Born and bred in London’s East End, twins Robert and Stephen Laviniere are two pioneers of the Soulful House Sound since 1987. DJs, promoters, presenters, record producers and business partners in Groove Odyssey, they started their career at a time when the landscape of London’s nightlife was changing forever, becoming instrumental figures in the eighties warehouse party scene.
In 1985 former Kiss FM boss Gordon Mac approached the twins, offering them a weekly slot. Broadcast each and every Friday night, their trailblazing Zoo Experience show was a hotbed of exclusive tracks and remixes.
Alongside their radio show, the twins began their, now somewhat legendary, Klub Zoo night, which were famed for its mix of classic soul, disco and rare grooves. However, a trip to New York at the tail end of the eighties marked a major turnabout in the futures of Bobby & Steve. A visit to Larry Levan‘s infamous Paradise Garage club in 1987 gave them their first taste of a new sound, later dubbed ‘Garage’ music, a sound which American jocks such as Levan, Frankie Knuckles and Tony Humphries were championing.
Inspired by what they had witnessed in NYC, Bobby & Steve launched their legendary Saturday night, Garage City, joined regularly by the biggest names from the house spectrum such as Masters at Work, Kerri Chandler, Tony Humphries, Eric Morillo, Todd Terry and Danny Tenaglia, to name but a very few.
Over the years, the twins have become regular guest DJs at the biggest club nights across the globe, held their own sold out Summervibes Dance Weekenders and launched their own record labels. In 1997 they were also nominated for a MOBO Award, whilst in 2001 they travelled to Asia to DJ at the MTV Asia Music Awards party.
The new millennium bought a new chapter for Bobby & Steve. In addition to their new night Soul Heaven at the Ministry of Sound and a weekly Ibiza residency at El Divino, the twins, alongside partner Michael Hughes, launched their iconic music/party concept and label Groove Odyssey, joined throughout the years by the likes of Louie Vega, Dimitri from Paris, Terry Hunter and Joey Negro. GO Ibiza, the newly brainchild of their successful powerhouse Groove Odyssey, kicked off the island’s summer season in style in May 2017.
Bobby & Steve still dominate the 10.00 pm -12.00 am slot each and every Friday presenting their weekly radio show on House FM.
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Watch Bobby & Steve’s exclusive DJ set aired live on November 10th from our HQ in Milan:
We had the pleasure to interview Bobby & Steve, who flies in to visit our House of Frankie headquarters. Here the two UK pioneers of the Soulful House Sound shared some thoughts about their iconic brand Groove Odyssey, Go Ibiza, Frankie Knuckles, their forthcoming projects and much more.
Hello and welcome to House of Frankie, Underground Radio in Milan, Italy. Today I have been joined by two Pioneers of the Soulful House Sound, DJs, Promoters, Presenters, Record Producers and Business Partners in Groove Odyssey, Bobby & Steve! Hi, nice to have you here in Milan!
When we talk about the rise of house music we always think of NYC and Chicago… you guys started your career in the ‘80s. What was the house music scene in London back then? How did the American scene differ from the UK one?
B: Well, it was exciting for us as it was to our crowd because remember we didn’t just open a club and start playing house music, we had a following from 1984, for so good six, seven, eight years you know when we started introduced ourselves in the house music scene to them. Plus, the radio station we were on had a big audience every Friday night at Garage City, so it was exciting, there were exciting times, there was so much great music, the quality as well. Music quality is great now for house music but then you know it was just fresh, we had Ten City live on stage back in the early nineties at our clubs. So, exciting times and the Americans led the way, no doubt, everyone else was following what they were doing, you know everyone would emulate and copy the drums, the singers were trying to do what they were doing… so the Americans definitely led the way on that. We were just as good as DJs in terms of entertainment, because in my opinion you had to entertain the crowd. Once we managed to do that, we had the wholly dancefloor and you know, they had the upfront tracks because we were on radio and we explained that we had an exposure to the masses. We would get a lot from the upfront records anyway, ask Paul Anderson, CJ Mackintosh there were a handful of London, UK, guys who would get all the records upfront as well. So, we were on a level with them musically speaking, not the same level anyway, because they had so much more exclusives but yeah, they were/ it was good, exciting times and it still is.
