If you like your basslines rinsin’ and your selektas rewindin’, you’ll be in broken-beat heaven this weekend. On Friday the 15th, Hospitality Shanghai sends Logistics and Cyantific to disinfect Club Bonbon. The duo will storm the emergency care ward to celebrate Bonbon’s new status as a resident stop on the Hospitality tours. Cyantific is bringing an extra turntable just for us and will showcase his own brand of three-deck trickery.
Still not satisfied? Then head down to The Shelter on the following night, Saturday the 16th. That’s where you’ll find Sweatshop & Friends churning out high-quality, hand-crafted drum & bass all night long. Your slavedriver for the evening is Ram Records titan Shimon ‘longside MC Joker D, who will make sure you step in rhythm.
It’s enough to make a rudebwoy go nuttah, and it’s all brought to you by DJ Siesta. In addition to this weekend’s insanity, she’s introduced Shanghai to such artists as Fabio, Goldie, Dieselboy, and Pendulum. We caught up with Siesta to get the scoop on what she’s up to and what to expect in the future.
Who or what is the Phreaktion kru? Tell us the tale of its beginning.
Phreaktion is a small group of us bound by our immense love of music. It’s actually more of a collective. We all kick around ideas and information on the events, promotions, marketing, and so on. A Phreaktion kru member can be anyone from our resident DJ/MC to a loyal supporter. Right now there’s myself, DJ Viceroy, and a rotating cast of characters.
I started a kru in Hong Kong back in 1999. It lasted five years, and I failed miserably trying to do that. In 2004 I stopped the Hong Kong kru, and in 2005 I started Phreaktion. Then I moved to Shanghai, and that’s how Phreaktion got going here.
When I moved here, originally I just wanted to DJ. I didn’t want to do any more parties, because promoting is a very stressful job. Also, the promoter concept was very new in Shanghai. So I just landed a DJ slot somewhere. After awhile, I felt like there was so much more space to develop a [drum and bass] scene in Shanghai. So I thought okay, maybe I’ll start throwing parties. That’s how I brought back Phreaktion and started it here.
At the same time, Phreaktion was still going on in Hong Kong, you know, the remains of my old kru. But Hong Kong was too small, and I didn’t have the money or the experience to keep it running. So the Hong Kong Phreaktion died, and that’s when I thought okay, I’ll resurrect it here in Shanghai.
Phreaktion failed in Hong Kong for a lot of reasons. One of the biggest reasons was that I didn’t have that much experience – I was a total rookie. I had to fund everything on my own. I was maybe too ambitious and naive. So when the money ran out, there was no way for us to carry on.
But I’m glad that I had all those negative experiences and setbacks, because I was able to turn them into my assets. That’s one of the reasons why Phreaktion can be successful in Shanghai — because of all our past failures in Hong Kong.
Do you still see that potential in the Shanghai scene?
Yeah, drum and bass is still kind of niche in Shanghai. It’s still a leftfield, underground thing. We do need more locals to get involved, like DJs, MCs, and producers. As of now we don’t have many of them. I have a few local DJs who’ve expressed interest in playing drum and bass, but without enough slots or opportunities for them to play here, there’s no real reason for them to switch to drum and bass. So yes, there’s still space to grow, so more locals will be willing to switch over and think of [drum and bass] seriously as a genre of music that they play.
Why drum and bass?
Because it’s fun, it’s different, and it can be so many different elements. The thing I love about drum and bass is it can be everything. It can be jazzy, it can be funky, it can be techy, it can be dark, it can be abstract, it can be cheeky, it can be Latin, and all these kinds of things. It comes in all different forms, and that’s why I love drum and bass. It’s fun to both listen to and play.
What do you do on a day-to-day basis as far as running Phreaktion?
After two years, Phreaktion is on a steady path. The infrastructure is there; the building-up phase is over. So in that way it’s a lot easier for me now, because I have a set venue and a system of doing things like booking and logistics. My day-to-day activities have a lot to do with contracting and writing up press releases. I’m a full-time student now, in the last phase of my studies, so that means I’m unable to do a lot of things I should be doing. For example, the web site and the podcasts. A year ago we had a podcast every two weeks; it was a very regular thing. Now, nothing’s being done on the Internet side of things. The web site’s not being updated, and there’s not much content. I originally wanted the site to be more of a zine, with bilingual interviews and feature stories. So it’s unfortunate I don’t have the time to do it now.
So you envision Shanghai drum and bass as more than just throwing parties and booking DJs?
Definitely. I really want it to be something that the local people are interested in. I don’t expect it to be as popular as hip-hop, for instance. China has such a big hip-hop scene because it’s so much easier for kids to relate to MTV, the hip hop stars, and their fashion. I hope maybe one day that a handful of [these kids] will actually take up an interest in drum and bass and actually find the tunes, look up the labels, buy the magazines, study drum and bass, you know, really create a culture.
How did Bonbon end up as a residency spot for the Hospitality tour? What was your role in that?
I started a drum and bass monthly back in October 2006. I wanted to do a Hospital night in Shanghai, but when we first contacted them, they didn’t feel comfortable letting me use the word “Hospitality”, which is the brand name for their parties. So I did a play on words and called the shows “HOSPITALIZED”.
After five HOSPITALIZED parties, Hospital decided that the nights are quality. All the artists are happy when they come here to play. So now we are officially able to use the name “Hospitality”, and this Friday will be the first time we use the name. We’re now officially one of the Hospitality worldwide residents. I’m just the promoter [laughs]
People give you a hard time because you throw parties at Bonbon. What is your reaction to those comments?
