Photography by Katie O'Neill
Musician and educator Martin Moscrop is a founding member of post-punk-funk band, A Certain Ratio (ACR). The band were among the first to debut on Factory Records in 1979 and are one of only a few bands from the era still writing and releasing new material. Martin was also a lecturer and the Head of Music at The Manchester College, in a teaching career spanning 24 years.
Martin was born in Lancaster in 1960 and moved to Limeside in Oldham when he was 6 months old. Between 1975 and 2013 he had been a resident of Stockport, Hulme and Chorlton. Martin now lives in Worsley, Salford.
A Certain Ratio, 1986 (Photo: Steve Pyke)
Martin Moscrop on stage, 2001 (Photo: Jim Dyson)
A Certain Ratio were formed in 1978 with Martin (guitar and trumpet) part of the original line up. One of Tony Wilson’s first signings, they released their first single ‘All Night Party’ on Factory Records in 1979. During ACR's early years with Factory, they scored seven Top Ten U.K. independent releases.
Factory Records press photo, 1984 (Photo: James Martin)
One of the first white indie groups to draw heavy influence from funk, ACR have many admirers of their sound, including among others David Byrne of Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem, Happy Mondays and Franz Ferdinand. Performing regularly in the US, their punk-funk style drew attention on both sides of the Atlantic. Famously Madonna did her first gig supporting ACR at the Danceteria in New York. Martin recalls: “Her management actually paid us $100 for her to support us, Sire records came down to see her and she was signed from that gig.”
In 2002 Martin was asked to be the 'musical technical supervisor' on the biographical comedy movie '24 Hour Party People' based on Tony Wilson’s Factory Records. His job was to ensure that the actors looked convincing as musicians
The band continued to play live through the 2000s, then in 2020 they released their first album of new material in 12 years. In the same year tragedy struck the band when long time friend and backing singer Denise Johnson died aged 56. Denise had performed with ACR live over 200 times.
"If we had more people like Denise in this world, we wouldn’t be in the state that we’re in”.
Currently signed to Mute Records, A Certain Ratio show no sign of slowing down at arguably their most creative stage of their career to date. Martin along with long time members Jez Kerr (vocals & bass), Donald Johnson (drums), Matt Steele (Keyboards) and Tony Quigley (sax) along the newest member Ellen Beth Abdi (vocals & flute) regularly perform live - particularly for those looking to party - and continue to create music in the studio.
L-r , Donald Johnson, Matt Steele, Jezz Kerr, Martin Moscrop & Tony Quigley
(Photo: Paul Husband)
Martin joined The Manchester College (originally City College Manchester) as a lecturer in Music Technology in 1995. He worked there for 24 years in various roles including, Head of Music and Head of Campus.
My music industry experience was essential to becoming a good teacher and manager. My 44 years in the Music Industry enabled me to pass on a wealth of experience to the students in Music Production, Music Tech, Sound Recording, Music Business, Student Support, and safeguarding. I can't go to a gig or club in Manchester without ex-students coming up to me with memories of how I helped/supported them.
Martin photographed in one of The Manchester College's recording studios
Denise Johnson on stage with ACR (Photo: Pete Smith)
THE SHOOT: Wellington House, Pollard St East, Ancoats
A Certain Ratio's rehearsal and recording base 1989-1996. A space shared with many other iconic Manchester bands including Intastella, Sub Sub and the Happy Mondays.
Student reflection: Katie O'Neill
Martin’s choice of location for the shoot had Manchester written all over it. Wellington House in Ancoats - A Certain Ratio’s musical base in the late 80s and 90s - is a red brick Victorian mill which was set to provide wonderful context to the photography.
Katie & Martin
Martin was a pleasure to work with, very friendly and easy to direct. The combination of location, September sunshine and Martin's distinctive fashion style - including trademark pork pie hat and glasses - provided me with a strong set of final images. An enjoyable experience all round 😀
As we looked for a suitable space to start the shoot, Martin gave us some background detail about the mill and the bands who rehearsed there back in the day. The exterior walls of the mill feature a variety of street art so we began the photography against a vibrant splash of colour which nicely juxtaposed the nearby sombre brickwork. We continued the shoot using the doorway to Wellington House and then photographed Martin against the industrial exterior walls of the Mill.