There are precious few New York City nightclubs and club nights that truly deserve a place in the city’s lore. Paradise Garage. The Loft. Studio 54. Mother. When it started in 1995 at the Tribeca space known as Vinyl (formerly the site of legendary art-club Area), Body & Soul immediately grabbed a spot in New York’s rich nightlife lineage. The eclectic dance music party started in 1996 and went until 2002—a lifetime in clubland. The type of party that left pretentious door snobbery at home and welcomed anyone, Body & Soul’s renown grew around its three DJs, François K., Danny Krivit, and Joe Claussell. The trio formed a DJ supergroup of sorts—one that for a short time protected you from the evils of generic music, obnoxious attitude, and bottle service.
Fly Life caught up with the trio to discuss their storied past and possible future at their 10th anniversary reunion party, held at the onset of P.S.1’s Warm Up series in July.
How do you feel New York nightlife has changed since you started Body & Soul 10 years ago? Joe: I believe that Body & Soul left a serious void. In terms of music and community, I think what we had was something special. We created a family. As soon as someone came, no matter what background or what country they came from, they felt like they were at home. I don’t really feel that in the city right now.
Danny: The big thing about clubs right now that wasn’t so big when we started is that it’s very money centered. It’s about bottle service.
François: We all know that it’s all about real estate. The club where we were doing Body & Soul got sold for $19 million, and they were gonna supposedly put all these fancy, multimillion-dollar lofts in there, and they still even haven’t gotten their permits, the architects. The new clubs are not about love of music. They are about investors and cans of beers and counting and sales. The kind of people who are moving to Manhattan these days are very wealthy. To them, they think about the clubbing experience as a fashion accessory, like, “Oh, what kind of shoes am I going to wear tonight, what kind of club am I going to go to?” That’s why, personally, I don’t really participate or ever play in one of those new big quote-unquote superclubs. I think the vibe sucks. Let’s just say it plainly. The vibe sucks.
How did you figure out that you worked so well together? Danny: Me and François knew each other for so many years. As we got to know Joe, there wasn’t even a moment’s hesitation. We were already like melting together on music, but not having a party—getting together, he [Joe] had his store, and we were getting together to talk music, and get music, and it really was a natural thing.
Joe: With the first offer, I was shocked, I didn’t know how to react. Oh, wow. To get over even the jitters because I’m playing with two legends. I’m so grateful that they asked me to do this with them.
Do you plan on playing again on a regular basis? Danny: The opportunities we have, they’re really not that appealing. We don’t jump at them.
Francois: We do play regularly in Japan. We’ve done it for the last five years. Official Body & Soul events, everybody, the whole crew goes, dancers, a bunch of us go. We do it for two days, at the height of their holiday in Tokyo, and it’s always like a huge event. We just did one in Portugal two weeks ago, as part of a big festival called Rock in Rio. Whatever sounds reasonable, and where we can express what we do, we’re definitely into it.
Do you talk to each other about what records you’re gonna bring? Joe: That’s the special thing about it. No, we don’t, really. Sometimes we think about doing that, but it never happens. The beauty of it is how naturally we merge together in what we’re doing. Once again, it’s the ego that lets us create more freely. We bring this openness, this family, this love for the music, love for each other, this love for the people, above everything, that feeds us food each time.
Danny: We’re very sensitive to each other, our moods, where we’re going with the music and the crowd. It’s like the moment dictates to us what we’re going to do. Sometimes we get pretty involved. “No, no! This one first!” Or, “That one’s perfect!” “No, wait on that.”
Is there a quintessential Body & Soul record? Danny: We played some tonight. But there’s more than a handful. We made a top 500 once.
François: I think after four compilation albums, each of which had 15 songs on them, that’s about 60. You can refer to that. (Tonight) we played the Rolando “Jaguar” song, and “It’s Alright (I Feel It)” by Jocelyn Brown—I think those two really capture something. Jocelyn Brown never performed that song for anyone until we called her to do it. She was surprised that anyone would want that song to be performed live. For us, that’s always a revelation. If you listen to the lyrics of “It’s Alright (I Feel It),” it’s like a textbook on how to love and appreciate music and make it a very big part of your life.
François: That (“Jaguar”) was definitely broken at Body & Soul. No one was playing it.
Danny: We pitched it down to make it soulful—pitched it down as far as the turntable goes. I remember going to play it and the DJ put it back all the way—”What are you doing?” I said, “That’s how I play this record.” “Really? Oh, you’re losing all the energy.” “No, you’re gonna lose all the soul.” It’s a different record when played at normal speed.
What club tradition do you feel most connected to? Danny: We (he and François) both met each other at the Loft. Discussing what Body & Soul should be like, the Loft was one of the examples we thought of. Obviously, Paradise Garage was a big influence.
François: I’m a foreigner (French, specifically). I came to New York City because I didn’t want to be in a homogenous country. I really wanted to be around the whole melting pot, kitchen sink collection of humanity that makes New York City what it is. When I think back on what makes Body & Soul so special to me, it’s that this was the first party where I very, very specifically saw many, many people completely blown away by the fact that there was really everyone there. Old, young, whatever. Ethnic, sexual, age, all the combinations. This really blew my mind. If anything, I think Body & Soul was a true child of New York. This party was only possible here in New York City. I think we all really love New York City.
François K’s Deep Space party is held every Monday at Cielo; Danny Krivit’s next 718 Sessions event at Club Deep is Sunday, September 17. And look for a new Body & Soul compilation this winter.