Where: The Shelter, 5 Yongfu Lu, near Fuxing Xi Lu 永福路5号，近复兴西路
Starts: Saturday, August 22
Cover: 30 RMB
Hard working underground DJ group VOID has made it to the two year mark here in Shanghai. They’ll be celebrating tomorrow with a party at the Shelter, but we took some time to get to know a little more about the group. Check out our interview with Shanghai Ultra below:
So who makes up VOID anyway?
Void is Nat Alexander (UK) Shanghai Ultra (UK) and MHP (Shanghai)
How did you guys get started up in Shanghai? What’s the spark that made the magic happen, so to speak?
I came back to Shanghai in 2005. I spent a year living in Jiangsu in 2000-2001 and visited Shanghai often. I was really inspired by the architecture, the energy and buzz of the place. It looked like a Techno city. I’d loved music inspired by Detroit Techno and Chicago House ever since I was a kid, especially the Detroit side of things, it had a very futuristic feel and outlook. Shanghai just seemed to be like the city these original creators were making the music for.
Void really came together when Nat met me at an event at the old 4-Live in early 2007. I was wearing an Underground Resistance T-Shirt (famous techno collective) and Nat recognized it and started chatting to me about music. We soon realised we were pretty much into the same stuff and we then decided we had to start something, we wanted to put Shanghai on the techno underground map.
I knew MHP very well from our days DJing with Antidote in 2005-2006, we both had a really similar music taste and I was amazed that a Shanghainese guy could know so much about the roots of techno music, we worked together in production and later he became a full-time member of Void. Also Fish and Ben Huang have played with us from time to time and James Westwood, an English DJ who helped with the first Void parties at Logo back in August 2007. He actually invented the Void name before leaving DJing to concentrate on his business interests.
In the past two years, have you seen any changes to the Shanghai electronic scene?
Shanghai has changed a great deal. Three years ago, the first independent party crews in town hadn’t been around long or were just starting to form – namely Antidote, Phreaktion, Micro and Uprooted Sunshine, and the Magic Garden psy-trance guys. At this time, there was not much choice in the way of venues in Shanghai. A few spots, like DKD, Pegasus or Rojam brought in respected “underground” DJs from time to time, but none of these clubs marketed themselves as alternative music spots. Interestingly all
three have since went out of business (although it seems the DKD name seems to have been resuscitated). At that time, there just wasn’t really any air for the underground to breathe.
Since then things improved a lot. Of course, the Shelter opening in December 2007 changed the Shanghai alternative music scene forever. A large venue with a music-first policy. It’s hard to understand why it took so long for this simple concept to catch on in Shanghai, I think in terms of investors and club managers, they were all too busy copying each other and trying to make a quick buck to have the foresight or vision to recognize the business potential of somewhere like the Shelter.
It was a much needed development and gave the underground a “home”. That is not to say that there were not other venues, crews, DJs or whoever who weren’t doing their best to achieve the same thing, but the Shelter were the first to make a success of it.
How about changes to VOID? Do you think you’ve turned into something different since you’ve started out?
Recently, we have seen more “alternative” venues open up, and lots of independent parties being launched by new crews pushing new kinds of music. Generally, I think this is a great thing, its creates a very fertile ground for all sorts of great musical and artistic
experiences, parties and collaborations to emerge. But to be honest, I think we have reached a saturation point.
That “Real Warehouse Party” you held on the Dragon Boat Festival weekend – how did you get the idea for that? Will you be doing another one?
The idea of a warehouse party of course is nothing new but the generalidea of such a party is that its held in an industrial space away from the glitz and glamour of the mainstream, simply because there is no place for this kind of pure musical experience in the mainstream.
A warehouse party is simply about dancing and enjoying music which you can’t really hear in commercial clubs. Its about stripping the experience down to the sheer pleasure of enjoying electronic music itself and little else – a place where there aren’t any distractions like commercial sponsorship, big-name alcohol brands, dice, tables, beer girls, “Top-100 list” DJs or any other gimmicks and fakery.
That’s not to say there isn’t a time and a place for these kinds of things and that they can’t be enjoyed, but to get away from it takes a lot of effort, hence you have to go looking for warehouse spaces. We found a good one and we just wanted to do it for Shanghai, to show everyone what we think a real warehouse party should be about. I think most people enjoyed it, those who didn’t they at least took the time to check it out and get a taste of it, so its all good.
We might do such a party again quite soon… keep an eye on our twitter or website.
Why was it kept as a secret?
A lot of people asked us this and we got contacted by all kinds of people a great deal after that party. Basically it was for security reasons, we didn’t want to get busted by the authorities, although we have very good Shanghainese guanxi we couldn’t take a risk. It cost us nearly 30,000 to host that party and we only just recouped the cost. Also, although we like to promote Void as a party organization and a concept, the individuals behind it tend to shun the limelight and prefer to direct attention to their music. I think that adds to our mystique, we have been described as a bit shady and enigmatic, but
its not intentional.
What kind of music do you absolutely refuse to play, and why?
We never play electro-house. It’s simply an utterly shite, cheesy commercialized form of music. Also a lot of music classed as “techno” coming out in the past few years is in the “new minimal” style coming out of Berlin. I don’t want to generalize, but the vast majority of this music is rather dull and lacks the power to really rock a party all night. There is some great minimal music, but 95% of it sounds too samey and relies too heavily on effects. The sad thing is a lot of top European techno DJs have changed their style to fit this trend, people like Chris Liebing, Adam Beyer and especially Umek. Umek used to do
great, hard-edged but really dancefloor friendly techno. Now the music he does now makes me want to fall asleep.
What are some native-produced electronic acts we should know about?
There aren’t a lot of native producers doing house and techno, it tends to me more experimental or rock-orientated. However, there are some really great producers in China. Meng Qi isn’t really techno or house but I think his music is fantastic. Shanghai’s B6 has shown himself to be a very technically talented producer and someone who
knows how to write very slick and well-thought out music.
Incidentally, he will be making his Void debut on Saturday, we just want to contribute to the development of the indigenous scene in China. And of course, Void’s MHP, whose music really has an edge to it, very intelligent, rhythymic, with a nice balance between melody and harsher sounds. He is one to watch.
What’s next for VOID in the next year?
In Void’s third year we hope to go from strength to strength and build onto the good reputation we have developed both in the scene abroad and in Shanghai itself. Expect more international DJs too good to be on the Top-100 DJ list, and also a few hidden surprises and treats for the Void party people. The underground doesn’t stop.