It’s barreling down I-5 from the wilds of Canada….TRUCKERDISCO, the hot, new night of “nu-disco” is back in Seattle, (it dipped its toe into the Seattle waters with a tryout at The Eagle a few months back) at its new home at Re-bar, starting THIS Saturday, June 16th at 10pm. Local DJ’s Trouble and Pavone are the local representations of the “Trucker” crew but it was all started by DJ Taffi Louis in Vancouver, BC and we decided we needed to know what the hell “Truckerdisco” was all about, so we asked him some penetrating questions.
SGS: Hey Taffi Louis! Inquiring minds want to know, what the hell is “Truckerdisco”? What kind of music is it? How did it all begin?
Taffi Louis: If you told me in 2001 as I was just starting to DJ, that I’d become a big fan of “disco”, I’d say you were crazy. But that depends what you mean by “disco”, too. Disco’s gotten a really bad rap – and a lot of it can be justified, ’cause when it was saturating everything in the late ’70s, backlash was inevitable. From the Comiskey Park “disco demolition” publicity stunt in 1979 (where thousands of sports fans came to a baseball game to blow up their disco records at half-time, only to spark a riot that cancelled the rest of the game) until about twenty years later, “disco” had been reduced to a punchline and a party costume. These days, “disco” isn’t a dirty word in nightclubs or to younger people. A lot of that has to do with contemporary acts wearing their influences on their sleeves, and music collectors following that new stuff, but also discovering Patrick Cowley or Skatt Bros, for example, and finding them extremely cool now – not to be ironic, but those sounds influenced decades of electronic music for decades afterward.
I know a few straight DJs who’ve found, let’s say, Paul Parker’s “Right On Target” for cheap somewhere, and they’re proud of their find and play it in their DJ sets. Meanwhile, most of the crowd I started DJ’ing for in the first place, have been lamenting the absence of “their music”, songs that were their soundtrack to coming out, thinking they’ll never hear it out again, or that no one would be interested, or that because of modern technology the original vinyls would just be useless relics. Meanwhile, hipsters on the other side of town are dropping Amanda Lear in with modern acts like Faze Action, and they don’t even know what fan dancing or poppers are.
But in my experience doing nights with mostly straight DJs who sincerely love this music too, those I know would love to see more gay folks out on their dance floor. I even credit one such Vancouver DJ, Woodhead, with the name “Truckerdisco”, as he was using it in his event bulletins and such, as an adjective for what styles of music we were playing. To Woodhead, “truckerdisco” as a word suggested more of a “nu-disco/indie” sound. To me, it also sounded like what I imagine the “Blue Oyster Bar” in Police Academy played at 3 A.M. on Saturdays. But I’d also ad-libbed words like “gutterdisco” to slip in there with “italo, nu-disco, cosmic disco”, and so on. Even if it doesn’t exactly mean anything, it’s pretty evocative, and it stops people in their tracks while they try and figure it out.
So with “Truckerdisco”, few people here in Vancouver could initially make sense of what kind of music they were going to hear, but I wanted to pique their curiosity with this anachronistic name for the event and, say, using the Judas Priest logo font, which is undeniably bad-ass (and happens to be even more-so with Rob Halford out). There aren’t polyester bell-bottoms or gold medallion necklaces on the posters, and while anyone could show up wearing them if they wanted to, if people are going to dress up, I’d rather see them show up looking like the opposite from what people expect to see at any old “disco” night. It’s all one way of saying, “Expect the unexpected”, ’cause there’s an entire world of amazing music behind the cliche.
But then, by “disco”, what does one expect? What I call “classic disco” is what most of us think of when they hear the word, but then I’ve had a few people tell me, “whatever this is, it ain’t disco”, when an “italo” enthusiast might approach me a minute later saying it’s a perfect example. I say to some people, it’s like how North Americans call football “soccer”. If the rest of the world is calling it “football”, I’m featuring a broader range of music than most North Americans would call “disco”, mostly because we don’t hear what really happened to “disco”. It evolved. In Europe, it melded slightly with New Wave, and you have “Italo-Disco”. Or in other parts of Europe, along-side italo, “Cosmic Disco” appeared, sometimes with DJs like Daniele Baldelli playing 45rpm records at 33 speed and bringing the tempo startlingly low, but creating a darker, harder beat out of it too. And since 2000, acts like LCD Soundsystem, Holy Ghost!, or In Flagranti, are all taking elements from these influences and making serious, innovative, quality music out of them. This stuff has about as much to do with “YMCA” as Public Enemy has with “It’s Raining Men”.
SGS: Is Re-bar a good fit for the “Trucker” crowd?
