Stayin` Alive, Surprisingly

Posted by Pete DeMola on 3. Feb 2010

BEIJING, Feb 3 - While a new generation of night crawlers in New York, Paris and Berlin have recently embraced disco, the 20th-century's most reviled sonic art form, this aural equivalent of a redheaded stepchild -- cloying, cute, bratty and tolerable only in limited doses -- has thus far managed to elude dance floor denizens here in the capital city.

That is, until now, with the imminent arrival of Brooklyn-based production duo Holy Ghost!

Signed to indie label DFA Records, home to acclaimed electro-dance dynamos Hercules and Love Affair, YACHT and joint owner James Murphy's own LCD Soundsystem, the two land in Beijing on Thurs, Feb 25 as part of their latest whirlwind trip around the globe (other locales scheduled for this month include Istanbul, Zurich, Jakarta and Santa Monica).

While Nick Millhiser and Alex Frankel first entered mainstream audiophile consciousness late in the decade with their dance-y remixes of three of the Aughts most well-known indie-slash-something-else artists -- Phoenix, MGMT and Hot Chip -- they've started to generate acclaim outside of the Brooklyn music scene for their own heavily-buzzed original singles "I Will Come Back" and "Hold On," both of which are slick blends of 1970s American disco and its more spaced-out European cousin, Italo.

Their still-untitled debut LP is scheduled to be released later this year.

Here in Beijing, the childhood friends are set to spin a 1970slicious discorific set, billed as the "Dance Dangereux Party," at a nightlife lounge that very well may have been beamed in from the "Me Decade" itself:

That would be LAN Club, Beijing's pseudo-opulent fun palace sheathed in mirrors, pimped out bathrooms and myriad other shimmering objects, including indulgent glitterati with lots of money to blow.


White-hot local electro-clash act Pet Conspiracy will also make an appearance at what is billed as the venue's debut nu-disco party, spinning choice cuts of Disco 2.0 alongside DJ sets from Bai Cai's Merci and Metro Tokyo.

We caught up with Millhiser at his home in New York to discuss disco history, the process behind their spiffy remixes and what they've got simmering for their Beijing set.

Tell us about Holy Ghost! in haiku format.

We are Holy Ghost!
We are very simple men
Pizza, Tacos, Wings...

Where are you right now and what's the view from your window?

I just got home from Europe last night. I'm in my living room. The view is pretty boring: trucks delivering food to the bodega downstairs.

Disco is one of the most maligned genres in musical history. Why the resurgence?

Because it was so maligned! People were missing out on tons of great music. The way Alex and I got into disco was by looking through dollar bins -- all the cheap records that record stores couldn't sell in the early-2000s -- and finding tons of disco 12"s and thinking "Wow, this is really awesome. Who knew?"

We sure didn't. Tell us about some of the differences between disco and nu-disco?

Hmmm, well there are many. Disco, in its original form, attracted a predominantly gay, non-white audience. Nu-disco seems to appeal to mostly straight white dudes with beards.

Who are some of the driving forces (both labels and artists) behind the renewal today?

Well, some people might not like being labeled part of some sort of renewal, so I should clarify that I name these people with the utmost respect: We love Todd Terje, Lindstrom, Prins Thomas and the new Still Going 12" is amazing. But to give credit where credit where credit is due, I should mention that I don't think anyone would be playing disco today if it wasn't for people like Danny Wang, Eric Duncan and Thomas Bullock, Harvey, Darshan and Morgan from Metro Area, etc.

You've done remixes for Hot Chip, Moby, MGMT and Phoenix, among others. Tell us about your remix process, from conceptualization to execution.

Well at the very beginning, we just look for a certain element in the original that seems like it would be fun to recontextualize in some way. With Phoenix, the vocals immediately made us think of early-1980s Stevie Nicks singles.

With Moby there was a really nice, but very understated, synth melody that seemed like it would be cool to bring more to the front with something really dramatic, so we redid it with a horn section. From that initial spark, we try and build a really driving drum/percussion/rhythm section and after that, it's really just a bunch of trial and error: trying different synths, different melody ideas, etc, building the track up and stripping it down to what we feel are the strongest elements. It usually takes us awhile: the fastest we've ever done a remix is a week, but usually it more like two or three.

Which has been your favorite city to perform in and why?

It would be hard to pick one, but we really love Glasgow primarily because the crowd, staff and soundsystem at Sub Club are all amazing.

What can we expect at your Beijing set?

New disco-inspired tunes, old disco tunes, new edits of old tunes, some house-y stuff... but nothing too hard. If we get above 125 bpm, it usually means we've had too much to drink

Top five disco tracks of all time?

I couldn't possibly pick five, so here are five favorite tracks featuring [founders of successful disco act Chic] Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers:

"I Feel Your Love Coming On," Chic

"Thinking of You," Sister Sledge

"Lost in Music," Sister Sledge

"Everybody Dance," Chic

"I Want Your Love," Chic

We immediately conjure up images of roller skates, shag carpets, feathered hair, leisure suits and piles of cocaine when we think of disco. What images, if any, do you think are synonymous with its resurgence?


Get down with Holy Ghost! at the Dance Dangereux party on Thurs, Feb 25 at LAN Club. 9pm, 80/60 RMB (pre-sale; includes one free drink)

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