Whenever I think of Siouxsie & the Banshees my mind naturally wanders to clogging… in tap shoes, in a belly dancer’s outfit.
Whenever I think of Siouxsie & the Banshees my mind naturally wanders to clogging… in tap shoes, in a belly dancer’s outfit.
Ladies and gentlemen, all the way from disco-licious Italy, let me introduce you to the wonderful Hard Ton!
This Italian house music performer comes across like the bastard offspring of Divine and Sylvester (and with more than a little Leigh Bowery to satisfy your outlandish-costume-and-make-up needs.) Hard Ton makes a righteous, soulful noise that harks back to the original pioneers of sleazy, seedy Chicago house like Mr Fingers and Robert Owens. In a sea of anonymous dance-music acts that seem happy to bask in the hazy glow of their battered MacBooks, Hard Ton stands out not just for making authentically retro-sounding house, but for making a huge visual statement that reminds us that house was once the realm of the weirdos and the outcasts.
Hard Ton is actually a duo composed of Mauro Wawashi, a formidable producer and DJ in his own right, and vocalist/front person Max, here taking a break from his day job in various metal tribute acts to channel his inner disco diva, including wrapping himself up in the kind of glad rags that would make a hooker blush. Being quite the big guy, this in itself is a bit of a statement, and a beautiful act of plus-size body positivity. Not surprisingly, Hard Ton are fast gaining a hardcore following among the gay bear community.
To my shame, I have known Hard Ton for quite a while now (we even shared a label, Dissident, a few years back) but have failed to feature them on Dangerous Minds before. Let’s remedy that right away! With a new EP to promote and a current tour of the States for Pride season, I sent the formidable Max some questions to wrap his tongue, and brain, around.
The Niallist: Who and what is Hard Ton?
Hard Ton: A multi-sensorial experience: you can dance to me, you can watch me, you can touch me. Sometimes you can also bite me.
The Niallist: What inspires you musically?
Hard Ton: Acid house, disco music, pop. But I suppose I got inspired from everything I ear, it could be a techno track in an underground club, a metal song in a concert, or the shit played on the radio. Outside of music I find inspiration in pop culture, club culture, photography, fashion and art. Well, some fashion and some art. And definitely all the queens who stood up against the police at Stonewall back in 1969!
The Niallist: What can someone expect form a Hard Ton show?
Hard Ton: A ton of meat screaming like a real diva.
The Niallist: What is the strangest reaction you have had live?
Hard Ton: A guy kissed me in front of his girlfriend while I was singing, and I’m not talking about that kind of kiss that your mama would give you…
The Niallist: What is in the near future for Hard Ton?
Hard Ton: Our new E.P. has just been released [via Killekill Records - check it out here], and we are very proud of it. We’ve also just finished a remix for S’Express, and produced some tracks for Paul Parker. And of course we are working on new tracks. As for an album… is there really anyone who still buys CDs? Well, I do!
Hard Ton “Work That Body”
Here’s a first: even though Neneh Cherry and Ari Up both sang in The Slits as teenagers, they have never been immortalised on wax together. Until now.
Thanks to the Swedish act House Of Wallenberg—whose work with the late Harlem ballroom queen Octavia St Laurent we covered here—these two legends can finally be found on the one song, a catchy little dance-pop ditty taken from the appropriately titled album Legends.
Sadly, Ari Up passed away a few years ago, but Neneh Cherry is still touring, and, in fact, has special appearances lined up for this year’s Manchester International Festival. I’m glad somebody finally made a record featuring these two!
Below, House Of Wallenberg featuring Neneh Cherry and Ari Up, “Real Woman”:
It’s Pride season, so what better way to celebrate all things gay than with this cross-generational meeting of two queer icons?
If you don’t know who Alison Moyet is already, well, there’s not much I can do to help you (except to point you at this video, which may refresh your memory, and to assure you that this incredible vocalist has been a gay hero for 30 years now.) If you were paying attention to my Nu-Disco primer a few weeks back, you’ll be aware of Horse Meat Disco, the London-based club that has been instrumental in making disco music, and gay clubbing in general, cool again.
Severino Panzetta, aka DJ Seve, is one of the integral members of this four-man dj/production unit, and with his remix of Moyet’s new track Changeling, brings together two different generations of queer heroes to deliver a slick, bouncing club mix that you don’t have to be a homo to enjoy.
