The wave of disco, rock revival, electro soaking through the scene ain’t a new one; these past four years have seen legions of neon-clad, Wayfarer-ed warriors taking over dingy bars and 3000-capacity megaclubs alike. But look back a little further. Back before Justice made any friends, before Kanye got stronger or, hell, even before ravers begged for “One More Time.”
Jérôme Viger-Kohler knows this era all too well. One of the founders behind the legendary Respect is Burning parties of ‘90s had played host to acts like Cassius, Dimitri from Paris and, of course, Daft Punk, who helmed Respect’s inaugural night at Queen. Back then, these yet-to-be platinum acts were still unknowns, crafting what was then labeled the “French Touch” or “neu-disco” sound, and propelling Respect to become one of the most successful parties in Parisian history.
As they say, legends never die, and Viger-Kohler and his party appetite is living proof. After Respect burned its way through Paris, the party was brought to NYC’s Twilo from ’98 to ’01, along with global destinations and residencies in Tokyo, Caracas, Kuala Lumpur, Sydney, Oslo, Miami, Cannes, Lisbon, Copenhagen, and Brussels.
After the 7-year break, Respect is back on US soil in the form of Éte d’Amour (“Summer of Love”) every Thursday night at Santos’ Party House—an incarnation of its Balearic-inspired summer boat party of the same name now in its sixth year on Paris’ Concorde Atlantique. This summer until the end of September, Viger-Kohler comes back strong with acts like the Martinez Brothers, Ed Banger’s Busy P and DJ Mehdi, The Juan McLean, Fischerspooner and Timmy Regisford--successfully closing the gaps between classic and revival, new school and old school.
Clubplanet: Congrats returning to New York! Although, you’ve come back to NYC nightlife during a pretty trying time.
Jérôme Viger-Kohler: Yeah I know, I know. But you’ve got such a big nightlife history, if you look at it from the ‘70s or maybe earlier. I just moved to New York a year ago with my family, but I used to come here a lot when we had our party at Twilo from ’98 to 2001. We also worked at the new Warm-Up party at PS1 for Agnès B—which is how we met Mike Bindra at Twilo in the summer of ’98. For us, the New York club history was kind of an icon or model—it was a dream scene for French people. I think at the time, we had in mind the Paradise Garage and all the other historic clubs.
CP: Why did you decide to revive the Respect party in New York?
Jérôme Viger-Kohler: So I’m a family man now, but I still love to throw parties. I know how to do it because we did a lot of parties in Paris, New York, Australia, Denmark, Belgium, etc.
CP: And what sets this party apart?
Jérôme Viger-Kohler: What we’re doing here at Santos' is a summer festival—it’s not about a club residency every week of the year. It’s here for a limited amount of time. We have been doing this in Paris for six years now, on the Concorde Atlantique boat during the summer. And for me, it’s great to work in nightlife for three months out of the year—I can really enjoy it, I can work on it through the rest of the year, and it doesn’t change my work life. The summer is the best time to throw a party and at the same time, it’s the best time to party for the crowd. So when I moved to New York, I knew I would love to do something—it felt like something was missing in New York.
CP: How did you choose Santos’?
Jérôme Viger-Kohler: Well, for months, we were looking for boats and other outdoor spaces because I wanted to keep the summer feeling where you could enjoy the sunset. But we couldn’t find all the right things. So we went to Santos' in March and were like “Great!” I liked the space and I had a good feeling about the people there. They’re cool guys, very idealistic guys. So then I decided to have Santos' as the main space, but also have some open-air events, as well. So we’ll have a party at The Yard in Brooklyn in September. I didn’t want it to only be about the night—I wanted to have the sunset and live shows and be something more open-minded.
CP: How will it differ from your parties of the ‘90s?
Jérôme Viger-Kohler: Of course it’s going to be really, really different because the music has changed a lot. For Été d’Amour, we wanted to have one set of European DJs and one set of French DJs, and one set of American DJs. We realized that it was going to be harder to have French and other European DJs playing this summer because they don’t really tour in the US, but we’re going to try to keep this balance even though we might have more American DJs than expected. I also realize the dance music scene is much stronger than it was 8 or 10 years ago.
CP: How was it back then?
Jérôme Viger-Kohler: Parties at Queen were really about the sound of the French Touch—we had Daft Punk, Cassius, and Dimitri from Paris, but at the time, they weren’t yet stars. It was just the beginning of their careers. And of course Respect was a huge success because of them, and we became an icon of the scene. Even the first night at Queen, we wanted it to be more than a French Touch party—we had François K, Stacey Pullen, Paul Johnson, Derrick Carter and a lot of American DJs play at Respect. For us it was a dream.
CP: So how about now?
Jérôme Viger-Kohler: Now, I’m not trying have the trendiest music club in town. I think a good club is about having a good mix of people and music. So you have to be trendy, because new music is interesting. But still, I want to mix history and the new trends because you have to know your roots without being too “old school.” I think it’s really stupid to say, “It was better in the ‘90s.” But I’m not 22, I know what I like, I just want to have fun and have a good party.
So yeah, we’re doing or best with the short time we have. And if it’s a success, we definitely want to work on doing something next summer and the next, as we do in Paris.
CP: So what do you want to come about from this Été d’Amour?
Jérôme Viger-Kohler: I want there to be a lot of love stories. When we started in Paris, it was in reference to the Balearic scene in the ‘80s when US house was playing by UK DJs in Ibiza. I didn’t live it, but it was a great moment in dance music history. So Été d’Amour is a reference to this.
CP: Very idealistic.
Jérôme Viger-Kohler: Yes, I’m very idealistic, too. (laughing) But you can be realistic, but do something in an ideal way. I’m not sure what the saying is but it’s something like, you can be realistic in your actions, but idealistic in your goals.
Respect Is Burning
Santos’ Party House
More info on Santos’ Party House.
Click here to buy tickets for Été d’Amour with the Martinez Bros tonight.