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Horse Meat Disco’s James Hillard interview: ‘I don’t believe in guilty pleasures’

In association with Pioneer DJ.

By Alastair James

Words: Thomas Stitchbury; pictures: Horse Meat Disco

James Hillard is one-quarter of Horse Meat Disco, the world-famous queer club that delivers disco like you’ve never heard before.

A mainstay of festivals around the world, its weekly Sunday residency set to return to its spiritual home at Eagle London, serving a heady blend of uplifting old-school sounds and bold, new, disco-inspired gems.

Which track are you loving?

It’s a song by Loose Change called ‘Babe’. It’s quite epic, wordy, gives me goosebumps… and it’s called ‘Babe’. Genius!

Which song introduced you to dance music?

‘French Kiss’ by Lil Louis. I remember watching the wind- up clapping monkey music video on The Chart Show when I was about 12. It was probably the first time I had heard house music, and I was blown away.

Which record changed your life?

The song that really got me hooked on disco was ‘Casanova’ by Coffee. I remember walking to uni with the track on repeat for the best part of a year.

What secret weapon is in your DJ catalogue?

The Dave Lee remix of Falling Deep in Love featuring Kathy Sledge, the first release from the Horse Meat Disco album Love and Dancing. She bangs!

What’s the go-to club to DJ at for the energy?

Over the past 10 years, I’ve been privileged to close Friday nights at the NYC Downlow at Glastonbury. It’s no stretch to claim it’s the best club in the world. Gideon and Steve, the guys behind Block9, really know how to serve an incredible experience. I’m nervous as hell before I play as I always follow some of the best in the business, but that makes me even more determined to turn it out. I’ve never had a bad set and it’s a reminder why I love this job so much. 

What club has the most impressive sound system in the world?

I would again say the NYC Downlow. Records you think you know inside out take on a whole new dimension on that system.

What was your greatest gig ever?

One of the few times the Horse Meat Disco DJs get to play together as a foursome is at Love International at Barbarella’s in Croatia. We take over the whole of the last night. Playing records all night long till the sun comes up to an always brilliant crowd at the end of their festival is nothing short of magical and life-affirming.

Who would be your dream person to DJ with?

Apart from the guys in Horse Meat Disco, the only other person I feel in my element playing with is DJ Artwork. Both professionally and personally, we really connect.

Best advice you were given by another DJ?

The first time I played in LA I was a little nervous, mainly because DJ Harvey had shown up. He sensed I was nervous and just told me to play Gloria Gaynor and everything would be OK. He was right, of course.

What advice would you give to any budding DJs right now?

The scene and DJing has really changed from when I started. I’m rubbish with social media and a lot of the other things DJs have to do these days. One thing is constant, though: just be passionate about music. Collect and consume it incessantly.

Should all DJs learn to play on vinyl?

I don’t think it’s that important these days. I’m quite glad that the days of lugging heavy records around are long gone and that mixing disco is made a little bit easier by digital equipment.

Guilty pleasure: which song would you love to play at a party but never would?

I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If I love a song, I can always see myself playing it. I just have good taste in trash.

Which dance record represents your outlook on life?

Patti Labelle, ‘Music Is My Way of Life’. It’s self-explanatory, but taken to another level with the vocal prowess of, in my opinion, the best singer alive today!

If you could create your ultimate dance track, who would you produce it with, who would do the vocals, and which club would you play it at?

I’m a big fan of The Carpenters and Karen Carpenter’s voice. Apart from a couple of disco-lite tracks, Karen never really did disco, so, in my fantasy dance record, I’d pair her up with Ashford & Simpson and play it out when Horse Meat Disco starts up again. 

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