I’m the author of Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music, 1970-79, Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-92 and Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-83. I’m a Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of East London, where I’ve taught since 1999. I’m the co-founder of Lucky Cloud Sound System, which has been putting on Loft parties since 2003, initially with David Mancuso, and All Our Friends, an invite-only audiophile party that draws much of its influence from the Loft as well as offshoot parties such as Beauty and the Beat in London and Joy in NYC.
Born in Ealing, London, in 1967, I grew up in Winnersh, a small town located some 40 miles west of London, where my dad, who came out of Nazi Germany on a kindertransport train, got his first job as an English teacher. I read Politics and Modern History at Manchester University and, while working in the city during the summer of 1988, experienced a transformative night at the Hacienda. After completing an MA in Manchester I returned to London to work as a journalist on programmes such as A Week in Politics (Channel 4) and Newsnight (BBC2).
After my dad and then mum died in relatively quick succession I found solace in the hope and community of the party scene, especially Feel Real at the Gardening Club. Searching for meaning, I left the BBC to move to New York City, where I enrolled on the doctoral programme in English Literature at Columbia University. From there I was able to head to the Sound Factory Bar every Wednesday night to dance to the selections of “Little” Louie Vega.
I began to write Love Saves the Day when mentor-professor suggested I write a “quick book” about the history of house music and rave culture. Early into my research Stefan Prescott, the co-owner of Dance Tracks, suggested I speak to David Mancuso because he was around at the beginning of it all. I was reluctant to do this because I didn’t want to write about the 1970s. Several insiders also told me that there was no point talking with David because he was only of passing relevance to the history of party culture. But during my first interview with David I quickly came to understand that the whole history of pre-disco downtown party culture as well as underground disco culture had yet to be written. A couple of hundred hundred interviews later, I published Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-79. The book was launched at David Mancuso's 35th anniversary Loft party in February 2004.
As Love Saves the Day went through production I started to put on Loft-style parties with David plus co-partners Jeremy Gilbert and Colleen Murphy in London in June 2003. I was initially unsure about the idea and remember that when David first approached me with the suggestion I replied, “But David, I’m not a party promoter, I’m a writer.” David replied, “Exactly,” his point being that he wanted to build a community party alongside people he considered to be friends rather than through music industry contacts. After a couple of years Colleen, Jeremy and I took out a loan in order to purchase a replica of the system David had developed in New York City, including Klipschorn speakers and Koetsu cartridges. Soon after we established Lucky Cloud Sound System, a collective of volunteers, to run the parties. In 2016 the New York Times published a feature about the rise of audiophile culture in London and interviewed Tim about Lucky Cloud’s pioneering contribution to the culture. In 2018 Resident Advisor published an extended feature about Lucky Cloud Sound System that includes an extended interview with Tim.
Deepening my analysis of New York City party, music and art culture during the 1970s and 1980s, I published a biography of the musician Arthur Russell, Hold On to Your Dreams: Arthur Russell and the Downtown Music Scene, 1973-92, with in 2009. I sometimes refer to the book as an "anti-biography biography" because I wanted to draw attention to the way Arthur dedicated himself to collaboration as he moved with an extraordinary degree of openness and creativity across the breadth of the downtown music scene. Arguably more than any other musician of the era, Arthur’s story doubled as a shadow history of New York City during its communal and creative heyday.
In 2016 I published his third book, Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor, 1980-83. In the book I argue that the period, largely neglected by historians, stands as one of the most prolifically dynamic and inventive periods in the history of New York City or indeed any Western city. The book received high profile reviews and feature coverage in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Guardian, the Times Literary Supplement, Paper Magazine, the Village Voice, Jocks & Nerds, the Wall Street Journal, Vogue Hommes and many other publications.
Inspired by my first visit to Joy in NYC in the spring of 2017, which came at the end of a second Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor tour of the United States, I teamed up with Cyril Cornet, Jem Gilbert and Cedric Lassonde of Beauty and the Beat to start a new party, All Our Friends. We held the first party at Chats Palace in Hackney in January 2018 and have been thrilled at the way the introduction of a Loft-style invite-only system has helped us forge a community. It’s also been revelatory to be able to host a party that runs from 5:00pm to half-past-midnight on a Saturday.
Having long considered myself a dancer rather than a DJ, I started to DJ regularly at All Our Friends because I felt I had something to contribute that I wasn’t quite hearing elsewhere. I’ve been grateful for the reception of the dancers at Chats Palace as well as other venues where I’ve DJed, including Ace Hotel (Pittsburg) Backwards (Limerick), Brilliant Corners (London), Cafe Mancuso (Bordeaux), Cassero Gay and Lesbian Centre (Bologna), Downtownsounds (Dublin) and Giant Steps (London). I still get to dance behind the turntables and entering into a dialogue with dancers has become yet another way to learn about the transformative potential of the dance floor.
I continue to teach at the University of East London, where I work with students enrolled on the Music Performance & Production and Music Technology & Production programmes. I am also responsible for organising the University’s Cultural and Media Studies submission to the REF research competition. My research has been graded world leading. I have also contributed to the impact case studies submitted to the Cultural and Media Studies unit of assessment.
I currently live with my two daughters, Carlotta and Ilaria, in Haggerston, Hackney, and remain close with their mum, Enrica Balestra.
Many thanks to Louise Hisayasu for co-designing and maintaining this website.