first played at Quadrant Park on Thursday 21st December 1989, by which time he had been DJing for more than twenty years! This was to be the end of term dance for the students at the Hugh Baird College, where Mike was an established Electronics Lecturer. The Student's Union had asked Mike Knowler
to be their DJ as a direct result of his residency at the State Ballroom, but Mike had suggested using Quadrant Park as the venue for the college dance, due to the fact that the State Ballroom had closed its doors on 11th November 1989. But to backtrack……..
Mike's first DJ residency was in the Starlight Room at Southport's Kingsway Casino back in the autumn of 1969. Attending the Kingsway initially as a punter, Mike got chatting with the then resident DJ Baby Bob Stuart, formerly with the pirate station Radio Caroline. Mike was keen to become a club DJ and asked Bob Stuart how he might get started. To Mike's amazement Bob explained that he was leaving the Kingsway very soon to take up a position at fab 208, Radio Luxemburg, and promised to suggest Mike as his replacement! At that time the Kingsway's music policy was Rare Soul and R'nB; the kind of stuff the Roger Eagle had been playing at Twisted Wheel in Manchester. Mike had an excellent collection of Rare Soul and was, therefore, a good choice for the job. Mike was only seventeen when he started DJing at the Kingsway, and he shared the spot with Ormskirk DJ and Twisted Wheel devotee Phil Sawyer,
Mike's residency at the Kingsway lasted for two summer season's, but came to an abrupt end in the autumn of 1971 when the music policy changed from Soul Music to straight-ahead Chart stuff, as a result of the arrival of a new Floor Manager in the Starlight Room. As a direct consequence of this, Mike moved to a much smaller, and more intimate Southport venue, called the Nest Club, owned by local Bookmaker Alec Morris. At the same time, Mike changed his allegiance from Rare Soul to upfront US import Street Funk. Mike was the first Southport DJ to play stuff by James Brown, Bobby Byrd, the JB's et al. However, Mike's stint at the Nest was rather short lived (only 4 months) due to the fact that wages were somewhat meagre, and that Mike had just got married!
In 1970, on a night out at Manchester's Twisted Wheel Club, Mike was introduced to a certain Dave Kay, who ran a highly successful mobile discotheque road show called the Radio Doom Good Guys with his friend Jeff Hartley. This was the largest such outfit in the North West, on the road thirteen nights out of fourteen, and Mike was keen to get involved. Mike and his DJ pal Phil Sawyer were originally employed by Radio Doom as dancers!! (Phil had been a student at the London College of Contemporary Dance). But when Jeff Hartley hung up his headphones at the end of December 1971, Mike took over his role on the Radio Doom Show and Phil Sawyer took over Radio Doom's projected light show. Joining Radio Doom in January 1972, Mike stayed with Dave Kay until April 1978, when he left to pursue a career as a sound recording engineer and record producer, at Open Eye in Liverpool.
Mike joined Open Eye, a community communications and media project, funded by the Arts Council and the Gulbenkian Foundation, in April 1978, and whilst there was responsible for designing and building an 8 track recording studio, and establishing two record labels: namely Zoo Records and Open Eye Records. Mike was a pioneer of the New Merseybeat, working with such bands as Big in Japan, Dead or Alive, OMD, the Teardrop Explodes and Echo & the Bunnymen. And the studio and the record labels enjoyed much local success. While at Open Eye, Mike studied (by part-time day release) for his HNC in electronics engineering, at Preston Polytechnic. At the same time he was elected as Social Secretary for their Student's Union and spent the next three years as a student DJ and event's organiser! However, in 1981 on completion of his HNC, Mike left Open Eye to study full-time at Liverpool University, for a B.Eng(hons) degree in electrical and electronics engineering. Leaving Open Eye was a difficult decision to make. But Mike felt that he hadn't enjoyed as much success with the studio and the record label as he had wanted; basically, he hadn't had a hit record!
