“If dance music is about anything, it’s about creating safe places for the types of people whose existence is under threat right now.”—Eamon Harkin
Justin Carter, from North Carolina, and Eamon Harkin, from Northern Ireland, have deejayed separately in New York since 2004. They’ve thrown parties together since 2009, and founded their own record label, Mister Saturday Night, in 2012. The label’s output is based on a study of dance music history, especially that of New York’s tradition from David Mancuso’s Loft parties: spaces that are radically inclusive, that build communities, and that privilege the best music and self-expression over cheap thrills and fashionability.
Just look at the Boiler Room clips of the Mister Saturday Night gatherings: on the simplest level, you see happy people who love to dance, but the more you look, you see the variety of people involved, and the ease with which they interact. It’s a perfect microcosm of New York at its very best: internationalist, multi-racial, proud of its LGBT+ history and culture, all without blurring difference to a beige homogeneity.
Now, the Mister Saturday Night label provides the perfect soundtrack to this: Rooted in classicist deep house, their releases look back to disco, and forward to new experimental innovations. These experiments have taken a more concrete form with Carter’s first solo album—a beautiful, contemplative acoustic-electronic singer-songwriter record with hints of Nick Drake, Arthur Russell, artists not usually associated with dance music.
When we spoke with Carter and Harkin on a Skype call, it became clearer than ever how multidimensional the Mister Saturday Night project really is. As you’ll see, the pair’s conversation is as extraordinary as their DJ sets: Carter is considered and steady, often pausing to find just the right phrase; Harkin is prone to opening a torrent of ideas in epic sentences. Both speak in perfectly constructed paragraphs, bringing complex threads into clear conclusions—but never preaching any particular gospel. Both seem to interrogate one another, and it’s obvious that part of the success of Mister Saturday Night is that it’s not based on any set idea, but is evolving right before our eyes.