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Interview | Horse Meat Disco

It seems fitting that as we approach the Blisspop Disco Fest that the DMV itself would be overcome with a sweltering Saturday Night Fever, marked both by the anticipation surrounding this weekend’s two day bacchanalia of dance music as well as the rising temperature outside. All things considered, who better to soundtrack this heatwave than the festival’s headliners themselves — Horse Meat Disco, the four dude DJ collective straight out of south London, who promise to lay down a “queer party for everyone” this Friday, a set described as a “night of joyous (and mostly shirtless) funk” that should provide space for all of us to sweat it out.

We caught up with Luke Howard of HMD via email to talk about what he’s spinning currently, the legacy of Aretha Franklin, and what we can expect this weekend.

Purchase tickets to see HMD at U Street Music Hall on Friday, 8/31 here. 

What music have you been jamming to as of late?

There is a great version of “The Look of Love” by Elaine and Ellen that has been working my last nerve lately. Also James [Hillard]  has this amazing disco version of the Sex Pistols’  “Anarchy In The UK” by Tom of England which is also amazing

How do you mitigate being a [touring] duo DJ collective while incorporating guest DJs at the same time? What’s the dynamic like in terms of switching out / determining who takes the lead at a given time? Do you ever butt heads over creative decisions when performing?

We are a quartet: James Hillard, Jim Stanton, Severino & Luke Howard. Usually when we tour we go out as a twosome. Sometimes we spin back to back with each other playing one or a few tracks each. Other times we’ll do an hour or more each and break a set up like that. We don’t have any rules and like to play things by ear.

DC is unto itself a very queer city with its own musical tradition — do you intend to channel some of the city’s musical heritage, or will you be laying down something more akin to that of the New York sound you are best known for?

I’m sure we have a Chuck Brown track that will get a spin. I believe Roberta Flack and Van McCoy were from DC so I’m sure we’ll have something by them.

You’ve been described as bringing “a night of joyous (and mostly shirtless) funk” wherever you go. Does shiftlessness accentuate the disco experience in your opinion?

(Note that the email sent to Luke erroneously contained the word ‘shiftlessness’ because Gmail doesn’t think ‘shirtlessness’ is a real word — go ahead and sue me)

Shiftlessness or shirt-lessness?! Personally I prefer to keep my shirt on! But shiftless isn’t a great demeanour for disco or disco dancing — it takes a lot of energy to release yourself on that dance floor.

You recently performed an Aretha Franklin tribute. What was that like? I imagine it must’ve been a cathartic experience. Additionally did you play any of La Diva during that set, since it was Franklin’s only disco album?

James [Hillard] did a special radio show tribute to Aretha which was really well received. Every time we lose one of the singing legends we feel really sad. Aretha was the ultimate female singer in my opinion. Not only her voice, but her amazing catalogue of music. La Diva has two of my favourite Aretha tracks — “Honey I Need Your Love” & “Half A Love.” Also Van McCoy produced some of the tracks on that album.

Have you ever eaten horse meat yourselves, and if not, would you if given the opportunity?

Vegans look away: horse meat is delicious. I’ve had carpaccio of horse meat in Italy once. Sorry horse lovers.

Are there any queer spaces in DC that you all are particular fans of?

The Needle Exchange Crew throw wonderful parties and we’ve been lucky enough to spin with them.

You’ve been DJing together as Horse Meat Disco since 1999 to my knowledge — is there any advice you would pass onto your younger selves from the wisdom you’ve acquired these past nineteen years?

Since 2003! We didn’t start our party with the intention of lasting this long so we don’t have any regrets. We just feel super lucky that we get the opportunity to spin in such amazing places like DC. We often pinch ourselves, playing disco in America is such an privilege!

Lastly, what can we expect from your performance at the Blisspop Disco Fest?

Well, every time we’ve played DC before it’s been during MAL in January so we’re looking forward to seeing DC in the summertime.