People who are criticizing us for being sell-outs have to take a step back and look at the big picture. These people might come from somewhere that has a huge club scene with access to lots of musical information. However, as cosmopolitan as Shanghai is, you still can’t get a lot of information when it comes to music or culture. How else are we going to promote drum and bass to the local people? Maybe some people who go to a drum and bass night will like what they hear and go find out more about the music.
Also, as a successful commercial club, Bonbon doesn’t really have to do drum and bass. They could keep doing their hip-hop and top 100 DJs all night, every night. But they actually want to do something different, and for that I give them a lot of credit and respect. I’m very happy that Phreaktion has a secure platform when it comes to putting on a good quality drum and bass night. Whether or not it’s as cool as some people think, even if it’s not as cool as some people want it to be, we don’t have to worry about securing a venue when we want to do something. In Hong Kong, for instance, a lot of promoters never get a good venue. I’m very happy we have a spot like Bonbon.
You don’t have to come to Bonbon if you hate it. If you want to write it off because you don’t like the venue, then that’s fine by me — everyone has their own choice. But at the same time, don’t call me a sellout, because it was hard to get to where we are now. If I were a sellout, I’d be doing hip-hop.
Why were you intent on bringing Hospital Records to Shanghai?
From the get-go, I believed that the Hospital Records sound is perfect for people who probably had never heard of drum and bass before. It’s the kind of commercial sound that is easy for people to get into. That’s why i wanted to promote Hospital Records in Shanghai. Also, Hospital has a complete structure – marketing, promotion, and so on. You’re actually working with a brand. It’s more than just the music, so it’s a lot easier to market here, which means the kids will probably get into the sound easier.
How did the Shimon show come about?
Shimon is doing an Australian tour this month. He has heard so much about Shanghai and he really wanted to come and play. So I spoke to The Shelter about it. They had a free date on the weekend before he headed back to London, so we made it happen.
Tell us about your favorite show.
The first time when Goldie came, in October 2006, the energy was amazing. That show made me believe that drum and bass can work in Shanghai. The Metalheadz/Goldie sound can be a bit dark and hard, so I wasn’t sure if the crowd would be receptive to that. Plus, Goldie’s such an icon in the drum and bass world, and I was so scared to host him. Is he going to be mean? He can be intimidating, just by his presence. Also, that was my third gig at Bonbon, and we didn’t have an open bar back then. [laughs]
But it turned out that he’s super nice, and the gig was amazing. He played for four hours. 1000+ people on the dancefloor were enjoying it, really going off, which proved to Goldie that this wasn’t just some cheesy show. It was proper drum and bass, and people were loving it. [The show] just reassured me that I was doing the right thing and that drum and bass can work. That was monumental.
If you count Hong Kong, this would be my eighth year promoting drum and bass. You can get jaded, you can get tired, and there are times when you just want to quit. There are times when you think every show’s the same, that you go through the same things. Every time I feel like this, that I just wanna stop and do something else, there’ll be a really good show that’ll just re-light my fire and make me wanna keep on doing it. So really, I have like eight favorite shows.
You had the opportunity to play that night. What was it like opening up for a drum and bass legend?
It was actually very scary, you know. I shit my pants. Because you want to impress these people when they come out, and I had the added pressure of representing the girls. So I felt like I better not fuck up in front of him. So it was really cool, but also very nerve-wracking. Especially as a warm-up DJ. There’s a fine line between warming up the crowd nicely and playing too hard. You can easily go overboard.
But at the same time, it was really good, especially when you’re doing a good job and you get that pat on the back. [laughs]
You got a pat on the back from Goldie?
I did. [laughs] He said something like, “It’s hard to play commercial and play it good.” [laughs]
Name a couple tracks that are always in your crate.
“Shake Ur Body” by Shy FX is definitely in there. A couple of Sub Focus tunes, definitely a lot of Hospital tunes – I’m probably the biggest Hospital fan in Shanghai. But it really depends on what kind of parties I’m playing. When I’m playing local or commercial venues, I’ll definitely have more hip-hop or ragga-based music to get the crowd going. If I play a more Westernized crowd, I’ll play a bit deeper instead of the big dancefloor tunes. I never have like one or two tunes that are always in my bag, though – I change it up from time to time.
Who would you most like to bring to Shanghai?
Andy C! Just because he’s number one, and I can retire if I book him. [laughs] Apart from that, this year I just want to bring the more underground artists. Like in anything else, there’s a hierarchy in drum and bass. There’s the top 10 DJs and then others who are not as well-known. Now that Phreaktion has established its name as a quality night, I want to start bringing DJs who are not as popular but who are equally as talented as the top 10.
Friday 2/15: Logistics and Cyantific at Bonbon, “Hospitality Shanghai”. Entry: Male 120RMB, Female 80RMB, After 2 am 80RMB. Open bar 8:30pm – 4 am. 2F Yunhai Tower, 1329 Huaihai Zhong Lu, near Baoqing Lu.
Saturday 2/16: Shimon and MC Joker D at The Shelter, “Sweatshop & Friends”. Entry: 50 RMB, includes one free drink. 5 Yongfu Lu, near Fuxing Lu. Siesta, Viceroy, Abruzzi Spur, and MC Didje open.
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