In 1982, although studying at Liverpool University, Mike continued to DJ at Preston Polytechnic, but he was no longer the event's organiser. And at a gig by Kirk Brandan's band Theatre of Hate Mike met Andy Carroll
, a local Southport DJ. Andy must have been impressed with Mike's set because he invited Mike to become co-resident DJ at a Southport Club called Sandbaggers. And Mike and Andy were to DJ together there for the next two years, playing stuff by bands like the Cure, New Order, Southern Death Cult, Kraftwerk
, the Clash, A Certain Ratio etc etc.
On graduation from Liverpool University, in the summer of 1984 (the summer of Liverpool's Garden Festival), Mike was offered the residency at the then newly opened Cavern Club in Liverpool's Mathew Street. This was an exact replica of the original 1960's club of the same name, and Mike was doing lunchtime sessions, six days per week, with local new music bands, just as Bob Whoola had done in the early sixties! And the presence of so many tourists in Liverpool, that summer for the Garden Festival, meant that these lunchtime sessions were a runaway success! However, at the end of that summer, Frank Cookson, who was the resident DJ at Liverpool's the State Ballroom, came to see Mike to ask if he would stand in for him, at the State, while he was away on honeymoon. That was the first two weeks in September 1984, by October of that year Frank had decided to leave DJing altogether and offered his mate Mike the State gig. By the end of the month Mike was the State's resident DJ, playing alongside his old DJ friend Andy Carroll
Mike remained at the State until it closed in November 1989 due to Police pressure. However, eighteen months before that, in the summer of 1988, Mike & Andy met up with another local DJ James Barton
fame) This was to be the first Summer of Love and James wanted Mike and Andy to DJ at Liverpool's first regular Acid House event, on a Monday nights at the State Ballroom. The night was called Daisy, and was an immediate success! (Mike & Andy had been turned on to House Music on separate trips to New York's New Music Seminar in 1986 and 1987 respectively.) As a direct result of James Barton
's Monday Acid House nights, the State played House Music exclusively until it closed on 11th November 1989. In between the end of the State, and the start of his residency at Quadrant Park, Mike played briefly at the Twilight Zone in Liverpool's Duke Street.
Mike took up his residency at Quadrant Park on Thursday 11th. January 1990, as a direct result of his appearance at the Hugh Baird College Christmas Dance. But for the first few weeks it was Thursday nights only then, at the beginning of March 1990, Mike Knowler
became the resident DJ for all three of the main nights at Quadrant Park: Thursday, Friday & Saturday! At this time, Andy Carroll
was brought in to DJ on Monday's, and also to share Saturday nights at the Quad. In December 1990, when the All Nighters started, DJ's James Barton
& John Kelly
joined the team. And the rest, as they say, is history! Sadly, the Quad closed its doors at the beginning of January 1992. The House scene had moved elsewhere. But to backtrack again………
In the early autumn of 1990 Mike Knowler
was contacted by Dave Graham who was, at that time, the resident DJ at the Drome in Birkenhead. Dave was in the process of changing the music policy at the Drome from Sharon & Tracey disco exclusively to House Music, and he invited Mike to DJ with him on Friday nights at the Drome. So, from about mid-September 1991 until Christmas of that year Mike took a break from Friday nights at the Quad and played a `Quad Set' alongside Drome resident DJ Dave Graham, at the Birkenhead venue. The night was called Life and other DJ's who also played at Life included John Kelly
, who was also to become a Quad resident in 1991 when Andy Carroll
Later on, Life was to move to Bowlers at Trafford Park, and was even featured on the popular TV show The Hit Man & Her.
