Freemasons Celebrate Pride
|Pier 54, New
by Mark Thompson & Robert
|May 31, 2010
this: nearly 10,000 dancing queens
frolicking on a pier in the Hudson River on
a sizzling hot Pride Sunday in New York
City—and as the sun sets, the Empire State
Building glows lavender, while overhead,
fireworks explode in the sky. One of the
more exuberant displays of collective
ecstasy, New York City Pride’s Dance on the
Pier has a history of surprise performances
from the likes of Janet, Whitney, Jennifer
Lopez, Pussycat Dolls, Jennifer Hudson,
amongst others. This year, it might be all
about the music—as the announcement of the
deejays for the 24th incarnation of this
much-loved event has been greeted with the
kind of enthusiasm one associates with
For the first time, one of the planet’s
biggest hands-in-the-air parties will be
headlined by the dynamic British duo,
Freemasons. Masterful remixers and maestros
of upbeat melody, the Grammy-nominated
Freemasons (Russell Small and James
Wiltshire, also known as Phats & Small) are
known for their work with dance divas such
as Beyonce, Shakira, Kelly Rowland and Kylie
Minogue—all of whom will be tossed into the
rumor mill as possible surprise performers
for this year’s Pier Dance.
Hot on the heels of their feverishly
successful headlining appearance at White
Party Palm Springs, Freemasons return to New
York on Sunday, the 27th of June on Pier 54
at 13th Street—and recently, we caught up
with them (just prior to their Montreal
debut at Unity) to find out what they’re
planning for New York City Pride.
MRNY: You wowed the boys at the main
event of the 21st White Party Palm Springs
this past April. How was that for you?
FREEMASONS: Fantastic! We loved it
right from the start. Flying into the
desert—and then walking around, bumping into
friends. The party is so well supported by
the town. And we found an English pub right
across from the hotel!
MRNY: And it was called Freemasons
Palm Springs, right?
FREEMASONS: [laughing] One of the
best parts was making so many new friends.
Everyone involved was so great to work with.
The crowd was so warm and welcoming.
MRNY: White Party Palm Springs is one
of the biggest circuit weekends in North
FREEMASONS: We knew it was going to
be a big event. The party was phenomenal. We
only recently saw the videos on Facebook and
MySpace. Being in the back, we couldn’t see
it all—and our jaws just dropped when we
were watching those videos. The party was
phenomenal. Visual design—and the lighting
MRNY: So how do you top that? What do
you boys have in mind for NYC Pride?
FREEMASONS: Lots of stuff, loads of
edits. We’ve been in the studio working on
some new material that we’ll be debuting.
And we’re in contact with Guy Smith about
MRNY: Guy Smith, the man!
FREEMASONS: Yeah, an amazing man. It
was wonderful to meet him in Palm Springs.
Guy is this really humble man in person—and
then when you witness his work, you’re just
blown away. We saw him on the street in Palm
Springs and he said, ‘I wish I could light a
set like that all the time.’ As we say, we
really feel like we came away from Palm
Springs with a lot of new friends.
MRNY: Your parties often become a sea
of hands in the air. Barbara Ehrenreich, the
pop sociologist, describes that as
FREEMASONS: We are proud of the way
we remix, and therefore, it’s always a joy
for us to play our music for a live audience
and to see people responding. And the hands
in the air for something like Beyonce’s
“Ring the Alarm,” for example—it really
makes all the extra hours in the studio
worthwhile when we see something like that.
MRNY: How would you describe
Freemasons’ sound to someone who hadn’t yet
heard your remixes?
FREEMASONS: Always musical, always
about the musicality. When we’re working on
a song, we try to make the hair on our arms
stand up. We’ve never gone completely down.
For us, it’s always about the song and
musicality. The song has to work as a dance
MRNY: How did your own collaboration
come about? Were you friends from the scene?
FREEMASONS (James Wiltshire): Russell
was in Phats & Small, and I helped out, and
then when Jason left, I moved in.
MRNY: Oh, that’s very Eve
Harrington... And speaking of, gay audiences
really relate to your music. What’s up with
FREEMASONS: We love vocals and we
love working with a great song. That’s the
common chord: the vocals of a great song.
One we feel happy to play. Gays are more
receptive. They get the emotive moments.
MRNY: You’ve got a particularly
devoted core audience of boys in their
twenties. You know that, right?
