Falling in love with electronic music in his native United Kingdom, Andy Grant has seen both the scenes in his home country and his current home of Washington, DC grow and become influential in many incredible ways. We were able to catch up with him to find out more about his experiences in the legendary UK club scene, moving to the District and DJing and promoting the music that he is so passionate about.
Being originally from the UK, what was it like growing up around such an influential scene? What brought you to DC?
I was really fortunate that I started going out to clubs just as the house music scene was really starting to take off, and I got to experience first hand the second summer of love in 88 and 89, the Madchester scene in 1990, the M25 orbital rave scene and the Criminal Justice Act protests. Plus, I went to seminal clubs like the Zap Club in Brighton, Ministry of Sound, The Hacienda, Club UK, Final Frontier and so on. It was an incredibly exciting time to be alive! New music was all around us, and we often didn’t have the words or genres to describe them. As we experienced the new music, it opened doors to all the music that had come before and influenced it. I started buying records around 1987, and I’ve been obsessed ever since. I picked up my first belt drive turntables when I graduated from university in 1994, upgraded to Technics 1210s a year later in 1995, and the rest is history. While at university in Scotland in the early 90s, I met my ex-wife Maddie, who was a DC club kid back in the glory days of Tracks and Fifth Column. I used to come over to DC every summer, and we’d go out clubbing pretty much every night I was here. Tracks was always a big favorite, and I feel fortunate to have experienced that era of DC nightlife. I finally arrived on these shores for good in 2004, but with a young family and work to do, I gave up going out to clubs and DJing out, only keeping things going playing sets on the Planetsoul Network, an early online radio station, and posting mixes on my website DC House Grooves, which I first set up in 2004. I did, however, keep buying records, and was a regular at the sorely missed DJ Hut near DuPont Circle, where I’d spend long afternoons chatting with Sam Burns and James Graham (DJ Dub). Fast forward to 2011, my kids were a bit older, and I realized that house music wasn’t quite done with me yet. I didn’t really know many people on the music scene, so I started going out to U Street Music Hall on the regular, always sitting at the same spot by the bar, and slowly but surely I got to know people as immersed as myself in DC’s thriving electronic music community. Soon enough, I was playing out and about locally, and I haven’t looked back since!
What makes the DC disco and dance scene so special?
Compared to New York, Detroit and Chicago and international cities like London and Berlin, the scene here in DC is really small, which gives it a real sense of community. The transitional nature of the DC population means that everything is in a state of constant flux, with talented new DJs, producers and promoters arriving in the city all the time. Underpinning all of this is a rich tradition of house and disco in DC, stretching back to the days of the Clubhouse in the 70s. Indeed, many of the old school house and disco heads still come out from time to time, and when they do, it really is magical. Case in point, the recent Capital House Music Festival on Labor Day in Malcolm X Park, which I was honored to play a small role in. Watching several hundred people across three generations getting down to house and disco in the pouring rain was electrifying. In all my years in this life, I’ve never experienced anything like it. Only in DC!
What does the word disco mean to you?
The first time I became aware of the term “disco” was when, in 1977 my parents, who until then had only owned a few albums by the Beatles, Abba and The Carpenters, brought home a K-Tel compilation album called Disco Fever. It was the height of the disco era, and ‘disco fever’ was filtering into all aspects of life. I still have that album to this day, and looking back, it’s a kind of weird compilation covering everything that might have been played at a commercial discotheque at the time. For me, though, it captures how I feel about ‘disco.’ I’ve never been a huge fan of using musical genres or sub-genres to describe music, as I feel they box you in as an artist. Back in the golden age of disco, they weren’t aiming for a disco ‘sound,’ they were just making good music for the dance floor, and that’s what disco means to me. Great music that creates the right vibe on the dance floor and makes people move. And sure, if there’s swirling strings sending shivers down your spine, all the better 😉
What is next on the horizon for you in terms of your musical projects?
A very good question! No real projects on the horizon, other than doing my thing with my crew, Katrina Mir and Ramirez, on the DC House Grooves Show on DJ Jus-Ed’s Underground Quality Radio every couple of weeks. Recently we’ve been finding a really nice groove somewhere in the intersection of deep, organic, soulful house, techno and disco. Anything goes, basically, as long as the vibe is deep. Besides that, you can catch me out and about DJing locally every now and again, but more often than not, I’ll be at home in my studio, digging through my record shelves looking for lost gems, listening to music and generally perfecting my craft. I consider myself a DJ and not a producer, and between my day job, raising a bunch of teenagers and publishing weekly listings of house, disco and techno events on DC House Grooves, I barely have any time left over! I’ve tried my hand at production in the past, but these days I’d rather leave the production to musically talented professionals than contribute to the ever-expanding pool of mediocre dance music.
Andy Grant will be performing alongside Cerrone, Jellybean Benitez, The Blackbyrds, DJ Boring, Honey Soundsystem, Sam “The Man” Burns and Discoholic on Saturday, September 28 at U Street Music Hall as part of this year’s Blisspop Disco Fest. Tickets for this event can be purchased here.
Take a listen to his most recent mix here, recorded with Katrina Mir at Wild Days at the Eaton Hotel: