Steve, your career has taken you everywhere, from the bathhouses of San Francisco to your recent trip to London and the Dalston Superstore and HMD. That this journey is punctuated by residencies at I-Beam, Trocadero Transfer, Dreamland, Endup, Tracks, Palladium, GoBANG! (have we missed a club?!)….is it possible for you to say where you were happiest DJing and when that was?
I would say just about every period offered unique challenges and rewards. But I have my favorite times, so I’ll start with the Disco period of course. To say it was exciting is an understatement. It was exhilarating to be in the right place at the right time when the DJ and the art of DJing was born in one of the most prolific periods for the recording industry. I was happy to see the coming together of urban minorities, black, Latino and gay — largely the makers, players and dancers of the music — playing a special part in the empowerment of the gay community. There was inclusiveness in the early disco years that came out of a feeling that we were all in this together.
To DJ during this period is something I’ll always revere because it was a very personal experience. Unlike what is the case in most clubs today, a DJ was identified with a club and a night, and usually play the whole night, often till 8 in the morning. DJs and dancers had long hours to get to know each other, and they got to know each other very well.
My relationship with dancers grew in the loft parties. Legendary parties like Boiler Room, Niteflight and Stars given by such hosts as Rod Roderick and Michael Molletta were staged on piers on the waterfront and in South of Market (SOMA) warehouses. These parties called many to dance, feel communion and satisfy desires in ways they never had before. As DJ I was happy to be at the controls but also felt I was sharing control with the everyone in the room. Sometimes I thought the scene was too good to be true. These night rituals moved into the clubs that were packed every night of the week.
Exposure at the parties landed me a residency at the I-Beam which opened on Haight Street in ’77. The I-Beam came before the Trocadero and in those early years had a spirit similar to that of the Garage. Tim Rivers and Michael Garrett were fellow residents. The Trocadero opened a little later in ’78, and was a sister club to NYC’s 12 West in that it was similar in design and had the same Graebar sound system. It was San Francisco’s first major club to have an all-night dancing permit. That put it in the same league as the New York clubs and set it straight for greatness. I was very happy to share the booth with Bobby Viteritti during these days.
I was brought in to launch a morning party at the Endup in ’80. Some of my fondest memories are playing at this notorious party that started at 6am and lasted all day.
There’s always been a soulful edge to your sets, is that something that’s lived with you from the early days?
Growing up in Chicago I always had soul music around me. I listened to WVON and watched the early Don Cornelius Soul Train shows. Much of the music would crossover to major stations like WLS that everyone seemed to be listening to. There was the Chi-lites, Etta James, Curtis Mayfield, Gene Chandler and others and Detroit was right next door with Motown. And of course there was Philly and New York. One of the first clubs I went to was Dugan’s Bistro in ’73 where I would hear Lynn Collins, “Think”, Eddie Kendricks “Girl You Need A Change Of Mind”, ChiLites “Stoned Out of My Mind”, First Choice “Doctor Love”. All that wonderful early 70’s soulful dance music played all night by Lou DiVito or Ron Hardy at Den One. All the early Loft music I could hear every night in Chicago.
I’m sure everyone would like to hear something about your experiences at the Trocadero Transfer, DJing alongside Bobby Viteritti, feel free to slot in anecdote here!
When most people think about the quintessential period of the Trocadero they think of Bobby Viteritti’s reign. They’re right to think that way. No one put the club on the map quite like Bobby did at that time. His style became known as the Trocadero sound.
Bobby chose me to play the first part of the night because he wanted a more soulful music style to compliment his style. He didn’t want to bring in a DJ who would come in and copy his style. So there was a trust between us and we were a good match. I loved playing the first part of the night, because after my set I could either hang out or take a disco nap til 6am when I would start my morning party at the Endup. I usually hung out with Bobby and forgot about sleeping. There were better things to do than sleep. Haha
I’m just as interested to know about the Endup, what it was like spinning Morning Music from 6am to 2am, can you describe the scene and the tracks that defined it for you?
Around 1980, the staff at the Endup wanted to open the club on Sunday mornings at 6am to provide the city with an after-hours morning party like the Anvil in New York.
Because I was known for playing a diversity of styles, from groove to energy to sleaze and morning music, I was brought in to launch what became to known as “Church”. I played from 6am to 2pm in the afternoon, and at 2pm Ralph Zepeda would play the rest of the day into the night. The Endup morning parties were quite a scene. The signature sound of my mornings was definitely ‘groove’. It was time for records like Gwen Guthrie’s “Padlock”, D-Train’s “You’re The One For Me”, and Junior’s “Mama Used To Say”. The first hour at 6am I would play the 95bpm stuff like Gregg Diamond’s “Hot Butterfly”, Toto’s Georgy Porgy, Faith, Hope and Charity “Don’t Pity Me”, Trammps “Living the Life”, and Sharon Ridley “Changin”.
