ANDY McCOLGAN catches up with Glasgow funk star David Barbarossa for a chat about his musical history, club nights of yore, his favourite records, beard shaving and new night, Fun Size…
David Barbarossa is one of Glasgow’s most respected DJs and the owner of one of the most enviable collection of records in the city. Affiliated with established cutting-edge nights such as Curious Curious, Ballers Social Club, Huntley & Palmers Audio Club and Lucky Me – and the one of the few DJs to have been given the keys to the Optimo decks – he is a guaranteed party-starter and master of the mix.
This Friday, David – along with friend, cohort and Wrong Island DJ and organiser Teamy – starts up a new monthly called Fun Size at new venue Le Cheetah. The name of the night is partly inspired by the fact that David and Teamy are not the tallest DJs in the city, and partly by the concept of the night – it’s all about having fun.
In recent years, David and Teamy have been beginning to feel that the clubbing scene, as tremendous and revered as it is in Glasgow, is becoming less and less about socialising and having a good time, and becoming far too serious. Their plan is to bring the fun back into the discotheque, and they will be playing, between them, a selection of nonsensical floor shakers and 12”s designed to put a smile on your face and a groove in your shoes. EQ collars Barbarossa to find out more…
Is there a conscious concept behind the nights you put on?
I really just play music I like so that friends – old and new – can dance. The only type of party I’m trying to create is a good one. The parties have changed over time, and they change every time I put on a new night. For example, Curious Curious was an attempt to be able to play interesting party music regardless of genre. In general I try to put on an intimate party without too many flashy guests – it’s just me and friends playing great music that you might not get to hear everywhere else.
What could a David Barbarossa virgin (so to speak) expect if they headed down to one of your nights?
A lot of disco, funk, krautrock, synths, sleaze, the RAH Band, attractive door staff, Red Stripe, video projections, some old favourites, some tunes they’ve never heard before, drunkeness… Good old-fashioned party stuff.
Who have you had playing? Any personal standouts?
We’ve had a pretty diverse bunch playing. Tut Vu Vu, The Hidden Masters and Heartbreak were among my favourite live guests. All awesome in their own right, all very different. My personal highlight was probably the final Curious Curious party in Stereo in May, with myself – in hotpants – and Jonnie Wilkes from Optimo playing cracking records and drunkenly making announcements on the microphone to a happy dancefloor. That, an all-night party in a field next to T In The Park, and the Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll Rollerdisco in Trongate Studios with Jackmaster, Teamy, Den Haan and chums definitely pointed the way to the sort of parties I want to get back to doing. Straight-up fun times, with no clever music.
Is there anyone you’d shave your beard to share a bill with?
I’ve been very lucky to play alongside a few of my musical heroes. I never thought that my name would be on the same bill as the Silver Apples, Danielle Baldelli or Roedelius for instance. But it’s unlikely that the beard will go any time soon. However, if Parliament/Funkadelic circa 1977 fancy playing in a 100-capacity venue for free, then I have a razor at the ready.
Can you tell us a bit about other projects you’re involved in the Glasgow clubbing scene?
Well, at the moment I’m in charge of Damaged Goods in Nice & Sleazy where I rock out a little more than usual. I’m also a friend and regular cohort of Huntley & Palmers Audio Club. I’ve been involved in some fun times with the folks from Lucky Me and Ballers Social Club. They all fight the good fight. You can tell that because they never make any money.
I’m also just about to start Fun Size, which we plan on being the sound of a drunken afterparty in an intimate little club environment – Le Cheetah, which is in the basement of the old Twisted Wheel on Queen Street in Glasgow. We’ll be giving away a mix and other treats every month – I can’t wait for it to start.
Is it true you’re one of the few DJs who have been trusted to man the decks at Optimo when Twitch and Wilkes have been away?
Yeah, and it’s been great every time. It gives me a chance to concentrate on the less dancefloor orientated corners of my record collection. The first hour of Optimo is often my favourite part of the night, so I feel very lucky to have been part of it.
You've got a rather amazing record collection, and it’s always the old 70s underground funk and disco tunes that I’m drawn to when you play. What are the main ways you find out about new/old music?
These days it’s become a lot easier to find out about music. The internet has opened up a whole world of previously obscure music which could have taken you years to find out. That’s a great help I guess, but I’m an old-fashioned sort and I still like the old-fashioned ways best. Stuff like talking to your friends about music or actually going to a record shop. That always keeps it fresh. You may go out looking for one specific record, but while flicking through lots of others you’ll see a sleeve that catches your eye or a name that you recognise from something else, and all of a sudden you’ve discovered something new. I also like to surround myself with other music geeks – we can swap tips and it makes me feel like a bit less of a freak.
Any recommendations on new/old music you’ve heard recently?
As far as old stuff is concerned I manage to find a new old record I like virtually every day.
Today I like Rumore by Rafaela Carra, You Move Me by Shelbra Deane, and Liza, Liza by Elieas Rahbani. I tend to enjoy female vocal disco, and I buy anything with Arthur Russell or SuperMax involvement. New stuff is a bit more difficult – I like the Todd Osborn/Tadd Mullinix Acid stuff. The last couple of Naum Gabo records have been ace. Den Haan are a lot of fun, and I can heartily recommend The Gaslamp Killer, but new dancefloor styles are generally not for me.
What are your plans for the future?
New records, new parties, new venues, more hotpants, more old T-shirts, more shouting on the mic, more rum-soaked fun…