My London: Horse Meat Disco


Party pioneers James Hillard (second from right) and Jim Stanton (far left) have been filling dancefloors with their high-octane, self-proclaimed ‘good old fashioned disco’ for nigh on nine years.

INSPIRED by New York’s club scene of the ‘70s and ‘80s, Horse Meat Disco – the unadulterated daddy of all disco nights – has burgeoned to become a Sunday staple and stuff-of-legend for London’s camp and flamboyantly cool.

Today, alongside their new residency at Prince Charles in Berlin, HMD’s weekly disco dosage endures at their ‘spiritual home’, The Eagle in Vauxhall. ‘It’s been a great home for us,’ says Hillard. ‘Everyone involved feels like a family and it’s nice to still have that after so long in club years! We’ll continue with the club for however long people still love us. We are, and always will be, about the party and that won’t stop!’

This Saturday they host the ground floor of London’s Loft Studios alongside Spen + Karizma at The Date. Expect riotous debauchery, ‘a little Sunday Vauxhall realness’, and plenty of shimmying to obscure disco classics and nu-skool gems from their recently released Horse Meat Disco 3 compilation.

First, I have to know: how did the name Horse Meat Disco come about?

JH: ‘It comes from a headline in a newspaper that was concealed in a stack which was about to be thrown out. The headline was: Horse Meat Discovered in Salami but it had been partially obscured to reveal Horse Meat Disco. It was like a eureka moment! A great name that made no sense but conjured up many good and bad images in my head. To this day people have different reactions to the name. All are valid and mostly filthy.’

How did DJing first transpire for you?

JH: ‘I think the first time I played a record on turntables was when I was about four or five years old. My dad was a DJ and had turntables set up in the dining room. I think the first record I played was by Dollar. I know, not cool at all but I think looking back I had a crush on David Van Day! Why did I just admit that? Anyway, later having been an avid record collector all my life, the chance arose when Jim and I started to put on parties so we could do the warm up, and it kind of went from there.’

How does disco inspire you?

JH: ‘It never fails to make me want to dance. It puts a smile on my face. Life’s trials are revealed in the music and each song is a self-help book! I don’t know, it just connects with me and that inspires me to share it with other people. There is such a wealth in a decade of music that you never can know everything. There is always another tune to discover, or a singer to fall in love with.’

You’ve just released the Horse Meat Disco 3 compilation – how would you describe the album?

JH: ‘It’s a good introduction to our sound. And although there aren’t any classic HMD tunes in there, if you are new to us then this will give you a good idea of what we are about.’

You’ve collaborated with a variety of artists in the past, like Andrew Weatherall. Who would you love to work with but haven’t?

JH: ‘We’d love to have Harvey come and play at the club sometime. This year really has been about bringing legendary DJs to the club. In 2012 we have had DJs like Kenny Dope and David Morales and we’re keen to continue by inviting legendary names such as Frankie Knuckles. Big names! Big!’

Which tracks always make the biggest impact on the dancefloor when you DJ?

JS: ‘I never get a duff reaction from Street Player by Chicago, perhaps because it’s the basis of that later, very famous Bucketheads track, but it’s a real party starter. If anything else fails, stick on Loleatta Holloway, Love Sensation – winner!

‘This year Inspector Norse by Todd Terje has without doubt been the biggest, and on the same tip Lindstrom and Prins Thomas’s remix of Locussolus – I Want It is still blowing up our floor. Other exciting artists for me include The 2 Bears, Young Tee, DJ Parrot and Psychemagik.’

You’ve played plenty of festivals – which are you favourites?

JH: ‘For me Glastonbury will always be my favourite. It’s my home town and I’ve been going ever since I was a kid, but since being involved in the NYC Downlow, it is a fixture on the calendar I would never miss. There really is no other festival like it and the NYC Downlow and HMD go down really well there. However, I do love other festivals and have loved playing out at Electric Elephant in Croatia, Bestival and this year’s newcomer to the festival circuit Festival Number 6 was by far my favourite of the year!’

Favourite area of London?

JH: ‘I love the neighbourhood I live in: Brixton. I’ve lived in the same flat now for 13 years. I love the diversity, and in terms of neighbourhoods in London I think it’s one of the more interesting ones. If I wanted to live in a neighbourhood where there were lots of clubs and bars I probably wouldn’t have chosen Brixton, but for someone who spends a lot of time travelling around and in clubs its nice to live in an area that has more to offer besides that. Its got pretty good for food these days with Brixton Village, and there are lots of great parks I can walk my dog.’

Where in London do you feel most creative?

JS: ‘I feel creatively inspired in our line of work by getting out there to clubs to see what’s going on. I also draw inspiration from our huge selection of galleries, with the Tate being particularly moving.’

Who do you think is the most exciting DJ in the world right now?

JH: ‘Having seen him recently, Harvey really does live up to the hype! I also love to follow what Daniele Baldelli is doing. He’s a big inspiration musically and technically to me but I would never call myself the purveyor of taste so this is just my opinion.’

What would your perfect London day out involve?

JS: ‘Such a dream question! Breakfast at home; huevos rancheros with my loved one and our dog reading papers in bed. Straight into the West End for shopping at Liberty, then lunch at Mildreds in Soho. Drop round my favourite record shops – Phonica, Reckless – to catch up. After: cinema at The Ritzy Brixton, seats Q16 and 17, then it’s time for dinner at Hawksmoor in Seven Dials, then disco dancing anywhere, but preferably Eagle London; the home of Horse Meat Disco!’

First published on The London Word, November 2012.
© Abbey Stirling