François K and The Unabombers get ready for Electric Frog’s Easter Weekender
Danny Krivit, Erol Alkan, DJ Yoda, Dave Clarke and more also on the bill
Anyone who’s been to one of the Electric Frog festivals at the Studio Warehouse knows why this month will see a second spring event emerge, this time extended over two days and featuring even more massive names in dance music from across the globe. With a grimy, under-the-tracks façade that hides a proper, newly-renovated club space interior, the Studio Warehouse is coming to rival even the Arches as the city’s premier meeting point of underground cool and over-the-radar appeal, and Electric Frog has been a big part of its success.
While there are plenty of reasons to get excited about this third Frog edition — such as appearances from the likes of Green Velvet, Dave Clarke, DJ Yoda, Ivan Smagghe, Kode9 and Erol Alkan — most people seem to be agreed on one above all others. Says Brian Traynor, co-organiser of the event and also one of the team behind Glasgow’s similar Wee Chill festival (which moves to a new home at the People’s Palace next month): ‘I definitely can’t wait to see François Kevorkian and Danny Krivit, for obvious reasons.’
Obvious to anyone with a knowledge of dance history, certainly. Kevorkian and Krivit, who are both appearing on the Saturday, are two of the most revered club DJs ever, for their longevity as much as anything else. The pair were in on the ground floor of the New York disco boom in the 70s and managed to carry such cutting-edge relevance on into their revered Body & Soul night (run with Joaquin ‘Joe’ Claussell) two decades later.
‘I remember my introduction to dance music was around 1970 in France,’ recalls the smoothly-spoken Kevorkian, on the line from his family home in the French Alps, where he’s visiting from his own home of 37 years, New York City. ‘There were all these bands that had long records, like Rare Earth’s ‘Get Ready’, Sweet Smoke’s 'Just a Poke', things by Iron Butterfly and James Brown. All these would be played at house parties and many of them invariably had a long drum solo or a percussion section that people would actively boogie to – it’s a part of dance music history that isn’t explored often but is worthy of a mention.’
It was, says Kevorkian, an education which gave him a different perspective on the disco scene that was just beginning to emerge when he moved to NYC. ‘I went there to play drums in jazz bands,’ he says. ‘Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, I was really into that kind of music, but then I started to DJ simply because it was easier to do that than compete with the 200 drummers that would show up at every audition. It took off immediately – no one else was doing it, and what competition there was, none had musical training.
‘Of course there were guys who came before me, guys like David Mancuso and Walter Gibbons, who were in their prime already. But the year I really started getting DJ gigs was ’77, and right after things completely exploded when Saturday Night Fever came out. Total madness across Middle America, just like you see in The Simpsons.’
Kevorkian, putting that musical knowledge to good use, would eventually become known for his edits, remixes and production work, including tracks like Dinosaur L’s (an alias of Arthur Russell) ‘Go Bang!’ and Yazoo’s ‘Situation’, which comfortably fit into the category of missing links between disco and house. Kevorkian would temporarily retire from DJing between ’83 and ’90, as he began to spend a lot of time in London working with high-profile artists like U2, Depeche Mode and The Eurythmics, but not before playing some of the era’s defining clubs.
‘I only played Paradise Garage a few times,’ he explains, ‘when Larry Levan asked me to sub for him. But it was a big deal, the most demanding, pickiest crowd I could imagine playing for. Very intense and full of excitement. By 1990 I realised I really missed that buzz of DJing, and there were all these fresh records I wanted to play out: LFO, Dee-Lite’s ‘What is Love?’, Sounds of Blackness’ ‘The Pressure’. So I came back to it. When we created Body & Soul, it was really just because we wanted to play tracks we liked, and to do it on a Sunday when we weren’t competing with anyone. It was as unpretentious as that.’
With an attitude like that, and tastes that now extend beyond disco and house into dubstep and beyond, the feeling is he’ll love Electric Frog. ‘With the whole industrial style of the Studio Warehouse, it gives the event a real block party feel,’ says Traynor. ‘We’ve got Pressure hosting a room to celebrate Soma’s 20th anniversary, and J-Rocc was a late addition we were happy to wait for. It’s a real mix of styles, but it avoids the commercial.’
Luke Cowdrey of Unabombers, who will be making an appearance, neatly sums up the appeal of Electric Frog. ‘Underground clubs are where we feel comfortable,’ he says. ‘It’s not a holier-than-thou thing, it’s just that people are there for the right reasons, for the music, the basslines, not just because they’re trying to shag someone. That’s not exclusive, it’s classless and open to everyone, not only people who wear tight jeans and read Vice.
‘And Francois K’s playing, is that right? I can’t wait.’
The Electric Frog Easter Weekender is at SWG3, Glasgow, Sat 23 & Sun 24 Apr.