For my inner circle of music friends, there isn’t a lot that hasn’t been said about David already, especially since his passing on Monday the 14th of November, but for my ‘triathlon friends’ I thought this little tribute would be much welcome as I believe most wouldn’t even have heard of him.
I won’t do a full biography/music history here, as others are much more qualified and have even done so eloquently already, starting with this exceptional interview of David done by my friend Tim Lawrence, author of the dance music bible Loves Saves the Day (whose title itself comes from an invitation at David’s Loft party in 1970). Rather I will keep these reflections quite personal and link all the relevant tributes along the way.
Quite simply without David I wouldn’t be where I am today doing what I do. No Cedric Woo, no Beauty & the Beat, no audiophile system in my living room. My circle of friends would be totally different as most of us met through music. Beyond this circle, what we call clubland (even if David always insisted that his Loft was not a club – it was a house party) as we know it would be very different too, as David laid the foundations and really was the grandaddy of it all, influencing key DJs and key producers who then influenced other key DJs/music promoters etc. We can safely say that David changed (saved!) the lives of thousands of people, directly or not. I am one of these, and I had the honour of having him as a friend too.
My own journey started in 1999, when disillusioned with an achilles injury that had cut short a possibly promising running career, I decided to make the move to NYC, a city I had already visited a few times and which had left an indelible mark on a young me. At that time I was already serious about my music, spending most of my evenings at the local radio, learning and discovering about all sorts of music. And the more you learn the more you want to know. Hungry I was and NYC was the logical step to move forward. I was looking to find my own path in a way, without knowing much about what that involved and where that would take me. I just knew I had to move to NYC. Within a week I’d moved in a flat in Harlem with my friend Nao whom I’d met at the hostel. We came from different backgrounds obviously but shared a love for music which was all we needed to bond.
The first few months I was going out on my own to mostly reggae and hip hop gigs (my main interests at the time), while he was desperately looking for this party called The Loft, of which he’d heard of in Japan. That was even his unique raison d’être in NYC. One night he hit the jackpot and went to this party in Brooklyn where Joey Llanos was playing, a bona fide Loft baby. The doors had opened (almost!). Soon after Nao took me to the SOS parties organised by Dalia, Butch, and another David (all Loft heads) in a recording studio in Chelsea. This party was a life changing experience and where I had my epiphany. The sound system was on a level I had never imagined before, the vibes were the friendliest ever, the dancing was wild and incredible. And the music…some records (James Brown’s Sex Machine, Prince’ Sexy Motherfucker) were familiar though they sounded like I’ve heard them for the first time; most of them I didn’t know and blew my mind instantly, War‘s ‘City Country City‘ being one of them. The night was also fueled by a mighty dab of Dr H special, and in that magical bubble it felt like Alice In Wonderland. It was my first proper spiritual and psychedelic experience, the kind of trip that changes your life for ever and for the better. The next day as we were reminiscing about the party I asked Nao about that crazy record with the harmonica and he pulled out the War LP from his collection…from that point on he was my hero.
But still no Loft… Unfortunately the parties were on hold around that time (late 1999-early 2000) as David was looking for a new space, but that SOS party along with a few more that followed had planted the seed. I had found my path. I returned to France a newly enlightened man, and moved to London not long after. At the very end of 2001, the label Nuphonic which had released the seminal Loft compilations, managed to get David over for a party that would change a lot of people’s minds. Listening to David live for the first time was another landmark along my path, and I still have vivid memories of dancing to the likes of Terre Thaemlitz‘s ‘Raw Through A Straw’, Bob Holroyd‘s ‘African Drug‘, The Whispers‘ ‘And the Beat Goes On’, Francois K‘s remix of Moloko‘s ‘The Time Is Now‘ or Third World‘s ‘Now That We Found Love’ like there was no tomorrow. Mostly though it was the way he presented music, following the arch of an lsd trip, which was really a revelation. You would go on a journey for 7 hours on a magic carpet ride, each record standing on its own and a journey in itself, but all records being parts of a puzzle and connected in a way that made all the sense in the world.
Time had stopped and we would be doing this for the rest of our lives.
It took me another 10 months to experience the Loft again, but this time it was in NYC, thanks to my friend Nao who was still living there. That party happened at Union Square ballroom, Jellybean’s spot apparently. With Nao and a few others we’d spent 2 days prior to the party loading speakers in a van,,blowing the balloons, setting up the party. And unloading everything at the end. Very formative as I’ve been pretty much doing exactly this on a monthly basis ever since (14 years and counting!), be it with Lucky Cloud or Beauty & the Beat. That’s where I met Satoru of Precious Hall fame and a fresh faced Iori Asano (who must have been 16 I reckon!) for the first time. Fellow Londoners and future Lucky Clouders Simon Halpin and Guillaume Chottin were also there. This was a classic Loft experience for me, another key night in my life. I remember dancing to Go Bang! and thinking a/ this can’t get any madder than this and b/ this can’t get any better than this. After Ozo‘s Anambra (classic ending song at the Loft, though sometimes I’ve heard David also play the majestic Pat Metheny – The End of the Game too), a ‘lofter’ carried on singing it a cappella while a circle of dancers formed around her – the music finished but the party didn’t !
