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Mike Knowler

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The Hard Dock
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Hard Dock Café


Sometime in the autumn of 1991, Mike was contacted by Club Promoters Nicky Dee and Billy Gillbanks with a view to playing Friday nights at the newly opened Hard Dock Café. The night was to be called Insomnia and Hard Dock café was a warehouse venue based at Regents Road, on Liverpool’s Stanley Dock. The club was about the same size as The State with a capacity of about 1000 people.

The original flyer to promote the opening of Hard Dock Café lists the promoters as also playing as DJ’s. But to the best of Mike’s recollections this never actually happened. Nicky Dee had been a resident DJ at The Quad, in its pre-house era. But his main claim to fame was having appeared on the TV programme Blind Date presented by Liverpool’s own Cilla Black.

Around about that time Friday nights at the Quad had been discontinued due to Quad regulars preferring to go to other clubs, out of town, and the fact that new clubs had opened up in the Liverpool 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.

The Hardock was the third of Mike’s main club residencies, and the one that he remembers with the least affection. The first six months or so were quite exiting but, thereafter, Mike feels that it all became a bit of a drudge. The size of the crowd dropped considerably, and the venue was bleak and cold in the winter. The audiences were mostly young and male; the atmosphere stressful, verging on the aggressive. However, there were just a few high points in this later period: live performances by The Bassheads, Prodigy & Shades of Rhythm.

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. It was after leaving the Hardock Café that Mike stared to get asked to play at Back to the Old Skool events such as Anthem City at the 051 and similar events at The Drome in Birkenhead (Anthem Mania), Maximes in Wigan
(Quadrant Park Revival Nights) and Bowlers in Trafford Park (The Ultimate Revival).


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