“You can’t dance to decoration [in a club]. You’re selling music. Not mirrors and paint”
The “Jimi Hendrix of the turntables”, “prototype resident” and “worshipped like a god” by his audience and colleagues. There’s never been a shortage of superlatives to describe the late and great Larry Levan. The decade-long resident of clubland’s ground zero, Paradise Garage, is still widely regarded as a prime example of all the right things a true DJ should entail. Specifically his cross-disciplinary take on sets, where he was the first to combine post-disco with other sounds, like early house, to Kraftwerk and British synth-pop. His style and personality would lift him to near mythological proportions after his death in 1992.
Part of his mystique is the fact that Levan left a lot to the imagination regarding both his legacy at Paradise and his extraordinary, infectious persona: there are only a handful of his recordings to be found, and even less footage of the man himself. That’s why it’s great to see that the video below has surfaced. Uploaded this week on YouTube by a YouTube user called Hiroyuki, we see a documentary of the New York scene at the break of the 90’s. After some footage and interviews at a NY record store, the setting changes to a club (possibly the venue David Mancuso held his “The Choice” parties), where a serious-looking Levan managing sound for that night. In the last ten minutes a Japanese reporter interviews Levan backstage, who has a hard time hearing the questions she’s asking as Lil Louis’ French Kiss pumps through the walls. The interviewer touches on all the right subjects for Larry to give a dose of wisdom in return for. When asked what he thinks about promoters spending a lot of money on decoration instead of a good sound system, he replies: “You can’t dance to decoration [in a club]. You’re selling music. Not mirrors and paint”. The interview starts at 41:47.