Lisa Mckay, AKA Lisa Loud, is yet another unsung hero / heroine of Balearic Beat and Acid House. Let`s face it, the boys involved have taken the bulk of the credit, but Lisa was in Ibiza, dancing to Alfredo at Amnesia, in 1985. She is one of the original UK “Amnesiacs” and featured in John Godfrey`s classic I-D magazine expose of Future, The Project Club, and Shoom, and Dave Swindells` accompanying iconic photographs – that captured loved-up folks sporting ponchos, beat-up Converse, and mad, diluted pupils. Lisa was a core member of the close-knit crew central to the scene. I’ve written before about just how important, pivotal, that particular piece was to me. It was the moment that the penny dropped, and everything fell into place.
Driven by her still strongly evident passion for dance music, Lisa worked for Virgin Records – breaking artists such as Soul II Soul and Inner City, and helping their releases to go platinum. In 1991, Lisa launched her own management and promotions company, Loud & Clear, whose offices were a hive of activity, and a hub for everyone involved in what’s become termed, “Progressive House”.
Taking a backseat from the business, to focus on her family, Lisa, however, continues to DJ, and you can catch her playing at the Campo Sancho Festival, at the end of July.
Lisa is someone that, criminally, I’ve only seen interviewed, properly, once, and I’ve wanted to talk to her for a long, long time.
“Amnesiac” photo by Dave Swindells. Originally appeared in I-D magazine.
Where are you from?
South East london. Bermondsey, well the Walworth Road (Smiles).
Where are you based?
Prior to acid house / Balearic what music were you into?
It was Motown that really floated my boat. It was always the soul-fuelled tracks that I loved. Diana Ross what a queen, Steve Wonder – oh my god, The Jacksons…Rare groove was the scene that made a difference though, we went out dancing to that!
What parties and clubs did you go to?
Gosh, it may be easier to say where I didn’t go!
Did you for example, go to Nicky Holloway`s Special Branch dos? at the Zoo, etc?
Yes. I actually was going to Nicky’s ‘Pub Discos’- he may kill me for that description – before things grew into the bigger events. We lived near The Old Kent Road and there were a number of pubs that had DJs. Nicky was always at the helm. It’s a bit blurry, but The Royal Aak, Apples and Pears, The Green Man, were regular haunts. The do’s at the zoo were revolutionary! Everyone wanted to be a part of those parties. They were hot tickets and always a sell out. I have an enormous amount of time for Nicky Holloway. What a legend!
Did you already know Paul Oakenfold, Trevor Fung from Ziggy`s? The Project Club?
I met Oaky and Trevor in Ibiza in `87, maybe before. The infamous night that brought Ibiza to the UK, at The Project, was a meet up for the original amnesiacs. The queues were round the block at Zigi’s in Streatham. It was insane! So sweaty, so brilliant, so refreshing! The music represented the sounds of Ibiza instead of the soul and rare groove that we were all partying to before Ibiza. Groundbreaking.
Did you go to any of Ben and Andy’s Boilerhouse parties?
I did. I was promoting music at Virgin records from 1987, so being out and about in London was essential. I was out most nights really.
Soul II Soul at The Africa Centre?
Yep! This was something totally different. I think this was the first experience I had, where I was seeing DJs, and collectives, making records and hosting nights. Getting into the African Centre was not easy!!! But we managed to sneak in there on many occasions. I have some memories of these parties that are etched in my brain. Certain tracks like Soul II Soul’s iconic, Fair Play, which paved the way and shaped a style for UK R&B. I remember once seeing Sade was lost in the music, dancing, in the centre of the floor. She was mesmerising. She is actually one of my favourite female artists so I was totally starstruck by her presence.
When did you first visit Ibiza?
How did you end up there? What made you go there?
My sister and Nancy Noise were friends and they’d decided to go. I was younger and working a pretty normal job, in financial consulting. I did really well at the job, commission-based sales basically, but I went out to see them on the weekends.
Who were you with?
I went on my own. I had the benefit of my father working for British Airways, so got staff tickets for silly money. I had some hilarious journeys with dad working on the flights!
