30 Jun 2017
Caesar talks about the past (part two) 
Welcome to part two of Ian McCartney's interview with Caesar of The Wake.

Did The Wake socialise with any of the other bands on the label?

We didn't really socialise much with many of the other bands - mainly because we were based in Glasgow and only spent time in Manchester when we were down to record or play live.

Through some of the shows we did get to meet a few of the other musicians. We got to know Stockholm Monsters a bit. One time they were up in Glasgow - supporting The Smiths on tour - and they stayed with us. We had a game of football with them (boys only - our keyboard player Carolyn gave it a miss) - a Scotland against England thing - and they kicked lumps out of us. After The Smiths gig we were in the van waiting to go home and a couple of Japanese girls approached them with these beautifully packaged little gifts for Sir Morrissey. And of course they said oh yeah we'll make sure he gets them and proceeded to rip them to shreds in the van when the Smiths fans had gone. They were good fun in a slightly mad way.

Vini Reilly played on the Talk About The Past single. Tony brought him along to the studio and he just improvised his piano part instantly which was impressive to see and a great help to the end of the song. We played with The Durutti Column maybe a couple of times too. One of our favourite Wake gigs was supporting them at the Bloomsbury Theatre in London. We've done some soundtrack work with Vini in recent years too with our theatre company 12 Stars.

We met Donald Johnson and some members of ACR at different points - especially the Factory All Stars thing when there was an episode of that TV show The Tube from The Hacienda and Factory put together a collective of sarcastically named non-stars to perform. It was only meant to be Carolyn taking part on vocals and keyboards but I got roped in to sing Love Will Tear Us Apart at the sound check. Oh and Simon Topping added brilliant percussion to several Here Comes Everybody tracks - that was a great idea from our producer Oz.

Caesar sings live with the Factory All-Stars at the Tube at the Hacienda

Obviously we played live a lot with New Order but that was never really a social situation.

Did you share concerns about lack of promotion, and so on?

We did hear some discussions about the lack of promotion but other groups seemed more concerned about it than us. We'd always looked on turning away from conventional publicity as a bit of strength at Factory. The lack of promotion was a kind of promotion in itself if that‘s not too romantic a view. The label was known for not resorting to the usual round of desperate publicity - which in truth it couldn't afford anyway. For me, as someone who got into the label through the music and presentation of the music as something I could trust without any hype, it made a sort of sense, I could see how it might work.

In the end, for a label which supposedly didn't have adequate advertising it's still around today, people are still interested, new generations. I don't see many books and movies out there about Sony. Although, unfortunately, we thought that 24 Hour Party People film was really poor. But James Nice's Shadowplayers book redresses the balance to my mind. Admittedly, James is a friend, but I genuinely believe it's a better representation, more in the spirit of the label.

Shadowplayers book front cover

Promotion is a really specialist thing and unless you can do it on a very large scale I'm not sure it makes that much of a difference. When we were with Blue Mountain for publishing they funded some music press adverts for Talk About The Past and it did seem to give it a slight boost - no more. Factory had no objections. So I'm not sure it was such an idealistic issue - more of a practical thing - they just couldn't compete in that arena.

Anyway, for what it's worth, we thought it was a good move to go in the other direction and make it a label you had to become interested in through your own reactivity and awareness.

Was Rob Gretton your main ally at Factory?

Yes, Rob was our main ally. Every time we wanted to do a record it was Rob we approached in the first instance. We stayed at his place quite often. He always dropped by the studios when he had time. He was around for most of Harmony and that made us feel like a real part of the label during those initial sessions.

I mean our relationship with Tony was good as well. Although when we did the Something That No One Else Could Bring EP we had a bit of a dispute with him about the artwork. We'd always done our own covers up to that point and we had an idea of what we wanted but didn't really have anyone to draw it up for us. Tony wanted to use specific designers - can't remember the name but it was some company who did a lot of the ACR stuff at the time. They came back to us with a sleeve that was basically for an ACR dance record and it just wasn't right for us at all - very 80s New York, very clubby - and nothing to do with our starting point. Had any of these people even listened to tracks like Gruesome Castle and Pale Spectre? That was the first time we felt Factory could easily slip into being a bit formulaic. We were expected to say yes to an idea that had nothing to do with our work just because Tony thought some art school guy was the next Peter Saville. We went in the opposite direction and went for something a lot more punk. But Tony didn't like it and the record was given a pretty low key release even by Factory standards to teach us a lesson. Apart from that though, Tony was great to us.

Rob Gretton

I'd say Rob would've been a lot more supportive over an issue like that but he wasn‘t around so much or accessible to us at the time. Rob actually enjoyed people challenging any preconceived notions of what a Factory record should look or sound like. I'm not saying Tony wasn't like that. I think he was deep down. It was just a period when the label was changing and certain people were becoming more influential and convinced Tony that dance music was the only way forward. We thought our EP was a much more interesting direction for Factory to go in than the dance stuff. We were right in my humble, but correct, opinion. It was never a natural dance music label apart from the ACR side of things.

What are your memories of Palatine Road?

Again being based in Glasgow we didn't get to Palatine Road that much - maybe four or five times - no more than that. Most of our business was done over the telephone - mainly with Rob at his place and later with Tony and Tina who worked at Palatine Road.

All I can remember is it being a lovely big house in Didsbury. There were lots of boxes and office paraphernalia lying around. It had a nice relaxed atmosphere. Some might say too relaxed. And yet it could get quite chaotic suddenly. My impression was it operated on the spur of the moment - there was a lot of spontaneity involved - not much in the way of a strict business plan or anything like that. I suppose there must've been a hell of a lot to deal with in respect of Joy Division and New Order at the time. But if you approached anyone at the Palatine Road office for help they would always try to get something done. It had the feel of a place that had grown organically - defined by the people who worked there and who ran the label on a day-by-day basis. I have good memories of it but as I say we weren't there very much.

86 Palatine Road outside front view

What are your memories of Manchester in the mid-80s? (The Hacienda pre-acieeed, the city pre-Madchester, Manchester United pre-mega-global success.)

Memories of Manchester are fairly limited too. After that early period when we were chasing support slots and trying to find a label we weren't down that much and when we worked there we were in studios and hotels mainly or Rob's house in Chorlton (hardly the centre of any burgeoning music scenes). We spent an equal amount of time in Stockport during the Harmony and Of The Matter sessions working at Strawberry.

When we did go out it was to The Hacienda once that was up and running. We were there at the opening and quite a few occasions after that and played there a couple of times. Once supporting Howard Devoto and once on our own. They were good gigs but the sound there wasn't so great as is well known. Before it took off as a club it was a strange one. It was an exciting and impressive space to be in but of course people weren't going in any great numbers at the start. I think the gigs did okay. I always felt something significant was going to happen there eventually - it had so much potential. I'm just not sure that what actually happened was that significant artistically although it undoubtedly left its mark all over the city.

I suppose living in Glasgow we were closer to what was happening here. This was a very active and creative place at the time too. We spent more time around the groups here and had more awareness of what was happening with the Postcard label really.

As for Manchester United - well, for me football begins and ends with the SPL in spite of all the Sky billions.


See also: part one, parts one and two

Many thanks to Ian and Caesar.

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