Trade: An Oral History
People still in my room. I don’t know who some of them are, or even how they came to be here, but the craic is good so it’s fine. A half arsed discussion about how we should all get at least four hours sleep before heading off.
Four hours have elapsed – no sleep, now we’re ready to go. Two cabs arrive. Annoyingly chatty drivers – its Sunday 4am, we all need to straighten up before we play the ‘will Trade’s door guys let us in this week’ game.
The shop at the end of Clerkenwell Road – the usual vacant stare from the guy behind the counter – chewing gum, fags, Red-Bull, pay, turn right out of the shop – walk.
That weird smell of pheromones and misbehaviour emanating from the air con just before you follow the right turn on Clerkenwell Road. Split the guys and girls into same sex groups – pretend to not know each other – give the game away by giggling.
Get looked up and down by the door guy again while they decide if we’re getting in, the trigger isn’t pulled this time.
Follow the beat down the first set of stairs, walls painted red. Through the door, express surprise at already monged out people, walk through the café/come-down spot, walk, sometimes fall down the second flight of stairs. The distant thud becomes an all-encompassing glorious noise, the surges of excitement and anticipation become too strong to control.
Walk through Trade-Lite, plan to go back there later. Get bounced around by pecs like you’re in a Pinball Machine in ‘Muscle Alley’, enter the electrifying atmosphere of the main room, or Dante’s Inferno to regulars.
Created and run by the clubland visionary Laurence Malice, Trade quickly gained a reputation as a club night not for the faint of heart. Originally at Turnmills, then at various London venues including Ministry of Sound and The Egg club, Trade’s fierce rulin’ fan base has remained loyal to the old girl throughout its 25 years of existence, right up to their recent, final closing party, but why? What is it that Trade had? What did Trade do to people that other clubs didn’t? What made people carry on going week after week?
Escapism through dancing to the edgiest underground dance tracks became a way of life for people wanting a release, an escape from the bullshit humdrum of life for 10 or so glorious hours, only to return with a bump at around 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon.
The venues, the clubs, the DJs: the iconic Tony De Vit, Malcom Duffy, Alan Thompson, The Sharp Boys, Pete Wardman and personal faves Ian M and Steve Thomas provided a perfect progression through chunky, funky house to no nonsense hard house and ferocious techno pounders. Alongside the sounds was the possibility of light law-breaking through medication, it all came together perfectly. But the thing that made Trade so special was the Trade community known as the Trade Babies. We’ve all read the stories of how Axl Rose was turned away, Cher wanting to go, the Sex and The City Episode, but the people were just as an important component in all this, this is their story.
TRADE GENERAL MANAGER
“What haven’t I seen at Trade? I’ve seen clubbers chatting up cigarette machines, there was one person who was riding an imaginary motor bike around the dance floor, doing imaginary wheelies and emergency stops, convinced he was riding on a BMX track! On the bridge across the dance floor one night another clubber came up holding an invisible plate as if eating, and when asked what he was doing, said he been eating all night from the imaginary buffet he thought was set up on the back wall.
We used to have a security guard nicknamed ‘The Mortician’ due to his deep and slow speaking voice, positioned on ‘the bridge’ and one night he radioed me to come as one lady was getting her friends to hurl herself into the air almost hitting the bridge, and he was worried she might hurt herself, and that turned out to be Bjork!”
“I once went to Trade dressed up in a fake Junior Gaultier fur coat and hat. I left at some godforsaken hour on Sunday afternoon and went across the road to the local pub which about 50 Trade Babies descended upon. I entered the pub and (for some reason) couldn't walk in a straight line, I tripped over and proceeded to knock a load of porcelain plates off the wall which all smashed on the floor of the pub. I collapsed in a heap still in the fur coat and hat, and ended up being force fed orange juice by a Muscle Mary who looked after me while in a state.
The most special thing about Trade was that everyone was so lovely. You would spend about 30 minutes getting from one end of the main bar to the other because everyone would stop and kiss you and say how fab you were, for one morning we all felt so incredible and really affectionate towards each other.
