Martin Green, DJ and curator, on his vinyl copy of The Sound Gallery

GB Tell me why you’ve chosen your vinyl copy of The Sound Gallery as your object of beauty?

MG It’s the first compilation album I did in1995, for EMI and and it basically launched the whole revival and interest in Easy Listening, and lounge music. This was music that I had a passion for from the late ‘80s, really, and I used to pick it up for 50p or 20p in charity shops. And then I started running a club called Smashing in 1991 with Matthew Glamorre, Adrian Webb and Michael Murphy, as a place right in the middle of the rave days, where we could play whatever we wanted to play. I used to mix up all kinds music, Burt Bacharach, X-ray specs, and David Bowie just an unpredictable mix, like a party in your bedroom at a time when clubs were incredibly predictable. 

So we started Smashing in 1991 at Maximus, and we were on Wednesday night, and Love Ranch which was a big house night was on a Saturday night. On a Wednesday night, there had previously been a club called Carwash, which was like a ‘70s club where people will wore big wigs and flares, a fancy dress kind of thing. And we took over from them. We had our mates down there but we also had people from Carwash coming down, thinking it was still their night. I was DJing with Michael Murphy and we had queues of people lining up to complain about the music. They hated it so much. 

So then the following week, there were about 40 people down there in a club that holds 800. Hardly anyone came apart from our close friends. But we all had a really brilliant time just dancing around. Dave Swindells from Time Out had sent a couple of friends down there who were looking for a night out and and they raved about the club. The following week, Corduroy, who were Boys Wonder, did their first gig at the club and they had quite a dressed up gang. Dave Swindells really championed it and it kind of got around. So then people like Suede, Denim, Pulp and Blur all started coming to the club and hanging out, all our mates really.

We moved around different venues until we ended up the Eve Club in 1994 and that’s when the whole Britpop scene exploded so all these bands hanging out in our club suddenly started having hit records. So we’d have Courtney Love down there, Michael Stipe, Leigh Bowery. In the middle of that period I compiled The Sound Gallery.

GB How did you decide what made the cut? The music at Smashing was so diverse.

MG There’s a track called Black Rite by Mandingo, a kind of big orchestral freakout track, and I was playing it at Smashing. Adrian Webb, one of the promoters, had brought a friend called Tris Penna along who was a Product Manager for Parlophone. He asked what it was, said it was incredible. And I told him this, it’s one of yours. So I went into his office on the Monday, with my old friend, Patrick Whitaker, who was also a big fan of this kind of music. Tris wanted to do an album. We put something together. And EMI said, “What are you doing? Why are you doing this album? No one bought this record the first time around?”  Tris and I spent a year persuading to them put it out and put it on double vinyl, and in the end we mastered it at Abbey Road, it sold 100,000 copies and launched an enormous amount of interest in that sort of material – all from these funny old records I found in charity shops. 

GB Tell me about why you find the physical object beautiful.

MG Because we had 24 tracks they decided to press it on double vinyl and it was pressed at the original EMI pressing plant when it was still there. At that time the music industry was pushing everything onto CD, because the markup was enormous. Of course now, vinyl from the ’90s is very collectible. On the cover of the album is David Cabaret who’s a friend and a performance artist – a designer and incredibly creative person. He reproduced the Green Lady painting by Tretchikoff. He used to do it as a performance and take it to Kinky Gerlinky. He created the photograph for the front cover with Link Leisure and there’s nothing digital there. They built this set with wallpaper with a hole in it with the frame and then David stood behind, cleverly lit. People still don’t realise that and think it’s the painting.

GB That’s amazing. I remember it was so brilliant when you actually saw him in the flesh like that.

MG There’s lots of people I meet through curating now that used to come to Smashing like Peter Doig and Gregor Muir. Actually, when you look back at the ‘90s, it was like the ‘60s with this independent kind of mentality, lots of bands, a proper scene of people, and London was still affordable. When we were doing Smashing we’d have friends who were squatting in Seven Dials. Rents were still cheap. You’d have people from different backgrounds who came to London, got a grant, and like Jarvis, they came down to Saint Martins. Now it’s becoming like a rich kid’s playground. Back then we all bonded because of similar interests and creativity and everything.

GB There was no social media, no one chasing likes, no influencers.

MG Yeah, exactly. I think there was still a sense of antagonism. We were encouraging people to dress up because this was a time of rave. And people really did make an effort. And so Matthew Glamorre even told Oasis to make an effort. They all sat in the corner, quite sheepish. And then they’d come over and request their records. But there was a real sense of anti-establishment. It wasn’t about brands. It was about being liked on your own terms. We’d get the venues for free. When you don’t have overheads you can take a risk. It’s all about the coins now. Then, you could still get by with very little money.

GB So tell me, something beautiful to you must be something that has a lot of cultural meaning.

MG Yeah, it does, actually. I’ve compiled 30 albums since then but this was the first. Ten years ago, I started curating exhibitions with a friend, James Lawler. We started in Liverpool, we ran a gallery there, prioritising LGBT people, but also prioritising people who we felt a had a cultural significance but whose work has been ignored. So the first show we did was Dougie Fields, his first exhibition for 25 years. Then we did an Andrew Logan exhibition. Then came Peter Ashworth who photographed all of those iconic album covers in the early ‘80s like Soft Cell and Eurythmics. It was his first ever exhibition. So we champion a lot of older people, because history gets rewritten and I’m pretty keen on writing it back to the way it was. I’m currently working on a Leigh Bowery exhibition. It’s all about the artists and designers around that time that had no voices and that have been kind of left out.  Caroline Coon has been one of the most recent ones. She’d never exhibited before and she’s 77. We worked on the show with Peter Doig and now she’s in the Tate. She’s an incredibly significant and important cultural character in terms of women’s rights, the hippie movement, she even managed the Clash. These people can can slip through the cracks, so we’re very much into championing people and giving them a blast.

GB What makes something worthy of the word Beauty to you?

MG What excites me is an original personal vision. People who create something from that vision that’s unlike anything else, like Andrew Logan’s Alternative Mis World or Ken Russell movies. That’s what I find exciting. What I struggle nowadays is seeing so many things I’ve seen before. We all grew up in a period where every time you went out you’d see something you’d never seen before. You saw Leigh Bowery in an outfit you’d never seen before. Every single time. David Cabaret was in an outfit you’d never seen before. People were up for pushing the boundaries and being unpopular. It’s that fearlessness that creates beauty.

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