Posts Tagged ‘hi-nrg’

Castro Boy

Ahead of Friday’s hi-NRG infused Castro Boy party, we sat down with resident DJ Greg Lowe to dig a bit deeper into his love for the oft-maligned genre and how it fits into today’s nightlife scene….

Where does your interest in hi-NRG come from?

Good question. I think it comes from a general love of synthesisers that I’ve had since I was a kid in the early ’80s. I remember watching a science programme about synthesisers when I was about 4 or 5 and just being mesmerised by this dreamy and otherworldly sound. Hi-NRG is interesting because it was a brief movement, primarily in the US, that was at a defining point in music between disco, synthpop, new wave, and house music. Unlike Italo disco, which some say happened a bit later, it was also primarily a genre focused on the gay community. It’s raw, upbeat, and unapologetically synthetic.  You can hear how it influenced, and took influence, from some of these genres. To me, the period from 1977-1985 is one of the most exciting periods in music because there was all this new technology and people weren’t afraid to experiment. 

Other than Castro Boy by Danny Boy And Serious Party Gods, which obviously you like as you named your night after it(!), what for you is a classic of the genre?

I think it would have to be one of Patrick Cowley’s records, like Menergy or Megatron Man. Upbeat, wobbly, melodically driven. Of course based on the title alone, I might also include High Energy by Evelyn Thomas. This was a bit later and when the genre was influencing more general pop-music.

Why do you think it’s making such a comeback?

Is there a comeback? I think there is certainly an interest in revisiting a lot of genres that were small and went out of fashion. This happened a few years ago with disco, synthpop, and Chicago house. The funny thing is that these genres were so influential on mainstream music that they never really went away, they just evolved into something else. Listen to any Calvin Harris record and you can hear elements of hi-NRG there. The overproduction and compression of a lot of contemporary pop-music, however, makes hi-NRG’s primitive, but warm, sound more special. I think that’s what people are rediscovering.

What do you wish you could bring back from hi-NRG’s heyday?

The unbridled desire to experiment with new musical ideas. The leap in synthesiser technology (and size) was incredible between the late ’70s to mid ’80s. I get frustrated when so many people today complain about the club scene isn’t what it was. The reason the club scenes in the past were so exciting is that people were looking to the future, not the past. Of course there are many talented producers doing really interesting things and trying to push in new directions. I don’t think that’s the mainstream though. Appreciate the past, but live in the moment and look to the future.

What are your fave venues in San Francisco past and present?

I’ve only been to San Francisco twice, but it has a really overlooked musical history when it comes to dance music. It’s funny that a lot of this actually was rooted in the experimental and ‘academic’ music scene led by people like Terry Riley and Steve Reich. The Kronos Quartet is the modern incantation of this. When I was younger 1015 Folsom was a really interesting space that defined a lot of the techno scene in the city. I think it’s changed a lot now. I love the Powerhouse on Folsom Street though. It’s a gay bar and has been around for a long time. Such a great mix of ages, nationalities, subcultures, and types of music. It’s very much an inspiration for Castro Boy. Strangely, none are in the Castro!

Which artist for you is a common entrance point in for people not so familiar with the style? Someone like Patrick Cowley, or someone you think of as being quite crossover?

I think Patrick Cowley is a pretty common entrance point for something that defined the genre, but usually it starts broader. You can actually hear the influence of hi-NRG on the work Stock Aiken Waterman did in the ’80s and they pretty much defined UK pop-music at that time. I think people get introduced to a lot of these specific genres through the more mainstream music that was influenced by it.

If you could go back in time to any queer dancefloor anywhere/anywhen, where would you go dancefloor cruising??

Oh wow, that is a tough question. Queer dancefloor makes it a bit easier. It’s clichéd but the Warehouse in Chicago might be one. I went to the Limelight in NYC during the end of its days, but would have loved to have checked out Disco2000 in the early ’90s, if nothing else for the spectacle. Ostgut before it evolved into Berghain would be interesting too. I still think Berghain does a fantastic job mixing music and cruising as far as contemporary clubs go.

What do you think are the key differences in the way Brits and Americans approach hi-NRG? How would you as an American living in the UK differentiate it?

I think Brits are often more in touch with these small genres that were hugely influential, but never made it beyond specific subcultures. The hi-NRG sound started in the US, but was adopted by Brits and mainstreamed into pop music. Same for house music and techno. You could argue it was the Haçienda, a very straight venue, that took an underground gay sound and brought it to the mainstream. Fundamentally the UK and Europe have always been more open to electronic music than the US.

Who would be a dream Castro Boy booking?

