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Last Night A DJ Saved My Life
by Christina Li on Aug 11, 2009
A graduate student in cultural history by day and a DJ/music guru by night, Derrick Love is best known for being one of the founders of the long-standing super party Gemini Disco. With disco making a comeback and becoming more widely heard in all genres today, it’s no wonder they will celebrate their three-year anniversary come September. Answering a few questions from SF Station, Derek shares his thoughts on disco and dance.
SF Station (SFS): Are you originally from the Bay Area?
Derrick Love (D): Yes, but only if you consider Santa Cruz the Bay Area. I mean it's on a Bay, just not the San Francisco Bay.
SFS: How did you get into DJing?
D: When I first moved to San Francisco I was really into 60s mod culture. I didn't really know much about the club topography here but a friend of mine, Nicky B. of Gemini Disco, lived next door to Edinburgh Castle and suggested I check out this party called 1964. I had such a great time, it was really inspiring to go to a club that catered to such a niche crowd and that had such a free wheeling vibe. So, from then on I started going to 1964 and other such clubs regularly and began hoarding the records I liked. Eventually, I had enough 7" 45s for a set and asked Matt B. the resident at 1964 if I could guest DJ and he said 'yes'. Since then, it's been a non-stop hobby with the only variation being that I don't play my 60s records out much anymore...
SFS: This leads me into asking about the birth and origins of Gemini Disco!
D: Well, it's always been a group project and in all honesty, how the party came about is a little hazy to me. Somehow an idea to start a soul party morphed into an idea to start a disco party. Disco was on the brain back then as Nicky B. had tipped me to some Soul-Jazz compilations that were going around, Nicky Siano's "The Gallery" and Mantronix "That's My Beat", and I was reading Love Saves the Day by Tim Lawrence (the story of David Mancuso's Loft and the birth of Underground Disco in Manhattan).
I vaguely remember Chris McVick setting up our first gig at Li Po lounge and then hitting up every single record store in town for disco records with Nicky B. We printed out pornographic flyers, assembled a janky sound system, put up a ton of decorations, and started the night off in the same way we've started every Gemini since: with a segue of ocean sounds into Deodato's interpretation of "Also Sprach Zarathustra". I'd elaborate more but I'll be concise and say that Gemini was conceived in the basement of the Li Po amidst a haze of sweat, confetti, nakedness, and cheap champagne....
About nine months later, after the birthing, we moved to the Beauty Bar on third Sundays, which was really a great year of ridiculous party after party. We met a lot of amazing people there; most importantly, we met our amazing host and tireless promoter Le Dinosaur. We had all sorts of wild impromptu performances like people dancing on the bar, crazy drag shows, amateur disco raps...etc. and then the party just started getting too big for Beauty Bar to hold -- it would spill out onto the sidewalk. We had people dancing near the windows in the streets...really nutty stuff.
So from there we snowballed into first Saturdays at Underground SF where we've been doing the party for a year now. It's the perfect size, the sound system is great, and nobody cares if you dance on the bar. It's an ideal setup.
SFS: What do you attribute the success of this long standing party to?
D: Amazing DJs, beautiful people, pretty lights, tasteful atmospherics, and a certain kind of sick masochistic devotion it takes to throw the sort of party we wish we could be at if we weren't so damn busy throwing it...
SFS: So besides disco, what is your favorite genre to play?
D: Trance, mash-ups, gabber, progressive house, EDM, hipster electro, club rap, blog house. I just do the disco thing to pay the bills.
SFS: A lot of people say disco is dead but it seems to be coming back with a vengeance! Do you have any thoughts on this?
D: Sure. I was just in New York buying records and just about every record store owner there was talking about how, "three years ago we couldn't give these records away...but because of the revival we're all still in business!" It's true, disco is definitely back but I think a lot of people are turning a blind eye on where disco has been since 1979...if you change your perspective and view disco as a part of the lineage of club music then disco doesn't seem so absent from the past 30 years at all. Which is why you can go see a really good house DJ like Louie Vega or Theo Parrish and they can play a 70s disco record next to a deep house record and nobody stops dancing/cares/starts moping because "disco sucks". It's also why we can get away with playing the occasional house record at Gemini.
But definitely though these days there has been a lot of "nu-disco" records being made that really owe a lot to the old disco records of the 70s and 80s as well as the 90s house records that sampled those old records. Labels like DFA, which was on this tip from the get-go, Rong, Permanent Vacation, and TIRK all seem to be responsible for this.
A criticism I’ve noticed that a lot of people levy on nu-disco or the contemporary disco scene in general is that it’s backward thinking or that it is not "pushing the scene forward". Which is not something I agree with necessarily...a lot of good art, good music, good culture, has been made that references the past or takes cues from the past but by the nature of its context in time makes it fundamentally different.
SFS: Would you say there is any parallel of disco to contemporary music?
D: Just dance music and the experience of going to clubs, I suppose.
SFS: Any thoughts, daily mantras you live by?
D: I was going to try and be witty and say, "Disco Sucks" but when I was younger I read that if you say a mantra enough times they keep running unconsciously in your mind. I'm not one for self-sabotage so I think I'll duck this question by using this answer!
Check what’s up at http://geminidisco.com/, and be sure to catch their three-year anniversary on September 5th at Underground SF!
by Christina Li on Aug 11, 2009