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Mixmag 1999 – Chris interview

“It was full of plastic palm trees – BRILLIANT!”

Pet Shop Boy Chris Lowe opens his sweaty box of clubbing nostalgia

Chris Lowe is the world’s biggest secret clubber. While Neil Tennant is out talking bollocks and wearing silly clothes, Chris queues up to get into clubs like Cream and Strawberry Sundae, and hangs out in New York with David Morales.

He’s been doing it for years, so it’s no surprise that the Pet Shop Boys have agreed to headline Creamfields. “We don’t want to give too much away,” Chris says of their plans for the festival. “But it will be completely different from what we’ve done on tour. There won’t be loads of lasers or back-projections. We’re trying to do something totally different.”

“It was in Blackpool in 1977 or ’78, an over-21s place called Man Fridays – we had to lie about our age to get in. It was full of plastic palm trees and absolutely brilliant. Saturday Night Fever was out and everyone used to get on the dancefloor and do the Saturday Night Fever dance. There was even a John Travolta lookalike who dressed in a white suit and we would follow all his moves – I’ve liked that sort of dancing ever since. Madonna does the same sort of thing – she always seems to do that style of dancing in her videos. Knowing what you’re supposed to be doing makes it a lot easier.

“My favourite record of that era was ‘Disco Inferno’ by Tina Turner. I would have been very badly dressed because I never had any money for clothes and more recently, I got on the front page of the local Evening Gazette when I was turned away from a club. But unless I really know the promoter, I normally queue to get in – I can’t bear the shame of being turned away. Then again, if I had my own club I’d definitely have a strict dress code. I just don’t think that I should have to conform to it.”

“My favourite club in my favourite era was the Crazy Club at the Astoria in London in 1990-91. It was on Saturday nights and the queues used to go around the block into Soho Square. Fortunately I knew the promoter, Crazy Club Carl. I was the hard-core era, Ray Keith would be playing and we’d just stand at the back of the balcony watching the amazing laser shows.”

“The music was stadium house stuff, all very anthemic, and there were loads of great records around by people like the KLF. I liked the way the club shut at 4am, when everyone would go round to my flat and chill into the morning. Now that clubs have extended licences, you’re so knackered by the end of the night that you just want to sleep.”

“That was a really great time for me, I was dead happy. We’d go clubbing every weekend – Labyrinth on Friday, Crazy Club on Saturday, Breakfast Club on Sunday. I haven’t really got that routine now because there isn’t any one stand-out club that is a must every week. If I lived up north I’d be a regular at Cream or somewhere, but in London at the moment there is nowhere I love enough to want to return to every week.”

“What started out as my worst night out turned into a particularly good one. Again, it was in the early 90s and we were going to an Energy rave. Those were the days when you had to phone up to find out where the party was going to be and we were driving around the countryside. I was in my Porsche 911 and there was about ten of us in a little convoy.”

“We kept phoning up and we all got stuck up this lane and had to do three-point-turns at the same time to get out. Eventually, a policeman told us the way and we got to the venue – an old aircraft hangar – at 6am. And then the sound system hadn’t even arrived! It was worth the effort ‘cos when it finally got going, it was one of the best raves of that era. I used to love clubbing in those days; there was a definite sense of adventure.”

“I went to Strawberry Sundae a couple of weeks ago, which was great, but I’ve been going there for years. The last club I really enjoyed was Body & Soul in New York, which David Morales took us to. The DJ line-up is always great – nobody plays a set and they take turns putting on the records; Francois Kervorkian will play a tune, then Louis Vega will put on the next one. They play fantastic vocal music – all different styles and decades.”

“But the best thing about the place is the people. They are all dancing and really into the music, which is exactly what I like about clubbing, when it’s really uplifting, euphoric, and everyone’s on the same buzz, all on the same level getting high on the same bits of the records.”

“So that’s my favourite club at the moment, but unfortunately it’s in New York. It runs on Sunday afternoon until midnight – just what you need at that time of the week.”