Sound Factory, New York
When I flew out to New York for the first time, I had one DJ and one club in my thoughts and they were Tony Humphries and Zanzibar. London was in the thrall 'The Hump', having recently witnessed the Ramplings Voluptuous party where the great and the good of London clubland packed into a warehouse to hear (and see, as there was a lot of DJ watching that night) one of the true house heavy weights showcase his talents. My friend Steve, who had moved out there year before, had even whetted my appetite with some tapes of his weekly Kiss mix show.However, upon my arrival Steve seriously dampened my London centric enthusiasm by telling me that No one in New York is really into Humphries right now. He went on to explain that the real buzz was centred around some bloke called Junior Vasquez, who I vaguely remembered reading about in Disc Jockey magazine a year or two before, and his club, the Sound Factory.
The first Saturday of the trip arrived I remained unconvinced, but Steve allayed my concerns with the promise that if I didnt like the Factory wed head out to New Jersey the following week, so I agreed to give it a go.
We met up with more friends, including a gay stylist called Roberto, a guy who worked for Area 10 Records and their mate, Chez Damier (!), then got involved in some serious fag-lad action round Robertos apartment that saw me leave for the night's proceedings with my Balearic barnet in a French plat and wearing full on eye make-up.so I spent my first night at the Factory looking like a pretty unattractive girl.
The Factory didn't get going until the early hours, so we got in the mood by visiting the Roxy to hear Frankie Knuckles spin. It really did feel like a ghost of a club. The decor seemed faded and old, and a few forlorn looking roller skaters on the mostly empty dancefloor, around which people sat uninterested drinking in booths and Frankie played loads of his own records whilst dry humping some young skinny lad in the booth. This alone was mildly entertaining, we didn't hang around and we were soon heading uptown to 46th street and the Sound Factory.
I don't remember much about the queue, there was a door picker, but the people we were with ensured we breezed in (maybe the eye liner helped too). The club itself was much as I would have imagined the Paradise Garage to look like – a fairly cavernous warehouse type space with old round steel pillars, with the DJ booth was built up high in the wall at one end. There were 4 large speaker stacks which seemed to be built into the floor in the 4 corners of the dance floor and the lighting system was built around a vast Secret Sundaze shaming disco ball suspended above the middle of the floor. There was drinking fountain on the way in, an alcohol free juice bar over on one side of the room and the entrance to a chill out room on the other. The whole place was spotless too and they even had cleaners walking around throughout the night sweeping any cigerette ends that made it onto the floor, so none of the grey club floor sludge which ruined your clothes in London clubs at the time.
The crowd was fairly mixed ethnically but mainly black hispanic and almost exclusively gay, though there wasn't a cruisey vibe, everyone was definitely there to dance and you could almost feel the energy on the dance floor. A lot of people were rocking the banji boy, vest and baggy jeans look, but there were muscle marys, club kids and the most fabulous gorgeous drag queens that had you thinking "maybe", too… On each of the speaker stacks there was a naked, oiled, muscle bound go-go dancer, whose only props were small hand towels used to hide their dignity from the crowd. However, they weren't all gay, as one of the oily bastards tried to cop of with my girlfriend during his break!
Junior played all night from midnight to midday, so he really had the opportunity to build and shape the music throughout the night. By 3am it was really just starting to get going, with it really going off around 6 or 7am. The music wasn't just that Sex Trax sound we've come to associate with the Factory, it was more of a mix of slighter harder edged US stuff like the Coral Way Chiefs 'Release Myself' and Liberty City 'Get Some Loving' on Murk, 4 Measure Men '4 You/Just a Dream', early wild pitch stuff, UK tracks like X-Press 2 'London Xpress' and the Farley and Heller mix of Happy Mondays 'Stinkin Thinkin' and DSK and more traditional US house, like Aly-us.
But it wasn't just the music, it was the way it was put together. Junior knew his records, he knew his crowd, he knew his system and he worked them all expertly. The system was fantastic really loud and so clear you could talk on the dance floor. Junior would play jet plane noises that swept from one side of the club to the other and the sound was so sharp it felt like it cut through your body. He used FX like that and the light system, which was in perfect sync with the music, to build the tension on the dance floor. At one point he left us listening to and Gregorian monks chanting. And another we heard the sound of rain gradually fading up into the music then slowly taking over as the club sank into pitch darkness. The rain turned into a thunder storm with lightening streaking across the ceiling courtesy of strategically placed strobes, I stood there in the dark clapping and screaming my head off along with 1,000 sweat soaked queens, as the tension just built and built, then eventually, after what seemed like forever, we heard the words Its gonna be a lovely day, for you and me (from that S.O.U.L. S.Y.S.T.E.M record) and BANG every single light in the club hits a massive disco ball so it feels like the sun has actually dropped onto the dancefloor, night had turned into day and the whole place erupts like nothing I'd ever seen in a club erupt before. It was absolutely amazing.
Another highlight was the Sound of Blackness 'The Pressure'. I remember reading Danny Ramplings chart in DJ Mag and him commenting next to that entry 6am at the Sound Factory and me thinking "Yeah, its no Gat Decor though" or something like that. Then I found myself standing on the dance floor of the Sound Factory at 6am as that accapella intro came in and suddenly, it all made perfect sense. Its probably the most beautiful record I've heard in a club by the time it was played, it was like hed built up the pressure so much on the dance floor this was the release. And what a release! The guy from Area 10 records started to cry when he played it and when it finally kicked in the place went ballistic. To this day when I hear that intro it gives goose bumps.
As the crowd started to thin a little after 7am the drag queens and trannies took over one side of the club, working an imaginary cat walk along the side the dance floor, throwing shade and generally trying to out do each other. They weren't like your English builder in a dress trannies either, they were actually slim, pretty, well preened and dare I say, quite sexy! To a long haired, spotty 22 year from London it was like another world and I could have just sat back and watched them for hours but the music was just too good and you couldn't sit down for long.
I know its a DJ clique these days but I really did feel like we went on a musical journey that night. It was almost like a religious experience. I remember standing on the dance floor, blown away by it all, thinking When I get back to London I'm going to sell my turntables because I'll never be able to play like this and even if could, I wouldn't be playing at the Sound Factory and there isn't any point DJing anywhere else.
I think we finally stumbled out into the New York daylight around 10am. I never made it to Zanzibar on that trip because while I was there I only wanted to go one place on a Saturday. People seem quick to knock Junior these days, saying he cant mix, he music is/was boring but at that moment in time, in that that space, with that crowd, he was perfect and no matter what anyone says, I'll always have those memories.
Taken from Miles’ superb Beyond The Stars blog.
Miles’s new night with Rick Hopkins & Joseph Apted launches next Saturday @ Visions in Dalston with Neville Watson (Rush Hour) guesting.