Exetera talks to Ollie Norman, president of Beats and Bass Society, about their upcoming Hot Jam event and the influence of gay culture on dance music. We discuss the incredible headliners, Horse Meat Disco, Jon K, and their secret special guest, as well as their partnership with Pride Society.
This is the last Beats and Bass event of the year and they’re bringing it to you for free. If you haven’t had the chance to get to one of Exeter’s most prolific nights, this is your opportunity. But for now, have a read what their president has to say.
Introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about Hot Jam.
I’ve been privileged enough to be the Beats & Bass Society president this year – it’s been a hell of a year so far, and Hot Jam is essentially our big end-of-year present to everyone: day parties, disco, after parties, big headliners, free entry, and lots of love.
You have some amazing acts lined up including Horse Meat Disco and Jon K. For those of us less familiar with the intricacies of dance music, can you give us a little background to these artists?
Horse Meat Disco are absolutely without a doubt the finest disco DJs in the country. They play every major festival (and lots of minor ones) every single year. They were the DJs that Channel 4 turned to when they needed people to lay down the disco at their televised House Party, they have a weekly show on Rinse FM, and they’ve been putting on the best Sunday night party in London for years and years now. They’re utter 100% heroes.
Jon K is your favourite DJ’s favourite DJ. An absolute titan in his local Manchester, he’s one of those guys who just absolutely lives for records and playing them to other people; people talk about him now in the same way they spoke about Jackmaster four years ago, when he was a relatively undiscovered Glasgow gem – it’s the same deal. He’s also one of the sweetest chaps around, and is going to be playing a disco, boogie and soul sunshine set for us at Hot Jam and a full-on club set at the after party. Shake his hand when you see him and say thanks!
You have an unknown special guest playing, and whilst you’ve sworn yourselves to secrecy, could you perhaps give us a clue, and if not, name of a song that’d you’d love them to play?
No clue. I do hope he plays Chemise – She Can’t Love You…it’s one of my favourite boogie tunes and he has been known to drop it.
You’ve joined forces with Pride Society for this event, and mention the influence that the gay, black and Latino cultures have had on dance music. Can you explain this partnership with Pride and explain these influences a little further?
It feels like a lot of progress for gay rights has been made in the English-speaking world recently, but it really wasn’t very long ago at all where being gay was really, really tough in both the U.K. and the U.S.A. In the late 70s and 80s, there were disco clubs that were a haven of acceptance and togetherness for a lot of the gay community – and a lot of blacks and latinos too, particularly in New York with clubs like Paradise Garage and The Loft. There’s a lot of cultural heritage there as it is, but it goes further – absolutely any genre of dance music you care to mention can be traced directly back to those clubs and communities. Take dubstep, even: Frankie Knuckles took disco from those NY clubs and turned it into house in Chicago; some other DJs took that and made the early 4/4 garage sound in NY; this trickled over to the UK, where it was morphed into 2-step UK ‘garridge’, and then some people in Croydon, including our other guest Artwork and two kids called Skream and Benga, took the darker elements of 2-step, stripped it back and accidentally made dubstep. You can play this game with any genre – jungle, trance… pick one. We just think it’s important to recognise our roots, and the influence that these marginalised people from 30 years ago had on our lives and culture, but without being too heavy-handed about it.
So which track really captures what Disco means to you?
Not a super-cool and obscure choice I’m afraid, but who cares? Going with Diana Ross – I’m Coming Out (the 12” mix, natch). It’s about being happy with yourself, and going out into the world feeling good inside. Sounds alright dunnit?
The dance scene in the UK is rich and varied, but is arguably dominated by white males. Do you think the industry would benefit from a greater diversity? And is this an idea you want to promote?
Yeah… this is a tough one that I’ve thought about before. I’d love to see more prominent women, queers and people of colour in prominent positions – communities that are cross-sections of everyone are beautiful. As a middle class straight white male, I’m not really helping, obviously, and it’s difficult for me to encourage, because I’ll come off as saying, ‘Hey! I’m painfully privileged, can some marginalised people come and get involved with my hobby so I can be legitimised and gain credibility?’ So… the answer’s yes, but I’ve honestly not worked out how to promote it aside from events like this, which will hopefully inspire some people. That’d be nice.
If you want people to take one thing away from Hot Jam (apart from having a great time), what would it be?
Dance music is togetherness. Anywhere you find an idea of ‘cool’, ‘edginess’, a prescribed dress code, a necessity to be a certain type of person…that’s all bullshit. Don’t accept it. If you like dancing and as a general rule and you like to be nice to people, that’s all that’s required. Nothing else about you has to matter.
Beats and Bass Present: Hot Jam runs from 12-7 pm in the Ram Garden tomorrow (Sunday 1st June) and is completely free, so you have no excuse not to go and have a great time. But in the meantime, here’s a playlist from Ollie to get you in the mood.
Sharon Brown – I Specialize in Love
Sylvester – I Need You
First Class – Candy
Black Ivory – Mainline
SKYY – First Time