Finn is one of club culture’s true heroes, a Manchester based DJ and producer with a deep and profound knowledge of dance music, while also being unafraid to laugh at its excesses. Someone with a deep love for the communities that make up the clubbing experience, he’s also developed a singular voice, but behind the decks and in the studio.
The past 12 months have seen Finn hit top speed. A full nine track project emerged earlier this year, while he’s played some of the biggest, and most important shows of his life. Alongside this he’s assembled the Banger Dictionary, a 90 strong assemblage of the various synonyms for crucial club belters, heaters, hoofers, and chuggers.
Closing the year in style, Finn has just released ‘No More Coal -A Christmas Dance Record’. The project follows three instalments of his annual festive mix series – constructed alongside close friend I. JORDAN – in which they’d try to pick out house and techno deep cuts that could, indeed should, be regarded as festive classics.
With that in mind, Clash spoke to Finn over the phone to pick his brains on clubbing in the festive season, the state of dance music right now, and where Manchester could go next.
Let’s start with the new release: where did the impetus for a Christmas record come from?
I’ve always wanted to do one! Obviously for three years I. Jordan have been releasing these Christmas dance music mixes, trying to find festive feeling within the parameters of 90s dance music. Tunes that you play and think: yeah, that could be a Christmas record! And it was maybe August when I thought, maybe I can make my own Christmas dance record. I’ve been mining them for years, so why not make my own? In August. Which was a bit of a weird experience!
Funnily enough, that’s when the Christmas TV specials are usually filmed. If you watch Call The Midwife on Christmas Day, it’s normally filmed in summer!
Ah really? I mean, for me, I find making music really insular anyway. I’d already done a cassette this year, which was really just me getting my head down and making some house tracks. I guess I wanted to carry on like that. I didn’t really talk to anyone about it until I’d formed the record. But then it’s like, who do you show? I tried to show my mates these Christmas tunes I’d been working on in, like, October… but that’s just such a weird thing to discuss with your friends in October! But I think it came together quite well in the end.
Christmas is an under-rated raving period – Boxing Day is a classic night out for a lot of people.
I’ve always enjoyed raving in December. That’s when clubs are best. No one stands outside, because it’s too cold! It stand to reason. It’s also when you get more local DJs. Students have gone home, and parties become more community-focussed. It’s about people who live in a city, and have made it their home. I’m a big fan of partying at that time of year.
That’s a good point. The internet has homogenised club culture to a degree, whereas before a Glasgow tune would be a Glasgow tune, and so on. Do you want to stand up for those aspects of individuality?
I think that’s true of every facet of dance music. There’s been a great leveller of taste, and records that get played. Manchester is quite good for that, in that it has managed to maintain a spirit of individuality. And that’s sort of because Warehouse Project makes all the bigger artists sign exclusivity contracts so you’re not going up against them, anyway. I feel like Manchester has maintained its own little corner. And around December that seems more prevalent.
You’ve got a contagious attitude with club culture, but it’s also very unpretentious. You – and I. Jordan, too – are just mines of information about left-field 90s house tracks, but equally you both laugh at it, too.
Ha, yeah! And that’s also why a Christmas record appealed to me. Thinking about the stuff that I really enjoy, and love championing in dance music, it’s not… I want to use the word ‘sincere’ but not Fred again.. ‘sincere’ – like, cloying! (laughs) Unpretentious. Good Christmas music is quite direct, it’s a direct format. If you bring irony into a Christmas record you’ve already created a monster, that would be a horrible thing to do. It sums up a lot of what I love about dance music – it has to be sincere, sentimental, but it doesn’t have to be personal. It’s shared sentimentality.
Which brings us neatly on to the Banger Dictionary you created! One of the things I love about reading dance music journalism is the flexibility of dance music, it’s less defined than other arenas.
I guess as well, a big part of dance music culture is people meeting up and playing each other records. And they want to describe them to their friends: like, this one’s a belter, check it out! This one is an absolute diamond. I guess you get it in all music, but when you get into dance music it’s inherently social in its nature, and you show people records. That’s the art. I’m sure there are some people who just quietly listen to dance music on their own, but to me it’s about staying up too late at someone’s flat saying: check this one out!
It touched a chord as it sold out within a couple of hours!
Well, this makes me sound really petty but… someone stole it. But they copied it and shoved it on a meme page. I thought, the cheek! So I thought, right I’ll actually publish this. I did 50 of ‘em and they flew out so fast that I had to print up more. People really, really enjoyed it! It took on a bit of a life of its own.
Someone got in touch and said, oh we could do a hardback edition next year! And I was like, well, it’s 90 words… but great!
It’s been a huge year for you, are you looking forward to being able to decompress, and take stock?
This is actually my first year full time in music. As I quit my job at the end of last year. In that sense, it’s been nice to fully immerse myself into it. I’m making a lot more music – this is my second nine track project of the year. So that’s been nice to do. But that’s against the backdrop of an industry in disarray and the UK feeling increasingly depressing. It’s been a bittersweet year, hasn’t it? Difficult to smell the roses sometimes.
That’s true. It feels like any personal success you get a chance to enjoy is measured against people losing their income in this industry.
Absolutely. I read this week that one out of every three clubs in the UK could shut this winter and that… it feels like we’re watching the apocalypse in slow motion. Something isn’t working, and it’s clearly not working. I’ve done some fun stuff but I’ve always felt personally invested in club culture in the UK, and ultimately it hasn’t been a good time for that.
We can’t have an interview with Finn without discussing social media – you’re a very refreshing voice on there!
I just like telling jokes on Twitter, ultimately. It’s awful though, isn’t it? DJ Twitter especially is terrible. The worst thing now is that we don’t see any gaffs any more. People are too aware of it all. In 2023 I want to see the return of the big DJ gaff. “Warehouse Project headliner puts their foot in it!” That’s as good as it gets in my opinion. Everyone’s so guarded now!
Manchester feels as though it’s in a funny place right now – lots going on, but spiralling rents.
The city is changing massively and that’s going to bring some massive changes. The MIF is opening this factory, which is going to be the single biggest dedicated art space in Europe. So that’s going to change the city massively, in one sense. And a lot of people are very excited about it. But on the other hand, it feels like grassroots culture is under attack… basically. Some people are being taken with it, but others aren’t.
Equally, it’s a matter of time before some important clubs get shut down. Just look at Night & Day. We’ve not hit London levels of stuff getting obliterated once every three months, but Night & Day is the canary in the coal mine, and that kind of thing is coming to Manchester. Generally, dance music as an industry is really bad at responding to this kind of stuff, in terms of working together. Manchester actually has a history of collective action, so we’ll see.
So what are your actual Christmas plans?
I’ll go see my parents. And then me and I. Jordan are having a Christmas party at SOUP on December 16th. Mad Friday! You want a bit of Christmas chaos, don’t you? SOUP is in the thick of it, too. Mad Friday… bring it on.
Catch Finn b2b I. Jordan at Manchester’s SOUP Basement on December 16th / tickets.