If you’re in search of a party off the beaten track, “Unknown Pleasures” just might be for you. The brainchild of local deejay/producer/promoter Chris Price who hails from Newport News, “Unknown Pleasures” is a tribute to the legendary ‘70s/’80s New York underground Loft and Paradise Garage era dance parties.
With the next installment of Unknown Pleasures coming up on April 19, On Tap asked Chris to break down who he is and what the buzz is all about:
On Tap: What inspired you to be a deejay?
Chris Price: My entree into dance music deejaying was this CD called Northern Exposure: Expeditions mixed by Sasha & Digweed. I basically bought it because I liked the cover. I’m not sure if they had their Twilo residency yet. This concept of a double CD “by” two guys who really only produced one or two of the tracks on the album was intriguing. I think I knew I wanted to do “it” at that point – the trouble was I didn’t really know what “it” was yet. My friend and I used to have conversations like: “Man, these guys are awesome” “Yeah, but what do you imagine they’re actually doing that makes this so great?” My party is built more on the premise of record selection than technical prowess, but I hold my own. I never use any software so I intentionally stay on my toes that way. I also drink most any whiskey or vodka drink that comes my way just to keep everything on the “expert” setting.
OT: Did you ever get to Sasha & Digweed’s Twilo residency?
CP: My buddy and I were lucky enough to make it before it got shut down. It was an elaborate set-up and the sound was ridiculous. There was a fire inside the club during Digweed’s set around 2 or 3 a.m. We all had to evacuate. After 30-45 minutes we were let back in. Digweed picked up where he left off and played till 8 or 9 am. [It was] a noteworthy night in Twilo’s history so it was awesome to have been there. I remember Digweed playing some remix of “Everything In Its Right Place,’ one of the first times I heard something out that attempted to bridge the gap between indie/alt rock and dance music, which was awesome. I thought, ‘Digweed likes Radiohead, too? Okay, I can do this’.
OT: When did you throw your first Unknown Pleasures?
CP: The earliest party was in late 2007 upstairs at the Rock and Roll Hotel, but it wasn’t called “Unknown Pleasures” yet. I didn’t adapt the name until 2010. I think the first was at the Wonderland Ballroom. I like playing different places but H street has always been a great fit for what we do. I really love playing Miss Whiskey’s and Jimmy Valentine’s. Great spots and great people.
OT: How did you come up with the name Unknown Pleasures?
CP: It’s a nod to one of my favorite albums by one of my favorite bands. It seemed a good phrase to describe what we were up to – stuff that isn’t mainstream but if you come with an open mind you’re likely to be turned on to some great music. I’ve been known to play a Factory track now and again. Factory’s legacy has been a pretty big influence on everything we do. I’m naturally a big fan of Joy Division, New Order, etc., but more importantly I admire the way Factory ran things from the first party nights to the label to the Hacienda. They just did what they wanted to do how they wanted to do it. Sure they ultimately bankrupted themselves, but just think of the legacy left behind. That surely wouldn’t have been possible had they known the first thing about what they were doing. They just did it. I love it.
OT: Why does the New York Loft party era speak to you?
CP: It’s true I wasn’t around for many of the parties I generally use as reference points, but they are the most accurate comparisons for what I aim to accomplish. I always knew what I wanted my night to be like but as I got more into the history of dance music, I found out about all these late ‘70s/’80s nights – the New York Loft parties, Paradise Garage, the original Warehouse, etc. I was amazed that a lot of the attention to technical detail, concept of exclusivity, and even record selection mirrored a lot of what I already had in mind for my future party. I really loved reading about all of that. Obviously the culture is much different nowadays. There is so much music out there. Our party is still the same though – we’re not catering to people who want to hear dubstep, trance, hip-hop, or Top 40. There are plenty of great parties for those already and people know where to go to hear that stuff. Naturally I play modern, mostly indie, music, too, but it’s all stuff I truly like and the party has always been done on our terms.
OT: What sets Unknown Pleasures apart?
CP: We’re inherently different from the majority of the parties around here. We’re not doing “popular” stuff. I do play house music, but that term has been so abused over the past decade or more that I’m not even sure what people think of when they hear it. For us, it’s classic – mostly New York – house and anything modern that has that same sound/feel/influence. You really have to delineate when using the term “house” because there is so much music put under that umbrella nowadays. I also play disco records. A bit of everything. You won’t find us running about in our white shades, fist-pumping and popping bottles. That’s just not who we are. Those parties talked about earlier were all about bringing a bunch of folks together to have a good time listening to whatever musical journey the deejay was taking folks on that night. I think it’s all getting lost in the current perception of what a deejay party is supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be like “Jersey Shore.”
OT: What kind of crowd is attracted to Unknown Pleasures?
CP: It’s pretty wide open. Sometimes I’m paying homage to those classic parties, playing disco edits, classic house. That appeals not only to younger indie kids but also folks who may have been around for that time period. The next minute I might be playing something off DFA, Running Back, or Studio Barnhus. Those records are new so they appeal to the younger dance music enthusiast but at the same time it’s basically influenced by the same stuff, so the slightly older folks can appreciate it, too. I remember this guy dancing like crazy one time, may have been in his late 40’s. He was pumped up that I was playing “Big Fun” (Kevin Saunderson). He said he hadn’t heard that since he was young and thanked me. It was great.