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Ephemera and Funky Disco: Futurewife

We’re looking for a place to sit on the patio at the Olive Way Starbucks. Or, Gaybucks, as it’s known to the locals. It’s a warm, sunny Friday afternoon, one of those days that can easily make you forget what a Seattle winter can feel like.

“Let’s get one with an umbrella,” Tighe suggests. “I’m a ginger,” he adds, and chuckles.

Futurewife is Tighe McGillivray. The 31 year old Seattle native is also a triple threat: DJ, producer, and recording artist. It's his DJing that first caught my attention, though. His sound is classic, and soulful, working disco beats, freshly digitized from the vinyl, into a groovy, sexy, frothy, mix that you just can't help but shake your ass to.

I ask him how he started out.

“I started producing on my computer back in the mid 90’s, in middle school,” admits Tighe. “I just did it in DOS. Me and Casewag, a good friend and someone I’ve been working with, we would just make horrible techno music. I went through seven or eight names and new projects, because it was all shit. It was awful.”

In college, Tighe transitioned his love for making and playing music into DJ gigs, spinning hip-hop on vinyl in Ellensburg. Hip-hop spoke to his roots, growing up on funk and soul as he did.

But why disco, I wonder?

"I come from funk,” he says, “and that old soul sound, and disco is the transition from that. That’s the bridge to house music. And I love house music. I went from funk and soul, to hip-hop, and then I really got into house music and disco. They go together so well. And, the resurgence right now, what with Random Access Memories and the Scandinavian disco scene..”

Wait. What? Scandinavian disco scene?

“Like Todd Terje and those guys, that space disco? The Glue? They’re the best in the world right now,” Tighe admonishes me. “I don’t know how big they are in the clubs in Oslo and Denmark, but they command a high price over here and in Europe.”

Touché. Clearly this author is unschooled when it comes to new disco trends.

I still like a lot of hip-hop, and I still think there’s a lot of good hip-hop being made. But, as far as the scene goes, it’s dead. It’s over. It was a 90’s thing. It reached it’s peak, and it burned out quick.”

Tighe has a friendly, approachable demeanor that makes him very appealing. A consummate music geek, he talks about scenes and sounds with the excitement and verve of a hard core gamer bragging about his latest trophy conquest. So how did a skinny, straight, ginger kid go from DJing hip-hop parties in Central Washington to dropping sickening disco beats at the queerest parties in gay, gay Seattle?

“I still like a lot of hip-hop,”  he confesses, “and I still think there’s a lot of good hip-hop being made. But, as far as the scene goes, it’s dead. It’s over. It was a 90’s thing. It reached it’s peak, and it burned out quick.”

I’m a little taken about at this, as I think a lot of successful hip-hop artists and fans might disagree with that statement.

“Hip-hop is an idea,” he explains. “Hip-hop is a scene, and a culture. Hip-hop comes from this disenfranchised, underprivileged culture. You can still find great parties, and you can go to where those cultural centers are, like Harlem, Baltimore, and Atlanta, and you can find great hip-hop. But the widespread hip-hop enthusiasm is gone.”

And now we see Futurewife at frequent DJ gigs in queer Seattle locations like Pony, Q (before it was overrun with circuit queens), and the Eagle.

“Five years ago, the only places where people would dance to disco were gay clubs,” he says. “So I got started there. That’s part of the Futurewife roots. I still maintain that best parties I’ve ever played have either been our warehouse, which happen four times a year, or gay clubs.

“I appreciate the fact that I’ve been accepted into the queer scene in Seattle. I may play gay clubs, but it doesn’t matter that I’m straight. They don’t care. They’re there for the music. They’re there for the party.

Tighe has a love for disco that borders on obsession. When I ask him who his favorites are, he eschews the names I would expect to hear in favor of some that are a little more esoteric and, clearly, based on a passion for funk.

“I really like Chic. I think they’re really great,” he tells me. “I like The Brothers Johnson. They have a percussive, funky sound that really gets to me. I like Rick James a lot. I think Rick James is the sound that I really enjoy.

“The early 80’s disco is my favorite,” he adds. “The earlier stuff, when it was just coming out, where it was less synthesizers and more of a studio band.”

I ask him how he sees today's disco scene.