Honey Soundsystem, either as a collective or one of the individual members. They are so versatile, have an amazing music catalogue, and capture the feeling of San Francisco perfectly.

Join Greg Lowe for Castro Boy this Friday 13th February with Jonjo Jury in the basement and White Leather Viper Club upstairs for Nancy’s from 9pm – 3am.

Jeffrey Sfire

Detroit DJ Jeffrey Sfire joins us here at Superstore for an extra special European date in between playing at Panorama Bar and at Lab.oratory in Berlin. With a love of all things hi-NRG, Italo, ’80s, Chicago house; Jeffrey’s sets span genres and gets gay men dancing across the world’s discotheques. He’ll be flexing his disco muscles next Saturday for Little Gay Brother’s Locker Room down in the laser pit with Vauxhall babes Maze & Masters.

Having discovered Detroit’s underground warehouse scene at 15, moved to Chicago at 18 and having lived in Berlin, Jeffrey has finely tuned both his music taste and DJing style to suit banging clubs, sleazy afterhours and gay discos, and that’s all in addition to releasing productions under the Sfire name with Samuel Long on Discodromo’s celebrated Cocktail D’Amore label. Ahead of the Little Gay Locker Room we chatted to Jeffrey about his secret past as a restauranteur, going on dates and why everyone loves hi-NRG again…

The theme of the party here at Superstore is Locker Rooms. What’s the naughtiest thing you’ve ever got up to in a locker room?

A boring old BJ.

That’s not boring! That’s naughty!

But it’s not as exciting as it could be.

Tell us what happened.

Oh no wait; I have a good locker room story. It’s not naughty though. My biggest crush in high school, one year in fitness class, had his locker next to mine and it was kinda unbelievable haha. Nothing naughty ever happened but… no I’ve never really gotten up to too much in a locker room.

You’re super influenced by the ’80s- what did you look like then and what kind of music were you listening to… tell us about 80s Jeffrey!

Well I think a lot of my musical influence comes from riding around in my mom’s car listening to pop music.

Mum Jams.

Yeah totally. And I had a little afro because I had really curly hair. She used to make me have this little golden-brown afro which was cute. Oh and my mom used to make me model in department store runway shows! Which is pretty adorable!

I always go back to my mom’s, listening to pop music in her car…. like Madonna, and Wham, just early ‘80s pop. Just radio hits, but back then it was all synthesisers and drum machines, and it was all dancey stuff so it really appealed to me.

If you’d been in your early 20s in the ‘80s, what music do you think you’d have been into of your own accord though?

I don’t know, I always wonder that. You never know… you could have found something else totally interesting. I always wonder what people then thought about the ‘80s music I listen to now. Some people say Italo disco was like trance in the ‘80s. Certainly when dance music from the ‘70s to the ‘80s became more electronic, there were so many musicians that totally disregarded it because they thought it was soulless. Um, I don’t know. I hope I would have been into the same dance music! The Chicago taste, and the Detroit taste really appealed to me, which was mixing everything together- from disco to house to pop to freestyle- all that stuff, just mixing it all together and dancing. I think the New York sound was a little more Afro for me… but then I also think ‘would I have been really New Wave?’ like the Liquid Sky soundtrack kinda music. But I think being in the Midwest especially; it’s humble and more about having fun than being fashion.

Back to baby Jeffrey… you were going to warehouse parties in Detroit from the age of 15. What are your formative rave memories?

It’s funny because I just moved back to Detroit and I’ll pass some burnt out warehouse and be like “didn’t we party there?!” I just remember when I was coming up I was so interested in DJing and so many of my older friends were DJs and I was all about just soaking it in, learning by watching and going to see as much music and different styles as I could. I was so excited. I grew up in a suburb that’s very Old Money, kinda posh and conservative, so getting to escape on the weekends and go to these crazy parties, with tonnes of queer people and all these older people too, so there was all these freedom. It was everything.

But mostly for me it was about watching DJs. There’s so many good DJs here, and so many good styles.

Who are some of the first DJs you saw around that time?

One of my favourites is this guy called D. Wynn. He’s an older Detroit guy, along the same time period as Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson. But he like didn’t become mega famous. I think he’s one of the best DJs from Detroit ever though. He had a really cool style. Also Mike Huckaby was a huge influence, just in his DJ style. And some of my friends that I hung out with all the time, like this guy Derek Plaslaiko who lives in Berlin now. Him, and some other people, I would watch them all the time, and pick up on their styles. I think they had a huge influence on my taste. I think Detroit has a really specific taste. I mean even between Detroit, New York and Chicago, even other cities, I feel like each has a very specific taste. I’m really grateful to be from here, and picked up that, y’know. 

