It’s more than a beloved, all-inclusive queer nightclub event in London’s Vauxhall district—Horse Meat Disco is a movement, a scene and a revival of sorts. Founded by a cadre of DJs and music lovers (James Hillard, Jim Stanton, Severino and “Filthy” Luke Howard), the male collective spins the sounds of classic and rare disco, Italo funk and happy synth pop on dance floors all over the globe. They also curate and mix these gems for mass consumption, as they’ve done with the release of the two-disc Horse Meat Disco Vol. IV. I spoke with Howard about what makes horse meat taste so good.
FRONTIERS: How did you first get into collecting music and the DJ thing?
LUKE HOWARD: I started DJing around 1990 at the Queer Nation club in London, which I still continue weekly. Right before HMD started, I was about ready to give up DJing, as music was going through a weird patch. But then the opportunity to play at HMD came along, and I’m so happy that I carried on. The past few years have definitely been the highlight of my DJ career.
F: Where the hell do you find all these obscure 12” singles or vinyl gems?
LH: Every city we visit we hunt them down, and just ask the local promoters and DJs to recommend record shops to us. I also buy a lot of stuff from Discogs.com as well.
F: Do you exclusively spin vinyl, or do you work in digital as well?
LH: We use vinyl, CDs and USB sticks. It depends how far we have to travel, really. I prefer playing vinyl, though, as nothing beats the sound quality of a well-mastered 12” single.
F: Why do you think classic disco—and even the most obscure stuff—still has such a lasting resonance with clubbers today?
LH: I think people really connect with the fluidity of the beats per minute, the live musicianship and orchestration and all the lovely analogue sounds. I guess that’s why it still works. Some modern dance music can be quite monotonous and exhausting to listen to!
F: Do you feel a responsibility to “school the children” about the roots and beginnings of club music?
LH: Not necessarily. But we’re always really happy when younger people are into what we’re doing. At some of our gigs I’ll look out at the dance floor and I’m probably older than most of the patrons’ parents! So it’s great to see a younger crowd enjoying the music that we love.
F: Name the go-to records you can always count on when the crowd’s being pissy, or the ones that guarantee to get people moving.
LH: There are so many! “I Feel Love” (Donna Summer), “Was That All It Was” (Jean Carn) or “In the Evening” by Sheryl Lee Ralph. The list goes on!
F: Who designs all your iconic artwork and imagery?
LH: Adrian Fillary is the man behind our logo and branding. People always want to buy our T-shirts when we tour, so the look must be working.
F: And I guess I have to ask, how did you come up with the name “Horse Meat Disco”? You realize Morrissey probably bristles at that, right?
LH: About 10 years ago there was a British newspaper headline that read “Horse Meat Discovered in Salami.” But half of the headline was covered up, and Jim and James thought it would be a great name for a club. And the rest is herstory!
F: Do you have any favorite tracks on the new Horse Meat Disco Vol. IV?
LH: I really love “I Love Your Beat” by Rena. It was produced by Billy Nichols, who had a smash on West End Records in the early ‘80s. Billy’s son lives in London and often comes to HMD, so it’s really nice that he can still hear his dad’s records when he goes out.
F: You just recently played in L.A., but when can we expect you guys again?
LH: We absolutely love coming to play in L.A. People there are so friendly, they get us, and they have really good taste in music. We’ve got some really good friends in L.A. now, too, so it’s always a pleasure for us to come and spin. We hope to come back very soon!