A little while ago, Jack Spontan pondered the question: had 2009 been the year of disco? It certainly seemed so at the time. A pervading mood of post-minimal fatigue had sparked clubbers’ appetite for melody, funk and swing, wherein all shades of the disco spectrum were warmly embraced. Flamboyant Philly strings and diva solos were devoured afresh by Horse-y queer culture. Quirky disco pop fuelled the festival-ready, sing-a-long standards of Hercules & co. Obscure cuts were mined for an ever-rising tide of DJ-friendly edits, and a sub-strain of cosmic and Italo sounds transmitted globally from a Scandinavian base.

Fast-forward three years, and with the “nu-” prefix being bandied about less and less, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the second coming of disco had already, well, come and gone. But scratch the surface and you’ll see that disco still motivates the foot-tap and the hand-clap as much now as it ever did before. The sunny, spangly melodies of electro disco inform the distinctive sound of deep house du jour, and new epicenters for edits, disco house and Balearica have since erupted in far-flung locations like Australia, Uruguay and Spain.

With that in mind, we thought it was high time to check in with some of disco’s greatest practitioners in the broadest possible sense of the word—in the center, on the fringes, and deep in the niches: Todd Terje, Mirror People, the International Feel label, 6th Borough Project, The Mole, Eddie C, Joey Negro, and Greg Wilson.

We quizzed them about disco and the answers we received revealed a surprising range of opinions: those who straight-up hate disco, those who consider it a part of their being, those who didn’t know they were disco, and those who shirk the labels and see themselves simply as a part of the great dance-music continuum. Oh, and they all had quite a bit to say about the hot-button topic of edit culture.

So whether it’s old, new, or nu-, crate-dug, sampled, and looped, or presented in all it’s vintage glory, we’ll turn it over to the experts now to tell us all about their take on D.I.S.C.O….


TODD TERJE

Before you started releasing your own productions, you were infamous for your underground edits. What are the pros and cons of official edits, like your recent rework of Roxy Music’s ”Love Is The Drug”?

Plain edits are just easy cuts and pastes. Sometimes that can force you to be creative as you don’t have much material, but the best thing about edits is that they’re so damn quick to do. When you have 30+ stems with kicks, snares, overheads, bass guitar, vox, etc., it gets complicated very fast. On the other hand, you have the chance to change sounds on a micro level, things you couldn’t access if you only had a stereo file.

If you could have access to the master stems of any track to edit, what would it be?

There are plenty of tunes on my want-list, (un)classics like “Downtown Samba” by Yello, “I Want You” by Marvin Gaye, etc. I learn a lot from looking at old stems; you realize that so much of the magic is actually in the way it’s mixed down and mastered, not necessarily how it was recorded.

How does disco factor into your own productions?

I’ve obviously learned lots from looking at and editing disco arrangements, as I’ve done literally hundreds of those. The drums of disco have always fascinated me. Sometimes it’s the offbeat way of playing that sounds refreshing, sometimes it’s how it’s mixed. Dance producers today tend to emphasize the low end of kick drums, where the earlier disco producers got a more playful feel to the music because it didn’t feel too heavy. Kick drums were 90hz and up instead of the booming 40hz region (aka brown-noise land). There’s lots to learn from all kinds of music though, and I don’t actually consider myself a disco artist.

Who is your ultimate disco hero, and why?

I’ve listened to and learned a LOT from Walter Gibbons.

What is your favorite disco production of all time, any why?

“African Suite” by Richie Rome is one of the most out-there disco productions ever to be released on a major label, and I’m very glad they did release it, as it’s been a big inspiration for many years. It’s got a perfect balance between functionality and stupidity.


MIRROR PEOPLE

Can you describe how disco factors into your own productions?

Mainly on rhythm sections. The drums, percussion and claps are always disco-type, but also on the bass. I use a lot of real bass in that Chic way.

Who is your ultimate disco hero, and why?

Probably Giorgio Moroder. I really love the mood in his production. I think most of the times he’s melodic but the mood of the final song is very ethereal. I love that.

What do you think of the current state of disco, disco-house, edits, etc.?

I feel that people finally are digging it (but) there are too many edits artists nowadays. I really don’t see the point of selling edits records.

What is your favorite disco production of all time, and why?

“I Feel Love” by Donna Summer. It’s a perfect song and timeless too. I imagine people still dancing to it in 2050.


MARK FROM INTERNATIONAL FEEL

How does disco factor into the sound of International Feel?