My friend Patsy went to Trade before me and told me all about it and that I HAD to go as I would LOVE IT! I definitely wanted to go but I was really nervous as I had never had ecstasy before, or any Class A drugs for that matter, and I knew that going to Trade involved taking E. Our friend, the late Ben Davies, organised a coach trip from Bristol/Bath so there was lots of excitement/anticipation. We arrived at Turnmills at about 4.30am and the club was clearly in full swing. The queue was about a mile long and the bass was booming up through the pavement outside. We were ushered into the back door and led down a series of corridors and stairwells until someone opened a door right onto the middle of the dancefloor! It was manic, talk about a head fuck! Patsy gave me the grand tour, and then went to buy me my first pill! It was a love heart. I threw it down my neck and washed it down with my water for the very first time of many! About 30 minutes later, I was on the dancefloor thinking: this place is WEIRD. The people are WEIRD, the music is WEIRD… I'm not gonna be able to stick this until midday! I’ll have to go and sit on the coach and wait for the others. Anyway I took a sniff of poppers and I remember the feeling of… well…. ecstasy washing right through me. The biggest smile ever came over my face and my arms went up in the air and stayed there for the rest of the morning! I had to grab and hug and kiss all my friends. It was beautiful.
I decided to tell lots of people it was my first time: I was given massages, hugs and kisses all night. The important thing is: this was one of the most fashionable cutting edge places in London and here was me: a chubby 19/20 year old tourist with bleached hair and a naff, ridiculous outfit grinning like an idiot, and yet I never got one look of disdain, not one person looked down their nose at me, curled their lip, or sneered at me in any way. I felt only love from that club on that night and every time I went.
We stumbled back on to the coach a little after midday and I didn't stop grinning for several days, and I just kept asking what was that fabulous track they kept playing and thought to myself, "this is not over yet!"
The first time I played was in 2002. I did a four hour set for the Tony De Vit memorial, and I played back-to-back with Emma Doubell. It was a real honour – for someone who had been such a big influence on me, it was very special to play at his memorial.
Turnmills, as a club, was one of the best clubs in the UK. It was designed for the DJ – the DJ booth was enclosed, the sound was fantastic, and when you were in that DJ booth and you looked out across the dancefloor you would see the lasers going FOR IT, the smoke, the strobes – it was just amazing.
The atmosphere in there was just, well …it’s hard to describe it, really. I used to call it ‘the Trade roar’ – when the bassline kicks in, or a breakdown’s building up to kick back in – the noise from the dancefloor was just amazing.
DEWALD – TRADE BABIES FACEBOOK PAGE
My first Trade Experience was in 1995 after a night at Love Muscle at the Fridge. Within my first hour there I was so blown away that I just had to go back again and again. Trade was never a nightclub for me, Trade was my home, and the Trade Babies were my family. It was our own little bubble where we could escape from reality, meet new friends and enjoy great music. Trade was a one off and there will never be anything like it again. It was the combination of Trade, the people, the music and Turnmills that made it so special.
After Trade had finished and Turnmills was demolished, it was the end of an era and all the Trade Babies just went their separate ways. Trade has always stayed with me and there were so many times when I just missed the old Trade days so much. Around 2009 I launched Trade Babies on Facebook to see if anyone was still around. I only invited a few people to the group that I knew use to go to Trade. For the first year or two there were only about 40 people in the group with very little activity. It slowly grew to about 100 members and stayed like that for a while. It was only around the third year that Trade Babies suddenly took off and more and more requests to join the group started coming in. People slowly started interacting with each other and posting their favourite tracks from Trade. After a while the photos started streaming in and people telling funny stories about Trade. At last, the Trade Babies had found their long lost family again. Today the group is over 2000 members strong of which most came from requests to join. Even though the group is not that big, the energy on there is absolutely amazing. So even though there is no more Trade or Turnmills, the Trade Babies will keep the legacy alive.
A slightly larger print/conversion of my view from Love Parade 2000/Trade stage. I'll attempt to tweek the sound later but in the meantime……enjoy!!!
