Justin Strauss and Billy Caldwell have both played their part in dance music history; Justin in New York in the 1980s at venues like the Mudd Club, The Ritz and AREA and Billy in Manchester at venues like The Hacienda and HOME in the UK.
After the pair met in 2002 it didn’t take long for them to collaborate. Billy convinced Justin to come out of retirement to play at Groovejet and ever since they’ve played hundreds of gigs together. With thousands of records between the two of them, the pair bring different sounds to the table, whether it be Balearic, cosmic, disco, house, new wave and acid, but their selections always make you want to dance.
They’ve been Good Room residents for over a year, DJing together as Love Tempo. We asked Justin and Billy to interview each other ahead of their party in the Bad Room on May 21 to learn a little history from the pair.
Justin Strauss: What does Balearic mean to you?
Billy Caldwell: I first heard Dj Alfredo, Leo Mas and Jose Padilla on tapes that were given to me in 1988. They were like nothing I’d ever heard and I just fell in love with the sound and unique selections that the DJs displayed. Alfredo and Leo being more dance orientated but completely freestyle, blending House, 80s Pop, Hiphouse and just compete wonderful weirdness. Jose was more downbeat, chill and showed incredible range in taste and he had a unique way of creating the perfect soundtrack to the sunrise and sunset. You would hear Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Eno, Paco De Lucia next to tracks like El Gavian by Marianne Faithful – just mindblowing really. I just had to get to Ibiza and experience it for myself and that really changed my life, the clubs were pretty much all open air then KU, Amnesia and somehow records just sound different under that Ibizan sky, it has an incredible magic all of its own.
What is Balearic to me? It’s a feeling not a genre as such and you either get it or you don’t and I’d have to say that’s the most difficult question to ask any DJ. I’ve heard world class DJs argue for hours about what is and what isn’t Balearic and that’s what makes it so beautiful and intriguing.
In New York we had the Paradise Garage. In Manchester you had the Hacienda. I saw New Order and Quando Quango play at the Paradise Garage. Did you feel the influence of New York at the Hacienda?
I always say we had Manchester Pre and Post Hacienda. That club not only changed Manchester and Britain but also the world, its influence can never be underestimated. I knew that New Order, Tony (Wilson) and Mike (Pickering), who I was friends with, had been massively influenced by NYC clubs such as the Garage but I didn’t visit NYC until much later in 95 so I didn’t quite make that connection at the time. All I can say is that we are all heavily indebted to their dedication for giving us such an incredible space in which to discover music. I was lucky enough to see everyone perform there from Mr Fingers first U.K show, (David) Morales Manchester debut, Ten City live, (Frankie) Knuckles many times – you name it, we had them! I was also fortunate enough to get a chance to play the club. We also had the most incredible resident DJs who for me are still some of the best I have ever heard; Pickering, Park, Da Silva and lost legend Steve Williams. I’d like to say a huge Thank You again to them!
Is there a record that never leaves your record bag?
There are so many records that never leave my box. As my mate once said ‘F**king Hell Billy, how big is that box’! (Well I suppose we carry flash drives too now right ?) There are so many but I’ll choose one Mr Fingers ‘Mystery Of Love’, House music perfection personified!
Billy Caldwell: When I first met you around 2002/03 it took me WEEKS to finally convince you to come and DJ with me at funnily enough ‘Greg’s (Brier – the owner of Good Room) Groovejet Club on Varrick Street. You had said you’d ‘retired’ but you finally caved in and I’ll never forget the night you walked into the club, (I’m sure it was pouring in rain too that night and it was like the scene from a Movie) you had two records boxes full of gems and I guess that night was when you came of of retirement and since then we have played together literally 100s of times! How does this second phase of an already incredibly influential career compare to the New York scene of the ’80s and how does it feel to have kids coming up to you in Frankfurt or London telling you now how you changed their lives for the better?
Justin Strauss: I feel incredibly lucky to have meet you at that time. After doing many, many remixes and DJing at some of the best clubs and parties in New York, I was wanting to try some other things. I signed a publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music and starting working with some non dance acts and artists. I always kept my ears open to what was going on in the clubs, and I was still going to the the record shops every week and buying the latest 12’s. When I met you, I was itching to get back to DJing and you pushed me back into it, and I’m forever grateful. We bonded instantly over records, DJ’s, and clubs. And a good curry. It’s so rewarding and amazing to still be doing what I love to do. Getting the love and appreciation for my past work and my current work is just the best feeling in the world.
You have DJed some of the most Iconic New York City clubs , from Area , The Ritz , The Mudd Club ..the list goes on and on! Name three records from each of the clubs that for you were not only anthems but that also summed up the spirit of those particular spaces ?
J: Ok. Here it goes. The Mudd Club. My first dj gig.
1. The Slits - I Heard It Through The Grapevine
2. Liquid Liquid - Cavern
3. Grauzone – Eisebar
1. Pete Shelley – Witness The Change
2. Wide Boy Awake - Slang Teacher
3. Yello - Bostich
1. Robert Owens - Bring Down The Walls
2. Yaz - Situation
3. Joyce Sims - All and All
Now on you, a record that never leaves your box and why it means so much to you?
So many records. But in the last few years one that I can’t and won’t stop playing is Matias Aguayo “Walter Neff”. It just sounds like every club I ever worked at and it never fails to get someone coming up to me to ask what it is, every time.
Justin and Billy are taking over the Bad Room, playing all night long, for Love Tempo on May 21. They’ll be joined by Bicep and Jacques Renault in the Good Room. Buy your tickets here.