DJ Sean Brosnan Reflects on a Decade of Disco Culture in London
The 'Future Disco' compiler opens up about a still-thriving scene that deserves more attention.
Sean Brosnan is a DJ and compiler, arguably best known for putting together the essential, and incredibly important, Future Disco compilations. Ahead of the release of the tenth, and final, instalment of the series, we asked Brosnan to reflect on just how vital disco still is in London and beyond.
More often that not, you'll find London at the center of any burgeoning music scene. The mix of cultures, the permanent influx of creatively minded young people, and the almost overwhelming musical history of the city add to up to create an environment that's open to ideas and experiments. In the last 20 years, London's been largely—if not directly—responsible for drum and bass, garage, broken beat, dubstep, and grime. In addition to the shock of the new, you'll often find older sounds being re-contextualized and reimagined for a new set of dancers. One genre that found itself being given a new look in the early 2000s was disco.
Disco, of course, never died in the first place. And despite the protests and the changes in fashion, it never does disappear. Instead, disco burrows away into the deeper parts of the underground, ready to emerge when the moment's right. And that moment was the London of the early part of the millennium.
By the turn of the century Nuphonic Records had firmly established themselves at the vanguard of a nu-disco movement, releasing compilations by the likes of Loft legend David Mancusco, and Good Times' man Norman Jay. DJ Harvey was a regular guest at their festival stages, and dubby disco-not-disco dudes Idjut Boys and Faze Action were close allies of the label. It was an imprint that understood its heritage whilst transforming it into something new. Disco wasn't a dirty word per se, but not one that was the forefront of many musical discussions. Sure, we'd lived through the filter-disco sound peddled by imprints like Roule, but it was never called disco—that was house.
Emerging scenes usually need a supportive media outlet on side, as a means of star-making. Today that might be a YouTube channel or a high profileTwitter account. Back then, the site du jour was Bill Brewster's DJ History, which included a forum largely populated by disco heads and balearic aficionados. On DJ History, collectors and fans could exchange ideas, edits and parties, comment and more often than not critique. It was a place that in many ways created a discussion for a modern disco scene to develop in London. There was Faith, too, another hugely important forum, though that, again, leaned more towards the house-ier end of things.
By 2002, Nuphonic had closed, after the club they launched, Bridge & Tunnel, hadn't quite worked out. Other labels took up the mantle and started their own parties. One of them was founded by former Nuphonic employee James Hillard, Horse Meat Disco was an exciting new night that was focused purely on disco. I remember being stood down in a sweaty Soho basement on a Thursday night, knowing that this was bigger than the 100 or so people dancing all night long to unadulterated disco. Then there was Lowlife, run by the aforementioned by Bill Brewster, a fanfare-free fancy dress night. Dan Beaumont was taking over Dalston basements with his Disco Bloodbath. The Lucky Cloud loft parties revived the spirit of Mancuso. My own parties, called Warm, that I threw with Ali Tillett, saw us booking international guests and crews like Bristol's Futureboogie, Jigsaw from Birmingham, and Manchester's Eyes Down lot. Disco was everywhere.
Soon, east London bars started shaking to the sound of endless re-rubs, and over the next few years a scene emerged in which the edit was hailed as the king. That saw the likes of Greg Wilson, Todd Terje, Mark E, and the Revenge, find a ready and welcoming audience for what had previously been considered a pretty niche affair.
It was around this time I decided to start Future Disco. A colleague had mentioned I should collate all this music I was playing every week. The time felt right, LCD Soundsystem had gone well and truly global, Hercules and Love Affair had just been signed by EMI and the Scandinavian collective of Terje, Lindstrom and Prins Thomas were making irresistible music.
If Future Disco Volume One had made any kind of impact, it was the second install that I compiled in a blur of setting up my own label that really captured a moment in time. Many of those acts that had been somewhat instrumental in getting to this point (Todd Terje, The Revenge, Faze Action, Crazy P, Greg Wilson and many more) all featured. It won iTunes dance album of the year and it felt like this was both the beginning and end a decade of disco that had created some really special parties and artists. Those same artists continue to make this following decade even more interesting.
Disco's still not dead. And London still loves it.
The tenth installment of the Future Disco series, Complete. Repeat. A Disco Drama, is available for pre-order right here.