This being a DM exclusive, I sent Seve some brief questions to fill our readers in on how this meeting of minds happened:
DM: How did this remix come about?
Seve: It was through her PR agency and the very talented DJ Andy Blake. I was thrilled to be asked! Alison has a super-legendary voice. Of course, I was already a fan of her music, particularly Yaz/Yazoo, but also her work as a solo singer. I still remember when I was living in Italy and I discovered her cover of “That Old Devil Called Love” for the first time. I love the fact that she can do jazz standards too. This remix was definitely a great experience, and she seems to like it…
DM: What’s coming up for Seve and/or Horse Meat Disco?
Seve: Well, there is definitely another HMD compilation in the pipeline. We’re really excited about that because the club is still doing so good, and we’re still having so much fun playing at The Eagle and all over the world. My solo remixes and projects are doing well too, with a track from me on Classic Recording coming up soon, and more remixes, including another legendary voice, Claudia Brucken (Propaganda.) Travelling is great, and I am so lucky to have so many friends all over the world. I have no real bad experiences on my travels, as far as I can remember anyway.
DM: Any last words of advice?
Seve: Just do what you love!
So on to part two, In which we look at more recent nu-disco acts, mostly spanning the last decade or so, and mostly centered around the disco hub known as New York City, with some excursions to London, New Jersey and Oslo.
Thanks for all the feedback on the last post guys, it’s appreciated, and apologies in advance for not being able to fit everything in. If you think there’s something I have missed out on, or if there’s or an act or a dj you think people should know about, leave a comment. Anyway, let’s get to it:
Horse Meat Disco
Disco music does not exist on some abstract plain, of course, it is primarily music for the dance floor, designed to make you move your ass first, feel second, think lastly (if at all). So I couldn’t do a run down of the roots of “nu-disco” without mentioning an actual club that plays both disco and nu-disco music, where you can actually see and hear disco being consumed as it was intended to be, in the here-and-now and not the way-back-when. That club is Horse Meat Disco, a weekly Sunday afternoon/evening/night party hosted in the Eagle, a seedy bar in the heart of South London’s gay Vauxhall district. Through this ongoing weekly residency and a very fine series of compilation albums on Strut, Horse Meat has done more than any other club to rehabilitate disco, and they’ve done it not by stripping it of its “embarrassing” connotations, the kind that quickly turn off the overly-serious house head, but by going all out. For too long “nu-disco” was missing the spark that made disco itself so enticing in the first place: a sense of mischief, sexiness and most importantly FUN. Horse Meat Disco has helped reclaim disco from the boring head nodders and returned it to its primarily audience: gays, women, people of color. If you think disco music is a dead scene, frozen in amber and cocaine, then think again, you haven’t lived till you’ve experienced it with a heaving dancefloor of sweaty homosexuals, its rightful home. Horse Meat Disco is by far the best party in London, and the four man resident dj-team manage to share a lot of that love when they play in other clubs all over the world, or remix/produce their own tracks.
Horse Meat Disco interview for Groove Fest:
Norway: Lindstrom, Prins Thomas, Todd Terje
You’d think it would come as a bit of a surprise that the country responsible for the best nu-disco outside of New York or London would be snowy old Norway, but then house-heads in the late 90s were well aware of the disco talent in that small, northern country, thanks to releases by Those Norwegians, Bjorn Torske, Rune Lindbaek and Telle Records. Royksopp brought the “Norse house” sound to the global stage, but it was a producer by the name of Lindstrom who turned disco upside down, round and round, with the release of “I Feel Space.” A real dancefloor smash whose rising melody lines can still slay to this day, “I Feel Space” feels more genuinely Moroder-esque than anything on Random Access Memories, and is a brilliant demonstration of how to capture that era and feeling without resorting to expensive studios packed full of original 70s gear. Lindstrom’s studio partner Prins Thomas has also been busy carving out a niche for himself as one of the best house djs in the world (he is, if you ever have the chance to see him spin, take it!) and has been releasing some excellent Norwegian nu-disco on his own Full Pupp label. And that’s not to mention their protege Todd Terje, a master of the re-edit who has branched out into his own original productions over the last few years, culminating in the critically lauded Inspector Norse release from last year, and this years brilliant single with Lindstrom, “Lanzarote”:
Lindstrom & Todd Terje “Lanzarote”
After the jump DFA, Glass Candy, Escort, Chromatics, Arthur’s Landing, Hecules & Love Affair and more…
And also this video, which inspired me to write this whole primer in the first place, in the hope of bringing more attention to acts I like and tracks I love, like this one. THIS is how you revive disco, robots please take note:
Midnight Magic “Beam Me Up”
Apparently this happened sometime in the mid 1990s… and it’s GLORIOUS!
