It was the club night that on paper really shouldn’t have worked. Funded by a sheep farmer more used to bleats than beats, their adverts in Mixmag bore grainy figures from Victorian times rather than scantily clad dancers whilst it’s venues were housed in locations that acid house had not dared to tread before. ‘Wherefield’ we’d scratch our heads at pouring over map books whilst zooming up the M1, ‘no Mirfield’ our friends would scoff back as the countryside flew by. But boy did it work. And why? A promoter steadfast on a beautiful music policy and a DJ line up so damned good we’d travel anywhere to experience the party. This weekend Steve Raine and his party make their debut at London’s fabric with Tony Humphries at the helm. We grab five minutes with the man behind one of the success stories that makes our scene like no other. Hard Times? Best of times…
Interview by Dan Prince
Steve a huge welcome back to DMCWORLD young man, where are we speaking to you today?
I’m high up in the hills on my farm in North Yorkshire Dan. I’ve just come in from the cold after feeding my sheep, its been a tough few weeks up here.
What was the last amazing piece of music you enjoyed?
We have just finished mastering a Robert Owens and Michael Watford track. The vocals have been lost for over 20 years and I found the DATs in a tin box in my barn last year. They’re amazing, Malachi has made a new track that’s just a bit special.
A really exciting time for you right now thanks to your Hard Times event at London’s fabric next week, but before we come to that let’s rewind for a moment. Your journey into the house music history books may never have happened if it wasn’t for an old girlfriend who one night begged you to ditch the wellies and go and buy some new clothes as she was taking you to a certain Manchester nightclub for the evening. What were your first impressions of the music you encountered that night?
Haha! Yes I ditched my wellies for the night and never looked back. The club was The Hacienda and I’d never witnessed anything like it. The atmosphere was electric and I loved the music, I came away that very first night totally hooked.
What was it about that night at The Hacienda that made you want to start your own club and how did you start the journey?
We met Peter Jenkinson, Miles and Elliot by pure chance. They were all doing work in some way for The Hacienda and we all became friends. The idea of trying to do something ourselves started just as a dream…
There are 3 nights that stand out in my Hard Times best loved nights’ memory. Todd Terry recording the Hard Times compilation live at The Music Factory in Leeds, New Years with Sanchez in Mirfield and Masters At Work ripping up the 1st Birthday in 1994 in Huddersfield. All three of them classic nights which made you feel that there was nowhere else you wanted to be on the planet at that moment. What have been some of your favourite evenings at your beloved club?
There have been so many. Our opening night at Privilege in Ibiza was a special moment. To think we had been asleep on the shelf for 10 years, only done a handful of parties and then set off to try and pull a season off in Ibiza was total bloody madness. It was pretty scary but we got to the end of the season. Just. It was like the film The Good, The Bad And The Ugly – the name just about decribed the nights there in Ibiza. Some really good ones, some not so bad and some down right ugly ones. I’m glad we had a go, I admit I shed a tear on our first night, it meant a great deal to me.
The one thing that always stood out at Hard Times was that there was never any gimmicks. It has always been about the music, usually from our friends from over the pond. What is it about these American spinners that sets your skin alight?
In the first few months of our history we would book a lot of different DJs and had some amazing nights. However it was when the US House masters came and played that the nights would really go off. They connected with our crowd who loved their style, no other club was specializing in one particular music policy and we figured that was our best way forward. It meant people would travel from far and wide to witness the Hard Times experience – which is pretty much how it still is today.
So fabric! Please tell us the background of how this party came about…has fabric always been a dream of yours to hit?
I’ve been friends with the fabric team for many years and it was something we discussed a while ago. It’s a big deal coming back into London so we have waited for the right time. For me fabric is the ultimate London club. End of. It’s whole image and policy mirrors ours – a total no gimmick approach and a devotion to providing the ultimate musical experience. Just the same as ours. We always distanced ourselves from the supermarket type club, we’re only a small corner shop type brand with a big sound and it’s very important we retain those values. fabric allows us to do that.
Saturday February 3rd sees Brooklyn’s finest Tony Humphries taking over the DJ booth alongside Paul Woolford and DJ Spen. Three heavyweights. For those reading this who haven’t been to a Hard Times event before, what can they expect?
A club full of like minded people all there for the music and up for a good time. We’re an unassuming club all about atmosphere and creating the ultimate musical experience – putting a line up together that is just the same as a producer putting together different musical styles to create the ultimate track. DJs do that on a club night in just the same way, it’s about blending those styles together.
What is next for Hard Times in 2018?
We hold events at The Church in Leeds and Digital in Newcastle. Aaron Mellor who runs both venues has backed me from the start, his insight and belief in what we do and his backing has made a massive contribution to where we are now. We are also looking at a few other special projects. It’s not about how many or how big for us.
Your other job of course is on the farm. What is a typical day in Steve Raine’s life at the moment?
We are just gearing up to start lambing in a few more weeks so the sheep have to be looked after or you can suffer losses. So it means feeding every day and catching up on jobs around the farm. Then it’s fences and walls all up once lambing starts, it’s pretty intense!
And finally, Tony Humphries turns to you in the DJ booth and says you can pick the last tune. Whaddyapick? Oh dear there are so many tracks that have special meanings. However it would have to be Roger Sanchez ‘Time 2 Stop’. It launched our label and is an iconic track of its time .Roger recently named it as his all time fave production, I’m very proud to have it on our label.