This article is from 2008.
David Pollock chats to the folk behind Melting Pot about their definition of disco
‘Disco music as a genre essentially stopped in the mid-80s and became dance music as we now know it,’ says Andrew Pirie, promoter and DJ at Glasgow’s Melting Pot. ‘Everything happening in dance music today has some sort of roots in disco. Just as disco was a blend of jazz and funk, of Afro and Brazilian, it’s all, pardon the pun, just one great big melting pot.’
Pirie has just summed up exactly how his club helps to break down the needless barriers that can exist between different musical genres and eras. Melting Pot may be defined as a disco night, but that doesn’t prevent them from playing every form of music whose style stems from the disco era. That’s why this latest edition, for example, can feature guest appearances from New York’s Tim Sweeney (of the DFA label and the Beats in Space radio show) and Glasgow’s own JD Twitch, here performing a special ‘Go Disco’ set of his own devising.
‘I was about 11 or 12 when disco was at its height,’ says Twitch, ‘and I hated it. All you’d hear on the radio would be Saturday Night Fever, Village People, Boney M, and I automatically cut myself off from it. Then, as I got older, I realised that so many disco-era productions were incredibly adventurous. One of my favourite producers is Arthur Russell, who came from an avant-garde background and fell in love with disco, making all these brilliant hybrid records.’
Twitch also names the work of Russell’s New York contemporary Larry Levan as a big influence on his own club Optimo, while Norwegian artists like Lindstrom and Prins Thomas are also current favourites. Pirie, meanwhile, name-checks seminal New York clubs of the era such as The Loft and the Paradise Garage, and cult British figures in underground disco such as Greg Wilson, who has also guested at Melting Pot.
Pirie’s inspiration for his club came from visiting New York annually through the late-90s and attending Francois K, Joe Clausell and Danny Krivitt’s Body and Soul. As he points out, this period was a great era for the city’s social life, in stark contrast to the current post-Giuliani downturn, pointing out that Body and Soul would draw ‘2000 people to a club that didn’t sell alcohol on a Sunday afternoon. It was quite special.’
‘Disco isn’t a New York-centric genre though, despite having its roots in the city,’ he says. ‘There’s a big difference between the overground disco of the Bee Gees, where every rock act wanted to jump on the Saturday Night Fever bandwagon, and underground disco. There were underground disco clubs in every city in America, and a lot in Britain too, and it was around the early 80s that people like Greg Wilson brought a more electro-influenced disco sound to the clubs over here,’ explains Pirie.
Around this time was when disco as we might think we know it started to mutate into a new form. ‘There’s this great quote,’ says Pirie, ‘although I can’t remember who said that “house is disco on a budget” [it was West End Records boss Mel Cheren]. All the great disco records of the 70s would have orchestras and full bands playing on them, whereas new technology in the 80s meant that people who didn’t have money could still try to make the same sounds. That’s the main difference between disco and dance music as we now know it.’
Melting Pot at the Admiral, Glasgow, Sat 2 Aug.