What bars and clubs did you go to?
Cafe del Mar was the sunset cafe, then we would go to Ibiza Town, so The Project, Rock Bar, and oh my god, I can’t remember the names. Night times it was Amnesia, Pacha, and Ku. The year I stayed the whole summer there was a club called Glory`s, it was only open that year – 87 – and we would go from Amnesia to Glory’s….and oh The Croissant Show… that was pretty amazing. The Croissant Show was where everyone went after Amnesia. It was a coffee shop that baked fresh croissants, so we all used to go there. It was a way of us all staying together I guess. Amnesia would close at 6. We would hang around and then go to the Croissant Show in the morning. Lots of workers would also be there, so the crazy dress-ups, some of the guys and dolls from the Ibiza parades, dancers, etc…. It was the wild zone. A super social way to land after a hedonistic dance off in Amnesia.
Lisa: This is us lot in the raised area at the back of Amnesia. I’m completely lost in the musc. Kate, Yuri, Michelle, and Adam are all behind me. I love this picture. Yuri and I made a book for my sister`s birthday, with pictures and Yuri`s narration in broken English / Italian. My sis found it in mum and dad`s loft. These pictures are from that.
What impression did the island, the people, and the clubs make on you?
I was absolutely blown away by Ibiza. I found so many things intoxicating. Alfredo was absolutely mind blowing – The music!!! Having so many genres and working through so many stories yet piecing it all together as one sound blew my head off. You would hear house – Frankie Knuckles, Jamie Principle – hip hop, The Cure, David Bowie, Elkin & Nelson, disco…. it was utterly mind blowing.
Then Jose Padilla at Cafe del Mar playing Vangelis and Art Of Noise – I was mesmerised at how DJs had all that music and how it felt like they literally designed their sets around the atmosphere.
Then there were the people. The cool Italians, the nutty French lot, the beautifully friendly Essex girls, the Roundshaw posse, the Brazilians, the Northern boys, the Kent crew…. everyone had this amazing individuality and they were all so captivating. There was a unique feeing of safety even though there were the most wild times of utter hedonism. We are all still friends now.
How long were you out there?
I flitted in and out for crazy party weekends, and in `87 I never went home. That was the only year I did that, though. I continued to go intermittently after `87, which for me was the summer of love.
Lisa: My sister – Joanne, Adam Heath (RIP), Nancy, Michelle East, Me, Max Bygraves (RIP), Yuri, and Katie. This was taken in Ibiza – in `87, the year I didn’t go home.
When you got back to London what did you do?
I went to work for Virgin records promoting dance music. I promoted Soul II Soul, Neneh Cherry, Inner city and more. Amazing times!
How and when did you meet Nancy Noise? Did you meet Nancy – and Katie – in Ibiza, at Future, or do you go way way back?
We all lived in the same area. Kate, Nancy’s sister, and I were friends and my sister Joanne and Nancy were friends. There was a time when Katie and I would be chasing our favourite pop stars around london. Kate, Duran Duran, and me, Culture club. Proper fan stuff! I used to sit outside Boy Georges` house for hours and warm up in the launderette across the road (laughs) … and then I ended up DJing with my idol… Funny!
Did you go to Future, The Project Club, Shoom? How did you find out about these parties?
Essentially. all of us meeting in ibiza created this most wonderful crew – all likeminded people, not afraid of adventure, music lovers, fashion victims… We were a “culture club” who managed to be at the very start of something so special. We were the backbone of these parties you’ve mentioned I guess, the heartbeat. I didn’t search out these parties, we were all part of them.
How did you get involved in the famous ID Amnesiacs photoshoot? Are there any stories that you can share about that day?
The shoot was at Future which was where the London promotion company took everyone after a party at Zigi’s. I don’t actually know how I ended up there. Very little happened in the early days without the original crew being plotted-up together.
There were so many characters that moved from that raised platform /pyramid in Amnesia in Ibiza to the London clubs that Paul, Trevor and Ian St. Paul hosted. Dave Swindells was, as we all know an incredibly ground-breaking photographer, and was at those Amnesia parties in ibiza, so only he could recreate the atmosphere, the feeling of community, the depth of this newly discovered scene.
