It’s the end of an era at Liverpool’s iconic Krazyhouse, Getintothis’ Peter Guy chats to promoter and man on the inside JJ Haggar as he recounts almost three decades of filthy rock and roll mayhem.
Iconic Liverpool venue The Krazyhouse has closed signalling the end of an era for Merseyside clubbing.
For generations legions of metallers, moshers and live music fans have poured into The Krazyhouse, or The K! as it was affectionately known, however, it is to undergo a major transformation.
With the loss of Le Bateau in 2012, the closure of The Krazyhouse marks the end of old school traditional ‘indie discos’ on Merseyside – places where fans of guitar-orientated music; be it punk, glam, goth, rock & roll and metal could be blasted out on the dance floor and bodies could writhe, shake and roll however they wished.
Reports suggest, The K! will reopen in September (see full statement below) with metal remaining high on the agenda and a return to live music. Whatever happens, it’s inevitable that the dirt and grime will be polished up (maybe that’s a good thing in the case of the infamous toilets) with a certain sanitising of its rough round the edges charm.
With that in mind, we spoke to DJ, promoter, marketeer and the man on the inside of the Krazyhouse, JJ Haggar, for his reflection over several decades of musical mania. Here’s his story – The Road to the K!:
Out of the 1970’S and 1980’s music landscape was to come a venue that would leave its own stamp within the red, blue and white background of ‘Scouse-Land’. This is my story of my path to it.
Living in the sleepy North Wales backdrop town of Wrexham, and growing up both there and up the coast in Rhuddlan and Rhyl, my music education was formed by a little old black radio with Luxembourg on until the early hours and through to Radio 1 at breakfast.
The heady days of Mark Bolan, Bowie, Elvis, The Beatles, The Who and The Stones. The race riots, Vietnam, Martin Luther King, a man on the moon, Top of the Pops and The Old Grey Whistle Test.
I was introduced to a world of black and white photos with words in the NME, Melody Maker, Sounds, Record Mirror, Cream and Rolling Stone Magazine.
By the mid-late 70’s, my mind was being blown by so many areas of music; rock, jazz, country, pop, punk and disco – all containing amazing sounds. All also having their fair share of crap. As they metamorphosed into genres and then sub-genres. All I wanted to do was see and hear them live.
There was little in the way of venues or clubs in the desolate North Wales’ backdrop, until the leisure centre at Deeside brought major acts like Gary Numan, Bob Marley, The Clash, The Jam, AC/DC, Kiss and Dire Straits to the area alongside indoor festivals like Futurama.
Cardiff was just as far away as the nation’s capital, yet twice as hard to get to, so it was London (Empire Pool, Hammersmith Odeon, The Rainbow, The Marquee, 100 Club and The Blitz) Birmingham (Rumrunner) Manchester (the Apollo and the Free Trade Hall), and my Mecca, Liverpool (The Royal Court, Empire, The Stadium, Erics, Bradys, Planet X, The State, the Warehouse, and the Bierkeller) which I visited – all serviced cheaply by the National Express.
The country was broke – miners strikes, steel mill closures, Toxteth riots and football had the hooligan effect, I was getting the chance to witness the time when Liverpool was in it’s second phase of musical greatness featuring The Bunnymen, Mighty Wah!, Dead Or Alive, Frankie, Flock of Seagulls while even the Wool’s got a look in with OMD and the Teardrops – as the city explodes.
Many other places existed after hours that you went upstairs to a loft space, or downstairs that seemed to only be around for a brief snapshot in time, and often when you went after a gig, the booze and drug intake meant you never really knew where you were (or cared) or of course could ever find your way back (as often somebody took you there that you met at the gig).
Liverpool also had the option of an early train – the 6.01am to Chester which after a 40 minute ride meant you then could hang around for the 7.30am first train to Shrewsbury which stopped at Wrexham, so you stepped off the train at 8am and walked home to hit the sheets at 9am.
I could then sleep all day, get back up just in time for band practice, Top of the Pops or go to the pub for another gig. School or college term time meant gigs were just for the weekend where you would leave Friday evening and get back Monday morning and go straight there – no sleep ’til bedtime.
This became somewhat of a lifestyle for me, that moment (like many) when the Starman stepped out from my TV to throw everything out of the window and want to become a ‘rock n roll star’.
The week seemed to be split between waiting for the (music) papers on Wednesday, then watching Top of the Pops on Thursday, leaving the house Friday to return on Monday and start the whole thing again.
Luckily I had very supportive parents, alongside being in a teaching system that deemed you either stupid or factory fodder.
So yes I saw all the greats – Black Sabbath, Van Halen, AC/DC, Springsteen, Bowie, Prince, Led Zeppelin, Queen, too many to list. To blasé to care. Too far gone to remember them all.
