If Gary Haisman is remembered at all, it’s perhaps as the frontperson for D Mob’s ‘We Call It Acieed’, a top three hit in 1988, though he was so much more than that (though the chant itself was based on his own impromptu creation).
Although he was never a DJ, he was an organiser, galvaniser, club promoter, style icon and brilliant dancer. A face, in other words. “One of the first times I clapped my eyes on him was at the Slough Centre 1975,” recalls Paul McKee. “He was dressed head to toe in a bright red suit from [Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood store] Sex and had quiffed Bryan Ferry hair and plastic sandals, doing this amazing shuffle dance. Gary was a leader then and that’s how he remained.”
The club Haisman ran with Paul Dennis (Terry Farley, Pete Tong and Paul Oakenfold were its residents), Raid, was one of the important precursors to acid house, playing early Chicago records alongside Washington go go and it was Haisman who introduced his crew to the joys of a new buzz: Shoom. “Gary first took us there and suddenly I realised all the people in Shoom were the people who I’d been turning away from Raid because of the way they dressed,” recalls Terry Farley. “A week later I’ve got dungarees on.”
One of the most iconic pieces of UK house artwork was also conceived by Haisman, the Dave Little-designed flyer for Spectrum. Little: “The eyeball was totally Gary’s idea, ‘I wanna big fackin’ eye in the middle, Dave.’ Graphically I came up with the rest of it. Looking at it now, think it stands the test of time.”
For many years, Haisman lived in Spain where he contracted deep vein thrombosis and came near to death then. More recently, he’d moved back to the UK and reconnected with a lot of the old acid house faces and despite his ill-health maintained a typically positive outlook. “He was fucked,” says Farley. “He couldn’t walk more than a few yards. But he could still kill a man at 100 paces with his wit.”
Bill Brewster is a regular contributor to Mixmag, follow him on Twitter