“I’m kind of in this circle of guys,” he says, “like Cyclist [who recently made an appearance, along with Futurewife at Nark’s Jack Fridays at the Eagle]; he does a great night in Toronto, at The Piston, with these guys called A Digital Needle. And they are only disco edits. They take disco and quantize it, and they make it beat matchable, essentially.

“There’s this whole circle of these guys, anyways, who only do that. Opolopo in Sweden. Dynamicron, [in Turkey] and Rayko, in Spain. They’ve built their entire careers off of just bringing these back and making them DJ friendly now.

“Personally I like to get some house music in there, too,” he adds. “I like to get something really banging in there.”

Which begs, the question, of course. What kinds of house music does Futurewife enjoy?

“I like English house,” he admits. “That whole scene is really my favorite, probably. Karma Kid. I really liked a lot of the stuff Disclosure was making. It’s like that early 90’s sound, with a really contemporary use of synthesizers, drum machines, and high production value. I think that’s great. I like Azari & III from Toronto. They should’ve been around in 1992, because that’s what their sound is like.”

It’s apparent that we could probably sit here past the last of our iced coffees and talk music. And Tighe can name drop with the best of them. But I also had another question weighing heavily on my mind: where did the name Futurewife come from?

“We were on a stag party in New Orleans for a good friend of mine. It was like a week and a half long stag party. I don’t know if you’ve been to New Orleans...”

Oh, yeah. I know those parties. Tighe tells me about a group of Canadian girls who were staying in the same hostel, and how his group had befriended theirs. He adds that, over the course of the week, he’d drunkenly fallen in love with one of the girls, and how he received the requisite ribbing about it from his buddies.

“‘Oh, how’d it go?’ they asked me,” he says, chuckling. “‘Did you get any of that yet?’ And I was all ‘Don’t you talk that way about my future wife.’”

To which everyone exclaimed how awesome a band name that would be. And thus, from serendipity, the name was born.

I think that culture right now, for DJs, is changing. I want people, if they come out to shows, to think ‘I could hear stuff that’s never been heard in a club before.’ I want it to be a unique experience every time."

Of course, Futurewife is more than just a DJ. He’s released several EPs of his own music under a few different labels, ranging from French house to funk. One of his goals is to always include his own sounds in his performances; to make each performance special.

“What I’m working on right now is more up tempo house,” he tells me. “I really want to flush out my own live sets and DJ sets with my own house music that I can play. I like going out and playing something of my own, and having people come up to me and say ‘what is this?’”

And when he tells them that it’s his own work, he can see how the look on their faces change. It’s the recognition that they’re not just listening to a DJ, but to an artist.

“I didn’t want to say that,” he confesses, bashfully, “but yeah. I think that culture right now, for DJs, is changing. I want people, if they come out to shows, to think ‘I could hear stuff that’s never been heard in a club before.’ I want it to be a unique experience every time.”

I ask Tighe if he has a girlfriend, and he admits that he’s recently single after a years long relationship. I mention how that could be considered a fertile source for musical inspiration for him, but he claims that it’s not something he’s really inspired by.

“Most of the music that I’ve ever composed and written,” he claims, “is about fleeting experiences. I don’t write lyrics, so it’s based on feelings, these feelings I have from ephemeral experiences like love, sex, and other people. In L.A., or San Francisco, or Scotland, or Denmark, or wherever, I’ll meet this person, and go ‘God, you such a beautiful person.’ Or I’ll have these small Futurewife type scenarios...”

He stops.

“Oh, I never made that connection before. Interesting.”

And my work here is done, I exclaim, laughing.

Like many other emerging artists, Tighe has managed to take small parts of his own personal experiences, from his love for funk and disco, to his fleeting romances on the road, and translate them into beautiful creations to share with the world. In his case, creations that make you want to shake your ass.

When not at his day job, or in the DJ booth, you can find Tighe hard at work as a producer on his own label, PYT. Future plans for Futurewife may even include Mexican and European tours.

In the near future, you can catch Futurewife, along with Casewag, at Train Car House Party’s Future of Dance Music tomorrow night at the Oriental Express restaurant and lounge in Chinatown. It’s free, and there’s A/C. And great music, of course.

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