When I came to New York to interview Hercules & Love Affair in January, I ended up spending an evening in the genial company of Jason Drummond from Rong Music, who—in a whirlwind tour of some of Manhattan’s “hottest” “nightspots”—helped reawaken my love for space-out disco music. When I got back to London I discovered that the underground disco revival was already in full swing in the basements of Hackney and Dalston: my friend Piers had revived his Cocadisco parties, and everybody was going on about this amazing new night called Disco Bloodbath. Some commentators were even predicting a full-on Balearic renaissance and descending into Disco Bloodbath’s secret Dalston bunker for the first time this weekend, the Balearic connection definitely made sense. Lured by disco’s simmering BPMs and attendant sophisticated hedonism, here were London’s relatively beautiful people, gleefully losing their minds to a discerning blend of obscure ’70s cuts, Italo-disco, ’80s electro-pop, harder electro-disco from the Dutch school, new cosmic stuff from Norway, taut minimal house and wonky pop. The whole place was on a lush, sustained high from 11pm til whenever. “It’s our Studio 54!” babbled a girl whirling, transported, across the room. It was the E talking, obviously. But then again, in London in 2008, you’re not going to get much closer.
I asked three leading lights of the Hackneydisco (Dalsto?) renaissance—Dan Beaumont of Disco Bloodbath, Piers Martin of Cocadisco, and Toby Tobias of LateNightAudio (also a DJ and Rekids recording artist)—to take us deeper.
What were the reasons for starting up your various disco nights?
Dan:The three of us [Dan, Ben, Damon: Disco Bloodbath promoters/resident DJs] had wanted to do something together for a while and once we found the venue everything seemed to fall into place. We felt that there weren’t enough exciting nights playing the music we love – London’s disco scene can be a bit beardy and we wanted to do something for a much more diverse and colourful crowd.
Piers: I suppose I relaunched Cocadisco accidentally in November last year when my pal Rodaidh and I teamed up with some guys who had a night going on in the Dolphin, a shady old boozer with a late licence and militant door policy on Mare Street in Hackney. The next thing we know, Cocadisco is back and more popular than ever. Since then, guests have included Black Affair's Steve Mason, DJ Benetti (the master), Trevor Jackson, Heartbreak and Dissident's Andy Blake. Now we're moving to a venue—Visions in Dalston—where we can actually do it properly.
Can you describe a typical night at Disco Bloodbath/ Cocadisco/ LateNightAudio?
Dan: There’s always an amazing atmosphere – our crowd can be quite excitable. The energy just builds and builds throughout the night, at times approaching mania! People respond to every record. The crowd is usually a good collection of London tribes—very mixed and a big spectrum of ages. Lots of music people, DJs, promoters, producers and people like that. Fashiony people as well. Plus beard corner of course! The music is a combination of ecstasy disco, cosmic Italo, thumping bitch trax, sleaze, hi-NRG, forgotten house classics, acid, re-edits, pop oddities and more.
Piers: Our crowd is not so hipster-y but they’re a good-looking, musically savvy bunch, plus some regular Dolphin types lurking around. Franz Ferdinand turned up at the last one. There’s lots of dancing to odd, tuneful electronic disco. Andy Blake DJed the last Cocacdisco: he is a serious collector and played a magical set packed with strange records you think you know but don't—one of those sets that makes you realise you'll never own as many records or be as good a DJ as this person. Inspiring stuff.
Why disco, why now, why Dalston?
Dan: We’ve found that after the dominance of noisy electro and minimal for so long there’s a real hunger for more interesting sounds. Disco is an umbrella term for loads of different types of music old and new, people connect to the good stuff in a really powerful way. We originally looked at Shoreditch as a location but found that people with more adventurous music tastes are also more adventurous when it comes to going to clubs and are prepared to go out of their comfort zone if the night is good enough.
Piers: It’s easier than doing a night in Shoreditch or the West End and there seem to be plenty of affordable and unusual venues that are up for anything. Lots of hip young music types live in Hackney as well, and it's on their doorstep. Plus, promoters are getting pushed/priced out of Shoreditch, which has lost its cool cachet, and they end up in Smackney.
Toby: Well it’s not strictly just East—disco is popular in all ends of London—but, yes, the East does seem to be the best place to hold a party as there are more venues with later opening hours in less residential areas. Disco is generally having a good time of it at the moment in London due to a lot of motivated younger promoters getting their shit together and throwing small parties dotted all over London. These guys are taking leads from players who’ve been pushing this sound in London for years now, like Idjut Boys, Stevie Kotey and Bear Entertainment, LaserMagnetic, Faze Action, Tirk/Nuphonic, etc.
Are you playing much new homegrown music, if so who are the key names?
Dan: Our latest party starred Felix Dickinson and Toby Tobias who are both London based producers of amazing music. We’ve also got Dissident records’ Andy Blake coming down to play soon—he’s been putting out some incredible records. Richard Sen from Padded Cell has also played for us and his music always gets a lot of airtime at Disco Bloodbath.
Piers:The producer Louis Enchante—a chap named Guy—is about 22 and runs the Top Nice parties in the Old Blue Last. Nightmoves helps out with us sometimes. Then there’s Heartbreak who I manage. They’re a London-based electronic disco duo who are kind of how the ’80s would sound today if the ’90s hadn't got in the way. Their dramatic synth anthems are a raw mix of Black Sabbath and Italian pop (some call it “metallo”) that shouldn't work but does—brilliantly. Been going a couple of years, they just signed with Lex, and are amazing live. Debut album is out in August. I also play a lot of records by Gatto Fritto, Muravchix, Ali Renault, Truffle Club, the Italians Do It Better bunch, Faceless Mind, Binary Chaffinch, Pollyester, Congosound and Syntheme.
Toby: Guys I work closely with at the moment are Mock and Toof, Felix ‘Foolish’ Dickinson, Pete Z, Junior Kiam, Matt Edwards and James Masters from Rekids, Danny Clark from LateNightAudio (we got a little side project called Aschwaan). Other DJs and producers I rate include Richard Sen, Maurice Fulton, Steve Kotey, Gatto Fritto, Al Usher, Pete Herbert, Yam Who, Trus 'me, Linkwood, John Daly, Kelvin Andrews, Mark E, Chymera… and that’s just some of the current UK contingent! Don’t get me started on Norway!
Which other nights in London do you rate at the
Dan: Horse Meat Disco is obviously amazing! The Cosmic Truth are fabulous and this is definitely going to be their year. We had a ball playing for Secretsundaze over Easter and we can also be found on the dancefloor at Bugged Out, Tropical Hotdog and Trailer Trash.
Piers: Top Nice at the Old Blue Last, Disco Bloodbath, Kick & Clap at Visions, Delete Yourself at The Macbeth, Amalgamation of Champions and Millennium Disco at Bar Music Hall.
Toby Tobias, "Breakdown"
Heartbreak, "We're Back"