BUFFALO, N.Y. — A good four-on-the-floor beat, embellished with electronic synths, soulful vocals and messages of liberation, unity, and equality: these are the makings of a good House track, but not everyone understands how the genre itself was the foundation of a movement, both for Black music and for the LGBTQ community.
“The roots of House music come from the best Black gay disco, and that really good disco sound was the soundtrack of liberation for the LGBT community," said Chris Moody, better known as DJ Xotec.
Moody is a pioneer of Buffalo’s House music scene, which he said was birthed in local gay clubs like Club Marcella, which he played at on its opening night in 1995.
House music inspired freedom not only through its lyrical content, but through these venues that gave it life. At its inception, it was present during a time when liberties taken for granted today came with consequences.
“Back when Stonewall happened, you could get arrested by simply dancing with somebody of the same gender," Moody said. "Even in Buffalo, in the early, mid, late ‘70s, there was a whole bunch of police harassment going on about that too. There were bylaws that said you could not dance with a person of the same gender or you could get thrown in jail.”
The music itself, then, became a destination where people could find freedom and express themselves authentically. Drawing from hip-hop, gospel and soul, these themes that were already embedded in earlier genres pioneered by Black musicians carried into House as well by artists like Frankie Knuckles, AKA the Godfather of House.
As subcultures were spawned from the music, so were artistic interpretations. Moody said that Acid House, a sub-genre characterized by synths from the Roland TB-303, saved his life, as it allowed him to find his artistic voice upon his return to Buffalo from Boston, where he studied at Berklee College of Music.
“As far as saying Acid House saved my life, it pretty much gave me a life," he said. "I don’t know where I would be, personally or as Xotec, unless I discovered Acid House and figured out that I could be a pioneer, and I can do this well, and I can serve it well.”
While EDM has grown in popularity over the past decade thanks to derivative genres like dubstep/brostep, footwork and electro House, the sound and scene of dance music looks different than it did in the ‘90s. While change is inevitable, the foundations of House music, a movement created predominately by gay men of color, should not be ignored by those who produce and enjoy it today.
As a forefather of the local House scene, Chris says it’s his privilege and responsibility to educate people on the roots of the genre.
“All I can do personally is share my experience and share the history with people when I need to process somebody when they say something wrong, like come out with homophobia, any sort of racist thought, etc.," Moody said.
House brought more than a groove to the dance floor: it was the music of a movement.