Exeposé Music interviews Alex Jones, the man behind the English Disco Lovers, about their upcoming charity gig at Exeter’s Cavern
THE image of bigoted English Defence League supporters bedecked in St. George flags descending on Cavern is both intriguing and hilarious. Your EDL stands for something else though (and something more appropriate for the venue). Can you tell us a bit about what EDL stands for, and how it came about?
In this instance EDL stands for English Disco Lovers, our message is simple, “Don’t Hate! Gyrate!” We’re a political movement looking to make ‘EDL more synonymous with ‘disco’ than ‘defence.’ The whole thing began as a joke. I was camping with friends and had the idea of pinching the EDL acronym, most commonly associated with the English Defence League, and giving it a positive spin. I wanted people to hear ‘EDL’ and think of love, equality and dancing instead of hate crimes and racism.
Why disco music? Is there something in it that specifically speaks to the ideas you are promoting?
Aside from its positive sound, it’s the history and etymology of disco that are most significant. In the 1970s discotheques were havens for minorities, they brought together people of every colour and sexuality to listen to music that celebrated unity and self-expression. In 1979 there was an anti-disco rally called Disco Demolition Night, which involved the destruction of disco records. It has been said that the event had racist and homophobic undertones and that it played a significant role in the decline of disco’s popularity. It’s also significant that the word discotheque comes from Nazi occupied France, where jazz music was banned, as it was seen as a potential music of revolution. As live performances were deemed to be too obvious, citizens began to opt for underground bars where they could listen to recordings. These places became known as record libraries, which translates into French as ‘discotheque’. I wanted to redeploy this history in opposition to contemporary intolerance and the recent rise of right-wing extremism in the UK.
What’s your favourite disco tune for getting in the pro-equality groove? Is there a particular one that the English Defence League really hate to on your counterdemonstrations?
It’s got to be Sylvester’s Mighty Real! It’s an absolute classic and I’ve loved it ever since hearing it on the soundtrack of Milk, a film about gay rights campaigner Harvey Milk – the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in the United States. Well, we often play ‘I Will Survive’ by Gloria Gaynor, the lyrics are perfect for telling the Defence League to “Go! Walk our the door! Turn around now, ‘cus you’re not welcome anymore!” It’s hard to tell if they hate it though… I’m sure I’ve seen some singing along.
You did a TEDx talk in Hackney back in 2013, and you spoke about the abuse you’ve received since EDL’s conception… Do you think fighting such ignorance and hate with wit and parody is the best way to combat xenophobia?
Probably not, education would have to be the best. I see English Disco Lovers as less of a combative form and more of an expression of an alternative way of being in the world. It’s an expression of ‘English-ness’ (if such a thing exists) that I think is more accurate than the one the English Defence League put forth.
What do you think about the state of student activism? Is there room for it to channel a bit more of the spirited activism of the disco-era?
Of course. In many ways today’s students have been rendered passive by the prevailing structures of our times, namely capitalism. We are consumers, entrenched in apathy, slowly being crushed by systems that we are indebted to. How can you be an activist when you’re up to your neck in debt before the age of 21? That sounds incredibly pessimistic, but one often has to overstate an opinion to make a point. There are students out there who are actively engaging in politics, be that through activism or other forms, but for every one there are 1000 who are not (this is a made up statistic, but in essence it’s true). Those ratios need to change dramatically if we want to have an impact on issues that matter to us, whether those issues be student fees, fighting fascism or keeping UKIP out of government (which is essentially fighting fascism). We have the power to live more fulfilling lives. We just have to reach out, collectively, and take it.
So, what can we expect in Cavern when you come down? Who’s playing? Is there a dress code?
We’ve got sets from North/South, Tom Deuchars, Show & Tell DJs and Oli H, who’ve all leant their time in the name of a good cause – massive thank you to all of them. Expect disco classics and a few surprises! Flares encouraged, wigs and silly shades provided!
You can catch English Disco Lovers at Cavern, 28 January. Entrance is £3 before 10pm and £5 after. All proceeds go to The Devon County Food Associationbookmark me