Factory Records

Learn about Manchester's music scene through the history of Factory Records venue

By Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Meet Aaron Mellor, Managing Director of Tokyo Industries, which operates Factory, and listen to the fascinating musical history behind the venue. 

Factory (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

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How was Factory founded?

It’s quite an interesting story. For me it came to prevalence as the Factory Records head office for a period of time in the early nineties. It wasn’t there long because Factory Records went insolvent in early 1992. My entire life/business has kind of been surrounded, has emanated from Factory Records, The Hacienda, New Order, and it’s always kind of spun around that. 

Factory (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

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What is the experience of going to The Factory?


So, effectively we’re a live music venue and night club and we operate over three floors. The basement’s got the toilets and dressing rooms and offices. There are three primary floors is the ground floor, which used to be an old record storage and parking bay for the Factory van, that’s now live music. We do live music every weekend and as many nights as we can during the week between the hours of seven and eleven. At eleven o’clock it moves into more of a kind of DJ-led club space, spread over three floors. The loading bay on the ground floor, the what used to be the accounts teams on the second floor and what used to be the infamous Factory boardroom on the top floor. 

Factory (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

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What makes The Factory unique?

So, ranging from Factory 251 is the original Factory Records catalogue number, which at first glance, the Factory Records catalogue system seems quite random, but then when you do some digging and some cross work onto it you can actually realise that all the New Order singles end in a three, all the significant records end in a zero, all significant properties end in a one, so Fact 51 was the Hacienda, Fact 201 is Dry Bar, Fact 251 is the new Factory office on Princess Street. And 501 is the number on Tony Wilson’s coffin. He allocated his own coffin a Factory Records number. Anything ending in either 50 or 100 with a one after the end of it is a significant moment for Factory

Factory (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

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The framework for the bars is on a modular system. The panelling of the bars is different on all three floors and this charters Ben Kelly’s design over the years, so the first bar is an orange plastic cross with a diagonal bar through it. This is quite significant because in the 1970s in the Punk movement, Ben Kelly designed a shop on King’s Road called Sex. The owners of that shop were Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood and they wanted their shop to be so cool that the shop assistants could be in a band. That band became the Sex Pistols.

Factory (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

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The Sex Pistols came to Manchester in 1976, so before my time, and did a gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall. Now it’s said that only 14 or 20 people went to this gig, but all those people who went to that gig, immediately left that gig thinking “Wow, I can be in a band.” So, The Smiths, the Buzzcocks, Joy Division, Simply Red, all left that gig in 1976 and went “Wow, if they can do it, we can do it and be in a band.” Tony Wilson was in that audience and decided he was going to set up a record label after that and Factory Records came out of that. 

By David McgoughLIFE Photo Collection

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Do you think we’ll see any long-term changes in the city?

I think there will be huge changes. Half the problem with Manchester at the moment is that less than 5% of the office space is the city centre is being occupied, which means that you don’t get the people on the streets and a city is made up of a tapestry of a lot of different uses. Quite often the late-night economy gets a bashing because we only ever hear of the bad things that happen. We don’t hear of the 50,000 people who go out on a Saturday night in Manchester. We don’t hear about all the good stories. We hear about the one bad incident that’s happened. We don’t hear about all the positivity. 

Factory (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

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Did you always want to work in the music industry?

I could’ve been an architect. I started on building sites around Manchester. We built Salford Quays. I was a QS on that job. In the late eighties, early nineties, Manchester was the kind of music capital of the world, with all the “Madchester”, Stone Roses, Inspiral thing. We were going out every night. Then there was a recession and I wasn’t being offered the bigger projects, so I decided I was going to take a few years out and study architecture in Newcastle. I went up to Newcastle to study architecture, kind of expecting it to be like Manchester was at the time and it was rubbish. Even though I went up there to be an architect, I left being a DJ and promoter. 

Factory (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

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We were friends with bands from the Stone Roses to the Happy Mondays to The Charlatans. I later toured with Oasis. DJ-ing for those guys. And we had a night at the Hacienda called Stone Love. I moved to Newcastle to study architecture and get a real job and ended up being a DJ. It’s encompassed the last 30 years of my life and I love it. 

Factory (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

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What's Manchester's musical future like?

I think we’ve got great bands coming through and that changes all the time. Will we ever get back to those days where that kind of whole “Madchester” phenomena? We live in a digital world now and everything’s so fast communicated. If you think back to the times, that whole 88 to 92 “Madchester” phenomenon happened. Manchester was the music capital of the world. And then after that it shifted quite quickly to Seattle and Portland and then grunge took over. Nirvana and Pearl Jam and those bands came out. And then a few years after it moved to New York. Bands like the White Stripes and The Strokes all came out. Music used to move around in a kind of geographic way. 

Factory (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

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How does your location play into your business?

In Manchester we keep our feet nailed to the ground and awful lot and I think there is that spirit of rebellion here that stops it from ever being too corporate. If you drive into Manchester now it feels like you’re driving into downtown LA. It feels incredible. But equally you’ve got this under current of creativity. There’s something in the water round here that makes people be creative, makes people want to listen to music or do art. 

Factory (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Any final thoughts you would like to share?

I think it’s just important we carry on supporting creative art projects, creative music and the entrepreneurial spirit, not just in Manchester but all over the world. People often forget that we get people like shopping centres and the Arndale get huge support and investment, but the creative arts, the counterculture and the entrepreneurial thrust of any city centre is super important. More so now than ever. We’re seeing the High Street fail. We’re seeing the offices fail. We need a creative nucleus in city centres to bring people back because it’s a reason to visit our city centres. Otherwise we may as well all sit at home on Zoom and be very boring. We need this social pigment in our life.

Factory (21st Century) by Dan EdenGreater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

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