Where: (for Friday) Shelter, 5 Yongfu Lu near Fuxing Xi Lu, 永福路5号
Starts: Friday, September 18
Cover: 50 RMB, 9PM
In case you don’t know, FREE the WAX is a Shanghai-based bastard child production dedicated to presenting only the frontline of groundbreaking musical pioneers from across the globe.
In preparation for their big anniversary party on Friday at Shelter, we chatted with Leo Messias, one of the founders of the musical expedition, about their exciting year, the effect of world-class DJ’s on the Shanghai scene, and their love of old Chinese ladies who exercise in the park.
How did FREE the WAX come about?
We got a little bit bored in Shanghai, biting each other’s nails and sitting in front of Youtube. It was very rare that we would get to see any acts that would excite us. We decided to take the matters in our own hands and, with the amazing support of The Shelter at the time, we managed to kick-off our own style of parties introducing a lot of instrumental hip hop, funk, future jazz, electro, dubstep, techno, rave and wonky stuff to people who love their music different, eclectic and crazy.
Who are the masterminds behind the curtain?
Steering the Mothership are Katrina, Leo and the fantastic Yen. We also have our essential regular contributors that create our flyers, newsletters, sound system, great support DJs, our intermittent sponsors etc. It’s an organic and creativity-driven space squad-style collaboration between people from different walks of life who are really into innovative music.
Looking back, what’s the most exciting thing that’s happened in FtW history?
Man! There were too many exciting things to fit in this interview. Seeing the crowd really getting inspired by this type of music during and after the performances makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside… a pre-orgasm kind of thing, especially when it comes from Chinese kids. Samiyam’s live set together with Ques’ live illustration last weekend for the Brainfeeder Showcase at Kathleen’s 5 hit the spot, for example. We are into this whole interdisciplinary thing, mixing visual arts with cutting-edge music. Thanks to everyone who came by!
What makes FtW shows better than your average night at the disco?
It’s a different concept altogether. We lay a strong emphasis on “live” electronic music. Most of the artists that we brought (Daedelus, Nosaj Thing, Dorian Concept for example) are heavily on the electronic side of things, but they play live in a one-man-band kind of vibe, using technology – like different sorts of midi samplers and funky synths – to overcome obvious medium limitations, which is a really cool and a fairly recent phenomenon in club music worldwide. It opens your mind to different music-making possibilities. People might say “That guy sounds like a whole damn orchestra pushing those buttons, improvising one sample on the top of the other”, and that’s cool, cuz it breaks with the conventionality of music creation and its live reproduction. It’s all exciting and still very new!
How has FtW changed the Shanghai music culture?
I don’t think we have changed the local music culture. That would be a presumptuous thing to say. We definitely added an element which wasn’t being thoroughly explored though, the electronic-music-experience-played-live concept. I think we made that stronger and many people associate that with us rather than just being another party promotion team.
Is your message of innovative, visionary music reaching people?
It’s been a gradual process, slowly but surely. We often get very positive feedback from people and in Shanghai we have a strong base following which is always looking out for our shows. That’s a privilege, I think. You know… when I watch guys like Daedelus, Free the Robots, Nosaj Thing or Onra live, I definitely think that they are way ahead of the pack electronic music-wise. They still are experimental music artists in their own right; artists that have a certain purity of character and honesty in their music that you can’t find everywhere. We brought some of these guys to Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Hong Kong, Hangzhou, Wuhan… these places that rarely have anything like this going on, you know, where it’s all about green tea and whisky and dice and no dance floor in clubs. There are a lot of Chinese people who are bored out of their minds with Cantopop who don’t know where to look for something different. We cater for those people too and we always find cats who care and who are extremely supportive of what we do. For as long as there are kids interested in this out-there stuff, we will keep pushing this type of innovative artists. It’s not your usual staple music diet, but it’s good, sometimes weird and we love it!
Tell us about the party–why should we be excited about Francisco?
Finally, we are letting our hair down and partying hard with you guys, bouncing all over the dance floor, Carnival style!
Francisco is simply one of the best DJs in Italy. He was crucial in the development of the whole electronic music scene in Rome and he plays an amazing seamless mix of styles, blending 70s soundtrack funk with psychedelic disco, old school Chicago house and some of that Detroit thing. It’s certainly a blend people are not used to hearing in Shanghai, and done with undeniable skill too. If you are into things funky, retro-futuristic, edgy (maybe a little bit gay even) and super fun, then it’s YOUR paaaaarteeeey!
What’s the sideshow in your “tailor-made Carnival night”?
A Russian circus bear (Leo) tossing a hairless pigmy cat (Katrina) up and down The Shelter. You won’t know what hit you. The bear is also setting up shop selling CDs and t-shirts of our back catalog of artists from outer space (from Hermitude to Juan Atkins and back!). [Listen to Francisco @ FREE the WAX]
What makes you guys dance?
Chinese ladies exercising in the park, drumming on big trees.
Next month we are bringing Kid Koala to Beijing, followed by a superlicious producer called Eliot Lipp in November. In November there’s also the second edition of the Brainfeeder shows with the crazy The Motherfucking Gaslamp Killer -in partnership with Subculture- and a few more surprises until December. It’s a nice combination of different acts that are gonna blow everyone’s minds away!!!
Photo: SAMIYAM (Live Set) and QUES (Live Art) for the Brainfeeder showcase (September 11th, 2009)