FREEMASONS: We found something
similar in Australia. We’re probably a lot
lighter than other deejays. We’re more
vocal-oriented, which is sometimes a welcome
relief, and the younger audience seems to
like that. Then, of course, we do tend to
jump around a bit in the booth…
MRNY: [laughing] It’s your moves!
Where did you two first fall in love with
music when you were coming up?
FREEMASONS (Russell): I started
buying music and deejaying at school when I
was thirteen. But then I developed a mouth
on the microphone, swearing in the mike, so
the wedding and bar mitzvah business went
MRNY: [laughing] Did you check out
the vibe at gay clubs?
FREEMASONS (Russell): I went to my
first gay bar when I was twenty. My wife was
a proper faghag. It was called Shame; it was
in Brighton. The longest-running gay club in
Brighton. I always loved divas, so of course
it was quite an experience.
MRNY: Who were your favorite divas
from back in the day?
FREEMASONS: We’re into all sorts of
divas. Back then, it was Jocelyn Brown and
Martha Wash. And I’ve always loved Diana
Ross. No wonder we like vocals!
MRNY: We know people who contend that
your first smash hit, the 2005 track “Love
on My Mind,” that mash-up of Jackie Moore’s
“This Time, Baby” and Tina Turner’s “When
the Heartache Is Over” is the definitive
dance track of the decade. Can you give us
the backstory on how that track came about?
FREEMASONS: Yeah, that mix seems to
work wherever we play. James came up with
the Jackie Moore and I came up with the Tina
bit. We pitched it down so that Tina sounds
a little more manly and then Amanda did the
revocal. She did a grand job.
MRNY: You’ve worked with nearly every
dance diva, from Beyonce and Whitney, to
Kelly and Kylie, and Shakira and Solange.
Who’s next for Freemasons?
FREEMASONS: Oh, we’re interested in
everybody. We’d love to work with all of the
divas. Rihanna would be great. We got asked
on her last album, but there were such
constraints. We just don’t work that way.
MRNY: What is it you listen for in a
track before you work your magic with it?
FREEMASONS: Hooks. We look for the
hooks in a song, and also we listen to the
vocal about two thousand times for months on
end. The song really must stand out for us
to work with it.
MRNY: A Freemasons remix is kind of
like a Gold Seal of Approval for a given
track. Everyone wants it.
FREEMASONS: Sometimes A&R asks us,
why not? We don’t like to stretch the vocals
too far. Sometimes there’s too much wobble
in the tracks.
MRNY: The American Idol influence.
All that melisma.
FREEMASONS: We got asked to do Leona
Lewis’ “Bleeding Love.” Four times they
asked, but it just didn’t work for us. It
was all major. Of course it went on to be a
massive worldwide hit, but it didn’t work
MRNY: How would you describe the
current dance music scene in your home
country? How does it differ from what you’re
experiencing in the States?
FREEMASONS: The gap is getting
smaller. A year ago, there was a
considerable difference. But now, because of
the R&B/dance fusion thing, we’re getting
pretty much the same music as in the US. The
kids are loving the R&B on both shores. And
it’s a good thing because UK deejays now get
asked to work for the American divas.
MRNY: Speaking of divas, New York’s
Pride Pier Dance has a history of surprise
performers—as well as about 10,000 people
from all over the globe.
FREEMASONS: We’re very excited about
bringing our music to the Pier Dance,
although we’re probably better off not
knowing how amazing this event is; it just
makes us nervous. We’re better off just
showing up and playing our music.
MRNY: Something new, something old?
FREEMASONS: We have been in the
studio working on a few things for Pier
Dance. We’ll have lots of little bits that
we’ll be trying out for the boys. We’ve got
a lot of remixes for four or five hours. Our
sets are always different. We don’t play any
rehearsed set. We’re always constantly
making music. We’re not like a band that
does the same set every night. We play
whatever we like, whatever moves the
MRNY: Hey, boys, thanks so much for
taking the time—and for bringing your sound
to the 24th Dance on the Pier. Happy Pride
to you both!
NYC Pride: Dance on the Pier 24
DJ Steven Oliveri (opener)
Pier 54 @ 13th Street, West Side Highway,
New York City
Sunday, 27 June 2010, 4 pm – 10:30 pm
All proceeds benefit NYC’s LGBT Pride Week.