and we knew the Flying lot, and went to the shop when we were down that London, but we never were part of the “Balearic Network” as such. I never went on the Flying trips to Rimini or Ibiza. I was working as a record shop assistant back then, spending all my spare cash on vinyl and couldn’t even dream of having the money for such luxuries! I went to Ibiza for the first time around 1991 or possibly 1992 with two mad friends called Kim and Carl. I had nowhere to stay and no gigs. I blagged gigs at Nightlife – Shitelife as it was rather cruelly known – in San Antonio, slept at various pensiones when I could afford it, or just crashed on the beach the rest of the time. I went to Ibiza under much better circumstances throughout the summer season for most of the mid to late 90s and played many venues including Eden, Privilege, Es Paradis, Mambo and an old deserted zoo!

Can you tell me more about Jolly Roger at The Paradise Factory, and the Crows Nest?

Jolly Roger was an amazing night which we launched at the newly opened Paradise Factory in 1993. It was the only night not to be promoted as exclusively gay at the new venue. It was held every Thursday and the queue would stretch all the way down from the entrance on Princess Street to the BBC on Oxford Road. The venue had previously been the Factory Records offices – FAC251 – and I remember Peter Dalton and Carol Ainscow, the Paradise Factory owners, showing us round when they were “headhunting” us for the club. We actually sat at the notorious “30 fuckin’ grand” table as seen in the film “24 Hour Party people”! It was a very nice table but not worth £30,000!

We asked Justin to come in with something a bit more eclectic and quirky on the top floor – “the Crow’s Nest” as we named it – and with John McCready and Richard Moonboots he gave us the wonderful and rather special “Rebellious Jukebox”. Downstairs we had guests like Jon Pleased Wimmin, Danny Rampling, Tom and Jerry Bouthier, Kelvin Andrews, Farley Jackmaster Funk and Jeremy Healey. Upstairs Justin brought in the amazing Andrew Weatherall and Mark E Smith of The Fall amongst others. Apparently Mark E Smith turned up with a plastic bag full of random records!

We also booked bizarre acts for the top floor such as a hypnotist – who made Balearic Mike think he was the Abominable Snowman, Stevie Starr the Human Regurgitator and the legendary Frank Sidebottom who was the compere for birthday party – I have a story about Frank, “Little Frank” and myself in the toilets at the Paradise Factory which I’ll keep to myself!. My friend Kim – who I’d first gone to Ibiza with as mentioned earlier, and David – “The Divine David”- Hoyle, an avant-garde cabaret and performance artist, were the regular top floor “masters of ceremony”.

I had friends in Manchester so I did go to The Hacienda, Konspiracy, Most Excellent and Glitterbaby. I even went to Spice – but that was the night it was cancelled due to someone driving a stolen car through the club doors. Before everywhere went progressive house, Luvdup was definitely “balearic”. You were playing records that you wouldn’t hear anywhere else at the time. Stuff like Fox The Fox` Precious Little Diamond sticks in my mind. Where were you buying your records? Could you give me a Luvdup top ten?

Well, working at Vinyl Exchange obviously helped me in getting my hands on records. I mainly bought my new records and imports from Eastern Bloc in Manchester – being friends with a number of the staff like Moonboots, Andy E – who was lead singer in the brief but wonderful D.U.B. Federation – and Mike E-Bloc – who released our first and only Luvdup single, Good Time, on his UFG label – definitely gave me an advantage in getting my hands on the limited stuff. I also shopped at Spin Inn / Manchester Underground and, as I mentioned earlier, “Balearic” Mike and I also went foraging in the Hi-NRG record shop underneath Clone Zone in Manchester’s “Gay Village”. Les Cockle who ran the shop was a former Twisted Wheel DJ and he was incredibly helpful in getting us records by the likes of Bobby O, Patrick Cowley, Lime and others.

When we were down in London we loved Trax Records in Soho, and were good friends with Oscar there. We also shopped at all the major London independent records shops of that time such as Flying, Tag etc. I don’t think I could do a definitive Top 10 but I found a copy of the first – and only – Luvdup fanzine and saw that we had a “Luvdup Thumbs Up Chart” in there which helped kickstart some memories of what we were playing back at the very start of Luvdup…

THE OLD (for 1991)

Madonna – Like a Prayer (mixing up two copies, one with the acapella)

Tulio de Piscopo – Stop Bajon

Ice MC – Cinema

Stretch – Why Did You Do It

Fun Boy 3 – Our Lips are Sealed

Dizzi Heights – Would I Find Love?

Gaznevada – IC Love Affair

Papa Winnie – Rootsie and Boopsie

Stevie Wonder – Masterblaster

Monkey Business – Everyone’s a Winner

Trance Dance – You’re Gonna Get It

Giorgio Moroder – The Chase

Taja Seville – Love is Contagious (Ben Liebrand DMC Remix)

THE NEW (for 1991)

Kwanzaa Posse – Wicked Funk

Mr Luthero – Rotation

TNT – Piano Please (Remix)

Circuit – Shelter Me

Erasure – Sometimes (Danny Rampling Remix)

LUPO – So Hard

Axe Corner – Tortuga

Last Rhythm – Last Rhythm (with the acapella of Coldcut’s “People Hold On”)

B4 – What I’m Feeling (Paradise Mix)

Billy Preston – Heroes

Desire – This Dub is Mine

SLD – Getting Out (Justin Robertson Remix)

Los Chunguitos – Corazon di Rubi (Techno House remix)

Did you have any interaction with the Dust / Chemical Brothers, Naked Under Leather, etc? How about Jason and Moon at Aficionado?

We were friends with Tom Rowlands when he was in Ariel with Brendan and Matthew. They released some amazing tracks such as Sea Of Beats, Rollercoaster and Mustn’t Grumble. They actually did a PA at Luvdup – other notable PAs we booked for Luvdup were A Man Called Adam and Members Of The House. One Dove were booked as well but sadly singer Dot’s father passed away the night before the gig and they cancelled. Tom then hooked up with Ed Simons to form The Dust Brothers and we had them DJing at our notorious Parbold Avenue house parties. I attended Naked Under Leather a couple of times too, but only as a rather “mangled” punter under the influence of “Rhubarb and Custards” or “Dennis the Menaces”. Funnily enough, I actually work with both Jason and Moonboots in my day-job these days, but never had any interaction with Aficionado from a DJ standpoint.

naked under leather flyer

When and why did you stop Luvdup?

We never stopped, we just had a very extended break! Me and Mark had a bit of a falling out at the end of the `90s and went our separate ways – I’m glad to report we’re good friends again now – and I was in a rather toxic personal relationship too which soured things. It’s ancient history and not worth going over again but I lost all my records and equipment and then just lost interest in the whole scene for a while.

What did you do next?

Me and Mark united for some one-off Luvdup boat parties in Manchester around ten years ago and in 2020 we hope to be doing our first club gigs together in over 20 years. A few years back I met up with a DJ called Paul Hughes – we became good friends and hosted a pretty popular radio show called The Eclectic Circus Wireless Show which ran for a couple of years. We got to interview legends like Tom Moulton, Nicky Siano and Greg Wilson for the show and warmed up for Andrew Weatherall and Sean Johnson at ALFOS in Manchester. We are still hosting sold out Eclectic Circus boat parties. The boat parties are really special parties which are the closest thing I know to that amazing, family vibe of those early balearic days.

Eclectic-Circus

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