“Amnesiac” photo by Dave Swindells. Originally appeared in I-D magazine, now reprinted in Dave`s brilliant book, Acid House As It Happened.
Wasn’t your first DJ slot at Future? Can you remember anything that you played? Were you nervous?
Funnily enough I wasn’t nervous at all. I`d lived and breathed Future it so felt like I was at a house party with loads of my mates. Paul gave me two boxes of 12”s and we sat round his house playing music, and he gave me tips on how to mix. At first I played acepellas to transition from track to track. It was super useful that I was promoting many of the records that were hot too.
Were you out pretty much the whole week?
YES! I think i may have already said this but it can be a bit blurry at times (laughs)..but Monday was Spectrum, Tuesday – Loud Noise, Wednesday – I remember Graham Ball doing a night Miami in Orange Tree Yard, there was also Pyramid at Heaven, Thursday Future… Friday and Saturday for me often involved the Hacienda because Mike Pickering and Graeme Park were so influential and I was promoting huge records like Soul II Soul and Inner City so I would be running round the country with acetates of new releases.
There was also an amazing warehouse party culture. RAID – Dave Dorrell`s night in Tottenham Court Road, Trip at The Astoria with Nicky holloway. You can see why it gets a bit blurry (laughs)… and this doesn’t include any of the raves – Sunrise, Biology, Apocalypse Now …. Life was a party, but we all went to work every day!
Roger Beard told me that Spectrum threw a party for you to celebrate your role in Inner City’s Good Life becoming a smash. How did you land the job at Virgin?
Wow that`s lovely that he remembers that. I was at the Prestatyn Soul Weekender with Oaky and met many music business heads. A lovely lady, called Clare Shave, was Head of Dance promotion at Virgin – we hit it off and I begged her to let me work stuffing mailers and making the tea for free.
Ian St. Paul knew everyone, he was an icon. He`d spoken to Mick Clark – my boss – about the platinum disc for Inner City’s Good Life, and said “Don’t tell her, but I`m going to do a party for her at Heaven.” It was a surprise, My mum and dad were there, all the Amnesiacs. It was an amazing night. My mum was so proud! How lovely!
Can you please tell me more about your Loud Noise parties? When and where were they?
Loud Noise was in the Soundshaft, round the back of Heaven, where Future was. On reflection, Ian St. Paul and Oaky were like mentors I guess, and since they were the founders of the other nights at Heaven – which we were all part of – their suggestion to do Loud Noise seemed like a natural progression. Nancy and I play very different styles, so together it was a great soundtrack, and reflected that Ibiza vibe, as well as capturing what was hot in the UK and the US. The names Lisa Loud and Nancy Noise just worked so perfectly together. Nancy was a real music industry babe. Her father was a very successful manager, so she was born with music in her veins. While musically different, we compliment each other. It was a groundbreaking thing, having two girls owning the night. Let`s face it we had Mondays sewn up with Spectrum, Thursdays with Future, so why not do another mid-week night (smiles). I`ve loads of respect for Nancy. She is a beautiful soul. The Turners are extended family and I love them like my own.
How long did Loud Noise run for? Why did you stop?
I am not exactly sure. If I remember correctly, Loud noise only ran for a few months, and again I am not exactly sure why we wound it down. It was a great success. I think everyone started to get proper busy with other stuff. Nancy and I did another night in Camden Lock, called Us. That was brilliant too.
I know it was a long time ago but would you be able to give me a Loud Noise top 10?
Elkin & Nelson – Jibaro
Hamilton Bohannon – Let`s Start The Dance
Kraze – The Party
Jomanda – Make My Body Rock
Candido – Jingo
Mac Thornhill – Who’s Gonna Ease The Pressure
Anything by Jamie Principle, Frankie Knuckles, Ten City
Rio Rhythm band – Carnival de Casa
William Pitt – City Lights
Dizzi Heights – Would I Find Love
Joe Smooth – Promised Land
There were so many brilliant records, evoking high vibrations at that time, the list could go on and on…
Where were you buying your records from?