D-Wynn Boiler Room Detroit DJ Set by brtvofficial

Why do you think hi-NRG making such a resurrgence this year?

Because everyone who is like 20 wasn’t sick of it eight years ago! Because they were 14 haha! Honestly, I was at a house party the other day, and this girl that had to have been like 21, she put Spacer Woman on. She was like “Oh.My.God. you guys, listen to this song! It was made in like ’81!!” and she put it on and I was like “You have got to be kidding me. You’re not like totally sick of this song??” She said “I’VE NEVER LIKE HEARD THIS BEFORE!!”

It was just resissued by Dark Entries…

Oh well that’s probably why. I was in San Francisco too. Well that makes sense. Hahaha! It is funny though, because things like that pop up and you’re like Ohhh that’s why.

It has felt since at least the beginning of the year that the genre is reaching a zeitgeisty point and people have started to get a bit bandwagony…

Well I feel like it keeps going through waves.

Everything is cyclic, certainly… but hi-NRG is like the “thing” this year.

Well that’s good to hear, because I like to play it. I mean I guess people just got sick of house music.

If you had a time machine and could visit any dancefloor anywhere/anywhen, where would you want to go dancing?

I think I would wanna go to the Muzic Box in Chicago. And hear Ron Hardy DJ. I would wanna hear him do his thing live.

Or even, there was a club in Detroit called Heaven with this guy Ken Collier.

Tell us about how you met Samuel Long and how Sfire came about?

He and I met on a dancefloor, in Berlin. His band was playing at an art gallery. We had some mutual friends so we were introduced. Then I saw them play and I was really into it, and I could hear the genius in his music. I suggested they make a dance version of a song they did, and he was like “well, why don’t you come and help me make it.” He had heard me DJ a few times, and he just invited me over. He’s very friendly and like ‘lets just have fun making music’ kinda guy. So we worked on it, and then we made a new song and then we were like “lets make a new song”, “lets make a new song”, “lets make a new song” and after a while we had a handful of songs, and we became really good friends. It was really fun just to go hang out and be really casual about it, but still have fun.

Any plans for more Sfire records?

Um yeah, we have maybe five songs that haven’t been released that we could work on. I think the project will turn into us working with lots of different people for each record. It’ll be really fun. Some new producers, and new friends, people from all over really.

You’ve lived in Detroit, Chicago, Berlin… where is your spiritual home?

Oh that’s a tough question. That’s my existential crisis right now. I left Berlin about a year ago and that was my spiritual home for a long time. So I’m really wondering this right now. But I’m starting to think it’s California. It’s a really magical place, and people are really happy there.

Where in California?

San Francisco.

Whilst in Berlin you were also a restauranteur, how did that develop from your supper clubs?

Well my ex boyfriend who I moved to Berlin with, he is an extremely talented chef, so for money we did a supper club that got a ton of press for it. We just ran with it, and it just seemed like an easy thing to do, to open the business in Berlin. There was a great demand for it, so we knew it would be successful. And so we went for it! American style!

There’s a video interview online with you both in the restaurant and the décor is amazing, especially all the lights… owl lights, and deer lights… it just seemed like you’d obviously put a lot of thought into that.

Yeah. We did. We completely renovated that place. It was this disgusting filthy restaurant before, so we tore out everything, and built the bar, and the shelves and everything. The flea markets in Germany are so great because they have so many of these animal figurines; actually most of them are on my desk right now! The owl lights and all the bunnies. Flea markets in Berlin on Sundays. You just have to go. And the best thing we would do was take loads of road trips, and if you drive down the country roads, every town you get to has a second hand shop where you can fill up a trunk for €10. It’s incredible.

RADIUS.TV | Little Otik | Jeffrey Sfire & Kevin Avery from RADIUS. magazine on Vimeo.

You’re taking us on a date in a city of your choice. Where are we going, what are we eating and where are we dancing?

I could do this for all the fun cities right now. But lets say San Francisco. We’re gonna eat Burmese food, and we’re having tea salad (lahpet thoke). My favourite restaurant there is called Burmese Kitchen.

Isn’t it closing down?

Oh yes it is. We’re going before it closes. Anyway, this is a fantasy so it’s still open. So we’d eat there and then we’d go get a doughnut at Bob’s Doughnuts. Then we’d go to a Honey Soundsystem party. It would be amazing.

What are we drinking though?

What are we drinking? Well honestly we’re probably drinking tea, because me and Josh [Cheon] and Robot Hustle always have tea when we’re together because we’re old ladies. We’ll drink tea and then go for a dance.

What’s the first record you ever bought?

