Cluster recently interviewed Paul T. (Sarcastic Disco) and Eric D (Rub-N-Tug, Still Going, C.O.M.B.I.) while they were on the Keep It Cheap tour in Japan.
--- This year, Eric has come to Japan for three times and Paul has been here for twice. You come to Japan a lot so I assume that you guys like Japan. What do you like about it?
Eric: Well, we have a lot of friends here. Since we’ve been coming to Japan for so many years, we made a lot of friends and made real good relationship with the people so it’s fun to come see them. I wanna see them at least once a year, you know. Mostly because of that. And the parties are fun.
--- When was the first time you come to Japan for the first time?
Paul: When did I come?
Eric: I came with you in 1996 but did you DJ then?
Paul: I don’t know. I remember we had a couple of parties and we went to a party at this place with analogue sound system in Roppongi. When was that? Well, I don’t DJ, that’s not my career. It’s more of a hobby, you know. I don’t like djing unless it is for Japan or unless it’s worth it for me to go outside of the country. But for the most part, I’m not a professional DJ. I have a full time job. But like Eric said, I have a lot of friends in Japan that I got to know through my job and Eric. I would say it’s kind of my second home.
--- Recently you often come to Japan together. I’ve heard that you guys first met around 1984 or 85. Did you go to a same school?
Eric: Skate boarding. That was the initial connection. We lived in sort of same area in Los Angels. We had skateboarders in our neighborhood and Paul and I had same friends.
Paul: We were in the same area. He lived in next neighborhood. In high school, we all had to go to a same high school. So basically, a year before high school, we met through skateboarding and then we of course went to a same high school. We’ve been friends ever since.
--- Back then, did you mainly listen to Hip-Hop?
Eric: Yeah, I guess so. Paul used to have a DJ set up in his house. We were into Hip-Hop and other things like disco or maybe it is called freestyle or electro, that kind of things.
Paul: At that time I was djing already. I think I was like 14 years old. I was listening to Hip-Hop and high energy music, like those from Miami. Trinere, Debbie Deb, Midnight Star, that kind of stuff. Eric was not djing then but he was always into music so that is why we had a connection. Since then, we used to go to every single Hip-Hop show. Every single Hip-Hop show that came to LA, we went. We were the only people who weren’t black. White guy and Asian guy, that’s it. Everyone was black. No white people, no Asian people, nothing.
Eric: From 1987 on, we went to every single show that came to LA.
Paul: They were like “What do you guys doing???” Before getting into a club, we had a beer, Olde English 40oz, and got drunk. It was a good time. In LA, you can’t drink if you are under 21 years old. It’s very strict. We knew a couple of liquor stores that sold drinks to underage kids, so we used to go there and hide and drink. You know what, now I think about it, we are always into dancing. Maybe that’s why we like dance music now, right?
Eric: Yeah, cuz even at Hip-Hop parties, there was always dancers.
--- In the late 80’s in LA, there was a club called United Nations and I heard it was really dope.Eric: Oh, shit. That’s the club. That was the best club, it was so great. It started by Ice-T and Africa Islam. It was a span off of Radio Tron and then it became Water Bush, then United Nations. We actually got into the club through DJ Yutaka. Paul knew him…
--- Really? That connection is kind of surprising.
Paul: We used to go. Eric and I used to go there when we were 17. It was all age event but you need to have an ID to drink. I had an older brother and his ID and we looked the same so we could have drinks. And I talked to DJ Yutaka there cuz I thought he’s a Japanese. After we got to know him, we were always on the list so we didn’t have to pay to get in. At that time, Yutaka could speak no English. Nothing. My Japanese was not that good but I talked to him and he was like “Oh cool, you know Japanese.”Cuz again, there was no white people, no Asian people. He was really nice to us, like a big bother.
--- When did you start djing Eric?
Eric: The very beginning was at Paul’s house. It was just for fun. I got back into it like around 1994. I moved to Australia and met Mario Caldato of Beastie Boys. He came out to Australia for holiday and he stayed where I was staying. We stayed in the same house and hang out everyday for 2, 3 weeks. He taught me a lot of good music and got me excited about music again. Cuz Hip-Hop was dead and I kinda didn’t know what to get into, you know. He taught me all these cool stuff. Paul did it for me as well. Then I got turntables and a mixer and got into it. But professionally, it was after I moved to New York, around 1996. From the day I moved to New York until now, I always DJ.
Paul: But you met Mario in LA before that.
Eric: Oh yeah, I met Mario in LA but he came out to Australia for holiday and he stayed where I was staying. We stayed in the same house and hang out everyday for 2, 3 weeks.
--- I think it’s a bit rare that you grew up in Hip-Hop culture and then went to house and techno. Because, you know, people who listen to Hip-Hop often don’t like house, saying it is for gay.
