martin hannettfriends remember

cp lee is an old friend of martin's who contacted us about the web site.   in a moment of sheer madness he agreed to answer "a few" questions, and in a moment of inspired sadism cajoled former invisible girl john scott to spend a day in his office helping with the responses.   we're still finding time to weave these replies plus further information from his ph.d thesis, plus all the other information we have, into an extended biography section, but meantime, here's what cp and john had to say.   i guess the beers are on me next time i'm in manchester!

who was martin listening to back in the 60s/early 70s that inspired him to become involved with music?

blonde on blonde, small faces, kinks, stones, beatles, the usual suspects from the 60s.   both of us were fascinated with the stuff that was emerging on elektra and I had a cousin in the navy who would bring lps (remember them?) back from the states.   people like the doors, clear light was very popular if memory serves me well.   we were both knocked sideways by the velvet underground.   would sit and play tracks over and over again.    this led to us tracking down a copy of chelsea girls which martin had screened at university.   really weird, two projectors, mad freaks running around, obsessions with warhol and the factory scene, smoking joints on the roof of cinema, warm indian summer, acid and light.

did i mention arthur lee and love?   we were stone crazy about them.

he used to listen to people like steely dan in order to absorb production techniques.

how much of an influence was his brother on him?    what happened to his brother - did he continue on bass?

neither of us ever met his family until the funeral.   he kept very tight about his background.   a lot of people assumed he had no family.

who were his favourite bass players?

one in particular was drumbo (?) who played fretless bass and produced the first couple of bonnie raitt albums.

he really liked the guy out of violent femmes and we used to argue about how he got his particular sound.   i said it was a mexican acoustic bass and i was right.   when martin and i went to see them at the hacienda there he was on this great big acoustic thing!

apart from bass, was he proficient at any other instruments?

if you count synthesisers as instruments.   the oberheim.

i never saw him play keyboards or anything like that.   he could, one assumes, strum a tune on six string, though once again, i never saw him do that outside of a living room.

what shifted his emphasis from playing instruments to producing?

principally because he got the opportunity.   no one else was around in manchester.   when the chance to produce spiral scratch came along he was the most likely guy.

probably because of his interest in technology.   at music force martin had been in charge of and selling speakers and amps.   therefore he was always interested in the sounds that they made.   he was forever rebuilding his hi-fi.

why did he take a chemistry degree?   was it merely the next inevitable educational step or was there a particular career/ambition in mind?

he was kind of suckered into doing a degree.   he had a technical bent which obviously surfaced in his work as a producer, but doing a degree was the kind of thing that was expected of you.   probably still is i guess.   i think at one point there was an idea to become a scientist developing polyvinyls or some other such thing for a big company like ici.   you know the deal, get a job, get married, have kids, retire with a pension, die, but then along came drugs and here he was in an aladin's cave of chemical equipment and he couldn't but help to start utilising some of the things that were lying around.

was his transition from a "safe" career in chemistry to music gradual or sudden?   what made him take the plunge?   or did it just evolve out of booking bands at university?

we all dropped out at the time.   music was as good a way to make a living as any other and it was by far the coolest.   not that we made much of a living at the time.   actually, thinking about it, martin wasn't very keen on playing in front of audiences.   i think he used to get very nervous about it.   we played together in 71/2 a few times in an embryonic albertos called willy & the zip guns.

i vaguely remember him doing one or two gigs with him in the invisible girls.   i remember him sat on a stool throughout the set playing bass.

how did he get involved with sad cafe?   why didn't he pursue it?

we've got no idea.   didn't even know that he was.   if he was it was more to their benefit, the kudos attached to his production cred, etc.   he didn't pursue it because they were shit.

what initially clued him in to the currents that would become punk (like slaughter and the dogs) and why was he so ahead of everyone else in embracing them?

he was a power freak and as opposed to dealing with 'uppity' musos like sad cafe, punk bands presented him with the raw materials that he could dabble/manoeuvre/mould.   peter hook was the prime example cos when they formed warsaw no one was the bass player so he was given a bass and martin told him how to 'wear' it.