A year later, in the autumn of 1991, Mike was contacted by Club Promoters Nicki Dee and Billy Gillbanks with a view to playing Friday nights at the newly opened Hard Dock Café Around about that time Friday nights at the Quad had been discontinued due to Quad regulars preferring to go to the Quad All Nighter, and the fact that new clubs had opened up in the City Centre: i.e. Club 051 & the Academy. So a deal was struck, and Mike started at the Hard Dock Cafe playing alongside former Coconut Grove DJ Alan James. Then, following the demise of the Quad, shortly after Christmas 1991, Mike moved permanently to the Hard Dock Café, playing as the main resident DJ on both Friday and Saturday nights. The music policy at the Hard Dock was techno & hard core, with people like Carl Cox
and Groove Rider making regular guest appearances. Mike's residency at the Hard Dock Café lasted until January 1994, when he left over music policy differences with the new promoters, Useless Promotions. Essentially, Mike and Alan had wanted to programme more Trance & Hard House, feeling that Hard Core Techno had had its day. But the new promoters had other ideas.
During his time at the Quad and the Hard Dock Mike was invited to play at a number of venues as a guest DJ. Most noteworthy of these was at the Royal Court Theatre in Liverpool at concerts promoted by James Barton
and Andy Carroll
of Hax Promotions. These concerts featured well known artists such as Adamski, Katherine E, K.Klass, The Prodigy
, N.Joi and Quadrphonia. And John Kelly
, James Barton
and Andy Carroll
were amongst the other DJ's who also played at these concerts. In addition, Mike played at clubs like Cleo's in Wolverhampton, alongside Laurent Garnier
; The Inn on the Park on the island of Jersey with Robbie Edwards and Eric Powell; and Sheffield Polytechnic with John Peel
An extremely important aspect of Mike's DJ career has been regular guest appearances at the many and various Old Skool / Anthem / Retro nights at venues around the North West. The first of these was Anthem City at Liverpool's Club 051 in November 1993 promoted by Dave Graham. Other successful appearances around that time were: the Ultimate Revival at Life at Bowlers in Trafford Park Manchester in 1994/1995/1996; Passion at Maximes in Wigan 1993/1994; the Best of British at the Buzz Club in Liverpool 1995/1996; Anthem Mania at the Drome in Birkenhead 1994; and the Anthem City Tour at Calistos in Huddersfield in 1994. Of course, the most recent retro appearances have been for HayzyDays nights at Club Zanzibar
, in Liverpool 2003/2004. The pre-club Bar scene 1995 to 1999.
In November 1995, Mike made the transition from Club DJ to Bar DJ when he commenced an eighteen month residency at the Gallery Bar in Liverpool's Concert Square. This bar, which is now part of the Modo complex, was owned by Peter Lee (now of Metro Bar fame) and gave Mike an excellent opportunity to play exclusively up-front American import House Music: the kind of stuff played at Hard Time & Back in Basics in Leeds, and at London's Ministry of Sound. Playing in a bar was a new experience for Mike because, for the first time in his career he was performing to an audience who were listening rather than dancing. And around that time new House Music was breaking through which built upon themes from Soul, Funk, Disco & Jazz. Mike quit his residency at the Gallery Bar when he picked up on a rumour that the bar was to be sold to the owners of the near by Arena Bar. Mike had no desire to be an out of work DJ, so he looked around for a suitable alternative gig.
After leaving the Gallery Bar Mike moved to Southport to work for Craig Carloss at a brand new pre-club bar the Glasshouse. Here, Mike was working four to five nights per week (rather than the two or three he had worked at the Gallery). Friday and Saturday were up-front US Import House Music; Thursday was 1970's funk and disco; and Sunday was Back to the Old Skool House Anthems.
Mike moved from the Glasshouse to Bar None in April 1978, after a fall-out with Craig Carloss; basically Mike had missed a night's work, on a Saturday, and Craig was rightly pissed off with him! At that time Bar None was Southport's newest trendy bar and the move proved to be a positive one. Mike played US House on Friday nights, and Soul, Funk, Disco & Jazz on a Thursday. However, in January 1999, after a career that had spanned 30 years, Mike decided to retire from full-time DJing. This was partly the result of a bad experience at a gig at Club 051 on New Years Eve 1998. Credit:
Thanks to quadrantpark.com
for supplying this biography.