Rock music tends to be male dominated, you look at most of the bands in town you’ll see stages lined with men manning microphones, guitars, bass guitars and of course your usual burly guy on the drums.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the electronic music scene in Chengdu, that’s not quite case, especially here in Chengdu where the girls are leading the scene. I picked a few of my favourite female producers, DJs and party label founders and asked them a few questions, the usual origin story stuff.
Su and Xiang (Atmen)
These girls are the cofounders of the Atmen movement. Atmen being German for Breathe. Is about the purist ideals of Deep/ minimal Techno.
Both Gogo and Xiang are local Chengdu girls so you may wonder why the German? Gogo has lived on and off in Germany and Xiang previously studied over there so both have strong ties to the country and as a result their music and in turn the Chengdu music scene has been heavily influenced by this. The 2nd Atmen party took place on the 18th/19th of December, show casing 2 days of Chengdu local electronic music talent.
*How did you get started making music?
From listening to Electronic music to going to parties and hanging out listening to DJs, I then started DJing myself. Actually it’s it’s all a process of being introduced to and being influenced by stuff, finding/choosing in other peoples music that which you feel really expresses something about yourself, your thoughts and your feelings, though that way it’s still too restrictive. Ultimately you just need to find a way to allow your own music to speak for you. So that’s how the desire to make my own music began.
I think it’s a natural process, Electronic music’s energy and the sense of sound in a structural space attracted me. Being a Techno DJ the process of making music is very creative and inspirational.
*How did you get involved in Atmen?
Through music I met XiangXiang, to start with we were just partying together, hanging out, dancing, then later as we slowly got to know each a lot better we started discussing music, talking about life in general. We both thought, in Chengdu of all places you can meet someone who you feel you can without any barriers happily chat away about anything, that feeling’s pretty awesome, and on top of that have absolutely the same opinions and feelings about things.
So this year (2015) during spring festival we went to Thailand together, there was one day we were sitting together on the beach listening to music by the moonlight for like 2 hrs, not saying a word, but at the time there was sort of a deep heartfelt understanding, it sort of brought our friendship to a new level of deeper understanding.
Later when we were back in Chengdu XiangXiang came to my house, we were sitting talking, we started talking about the environment we live in these days, then talked about Berlin, Electronic music, all the good stuff and bad stuff in life, just felt sort of like something was missing. Then when started discussing maybe as a group we could do something together. Otherwise you’re just left with that empty feeling. So ultimately that’s how we came to create Atmen.
Which producers have inspired you?
Gogo: typically listen to Abdulla Rashim and lately I really like Cio D’or … but the most inspiration comes from my own feelings about life.
Xiang:There’s a lot, like Margaret Dygas,Abdulla Rashim,Svreca..
DJ Cvalda (MIST)
Cvalda is also the founder of the Party Label Mist. (Don’t translate that one into German because it means shit ha)
The name Mist came from a short story of the same name by Stephen King.Note worthy achievements for the Mist label over the past year have been bringing big name DJs up til now mainly from the London scene including Dub Phizix and recently for the Mist 1 year anniversairy party London DnB Legend Jubei and SP MC. Aside from bring overseas artists Cvalda has also worked closely with Dohits bringing Howie Lee and Jason Hou Beijing’s up and coming producers to Chengdu.
I say til now mainly from the London scene because in January Cvalda + Mist will bring US producer Homemade Weapons to Chengdu for the first time including a full tour of China. Promoters like Cvalda are doing a great service to the scene here, without them we’d never get the likes of these overseas producers coming to Chengdu and recently when she introduced me to Jubei he said Dub Phizix had told him about how awesome Chengdu is thus influencing his decision to come here. So next time you see Cvalda buy her a drink to say thanks for putting the Chengdu electronic scene on the map.
*How did you start making music?
I guess it was around the year 2000 when I fell in love with electronic music. Back then the internet wasn’t so developed, there weren’t so many websites available for listening to music online so the only way for me to discover new music was buying CDs. One day out of the blue at this shop in front of my university I bought DJ Shadow’s ‘The Private Press’, limited edition featuring a 2nd CD with all live sets. I was completely enthralled by it and must have listened to it hundreds of times.
I started DJing a little just for fun around 2004. A friend introduced me to DEN bar, it was really interesting, it was like a lounge bar that had daily DJ performances, way ahead of its time. So eventually I became quite good friends with the boss of this bar, DJ Lee. We started doing some Minimal or Ambient Live performances in DEN and this went on until about 06. Later DJ Lee, myself and a few friends started Undergroud Club together. I suppose this was the beginning of the underground club scene in Chengdu. We brought over a lot of amazingly talented producers like, Akufen, DJ Krush, Jimi Tenor, Meat Katie, the list goes on.
This was such a happy a time for me. We also had a really good website ageofred.com it was frequently by musicians, fans, people in the scene all hanging out on the forum.
Underground was open for about 7 months before it eventually went bankrupt, the site also wrapped up around the same time. I spent about 2 years getting over this stuff it was kind of hard, but at the same time I came to the understanding that not everyone is into the same music as me and that’s ok. In the spring of 2009 with the support and encouragement of my friends I started learning how to make my own music. I started putting a few things up on Douban and a few people started following me. My good friend of 10 years Howie Lee convinced me to start using Ableton Live DJ, at the time I really liked Drum&Bass so stuck to that genre and kept exploring in that direction.