he and tosh at music force were in the right place at the right time.   they had established all of this empire at music force and as bruce remembers it, martin being of an age group closer to the emerging punk musicians was able to establish closer relations with them.

how did tony wilson hear of martin?   how did they meet?   how did martin react to being approached by wilson?

tosh and martin had started up rabid records as a way of pushing a band called slaughter & the dogs (name taken from an unhealthy bowie obsession (slaughter on 5th avenue + diamond dogs).   tosh and martin were together because they had been members of a musicians' co-operative called music force which was founded in 1972.   it was originally 'co-ordinated' by bruce mitchell.   the idea behind mf was for bands to control their own destinies, promote their own gigs, pool equipment, etc.   one of the spin offs from this was a fly posting service that began to generate quite a lot of money.   bruce retired from mf to work full time with my band the albertos, and tosh and martin took over the fly posting, sending unemployed musicians all over the country sticking up posters for promoters.   with the money from this they were able to buy an old shop premises in cotton lane, withington, and martin was then able to do what he'd wanted to do for a long time, which was produce in a studio.   he learnt the intricacies of the business side of things from a group of expatriate nigerians who were making their own records here for sale to other nigerians.   very early indie.   from there he was asked by a woman called ruth low(?) to produce some music tracks for a left wing agit prop theatre company that was around at the time.    they may have been called belt & braces.   i haven't got my notes to look at here in the office so i'd have to check.

from that came the idea to produce a single for s & t d's.   tony wilson was toying with the idea of starting a record label and 'sat' in with tosh and martin for a few days to see how you went about it.    he would have met martin anyway through mf and tony's tv show called what's on which used to feature local groups.

they met over the years at gigs.   but the principal thing was when alan erasmus and tony went down to rabid to check out how things were done.   this was in order to set up factory.

how did martin feel about moving from the fun, diy attitude of rabid to the more dour, art-house imagery of factory?

he probably thought it would enable him to buy a better class of drugs.   also, tosh was very virulently anti factory because of the alleged 'nazi' connections.

and what was the reaction of everyone else at rabid at the time?

lawrence beadle was quite happy about it and tosh was full of bravado, 'we don't need him' kind of thing, but sorry to see him go.

how did he feel about being put in the studio with bands that didn't fit with his ideas, through factory (joy division, at first) and later (u2 notable among them)?

i think he just regarded everything as a challenge.   plus the money.

in the early days (when he was having those famous arguments) did he ever express feelings of doubt about what he was doing, given that it was so far ahead of its time and sometimes grossly underappreciated?

not in the slightest.

did he feel that in later years he got the recognition he deserved?

we think that in later years he just felt that he'd been robbed blind.   he never let on in any way about 'recognition' or 'fame' at all.   we think he felt frustrated that a lot of his projects got aborted.

do you think he would have done better in the '90s with the recent wider acceptance of noise experimentation going on?

putting it within a regional context i think manchester was hugely important in the prime hannett years.   what it would have been like for him if he started up now i don't know.   there are hundreds of people remixing things, most of which martin 'invented' anyway.   tough question.   i think we'll settle for don't know.

was he modest about his achievements and huge influence?

i think he was aware of his achievements but modest about it.    bemused perhaps, about how he'd achieved his status.

how do you think he would have reacted to having a web site dedicated to his work?

i think he would have been quietly pleased and then threatened to sue for some imagined slight.

why did he work at strawberry and cargo so often when one assumes there must have been equally good studios in central manchester?   what was so special about their sound?

there was only one other studio in manchester, arrow.   strawberry had a particularly 'good' sound.   it was a westlake system imported from the states.   cargo was the cheap alternative to strawberry.   everybody did stuff there because of the rates not the sound.

how did he get involved with eric stewart - and is there any truth in the rumour that he produced 10cc?

don't know anything about this at all.

what happened with him and the only ones' baby's got a gun?

we believe heroin got in the way.

is it true that he was offered u2's boy to produce but turned it down - and if so do you know why?

