Media lecturer, DJ, music visionary and vinyl junkie, Xes Xes Loveseat is an avid disco fan. His passion for the genre is readily displayed in his sets and it comes to no surprise that he is always the go-to person when an event in Kuala Lumpur needs a disco aficionado to take over the helm.
Aside from the usual gigs around town, Xes Xes Loveseat pays homage to his favourite genre with a podcast, The Art of Disco, and most recently he honoured ‘80s Malay disco on the fifth instalment of his video podcast. The special set sees him feature classics from local legends like Hail Amir, Uji Rashid, Rahimah Rahim, Black Dog Bone and Anita Sarawak.
Disco isn’t the only thing that fuels his music passion, Xes Xes Loveseat has got more up his sleeve than one can begin to imagine. Check out his retro cool ‘Hari Raya Aidilfitri’ mixtape made especially for Pulse in 2015, and you’ll see what we mean.
We caught up with Xes Xes Loveseat to talk about how he fell in love with disco, the art of collecting vinyl records and five essential Malay disco tunes you need to listen to.
How did the love for disco manifest? Who introduced you to the genre?
Music exploration is a journey. I was once a gurning techno kid and I think I found my calling by the ideals of what techno and underground electronic music represented. My first record was ‘Knights of The Jaguar’, and of course like almost everybody else, techno led me to Chicago house and the super jacking stuff, and in a scholarly fan-like manner I delved on the history of dance music.
For a while I was big on electroclash and fell in love with Italo disco, which led me to really look into original disco. Partly because there was a part in the Dan Sicko definitive account of techno, Techno Rebels that says all Detroit guys love their disco. So I started looking at the usual suspects like Larry Levan and music at the Paradise Garage, Moroder and Donna Summer.
I felt that nothing will ever beat this shit; a lot of them were produced in million dollar studios sometimes with full orchestration – full high quality sonic assault to make people dance, and we will never get to witness that level of quality ever again in dance music. Most of dance music today harvests samples and ideas from this period. You see, disco has it all, it has the move, the feel, the sex and the deepness that leads to the liberation of the body and soul like no other dance music. It really is Sun Ra or Miles Davis doing 4x4 music for the dancefloor.
Many grew up not realising that Malaysia had proper disco tunes. How did you discover this?
I started going beyond the obvious and soon realised there’s a disco scene in almost every place where people were partying from the late ‘70s to the late ‘80s. In the mid-noughties there was a serious revival of disco led by Scandinavians like Todd Terje, Lindstrom, Prins Thomas et al. I started looking all the different kinds of disco, and they all have a slightly different character.
Now, in my disco section there are edits of old Polish folk disco, Turkish psych disco, Lebanese disco with a nude Arab on its cover (totally unfathomable now), Brazilian carnival disco, early French space disco, Bollywood disco and lots of African disco. And soon I realised, what about Malaysian disco music? So about two years ago I made a conscious decision to start looking in this direction and wow, some of the music floored me the first time I heard it.
There’s something soft and organic yet sexual, naïve yet playfully fun, careless yet a musically liberating force when it comes to Malay disco. Remember, it was still very common for people to gather and dance; basically having a party in the most remote villages back then, so we had that culture right. There’s usually a mix of Western, Arabic, Hindi and local folk and joget influences. The Pop Yeh Yeh madness of the ‘50s is another important influence and precursor to local disco.
Acquiring Malaysian disco records isn’t easy. Where do you source for yours?
There are online sellers, but sometimes I go to people’s houses for private viewings, Amcorp Mall on Sundays of course, and I’m happy to tell you that somebody just uncovered 5000 pieces of obscure Malay records - quite a few of them will surely be disco. There are also secret places that I go to that I rather not tell you about.
You’ve mentioned that it took you two years to come up with this Malay ‘80s disco mix because it costs a lot to buy local records. What are some of the most expensive records in your current collection?
Malay records are generally expensive. For example, take the Malay equivalent of a Western rock behemoth like Queen. In this case, the popular local band, Search, can go up to RM1000 a pop, or take Malaysia’s favourite dame, Sheila Majid. Her music is popular and in no way rare, but still regularly fetches RM2000 onwards for an album. So, to keep my sanity, I made a decision to not pay more than RM200 for a Malay record. The most expensive? I have two copies of Ahmad Nawab’s Hapuslah Air Matamu, which is selling for RM400 onwards on Discogs.
What this also means is that I can’t afford stuff like Sudirman; again, not that rare as he was really popular but his records still command a premium price. There’s this one Sudirman track I really want – 'Mat Disko' which costs about RM250 - RM300.
Also, remember, and this is important. Most of the time, I buy a Malay record for just one track on that LP. Strangely in the ‘80s many Malay records made it a point to include one disco or dancey track on their LPs. So essentially, I’m regularly paying RM100 - RM150 for one song!
A mix like this is a very good tool to educating the masses on our music history. What other methods do you think could work the same way in creating this awareness?
There should be an archive for this sort of thing that is accessible to all. I also try to collect regional, native or local indigenous music. It is even more important to preserve this type of music because many are now extinct. There is this compilation, it’s called Peuple Dayak* – Bornéo. Musique Des Chasseurs De Tête’, roughly translated - Music of The Borneo Headhunters, a field recording of music of the Dayaks recorded in the 1950s. It was released on a French label that totally blew my mind; the rawness and primordial nature of that music is at another level; this kind of digging requires even more dedication.
You wrote that you hope producers would want to sample these Malay disco records, what are some of the samples that you’ve heard in a track?
Ahmad Nawab's breaks and solo sax are nuts! Malay records also regularly cover Western hits; there is a killer Malay cover of Abba’s 'Voulez Vous' by Noorkumalasari
What are the five essential records you would recommend someone who’s just starting to collect Malay disco records?
Again we are looking at a one-tracker killer funk or disco mostly, the rest on an LP are just plain ballady stuff. So, if you’re digging, you need to listen to them all. I won’t say there should be a list of essential LPs but always have a look if you see these names: Ahmad Nawab, Black Dog Bone, Anita Sarawak, Noorkumalasari, Carefree and maybe Sudirman. Buy them right away if they’re cheap.
In the case of Malay funk and disco tracks, here are five you should check out:
1) Ahmad Nawab – Regent Club (Disco mix)
2) Fatimah Razak – Dahaga
3) Noorkumalasari – Janjimu
4) Anita Sarawak – I Gotcha
5) Sudirman – Mat Disko
Check out Xes Xes Loveseat's special disco mix featuring Malay classic tunes below. You can follow him on Mixcloud and watch his disco podcast here. He will be showcasing his eclectic collective, Paras Bunyi at this year's edition of Urbanscapes from May 5th to the 18th. Find out more here.