This continued from the late 70’s, through the 80’s and beyond, to the point where I came off the road to start to present my own club nights and gigs.
By this time the Tivoli had started to bring acts to the northern Welsh town of Buckley while the Memorial Hall in Wrexham was full of some right noisy mutha’s! And around the 1990 mark I recall going to Manchester for a show and hearing for the first time the word ‘Sloanes‘.
This was a place in Liverpool I did not know about and it turned out it was in fact the bit above the Warehouse which was being used after it mysteriously burned out. So as there was a doubling up of a Wrexham and Liverpool gig, this was my chance to see for myself.
I did. It was a shit-hole. But the vibe was there. Iit had that certain something you can’t ever really explain. It was alive.
Years passed and I carried along my path of gigs and clubs like the Cotton Club (Wrexham) and the Buttermarket (Shrewsbury) while getting into trouble at the Tiv(oli) (for flyering gigs) and then going up to Liverpool to the new Sloanes which was ‘the powerhouse’ – and now re-named The Krazyhouse and finding out it was the same people who were involved in the Tiv and another venue I often frequented, Stairways in Birkenhead.
An August bank holiday brought Oasis to the Tivoli, and I had another run in once again with the man who would shape the next quarter of a century of my life – Howard Croft (owner of the Krazyhouse) – he asked me to stop doing what I was doing and team up with him. Finally, I got the chance to work in Liverpool.
A handshake was undertaken that only death could unbreak.
— The Krazyhouse (@thekrazyhouse) August 2, 2018
This period brought Radiohead, Oasis, The Verve and great rock acts like Stone Temple Pilots, Love/Hate and The Wildhearts into the city as The Krazyhouse began to gain a reputation as the new Erics or Bradys with much of the crowd I used to recognise from those venues plus Planet X and The State regularly turning up.
So, this seemed to be fusing the metal-rock and alternative-indie musical crowd into one.
In fact, witnessing the after-gig club nights it became clear that the whole scene was starting to shift from the live show to the dance floor. The rave scene had infiltrated the alternative scene and dancing with myself was a long memory and the new thing was a new groove.
So when it looked like some of the big metal or rock acts at the time had weekend shows and nowhere to go and there was a room available in the city centre, well the timing was right. Sepultura (1993) and Pantera (1994) had sold out Royal Court gigs, and even Slayer when they were in town, were quite happy to come and hang-out post show – often just for a crate of ‘Pils.
This gave the club sold out Saturdays for the first time in its history. Thursday and Friday had the Jones effect [DJs Marc and Jason Jones who went on to create Liverpool student night Medication] and now Saturday had the double J.
It was the start of a purple period that was to last longer than it should have – but what a time we had.
— The Krazyhouse (@thekrazyhouse) July 27, 2018
As we headed towards the Brit-Pop years, post Grunge and Nu-Metal, the Krazyhouse was to become the home of the indie-alternative-rock scene in the city.
Bush, Placebo, Travis, Stereophonics, Fear Factory, Coal Chamber, Korn and even Moby filled the place.
The club nights were locked out. And what started as one floor and a rickety table with a cash box on it, turned into two, with a new room next door, which eventually became the room above.
Ex Radio 1 DJ, Janice Long had launched an alternative radio station: London had XFM and Liverpool now had Crash (later becoming Juice).
The combination of hosting a radio show and having the number one alternative night in the city was a dream come true!
Outside shows promoted by the team were being sold out. Space, Dodgy and Catatonia in Sefton Park and Super Furry Animals in Bangor and Cardiff. And The K was part of a Holy Trinity of venues – with The Stage in Stoke, the Tivoli in Buckley and the Krazyhouse in Liverpool.
This meant every band worth it’s salt wanted to play one or the other (often all three) by the time we hit the noughties a third floor had been brought in and next door had it’s own Scouse-House with Fudge.
This is when The Krazyhouse was at its peak – both in terms of money-making and musically challenging.
However it was also a step too far.
This was the turning point where the chart and dance side of things was to take centre stage at the expense of the alternative and indie-rock scene.
At the time all was fine. The deserters were being replaced by a new crowd, however that crowd was fickle. Drinking and snorting was their first love. Then fucking. Music was fourth on the list.
A complete opposite of the crowd that the club had been built upon. But who cares was the attitude – “the bank balance is great”. “Things move on. Things change“, they say…
This was true, the club had a licence to print money and was certainly hitting the mark week after week.
But by the time we got into the second decade of the new century, the writing was on the wall. Something had to change.
Yet how can you change and not risk the cash flow? How can you not? This was a time when the money became more important than the music.
We had started in the MUSIC business and ended up in the music BUSINESS.