Black Market, Catch A Groove, Plastic Fantastic, Rayners lane, Fat Cat, City Sounds, 23rd Precinct in Glasgow…
Do you have any idea why it`s been the “Balearic Beat” boys who have got the bulk of the coverage and credit as far as writing the history of this thing goes?
It’s a mans world! I`ve worked in the music business, and the clubs, and while I hate to admit it, it is! Nancy and I broke some ground and influenced many female DJs, which is extremely heartwarming. Knowing that you have encouraged people to do something that they dreamed of doing, but thought was out of their reach, is reward enough. The music industry is male dominated, It always has been and still is now, but there is progression, and new developments, all the time – where women are championing women and that’s well cool!
Lisa: Mick Clark – who signed Soul II Soul, Inner City, Leftfield, Jazzy B, Tony Prince – from Mixmag, Lee John – from Imagination, then me, Rob Manley, sorry I can’t remember the other boys.
I know that you quickly went on to run your own very successful promotion, and management, company, Loud & Clear. Could you please tell me more about it and share some of the projects that you worked on, the artists that you worked with?
I worked for Virgin Records for 4 years, from 1987 to 1991, and then set up Loud And Clear in ’91. We promoted Leftfield, Ronni size, Underworld, worked with Gilles and Paul at Talking Loud, Junior Boys Own, Guerrilla, Cowboy, Tomato, Manifesto, Sabres Of Paradise, Mute and many more. We were the DJs promo company. My office in West London was like a mini-record company. We shared the space with Marion Sparks – who was kick arse at PR, Guerrilla Records – who virtually shaped dance-floors nationwide with their progressive house and tech vibes, Lisa Horan was also there – managing Leftfield and A Man Called Adam, and running the Hard Hands label, Sally Gross – a major player in management in the business – too. It was a music hub and such a vibe. Everyone use to come and hang out and grab 12s. They were hands down some of the best days of my life!
As a DJ, and having the music promotion experience I gained from Virgin Records – breaking Soul II Soul, Massive Attack, and Inner city, was invaluable. I could give the artists and labels a little bit more. I felt that Loud And Clear`s role in the independent labels was a critical part of the machine, and we took the independents into higher stratospheres. Budgets were smaller and we needed to target what vinyl we had to bring as much noise and profile to projects as possible. The music my team and I promoted was the hottest music around, and we weren’t short of support at all, but we needed to focus on max’ing out that attention.
There were some weeks when Loud And Clear had 19 out of 20 records in the Mixmag buzz chart. That really signifies how well we knew the market and how close we were to such records – which then invariably blew up around the country with demand superseding all expectations.
You also had the label, Loud & Proud. I recently interviewed Paul Doherty, and I think he did some stuff for you? The Fabio Paras record, Dance Shooter, goes for serious money now. Maybe you should repress it (smiles).
Haha! I am talking to Fabi again at the moment. I was recently sent a t-shirt for his new venture. I adored Fabi. He was so unassuming. So different to everyone else. Wicked DJ. Super shy, but so particular about everything, and such a unique sound!
He wanted to release an album, after making a few 12s for different folks, so I said, “Well let`s do it then.” There was no doubt in my mind about the music quality, and I was very happy to get behind a great producer. So we basically released the album, like it was Fab’s label and he owned the whole thing. I think, if I remember correctly, there was something about Fab, where on his tracks he put “Made by Fabi Paras”, instead of “Produced by”… It`s the little things. We had a lovely working relationship and the album did really well. It wasn’t the norm to put out albums by dance producers so it was a ground breaking moment. The birth of Shiva Shanti!
Did you also continue to DJ and / or throw parties? Did you still go out a lot?
I`ve never stopped DJing – aside having my little boy. I was working again 6 months after he was born. I had to. I wound down Loud And Clear promotions, and went to work for Pete Tong as label manager, then when I left London Records I toured almost constantly for about 7 years or so. I also managed Felix Da Housecat.
