Black Disco: A New York Expat Brings the Sound of the Loft to the West Coast
Near the bottom of Mohawk Street in Echo Park stands a hunched-over Kevin Carney, one half of Black Disco, the dance-music edit label and itinerant club party he formed with fellow DJ Andrew “Lovefingers” Hogge. Carney’s hard at work but not on planning the next party (which will happen this Friday with Hercules and Love Affair’s main man Andy Butler at Club 740), nor on a new batch of edits for the dance floor. Rather, he’s spraying a white coat of Rust-oleum onto a metal table. Carney, his beard with just a touch of white and flecked with sawdust, is working frantically; he and his wife are about to open their own boutique, Mohawk General Store, which will feature another aspect of Carney’s handicraft: designer footwear.
Carney was a mover in New York’s fertile dance-music scene for years, booking big acts like Erol Alkan and Scotland’s Optimo in the tiny but crucial Passerby Bar in Chelsea before relocating to L.A. three years ago. “I used to find records in the trash in New York City that were fucking amazing,” Carney enthuses about those pre–“Losing My Edge”/ “House of Jealous Lovers” days, before indie-rock kids took to craving dance music. “People would just throw them away! I would find piles of old Italo disco out on the street. Now they’re $100 records!”
Fully indoctrinated in the ways of the classic New York disco dance party (in the vein of David Mancuso’s Loft and Larry Levan’s Paradise Garage), Carney sought a similar experience in Los Angeles, to no avail. “Everywhere had a disco scene, but here it was more hi-NRG,” he says. “Here you don’t have a built-in scene: People have to drive to get there, it’s a big commitment to get people out. And the culture is rooted in rock music. Even with the DJs here, the presentation is more rock.” Not that Carney is opposed to rock, as he works to strains of KLOS on a boom box, nodding his head to everything from Emerson, Lake & Palmer to ZZ Top during our time together.
Carney met Hogge when he relocated out West. “Fresh Jive was my first job, designing their shit. Andrew was the graphics guy and I was the clothing-design guy,” Carney recalls. “He was more into krautrock [Hogge’s DJ name references a Silver Apples song], but we mutually turned each other on to a psychedelic disco sound.” Soon after, Carney started lugging his own sound system and rotary mixer around town, wanting to give L.A. a taste of N.Y.-style parties, while also baiting and switching with rockers used to standing flat-footed: “I’d throw in a Tom Petty track that people usually hear on Power 96 or KLOS, but it’s extended and edited and it just sounds different. It gets people off their seats as they go, 'Fuck, I recognize this!’ And then you can move them in different directions.”
The pair set up residencies at spots like Short Stop and Mountain Bar, in the process making the Black Disco parties necessary West Coast stops for Carney’s old friends back East. The club climaxed last year with the sweat-sopped and sardine-packed warehouse party in Lincoln Heights thrown with LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy and Pat Mahoney, two gents well versed in getting rockers to dance.
On the side, Black Disco and Lovefingers have released a few 12-inch disco edits on their own imprint, alchemically creating dance-friendly tracks out of everything from Italo disco none-hit wonders to a transcendent reimagining of recently deceased British folk guitarist John Martyn. Next up for the duo is getting into the studio to make some original productions, but Carney’s mantra remains intact: “I feel like you either disco or you don’t disco.”
Black Disco co-hosts Legion of Disco 2 with Andy Butler of Hercules & Love Affair and Pat Mahoney of LCD Soundsystem on Friday, February 20 at Club 740.
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