Eric: Well it is. (laugh)
Paul: I can answer that one. Like I said, Eric and I were always into music. And Hip-Hop is dance music and its root is soul. The Hip-Hop we liked was faster with 120 bpm and it was dancy. After weed came, it turned slow. But when we liked, it was like for dancing. Back to UN, that’s when house music came to LA and there was a cross over called Hip-House. At the end of UN, they had a main room and a house room. Hip-Hop was kind of dying and new music started to come and we’ve been in a house room. Cuz back then, we just wanted to party, you know. So anyways, Eric and I like more disco sound, you know something soulful like James Brown, Jimmy Caster Bunch. We like funk, too. And if we think of techno, we like techno that has soul, a deep shit. Just because it doesn’t have a bass...you can have soul in electronic music. So that’s the connection. We like soul, we like funk, doesn’t matter whether its electronic, house whatever. It doesn’t matter.
--- Then you experienced Harvey at Wicked for the first time
Eric: That was early 1996 and we still lived in Los Angels. Paul was like “Hey, come with me to San Francisco. There’s this guy from England and he’s supposed to be good." So we drove up to San Francisco and there was Harvey.
Paul: What happened was, I was already into dance music, heavily into dance music. Eric played Latin, soul and Hip-Hop kind of stuff. I was into dance music but at that time LA dance music sucked. It was worst music ever. Then new disco sound started to coming up and I started to get into music like Street Corner Symphony. And there was Harvey and I was like, oh, he makes records and I like those, kinda cool. I was like I'm gonna go see this DJ. I mean Eric and I, we always wanted to party.
Eric: Even that time, I was going to LA dance music party with Paul and it was so bad. It was worst but it was a place to party so we went. That was what I had expected when he asked me to go.
Paul: So we went to San Francisco. His sister was working at a hotel and we got a nice room. Eric wasn’t gonna go to the party but I said lets go, let's go. It was just by chance. Then when we were at the party, the first record Harvey played, we were like "Wow!" The 2nd record he played, we were like "Wow!" (laugh) We were like, "What the fuck, what is this music? This is great!" Cuz at that time, dance music in LA was so bad. It was same tempo all night. But Harvey, he played records like a Hip-Hop DJ. We were just like, "Oh you can do that? We didn’t know." We didn’t know about Paradise Garage, we didn’t know about The Loft. It was before Internet. We were from California. We weren’t from New York, we weren’t from Philadelphia, we weren't from Chicago. All we knew was Trinere high energy music. That’s all we knew.
Eric: That's why we got shocked and totally could relate to what Harvey was doing.
Paul: He showed us dance music is not only even kick, same tempo thing, but anything can work if you do it right. That was the party. Also at Wicked, all the other DJ’s were great and Thomas was one of them.
--- After that Eric moved to New York and formed Rub N' Tug with Thomas.Eric: It was just after that Harvey party, actually. The Harvey party was I think in April and I left in June to New York.
--- What made you to move to New York?
Eric: Combination of few things. I was just bored with LA, and the company I was working for had a place in New York. And I used have a roommate from New York so it was an easy transition to me. I knew a lot of people. And I started DJing the day after I got there.
--- Paul started doing your own party in LA and you are the first one who invited DJ’s like David Mancuso and Daniel Wang to LA.
Paul: Yeah. Again, LA dance music scene was shit, crap. But when we were growing up, it was great and I discovered dance music. I was lucky because my job has let me travel all across the world. I was so lucky that I was able to be exposed to dance music outside of LA. I went to everywhere like Tokyo and London and I saw all these great music. But when I came home, there was no party in LA in the late 90’s. So I was like, "Fuck that, I’m gonna have my own party." It was not for business, not to be a DJ. I wanted to have fun at a party.
It was actually through Thomas that I got to know Daniel Wang. The reason I booked Danny was he liked me I think. Thomas lived in New York and became friends with Danny and Thomas introduced him to me. David Mancuso, he was a big DJ and he could get a lot of money if he is booked to Japan. A that time, dance music was not a business. It was still underground and it wasn't like now that everyone is all trendy about dance music. I got to know Mancuso through Toshio who was a co-worker of Eric at A-1 Records. It took me one full year to book David Mancuso. I kept in touch with him, just wanting to do a good party with him. And one day after a year, he said, "Paul, I understand your passion about dance music. I’ll DJ for you." I can understand that. I ‘m not a big club promoter. I just wanna have a nice party.
--- I believe Eric has lived in NY for like 13, 14 years now. What is New York for you, do you think?
Eric: It’s home, I like it. I miss it every time I leave. I like LA, it’s my hometown, but New York... It’s hard to explain but there’s something about it. I just have to say it’s home for me.
--- While Eric moved to New York, Paul has been in LA, throwing your own party where dance music once sucked. I think there has been a lot of transitions; Harvey came to LA and WAX Record opened and closed. Overall, I thhnk the dance music scene in LA got richer. What do you think of LA dance music in the past 13 years?
Paul: LA is a whole different thing. Maybe it’s hard to understand.
They say LA is a city but it is not really a city. In New York and Tokyo, things are condensed and it’s easier for people to go to a party.