Posted by Ian Mulford on Tuesday, 2 July 2013
Malcolm Duffy introduced me to the Trade family after I had been going to the club for a while with my partner, George. We became mates & my DJ career was just starting off with Friday night slots at Garage at Heaven. We often used to go record shopping together as Malcolm worked at the Pure Groove Records store, always looking out for me and putting away exclusive new imports. When he couldn’t make a set one night, he put my services forward and that’s how I started working at Trade. When we started Sharp Recordings in 1994 Malcolm and Nelly K remixed our first record ‘Sharp Tools Vol 1” and then went on to record for the label as Hip Hoperation.
Bizarre but true the night Trade launched its housey Lite Lounge on a separate floor, which was the Sharp Boys first major residency, was the same evening that Princess Diana died. Everyone was so shocked as it was before the internet and news was just breaking on TV and by word-of-mouth, I remember Laurence arriving at the club that morning in a black Versace mourning suit as a mark of respect.
Every time I went to Trade the floor would erupt with a pure expression of joy, energy and freedom. I was aware of the many years of repression, brutality, loss and sadness the community had taken to get to that point which made it even more special.
Many is the time I`d have a big smile on my face while wiping away a tear. I always felt very privileged to have been there, I always will. I always felt like I was the only guy there that was into women [as it turns out, I wasn`t the only one] and always felt that I`d be sussed and chucked out. Some of the guys and girls knew and it didn’t bother them at all so I always felt doubly privileged to be accepted. I have made so many life-long friends there, it`s unreal, it opened my mind and my heart. When the tunes proper kicked in at Trade, I knew I was sharing something really special and it always made me feel so good to be there and to be alive.
Kenny the Devil
I went as the Trade Devil between 1994 and 2000. As per the ‘Night People’ documentary, I went clubbing to feel empowered after I'd been diagnosed with HIV. I kept going because I felt this was the only venue that gave equality to people like me and I wanted to give something back to the Trade Posse and the Trade Babies. I agreed with the Trade crew to sustain the Trade Devil to support the incredible music, wonderful DJs and to be someone the people might relate to. I also acted occasionally as First-Aider which was interesting! My favourite memory is definitely my birthday which were always the same weekend as Pride. My favourite memories are chats with Ian M and Tony De Vit, they were real gentleman as well as fabulous DJs and also had tie so say hi and ask me how I was doing.
My worst incident happened one night when we had a leak from a pipe near the dance floor and I had to carry buckets of dirty water up the back staircase and flush these into the pavement drains. I was dressed as the Devil with substantial appendage and one such bucket caught the leg of a woman going to church. Being ever the gentleman, I apologised as she stood there with her mouth open, I simply went back inside and closed the door. Lord alone knows what she was thinking!
We used to go clubbing at Heaven every Sat night, one weekend my flat mate came back with a lad who he'd met in this club, and they were telling us all about this club I’d never heard of, it sounded exciting so I asked if we could go. Two weeks later the boys took us to Love Muscle at the Fridge, we loved it, such a new experience. I had my first E & they showed us the dark room cos I didn't believe it existed. After the club we got in a cab and went to this after club, Trade. I remember being really excited, then seeing the queue & thinking how will we get in. I was told to act really butch, no smiling.
Our flat mate who had bought tickets in the Fridge made us dress in boots, combats & vests. I was quite fit & muscley at the time as I played rugby. We went to a different queue & the bouncer eyed us up, this guy then came over looked at me, looked at my girlfriend & asked "Is she with you?", I gave him my best 'well hard stare' and said "yes mate", “OK, in you go” he said & we were in. It was really hard for girls to get in then I heard other girls got made to kiss as they didn't want straight girls, they tried to keep it exclusive gay as it was very hedonistic so many femmes found it hard to get entry. In about 1999 to 2001 a lot of lesbians suddenly appeared they all danced in Slappers Corner near us, for years we were very few & all butch wearing the uniform of boots, combats & vest.
Anyway, then I heard it, the thud of the beat and saw the mill of fit blokes all stood by the bar. As we approached I was in front of a sea of men who just looked at me & parted, I kept up my 'well hard stare' & we we're all straight through and looking at the dance floor.
