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Tonight James Murphy and Pat Mahoney–front man and drummer of LCD Soundsystem, respectively–will be bringing their Special Disco Version party to Smart Bar. (My Critic’s Choice is here.) At the forefront of an international underground disco revival, SDV is a celebration of the grittier, stranger, and infinitely less cheesy flip side to glossy pap like “The Hustle.” I interviewed Mahoney (pictured, left) while he waited to catch his flight to Chicago.
Hey Pat. What’s going on?
Just having a little breakfast in the lounge at the airport.
Tell me, you and James seem to be on a mission to rehabilitate disco’s reputation.
I guess you could say that.
Disco seems to be a dirty word to a lot of people, but I think that the reason for that is they’ve only been exposed to “YMCA” and other terrible stuff like that.
Well, we’re having a fuel crisis again. I guess it’s time to come back.
Tell me about the type of stuff that you guys are spinning. To someone who’s unfamiliar with the finer points of disco, what makes the stuff you guys are spinning different from what they might associate with the genre?
Instead of Studio 54 it’s more Paradise Garage, so it’s kind of grittier and definitely blacker and gayer than maybe what people are used to. And I think that’s part of what people are frightened of, because that was an undercurrent of the Studio 54 thing, but this isn’t as glossy or utterly frivolous. There is an escapist element to it that at the time was certainly appropriate, considering the state of the economy, and maybe that goes for today. Maybe that’s why it’s coming back.
A lot of that underground stuff, maybe it was just the time or the lack of . . . well, the Internet, but a lot of that stuff never left New York and the other big cities where there were underground disco scenes, and a lot of people now don’t even realize that there was an underground disco scene.
I think that’s definitely part of how we’ve been discovering it is how available everything is now and the fact that, you know, as things have been getting dug up and more people are discovering them, little re-edit labels have been starting out. The process of it being unearthed–all this great underground music–has been going on for a while and I think now it’s getting more widespread attention, but we’ve been digging through this stuff for years now and getting really excited about it and playing it more and more and now it’s pretty much all we’re doing.
Well, you know, Chicago was the site of the Disco Demolition, which was kind of a low point. A lot of people in retrospect are figuring out a lot of the motivation, a lot of the sublimated racism and homophobia that contributed to antidisco feelings, and the Disco Demolition was kind of a nadir of that sentiment. You think you’ll be able to rehabilitate Chicago’s reputation while you’re here?
Well, Chicago has such a great reputation due to house music, and the spirit of it never really died despite what happened at some media event. I don’t think Chicago itself needs to be rehabilitated, but I think that it’s great that you can play great music in a place that in a very public way did something destructive.