Well done, my little man!
With thanks to Juan Monasterio!
On Friday I posted a two hour film of the closing party at the legendary Paradise Garage, and mentioned a couple of articles that have been doing the rounds lately asking if this is going to be “the summer of disco”.
Well, as I pointed out, every summer is rightly the summer of disco. Talk of a “disco revival” is irrelevant as disco has never really gone away, but that still doesn’t stop it becoming a media trope ever 2 to 3 years, or every time a major artist, underground or pop, releases music with a distinct disco influence (in this case, Daft Punk.) It’s boring and ill-informed, but then, so is a lot of land-fill media. Still, it pisses me off. My grievance is not so much with Daft Punk themselves, but the machinery that surrounds them (figuratively) and also my belief that Random Access Memories isn’t going to spawn a disco revival, primarily as it’s not actually good enough, but also because disco doesn’t need a revival. But then, what would I know?
Actually, quite a lot. From 2002-2008 I ran a radio show/fanzine/website called Discopia that was dedicated to showcasing modern disco, and disco-influenced dance music sounds. I’ve been an alt-disco/nu-disco/disco-house/post-disco/whatever-disco-head since the mid-Nineties, when I first stumbled across Loose Joint’s cornerstone cut “Is It All Over My Face”, as remixed by Larry Levan. That set me off on a path of digging out the weirder and more obscure forms of disco, and also checking out more modern takes on the same sounds and ideals, a path I reckon I share with many producers and fans of this scene out there.
This is where my real grievance lies: the fact is that disco has been on a constant revival for at least the last ten years, it is a vibrant and thriving underground scene, and it has done it all under the radar of oldstream media. In fact, the MSM only become interested when pushed by a significantly large PR machine, and as we all know PR machines have a agendas to push and a habit of warping facts to suit their narratives.
I’ve seen this revival-meme rear up it’s head at least 3 or 4 times now. It didn’t work before, and it’s not going to work now. Disco is the fundamental bedrock that dance music is based on, its reach is huge and its legacy is deep. Similarly, nu-disco is a massive, sprawling scene, so to try and package it up in an easily consumable “revival” nutshell seems rather pointless. The same would be true for “rock”, “pop” or “dance”. Would anyone take seriously talk of a “reggae revival”? No!
And so, to my “nu-disco” primer. I’m not aiming to do anything definitive here, more point out the various different acts and scenes that have led us to where we are today. To join the dots between the disparate historical pockets of disco love that have sprung up in the last ten-twenty years and to give props to the real originators. To show how diverse and healthy “nu-disco” actually is, and how it’s in no real need of a revival. To point out that Daft Punk aren’t the first to do this, and, in fact, they did all this better years ago. Primarily, though, it’s just an excuse for me to share with you all some really excellent music you might not know.
This is part one of my “Nu-Disco” primer, and will focus mainly on acts from the mid-to-late 90s and the early 00s, essentially the roots of nu-disco, the people who were making disco before it was termed “nu”, and those instrumental in shaping that scene in the early days. Nu-disco heads, I know you’re out there, and I hope I’ve done a good job with this. Your feedback is welcome in the comments.
If there IS going to be a disco revival, THESE are the people who have helped make it happen… [Read on after the jump.]
The record that started it all for me, and I am sure, many others. By pushing the limits of what could be called “disco”, this remix has inspired many producers and DJs to do the same. To this very day, it still sounds fresh and will tear up any sound system it is played on, and being the very zenith of disco production, have shown listeners that it’s a genre worthy of serious respect. It’s a surprise to me how there is absolutely no trace of this track anywhere on Random Access Memories:
Loose Joints “Is It All Over My Face (Larry Levan Female Vocal Mix)”
After the jump: Black Cock Records, Balihu Records, Nuphonic Records, Idjut Boys, Faze Action, Metro Area, Super Discount, Dimitri From Paris, I-F, Strut Records, Soul Jazz Records, and, yes, even Daft Punk…
More disco/dance gold dust. It’s Friday after all, so let’s get funky!
