"There is always a point in the party where I wouldn’t say I have people in the palm of my hands, but when there is a point in the evening... if you have ever been to any great party, you know when the room becomes one.”
The founder of Chicago house said that. The club environment has always been a place of unity and togetherness; a place where people of any gender, sexuality or race can unite within a safe haven populated by infectious movement and good vibes.
The history of the soundtrack to many a night is firmly rooted within the LGBT community. House, disco and garage were all founded amongst gay or transgender people, but more often than not the queer roots of the music we love are forgotten.
Newcomers to the dance music scene are predominantly white and straight. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, we’re talking about togetherness after all. What is important is that the origins of the music we adore are remembered.
It’s Pride tomorrow, and we at Soundspace thought this would be a great opportunity to pay tribute to the roots of the soundscapes that dictate our lives. We’ve taken a look at the rise and fall of Disco, Detroit’s Chicago influence and 70’s ballroom culture; a concept that provided an escape to an alternative, extravagant dimension from within a harsh concrete jungle.
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The Sounds of Chicago and Detroit
Where would we be today without the inventiveness of Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan? Chicago house began east of Chicago, in New York, with the pair playing out records at Continental Baths, a bathhouse located in Manhattan.
Knuckles would go on to Chicago to take charge of The Warehouse, a venue that catered for mostly gay black and Latino men, and would later inspire the genres title, whilst Levan would remain at Paradise Garage as a permanent resident.
Disco rose from the grave like a zombie with a boombox, a boombox blaring out raw house. The surge in popularity allowed Chicago DJ’s to get gigs in Europe, where they would play out the sound of their city to floods of people.
The histories of Chicago house and Detroit techno are closely intertwined. At this year’s AVA Festival, Atkins told a story of how his close friend and fellow techno pioneer, Jeff Mills, sold his 909 to the then relatively unknown Frankie Knuckles in order to eradicate competition in Detroit, and pay Mills rent, a machine that Knuckles would later manipulate to birth house.
Flick through the history of Detroit techno and you’ll see that issues to do with race are more prominent than those to do with sexuality. The Detroit community were stereotyped as taking techno with a shed more seriousness in comparison to Chicago’s excessiveness.
One refers back to Luis Manuel Garcia’s RA piece. Garcia explains that The Belleville Three are credited with the sound that shaped the musical ecosystem of the industrial city of Detroit, but Detroit based scholar Carleton Gholz argues that the journey for fresh sound arose due to sexuality.
She explains to Garcia that Moris Mitchell, Ken Collier and Renaldo White sparked the venture through the spinning of disco records in Detroit in 1971. They went on to create True Disco Productions, a concept that would bring the NYC and Chicago sound to Detroit. According to the information Gholz gave Garcia, many techno instigators view Ken Collier as the “godfather” of musical culture in Detroit.