Martin Moscrop interview: A Certain Radio's founder on Joy Division, Madonna, New York and Clitheroe

A Certain Ratio featured in the film 24 Hour Party People where Tony Wilson, played by Steve Coogan, comically described them as having all the energy of Joy Division but better clothes.
A Certain Ratio are coming to The Grand, Clitheroe, on December 1st.A Certain Ratio are coming to The Grand, Clitheroe, on December 1st.
A Certain Ratio are coming to The Grand, Clitheroe, on December 1st.

Martin Moscrop, A Certain Ratio’s founder, was the musical director of the film - and his band’s rich thread weaves a colourful pattern through Manchester’s sound of the past forty years.

A Certain Ratio were one of the first artists on Factory Records, and they topped the bill on the opening night of the iconic Hacienda nightclub.

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By then Wilson was their manager and whisked them across the Atlantic in search of fame.

“We were 19 when we met Tony Wilson, and it was a bit of a novelty really, he took us to gigs in the back of his white Peugeot Estate,” recalled Moscrop, who brings A Certain Ratio to the Grand Theatre, Clitheroe, on December 1.

“One day Tony said: ‘What do you guys think about going to the Big Apple?

“It was like, ‘Wow’ and we gave up our jobs the next day.”

Ian Curtis was a big fan too and so was Rob Gretton, New Order and Joy Division’s late manager, who spotted ACR playing on the same bill as Warsaw, who morphed into Joy Division.

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“We lived in a loft in New York, it was mad stuff,” said Martin.

“Tony wanted us to the experience the culture of America and we just drank it in like a fine wine.

“They were incredible times and Tony taught us about music.”

At the time, a record company mogul was interested in signing an unknown singer called Madonna, and she was handed the support slot at A Certain Ratio gig in New York, so they could watch her perform.

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The band took their name from a Brian Eno song when they formed in the late 1970s.

And a Certain Ratio’s collision of punk, funk and disco had a throbbing dance groove coursing through their veins light years before the dance music storm blew in to Manchester like a musical twister.

And the closest they came to a hit was the brooding Shack Up, one of their early singles, sure to get an airing at their first Ribble Valley show.

Their latest offering, ACR: SET, packs all the rhythm and funk of past material, rare remixes and two new tracks, Dirty Boy and Make It Happen, their first new music for a decade.

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Dirty Boy is a classic slice of A Certain Ratio pop funk and features a recording of the voice of the late Tony Wilson preparing the band for a recording session.

“I think people thought we’d split up, we just went into semi-retirement and spent time with our families being parents,” Martin added.

“It was a sort of hibernation, but I think people have been surprised how good we are live, and we’ve built up a massive momentum.

“We’ve had a younger generation coming to our shows and discovering A Certain Ratio’s sound for the first time, which is very special.”

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The Clitheroe show is a rare outing for A Certain Ratio, though.

“We are very choosy about what gigs we do because we want every show to be a party,” he added.

“What sealed the Clitheroe gig was meeting the Grand’s promotor Matt Evans at a festival, South by South West.

“I just got on well with Matt and we got a good vibe going.

I just said: “Let’s do it pal.”

A Certain Ratio, Clitheroe Grand, December 1. 01200 421599.