Interview: Nicky Siano set for date at Glasgow's Melting Pot
Nightclub pioneer on the heady days of disco in 70s New York
This article is from 2012.
After a summer recess, Melting Pot returns in September with a first time visit from legendary New York disco pioneer, Nicky Siano. Co-founder, co-owner and resident DJ at The Gallery, the iconic 70s nightspot which later inspired the likes of Studio 54 and The Garage, Siano’s first taste of the Big Apple’s club scene came as a teenager in 1970. ‘I was 15 when I went to this club called The Firehouse,’ he explains. ‘I immediately fell in love with the music and started collecting records; I was living with my brother at the time and one night he had a girlfriend over and I started playing these records and dancing to them. She said, “I have to take you to The Loft.” The first night I went there, I knew straight away I had to become a DJ. David Mancuso showed me that DJs didn’t just play records they created atmosphere’.
Sure enough, Nicky began to DJ and a year after visiting The Loft for the first time, made his debut at The Roundtable. However, he admits to finding his early experiences behind the turntables frustrating: ‘I wanted to create atmosphere, to be able to paint a picture but felt very limited simply being just a DJ. At the time I had a partner who supported me completely; we went looking at loft spaces, found one suitable and approached my brother with our business plan. Luckily enough, he’d just settled a lawsuit and had $10,000 in cash, so we all invested it and voilà: The Gallery.'
Going on to run every Saturday night until 1982, firstly at this venue then later at another, it not only epitomised the hedonism of the disco era but also helped set the standards by which other clubs followed. ‘It influenced the entire club scene of that period; how sound systems were designed, how venues were arranged and decorated and how DJs mixed records,’ he confirms. ‘The impact of The Gallery was monumental and is still being felt today; both it and The Loft were the two clubs that started and helped set the pace for the entire dance music scene.’
Inevitably, Siano must have some special memories of the 11 years he spent at its helm; which are his favourites? ‘The night we gave Loleatta Holloway her New York debut is definitely one, the first time Grace Jones performed for us is easily another but there were so many outrageous moments. The whole thing was a truly amazing experience, it was the first time people were dancing to this kind of music in a club’.
Though he is looking forward to his forthcoming appearance at Melting Pot (‘I’ve heard it’s a classic party’), when asked how his times in the 70s compare with what the majority of the modern club scene has to offer, he pulls no punches: ‘Back then, the clubs were much more underground and exciting; you could be partying in a meat locker and or in someone’s basement. Most of those involved were true audiophiles but nowadays most sound systems are second rate; the songs you hear played out are all a similar tempo too, it’s ridiculous. In the old days they’d range from 90 to 120bpm and have musicians playing live on them, interacting with one other. I wish there was more of that today.'
Nicky Siano plays Melting Pot, The Admiral, Glasgow, Sat 1 Sep.