Your name`s on a few remixes, that old Bali track – the Donna Summer cover – and some things for Guerrilla. Were you ever tempted to do more in the studio?
I wish I was more of a studio head. Throughout my music business career it was part of my job to ensure that the bands who were signed were perfect for commercial release – A&Ring to create the perfect 12” Mix packages, quirky marketing ideas….I was consumed by making the artists I promoted a success. I absolutely loved doing that!
I have had lovely experiences in the studio, and really learned a lot when working with people. I was in the studio watching Paul Oakenfold remix Massive Attack`s Unfinished Sympathy, and with Nellee Hooper when he was producing Soul II Soul. Those experiences are for life. Unforgettable!
I feel more eager now to make records as I`ve always moved forward with music, and while I can be known for playing a “classic”, I push very hard to break new music, and learn from the incredibly talented people that I follow who are making records regularly that inspire me and my dance-floors. Note to self. Get in the studio soon!
Did you ever take a break from everything?
Well, I had a little boy, very late in my life, so I had to get through the first few months after child birth. I felt like I`d been run over by a bus, I was in labour for over 24 hours and had complications at the birth. Settling and adjusting was hard but I had no choice but to work, and went back when Tait was 6 months.
I was in DC10 dancing to Clive Henry and Ricardo Villalobos at 5 months pregnant, and played a Clockwork Orange gig in London at 6 and 1/2 months… Next thing I remember, I was a mum (laughs). Other than that I really haven’t been able to take time out. I haven’t been blessed with the best luck and have suffered some horrendous foul business strokes, so I have had little chance to take a break – gotta pay the bills!
Did you continue to visit Ibiza regularly? Do you still DJ out there?
I did, and have done loads of gigs in the last 30 years. I`m focusing on the UK this year, though. I have lots of festivals, and new opportunities, so I`m very excited.
What kind of music are you currently into, home or club?
I met the love of my life during lockdown – he is a wicked DJ! We’ve spent the last couple of years sharing music and having kitchen discos. I feel so lucky to have been vibing with someone about music.
Would you be able to please give me 3 examples?
Current stand out producers for me are Jimpster, Shur-I-Kan, Session Victim, Sub Ann, and I am addicted to Crazy P. I never bore of Sade, and Prince is my most favourite artist in the world.
What can you tell us about Campo Sancho? Why should we got the this festival ?
I feel a sense of community at Campo Sancho. The music policy is really top draw. Music for connoisseurs. I lived in West london for about 20 years and there was a very unique scene there – for Campo Sancho that essentially moves to a lovely little field. There’s a lovely family-esque party vibe. Campo also gives the “originals” an opportunity to bring the kids, and enjoy those special moments with our children which is precious.
Maybe something that you might play at Campo Sancho?
Crazy P – Never Gonna Reach Me
The Nightwriters – Let The Music Use You
Session Victim – Trying To Make It Home
Are you still heavily involved in promotions and the music industry?
I`m not actually, and things have changed so much that I assume I would have very little clue how to professionally promote a record now. I do however still have great passion and if I believe in something, music, brands, or otherwise, I am more than happy to scream that shit from the roof tops… I actually spend a lot of my time helping people, guiding people, advising people. I love giving back, and really hope that all the life experience I have can help others in some way.
Other than Campo Sancho, do you have any other DJ gigs lined-up?
I`m doing lots of festivals this summer. I regularly play at Alfresco – which is a beautiful boutique festival. The music policy is outstanding and my friends have worked really hard to make this happen. It`s a beautiful event. I`m playing Lakefest, the All About Love festival – which is a new one for me, with The Orb and Jah Wobble , the Wonky factory festival in Jersey – I am well excited about this one, Kink is playing Live… Whoop! I have lots of dates in London, Brighton, and up and down the country.
What are your plans for the rest of 2022?
Keep paying the bills. Keep trying to be the best mum I can be to my son. Keep trying to better myself.
You can catch Lisa at Campo Sancho, who return for their 6th Festival, over the weekend of July 29th to the 31st. Taking place at Walkern Hall, near Stevenage, you can find out more here….and book tickets here.