Dave Haslam has not been the kind of person to take it easy. Over the last few years our paths have crossed when he has been DJing, promoting the books he has written and when he has been acting as host to Q&A sessions with the like of Stephen Morris from Joy Division/New Order.
His latest project is a series of shorter books, the Art Decade series, on subjects as diverse as Courtney Love living in Liverpool, selling his record collection and New York nightlife. He sees these shorter works as ‘singles’ to the ‘albums’ that are his full length books.
He has written five full-length books, including Life After Dark: A History of British Nightclubs & Music Venues and his autobiography Sonic Youth Slept On My Floor.
Haslam has been lucky enough to be present at and involved in youth culture movements as they start and has had Morrissey round for tea, written for the NME and played the last record ever heard at The Hacienda.
It is this knack for finding himself in the right place at the right time that has made him in many ways a perfect spokesman or custodian for the cultural earthquakes that used to form a part of life in this country.
His interests obviously extend beyond this fascinating but limited remit, and so book 4 in his Art Decades series, My Second Home, looks at Sylvia Plath’s visits to Paris in Easter 1956.
Here we discover how Plath filled her Paris days, including dinner with an Italian communist, drunken afternoon sex with a friend of a friend, sketching in the park, and lying in an attic room listening to the sound of the rain as she considered her choice of lovers.
Within ten weeks she married poet Ted Hughes.
Sun 13 spoke to Dave Haslam and asked him 13 questions. Read on to find out more about getting shouty with Deliveroo, keeping career ending secrets and how Joy Division changed his life.
1. Where are you and what are you doing? How is that working out?
“I’m in my home in a leafy, bohemian part of South Manchester. Thinking that this time last year I was taking so much for granted -. this makes me weep, to be honest.”
2. How have you been coping with the lockdown situation?
“We’re all rollercoastering aren’t we? In March it seemed like a novelty and that it might provide some space in my life, then April and May I was anxiety-ridden, my sleep was exhausting vivid dreams, by August I was doing OK. Now it’s all bleak again. I lost all my DJing gigs. This year I’ll have done just four. But at least, with my Sylvia Plath book I’ve got some writing done.”
3. Who is the nicest ‘celebrity’ you’ve met?
“I’ve rarely been let down by meeting heroes – can I call them that instead of ‘celebrity’. Every one knows how warm and friendly Nile Rodgers is, for example, and he really is.
The only public figure who’s ever been terse with me was Chris Kamara from Sky Sports, but that was my fault. I’d been DJing in Iceland and up all night and had to change at Heathrow, and he was there waiting for the plane up to Manchester and I accosted him and he just looked at me and said “Ryan Giggs is over there” and pushed me over towards where Giggsy was also waiting for the plane, so I bugged Giggsy instead and he was Ok because he’d heard me DJ a lot.”
4. When did you last get into an argument?
“I am sorry to report I was a little shouty with the Deliveroo driver who was driving up and down the wrong street for ten minutes before he found where I lived and delivered me a lukewarm saag aloo.”
5. When did you last shout at the TV?
“I’ve stopped watching things featuring Farage or any of those people. I’ve learned over the years to swerve anything that makes me miserable. So, no more ‘Question Time’ for me.”
6. When did you last consider quitting social media?
“I like social media for so many reasons. I connect with so many people I like and want in my life, it’s good. It’s also great for spreading the word about stuff I do.
So on balance, I’m a fan, but it sure comes with some problematic stuff doesn’t it?”
7. Tell us a secret
“No! I am really good at keeping secrets. For example, I know secrets that would end the careers of two old punk personalities, for example, but I’m too nice say anything.”
8. When did you last make yourself do something you didn’t want to?
“A friend of mine wanted to do a photo shoot with me as the subject, and he booked a studio etc, and I kept being positive and cheerful about the project. I don’t mind people just taking pics while I’m DJing or taking two minutes after an interview but I squirm at more formal photo sessions.
I went through it, spent an hour there, but afterwards I admitted my real dislike of the whole thing. Any posed photo the same; there’s a photo of me when I was about fifteen, my hands are clenched tight like I’m about to face a firing squad.”
9. What words of warning would you give your younger self?
“When you are DJing at the Hacienda and someone asks for the name of the record or a girl asks for your number or whatever, don’t grab the nearest flyer and scrawl on it and give it to them – put all the flyers you can find in your record box and take them home because one day selling them on eBay will earn you more money than DJing will.”
10. When were you last told off?
“No idea. Although I’ll probably get a call from at least one old punk personality any minute now.”
11. What has been your favourite decade for music?
“Am I allowed to choose the ten years between 1977 and 1987, create my own decade? I mean, it’s all arbitrary isn’t it, so why not? Yes; the ten years between Television ‘Marquee Moon’ and Blake Baxter ‘When We Used to Play’.”
12. What band or record changed to course of your life?
“Joy Division is really the only answer I can give.
Heard them on Peel, started going to see their gigs, got drawn to move from Birmingham to Manchester, witnessed the early days and evolution of New Order, established a fanzine, by age 23 I was working at the Hacienda, and interviewing New Order for NME.
Thirty five years of an intertwined history later, I was working with New Order on a project for Manchester International Festival and just the other day I was interviewing Stephen Morris about his new book, ‘Fast Forward’. I’m still a fanboy.”
13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
“Have we mentioned my book? I spent the Summer writing about Sylvia Plath, my publisher can’t leave the house because his family has coronavirus, but it’s available online, and it’s the best thing I’ve written. I know I sound like an asshole saying that, but it’s true.
A literary website reviewed it and said it was ‘surprising’; they were surprised a disc jockey could write so perceptively and emotionally about Sylvia Plath. I liked their honesty. And I like surprising them. Who writes the rules of what you can and can’t do in your life? You.”
The Sylvia Plath book and the other books in Dave Haslam’s Art Decades series are available to buy online here – https://www.confingopublishing.uk/shop
Following the release of Dave Haslam’s autobiography Sonic Youth Slept On My Floor Banjo chatted with him about moving from post punk to dance, losing the safety net and playing The Smiths at Cream.