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Daniel Wang interview: DIsco's Not Dead

Author: Guido Farnell
Wednesday, December 7, 2005

Although not super prolific, leftfield disco producer Daniel Wang has earned something of a cult following around the world with just a handful of superb 12's that spell out Wang's fascination for the disco grooves popularised in the '70s and '80s under the watchful eyes of the mirrorball. Earlier this year, Wang's superb album 'Idealism' was reissued on Morgan Geist's acclaimed Environ label.

'I actually didn't choose to re-release 'Idealism'. It was Morgan Geist's idea, and came as a complete surprise!' advised Wang online from his studio in Berlin. 'The re-recorded versions are definitely all improvements. Tracks like Misty and the short version of All Flowers Must Fade were rushed out for mastering when we first produced the album, so to my ears they were highly flawed. The re-issue or "Idealism 2005" as it's called also has two bonus tracks. I think the Theremin electro track, Glimmer In His Eyes, is a quite good piece. The biggest surprise is that we have sold more than twice the amount we previously did and the album actually made it onto a few magazine charts in France and Germany. It has been quite a reaffirming experience for which I must thank Morgan!'

Ironically, while Wang is obsessed with disco music, he isn't old enough to have frequented some of the famous discos of New York. 'As I always say, if I had been around at that time AIDS and the drugs would have killed me - surely! I got to New York around 1988. I just missed Paradise Garage but I did get to see people like Lady Bunny, Deelite and RuPaul up from the underground to become famous and that was inspiring! I think that was also NYC's last blast. I didn't go Trocadero in San Francisco or to Ice Palace in NYC in the 1970s as I was just ten years old then, but I keep meeting people who have fond memories of those places.'

Wang's love of disco stems from what he perceives as the sheer musicality of the idiom. 'There is such a world of difference between DJs with no musical training who make some cheap loops on their laptops. You know there is an entire generation of them. Am I the only one who thinks something is wrong with that- On the other hand you have serious musicians and engineers in the '70s and '80s, who knew how magical a live legato bassline, a killer brass riff, or a violin in counterpoint could sound. A song such as George Benson's Give Me The Night, like some old Duke Ellington numbers from 1930s, might never lose their charm.'

'I hate the term retro disco - to me it's just all music, competently made, passionately played music, and most of that is classic disco from about 1976-1984, but not exclusively of course. I avoid the hits, so you won't hear any Village People or Gloria Gaynor in my sets! But there will be some old school house gems, some techno surprises to shake the floor if necessary. My love is orchestration, key changes; these are the things that make music magical. It is not camp. It is how dance music should sound.'

Bored with what passes as dance music today, Wang's advice to today's producers is, 'ditch the cheap Dolce & Gabbana video fantasy and get back to respecting the great black, latin, and classical and jazz-influenced music of yesterday. If the best Missy Elliott and Madonna can do is steal a riff from Kraftwerk or Abba, then we need some fresh music.'

'On the underground side of things I really like the Norwegians - Hans Peter Lindstrom and Prins Thomas; I like Putsch 79 (a duo from Finland) and Brennan Green from New York is still quite a talent. I actually liked Justin Timberlake's Rock Your Body a lot but is that still contemporary- Madonna's new video for Hung Up is fabulous. The song is catchy but the orchestration lacks the groove and details of her first album. And she is about as good as overground dance music gets, the rest is unlistenable -<