When he’s not performing huge sets in the dance arena to crowds thousands deep, the 58-year-old likes nothing better than the glitz, glamour and the magic routines of Strictly Come Dancing, especially in the Blackpool Tower Ballroom.
He says: “My wife and I are huge Strictly fans and we love being able to come and see the show which we have a few times in Blackpool and at Elstree (studios in London.)
“It’s a great show and it’s what I enjoy away from playing – that and my mountain biking, off road, which is just fantastic for the mind. Through the pandemic my cycling has kept me sane.”
Sadly there will be no Tower Ballroom Strictly day out in 2021 but Graeme will not be missing out on the visit to the Fylde, for his day/night job – keeping the audiences dancing to all the legendary tunes of the famous Hacienda nightclub.
He explains: “Every year I like to freshen up everything and so what people are going to hear are a few new songs we’ve not done before, I’ve chosen styles of music from the past 30 years so there is something for everyone.
“Obviously, originally I’d planned for last year’s shows so yes it’s just really exciting to first of all see everyone together again and to do a full length show with news songs and encores as well. When they’re re-imagined by the Manchester Camerata it’s just incredible.”
The night features a star packed line up with guests including Detroit’s Inner City, Peter Hook, Bez and American soul and R&B singer Jocelyn Brown. Crystal Waters, Black Box and DJ Tom Wainwright complete the bill.
Graeme says: “Inner City live are just fantastic, then you have K Klass but to have Jocelyn Brown, one of the greatest female American soul singers ever, on the bill is absolutely fantastic and then you’ve got Crystal Waters as well –it’s pretty special, brilliant.
“We’re on stage with Hacienda Classical for two hours, it looks great – the lighting, the backdrop. It’s just going to be great to do what we do having not been able to for more than 18 months.
“Streaming has been great, don’t get me wrong, but you don’t have an audience and this is going to be outdoors, thousands of people and Hacienda Classical works so well outdoors. The outdoor gigs are always a bit special.
“From the early evening light, the sun goes down and it gets dark as we perform – so the visuals then take on an extra dimension and it’s just something else.”
Sound On The Ground’s Saturday event sees the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra perform ‘Music From The Movies’ with Pete Waterman, Collabro and Bond.
As well as playing top venues and clubs all over the world Graeme has done his fair share of gigs in these parts.
He adds: “I remember when I first played The Syndicate (in Blackpool) now some years ago and I hadn’t been told about this state-of-the-art revolving dance floor. My wife knew and she had some fun with that – she kept disappearing.
over the place and people still want me to do it too.”
But did the man who was an instrumental player in the rise of the club scene and started his DJ career in a Nottingham record shop Selectadisc, and grew to be a huge part of the Hacienda legacy ever consider he’d one day be performing all his legendary dance and house tracks re-imagined and restructured with a classical spin alongside a full orchestra?
“No, and I have this conversation a lot. I was a massive singles buyer and I loved (legendary record label) Factory Records and I loved Joy Division and New Order and I used to go to The Hacienda to see the bands perform live as well and then when I then started Djing at The Hacienda I met Peter Hook, the members of New Order and Tony Wilson and it was really a wow moment.
“I’m a massive fan and next thing I know I’m being told I need to fly to North America with New Order and DJ on their 1989 tour, so there I am, 25-years-old, alongside New Order and The Sugarcubes with Bjork on lead vocals and spending six weeks on the road and I really couldn’t believe it.
“Hooky and I really got on quite well and then fast forward through the decades and I’m sat in a Wilmslow coffee shop in August 2015 with Hooky and our musical director and arranger Tim Crooks, Fletch the Hacienda manager and someone from the Camerata Orchestra all having this discussion about this idea of a classical show. Dance music recreated with an orchestra.
“And it hit me, I’m about to embark on a project with Peter Hook and, despite all my involvement with the Hacienda, DJing with Hooky, suddenly here I am doing a show with him. Next thing you know it’s 2016 and we’re at the Royal Albert Hall. It was supposed to be a one-off show and it has just grown year on year – refreshed, new songs something different.
It would be easy for us to do the same thing every year but you’ve got to mix it up.”
Mixing it up is what Graeme does best so much so that in recent years he has also been lending himself for lead vocals alongside his DJ duties.
He says: “It was at our gig in Sunderland a few years back and Hooky had been delayed on his tour and didn’t make the show and because I had sung Blue Monday at a sound check once, several months before this show I might add, the conductor said ‘Graeme you’re going to have to do Blue Monday Peter isn’t going to make it.’
“You’ve sung in bands before.’ I had but a long, long time ago but that was it, the strangest thing ever but I sang Blue Monday with the orchestra and Hooky saw a video of it later and the following year, with his band tour clash, it meant Hooky couldn’t join us so that year I actually sang Blue Monday more times than Peter Hook.
“Since then he’s suggested I needed my own song so from 2018 onwards, my own songs have been a part of it so this year there is going to be a big surprise when I walk to the front of stage and sing a song but you won’t find out what it is until August 29.
“But if you’d said to me at 17/18 when I was singing in bands, this huge Joy Division New Order fan, that you’d end up working with Peter Hook and singing Blue Monday one day with an orchestra I wouldn’t have believed you but that’s what I do and for a living.”
It’s certainly been one wild ride, especially factoring in the years at the Manchester club where he made his name.
He says: “The younger generations you have to explain to them that every single Friday with Mike Pickering from 1988 to ‘91 was amazing and then every single Saturday from ‘91 to 1997 was equally amazing and this was without guest DJs, it was incredible.
“The New Year’s Eves the birthdays, so many standout nights. One New Year’s Eve I can remember we had fireworks inside the Hacienda which when you think back that is just so stupid. But we did it.
“It was an incredible and people used to come from all over to spend a night at the Hacienda and they did it for a reason because it was at the time the only place you could get away with the things you wanted to get away with – no dress code, no stupid door policy.
“You just had to get there early to make sure you could get in.”
Hacienda Classical, Sound on the Ground tickets are on sale at www.blackpoolcricket.co.uk/tickets