Madchester Memories -- An Interview with Peter Carroll - Peter Carroll

Manchester circa 1989 – 1992 saw some of the most influential music and the most debaucherous partying the music world has experienced. Some names come to mind: Joy Division, New Order, Happy Mondays and Tony Wilson – part owner of the Hacienda Nightclub and of Factory Records. What went on in the days when Manchester was lovingly referred to as Madchester is now a trip to the local video library and renting 24 Hour Party People (2002).

But with those days far behind us and them, new stories can now be told of survivors and rebirths, new blood and great ideas.

Manchester-born Peter Carroll has an impressive link to the movers and shakers of the “Madchester” movement. He is cousin to Shaun and Paul Ryder of the Happy Mondays, co-founder of LittleBigMan Records with Mondays drummer Gaz Whelan, and brother to Central Station Designs’ Pat and Matt Carroll (designers of some Factory Records album sleeves but are more famously known as the designers of Happy Monday/ Black Grape covers).

It seems that some people can be accounted for and Peter Carroll spoke to CD Times about a few good things happening for the Happy Mondays, Tony Wilson and what has been a buzz in Manchester with an important link to Perth, Western Australia.

You have just returned home to Perth after a five week stint in the UK. How was your trip back to the UK?

The trip? It was really good yeah, just knackered at the moment, but apart from that it was okay.

What was the main reason for coming to the UK?

Well basically there were two reasons, one was to deliver an Australian showcase for In The City which is the music industry convention annually based in Manchester and organised by Tony Wilson. The other reason was to tour The Panics.

[The Panics are an up and coming band from Perth who caught the eye of Gaz Whelan who, with two pints of Guinness in his hands, suggested to Peter Carroll that they check out the band he heard while the pints were being pulled. This humble beginning marked the discovery of their first Australian signing, and recently they have had a brief introduction to the UK.]

How did The Panics tour go?

It went really well. They played their first gig in London in Clapham Common with the Happy Mondays and they also played other gigs in London and in Manchester, and in fact, finished up with a great set in Manchester at the In The City music convention, and they also did a session for the BBC.

How Nice. So you think they made a lot of progress on themselves over here?

Yeah throughout the time The Panics were in England, they were going into the studio daily to work together on what would become their next album. They are working on new material continuously.

So has it been a good tour for your record label LittleBigMan Records as well?

Yeah you know, cos also we’re looking at other acts and we’re going to release a band called Proud Mary in Australia and they’re a UK act that was originally produced by Noel Gallagher and released on Noel’s label. They’ve just finished their second album that we plan on releasing in Australia early next year and they’ll be the first thing that will probably go to radio in the next four weeks. It was also catching up with lots of people and out of it are opportunities for The Panics to tour. They’re gonna go to Canada and they’ve also been offered tour dates in France as well. And in fact, we’ve been offered tour supports in the UK, so there’s lots of really good opportunities there from the trip, and it was also a great opportunity to catch up with a bunch of people.

The In The City approach was important cos I wanted to catch up with Tony Wilson to discuss the idea of eventually bringing In The City to Australia in 2006, and Tony is quite keen to do that and he is going to come out to Australia in February of next year and work on it.

So as of next year we’re gonna continue to deliver Australian showcases to the UK and the music convention is gonna be a really good way of changing a few of the perceptions about Australian music and taking some great music into the country.

At In The City this year, was it mostly industry types checking out the bands?

It was a combination, but we had a huge number of industry delegates and A & R people and industry people coming through but it was also open to the public so there were a lot of people there generally to see bands. Tony Wilson came down and commented that it was one of the best things that happened in the In The City conventions this year, so it was great.

How did Little Big Man Records come about?

Well it started when Happy Mondays were finishing their world tour and the final date was here in Perth, and Gaz Whelan, the drummer with Happy Mondays and I sat talking about the music industry, and we were both fairly disillusioned by it, and we just both kind of said why don’t we just start a label that was a combination of music that was coming out of England and also Australia. And it came about from there. Initially we started with some UK acts and finally found our first Australian acts which were The Panics.

I heard Shaun Ryder had been in Perth and a documentary was made about him?

The BBC made a documentary called the Agony and the Ecstasy, and it was based around Shaun Ryder’s legal woes and also the impact that had on his health, the inability to record and to earn money. Part of the programme was filmed in the UK and the BBC came out here with Shaun and filmed here in Perth which was where Shaun made his album, Amateur Night At The Big Top.

That was on another label I’ve got called Off World Sounds, and I recorded Amateur Night At The Big Top with Shaun in the studio that I have at home and that was released on the label that has more of an electronic focus.

It has been released in England. It has been released pretty much everywhere in fact Japan released the record in a slightly different format with two additional tracks a few months ago but yeah it’s quite personal record for Shaun. It very much documents his feelings about his legal problems and also documents some of his views about certain aspects of the music industry as well. We never made it as a commercial record it was more of a record that was an opportunity for Shaun to get back into song writing and also to deliver what I think is a very powerful statement.

In people’s recent memories of the Happy Mondays would be now the film 24 Hour Party People and of course still the “Madchester” memories, but recently they did headline a huge gig over here in the UK, so all in all, are the Happy Mondays as a band doing well?

Well the gig they played in Clapham Common was seen very much as a one off gig and I don’t know if they’ll do any more. They’ve been offered lots of gigs, in fact we’re also offered a tour of Australia, but Shaun is quite keen, it just depends if the other members of the band want to continue, so at this stage it is all very much up in the air as to whether there will be more dates, but Shaun’s certainly back on form and keen to get back in the studio and record.

By the way, how is the music scene in Perth doing nowadays?

Yeah well, there’s no doubt over the last couple of years some of the best music in Australia has immerged from Perth. Sleepy Jackson of course, have managed to gain exposure internationally but on a national level bands like Eskimo Joe and Little Birdy are doing incredibly well, but I think there is a very strong music tradition in this town and has always had this ability to throw out great song writers and great bands, so I think we’re gonna hear a whole lot more from the Perth music scene, it’s a big vibrant scene.

Geographically Perth is interesting, isn’t it? I mean, being the most isolated capital city in the world...

Yeah that’s right but we’re also on the door step of huge markets, Japan and Asia and of course, China is beginning to open up as well, so there are many opportunities for bands in this country and in this town to target and capitalise on.

Being a key player in the Perth music scene and being the Head of Sony Music for Western Australia for a number of years in the past must mean that you have seen a lot of progress for Perth music…

There are a lot of good people, and as an industry Perth is maturing and I think as a country more and more people are beginning to accept that it’s a place where great things not just music but where culture generally can immerge, so it’s gaining credibility.

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