Let’s make a little journey to the past. In 1987 you took your very first trip to NYC and you had the chance to visit Larry Levan’s infamous Paradis Garage club, just three months before the club closed its doors forever. Here you heard for the first taste a new sound, later dubbed ‘Garage’ music, a sound which American jocks such as Levan, Frankie Knuckles and Tony Humphries were championing. Could you tell us more about this epic moment?
B: We grew up on a staple diet of just soul, we started at a very young age but it was soul and disco, so when we stared DJing late in 1984 it was just soul music and a little bit of go-go music which was trendy back then. We have never jumped ship on what we believed in, just our roots and we kept on that. In those days, we became friends with Norman Jay, who would always go to the music seminar in NYC and he had a cousin living over there. We had never been to NY before and then to be honest we didn’t know nothing about Paradise Garage. So, we just went to NY, we went to all these cool parties for the seminar and then it was Norman who brought us to Paradise Garage eventually. I remember walking on that carpet and being amazed by the dancefloor. And then, it must have been towards the end of the night, I think there was a rooftop upstairs and we didn’t even know there was a rooftop till the sun came up and then we were just looking around, everything that was going on. This is a true story, it’s not like the usual clichés about Paradise Garage, because we actually lived for that night and we gave everything back to Norman Jay. And that was a turning point for us because after that we went to vinyl mania.
S: Yeah, Everyone used to basically go on vinyl mania straight from after the club, after managing to hear the music Larry was playing. So, we actually went there and had that whole experience about it as well, you know, to make sure we bought the right records. Once returned home, we played in one of the clubs in London called Klub Zoo, which was more focused on disco and some cool soul but more on disco every Wednesday night. So, we brought the Paradise Garage and its tracks back, and we started introducing the garage sound to the club. And the crowd would just look at us, look at the stage, because it was new to them, so we just played it all the and that was it. Next thing, six months later, the disco went down a bit, it was more house so that’s what brought ourselves back to that style.
In 1993 we were on KISS FM for 12 years, this time a legal station, and we started a night called Garage City, inspired by that night at Paradise Garage and it was one of the biggest house nights in the city. Everybody was there, Danny Tenaglia, Eric Morillo, Louie Vega, Kenny Dope, every single person was there.
B: So, that one visit to NYC made us what we are today, basically thanks to Paradise Garage.
You have been on the music scene for a long time and as a big international duo, you keep DJing traveling the world alongside your successful brand Groove Odyssey. Last August, Groove Odyssey once again returned to London at the renowned 51st State Festival, bringing with you to the main stage some of the world’s most respected DJs such as Masters At Work, Body & Soul, Barbara Tucker, and many more. Can you tell us more about this fantastic experience?
S: Yeah, 51st state is our business partners festival. It was Michael Hughes who first involved us. His dream was to create a real house festival in London, so he basically just went to work on it outside of all the stuff he has been going on throughout the years. Then he came up with the name and the rest is history. He has developed a house music festival which London really needed, focusing on house music, real house, with plenty of artists in one day, 5 tents. It keeps growing, and next year they will celebrate the fifth edition.
Michael has definitely created something so magical… People love house meetings they can got to and they should respect exactly what’s going for and keep spoiling it because it has grown year on year and year.
B: Nothing against other music genres, like techno, because music is music. But for us, his entry was just so important. There is a disco tent, all concentrating on the real house, where house music really come from you know from disco and there is also a soul thing so. This year, the 4th edition gathered about 17,000 fans/ people and that was truly amazing. So yeah, it’s a big deal if you haven’t been there, you definitely need to come over!
