Porn again

SEX + MUSIC ISSUE: The rediscovered skin flick soundtracks of disco legend Patrick Cowley

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marke@sfbg.com

SEX + MUSIC What does Tumblr sound like? Is there an xTube channel on Pandora? Does Grindr have autoplay? (Perish the thought.) Already the gay porn soundtrack seems a relic of some ancient age, when people used pterodactyls to press "play" on the VCR, or put their real ages in their AOL chatroom handles. But even just a few years ago, during the increasingly desperate gasps of the dominant adult film studios, porn soundtracks were an essential part of big, expensive productions, and local background composers like JD Slater and Minor9 were taking experimental liberties.

Now, we're about to be treated to the Holy Grail of lost porn soundtracks, with the upcoming release of School Daze, a double-album collecting the skin flick work of SF electronic pioneer Patrick Cowley for Fox Studio, composed from 1973-1981. Cowley, who died of AIDS in 1982, is famous for his production work with disco diva Sylvester and epic Hi-NRG tracks like "Menergy" and "Megatron Man." School Daze contains some pretty trippy stuff — in the buffed, blonde, hairless heyday of early '80s gay porn like Muscle Up, you'd hardly expect to come across such expressionistic (yet still playful) compositions with titles like "Seven Sacred Pools," "Zygote," "Pagan Rhythms," and "Tides of Man."

School Daze is being released on HNYTRX, local DJ crew Honey Soundsystem's label, on Oct. 19 — Cowley's 63rd birthday — with a celebration at Honey's weekly Sunday party, Oct. 20. (Details at www.megatronman.com). I talked to Honey members Josh Cheon and Jacob Sperber about the unearthed gems.

SF Bay Guardian OK, rumors have been flying about these tracks for years. How did you get you get your hands on them?

Josh Cheon In 2007, Honey Soundsystem was blessed to meet the former owner of Megatone Records [Cowley's label], John Hedges. He was moving to Palm Springs and invited us over to his basement to collect over 2000 records from his collection. Among the archives we noticed three moldy boxes of quarter inch reel-to-reel tapes. Some of the tapes had unreleased music by Patrick Cowley. Inspired, we contacted Patrick's friends and family to discover as much information as possible.

A few of Patrick's friends asked if anyone had discovered the gay porn soundtracks Patrick had composed. Digging deeper, we unearthed John Coletti, the owner of famed vintage gay porn company Fox Studio in Los Angeles. John had heard about Patrick's music from the legendary Sylvester and proposed he write music for his films. That was in 1981. Patrick jumped on this offer and sent reels of his college compositions from the '70s to John in LA. We were able to locate Coletti in Los Angeles though an old address on a porn tape. In May 2013, I flew to LA to pick up the tapes from the Fox Studio storage garage and brought them back to San Francisco.

SFBG Why do you think Patrick went so moody and trippy with these compositions?

JC I think the ambience reflects the gay bathhouse scene of San Francisco during the late '70s. Patrick frequented the bookstores in the Castro and the bathhouses of SOMA, a few blocks from his recording studio. He had the perfect setting to compose songs there. He also smoked a lot of pot and most of these songs could be stoner jams.

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