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A Quietus Interview

Let's Go To Work! Mr Pinks On Disco Discharge And Exclusive Mix
John Doran , January 27th, 2011 09:55

Mr Pinks is the mysterious mirror shaded don behind Demon's Disco Discharge series. He tells us about his fine series of comps. With exclusive mix. Photos by Allan Tannenbaum NSFW

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Disco depth-charge mixtape by elninodiablo

Regular readers will know that there is nothing that the Quietus likes more than a fierce blast of disco straight from the source and for the last two years now, Demon's Disco Discharge series has been our first port of call.

To celebrate the release of another four fine compilations (Mondo Disco, Disco Fever USA, Euro Beats and Cruising The Beats) we decided to speak to the brains behind the operation, the mysterious Mr Pinks. And while you're reading what he has to say, why not listen to our exclusive Disco Depth Charge Mix, which was kindly put together by Mr Pink's other half, Steve Matthews.

I guess I should ask you first of all, how you got the name Mr Pinks?

Mr Pinks: Mr Pinks is actually a cuddly toy which I’ve had for years.

I should admit I was expecting something more lurid.

MP: I know, I know, I should make something up but it’s just a little dog, there’s no interesting story behind it.

So Disco Discharge is an excellent series of releases that regular readers of the Quietus will know about. I like it for that same reason that I like the Soul Jazz Dynamite reggae series, it seems to pull off that trick of being attractive to both serious disco heads and keen novices alike. It’s certainly broadened and deepened my knowledge of disco. Can you tell us about the start of the project?

MP: Yeah, it was about 2008 and I went to a guy that I work with at Demon and I just said to him, ‘Look I’ve got this idea...’ and he was interested and asked me to flesh it out. So I went away and the first thing I did was to put a track list together and I also came back with the idea for using these retro black and white images. He loved the idea and it just went from there really.

The photographs are amazing. If there’s one thing I hate about the popular consumption and perception of disco, it’s idiots in afro wigs and Saturday Night Fever suits. These photos are undeniably camp but they’re also really awesome they capture the true spirit of disco. Where did you source them?

MP: They came from picture libraries. I originally googled loads of retro images... what I was really after were images that were disco-ish but without being overtly disco but more really about glamour.

More about the surrounding culture.

MP: Yes.

I guess enough people have already seen Bianca Jagger on a horse in a nightclub... these pictures are much more interesting. So, initially, what were the problems? I mean this series will have run to 12 double albums by next month but at the outset what obstacles did you face?

MP: The biggest problem out of everything, to be honest has been to track down people so we can license the songs. I do a full-time job at Demon, so all of this, I have to do in my spare time. I’ve spent ages on the internet basically. How people did these compilations 20-years-ago, I have no idea but I’ve been on facebook, google, social media... just trying to come up with some kind of contact. With the majors it’s not really a problem because we deal with them all the time, so it’s just a matter of emailing them and hoping that they’ve still got the rights. But with these guys in Italy... one of the songs I wanted more than anything else was ‘The Hills of Katmandu’...

By Tantra? That is one of my favourite disco songs...

MP: Yeah, what a brilliant record. So I’ve had it on vinyl for donkey’s years but I never thought in a million years that we’d end up finding him but we got hold of him via his lawyer because he still produces music in Italy and he’s quite famous over there for arranging music. [Tantra was basically the brain child of Celso Valli working under the alias Quelli Del Castello.] But there have been people we’ve just not been able to get in touch with, sadly they may have died or the rights have become very confused. Because we’re part of the BBC, every I has to be dotted and every t crossed. Unfortunately we can’t do what some smaller labels do and just include a disclaimer saying, ‘If you are the writer of this track please get in touch with us.’ Believe me, I’ve tried my hardest to get them to do that but they just won’t have it!

Out of the songs you haven’t tracked down, what’s the one you’re keenest on licensing?

MP: I spent ages looking for Alec R Costandinos a French disco producer from the 1970s. [This Greek/Egyptian Cerrone collaborator was a big influence in the progression of Quietus favourites, Aphrodite’s Child.] It took so long to find him that we missed the deadline but we're in touch with him now, so hopefully he'll be on a future compilation.

And I guess you’ve got in touch with some people who are really surprised that you’d even be asking?

