Manchester music legends get teeth into college training

14th September 2007 at 01:00

"What comes naturally is music," says bass player Peter Hook, whose status as a Manchester legend was firmly established with the band New Order, writes Steve Hook (no relation).

"But then you have to deal with other things, like being able to tell whether your management are rip-off shysters."

While he admits the anti-establishment image of popular music was a lure during his youth, Hook sees no contradiction between that and the idea of further education playing a role in developing talent.

He says the subculture that produced careers like his not to mention those of others from the Manchester music stable such as Oasis, Happy Mondays and the Charlatans will succeed regardless of training facilities such as Trafford College's Music Centre. But he knows the price of failure or even success can be devastating, which is why he has signed up to college principal Bill Moorcroft's approach to giving people a start in the music industry as grounded professionals.

Hook (pictured left) and Mani (right), the bass guitarist of Primal Scream and formerly The Stone Roses, opened Manchester's new training centre for the music industry last week. They are backing the centre by acting as mentors to the students, assessing and advising fledgling bands and cementing the links between Trafford College and 96.2 The Revolution, the city's independent radio station, which they are both involved in.

"When we began in the industry, we were regarded like lepers really," says Hook. "We weren't respectable and that appealed to me. But it was very difficult to get concerts and to get people to take us seriously.

"You can go to college but it doesn't mean you have to be respectable as well.

"Mani and I have suffered through a mixture of a lack of management knowledge and being off your head."

Hook regards himself as lucky to have survived.

"Education is the best thing in the world," he says.

"For my 30 years in the business, I've had the most unbelievable things happen. I've been ripped off. I've had a friend commit suicide."

He believes better training can help to avoid some of the "bad stuff".

For Hook, helping musicians to know what to expect is about the education system taking their aspirations seriously, not about telling them to give up their dreams. The Music Centre, through its curriculum and access to professionals across the industry, aims to do just that.

"I remember my school careers master," says Hook. "When I told him what I wanted to do, he laughed me out of court. It just wasn't an option."

Things have changed. He is inspired by the work of Paul McCartney's Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. In the 1970s, the city's musical heritage fell into the hands of town planners and the original Cavern Club where The Beatles played was destroyed. The institute has since done much to build on that city's past.

Hook says fledgling musicians need to understand the industry they are entering and not just their own craft. This echoes the sentiments of the business world in general about students training for the workplace. And music is a business, in fact one of the UK's fastest growing.

Mani, walking among students at the new centre with the characteristic gait of the archetypal "Madchester" rock star, tells a similar story.

"Before you do anything else, get a good lawyer and a good accountant," he advises. "Music has the most shark-infested waters of any career."

Mani believes the centre will be a catalyst for the city's musical future, differently but perhaps no less significantly than the Hacienda music venue had been in the 1990s, and that Trafford College is right to encourage those who want to take a professional approach.

"Manchester's music has not gone away," he says. "These things go in 10-year cycles. There was us and New Order, then Oasis, and it will go on. And I think this place will have something to do with it.

"There was nothing like this when I started. I'd try to play along to the Sex Pistols in my bedroom and go round the pubs and clubs to find people who'd want to get a band going. And then we had to go out and find somewhere to play.

"But I knew from the age of 8 what I was going to do.

"When I left school I did other jobs but I was always planning my moves for the future."

Photograph: Christopher Thomond

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