Xi’an may be firmly on the cultural map as the home of Qin Shihuang’s Terracotta Warriors, but until relatively recently, the city of 12 million didn’t have much else going on, and its nightlife scene was, well, pretty dull. At least, that’s how Gunknown characterizes it. In 2015, a few months before The Boiler Room landed in China for the first time, the producer and DJ decided to do something about it.
Together with two other Xi’an-based DJs, Cash Lee and RVE, he founded The Boring Room. The collective has since become a key outpost for club music in the city and beyond.
“Around 2015, there were already some party organisations and exciting events in China,” he says. “They would invite great international musicians to come and perform, and we would go to events in big cities like Beijing or Shanghai, but there were no interesting things happening in Xi’an — it was very boring, so we had the idea to make our own party, and that’s how we came up with ‘the Boring Room.’ Xi’an is where we live and as DJs we want to make the city we live in more interesting in our own way.”
In the years since its founding, The Boring Room has helped to establish Xi’an as a touring city for some of the top producers in the country, as well as contributing to the transformation of club culture in the city. “People have gone from not knowing what a party is to more people wanting a place to go and have fun at the weekend where they can enjoy some good music or just hang out with friends for a night. For us, it’s very exciting.”
Such a change led Gunknown and his Boring Room cohort to open their own club in 2020. Entitled JAR, the space played host to the likes of Beijing label Do Hits and singer-producer Scintii. Yet the club met with an unfortunate end in early 2021, with bulldozers turning up part-way through a party.
“We all loved this place, but unfortunately we were forced to close it after only a year and a half because of the city construction,” says Gunknown. “I was still grateful that we survived the epidemic, but the bad news came before this Chinese New Year, we were forced to move without notice. It was too cruel for our whole team, and I was sad for a long time. Many of my friends met me and asked me when we would be able to open again, they didn’t know where to go, there was no place to go; ‘home’ was gone — yes, this place was like ‘home’ to us all.”
Fortunately, reinvention is nothing new for Gunknown. The DJ and producer has lived many lives in music.
In his twenties he made one of his first big appearances in Shanghai as part of a competition put on by Antidote and Neocha to find China’s next big musical talent. The synth-rock group he played with, TBOR, won and were awarded with a year’s supply of Vedett.
“I don’t actually remember seeing those Vedett,” he says. “We rehearsed, played gigs and worked on the album like any other band, but it all went very slowly and now that I think about it, we seem to have missed the best time to release it.”
Since then Gunknown has become intertwined with a variety of different music communities in Xi’an and throughout China.
While he has perhaps become better known for his appearances at clubs and in collaboration with electronic labels in recent years, he also has strong relations with his city’s hip hop scene. In particular, he’s close with PACT, the leader of Xi’an’s biggest and best hip hop crew NOUS Underground. “PACT is my homie,” he says. “He’s also the pride of Xi’an, and we’ve been performing together for like ten years.”
Gunknown helped produce NOUS’ 2015 cypher and has performed with the group as their DJ at live shows.
Get to Know China’s Biggest Regional Rap Crews Ahead of “Rap of China 4”
This month, Gunknown provides RADII with our third china.wav mix, putting together an idiosyncratic list of songs that includes Chinese psychedelic rock from Sleeping Dogs, Israeli funk from Cali Wood and Australian garage rock from King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.
All images courtesy of Gunknown
We highlight our top stories each week in an email newsletter that goes out every Monday - hot, fresh, and straight to your inbox.
Don't worry, we don't spam