A Jeff Mills record. Purpose Maker record. When I first started DJing I was really into a lot of hard techno. So I think my first records was like Jeff Mills records and Joey Beltram records.

The last record you bought?

A Mantra record on Bunker from The Netherlands.

And what’s the record that never leaves your bag?

It’s this freestyle record that I love to play. It’s by Shana and it’s called I Want You. It really never leaves my bag. I played it once in Berlin and my best friend was like “oh, such a Jeff record.”

What’s the reaction it gets from people, other than those that already know you?

I think it’s normally a great reaction. But the best reaction I get is when I play in New York or Chicago and someone runs up and you can tell it was a childhood track of theirs and they’re like “I FUCKING LOVE THIS SONG!!! THIS IS MY SONG!!” A lot of times that happens and it’s the best. When you see someone with that genuine look on their face and it’s not a club hit. Especially in Chicago, I get that a lot. Almost everything I DJ was on the radio in the ‘80s there. People just get so happy to hear that stuff so you get these genuine reactions that are priceless. I love that. Going back to Chicago and DJing is really fun for me.     

Join Jeffrey at Little Gay Locker Room at Dalston Superstore on Saturday 15th November from 9pm – 3am.

10 Hi-NRG Pumpers

By Dan Beaumont

Genre snobs beware. I’m a little unsure of the exact distinction between hi-NRG, space disco and straight up Italo pumpers, but if they were in a Venn diagram I want to be right in the middle.  Here are some of my favourites…

Lime – Babe We’re Going To Love Tonight
So much Lime to choose from! But this is the fruitiest I think. Starts with catchy synth-brass riff and just gets better and better.

Eastbound Expressway – Primitive Desire
So this came from the stable of Doctor Who superfan, walking Northern Soul encyclopedia and discoverer of Take That. It’s all about the jungle mix.

Peter Richard – Walking On The Neon
Serious arpeggios on this one. And it’s got the most dreamy name for a record ever.

Arpeggio – Love & Desire
So many good noises in this it’s hard to know where to begin. And those drums have been sampled more times than you can say ‘Hi-NRG PUMPER’.

Irene Cara – Breakdance
A Giorgio Moroder production. She raps, she sings!  So much pump in this one. 

Mike Mareen – Dancing In The Dark (Galactica Remix)
Again… so many noises! This is so spacey it’s even called the “Galactica” remix. Just when you can’t take any more, the vocoder hits.  

Viola Wills – Stormy Weather (Disconet Remix)
One from the Disconet stable. There is so much drama in this record that the thunder claps sound subtle.

VISA – I’m A Dancer
You want a load spacey trumpets? Here you go. And so many whooshes. Beware if you suffer from motions sickness.

The Immortals – I’m The Ultimate Warlord
This one might give you nightmares.

Fun Fun – Colour My Love
You might need some light relief after that one. Just watch this. You can thank me later. (The only girl group with utility belts. I think they might fight crime in their spare time.)

Join Dan Beaumont tonight in the laser basement for Castro Boy at Dalston Superstore from 9pm -3am.

Den Haan

By Whitney Weiss

Glasgow duo Den Haan are direct descendants of the Giorgio Moroder/Amanda Lear/Bobby O/Patrick Cowley school of sexy sleazy disco. Their record Gods From Outer Space is packed with tried-and-true dancefloor fillers, and they accidentally named themselves “The Cock” after flipping through a Dutch phone book. So naturally, they’re perfect to DJ for the first birthday of BENDER. Ahead of their Dalston Superstore debut, we asked them about their favorite records, hometown, and what an ideal Den Haan party would look like. 

You make some truly magical poppers-and-smoke-machine macho disco/NRG. However did you discover this type of music, and what made you decide it was a sound you wanted to expand upon? 

We both met while playing records at a friend’s party and bonded over a love for music created in the ’70s and ’80s, when producers and artists were breaking ground in new forms of disco. At the same time, we were both equally disillusioned with the majority of contemporary dance music. So we decided to put our money where our mouths were and create something that captured a similar energy and character as all those fabulous old recordings.

What does the name “Den Haan” mean? Is it really Dutch for “The Cock?” 

Yes, it means “The Cock” – however we didn’t realise this when choosing, we just liked the sound of it. We both thought Den Haan had a certain attitude and liked the foreign flavour of it as a surname (we were using a Dutch phone book at the time). It was only when trying to communicate with someone over the internet and having to try to translate everything, when the person asked if we were actually Dutch. After coming clean, we were then made aware of its true meaning. As you can imagine, there was much hilarity as the name scaled new heights of appreciation.

Is the sort of music you’re playing during your DJ sets also very four-on-the-floor heavy disco and NRG (like your originals) or should we be expecting some surprises/different genres at Bender?

