Steve Terry's Wild Life Archive is a world renowned collection of ephemera, books, photos and related artefacts documenting dance music culture from its early origins through to today's global scene. It's an ever evolving collection with over 3,500 items dating back to the early 1970s including New York disco, Chicago house, Detroit techno, Ibiza Balearic and UK acid house to name a few. As he shares a few of his favourite pieces, he discusses the archive with Mark Seven from Parkway Records.
Mark: Am I right in saying that you began by collecting flyers during the acid house era?
Steve: Yeah I started collecting around 25 years ago picking up flyers from the warehouse and outdoor parties we were going to at the time. Some I collected as it was the actual party we had attended and others because I really liked the artwork. I was only 15 back then so had to bunk a lift or go up on the train to London and catch the first one back out to Essex in the morning!
M: It seems like there's more promotional material from the acid house movement than during almost any other club scene, is that right?
S: Absolutely. I think that the parties were not all tied to legit venues so the number of events increased versus other scenes, plus desktop publishing had kicked in by then. If you look back to say Disco it was not about printing up 1000s of flyers to leave in record stores for people to pick up it was tied more exclusively to the club's membership.
M: When did you start to collect material from other club scenes?
S: As the history of dance music culture unfolded in detail with the arrival of the internet it opened up more room for research and allowed me to dig deeper and discover material from other earlier scenes. The dots were joined from acid house all the way back to New York disco and everything in between.
M: I'm really interested in your process and the kind of places you turn up pieces for the collection?
S: For me it's mainly through word of mouth and my network of contacts. I have clocked up a lot of air miles over the years trying to track stuff down. Saying that though it is needle in a haystack business these days! I have certain things I am looking for and an idea of where to get them, but it can be tough to turn up choice pieces.
M: Yeah same for me. It's tough trying to find those rare records these days. What are some of the really special pieces in the archive that mean the most to you?
S: There are so many key items in there, but a few that come to mind are a beautiful poster from the Sanctuary in New York where Francis Grasso played - he is considered the first disco DJ to mix on two turntables, so really important in the history of dance music. I love all the Ibiza club posters in particular the ones from KU - the artwork by Yves Uro is beautiful. Also I have the first ever Amnesia Ibiza poster which is considered the birthplace of the Balearic sound. I wrote an article recently for a magazine in New York about the use of clothing and cloth in club promotion and so many of those pieces are really nice - like T-shirts and jackets etc.
M: Vinyl has made something of a recovery in recent years, if only in a niche way, does printed promotion stand a chance in the age of social media?
S: A few promoters are keeping on with printed promotional material, but digital definitely rules these days as you can track attendee's and communicate directly with the dancers etc. It was the arrival of Facebook that was the turning point - that really changed the game for club promotion. You have to promote where people are showing up and that's less about record stores these days and more about social media.
M: In recent times people have asked you to curate or contribute to exhibitions, right? Is this something you're thinking of expanding?
S: Yeah I have been involved in some great exhibitions as both a contributor and curator at prestigious venues like the MOMA in New York, MOCA in Los Angeles and ICA in London. I am working on some really exciting projects right now and in conversation with various institutions looking to work with the archive. It's been 25 years in the making and now it's time to start sharing it with the world.
Images courtesy of wildlifepress.com