Recently, I do party WITH Harvey, we are partners. Before, when I met him, I used to hire him. Now that he lives in LA and him and I have a long relationship. We’ve been friends for over 10 years or so.
--- That developed to Harvey Sarcastic Disco. I haven't been there but I went to your warehouse party with friends like Kenji Takimi and Chida in 2004. Harvey began djing in the morning and he played to the dawn while doing breakdance and ride a motorcycle in between. It was really wild and kind of a traumatic experience to me. How is Harvey Sarcastic Disco now?
Paul: I think we have a success but still same amount of people come. When I started the party, there was 300 or 500 people. Now we have like 800 people, but it’s never gonna get bigger. We are into underground music and our music or our party doesn’t appeal to other people. For example, in LA, you think of Paris Hilton and all the celebrities. Many people go see them, but they don’t wanna come to our party. The underground scene is always underground. So to answer your question, I think its always been the same. It's always underground. I think the music is at the best now. The dance music scene right now is great, but as it gets larger, we began to have troubles, too. Actually the last time when we had a party, fire marshal came and shut us down because we were too big. It's not huge, we get about 800 people like I said, though.
--- I think both of you have close relationship with street clothing. Eric has released Rub n Tug CD from ANYthing with Aron and Paul has your own brand Sarcastic and I believe you design for Stussy now as well. What is the inspiration you get from music and feedback to fashion? Or What is the inspiration you get from fashion and feedback to music? I personally think Paul, Eric, Harvey and Thomas are pioneers that integrated dance music and street fashion.
Paul: When I was into dance music, I would go to a club and there was no people who cared about fashion, so it's great to hear that you said that. In Japan, fashion brands especially like my old brand and the brand I work for now, they're more of lifestyle brands. For example, you have brands like SOPH and they are into soccer. In the same way, I'm in to dance music and that's inspiration. So it's a lifestyle. And also, I think dance music now is more like a new trend and so its fashionable now. But when I was into dance music, it wasn't so fashionable. From five years now, maybe it won't be a part of fashion. Who knows. I just think, right now, it's a good time with disco and fashion. Of course like you said, Aaron, he’s been our friends for a long time. We know Aaron since he’s 16 or so. He's into lifestyle, too. That's why he supported Eric to do the CD.
--- After 26 years from Eric does DJ as a career and makes music. Paul has been working on making clothes and does DJ even it's not a career. Having gone through these experience, do you think that you guys have changed?
Eric: I think it's the same. We just got older. If we look back 1984, we are of course different but I don’t think anything has really changed.
Paul: I agree with what he says. Actually I don’t see him that much, maybe once or twice a year. I see him on iChat more often now. If we look back at the history of our friendship, the connection has always been music and skateboarding, and of course skate boarding is a root of street fashion. We’ve always into the same shit. Hip-Hop, rare groove house music, techno and it’s all fuckin' soul music. We have same friends and all our friends are into street fashion so it's the same.
--- This time you came to Japan because C.O.M.B.i., which is a label ran by Eric and Watarude, established a subsidiary label called Keep It Cheap. Can you describe what C.O.M.B.i. is and what Keep It Cheap is?
Eric: C.O.M.B.i. is a label for disco edits. It came from me learning how to use computer. I used to have to use two records to make my own edits, more on live. Now I can put it into computer and do that. I just make records that is good for a party, imagining what it would be if I play the record at a party. Keep It Cheap is just another idea in my head. It is not something hard to find but more like something nice for a DJ to have. That’s why I call it Keep It Cheap, you know.
--- How do you like the records coming out from those labels, Paul?
Paul: Yeah, I like all of them. Its all solid and Eric has really unique sound and it is different. He actually DJ’s a lot so he tested it out before releasing. We always talk and he send me a lot of stuff and I give him feedback. Of course it's his thing but I give him some inputs. I think its good for him to hear second opinion because he works on the same song all day.
--- I want to ask Eric about future release schedule, especially Rub n Tug full length album because I know a lot of people are waiting for it.
Eric: I’ve been doing remixes. One coming soon is for Brian Ferry who is doing a solo album. That is a Still Going remix. Rub N Tug has recorded and we're finishing it up. It’s taking long but I think it’s worth to wait. It’s tricky to have Rub n Tug sound but it will some soon. A 12-inch is to be coming out soon, though. Maybe end of September. I hope to have another single when we have the album ready.
--- What happened to the remix of Grace Jones "William's Blood"?
Eric: It never came out. She said no. I like it a lot. You heard it? Really. Who has it?
--- Yeah. Gospel House turns to Dub in the middle. I thought it's really dope because it seems that you really understand the meaning of the song and her existence.
Eric: Wow I don’t even have it anymore. I don’t remember what happened to it. Still Going has done maybe 11 or 12 remixes so we are thinking to do a remix CD with some remixes that never came out like Robbie Williams "Last Days of Disco". I hope we could license the Grace Jones remix.
--- I hope you continue releasing music and keep coming to Japan to get us dance.
Eric: Yeah, I hope so, too.