Of course, the obvious answer to this general query is that EVERY summer is the “Summer Of Disco”! As the foundation of practically all forms of modern dance music and its symbiotic “club culture”, disco is just too embedded in the DNA of popular musical consciousness to undergo some kind of cool-by-association, short-term revival. Regardless of the fact that there are countless artists still producing amazing disco-influenced work (even beyond Daft Punk and their sphere), you might as well as if there’s going to be a pop music revival or a reggae revival. The short answer is: there is no need for a revival, as disco never really went away.
The Paradise Garage is testament to this fact, as it kept on repping all that was “disco”, even as the genre changed and mutated through freestyle, electro and house during the early to mid 80s.
The Garage was one of the first ever “super” clubs, and Larry Levan essentially laid down the template for the superstar dj. The sound and visuals in this film may be less than excellent, but there is no doubting its historical importance. The club’s closing party was always going to be fraught with emotion, and if you were there (or even if not) you can now relive it, in all its washed out, VHS glory.
And, at the very least, you are guaranteed NOT to hear “Get Lucky”:
As you may know, voguing is one of my major obsessions. I put together this hefty piece of writing on the modern vogue/ballroom scene for Boing Boing back in March: Welcome to the Ballroom, where Voguing is always in style.
Inspired by interviews I gathered in my research for that piece, and my general love of watching videos clips of the dancing, sharing audio of the best music, and generally just watching geeky interviews, I have started a new blog dedicated to vogue and ballroom culture in its many forms. It’s called CVNTY and you can find it here: http://c-v-n-t-y.tumblr.com/
While Paris Is Burning is one of my favourite movies ever, for many, it seems to have frozen vogue culture in a late 80s/early 90s time warp, something that is easier to digest as a retro scene. Of course, the era depicted in that film WAS a golden age, but voguing is a hugely vibrant culture right now, and I aim to show both the past AND the present, and maybe even a little bit of the future, if I’m lucky. There are already exclusive interviews up on CVNTY with kingpins of the modern ballroom sound MikeQ and Vjuan Allure, along with many others I interviewed for Boing Boing but whose contributions didn’t get used, as well as cross posts to pieces I have written for other sites such as Red Bull Music Academy and Dalston Superstore. I will keep the remit of this blog to dance music artists whose work touches on issues of queerness/race/class/otherness, although there will always be room for posting music, people and things that just fucking fabulous. Needless to say, my own production and dj work as CVNT will pop up from time to time.
To lure you in, dear DM reader, here’s a rare voguing clip I’ve just posted on CVNTY, and am sharing here too, as it deserves much more than the paltry 24,000 views it currently has.
It’s called Voguing: The Message, and it is from 1989, which means it pre-dates both Paris Is Burning and Madonna’s vogue daliance. It takes a look at the emerging vogue ball scene and the pier children who attended these events, and features interview and performance footage of the legendary Willi Ninja (above.) Founder of the House of Ninja, Willi was unarguably one of the greatest voguers of all time, and hugely responsible for voguing travelling beyond the clubs and being taken seriously as a n art form. This film possibly even pre-dates Ninja’s own starring role in the video for Malcolm McLaren’s “Deep In Vogue”, one of my favourite pieces of dancing ever caught on film. More info:
Voguing: The Message traces the roots of this gay, Black and Latino dance form, which appropriates and plays with poses and images from mainstream fashion. Voguing competitions parody fashion shows and rate the contestants on the basis of movement, appearance and costume. This tape is a pre-Madonna primer that raises questions about race, sex and subcultural style.
Dir. Jack Walworth, David Bronstein & Dorothy Low 1989 13 min. USA
Founded in 1977, Frameline is the nation’s only nonprofit organization solely dedicated to the funding, exhibition, distribution and promotion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender media arts. Frameline Voices is a new digital initiative that showcases diverse LGBT stories and expands access to films by and about people of color, transgender people, youth, and elders.
Voguing: The Message is that rare thing, an important historical document that gives insight into a time, a place, and a set of people. In other words it’s that thing we call GOLD DUST.
You can find more like this (and subscribe!) over on CVNTY, but for now GET INTO IT:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Notes from the Niallist: That’s so CVNT, a ‘future-house’ voguing mix
Notes from the Niallist: A celebration of ‘Paris Is Burning’ with Latrice Royale and Peaches Christ
Dream Queens: ‘Voguing and the House Ballroom scene of NYC 1989-1992
Below, a crude, but effective (and NSFW) music video of Leigh Bowery and Raw Sewage doing their version of “Walk this Way.”
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The Legend of Leigh Bowery