UK disco edit and electro-funk hero Greg Wilson sails beyond the vinyl revival, reel-to-reel in tow
Wilson made his name in the '70s and '80s by birthing the electro-funk movement in the U.K. (www.electrofunkroots.co.uk), which pipelined many hard-to-find American dance releases to British crowds, and he came of age in a world of DJ record pools — strategic vinyl-sharing cabals that hooked cash-strapped DJs up with record companies eager to get their releases heard. Record pool culture opened the doors for innumerable disco and funk edits: DJs wanted to sound unique, so they mixed (or had someone else mix) their own versions of hits, stamping them with an individual sonic imprint. Thus the hugely influential edit scene was born, paving the way for a spectrum of club remixes from genius and egregious.
No one handled edits quite like Wilson, whose pitch-perfect additions, stretches, and overlaps and live technique proved to be a bulletproof blueprint. The disco edit scene, a subsection of disco revivalism that also digs up more contemporary "lost" tracks, keeps looping back into view, the most recent fanatic attack including acts like Wolf + Lamb, Soul Clap, Les Edits Du Golem, and Tensnake, and labels like Rong, Wurst, and Ugly.
Our very own rulers of the local edit scene are King & Hound (www.myspace.com/garthgrayhound), a collaborative effort between two SF DJ legends, Garth and James Glass, on the Golden Goose label. The two met in the early '90s at the notorious Record Rack music store and have lately released tasty versions of David Ian Xtravaganza's kiki 1989 "Elements of Vogue" and Can's space-groovy "A Spectacle."
"I have quite a few of Greg's records," Garth told me over e-mail. "I recently rediscovered one of his early hip-hop records called 'We Don't Care' by Ruthless Rap Assassins, which I bought in 1987!" Glass joined in, "I grew up in London listening to Greg's mixes and I'd hear him out and about." Both of them shake off suggestions of Wilsonian influence, however. "But we're all doing the same thing — taking out the cheese and respecting the quality," Glass said.
Wilson's brilliant 2009 Essential Mix mix for the U.K.'s BBC1 radio found Massive Attack and Talking Heads sharing space with Geraldine Hunt and Chic, and reintroduced him to American ears ("I think that mix illustrates what I always strive for: connecting back but moving on," he told me. "I was shocked at the overwhelmingly positive response.") But to Bay players he was always in the loop, working with the invaluable Anthony Mansfield of the Green Gorilla crew and Qzen and even visiting Haight Street a few years back to feed his '60s obsession.
I recently had the opportunity to explore a bit of the Bay Area's record pool and disco edit past with DJ Jim Hopkins of the ubiquitous Twitch Recordings, and who currently spins eclectic sets at venues like 440 Castro and Trax. He's no stranger to the edit scene, becoming one of the youngest edit contributors in the early '80s to San Francisco disco and Hi-NRG record pool Hot Tracks and later, after Hot Tracks owner Steve Algozino passed away from AIDS, Rhythm Stick, helmed by Algozino's protégée Jenny Spiers. (He also namechecks the Bay's Disconet and New Wave-friendly Razor Maid.) Hopkins got his edit start as a teen in the '70s, using the pause button on his dad's tape deck to make his own edits, and soon grabbed professional attention. "Record companies wanted several versions of their records available for DJs, and record pools wanted to put out compilation issues for subscribers that featured unique takes on tracks, so I happily provided," he told me. "It's funny that those things are worth a fortune today."