MP: Absolutely. We got in touch with a guy from Canada called Vince DeGiorgio who was just so happy that he could make a bit of money and have his music reissued. He ran a very famous hi-energy label called Power Records out of Canada in the 80s. I’ve since become friends with him and he’s been over to DJ and he just has an awesome knowledge about disco. But he was just so pleased that someone wanted to put his stuff out on CD, when this music has not been out on CD for 15 or 20 years.

I guess I should say at this point that it’s not a totally nostalgic thing and that some of the tracks here are songs that I guess would be very much in demand by cosmic disco, Italo house and Balearic DJs. Also a lot of these songs come in their ideal format: the 12” mix. Are you hoping to tempt in a mixture of home listeners and young DJs?

MP: Definitely. When I first started the series I really wanted to do them from a gay man’s point of view but I wanted them to be for everyone. If you go on the Disco Discharge facebook group you can see the demographic of the people who are into these albums. They’re all 40+ men which, I guess kind of means they’re all gay men who were around at the time but we’ve had a lot of interest from the style mags as well and that was always the intention to get this music to people who hadn’t heard it before.

What was your personal introduction to disco like?

MP: I was a kid in the 1970s so I used to buy disco 7”s and the great compilation albums on Ronco and K-Tel. My real introduction was when I met my boyfriend (Steve Matthews) in the mid-80s. He’d been on the scene a bit longer than me. It’s quite clear that disco has come back into favour over the last four or five years, especially with the whole re-edit culture that’s sprung up. It was out of favour for quite a while but that’s not the case now. Horsemeat Disco has really helped pave the way for this kind of thing. Hopefully it will continue like this as well.

How do you draw the boundaries around disco. At its outer limits it stretches all the way to reggae, house, punk, post punk, rock… it must be good fun in a way to delineate the genre to your own ends.

MP: What I’ve tended to do is to concentrate on the genres that I actually know about because as you say it’s got tendrils going out all over the place. So I tend to go for the funkier stuff, the trad disco, the hi-energy and the Euro disco which is what I know about. What I wouldn’t want to do, would be to do a compilation where I didn’t know the songs really well. The series does have a lifespan… the last thing I want to do is to release albums that I think aren’t up to scratch but there are new CDs planned. We’ve got another four in the pipeline…

And using the Disco Discharge series, if you were packing a DJ bag, which are the songs that you’d always have with you?

MP: Tantra ‘The Hills Of Katmandu’; Passengers ‘Hot Leather’; The Ritchie Family ‘Quiet Village’; Dennis Parker ‘Like An Eagle’; Richard T Bear ‘Sunshine Hotel’; Charlie Calello Orchestra ‘Sing Sing Sing’; Technique ‘Can We Try Again’… you just tell me when to stop!

For more information on the latest four Disco Discharge releases click here

Disco Depth Charge Mix

Patrick Cowley – 'Lift Off'

Kano – 'It’s A War'

The Immortals – 'The Ultimate Warlord'

Manhattan Transfer – 'Twilight Zone / Twilight Tone'

Gino Soccio – 'Remember'

Companion – 'Livin’ Up To Love'

Freddie James – 'Get Up And Boogie'

Harlow – 'Lift Off'

Poussez – 'Never Gonna Say Goodbye'

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Omi Palone
Jan 27, 2011 3:57pm

Great interview & Depth Charge. From the images you have also enlightened me as to what went on in those dark corners of the Clubs, you really should have warned them you were going to hit the light switch!

Keep up the good work.

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brendan
Jan 28, 2011 11:15am

great songs
any chance of these coming out on vinyl?

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MrPinks
Jan 29, 2011 1:35pm

In reply to brendan:

We have thought about doing vinyl Brendan. The problem is when you license tracks you have to specify the formats you want to relese on. Once the license is agreed, that's it. The other issue is that licensors can ask for an additonal advance for releasing on vinyl as well as CD and we are on a budget that doesn't allow that. That's just the way the music industry is these days. Damn those illegal downloaders...

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Benjm
Feb 6, 2011 7:20pm

Got European Connections a couple of days ago having missed it on release. Now engaged in a giddy love affair with Instant Love. Thank you, Mr Pinks!

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