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9 Years Of Cream: James Barton On Britain's Best Clubbing Brand

Author: Skrufff
Friday, October 12, 2001
While Ministry Of Sound has long held its spot as the world's biggest clubbing brand, long term rival Cream has always at least edged them on credibility. While Ministry's top dog James Palumbo spent his pre-clubbing days being head boy at Eton, a 16 year old James Barton was busy working in street markets then going out DJing at night- experiences that would irrevocably connect him with rave culture's anti-elitist heart. 9 years on, both characters appear in GQ's 100 most powerful Britons (see above) though it's Barton who remains the outsider, drawing patronising comments from the self consciously upmarket men's magazine.

9 years after Cream first launched, Barton's founding partner Darren Hughes is long gone, while the September 11th terror attacks have already impacted on the worldwide dance scene. For Barton, who this weekend will be celebrating his club's 9 year birthday alongside Paul Oakenfold, Seb Fontaine and a whole host of other jocks, the important next step is one of taking action.

"We need to get on planes, to fly and to stay in hotels because otherwise if we stop, it sounds corny, but that means they've won," he told Skrufff's Jonty Adderley this week. "I'm sure that it won't take long for a certain amount of grieving and respect to be paid, before people will say, 'That's enough of that, let's move ahead'. I think that's right, like that old saying 'life has to go on'."

Skrufff : What's the plan to make this weekend's birthday celebrations special-

James Barton: "Cream birthday parties are always the highlights of the year for us and are usually more intense than New Years Eves for example. Cream's never been the type of organisation to deliver theatrics and that kind of stuff, we tend to concentrate on great DJs playing good music with nice decor. It's about amazing line-ups."

Skrufff: The birthday party press release starts with the line '9 years ago we were all hanging around in hooded tops', did you used to dress like that-

James Barton: "It was more like 12 years ago when I did, I used to have one of those Daisy type acid house hooded tops and a pair of Kickers. From 1988 I was totally submerged in dance music, whether as a DJ or promoter or manager. By 1992, I had a little business going and had already been through one or two phases of dance culture."

Skrufff: What's the dress code for Cream these days-

James Barton: "I don't really know, to be honest, I think it's just down to common sense and is more connected to the attitude that people are giving out, rather than what they're wearing. I got turned away from a bar in Liverpool recently because I had a pair of jeans on and a pair of Converse trainers. Now, why they hell would I be turned away from a bar for wearing £35 Converse trainers-"

Skrufff: Did you say 'Don't you know who I am-'-

James Barton: "No, I never do that. It's bullshit really, isn't it- You've got guys walking past in shoes and smart trousers who are probably carrying guns."

Skrufff: How much did you expect Cream to be running 9 years on-

James Barton: "I don't think anybody expected us to be here, nine years down the line but I think it's a big achievement that we are. We're already planning next year's celebrations for ten years, so we're expecting to be here then too. There was never a blueprint when we started and dance music never really had a blueprint either- nobody really knew whether dance music would last 14 years."

Skrufff: Cream these days is a worldwide organisation though, how much is there a blue print today-

James Barton: "We're year three into a five year plan but in the early days we were very opportunistic and we benefited from being in the right place at the right time. These days when a company employs over 100 people and turns over in excess of £10million a year (US$14million) we need to be much more stragetic and business-like - but not too corporate. We realize that we're in the youth business and to remain in the y