At the Loft in NYC you see 3 generations of Loft heads, some have literally grown up on that wooden floor. Loft babies. These guys dance in a way which is totally inhibited and rid of any rules. ‘Lofting’ it is called. Essentially ‘lofting’ is all about finding the groove or the melody within the music, dancing through the beats rather than on it. The Loft dancer looks so graceful, every movement fluidly transitioning into the next like water flowing down the river…Total freedom of expression, as organic as the music. Only at the Loft. A bubble. Utopia really.
Seminal that was. I would return to NYC only once after that, for The Loft’s 34th anniversary on 3rd Avenue in February 2004. By then I was considering myself a Loft head, at home with some of the regulars like Magic Tony, John Hall (who would remember the exact time of every single record played at each party – good person to know for the trainspotter that I was), Yvonne and a few others.
In 2003 Colleen Cosmo Murphy, Tim Lawrence, Jeremy Gilbert and Nikki Lucas created the Lucky Cloud collective and flew David over in June, for the first Journey to the Light party. David recommended me and I was part of the crew from day one. That first party wasn’t the best in history, but we’ve learned and improved with every one ever since. 3 pairs of Klipschorns were subsequently bought on a loan, and one of these ended up in my living room, along with a Mark Levinson 334 amplifier. Class A sound all the way. No way back. David was the musical host up until 2010 until he ‘retired’ and Cosmo took over. We have been going strong for 14 years now (4 parties a year) and will carry the flame until we can’t stand no more. The power is in the community. Anywhere in the world when you cross the path of a fellow Loft head, you have this sparkle in your eye and this instant connection, even you don’t or barely speak the same language.
It was at one of the early Journey to the Light parties that I connected with Jeremy Gilbert, and many house parties later, alongside with my friend Cyril Cornet we started Beauty & the Beat, which is pretty much what I’ve been living for ever since. A true labour of love. You can read more about BATB’s history here. Our most recent party happened just 10 days after David’s passing and it was one of our most spectacular ever. The whole night was punctuated by some bona fide Loft classics and David’s spirit could be felt in the room (listen to the whole recording here). Everyone connected, magic happened. That is when we feel the most alive. That is the legacy of the Loft. Music really is Our Way Of Life.
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- True scientific fact: there is NOTHING better in life than dancing to Keep On at the Loft.
- David taking us through the steps towards audiophile perfection:
- Colleen, Tim and Jeremy’s tribute to David (essential listening!)
- Danny Krivit’s tribute: :
- Rob Calcutt (fellow Lucky Clouder) exteremely insightful FIVE IMPRESSIONS FROM THE LOFT:
- A joke David sent me once after we’d had an ongoing ‘heated’ discussion about music, and we’d finally be settling down and making peace:
An elderly couple, Sam and Bessie, are “snowbirds” in
Texas. Sam always wanted a pair of authentic cowboy
Seeing some on sale one day, he buys them, wears them
home, walking proudly. He walks into the house and
says to his wife:
“Notice anything different about me?”
Bessie looks him over, “Nope.”
Frustrated, Sam storms off into the bathroom,
undresses, and walks back into the room completely
naked except for the boots. Again, he asks, a little
louder this time,
“Notice anything DIFFERENT NOW?”
Bessie looks up and says, “Sam, what’s different? It’s
hanging down today, it was hanging down yesterday,
it’ll be hanging down again tomorrow.Furious, Sam yells,
“AND DO YOU KNOW WHY IT IS HANGING DOWN, BESSIE? IT’S
HANGING DOWN BECAUSE IT’S LOOKING AT MY NEW BOOTS!! “
To which Bessie replies, “Shoulda bought a
hat, Sam. Shoulda bought a hat.”
- David’s representation of The Loft in one song (as he said to me once while playing it at the beginning of a memorable Loft party in Glasgow :
“When you’re feeling down and out
Wondering what this world’s about
I know a place that has the answer.
It’s a place where no one dies.
It’s a land where no one cries.
And good vibrations always
How I love when my thoughts run
To the land of make believe.
Where everything is fun
Children always gather around
Mother Goose and all her rhyme
They fill the air with sounds
Their hearts are filled
With all the reasons why.
You and I should learn the way
Of the land of make believe
And make this world of ours
I once asked the Wizard of Oz
For the secret of his land
He said, “Just take a look around here.”
Seven dwarves and Little Boy Blue,
Uncle Remus and Snow White, too.
(Now, just between us,
That’s what’s known as integration.)
Jack and Jill are hard at work
Helping children dream awhile,
And Snoopys making smiles
All the elves are making toys
They are rich with all the joys
Of seeing happy kids
We are waiting
To help you find
The dream made just for you.
In a few words let’s just say
That in answer to your quiz
Hear the music of the band
It was written in our land
For what’s a song but someone’s
In your world there was a King
He once said, “I have a dream,”
Now there’s a man who new
Dreams are really
The thoughts that you
Have hidden in your heart.
When you start a brand new day
Let your heart show you the way
And make a dream or two
How I love when my thoughts run
To the land of make believe
Where everything is fun