You are also known to have introduced House music into your sets at an early stage. Do you remember when this was and what type of clubs latched onto the sound quicker than most?
I moved to NYC in ’83 to play at the River Club which was in the old 12 West space in the West Village. There I played records like Shirley Lite’s “Heat You Up, Melt You Down”, Gino Soccio’s “It’s Alright”, Billie’s “Nobody’s Bizness”, — lots of New York records mixed with some West Coast records. Then I moved to Tracks in ’85 where I continued to play a mixture of Disco, Energy, Italo and Garage records and in ’86 I started getting promos from some new labels out of Chicago. Labels like DJ International with Mr. Finger’s “Can You Feel It” and Steve Silk Hurley’s “Jack Your Body” and Trax with Adonis “No Way Back”. There was a buzz about these records and when I heard them I knew why. At Vinyl Mania, Rock and Soul and other record stores, New Yorkers were talking about Chicago. It was like everybody was excited that there was a new sound that complimented the New York music. I was so inspired being in New York, hearing Larry Levan, David DePino, Robbie Leslie, to name just a few of the great talents that could be heard every week.
Looking back, this marked the beginning of the House music and I was lucky to have had my Sunday nights at Tracks.
I moved back to San Francisco in ’88 to open Dreamland as a Sunday tea dance where I played House tracks like “Voodoo Ray”, Carolyn Harding’s “Movin On” and Quando Quango’s “Love Tempo”. Brit Hahn, the new owner of the Trocadero brought me in to start a House night. I brought in a new young promoter, Gus Bean to do Saturday nights in the Trocadero space and Gus called the club Crew. It was San Francisco’s largest House club at the time and where I played with Dave Moss.
I moved down to LA in 1990 where I worked at Street Sounds, the legendary Melrose Ave. record store where ravers lined up every weekend to get directions to parties. LA had it’s own House community. One of the favorite undergrounds was Does Your Mama Know where I would come in to do guest nights with Tony Largo, Marques Wyatt and Eddie X. I was a resident at Asylum with Tony Powell and Pulse with Andrew D where Doc Martin and Alexia Tippel would do guest nights.
Have you come across any interesting scenes of late that stand out from the run of the mill clubs? How about GoBANG! You and Sergio Fedasz seem to have created something special, is there a story there?
Here’s the history : Sergio started Go BANG! 4 years ago in a club right down the street from me. At that time I didn’t know him except for seeing his name on some club flyers. After reading Sergio’s description of Go BANG! on Facebook about “bringing dancers together in a mixed, diverse environment with a nod to the diversity and freedom of the 70’s/80’s disco nightlife” — I was curious. So I went to the club one night to check it out. When I walked in I saw Sergio playing and noticed right away how spirited he was in the booth. I was enjoying his energy and the music and how the crowd was relating to it. He made an impression on me. I hung out at the bar with a friend for awhile listening and then left. I didn’t introduce myself that night. A couple weeks later I was playing at Honey Soundsystem doing a Paradise Garage tribute when I saw Sergio walking in with a friend on the dance floor. They started to dance right in front of the booth and Sergio kept looking up and smiling. He stayed till the end of the night and walked into the booth, we talked for awhile and then he asked me if I would do a guest shot at Go BANG! I said OK and did the guest shot, played a long set and it was a wonderful experience for me. I saw old friends mixing with new friends and people crossing over from different groups making new friends. All of this coming together on the dance floor. While I was playing that night I realized the potential of what Sergio and I could do together. I had a feeling he realized it too. At the end of the night Sergio asked me if I wanted to be a resident and partner. He said I didn’t have to give him my answer right away. I just looked him in the eye and told him “Let’s do this!” and we were both smiling.
We are now celebrating Go BANG’s 4th Anniversary. I’m so happy to be partnered with Sergio. We share the same passion. Go BANG! is our baby and we couldn’t be happier. It keeps changing and evolving and we’re happy to see people feel connected to it in a personal way. It has grown over time with the contributions of many creative people including all the other past resident DJs, guest DJs and past and present designers and decorators. But of course we have a special place in our hearts for the dancers. Without the dancers there is no party.
Finally, you seemed to be having a great time with Ken at HMD recently, any plans to return, be great for more people to hear you play out!
I had a wonderful time playing HMD and Dalston’s Superstore and it was great to spend time with Severino and Dan Beaumont. Ken and I were staying in Brixton and feeling comfortable enough to envision living there. I would love to have more time in London, and I have an invitation to come back to HMD. Hopefully sometime next year.