The clichés are true. The song remains the same. The decline is clear.
The new alternative rock crowd see everything as old while the fickle crowd has fucked off somewhere else and every bar in town seemed to have taken The K blueprint and created their own mini-mecca.
It lasted 28 years. That’s a long time by any venue or club standard.
Perhaps 10 years longer than it should have.
It became something it wasn’t. But look how long those other great clubs lasted – Eric’s, Brady’s, Planet X, The State etc… In truth it even outlasted Cream – now an apartment block.
But by the time 2018 dawned it was already all but over according to the keyboard warriors. In fact, the truth is far from that and stranger than fiction.
Death became us all. The change come from the barrel of a gun. End of days. End of K’s…
Last Saturday night at @thekrazyhouse is proving super popular – queue stretching around the block – can see a lot of people reliving their youth too. Genuine end of an era for Liverpool clubland. There’s few clubs that have influenced so many generations of music lovers in town. pic.twitter.com/PMImSrA2rM
— Peter Guy (@Getintothis) July 28, 2018
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD? I don’t know or care about the answer to that question because the future is unwritten. All I do know is, I was lucky to be part of a culture, a club, a venue that changed the landscape in the greatest musical city in the world.
I played my part (longest serving resident alternative club DJ in the UK ever – probably, in the world! Sponsorship by Carlsberg is a given.)
So, I have nothing left to prove. I know that we saw a million people and we rocked them all.
People who first frequented the K! now have kids who come to the K!
Many have been born into the K! and their parents met there while many are sadly no longer with us.
Is this the end of the K! story? I believe it’s just another beginning.
Get some shades, the future is bright! See you on the floor.
This is the last song played at The Krazyhouse on July 28/29 2018 – a favourite of Howard Croft‘s.
JJ wishes to thank…
“To The Lovers, The Haters & The Mischief Makers… (C U Online) LOL! (Lots Of Love). Thanks!
* To those who steered the ship – Howard Croft (RIP), Paula, Steve, Dolphin, Dave! Xx
** To those who sailed – Sheena, Chris, Mike, Andy, Alan, Tim, Johnny, Adam, Ash, Sid, Tyler and the (too) many great bar staff Xx
*** To those who played the tunes – Gary, Mike, Marc, Jason, Simon, Paul, Nick, Pete E, Pete G, 2 Tall Paul, Lex, Davey, Jamie, Glen, Eddie, Steve T, Mark Rawkus, Jonny 7, Tony M, CM Woods.
The guests – Zane Lowe, Sid (Slipknot) Krusher, Dave Monks, Huw, Eddie TM, Pete Teamrock, Johnny Doom, Kerrang! Klub!, MTV Headbangers Ball.
**** The bands that played – Oasis, Travis, Spiritualized, Supergrass, Lightning Seeds, Divine Comedy, Mansun, Ash, Radiohead, The Verve, Suede, Shed 7, Ocean Colour Scene, Stereophonics, The Cranberries, The Frames, Moby, Placebo, Bush, Warrior Soul, Little Angels, Terrorvision, Wildhearts, Love/Hate, Reef, Stone Temple Pilots, Therapy?, Fear Factory, Coal Chamber, Biohazard, Paradise Lost, Life Of Agony, Thunder, Korn, Fozzy and the last ever live band on the night The K died (February 23, 2018) Hed PE xx
The road to the past is closed… The path to the future is wide open… JJ 2018″
A full statement issued by the new club owners read:
“New club opening September 2018.
Today we are delighted to announce that the club formerly known as the Krazyhouse will remain a predominately rock/alternative venue.
It has become obvious how much love there is for the venue and what it should become, so from the feedback from fans we are answering a some of your questions
Yes – Saturday will remain a Rock night! (All rooms rock / metal / alt & indie)
Yes – The club will be renamed…..This will be announced soon with ticket details
Yes – We have every intention to develop the club and hopefully live bands will be back making it one of the last bastions of alternative music in UK
Yes – Like Rock City in Nottingham we will need other nights and promoters to ensure its’ success. We already have one the most famous student nights confirmed and we are looking around for other nights.
And finally to those who came on Saturday, a big thank you for you patience! Sorry, we know it wasn’t perfect (but we are trying desperately to get the club open in time for September) There were long queues for the bar, drinks did run out, girls were in the boys toilets and it was ridiculously hot and sticky, but it was also a glorious, typically messy, memorable and emotional goodbye to the legend that was….
The Krazyhouse! You were all part of the K’s history!
We hope you are as excited as we are to see it evolve. We have so many things to tell you in due course but for now keep the questions coming, we’ll post details of the opening night as soon as we can
Rest assured…Saturdays will be back – louder and more rock’n’roll than ever!”