Back from the Dead

The past 10 months have been pretty grim for electronic music lovers in Chengdu. Party goers have been shunted from venue to venue with nothing to fill the void left by Xiong Mao. Now with Xiong Mao in its new home at Music Square in the east of the city Disco Death is back with a monthly party bringing heavy hitters from China’s electronic music scene to Chengdu. We caught up with organizer DJ Just Charlie to talk about its impending return, China's smartest DJ and what it’s like to open for one of the biggest acts in the world.

Chengdu Music: What is Disco Death?

DJ Charlie: Disco Death is a monthly electronic music event at Xiong Mao. It features all different kinds of electronic music and different DJs. One of the main features of the event is that we invite different guest DJs from different places in China. The idea is basically to bring new DJ blood into the city.

Hopefully Chengdu will one day be the kind of place that you can see lots of different styles, lots of different DJs and lots of different kinds of music.

CM: So are there any specific genres that you focus on at Disco Death?

DJC: It is largely influenced by the guest. If we have a drum and bass guest, for example, we’ll probably try to stick to stuff that’s in that vein although we wouldn’t want six hours of drum and bass. It’s mostly all dance music, some dubstep, d&b, some electro, maybe some house and techno sometimes, breaks – all types of electronic music, really. I like to keep it flexible. I don’t want to restrict it too much – just anything that’s danceable electronic music.

CM: You’ve been on hiatus for a long time. You’ve not done an event for close to a year.

DJC: After the original Xiong Mao closed there wasn’t anywhere suitable to do it. I didn’t want to do it in a bar because it’s not going have the same effect. This kind of music has got to be played on a big system; you’ve got to have room to dance.
So we put it on hold till the right time came along and with the new Xiong Mao opening up now’s the right time to do it again.

CM: And your thoughts on the new Xiong Mao?

DJC: I really like it. Everything about it is better than the last one. The only thing that really concerns me is the location. It’s kind of far for most people but then again I do know Chinese friends that have moved within the vicinity of that park because they know they’ll be there a lot.

CM: But they don’t have any turntables there! Just CDJs!

DJC: I’m going to be stressing to them at every opportunity to get some turntables. Since they’ve invested so much money in this venue turntables are a completely requisite piece of equipment.

CM: You opened for DJ Shadow at the club the other month. How did you find it without the turntables?

DJC: It’s funny, I went there real early with the intention of meeting Shadow, setting up the turntables, doing a sound check and making sure everything was all good. I hung around for hours and right before I left I finally got one turntable set up. Then I came back three hours later and the turntable was gone and I just had to use one CDJ. I was kind of bummed, it was a hip-hop night and I feel more comfortable on turntables. I’d planned some of my set out so there was a lot of scratching and complex transitions and all that stuff is just much more difficult for me to execute on CD players, although Shadow proved that it definitely is possible, but I haven’t rehearsed that.

CM: Was there a lot of preparation that went into opening for DJ Shadow?

DJC: Most sets I don’t plan because I like the spontaneity of it and you never really know how a night is going to go. I think it’s good to stay flexible but for this set I knew exactly how much time I had and also opening up for DJ Shadow I knew that he’s going to come in with a highly orchestrated set with every scratch being planned out. You don’t want to go into that kind of situation without some kind of detailed plan. I don’t have enough confidence in myself to open for Shadow without seriously preparing for that. So I did put a lot of preparation into the set, probably about five to ten hours. I had to figure it out. I started with funk music at 80bpm and wanted to build it up, but at the same time when you open for someone with the stature of DJ Shadow there are rules you have to observe. You can’t go above a certain energy level and you kind of want to warm it up for him to smash it. You don’t want to steal the limelight as it’s not your show.

CM: We thought you’d finish with Organ Donor.

DJC: (Laughs) You know I heard Organ Donor that afternoon and I’m just going NO! I can’t believe someone is playing Organ Donor on the same day as a DJ Shadow show.

CM: Of the parties you’ve done so far which one would you say was your favorite?

DJC: You know the first one that springs to mind has got to be the DJ Siesta one. She’s a promoter and she brought drum and bass to Hong Kong. She did that for five years and then went to Shanghai and did the same thing in Shanghai and since then it’s got popular in Beijing and Guangzhou and all these different places. She was mainly a promoter but she’d DJ’d as well and was probably most famous for her Phreaktion events and bringing all the biggest drum and bass DJs in the world to China, people like Andy C, Goldie – pretty much all the A-list d&b DJs have been here because of her. I’d known her for years and played at her party in Shanghai ages ago. I didn’t have any extraordinary expectations for the night really but she absolutely smashed it. It was one of the only nights in Chengdu that I was dancing like a maniac all night. The vibe was so thick and I had such a blast. It was great music, really good times.

CM: JCC is headlining your next party.

DJC: She’s been wanting to come here for a long time, now we’ve got this opportunity. It’s Halloween, she’s real excited about it. She’s actually from Sichuan.

CM: We read an interview with her where she talked about forensic science and stuff like that.

DJC: Yeah, she’s a neuroscientist and is very intelligent.

CM: It’s safe to say that she’s the most intelligent DJ in china then?

DJC: I think she easily wins that award (laughs). I’m looking forward to it, it’s going to be cool.

CM: What are your feelings on the scene in Chengdu? Is the future bright or is there still a long way to go?

DJC: There’s still a long way to go. It’ll be bright eventually but it’s going to take a while. Chengdu is developing so quickly right now, every part of Chengdu including the culture. The music is developing and now fortunately we have a good venue to host DJs. Obviously Xiong Mao is a major prospect for us. We have a place where we can host DJs and a place we can perform, people can hear it and enjoy themselves and have fun and that’s something we’ve not had for a year. It’s a big deal for us and people in this scene, but it’s going to be a while before we’re at Shanghai level. The good thing is its small enough that we can all have a hand in shaping it.

Death Disco is on October 29 at Xiong Mao featuring JCC. For more information check out