The Standard: Your manifesto says "Our goal is simple: to re-unite the gay community in NYC through music." Do you think the gay community has lost its leadership in terms of disco and nightlife?
Occupy The Disco: We certainly think the gay community has lost that leadership, which is why we founded Occupy The Disco (OXD). We were getting very bored with the music being played at popular gay parties and we knew that the music at places that were not marketed toward the gay community could be so much better. We also thought our gay friends would enjoy that music more, if only they were exposed to it. There's a certain sensibility to disco and house music that has an innate qualities that appeal to gay audiences. Like any community, gay people feel more comfortable en masse, so we realized if we could gather gays together to go to these events they, and we, will have a lot more fun.
Occupy The Disco's first party at Le Bain, August 9th
(Photo by Dexter Jones)
When do you think the gay community lost it?
Gay nightlife has many ebbs and flows: At one time, it was the way to meet other gay people, and other times it served as a rally cry against oppression from mainstream society. Now, we have social media and a variety of apps to meet people, and gay culture is becoming a subset of pop culture. We are slowly getting our equal rights. This has probably had a huge effect on how many aspects of gay culture manifests itself, but especially on nightlife. In the past 10 years, gay nightlife has shifted focus from being music oriented to being promoter oriented. Some promoters treat music very seriously while others see it as more of an afterthought... It’s the latter type of party that we typically eschew. It used to be that people would go out to experience the unknown, to have a rich, shared experience where they dance with their friends and meet other like-minded individuals.
Do you believe today's NYC club scene is too much conservative?
It seems conservative at times in that promoters don’t think too highly of their customers and put pressure on DJs to play popular songs because that’s what they think audiences want. We think the audience is smarter than that. We believe they would be perfectly happy hearing something they don’t necessarily know, they just need to be exposed to it. While clubs will always be part of nightlife, we think the movement outside of clubs is due to dissatisfaction with the conservative club scene. Take Justin Carter and Eamon Harkin's Mister Sunday party at the Gowanus Grove, for example. While it certainly is a dance party in theory, in effect it is much more than that. The community that comes to Mister Sunday isn’t one that we would typically see in clubs around the city. It is a warm and friendly crowd and all about a shared love of camaraderie and of course, music.
Occupy The Disco (Photo by Dexter Jones)
If not the Disco, what other field would you occupy?
Disco music helped the gay community come together during the '70s and house music did the same later in the '80s. They are both very political genres. Although most people mistakenly associate them exclusively with hedonism and entertainment, the disco and house scene was really another channel through which the gay rights movement took place. As this music is so important to our culture, we’re not sure if we would 'occupy' any other fields in nightlife. It’s the lack of disco and house in modern gay culture that we want to bring back. We enjoy bringing a crowd together that’s comfortable with who they are and don’t need to segregate themselves from society to have a good time anymore. It’s 2013, and while there’s certainly a market for exclusively gay parties, we don’t see the need for that to be the only option. We want to unite music lovers who can see past each other’s sexuality.
How does the future of dance music sound and look?
It’s funny, we started OXD because of our love for disco and house music and the lack thereof in popular music and now it looks like mainstream dance music has taken that exact turn. Even Katy Perry surprisingly just released a new ‘90s house-inspired song. We hope this means people will be more willing to discover lesser known artists that have amazing songs within the genre. On the underground side of things, it is really hard to predict what is going to happen in the near future. One thing we are sure of is that we love being surprised. We are currently experiencing a strong revival of disco, '90s house and UK garage, which is really exciting, but that is just a fraction of what is out there...
Many, many clubs and parties have had a huge influence on today's nightclubs all over the world. Which are the most important/inspirational, clubs/parties in OXD's world?
Paradise Garage, Studio 54, Tunnel, Twilo, Shelter, 718 Sessions, Body & Soul are of course some of the parties that influence and inspire us in many ways. We constantly hear stories from people who went out to these places and how they changed their lives and how they relate to music. None of us were living in New York then, and in a lot of ways we're almost nostalgic for eras we didn’t get to experience. The common thread of all of those parties is that they were all about the music, and the crowds were mixed. They mirror the mentality and diversity that we hope to foster once again with OXD. We want gay people to be aware of this rich history and hopefully keep the spirit alive.
