Interview by Sean Ocean.

Ahead of The Stud Fundraiser party with The Carry Nation and Prosumer at Public Works, As You Like It spent a little time catching up with one of the longest running DJs in the SF nightlife scene, Steve Fabus. Steve has been on the forefront of the Disco and Underground House community since the 70s. Having seen it all and experienced all aspects of the SF nightlife, we thought we’d get a chance to ask Steve Fabus’ thoughts on where the scene has been, where it’s going and of course what pivotal role The Stud has to play in the San Francisco Nightlife community. (Donate to The Stud’s reopening expenses here.)

AYLI: This upcoming event at Public Works has you spinning in the loft, and is a sort of comeback party for the Stud. How much do you feel that the Stud is a barometer for the health of the nightlife community in SF? 

Steve Fabus:  The Stud has always been emblematic of the spirit of queer counter-culture in San Francisco. Since its beginning as a biker bar, it soon became the major spot for gay hippies, punks, funksters, new wavers, ravers, disco and house heads with nights like Sugar and Go Bang, drag from the Cockettes to Trannyshack, Heklina to Juanita More and Glamamore. Because of the Stud’s legacy there is a strong feeling in the community that the Stud should go on to be a vessel for that spirit.  

AYLI: As a DJ born in Chicago that had gained a following in SF in the ‘70s, how important have the Chicago and New York house movements been for your continued musical development? Who or what have been some San Francisco figures that have continued to influence you? 

SF: Chicago and New York music movements have always shaped my musical development. Starting with disco in Chicago at clubs like Den One and The Bistro I was inspired by DJs like Ron Hardy and Lou DiVito where I first heard the great soulful music played in clubs. Songs from First Choice, Emotions, Harold Melvin, The Trammps, Bohannon and so many others would fill a whole night and go on all night. Inspiration continued with Frankie Knuckles in Chicago and New York along with Larry Levan, Bruce Forest, Vincent Carleo,  Robbie Leslie and many others. San Francisco figures that have influenced me include Tim Rivers, Bobby Viteritti, Lester Temple, Chrysler Sheldon, David Harness, Ruben Mancias, Jeno and a number of others. I moved to NYC in the early 80’s to play at Tracks, River Club and Palladium when disco transitioned to Garage and House Music.   

AYLI: Vibe check. For one of the longest running active DJs in our San Francisco community, what have you noticed that has changed the most? For example, what was the feeling back then versus now? Aside from the difficulties for the gay community in the ‘80s and ‘90s, was there always this optimism and sense of freedom in the SF dance community?

SF: One of the major changes is how clubs present DJs. All through the disco era and house era from the 70’s through the 90’s clubs would have at the most two or three resident DJs and they would rotate one at a time playing all night into the morning. Usually around six, seven hours. Now of course that’s very different with sometimes up to five DJs sharing a night playing an hour each. I see the pendulum is swinging back for DJs playing longer sets and that is a very welcome trend.  There has always been optimism and a sense of freedom in the San Francisco dance community whether there is one DJ or five playing a night. San Francisco is a major DJ culture city where the clubs have always served as sanctuaries for the gay community from the earliest days to the present. As disco transitioned to house in the 80’s many other people came into the scene to join in the experience.

AYLI: How have you related to the various incarnations of the local scene over the years? Did you welcome crews like Wicked and Sunset when they were first started out, and were transforming the scene with different sounds?

SF:  I’ve always embraced new music moving forward. The rave and underground house scene from the late 80’s through the 90’s was a pivotal and exciting time for music and clubs. It was a spiritual and inclusive scene and people were dancing all night as they did in the gay clubs in the 70’s. I was back from NYC in San Francisco in ’88 playing at Dreamland where Doc Martin and Blackstone would sometimes come in and hang out after hours. There were many undergrounds going on with Wicked and Sunset spearheading many of the parties. Acid House, Deep House and early Techno was a big part of the soundtrack. Transcendence was key and was the goal of the night. It still goes on to this day on choice nights.    

AYLI: San Francisco has seemingly always had this idea that it was a place to dance and explore a carefree nightlife. What are your thoughts on the nickname for the San Francisco dance community, “Frisco Disco” and how much of a part of that do you have the responsibility for?

SF: San Francisco has always been a beacon for creatives and nonconformists. It has always been about freedom. It’s no surprise it would spawn a unique music and DJ culture. I know I always have to keep that spirit alive.

AYLI: As someone who’s literally seen it all in the DJ community, what do you think is going to happen next? Are there any cyclical trends we should expect to be returning soon?

SF: As I said before, I think as time goes on there will be more nights where DJs play longer sets. Clubbing may downsize a bit and become more of a personal experience again in some places. There’s a lot of great new talent in the scene that respects the history and is creating new history right now. 

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