*How did you start Mist?
Really early on I had this idea, I’ve got a lot of really amazingly talented DJ friends. I really wanted to get them to Chengdu to perform and also like Heavy HK, quite a well established promoter, I wanted bring some bing names over to perform here. But after what happened with Underground I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take this on, it felt like I might be doing the same thing again. Before I started my own label I helped a lot of friends out over the years hooking them up with DJs and contacts for gigs. Later ‘Different Music’ an English label I really like’s producer ‘Arkaik’ moved to China. I think this is when I really decided to do my own label, otherwise I wouldn’t been able to set up his China tour.
Howie Lee and JCC gave me a lot of suggestions and I slowly started getting into the feel of how to be a promoter, it’s really not as simple as just getting in touch with people and setting up the gig. What Mist’s actually doing is marketing a type of culture. For a country like China where there’s absolutely no history when it comes to this type of music it’s a lot of effort trying to promote it. Though it seems if you keep at it, slowly its getting better or at least I’m very hopeful.
*Which producers influenced you?
As mentioned before, DJ Shadow and of course also from the same period DJ Krush.
As well as Massive Attack, Bjork and Boards of Canada. Actually it’s a shame that I missed out on a lot of the early Drum&Bass stuff as it was coming in the 90s and Jungle as well. When I first got into this type of music in 2000 I hadn’t listened to a lot.
Later on Minimal and Plastikman, especially his 94 album Musik. Including other different types of music like Tango I totally want to go to Argentina to see it for myself. I also like some Italian classical opera, I guess this is kind of a secret, DJ Lee influenced me a lot and introduced me to a lot of these types of music.
Finally I have to mention a very important influence of mine, Homemade weapons. He introduced me to a lot of the Drum&Bass stuff I’ve been listening to over the past two years, Deep/ minimal/ Dark Jungle/ Drum&Bass. I’ve gotten to know a lot of smaller producers this way. One thing that made me really happy recently, I went to New York earlier this year (2015) and I got to meet Homemade Weapons and now Mist is setting up and promoting his China tour. It’s gonna be awesome, you absolutely don’t want to miss it.
For those of you have heard of the label Chaos you’ll probably associate it with Guangzhou and quite rightly so, JCC spent many years down in Guangzhou and is an integral part of the GZ bass music scene but she’s a Sichuan girl originally from Langzhong. Which as a side note is a lovely place well worth visiting but do NOT get involved in a drinking competition with the locals, especially if they’re related to JCC.
JCC’s currently based over in Germany for work, but fortunately she makes it back at least once a year and in between catching up with family and friends almost always manages to fit in a China tour. She’ll be back around Feb/March ish 2016 and is bringing Berlin based Mad Zach – if you haven’t heard him, google that name and watch the videos. He does amazing live sets. He’ll be touring China in March and true to form Sichuan electronic scene girls never forget where they’re from so there’s also a Chengdu stop.
*How did you start making music?
I’ve always been really into hiphop, and was going out a lot to underground hiphop events when I was in living in Guangzhou (one of the first cities that were doing underground hiphop in China), that’s where I met lots of hiphop artists, and started learning DJing. Then I got to know Jungle/dnb from a friend’s record collection, which blew my mind. I started playing this genre of music immediately and things just sort of progressed from there.
*When/How did you get involved in doing chaos?
I started the first jungle/dnb night in GZ around 2006, lots of different artists were involved in this project, and until 2008, I also started playing other types of Bass music, especially dubstep. In 2009, I got really really excited about the whole 140bpm stuff, that’s when I started ChAos, which is a Bass night including almost all genres of bass music.
*Who inspires you?
There are lots of artists that have inspired me. Labels like Metalheadz, Exit, Hyperdub, Deep Midi, Rinse FM earlier times had a very big impact in my music taste; Lateron, a great number of forward-thinking artists as BokBok, L-vis 1990, Wiley, Kahn and Neek, Om Unit, Dub Phizix, and so on have been updating my selection of music.
Earlier this year I was lucky enough to catch up with JCC over in Berlin, she was already all talk about the Mad Zach tour and the need to bring some of the amazing producers she’d gotten to know in Berlin over to China. Mad Zach’s a finger drummer … which many of you have probably never heard of. ‘Mad Zach’s highly coveted live shows fuse the best elements of controllerism, finger drumming, and dj-ing into one bass oriented booty-forward masterpiece located at the intersection of future bass and retro treble. ‘
As Ill Gates puts it best, “Finger drumming, step sequencing, crazy effects, you name it. The guy is constantly wrecking shop when he plays, it’s really something special.”
I’ve only seen the YouTube videos and heard JCC talk about him, never the less I’m absolutely looking forward to this unique live performance.
These girls are the developers and the educators in the scene here. They tend the local electronic scene like tending a garden. Constantly considering who could add to it, step by step bringing new and amazing musicians into our lives while showcasing local talent. Keep an eye out on zaomengshe.com for info on their upcoming tours and events. Support them, go their gigs, it’s not always easy being the trailblazers but someone’s gotta do it.
Last of all I’d like to give a shout out to the female venue owners in the Electronic Scene. Ellen and Chuyi TAG 21st floor Poly Center and Chenchen Here We Go just up the hall also on the 21st floor. The scene here is filled with many talented female DJs too many to mention in 1 article. Thanks to all of them and keep doing what you’re doing.