And which nightlife icons would you pick?
Besides DJs like Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, Danny Tenaglia, and producers like Giorgio Moroder and Cerrone (and so forth), Grace Jones is truly one of a kind and without a doubt an icon of the disco scene. Her influence is still felt across so many facets of culture today. She was the ultimate representation of female and gay liberation, questioning the archaic standards of sexuality, culture and society as a whole.
Who are Occupy The Disco? Could each of you pitch himself in 140 characters max?
Ru Bhatt: A modern-day renaissance man with many passions that has no interest in those that know the price of everything and the value of nothing.
Tad Haes: A music-head with a never-ending obsession with the new and strong appreciation for the past.
Josh Appelbaum: An old soul happily trapped in the body of a young adult.
Who are the top 3 artists who really impressed you recently?
Ru: 1. Hot Since 82 – his mastery of the deep house genre is fantastic mostly due to his flair for drama, which I find incredibly refreshing and interesting. 2. Anna Lunoe – A singer herself, she enjoys vocals and her productions tend to be of the fun, effervescent house variety. 3. Jessie Ware – I’m a big R&B fan and her latest album really injected new life into that genre. Plus, she’s had some great artists like Disclosure, George FitzGerald and Cyril Hahn create some pretty spectacular remixes of her work.
Josh: 1. Goldfrapp – The new album is rich, luscious, and show a continued musical versatility that isn't found often in today's music. 2. Janet Jackson – Not exactly recent, but the fact that 'Throb' is such a timeless, classic house song that it could probably be re-released today with much success says a lot. 3. Hot Natured – They manage to make combining different producers, vocalists, and even genres of music into one sound look effortless.
Tad: 1. Todd Terje – When I first came across his work about 5 years ago, it opened my mind to the world of balearic and space disco and these quickly became my favorite sub-genres within house music. 2. Róisín Murphy – I was a huge fan of Moloko and Róisín's voice back in the 90's and her solo career and works as a house music vocalist really allowed her to flourish. I consider 'Simulation,' her latest track, to be a contemporary version of Donna Summer's 'Love to Love You Baby.' 3. The Emperor Machine – Aside from his fantastic work on Chicken Lips, Andy Meecham never fails to impress me with his solo project called The Emperor Machine. I love his unique mix of classic disco, futuristic synths, funky beats with unexpected, almost organic musical structure.
If Occupy the Disco was a book?
Ru: This one is tough but there’s a passage in Andrew Hollerhan’s Dancer from the Dance that speaks to why dance music is so important in the gay community. To paraphrase, the person you dance with is the most important person in the world – whether it’s for eternity, a night, or just for that particular song. It’s a shared experience in which you communicate with your body and nothing else matters for that time. It’s a feeling that I’m inspired to recreate on every dancefloor, with every party we throw.
Tad: Last Night a DJ Saved My Life by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton. A lot of people nowadays see the DJ as a human jukebox who should play the exact songs they want to listen to or someone who is there to take requests. This book explores the history of the DJ from even before the radio was born until today and will help people appreciate the DJ as an artist, a mood curator. Someone who dedicates the majority of their time listening to new music, cataloguing it, understanding how these tracks were conceived and finding out the best way to mix them together so it all sounds effortless and consequently make everyone dance.
Josh: Paris is Burning. The music, attitudes, looks and personalities are just everything that I LOVE about New York!
Tad: A combo of two documentaries by BBC that really can be seen as one: The Joy of Disco and Pump Up The Volume. The first showcases the birth of disco in the 70s and its evolution from gay underground NYC to global phenomenon. The latter explores the transition from disco to house music in the 80's and 90's and how that changed pop music forever. Everything we believe in and just explained above is present in these two complementary movies. I lost track of how many times I watched these two late night after coming back home from a memorable night out.
Friday October 25th, Le Bain presents Occupy The Disco featuring Mike Servito of The Bunker and Sean B of Spank as special guests. Doors 10pm. The Standard, High Line.