Not at all.  I see International Feel as a Balearic label if anything, although the reason I choose to call us that is because true Balearic music means anything goes, regardless of style, tempo, arrangement, etc., so some of what we do may fall into the disco camp (like the Lindstrom & Prins Thomas mix of Locussolus’ ”I Want It”), but that’s only because it’s already fallen in the “good music” camp first.

Who is your own personal ultimate disco hero, and why?

The guy who says “Avec Le Cadence” in Maxxi and Zeus’ ”MZ Medley.”

The last time we looked in-depth at the genre, “nu-disco” was at the forefront. What are your thoughts on that trend?

Genres are normally invented by journalists/PRs and rarely by musicians, so if we’re lumped in with nu-disco (or anything else for that matter) it’s totally irrelevant to International Feel’s mission, which is to create the perfect environment for artists to feel safe creating in, and to release music that you’ll still want to pull out of its sleeve and discover in the back of a dusty second hand store in 20 years’ time.

What is your favorite disco production of all time, and why?

I hate disco.


6TH BOROUGH PROJECT

Can you describe how disco factors into 6th Borough Project productions?

Graeme: It’s more the spirit of disco that survives in our material. The ability to be free in musical decisions in the studio or in the club, that’s all that really matters.

The last time we looked in-depth at the genre, “nu-disco” was at the forefront. What are your thoughts on that trend?

Craig: It’s just another box to put people in, another way the media and music industry can sell the same thing back to people and tell them it’s new. One positive thing with all the hype is that it has alerted a younger audience to quality new and old music that they may have never been exposed to.

What is your favorite disco production of all time, and why?

Graeme : Starvue’s “Body Fusion”—the ultimate erection-section slow jam. And those strings … ooh, matron!

What do you think of the current state of disco, disco-house, edits, etc.?

Craig: For me, disco is house, house is disco. It’s just a continuation of quality dance music, and there’s always good material about. There are some great young producers out there, so the scene is still strong and moving forward. The edits thing is a different matter though. There are some amazing edits/reworks out there, and with technology now it’s becoming easier to tailor make your own tools, which is cool, but that’s what they should be… tools for the DJ to personalize their sets. It’s now become like another genre, which is crazy. As much as I love a lot of the edits that are around, I think there should be more focus on original material.

Are there any contemporary producers and DJs involved in the scene that people should keep an eye and ear out for?

Craig: Absolutely loving all Melbourne crew at the moment, Tornado Wallace, Francis Inferno Orchestra, Mic Newman, Andy Hart, etc., these guys are killing it right now. Nicholas is another great producer with a great mix of the old and new influences. Matthew Kyle is another I enjoy, love his slow jams. Yeah, there are too many to mention out there that are producing great material. This makes for a vibrant and exciting future!


THE MOLE

Can you describe how disco factors into your own productions?

I guess totally. I’m still invested in it. Dance music. House music. Techno. Disco. Whatever you call it. I’m in. I guess without it I’d be writing church music… and ballads. Or digging ditches.

Who is your ultimate disco hero, and why?

Don’t even have to think about this one: Gino Soccio. He’s the unsung hero of Montreal and a lost genius. His music is outstandingly good.  Some clever motherfucker better find him and make a comeback out of him, because he has loads of overdue props.

What do you think of the current state of disco, disco-house, edits, etc.?

The semantics kill me… I really have no idea what disco-house is. There was a time I thought I knew what filtered-disco-house was… but the more I learn about disco and all the older dance music, the more samples I hear… from Jeff Mills down to the “edit monkeys.”

What is your favorite disco production of all time, and why?

My favorite rhythm section is Baker-Harris-Young, backing group behind countless hits and supposed inventors of the rhythm. Favorite production though? Favorite song? To be honest, that changes all the time. Today it’s First Choice’s ”Dr. Love.” Yesterday it was Soccio’s “Try It Out” or “There’s A Woman.” Might be easier to stick with the rhythm section… but don’t even get me started on drummers. I’ll be here all day… literally!


EDDIE C

Can you describe how disco factors into your own productions?

I buy all kinds of crazy records from all over. Just sampling little bits of things that sound good to me in a traditional hip-hop type fashion. Piling it all on top of itself in one glorious mess. That seems to be the method. 

Who is your ultimate disco hero, and why?

My mom is Swedish and was heavily into ABBA, the Bee Gees and the Jacksons for the first three or so years of my life. Saturday Night Fever was also on heavy rotation. Guess I’ll go with Mom. Or Francis Grasso.

The last time we looked in-depth at the genre, “nu-disco” was at the forefront. What are your thoughts on that trend?

Don’t know too much about it, actually. Someone in New York recently told me that I’m a nu-disco artist. Perhaps it’s true!

Are there any contemporary producers and DJs involved in the scene that people should keep an eye and ear out for?