I turned around to my mates & grinned from ear to ear" I wanna be right in the middle of that" and pointed at the packed dance floor. I had never heard music like it, the beat just got me & I followed the stomping crowd just grinning. My mates couldn't get a word out of me most of the morning/day, I just danced with a huge grin on my face. When we did stop I couldn't believe how friendly everyone was & chatted to loads of people. My boy friends said I was a magnet for totty, fit blokes wanted to talk to the butch lezzo who looked so scary but when smiled lit up the room, their words not mine.
I was hooked, went every Saturday night to Love Muscle then onto Trade for weeks. Muscle Alley no longer made a path for me but kissed & hugged me on the way through. I got silver membership so didn't have to queue – it was my home, I was part of something special, a tribe of likeminded party warriors. The people & music made me keep going, everyone had their spot where they danced and you got to know them, I chatted to everyone, often them approaching me as I grinned on dance floor.
We called our area Slappers Corner, right under the DJ box on the left dancing to the laser – not the DJ. My straight friend, who actually does look like a lesbian was dancing next to me & this dyke literally pushed me out of the way, pushed her up against a speaker & went down in front of her. Her face was a picture of HELP and all I could do for about a minute was laugh. I eventually rescued her but it was so funny. She was traumatised & literally didn't leave my side all night!
After going through some sites on line I came across an old promotion of yours called Pyramid, could you tell me a bit more about this? What was clubbing like in the mid 80s, how long did you do it for?
Having been a club kid from the Blitz Kids era, I then started running my own parties such as the legendary illicit after hours Sauna Club which was fairly short-lived. Clubbing then was an unwritten book so all kinds of new things were being tried from dressing up to experimental music, and I loved all that and also the mixed crowds which were more accepting of one and others differences. No one questioned one’s sexuality then and it made for some real fun times.
From there I put on a mixed fashion & music party An Esoteric Extravaganza, which was requested by New York’s Diane Brill and blew up her trendy New York hotspot, The Danceteria club, before coming back to London to be performed at Heaven. Heaven’s Kevin Millins and I were friends and he suggested we launch the first mixed gay club for clubbers that liked to cross dress and Pyramid was born. It was also one of the first in London to play house music featuring DJs like Colin Faver (RIP), Ian B (RIP) and Mark Moore and I introduced regular fashion shows in the club We also hosted legendary house artists like Jamie Principal and Candy J.
I see you were also involved in some capacity with Leigh Bowery's Taboo club and also the early '80's blitz scene, did any of these experiences inform you when starting Trade?
I wasn’t involved in the Blitz but went there to hang out and meet and make friends and it was a real breath of fresh air at the time as it was one of the first experimental clubs to have a different music policy and a dressing up policy which you couldn’t find anywhere else and I loved that. I also wasn’t involved in Taboo but partied there although I did work with Taboo door host, Mark Vautier. We did a couple of parties and some in Paris which Leigh Bowery performed at, and funnily enough David Guetta owned the club! Of course these clubs influenced me and I have incorporated and updated this kind of influence into all of my events and parties but I also wanted to take it further and introduce a really credible music policy.
Was this the catalyst for doing Trade or did you have an epiphany during the years of acid house?
Trade was a coming together of the experimentation of my early clubs and credible music which was hugely important during the acid house era. Hearing DJs like Colin Faver (RIP) and Mark Moore who had played for me at Pyramid and Kid Batchelor at Confusion I understood how important good music was to a successful party. After hearing this amazing House music on massive sound systems and seeing a huge range of people really going for it, I knew those elements had to be incorporated in what I was going to be doing going forward.
The beginning of Trade is a story that's been told many times so I want to go into it a bit deeper. How difficult was it to run not only an after hours club, but one which was geared towards lgbt crowds in the early days? Did you have much trouble from the police or was it literally a case of opening, people came and it snowballed from there?
I learnt from my mistakes as it was hard running illegal after hours parties as there was always problems with the police and unsavoury people turning up and that’s never a nice thing. I knew I wanted to put on a legal after hours club where all kinds of people could come and feel free to express themselves and it was important that it would be a ‘safe’ clubbing environment for people to party on into the daylight hours, and where they be ‘much safer’ from prejudice and abusive behaviour go home.