Anything goes really, but there’s usually a build to some fairly heavy disco so yes, you should expect some surprises and different genres as well. 

If you could choose anyone to remix a song from “Gods of Outer Space,” who would it be (and which song would you want them to do?) 

I like the idea of Paul Sabu doing Universal Energy or Amanda Lear/Anthony Monn doing Russian Boat Commander – both (circa 1979 of course).

In your opinion, what’s the ideal moment for a DJ to throw on Release the Beast or Night Shift for maximum results?

When there’s only one loonball on the dance floor and you need special powers to draw the masses to their feet.

How would you describe the party scene in Glasgow? Any particular spots/parties you recommend for an unforgettable evening? 

Bloated would be an adjective that springs to mind – a walk down West Princes Street (known for years and years as “Party Street” but more latterly referred to as “Little Bosnia”) any time of the day or night will usually provide you with a variety of before and after-hour nonsense: simply walk in the direction of the music. Distill in our West End (formally The Ivy but forced to change its name by the London establishment) host a most enjoyable evening thanks to the wonderful staff and crème de la crème of Glasgow record players. I’m enjoying the newly restored Vic up at the Art School – Not as dark and seedy as before the face lift, but the sound system upstairs is amazing! Unforgettable evenings are a plenty in Glasgow—the best ones are usually spontaneous—though not all of them are entirely enjoyable……

What’s one record you’re always sure to pack when you’re DJing? 

Tryouts For The Human Race 12″ (long version) has served us well over the years.

(Whitney’s note: THAT IS THE BEST SONG)

Are you working on any new music, and if yes, when can we expect to hear it? 

We began work on our next album, Luftfunkspunktion, but are currently taking a hiatus. We will return when things outside of Den Haan settle down.

What would an ideal Den Haan party look like? What kind of people would be there, what activities would prevail, what would the music be like?

Dry ice, fluorescent tubes (orange, red, turquoise, lime green), the interior of a Giger spacehip meets Space 1999, a dance floor like the spiky one Brian Blessed uses as a fight-pit in Flash Gordon, giant cardboard cut-outs of lieutenant Wilma Dearing in full spandex glory, ultra-buffé, quantum-lager, corner to corner filled with galactic lowlifes, burnt out party-droids, interstellar space queens and jungle ladies, laser limbo universal championship final will be held, music to be performed by Andromeda, records: Casco-bot.

If you had a time machine and could visit any dancefloor past, present or future, where would you be going?

25th century, any event promoted by Mangros to be held on the space station Musicworld.

Join Den Haan at Bender’s 1st Birthday on Saturday 26th July at Dalston Superstore from 9pm – 4am.

Dave Kendrick

Cult homosexualist tea dance Macho City is staging a one-off party next week here at Superstore. We interrogated resident DJ Dave Kendrick who’s impressive pedigree stretches back to Manchester’s Hacienda club.

What is/was Macho City?

It started as an excuse for three grown men to play high-NRG records in the crumbling excess of the Joiners Arms in 2008. What it became was a manly knees-up that a local crowd of brilliant eccentrics could call home every Thursday night.  

What are some of your overriding Hacienda memories?

The club space alone was incredible, like no other I’d ever been to, or probably ever will; the sheer scale of this disused yacht factory turned post-modern fantasy. My Hac debut was the first night of ‘Flesh’ back in ’91, the night that was to become the club’s most decadent. There were foam parties with actual swimming pools, always likely to collapse at some point leaving the club 6 inches in water. There was always a sense of glamour and danger, a very northern glamour that you just didn’t get anywhere else. Once inside the Hacienda you forgot that anywhere else existed. I remember DJing for the first time at Flesh, in that amazing booth right up in the gods overlooking the dancefloor & stage. It was immense yet it always felt intimate. There was no greater sense of sophisticated fun on earth. 

Who would be in your disco supergroup?

This is easy…. Klaus Nomi, Donna Summer and Sylvester on lead vocals; Cher and Dolly Parton on backing vocals; Divine on rap.  Then there’s Blue Weaver on keyboards and behind the scenes Moroder and Belotte on production. It’s a properly gay supergroup.

 Name us 5 Macho City classics!

These five definitely sum up the sound of Macho from its early days to now.

 1.    Donna Summer – MacArthur Park

2.    Mike Simonetti – Hollywood Seven

3.    Sana Doris – Pseudo Wind

4.    Carl Bean – I Was Born This Way

5.    Viola Wills – If You Could Read My Mind

 Macho City takes place on Thursday 24th May with Dave Kendrick, Dan Beaumont and Charlie Porter, from 9pm – 3am.