Last November 3rd, your brand celebrated its 9th birthday at the famous Ministry Of Sound, where you were joined by the likes of Kenny Dope, Groove Assassin, Talliwa, CJ Mackintosh and many more. What are you most looking forward to about Groove Odyssey in 2019?
S: We have created a brand cool GO which is GO Ibiza. Next year it will celebrate its 3rd year and again like the festival (Groove Odyssey) is growing and growing. We saw a gap in the market, we believe there was a gap for what we do our sound. We expected 400 people the first year and instead we got 500, then the following year, this year we got 650. So, next year we are looking sort of 800 to a thousand which will probably get.
B: The most important thing is the people we’re bringing over to Ibiza because our festival takes place a week before the season starts so we’re not relying on people on the Island, but instead we’re bringing people who fly out just for our event.
S: And the main factors are that coming to Ibiza, it’s expensive for some people, so we have made it affordable as well because we do all-inclusive packages. It’s and high-end event, we still put a lot of investing lot of money in the ice, so the last year we had over 40 ice of high-calibre ice, all the names you know and we’re just gonna keep growing and growing. We’ve also got some good plans even for 2020! We can’t reveal anything yet, but tickets for next year’s edition are on sale now on grooveodyssey.com.
So, what does the future hold for you guys? I know your debut artist album is coming out early next year! Could you tell us more about this project?
B: We have been DJing since 1984 and we have done a numerous amount of compilations. We have never put ourselves down as being record producers, meaning that we have never done 20 or 10 singles in a 12-month period ever, not because we didn’t want to but because we have always been so busy with other business tasks. We are not just DJs, like I said we have been promoting and DJing from when we started, back in 1984, so we can produce records and write our own songs.
So, we would always release maybe 2 singles a year and 2019 is our 45th anniversary so we thought it’s about time we put together an album and that’s why we started working. We’re massive fans of Leroy Burgess, so we got him a track and that’s how the process started. We have got a good collection, but we have still got 3 tracks to finish off, because we are a bit fussy. The album will feature Duane Harden, on the arms, Stephanie Cooke, Jean Carne and more.
We have also got some great other stuff, you know, Barbara Tucker is on the album as well but we have got some ideas. It’s going to be a good album and we’re gonna be proud of it even though it’s not finished.
Now let’s go to your DJing. What equipment do you use during your live performances? Describe to us your technical set-up…
B: We are old school, we like the rotary mixer, we play on Pioneer and cause faders everything else. We also used a rotary Bozak, use a copy of the original, the same set-up of the original Bozak, we’ve got the table top mixer, now very comfortable on that and 3 or 4 CDJs, sometimes an AFX-1000 but we like to keep it not too technically, but just nice and easy.
Our digital platform, House of Frankie, was born as a project dedicated to Frankie Knuckles, and more in general, as a tribute to house music. Do you have any memories of him you want to share with us?
S: He played for us a couple of times in Terminals, he played for us and he was always embracing us in terms of esteem to go to NY seminar back in 93/94 and to Miami. the last time I just saw him was in Miami international, he was sitting down behind a deck/desk, he was in a VIP area in the back. He was always with Louie, David etc. Frankie was sitting near Judy Weinstein, who’s the manager for Def Mix. And we were still in awe, we knew the guys but we were still like: wow, look! that’s how much respect we have for these people and Frankie had such good vibes, he was just a cool guy.
B: He had the presence, he had the style, but you knew that if he smiled at you, any of you, and you embrace it, you knew it was real and it wasn’t no-front thing. Whatever you saw, the smiling, the embrace, he gave you the heart, everything was more than just real, you know, he had the biggest heart.
Thank you so much Bobby & Steve for stopping by. We hope you will come back again soon! Bye!
Thank you for having us! We respect what you guys do! Don’t forget, for more information check out grooveodyssey.com
Listen to Bobby & Steve’s live DJ set from our HQ on SoundCloud and check out their latest releases on Traxsource!
Video Filmed and Edited by Samantha Faini.