if it was true, and there were always phone calls going on offering this and that, it's most likely that it didn't come together because by this time martin's addiction meant he was so strung out you could have hung washing on him.   he was a fucked up mess.   period.

we know about armande altai (which in fact was recorded at strawberry) and stations (his aborted recording of a band with steve albini in 1983 in nashville), but do you know of any other one-off recording deals that have/have not been published?


does anyone have a copy, or the mastertape, for the belt and braces soundtrack he produced, or the one for the cartoon all kinds of heroes?    did he ever express a desire to do more work for theatre or for film?

belt & braces mastertape will either be with a woman called ruth lowe, or with bruce mitchell, or with nobody.   all kinds of heroes was done with steve hopkins.   maybe he has a copy.   martin never mentioned an interest in theatrical projects.   or film.   which is a shame as he would have written great soundtracks.

do you know where the "music room" track on the "from brussels with love" compilation came from, or if there were any other recordings, other than the soundtracks and the durutti column flexi, of him alone?


outside of music was he interested in other arts - favourite books, painters, etc?

he always wanted to own a monkey!

well he finally got one on his back!
oddly, although he was very erudite and even intellectual I never saw him reading a book.   he'd watch movies on tv, that was about the full extent of his intellectual pursuits.

was his law suit against factory also a very personal argument against wilson - and if so what made him work for factory again?

it was - and - money.   this is very tricky ground and the stories that are in circulation about the lawsuit and how it reached its conclusion is not a nice one.   it is also highly libellous so we can't go into it.

what did he make of the rival liverpool scene of the late 70s/early 80s and did he ever try to get production deals with any of the liverpool groups (other than omd of course)?

i don't know if he tried, but he was up against ian brodie and clive langer who had that scene all sewn up.   also there was still very much a liverpool versus manchester thing and if any musicians there couldn't get those two they certainly wouldn't have asked martin.

it's reported that of everyone who knew curtis, martin took his death the hardest.   were they very close, did they spend much social time together?

he appeared to take it no harder no less, than anybody else.   also not aware that they spent a lot of time together.    socially, ian lived in macclesfield, martin in manchester, so not much chance of popping in on each other for a cup of tea.

was he flattered by bands and producers imitating his sound(s)?

because of how martin worked - spending a lot of time in the studio trying something out which engineers would say 'it won't work' and of course, then it did, each project sounded different so any references (technical) would remain in martin's head and would therefore be almost impossible for any one else to recreate.

did he like or respect any other producers, either contemporaries or predecessors?   did he hate or have rivalries with any of them?

phil spector, brian wilson.

do you think rushent or albini, for instance, were influenced by hannett?

probably, a bit, though rushent was much more of a 'pop' producer.    his involvement with electronic music came about as a result of his relationship with pete shelley who was into it long before he met martin.

in the early 80s, producers suddenly became fashionable.   what was his reaction to the whole new romantic period and the way in which synths were being used?

he was the pioneer and as such had a pioneer's disdain for those who follow.

were there any groups/musicians that he would have loved to have worked with (any period)?


as technology became cheaper, more accessible and acceptable during the progression of the 80s, did he feel people were using it to its full potential?   in particular what did he make of samplers?

depending what was in the studio or what toys he's gathered together for the session it was a new collection of buttons and knobs for him to get something weird out of.

if he were still alive, do you think he would like or be involved with hardcore dancefloor technologies like techno or drum and bass?

if he were still alive it would be a fucking miracle and i think he'd much rather be into a bottle of brandy, which is what we'd much rather be into as this is taking much longer than we thought.

getting technical, were there any specific pieces of equipment that he felt opened up whole new chapters for him, and that he favoured above others?

echoplex most of the time.   and the like.   (tape loop technology.)

what did he think of america?

when he came back i was surprised when he told me that he thought it was boring.   i'd assumed that like me he would have loved it.   i think his reaction was based upon the fact that touring and playing was in some very post-industrial areas.   rather like being at home is how I remember him talking about it.   he also thought american smack was inferior.

although he complained about being in manchester, and not being offered work because he was away from the london scene, did he ever make a serious attempt to leave manchester?


