Laurence Malice on after-hours partying, being kidnapped and turning away Axl Rose
This year, one of London’s most important club nights celebrates 21 years since its inception. Trade was the capital’s first ever legal after-hours club, running parties at the now defunct Turnmills every Sunday. For many club goers it was the only place to go and carry on the party once Saturday night was over. Laurence Malice was the man behind this seminal event, overseeing the event every week and controlling the music policy, DJ bookings and promotion. Instrumental in the club’s progress and man with more than a few stories to tell, I spoke to Laurence ahead of Trade’s 21st birthday celebrations…
So Laurence, what was the initial trigger behind Trade starting up?
You have to realise, 21 years ago, most clubs closed at 2-3 o’clock in the morning. I’d been running an illegal after-hours club in the Sauna club in Kentish Town and with illegal things there are always problems… it just seemed to make sense. John Newman, who’s Tall Paul’s father, owns Turnmills – we did a Sunday party, a Sunday after-hours and he was a bit worried about it because it was an illegal party. But he was quite shocked by the success of that and he went on to make an application to the council and they gave him a licence. There was no objection from the police – they knew that illegal parties were going ahead, but it’s a lot easier when things become legal because they can control things.
Of course… so who were some of the famous names that passed through Trade’s doors?
It’s funny because I come into contact with a lot of people and I’m always surprised by the amount o people that say they used to go to Trade. Everyone that was making techno at the time, they’d bring their tracks down to the club and see how the crowd responded to them and see if they needed remixing or not. [Celebrity-wise] We had Madonna, Grace Jones – loads of people, it’s a lot easier to list the people that didn’t get in. We always had integrity at the door, one time Cher turned up and because she had a certain amount of demands we didn’t let her in. Axl Rose came to the door, we wouldn’t let him because two weeks prior to that he’d made some very homophobic comments in the press and came to the door apologising and we said ‘No, you’re not coming in, mate. Get on your bike’.
Too right! So can you paint a picture of what Trade was like? For people, like myself, who didn’t get the chance to make it.
Imagine Hade’s Inferno. That’s what it was, you’d go down the stairs and there were people dancing on every single surface. It was the most hedonistic place to be – there were people dancing on tables, dancing on the bar, they were everywhere. The place was rammed to the rafters. A lot of people that originally went to Trade were very intimidated when they walked down those stairs at Turnmills. Many people have told me they walked in there and vowed they’d never walk in again. That’s how I felt when I went to Berghain [a legendary techno club in Berlin]. But, as soon as you get into the really good techno music, get into the feel of the place – you think ‘I’ve arrived, this is Heaven’. So Hade’s Inferno becomes Heaven.
You must have come across a fair few characters in your time…
We’ve had some really nice people and we’ve had some right weird freaks, but that was what it was always about. There was one, this transvestite – well at first I thought it was a girl – every week her breasts would be getting bigger and bigger and bigger. We’re talking about a 55inch bust here. And ’she’ would go around with her arms under her bust, she was really quite skinny… then one day a guy went up, got a pin out and pricked her bust. It turned out that it was just two big, blown up condoms! There was this guy who was a really high ranking bodyguard, he used to come down to the club – this guy was straight – and he’d take off all his clothes and just walk around in a G-string.
And what about some of the craziest things that have happened to you, personally?
One of the weirdest times I had was when we did a party in Palma in Majorca. It was a fantastic night and this guy, who couldn’t speak a word of English, took me and three of the girls dancers and one of the male dancers to another club and proceeded to get us so pissed. He got rid of the rest of the people and locked me in his flat. He locked the door so I couldn’t get out, there was nothing to drink in the fridge except tonic water, in every room he had porno on and I was trying to get out for ages. He came back about 12 hours later with this prostitute, she must have been about 60 with no teeth. I’d been in the flat so long and he came over and tried to stuff all this money in my hand to get off with this prostitute – I just threw it at him and ran. I always tell people, that was the time I got kidnapped in Palma.
That’s actually insane… How about your highlights?
The sad thing about it is that I can’t remember many of them. Of all the moments at Trade, every week was electric. I never had a bad night at Trade, never ever ever. There was a time, about four years into Trade, I had a relationship and I decided to go off travelling around the world with my partner. I’d never taken any time off, so I had a seven-week holiday… and I got as far as Australia and broke up with my partner. I’d spent a lot of money and time looking forward to this dream holiday and I was really let down by the experience. You take your partner away and you end up coming back by yourself – it’s a really weird thing to come back to London without the person you’ve been living with and also the person that’s been involved in a lot of the work to do with Trade. I remember walking down the stairs, I was really nervous about going down to the club that week, wasn’t feeling very good about it – but, when I walked in, there was such a roar from the people pleased to see me back after all those weeks away I thought ‘This is it, I’m back home again’.
Trade was a big family. A friend of mine had this friend, a girl, who was a Rastafarian… she was pure Rasta. He talked her in to going down to Turnmills, and she went down didn’t like it. He took her down a second time, and she’d never been to a mixed gay club in her life. On the third visit she got herself hooked. She broke up with her partner, she bleached her hair blonde… her life turned around, it changed totally. Trade was a melting pot, because it was the only after-hours club you would get such a mixture of people. It was the first time a lot of people had come into contact with their polar opposites. It was fantastic because, when people have no choice, they have to get on and it worked.clubbing, Laurence Malice, music, techno, trade, Turnmills
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