I have my new 7-inch label Red Motorbike up and running! I have some familiar Canadians lined up so far, some newcomers as well. As far as other stuff I’m buying, I’m really enjoying quite a lot of records out of Japan and Norway at the moment. Crue L, Who Knows? and ENE are having some killer releases lately. Yeah, and those Norwegians! Unstoppable!

What is your favorite disco production of all time, and why?

Way, way too hard to answer. It will change tomorrow. It’s so insanely broad though, isn’t it? Disco, I mean. This question makes me think of everything from Conrad Schnitzler to Marvin Gaye. Aphex Twin to ESG. Lil’ Louis to The JBs. 


JOEY NEGRO

Can you describe how disco factors into your own productions?

I guess because I grew up in the disco era, it was a sound I listened to a lot in my formative musical years. Then I started to dig deeper once I discovered there were loads of great records that didn’t make the top 40. In many ways original disco is the barometer I judge much music by. One thing that I’ve always loved about many of my favorite disco records is the way they progress and shift through different changes, building towards a musical climax. Records made by DJs generally stay at the same tempo, whereas musicians tend to intensify their playing as the track goes on… from 2nd gear up to 5th. When I have a bass player or guitarist in the studio I’m getting a performance, not just the sound of a live bass.

Who is your ultimate disco hero, and why?

Maybe Maurice White from Earth, Wind and Fire, Nile Rogers from Chic or maybe Patrick Adams who wrote and produced many disco hits by Musique, Inner Life and a multitude of one-off acts.

What do you think of the current state of disco, disco-house,edits, etc?

I think sometimes knowledge of old music takes away from the thrill of many edits. For example, it’s hard to get excited about someone chopping around a Stevie Wonder record I’ve known for 20 years or longer unless they’ve found some amazing angle on it. The edits I prefer are ones when I’m not so familiar with the original; then it can be much more exciting as a form of music. What I can find boring is taking classic record and putting it in Ableton, straightening it out to a level tempo and obviously looping parts, often removing a lot of the vocals. Having said all that, there are some great edits out there. Ultimately it’s just down to taste.

What is your favorite disco production of all time, and why?

There are too many choose from, but I do have a great admiration for acts/producers who came up with a great disco album, as there are a lot less of them! If you’re looking at killer cuts then the Sister Sledge We are Family LP with the title track, ”Lost in Music,” ”Thinking of You” and ”He’s the Greatest Dancer” is fantastic package of disco that’s stood the test of time.


GREG WILSON

Can you describe how disco factors into your own productions/edits?

Disco is a part of my being. I’ve been buying disco records from the very beginning, from when they weren’t yet called disco, but were still regarded as soul or funk. As I’ve said before, disco music didn’t refer to a specific genre, but was a catch-all term for the music played in clubs and discotheques. So, with this in mind, I don’t have a specific approach when I sample from disco tracks, it’s just second nature.

The last time we looked in-depth at the genre, “nu-disco” was all the rage. What were your thoughts on that trend?

I never liked the term, it’s too narrow for what’s played, and gives the wrong impression, or rather, only part of the impression. When I DJ I’m drawing from a 30, 40, sometimes even 50-year spectrum of groove-based music, but put together in a non-nostalgic way that is relevant to now. To call that nu-disco, not as a small sub-section of the larger canvas, but an overall category, is really misleading.

What do you think of the current state of disco, disco-house, edits, etc.?

There are a lot of good edits about, probably more than ever. There are also a lot of not so good, or needless edits, but it’s the same as with anything, you always have to sort the wheat from the chaff. At club level, I’ve noticed a gradual change in the average age of the people who come to my gigs—overall it’s much younger now than when I started out again eight years ago. This is obviously a strong sign that the scene is rejuvenating, rather than becoming old and outmoded. In many respects I feel we’ve only scratched the surface, and this whole thing is about to gain a fresh momentum, informing the future in its remoulding of the past.

Are there any contemporary producers & DJs involved in the scene that people should keep an eye and ear out for?

There are loads of people doing interesting stuff – from the well-established names like Todd Terje and The Revenge to the lesser-known people like Duff Disco and Psychemagik. I really believe it’s a highly fertile period for expression, and this will be reflected, just as elsewhere, in dance culture, with the re-edits movement providing a necessary portal to new hybrid forms to come.

What is your favorite disco production of all time, and why?

Always impossible to pick just one thing, but, seeing you’ve asked, I’ll go for “You + Me = Love” by Undisputed Truth, with the maestro, Norman Whitfield, in truly epic mode. He knew exactly how to build it up and break it all down—he knew the alchemy.