tell me about the start up of rabid - with rob gretton

big mistake - no rob gretton at rabid.   he had nothing to do with it.

and tosh ryan?    who were the directors?

tosh, lawrence and martin.

how did it go, was it fun,

it was great fun.   i got introduced to them by howard devoto and there was me and tosh and howard ready to play a tv show of wilson's called so it goes.   howard pulled it because tosh showed him about biorhythms and as he was supposed to be on a triple low on the night of the recording he pulled it.   tosh then offered me the chance to do the first cooper clarke ep.   having picked clarke up i popped him into a studio to hear some of my things which resulted in getting co-writing credit on psycle sluts.   everybody on the record agreed to the princely sum of ten pounds each and the rest as they say is history.

what was the deal with emi?   how did it end?

i think it was because no one really had the publishing on jilted john and when it was taken up by sparta florida part of the deal was that it was rereleased with an option for an album on emi.   as it became such a hit martin and i were presented with the task of producing an album in six weeks from scratch.   the jilted john album petered out at the same time as they released kinnel tommy which died a death.   ergo - end of deal.

what happened to hannett and rabid - did that break up affect hannett and tosh?

see above.

what was absurd record's relation to rabid and was martin involved with absurd?

having taken the independent route to having a hit and signing people to major labels with rabid lawrence invented the subsidiary company of absurd records just to put out absurd records with absolutely no commercial intent which martin wasn't asked to be involved with and didn't want to be involved with.

how about tjm?   how about receiver records?

how about them all set up in the aftermath of rabid's success.

was razz records set up by chris sievey for chris sievey and was chris producing all his/freshies material by then?   and where is he now?

yes, it was set up totally by chris just for him and the freshies.   he has a papier mache head and a puppet called little Frank and he does random surrealist appearances here and there as frank sidebottom.    there is a very good freshies compilation cd out on cherry red.

what was paranoid plastics all about?

paranoid plastics was an offshoot of the albertos.   we were fed up with being pissed on by the majors, things took so long to come out.   we'd enjoyed a margin of success on stiff so we started paranoid with lots of great ideas, several of which were quite amusing.   the ballad of robin hood, a two tone piss take - radio sweat, which came out in conjunction with new hormones and has just been released on cd by overground records.

why does the 48 chairs 7" on absurd say "not produced by martin hannett"?   was there bitterness there?  pic

there was no bitterness, but it was a slight poke in the ribs.   a jest.

what did he think of jello biafra shouting on one of his singles "this is fuck off overproduced by martin hannett take 4"?

he thought it was hilarious.

why, after producing more than 15 releases in 1980, did seem to disappear between 1981-1985?


what was his relationship with john cooper clarke like?    were they very close friends?   did they go their separate ways at some point and why?

they were as close as two skag freaks ever get.   martin somehow missed out on cbs.   they were having to make records to pay for clarke's medicine, so to speak.   so progressing from doing nothing other than clarke lps was difficult or getting more remote.

what was his relationship with pauline murray?   how close were they?    why did they go their separate ways?

sorry, don't know too much about that.

do you think he was instrumental in the jesus and mary chain - wall of noise surge in the mid-to late 80s?   is that what brought him back to the furious pace of 1989-1991?

yes, they had certainly heard his production jobs.   he'd detoxed and started to work again.   it's as simple as that.   alas, as is often the case with former junkies he started drinking to compensate.

what effect did drugs have on hannett's relationships with friends, bands, business partners, and family?

a dreadful one.

when did you first meet martin?    were you friends right off, or did it take a while?   was there anything about him that put you off or drew you right in?

See previous answers.

martin and women: was martin a ladies man?

not particularly.   he had three specific women in his life.

did you know him to have lots of girl friends?


when did he first get engaged/married?   i understand he had a second marriage (wendy?), can you tell me what happened to the first?   from the melody maker account of his death, he was discovered by his stepdaughter - how many children or step-children did he have?   how close was he to them?

there was his first girlfriend, wendy.   then there was his long time girfriend susannah o'hara.   then there was wendy number two.   but we don't think they ever got married.   one step-daughter, one son.