Cherry Red’s John Reed, who compiled ‘Manchester North Of England’, faces some quick fire questions
Guess you don’t leave school wanting to compile albums, eh?
Ha! My job at Cherry Red is Operations Manager, but I do compile quite a few of our boxsets. I was a music journalist, but moved to Castle Music in 1998, so that’s when the compiling sort of began.
How long does something like ‘Manchester North Of England’ take?
The idea was first mooted in 2013 when I was working with the Inspiral Carpets, because they appeared on the original ‘Manchester North Of England’ cassette compilation in 1988, which was overseen by Jon Ronson and compiled by Sarah Champion. I’d previously compiled ‘Scared To Get Happy’, which documented the 80s indie pop scene and the original idea was to do the same just for Manchester, but the idea grew.
Where do you start putting together something like this?
The starting point was always going to be Buzzcocks. ‘Spiral Scratch’ was a “year zero” in Manchester. It was going to stop in 1990, but that would have omitted the bands who popped up in the afterglow of Madchester. And, if you’re into 1992, why not jump to 1993 and Oasis.
You’d need to become an expert pretty quickly?
I don’t know if “expert” is the right way to look at it. These aren’t reverent or scholarly, they’re too messy for that. You tend to develop a sixth sense for balancing the famous, the reasonably familiar and the totally obscure. To my mind, it’s about stitching together an interesting musical story.
Who are Manchester Digital Music Archive and what was their role?
It’s a charitable, community-based organisation dedicated to remembering the music of Greater Manchester. Many choices of tracks and artists changed following the involvement of the MDMA community, many of who, as musicians, are featured on the boxset.
If this was Desert Island Discs and you could take just one of the discs…
If I had to choose, ‘Disc Six’ is probably the one for me. I DJed for the Stone Roses at the start of 1989, prior to the release of their debut album, and it remains one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. I loved Madchester, from the Mondays and the Inspirals to more obscure bands like the Paris Angels (‘Perfume’ is the best record New Order never made), World Of Twist, New FADs (‘Big’ is a classic)…
The set joins the dots from Buzzcocks to the Haçienda to Oasis, but it’s all part of the same thing isn’t it?
I’m chuffed that you see it that way because all our boxsets try to tell a story and, in this instance, it’s more specific than most. So many of the characters cross-pollinated across bands and labels. I think it’s quite broad – 52nd Street aren’t the same as Northside – but a lot of these acts handed on the baton to the next runner so it evolves.
Is Manchester unique, musically speaking?
Liverpool, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Sheffield and Bristol all had their own musical stories, but Manchester had more peaks: punk, Factory/New Order/Joy Division, then The Smiths, then Madchester, then Oasis.
Any plans for other city collections?
Yes, Liverpool is in the pipeline for late autumn.