Q&A with Megadog
As part of Manchester Academy’s celebration of their 25 year anniversary the legendary Megadog party series returns to Manchester on Saturday 21st November with guests Dreadzone, Eat Static and System 7. Ahead of the show we caught up with head honcho Michael Dog.
Firstly can you tell us how Megadog started and how you began putting on parties?
Megadog started in 1985 as a weekly multimedia club night based in North London that was known as Club Dog. The club ran every Friday between September and June for 7 years and was based around trying to recreate the vibe of the free festivals that we and many of our audience went to over the summer months. We featured an eclectic range of bands initially drawn from the space rock, psychedelic and reggae scenes prevalent at the festivals, along with performances by visual performance artists as well as the odd film screening and theatre performance. All this took place in a venue that we completely covered with hangings, false ceilings and projection screens lit with psychedelic oil wheels and cine film loops. As time went on, we expanded the music styles and range of bands that we booked to include world music, all kinds of experimental weirdness and eventually, the new and fast-growing live electronic music scene of the early 1990’s. In 1991 we started promoting occasional events at a bigger venue in North London, which we called ‘Megadog’ to delineate them from our weekly club night. Megadog eventually became a well-attended regular monthly event in it’s own right and consequently we stopped running the weekly Club Dog in 1992. In 1993 we were invited to host the UK’s first live electronic music tour which was known as the Midi Circus. The success of this tour and the solid support that we had at our monthly London event led to us putting together a touring show, which in various forms we toured all over the UK, across Europe and eventually in the US and Japan as well throughout the rest of the 1990’s.
What is your inspiration and vision behind Megadog, what do your parties represent?
The vision for Megadog was to combine the best of the live electronic music scene, with an upfront and eclectic DJ soundtrack, circus performance, state of the art lighting and a high standard of decor production to create a kind of travelling ‘psychedelic circus’. In the early 1990’s, the (live music) gig scene and the DJ-based dance scene were generally separate entities. We felt that there were lots of gig fans who liked dance music but didn’t feel comfortable going to ‘hip’ clubs or raves and lots of dance music fans who were looking for something a little more engaging than just dancing to DJ’s all night! The Midi Circus tour showed us that there was an interest out there for this sort of grand-scale electronic cabaret and that by bringing the show to people’s local venue rather than making them travel to their nearest big city, we seemed to inspire a genuine party vibe amongst our audiences who looked forward to the psychedelic circus coming to their town. If Megadog represented anything at all, it was that like the free festivals that had originally inspired us, the essence of a memorable and uplifting event is the people who are there - musicians, performers, technical crew and audience. Each of us relied on and required all the others to be there to make it feel special and for us, it was never about bigging-up ‘Superstar DJ’s’ and wannabe ‘Rockstars’.
Megadog returns to Manchester Academy in celebration of the venues 25th Anniversary on November 21st. What can we expect from the night?
Hopefully, a faithful recreation of the Megadogs of the 1990’s! A combination of live bands, DJ’s and visual performance coupled with venue decor on a grand scale and a spectacular lighting and video show. Not forgetting of course, the fantastic ‘up for it’ vibe that the audience could always be relied upon to bring with them.
How important has Manchester Academy been in the history of Megadog, what has been one of your favourite shows that you have put on at the venue?
Though we were always based in London and our regular monthly show there was hugely popular, the regular monthly shows in Manchester became a kind of ‘spiritual home’ for us. The fantastic atmosphere and vibe that the Manchester audience brought with them was unique and that in turn, inspired us to keep trying to put together top class shows. So the Manchester Academy shows were for us, hugely important and some of the most memorable of the hundreds that we did. There were so many ‘favourite’ shows because there was such a brilliant array of artists to choose from, many of whom were doing their best work at that time. One of my personal favourites was the show we did with The Psychick Warriors Ov Gaia, one of the most original and creative electronic live acts of that era.
The party series was a formidable force during the 1990’s and was a night that was never afraid to move ahead of the times and push boundaries. Do you think taking risks paid off?
I don’t think we ever thought that we were taking risks! We just programmed the sorts of shows that we’d like to see ourselves and they seemed to always be the sorts of shows that other people wanted to see too.
You have had everyone from Underworld, System 7 and Aphex Twins all headline your shows, who would be your dream headliner?
We were consciously trying to offer a change from the traditional ‘headline’ and ‘support band’ rock music scenario, so we never really saw it that particular bands were the ‘headliners’. We only put bands into our shows that we believed in ourselves, so they were in essence, all headliners. Of course, some bands were better known than others and SOMEBODY always had to play first, but for us, everyone who appeared was an important part of the show that they appeared in.
In fact, the worst people that we worked with were the ones that really did think that THEY were the headliners and that the audience was only there to see THEM! Following on from that, I doubt that I could think of a ‘dream’ headliner as such, but the nearest thing to that would be to put together a bill featuring some of the great bands that we worked with that have since split up. Psychick Warriors of Ov Gaia, Spooky, Earth Nation, Drum Club and Children of the Bong would be quite a nice lineup!
You must have seen a lot of changes in electronic dance music over the years, what has been the one that has made the biggest impact?
The rise and rise of David Guetta, Calvin Harris and EDM.....but not in a good way!
Can you tell us one of your favourite Megadog memories?
Looking down at the dancefloor from the balcony at a gig in Hull whilst The Aphex Twin was playing full pelt madness onstage and Haydn our lighting designer seemed to have turned every strobe in the room up to ’11’ to match the mayhem coming from the stage. I glanced at one of the PA stacks and there was a guy with his top off, hugging the speaker stack in absolute ecstasy, with his head actually inside one of the speaker horns. We used to get quite an enthusiastic sort of audience!
What does the future hold for Megadog?
A regular schedule of tours of retirement homes playing to old ravers in the 2030’s and 2040’s!
Is there anything you would like to say to all your loyal party goers that have supported the shows throughout the years?
Absolutely. A million thank you’s to everyone who supported us over all of those years. The people who came to the shows WERE the shows and without them, there would have been no point in us being there. We wouldn’t have kept on doing Megadog for so many years had it not been for the fantastic and loyal support that we got from so many lovely people.
MEGADOG – SATURDAY NOVEMBER 21st 2015 @ MANCHESTER ACADEMY
Live performances from System 7, Dreadzone and Eat Static
DJ Michael Dog and MC T Bag
Doors 9.00pm – 4.00am
Buy tickets for the show HERE