Americans may have birthed house music, but it’s the British who love it the most. Some 20-odd years ago, when house music couldn’t find its way out of the warehouses for which it was named, the UK was featuring the sound in major clubs across the country, and it wasn’t unusual to see house music infiltrate the charts.
Still, from the late ‘80s to the early ‘00s, the British contingent made regular pilgrimages to New York and Miami to visit meccas like Sound Factory and Groovejet and experience firsthand the legends Junior Vasquez and Danny Tenaglia. At the head of this queue—both as fans and as DJs/producers/remixers—were, and still are, Terry Farley and Pete Heller.
The two’s individual histories with dance music goes so far back, it predates house music. But with their timeless and landmark productions and remixes under various guises—Fire Island, Roach Motel, Heller ‘n’ Farley Project, or simply Farley & Heller—they have solidified their place in house music on an international level. While paying homage to the origins of the style, the duo put their own spin on it, making it globally palatable and identifiably unique.
The duo prove their house music knowledge, while showing off their prolific production and remixing skills, in the triple disc, 30-track collection from Defected Records: Defected Presents House Masters Farley & Heller. An excellent series from the longstanding UK house music label, House Masters features the true dons of the genre representing the sound in the context of its history and their history within it. It has boasted such heavyweights as Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez, Louie Vega, Miguel Migs, Derrick Carter, Osunlade, MK, Murk, and Bob Sinclair, to name just a few.
Now, Farley and Heller put their singular stamp on the series. The tracks collected are all either produced or remixed by the two. The first disc spans their far-reaching remixes, from the light and pretty Fire Island “La Musica Es la Respuesta” Spanish guitar-flecked rework of Danny Tenaglia’s “Music Is the Answer (Dancin’ & Prancin’)” to the Fire Island Dub 4 Junior reimagining of Junior Vasquez’s flouncing “Get Your Hands off My Man.” The second disc features more of their remix skills for high-profile artists, including U2’s “Salome,” which gets the slinky Zooromancer remix, and Simply Red’s perennial favorite “Money’s Too Tight (to Mention)” redone as a tribal shuffler. The third disc showcases the pair’s productions with classics like Roach Motel’s seductive “The Night,” Fire Island with the beautifully crafted “If You Should Need a Friend” featuring Mark Anthoni, and the Heller ‘n’ Farley Project’s percussive “We Built This House” featuring Cevin Fisher.
Terry Farley takes us way back to how dance music first entered his life.
When did you first fall in love with dance music?
I never chose dance music; it chose me. I know that sounds pretentious and a bit Hollywood coming from a kid living in drab, cold, and grey Notting Dale in the late 1960s, but bear with me. Our rundown but lovely Victorian terrace house had West Indian neighbors. The dad had a beaten-up English car that looked like a bad imitation of a ‘50s Cadillac with rubbish fake leopard-skin seat covers. He also played ska and reggae very loudly around midnight, which shook the old walls and taught me subconsciously about the power of the bassline.
London, and indeed the whole of the UK, have had a long love affair with black American music—especially the stuff you dance to. Motown may have come from Detroit, but England took it to its heart, and those 4×4 beats from the Funk Brothers house band was the soundtrack to our lives pre-disco.
What was the first dance music event you attended?
The first “disco” I went to—and realized I may well spend most of my spare time (and spare cash) here for the next four decades—was Crackers in London’s West End. Norman Jayhas said it was “our Paradise Garage.” I’m not so sure. I’d say Tee Scott‘s Better Days may be a more honest comparison. Just off Soho, Crackers was a basement club above a pub. The music was HOT-off-the-plane imports. The crowd was a mix of black Londoners, fashion kids (Bowie boys) and record collectors—no one over 21, and no one over 10 stones [140 pounds] dripping wet. Boy, it was hot inside, and as nobody was interested in buying alcohol, the owners turned off the cold water taps in the toilets to make the kids buy soft drinks. Nobody had thought of the idea of actually selling water.
DJs were not the reason, however, you went to underground clubs like Crackers and its peers: the 100 Club on Oxford Street, Upstairs at Ronnie’s, the great room above the world-famous Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club. The reason we went was to follow the dancers. The dancers were far more important than the DJ. We expected whoever was playing to already have the hot and rare stuff, but watching the legendary kids dancing was a much bigger deal. This film is from 1977 at a Brixton club called Clouds and features those kids:
How did you hear about Crackers?
I had moved out of London in my teens and was living in a town about 20 miles from the city. We read about Crackers in a magazine called Blues & Soul, which was like a monthly bible for soul/funk/disco fans. There was an advert saying “50 pence entry, the best dancers and prancers.” Seemed like you had to find out if it was true. It was.
How old were you the first time you went there?
Seventeen. There was nobody older than 21 in the room.
Were any people there with you whom we might be familiar with?
Other teenage devotees of the club included Carl Cox, Norman Jay, DJ Paul Anderson, Jazzie B of Soul II Soul, and the Kemp Brothers from Spandau Ballet.
Even though you didn’t go to Crackers for the DJs, do you remember who they were?
It’s misleading of me to say we never went for the DJs. It’s a chicken and egg situation, I suppose. The best, hardest funk and disco attracted the best dancers. Mark Roman was the resident 1974 to 1976, then George Power from 1976 until around 1979.
Can you give us an idea of the music they were playing?
Musically, it was all US-imported funk and jazz funk and disco.
How did your time in the discos lead to your DJing?
I was an obsessive record collector with no interest in DJing, but as I had the tunes, I got asked to bring them to parties.
Promised Land & Funkinyou Day & Night party & Day time BBQ
Easter Sunday 16th April 2017
3pm – 8am
@Egg Club 200 York Way Kings Cross N7
What a party we have set up for you for your Easter bank holiday Sunday 16th April @Egg London. We invite Funkinyou to join in the fun alongside Promised Land for a monster of a night with loving people that just want to jack!!
This will be a day & night event that kicks off at 3 pm with a BBQ + four rooms of music playing different eras of house and dance music from the early 80s & 90s mixing the old with the new. Whether you are into Classic House or Disco, Tech House or Techno, Acid House or Vocal House, our DJs have got it covered. PLUS our resident dj and Promised land head honcho Arkoss will be celebrating his birthday with his favorite Promised Land & Egg club people !!
Our events are not just about the name brand DJs. It’s not about the capacity of people it’s about the quality of people !! It’s about the music, the vibe, the love X
Classic House music from 1987 through to 2006:
Peyton (Live PA)
Arkoss (Birthday set)
Philgood & Ram
Basement: Classic Funky / Deep & Vocal House
Loft: 80s & 90s disco,Funk, Soul & Nu Disco
1st Release £10 SOLD OUT
2nd Release £15 SOLD OUT
3rd Release £20
4th Release £25
Dress code: Please make an effort / No track suits / smart trainer Ok