A Moment with American Booze DJ and a Shorter Moment with Horse Meat Disco's James Hilliard

by Tim Engel Friday 17 October 2014
James hilliard and american booze


A Moment with American Booze DJ and a Shorter Moment with Horse Meat Disco's James Hilliard

by Brian Offenther


Most DJs are of the prick sort. They're music snobs, have the sort of hubris that leads someone to want to marionette the bodies on a dance-floor, have a license to give themselves flamboyant names, and generally are more tied to the marketing than the actual craft of what they do.

(One of) Shanghai's grand exception: American Booze DJ. He's one of the nicest dudes around. A sweet man, his attitude is inclusive, his attitude, cooperative. Sure, he pulled the old “I'm retiring” shtick employed by everyone from Frank Sinatra to Kiss to Jay Z when he threw his “final” Double Happiness party, but he's back on the promoter grind.

Tonight, American Booze is presenting James Hilliard of the popular and hip and equestrian Horse Meat Disco parties based out of London. They specialize in retro-y disco but can stretch to include some open format stuff. Also, they're nominally gay, but in effect, open to all persuasions.



1) Please introduce yourself to people who might not be familiar with you.


Hi, I’m Nik. I’m not American. I’ve been of legal drinking age for a while. It’s been a good summer of disco music and vodka, dirty and espresso martinis.

2)So, I thought you retired at the Double Happiness party a few months ago (Note: the author DJed that event). The pull of the DJ booth was too strong for you?


This “DJ” thing is just a hobby – I wouldn’t say I was legit or anything. It’s fun and addictive and can only be done in a club.


But yes, Double Happiness died at the end of November 2013 after three years of parties here. A couple of resuscitations for friends’ birthdays happened in Spring but ultimately flat-lined.

Since July 2012 a different party for disco and italo - Discosmic Adventure – ran alongside Double Happiness and I’m still involved with that. But Discosmic is a loose team effort with Lindberg, Velvet Robot, Eugene YX and Phunhouse. Double Happiness was my baby, which I killed. Maybe I will do some necromancy voodoo rituals at Dada – get some live chickens - and bring it back in 2015. Soundtrack by Cut Hands. 


In any case it’s Discosmic Adventure “bringing” Horse Meat Disco back for their second Shanghai show.


But it’s all semantics really – Sacco is the real brains behind it. Even the grass dancefloor at the last ever Double Happiness party was his idea.

3) You might be the quietest of all the DJs in Shanghai. Do "real bad boys move in silence," like KRS-One said?


I’ll try and speak louder. Also, yes.

4)You're also a nice guy. Can you talk shit about something or someone to contradict that statement?


¯\_()_/¯  and ¯\_()_/¯


5) Is there any defining quality of music you'll DJ at a party that distinguishes it from music you like?


Well, I have a lot of music that is "listening" or "headphone" music - experimental, improv and also stuff that just wouldn't work at the nights or places I play - sometimes I sneak in something that really was never intended for the dancefloor - Balanescu Quartet string versions of Kraftwerk for example played over house beats - but yeah dance music isn't all music, but I like odd juxtapositions. My favourite DJs are those that aren't stringently genre specific. I don't have a "sound" - it's just playing music that's both fun and taken seriously at the same time for good times. Anything goes. 



6) Why are you bringing Horse Meat Disco back to Shanghai? The previous gig wasn't enough?


Well, Horse Meat Disco have a monthly “residencies” at clubs in Berlin and Lisbon. Wouldn’t be awesome if they have a yearly or twice a year night in Shanghai? Baby steps. Plus, some people missed it last year and have been patiently waiting for the day to come again.


7) What would you say to people curious about this event but not a member of the LGBTQ community?


Horse Meat Disco is billed as "the queer party for everybody" - if anyone can't get down with that there plenty of other good stuff going on this weekend. 


8) Any chance we'll hear any of your original edits during your Horse Meat Disco set?


Maybe if you come to the Beijing show. Discosmic heavyweight’s Lindberg and YX are taking care of warm-up for the Shanghai show. Trust them; they consistently blow me away with their selection – Lindberg is a pretty big name in town. Opened for Axel Bowman recently. That’s big. YX is a Shanghainese guy who’s introduced me to some super obscure Chinese disco – almost italo sounding, sounding like they were made with cheap Casio keyboards. We keep talking about cleaning them up and making edits for club play. We’ll get around to it.

9) What other gigs do you have coming up? Is it true you’re changing your name for one night only when you DJ the Shanghai International Beer Festival (note that the author is the music director for it), as American Booze would be too limited for the proceedings?


No, I think DJ Indian Pale Ale was refused.


Things will be quiet for the rest of 2014, with only one or two gigs. And something new (or maybe revived) early next year.

10) How do you mend a broken heart?


Usual: Crying. Drinking. Camus. Play at Stockholm Syndrome in the depths of winter. Bang the acid.


11) Do you have a current favorite regular party or event currently happening in Shanghai?


My apartment every Wednesday morning after my ayi has visited – that’s my favourite event happening in Shanghai.


Santo Chino’s “The Same As It Ever Was” at Dada is a great party.



As a bonus, here are some bonus question and answers with the star of tonight's show himself, James Hilliard of Horse Meat Disco.



Please give 3 songs people in Shanghai will absolutely not hear you play during your set, and why.

You will definitely not hear anything top 40! The only 'Lucky' you're likely to hear will be the Donna Summer song from the amazing Bad Girls album. You wont hear Beyonce but i can assure you that you will hear some vintage divas that make Beyonce sound like an X Factor wannabe.

Please say something mean. I hate reality TV shows. Things like 'The Real Housewives' 'Jersey Shore' etc and other programmes where vile and hideous people are given a shed load of money and fame to be the 'worst' that humanity has to offer for our 'entertainment'. I just don't get any pleasure watching over privileged morons throwing wine in each others faces and i think people who do should probably be take out of the gene pool. Hows that for bitterness?

Is there any defining quality of music you'll DJ at a party? I'm not really a broad DJ. I try and avoid wherever possible to do gigs where i have to play music that i don't love. I got into DJing to share the music that I love, not to be a jukebox. There are plenty of clubs that play 'music to get drunk to with the girls from the office on friday night'. If the music doesn't move me then it feels like a fraud to play it. Although for the most part contemporary dance music doesn't do that much for me there are always exceptions to the rule and i'm happy to play anything, from any genre that gets my hips swinging!

Excited to be back in China? I had a great time last time I came to China so was excited to get invited back. I'd happily come more than once a year. I hope to do a bit more exploring this time.


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