The Big House
Hard Ton's Beats and Beauty are too much for America (for now)
Remember when dance music was underground?
Formerly the province of the weirdos and outcasts, the sounds of disco and house have morphed into pop music tropes that propel Billboard chart-toppers and car commercials alike. Thankfully, there are plenty of artists taking the genre seriously, and taking it back to those underground roots.
Sounding and looking like the bastard love child of Divine and Sylvester (with a high-style dollop of Leigh Bowery realness thrown in for good, glittery measure), Italy's Hard Ton was scheduled to stomp through town this week to celebrate the impending release of their latest EP We Got Luv.
Unfortunately Hard Ton's appearance is on hold for now, after the duo were detained trying to enter the US to start their tour. After an eight-hour ordeal in Seattle, producer DJ Wawashi and singer Max were sent packing, along with their big disco house beats and outsized outer-space glamor. Too much glitter for us to handle, perhaps?
But as they say, the party doesn't stop. David Sternesky of San Francisco label Friends With Benefits (FWB) assured us that the show will go on.
Sternesky and his partner Mathew Dos Santos are the local wunderkinds behind The Music of His Dance, the two-volume dance version of James Broughton poems, as well as collaborations with Jinkx Monsoon, Trevor Sigler and other artists.
Sigler and FWB will spin, along with guest DJs Carlos Souffront, Gay Marvine, and Jeno.
So, Hard Ton might not be here (yet), but FWB is promising a disco-house-vinyl blast, and fierce interpretations of Hard Ton's music. Details were still getting ironed out at press time, but if Hard Ton's videos are any indication, this is a party not to be missed.
In anticipation, we asked Hard Ton about their music, their inspiration, and what we can expect at a Hard Ton show once they do land on our shores.
Hard Ton reminds me of great vintage house jams. How would you describe your sound?
Max: It's a kind of hyper-caloric Chic-a-go-go disco. Because there's a bit of Chicago house, a little bit of disco soulness, and a hint of glamour.
I'd say a pretty big hint. Especially here in San Francisco, it's hard not to think of Sylvester when listening to Hard Ton. If you were to cover a Sylvester song, what would it be?
Max: Sylvester is a huge influence, and a unique voice, but my falsetto is also inspired by some heavy metal singers.
Wawashi: If we covered a Sylvester's track, it would be "Do You Wanna Funk?" It's classic masterpiece written by one of the biggest dance music geniuses that the world ever had, Mr. Patrick Cowley.
Cowley was another hometown hero. Can you describe a bit about Hard Ton's creative process?
Wawashi: There are no strict rules, but usually it's me messing around with my vintage machines and sending Max some sketches. And then he turns most of them down.
I'd probably go to the gym more often if it looked like the "Work That Body" video. Where do you get the visual inspirations?
Max: Well, we always think through images when we refer to our tracks. It feels natural, because in a way each track has got a concept for us. The same applies to our costumes. All of them have a name and a concept, like the Salomé costume, which is our interpretation of bondage, or the Cupcake costume—some people actually see as a big vagina, which is nice.
Max, do you still play with metal bands?
Max: Yes, I'm still part of two heavy metal bands. I released full-length albums last year with both of them. I can understand that it can sound weird, but to me it feels absolutely natural, because heavy metal has been one of my favorite genres since I was a teen, beside pop and disco music.
Wawashi: And then, think about bands like KISS. They are as camp as a fat disco queen wearing sequin dresses, aren't they?
As dance music has splintered into different genres and sub-genres, does that make it easier or harder to find a place as musicians and producers?
Max: Well, we just try to stick to our concept. That consists of music, image, live show. If you start following trends, it's over for your personality. And that is true for life in general—and for music.
As working artists, do you have much time to get out to other parties? What are some of your favorites?
Wawashi: Not as much as we wish. Let's say Vogue Fabrics in London, Berghain and Cocktail D'Amore in Berlin, Social Club in Paris.
What's the strangest thing that's happened at a Hard Ton show?
Wawashi: Once in Belgium, a guy kissed Max deeeeeply in front of his girlfriend, while he was singing. She [had to] clean the lipstick off her boyfriend's face. It may be not strange, but I think it was really cute.
So sorry to hear that you guys got turned back in Seattle, but in a way it makes your return even more exciting. Plus we're going to need more time to put looks together anyway. What can we expect to see and hear at a Hard Ton gig?
Max: Well I can tell you what I expect...to be touched by thousands of sweating bodies.
Max, you don't fit the mold of the traditional disco diva—thankfully! How does that affect Hard Ton's style?
Max: Think of Martha Wash, and you'll see that I'm not the only fat ass out there. But sure, I'm definitely not fitting to the mainstream obsession for a perfect body and perfect life and being always successful. How does this make us feel? Happy.
Hard Ton release party featuring DJs Carlos Souffront, Gay Marvine, Trevor Sigler, Jeno, and Two Dudes in Love. Saturday, August 9 10pm-4am at F8, 1192 Folsom Street. www.feightsf.com
Tickets are $12 ($25 includes pre-sale of
limited vinyl edition of "We Got Luv")