Horse Meat Disco Is The Gay Party For Everyone
I think the model for a gay club that keeps women and straight people out is tired and outdated. If you have a good attitude and are bringing something to the party, I couldn't care less about who you sleep with.
Eight years ago, British DJ James Hilliard saw a partially obscured newspaper headline reading, “Horse Meat Discovered in Salami.” From this unlikely impetus, Horse Meat Disco was born, as Hilliard — with the help of the late New York DJ Adam Goldstone — assembled the HMD crew, including fellow travelers Luke Howard, Severino, and Jim Stanton. British residence notwithstanding, this fierce foursome dedicates itself to perpetuating the fresh, freewheeling vibe of the 1970s/‘80s New York club scene, from the gay discos of the era to more mainstream venues like Studio 54.
“We wanted to bring fun back to a scene that had been consumed with bad drugs and dark music,” says Hilliard. “It was about bringing together a wide and diverse mix of people every week with a common musical leveler. I mean, gays and disco — it’s hardly revolutionary, but [we] managed to bring together dancers old and young, gay and straight…When I read about clubs like The Garage, The Loft, the Saint, and even Studio 54, one thing that always struck me was the mixing of different people.
Though the Eagle London club has remained HMD’s “spiritual home,” the world has become their playground, with the quartet bringing its peerless party skills across Europe as well as across the Atlantic. While Hilliard describes the Horse Meat aesthetic as “music across the disco spectrum in all its metronomic glory,” he hastens to add, “We're happy to play anything as long as it creates an atmosphere, and that can come from rock, pop, house, world music, and of course the classic disco canon.”
Each DJ brings his own unique sonic fingerprints to the process, of course. Hilliard reckons that Howard “brings the gayness and the soul,” while Stanton has “more of a rock edge” and is “the soul of the party, the raconteur and promoter extraordinaire.” Severino “likes to take things on a house tip” and “always keeps things sexy.” As for himself, Hilliard humbly offers, “I guess I bring the funk and make the club look pretty. I mean with the decorations — I’m, not that vain!”
One area in which Horse Meat Disco actually has an opportunity to improve upon their ‘70s/‘80s model is to open up the gay-disco vibe to a wider audience. “We're all about inclusivity,” he says. “It’s the 21st century after all…if straight people want to come to our clubs, then why not? From the outset we've always thought of ourselves as a queer club for everyone. I think the model for a gay club that keeps women and straight people out is tired and outdated. If you have a good attitude and are bringing something to the party, I couldn't care less about who you sleep with.” At the same time, HMD stays active in promoting LGBT community causes, and this summer finds them playing both the San Francisco Pride Party (June 25-26) and the famed Fire Island Pines Party benefit (July 30), a thrilling three-ring sonic circus, right down to the big-top tent. “If you are a DJ who loves disco,” says Hilliard, “playing on Fire Island and the Pines is like a pilgrimage, and definitely a box to tick.”
But the HMD experience isn’t limited to live settings; Hilliard and company just released their third mix CD, Horse Meat Disco III, on July 5th via Strut Records. It’s a carefully curated grab bag of old and new disco, electro, and more, including tracks by everyone from the Salsoul Orchestra to Dimitri From Paris. In the meantime, HMD is continuing their longstanding Sunday residency at The Eagle in addition to all of their globetrotting, and working on their own original music as well. Who ever guessed Horse Meat could turn out so tasty?
Download a free Horse Meat Disco mini mix here!
Images by Alexis Maryon