Culture

Beijing Label S!LK Wants to Bring “Drastic” Sounds to the Club (and the Internet)

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While Shanghai has attracted the most attention directed towards the twisted alternative club music that’s come out of China over the last few years, Beijing’s S!LK label is doing their part to create a nationwide network of fractured dancefloors. Founded in early 2016, S!LK is the brainchild of Beijing DJ and promoter Puzzy Stack, who first visited underground Beijing club Dada the day he took the gaokao (China’s notorious college entrance exam), and has pretty much never left.

Indeed, if Dada granted degrees, Mr. Stack would have multiple PhD’s by now. He got started as a promoter in 2013 by launching the Digital Freedom night with comrade-in-arms Bloodz Boi, did a trap night called Trap Don for a while, but with S!LK has moved more towards fusing outer-genre club sounds and bold fashion decisions, showing influence from the scene that’s coalesced around Shanghai club ALL but done in a particularly Beijing way.

Puzzy Stack

After nearly 3 years on the decks, S!LK officially became a label with the October release of Breaking Fresh, an 11-track compilation serving as a 101 to their sonic worldview. I took the opportunity to talk to Puzzy Stack about his label’s past & future, and why he thinks now is prime time to bolster underground club culture in Beijing:

RADII When did you start DJing? How did you get into it? I seem to remember first encountering you around the time Digital Freedom started in 2013…

Puzzy Stack I started DJing in 2013. The first time I came in contact was the day I finished my college entrance exam. Bloodz Boi brought me to Dada Bar, and I found out that the music and environment was completely different from the clubs I attended before — here, you could discover more intriguing activities, you could freely express your opinions, and the styles of music were so drastic, unlike club music that is always the same-old. So, I started to learn and explore underground electronic music. Afterwards, I started the Digital Freedom party with Bloodz Boi and I became friends with a lot of local musicians. This contributed to bettering my understanding and learning of music.

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When did S!LK start? Who all is behind it?

In the beginning of 2016, Bloodz Boi and I decided to make a new party that promoted newer and more pluralistic music. In the two years prior, we had also hosted the Trap Don party to popularize trap music. Now, as S!LK is growing, we work with local producers like Negative808, Radiax, Nomercy, and also two international producers from South Africa, Liquid-B and Cisco De Sol. Of course, there are also local DJs: Yesen, YISHAN, and STYX.

S!LK started as a club night at Dada, right? Can you talk about how and why Dada is important to S!LK, as a venue and home base?

Yes, I believe Dada is a very inclusive and tolerant venue. It allows any type of music to be played, and of course, it has also accompanied my growth for many years. It’s very hard to find venues like Dada here in Beijing!

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What other labels, promoters, venues, DJs or producers inspired you to start S!LK?

My booking of artists is my motivation for S!LK. So is the work of some of my close friends, like The Syndicate, Genome 6.66 Mbp, 3ASiC, Swimful, Michael [Ohlsson, Dada founder], Gaz [Williams, ALL founder], etc.

What genres or styles does one typically hear at a S!LK party?

The ones I hear most often are Grime, UK Bass, Footwork, Club Trax, Dancehall… of course, also experimental music, ambient music, techno, etc.

When did you decide to start releasing music as a label? How does the music on your first compilation differ from the music you play in your club night?

At the end of last year, I started to plan on releasing music. I wanted to transform S!LK from a party into a real label. The first piece I made was music for the club; the rhythm was different from the usual, more broken.

 

The cover art for your compilation is by Kim Laughton, who also does a lot of work for ALL and the related label SVBKVLT… What is the relationship between music and visual art in S!LK’s events and releases?

I think visual art and music are tightly knit together. From some perspectives, they may seem to have different purposes, but they are mixed together. Visual arts can help you better express the language of your music, and help your audience better understand the story behind your music.

You’re based in Beijing, but the artists on this comp also come from Shanghai, Nanjing, Australia, Berlin, etc… What ties you all together?

Some of these artists were invited by us to perform and became my friends, and they are really willing to combine with me.

Visual arts can help you better express the language of your music, and help your audience better understand the story behind your music

Now the opposite question: is there any kind of “Beijing sound” that you’re trying to communicate with S!LK? If so, what does it sound like?

I would really like to experiment with the “Beijing sound” in a song, but I am afraid of ruining its traditional beauty. Its sound has accompanied me for over ten years, so of course it will be by my side until the end of my life. It sounds more like a dignified lady singing on a mountain, melodious yet simple.

As someone who has been active as a DJ and promoter in Beijing for at least five years, how have you seen the scene change in that time? What’s the status of the scene today? Where else in China do you think is growing an interesting club/DJ/electronic music scene?

When I first came into contact with electronic music, the musical style of Beijing was primarily rock’n’roll. Of course, a lot of musicians would come to listen to electronic music after their performances, treating this party as an after-party for their rock show. Now, it’s the age of electronic music: more international artists are coming to China to perform and exchange the culture of electronic music, and there are even reality TV shows about people in the electronic music industry. Beijing’s Zhao Dai, Hangzhou’s Loopy, and Shenzhen’s OIL are all great venues.

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What is your day job? Are you able to make a living off S!LK? What are your plans for the label in the future?

My day job is forming a clothing brand with my friends at my studio. Although it’s possible to make a living off S!LK, it’s not there yet. Next year, S!LK will produce more music, and will release more clothing — it’ll become a brand for both music and fashion.

Anything else you want to add?

Liquid-B will be releasing her solo album at the end of this year, and on January 25-26 of next year, we’ll hold a 3-year anniversary party for S!LK in both Beijing and Shanghai. There will be an important guest coming, so please stay tuned.

Interview translation by Katherine and Emily Wang

Cover photo: A S!LK party at Beijing’s Dada Bar feat. object blue (left) and Puzzy Stack (Kirsten Chen for Live Beijing Music)

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Josh Feola
Josh Feola is a Shanghai-based writer and musician, and RADII's Culture Editor. His coverage of Chinese music and art has appeared in The Wire, Dazed, Artsy, LEAP, Tiny Mix Tapes, and more. He's been active in China's underground music scene since 2010 via his booking platform pangbianr.com, and is a former member of Beijing bands Chui Wan, SUBS, and Vagus Nerve.