TL: Oh, absolutely. The space is right for it. The culture behind it is, too. Plus Carla, the manager, LOVES classic disco already, so she’s behind this night like you wouldn’t believe. I’ve dropped in before to hear my friend Freddy King Of Pants on his nights (and even got to play one at Re-Bar with him about six years ago), and I love that the space isn’t exclusive to anyone. They’re also crazy enough to have wrestling some nights, then maybe, oh, Dina Martina the next, and then maybe next week they’re doing a stage production of Xanadu or Black Swan. Re-Bar’s events calendar has the right mix weird and wonderful, homo-friendly events that make Truckerdisco look right at home with.
Yes, gays need “their space” too, but this isn’t just a gay event. It’s got some pretty damn gay music at times, and I also want to celebrate some history behind that, but I want people who want to come enjoy the music to know where to go. At a typical DJ gig, I watch guys who used to dance to Bobby O. getting excited when I play Den Haan, thinking I’m playing a 30-year-old track when it actually just came out last year. Meanwhile, most DJs playing Den Haan are freaking out younger, mostly straight crowds who don’t get the gay context, but wouldn’t be bothered by it if they do.
SGS: You’re Canadian…are you prepared to become the next hot Canadian export after Labatt’s, Celine Dion, Rush and poutine?
TL: Not to burst your bubble, I’m a dual citizen, actually. Born and raised in the deeeep South until I was just about to start high school. My father wanted to get back to Canada while it still had health care, so the family all moved. With our current Prime Minister, I’m sitting a little closer to the emergency exit these days. I’d still like to apologize on behalf of all Canadians for Justin Bieber.
SGS: How did DJ Pavone and Trouble get involved?
TL: I was introduced to Pavone, with a glowing recommendation from Freddy earlier this year. I think it was at Pony. We had a lot to talk about anyway, and I wanted to see about finding Truckerdisco a good home where it gets fed and taken for walkies. The first place I mentioned was Re-Bar, and Pavone agreed it would be nice to see happen there, especially with their own history with disco nights, and the right mix of not-just-gays who are “over it”. Pavone ended up playing ambassador, in a sense, accepting some of the thankless tasks I’ve asked of him to get word out and important details covered.
Trouble, I still have yet to actually meet in person! I have Colby B to thank, for putting us in touch, when she arrived at a gig here in Vancouver to take over for me. We were chatting, catching up, and she asked how Truckerdisco was going here, and how plans for Seattle were going. Somewhere in that conversation, she sprang into action, looking for a piece of paper to write down something down for me. A moment later, she was logged onto Facebook, sending us both a message to introduce us. So, Colby hooked us up. From photos and mixes online that TROUBLE then sent my way, it was obvious – immediately – that this guy has already been doing so much of what I’ve wanted to see happen with Truckerdisco. He’s worked with immense talents like Todd Terje, Metro Area, and Tim Sweeney – at his own events; each of them being top international recording artists in their field and whose music you’ll also hear, without a doubt, at Truckerdisco. And his DJ mixes cover the range of styles Truckerdisco’s going for, and his technical skills in transitions and handling sound show he’s learned his craft and worked long and hard for it. He’s a busy guy, and he’s offered a lot of great insight already. I’m really grateful to have him onboard, and for being introduced.
SGS: What do you wanna accomplish with “Truckerdisco”?
TL: I like seeing old school disco queens flash devil horns to Sylvester (and they do, just like at a Slayer concert).
I like trying to convince someone younger that “I Feel Love” didn’t just come out in the past year or two.
I like when someone comes up to me later and says their notion of “disco” got tossed out the window at Truckerdisco.
I like when staff at a given venue are having fun behind the bar too, and tell me after closing what an easy night it was working for such an unusually friendly, happy bunch of people.
I like seeing dykes and bears and twinks and hipsters smiling and laughing and dancing, and suddenly realizing they’re doing all this together, then smiling, laughing, and dancing some more.
I like seeing people take a chance by turning up to this event for whatever reason, then see them having more fun than they bargained for.
I like seeing those same people bring friends next time.
I like to find out I’ve instilled some curiosity and interest in some music a lot of these folks might never have encountered otherwise.
I like being able to share some musical finds with a room full of people, and finding out together what it sounds like on a really big sound system.
I like when someone has a story to tell me about what the world was like the last time they heard this song, even if they are getting a little teary. Sometimes their story is about someone they lost twenty-five or thirty years ago, and I feel priveleged to have their stories shared with me.
So, I’d say I get to accomplish most of these each time there’s a Truckerdisco in Vancouver, and I’m thinking Seattle’s ready for it, too.
Sweet! And, afterward we’re all going to a truck stop for chicken fried steak, and a shower in the communal trucker shower room!