It wasn’t hard to run a LGBT club but Trade was always a mixed club, and everyone that wanted to carry on came to it as there wasn’t anything else like it around at that time. Turnmills owner, John Newman had a good relationship with the police and Islington Council granted the club 24 hour licence and so Trade began one Sunday morning in November in 1990. Little by little it grew with TradeMark’s unique artwork and flyers, and when Troll’s Tim Stabler joined us after three months and started to introduce his amazing decor, we already had the resident DJs – Smokin Jo, Malcolm Duffy, Daz Saund & Trevor Rockcliffe – rocking the crowd and a ‘family’ type vibe going on so it was natural progression that things really started to take off.
What do you hope people will get from visiting the exhibition?
I hope people get a sense of how much fun Trade was and what a great tight knit community it grew into. Everyone including me met lifelong friends at Trade and shared some great clubbing and festival moments in time. I think people will also see that Trade was one of the first clubs to launch a record label, release DJ mix compilations, host stages at key festivals like the Radio 1 Love Parade and Creamfields, produce our own range of merchandise and in fact set trends in music and help launch our DJs onto the wider music scene such as Tony De Vit going on to host his own Saturday night show on Kiss FM as well as making Top 20 tunes and topped off with winning No 1 DJ in the DJ Magazine Annual poll. Smokin Jo went on to blaze a trail at The Terrace at Space, Ibiza, as well as producing her own tunes, and Daz and Trevor also produced their own tunes and went on to host their own club nights too. So proud of everyone who has worked with Trade and special mentions to my artwork geniuses TradeMark, B-Art and Mark McKenzie xxx
Do you think Berghain is the next natural step from Trade? They certainly seem to have been influenced by your events somewhat.
It’s flattering to think that Trade has made such an impression people and I recommend those that are missing the Trade experience go to Berghain, as it’s got that fee spirit and great music, which became synonymous with Trade.
There seems to be a large amount of people disgruntled with the music policy in a lot of the current lgbt venues and an obviously big thirst for the harder music sound that Trade became synonymous with, any suggestions of where Trade obsessives could get their Trade-like kick from now it's over?
Nowhere in the UK! I think Berghain is the closest thing as it’s very mixed and it’s all about the ‘attitude’. The ground floor really reminds me of Trade where you might bump into naked and latex clad clubbers really going for it.
The ending of Trade has literally left people bereft, but also wondering what you will do next. What is your next step in the world of clubland?
I will be launching something in the New Year which will be fresh and there won’t be any expectations around it as it will be new. With Trade it became difficult to live up to some peoples’ expectations and certain members of the Trade family didn’t want things to change and wanted to influence how the party should be. It’s a massive compliment that people love Trade so much but it comes with pressure as it has to live up to expectations which History – The Final did celebrating the 25th year. Everything’s always evolving and I’m always forward looking and thinking and I’m looking forward to trying something new.
Tony De Vit, (1957-1998) by Laurence Malice
Tony was not just a fundamental and much loved member of the Trade family who certainly inspired a magical era for the club from his debut set, he broke so much ground with his musical take on what we were establishing. He was also one of my best friends. We simply clicked when we met, on word of mouth, he used to travel from Birmingham with friends to experience Trade.
From our first introduction his enthusiastic charm won me over, and then I listened to his mix tape! He felt inspired to push a new style of the tougher end of House & Techno, which completely fitted our ethos and went on (before social media) to establish Trade globally. His style is still held in high respect all these years on. Pete Tong once commented that Tony’s mixing was so flawless it was very hard as a DJ to follow him!
Before anyone else he brokered his tuff edged sound in Ibiza which raised so many eyebrows including a comment from the legendary DJ Alfredo who was concerned that Tony’s set at Manumission was too fast – Tony had over 7,000 people on the floor at Privilege going crazy and finished his set with new TDV Remix. As he pulled his headphones out, he commented to Alfredo; “Too fast? Mix out of that!” The power of his reputation speaks for itself after all these years, a completely unique tour de force, a pioneer who will never be forgotten – and most importantly; a much missed friend.
The Trade: Often Copied, Never Equalled Exhibition is running until Saturday 16 January 2016 at the Islington Museum, 245 St John Street, London EC1V 4NB with Free Admission. Open Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri & Sat 10am-5pm (closed Weds & Suns)