New York's legendary 'Body & Soul' party, created and curated by Francois K, Danny Krivit and Joe Claussell, is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. And to mark the occasion, we've just released 'Body & Soul - 15 Years', a 2-disc compilation blending a soulful mix of the unique grooves that embody Body & Soul's policy of musical freedom. And here to talk us through the album, the evolution of Body & Soul, live events and what the future holds, we'll hand over to its trio of famous founders!
How and why did you start up Body & Soul?
It just came about from the idea of putting an event together that was completely outside of the usual scope of normal nightlife in NYC, just for the joy of it, and therefore it was not going to be subject to the same expectations and pressure to generate revenue, or having to answer to anyone about what kind of music we wanted to play or what sort of crowd we wanted to bring. We found this venue called Vinyl that had nothing happening on Sundays, and they gave it to us thinking that we were out of our minds...but little by little it turned into something which developed its own identity. We did not expect it to become so successful, but what really mattered to us at that time was that we were really having an incredible time together, which is to say both the people on the dance floor and the three of us in the DJ booth.
How did the three of you meet originally?
We have known each other for quite a long time and it just came quite naturally.
FK: Danny and I have known each other for over 30 years.
JC: I met both FK and Danny Krivit in the late 80's at a record store that I used to co-own and run called Dance Tracks Records located in NYC’s East Village.
What in your opinion is it that makes Body & Soul so special, and what has made it last so long when other club nights have fallen by the wayside?
We were never attached to a particular style, and therefore possibly not subject to the same trends falling out of fashion a few years later. From the very beginning it was about playing the songs we love and timeless music, and whether that was something from 40 years ago or a song that was made in the studio 40 minutes before the party was absolutely irrelevant. There definitely is a segment of the New York City dance crowd which has historically been extremely receptive to this attitude, it had its roots in some legendary parties that came before us, like The Loft and The Paradise Garage - both of which obviously have always been a very big inspiration to us, in terms of being adventurous, open-minded as well as very diverse.
How has your music policy changed over the years? Do you still hold true to the ideal of 'musical freedom' that you started out with?
We’ve pretty much stuck to the same basic premise we started with, all the while adapting to circumstances when they warrant it. Obviously it’s not the same playing every week at our home ground and appearing at a festival in front of a few thousand people who may have never heard of what we do.
Where do you take your musical inspiration from?
Songs with a meaning, and tracks that have a groove about them. In general, anything with depth, but not necessarily limited to one narrow genre. It has been (and still is) about playing music that gets us excited no matter what genre; interesting music is what’s keeping us going today, and besides our desire to play music together, it obviously plays the most significant role in why we are still here.
Which other DJs/artists/labels are you rating right now and why?
There are far too many out there to even begin to mention a few names that we are feeling. However what we can say is that we are all grooving towards the same goals, as well as being passionate and even more importantly grateful to be in the presence of such a wonderful gift called RHYTHM.
How would you say that the house music/club scene has changed in NYC since you started Body & Soul?
It got more and more gentrified and real-estate reached stratospheric prices, which pushed out all of the colourful characters that were making parties special, all the freaks, weirdos and misfits have now been relegated to suburbia, and a lot of the new venues in NYC have to make a lot of money to break even. So quite a lot of them resort to ‘bottle service’, where in order to get in you have to reserve a whole table and agree to buy an entire bottle of liquor. This is a completely different business which attracts a completely different crowd, and although it has thrived during the last decade, this may well change as things come back to a more normal pace because of the current economic situation - which in time will bring lower rental prices for new clubs that want to operate on a more underground level.
The album celebrates 15 years of Body & Soul - how did you want it to sound, what tracks were must-haves on the album for you and why?
There is no question that after having already released five compilations of current material, it was time to revisit the classics and feature some of the songs that have always made the party special. If we can mention some, it would be at the detriment of others. But there is no question that we were very happy to have been able to include all-time gems like “Give It Up Or Turn It A Loose” by James Brown, or the scorching ‘New Jersey Jazz Mix’ of “People Hold On” by Coldcut feat. Lisa Stansfield. Anyway, the point is that a lot of the material on this compilation has done very, very well for us historically. Hopefully the sort of selections that will withstand repeated listening and not wear out after a few plays. Another thing of note is that we put it together in a way that purposely wasn’t as polished and picture-perfect as most of the DJ mixes that come out these days. That’s the way the party has always been (to many people’s surprise), and we felt that it would be good to present the flow of it in a way that was reminiscent of the way we play live, and feel far more authentic.
In the last few years you've branched out into doing Body & Soul events overseas - how do those differ from the NYC ones?
There is always a big difference between playing for the home crowd and doing a gig in a foreign country. But believe it or not, our biggest surprise has often been how clued in many of the people were who came to see us, how much they understood what we do and this was really touching. It gives us a sense of how far-reaching some things we have done can be. This proved especially incredible when we started touring Japan, where neither the crowds nor ourselves were prepared for the level of excitement and madness that has consistently been happening during most of our gigs there, including outdoors with terrible rain pouring down. So the travel has allowed us to make more connections, and has proven incredibly fruitful.
What do you hope to achieve in the next 15 years of Body & Soul?
We don’t really have plans for world domination, just to keep doing what we do, grooving with the sounds that keep us in awe. It’s still going to be about music, and when taking a look back at what has already happened in those past 15 years, one thing we have learned is not to expect anything, just let it flow. Having been blessed with so much thus far, it’s only natural to not have many desires beyond that. As long as we can keep sharing those tunes we love and creating parties that achieve the vibe we cherish.....
JC: I would like to add that one of our greatest achievements is that of connecting to other equally passionate people who love music, and together continuing the fight of keeping this incredible music that we all so dearly love alive.
Thank you Francois, Danny and Joe! Give the Body & Soul megamix a listen below and if you like what you hear, you can pick up a copy of the album by clicking here.