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Interview:
Acid Pony Club
Local boys do good -- taking a trip around the track with Clement Pony and Laural Ingalls. The world famous Acid. Pony. Club.
By Mar 11, 2011 Nightlife

TELL EVERYONE



Regardless of how much you rake in a month -- whether you're geting rich or are dying trying -- you’ve seen the Acid Pony Club playing out in some club in Shanghai. They are Clement Pony (the tall one) and Laura Ingalls (the short one) -- two guys from Paris, relocated to Shanghai, providing you with a fabulous soundtrack, whether you prefer the glittering, glittering Bund view, or are more likely to slop your head over a toilet bowl and gaze at the fuckin’ depths below for a few hours.

The music they’re most known for is house, although they make outreaching overtures to everything from disco to hip hop to electronic to ‘70s cock rock. We’ve known the Pony Boys for a few years now, but we’re talking to them herein for two reasons. One – they’re getting recognition overseas for their own edits and productions, releasing stuff internationally -- on vinyl no less, which is “for real” -- and are thereby a Shanghai success story. It’s great news. A Shanghai music success story. That’s a rare thing. And the recognition they’re receiving for their music elevates us all here in Shanghai, whether you dry hump CD-DJs for beer money on the weekends or have lofty musicish ambitions of your own.

And two -- they have a party tonight that sounds great. You should go to it. It’s at that new Upper East place. Details here. Sounds like it’s quite the to-do.

And because we’re all about the music -- actually, nah, we’re about 40% tops about the music, really, but anyways -- here are some links: this is their main label page. This is the SoundCloud.

And right click, save as... right here to download a mix, ahead of the party.

SmartShanghai sat down with Laura and Clement to talk about slutting it up DJing in Shanghai, getting their music out there, and the Shanghai race track.

***

SmSh: Feel free to say nasty things about people.

Laura: I’m saying nothing negative about anyone tonight. All positive. I love everyone. I came to peace with people. We won’t say anything bad. [Laughs.]

SmSh: So did you guys know each other in France before moving to Shanghai?

Laura: We’re from Paris actually. We met about eight or nine years ago at sound school -- we were both studying sound engineering. We were probably the only people in school at that time listening to techno…

SmSh: Really? No one in Paris was listening to techno?

Clement: Well, at the school they were more into rock and pop, studying to work in studios. Like big studio shit, you know…

SmSh: So what kinds of music were you listening to back then? Were you bonding over music, that sort of thing?

Clement: Actually, when I was younger I was listening only to rock and I was saying that electronic music was music without musicians… and then I discovered hardcore techno and I found the same energy as heavy metal and what I was listening to before. And for me it was like a revelation. And listening to electronic music back then… and getting into techno and groove and house.

Laura: I grew up, I was listening to rock because my parents were listening to rock, but also hip hop and funk. I was playing guitar in funk and hip hop bands. I was thinking myself of becoming an MC at one point [laughs.] And my electronic music education was like hardcore raves -- massive soundsystem in the middle of a forest, sort of thing.

SmSh: Was the rave scene big in France in the ‘90s?

Laura: Yeah, it was huge at the time. I was going every weekend when I was like 17. But before that I was like Clem, I was into “music” music… even hip hop, I always saw as having a live performance to it. But at the raves I saw people playing with like drum machines and shit, I was like, ‘I want to do that. What the fuck is that I want to do that’…

And then I got into electronic music but it was always a harder edge. And when I met with Clem, I think we were coming from a harder electronic music scene. And then we started getting into more interesting things -- Aphex Twin, Richie Hawtin -- seeing a more cultural point of view to electronic music, and not just a hard edge.



Clement: And then when you get into it, you go backwards and find where it comes from -- electronic music, coming from hip hop, coming from disco, everything before…

Laura: It’s something we have in common that it seems like you dig backwards instead of forwards when listening to music. Sometimes it just more interesting to go backwards because now everything is being made with computers, but the older stuff is more intimate because people are using actual electronic instruments. You can hear a passion, but with computers, the sound is flat…

SmSh: So back in Paris were you guys playing out in clubs?

Clement: Yeah, we were doing rave parties and clubs.

Laura: Big clubs, small clubs… we were doing dance bars and bigger parties and things. Acid Pony Club was already existing actually. It wasn’t big or anything, but we’d be doing a party a week or so…

SmSh: What sorts of other stuff was going on in Paris at the time? Who were you sharing bill with?

Clement: Actually, you know, we were doing more of own thing. The Acid Pony Club, there was already like ten of us, so everyone was doing a set of one hour…

SmSh: There were ten people? Acid Pony Club?

Clement: Yeah, we had like a graphic designer, singers, people who were into graffiti. It was like a big collective…

Laura: And everyone was playing different music. I remember at the time Clem was more into funky minimal and I was playing more electro techno. Others were playing straight-up 4-4 techno, and it was more of a group of friends more than one sound. And even back then, we were only playing live sets. We were never DJing. Actually coming to Shanghai was the first time we started DJing… the first time I played on CD-DJs was at Bar Rouge in front of 500 people. That was my first time doing it.

You know, Shanghai is a place were you re-invent yourself… [Laughs.]

Clement: And just beat-matching CDs… it’s not a big deal, you know…

SmSh: I find in Shanghai, beat matching is optional anyways…

Laura: [Laughs.] Yeah, well the important thing is to create an energy and do a show for people. It doesn’t have to be super tight. The way we see it is more about the music selection, the ideas behind it, and the story you make with it, rather than doing something super clean.

Clement: And interacting with people.

Laura: Yeah, and we play for the crowd, you know. Don’t want to bore people out or “educate” or whatever. We try to build something as a duo for the night, with different kinds of music for different kinds of people in the crowd, but it’s never really prepared. I don’t really believe in that. A DJ set is more about the moment.

You can rehearse at home for six hours, but then if no one dances, it’s all pointless.

SmSh: So how did you guys end up in Shanghai then?

Clement: My sister had been living in Asia for a while. She had been living in Hong Kong and so I went there and I really loved the energy there. The music was crap, but I loved the energy and the convenience of it. When I arrived in Shanghai I was thinking, ‘oh I don’t know. I’m French. I’ll sell the wine.’

SmSh: [Laughs.]

Clement: … but I didn’t know if I could find work in Shanghai. But I found a job at Riviera Events. It’s not really my kind of crowd but…

SmSh: Pool parties. Right. I think they paid my paycheck for like two years. In ads… yeah, seemed like nice people to me. I dunno. I like people who advertise… all the best to Riviera Events, lovely people they are.

Clement: [Laughs.] Right. And it’s something coming from illegal raves to pool parties in Shanghai. But at that time, Riviera Pool Parties, it was huge and it gave me some contacts… and I brought Laura here is a resident DJ…

Laura: [Laughs.] Yeah, and I was never a DJ. I put together something on Traktor, wearing the headphones and looking like it, you know. And I started as a resident DJ at a club on the Bund. Cabaret… “yeah, we’re about the sexy vocal house”. But I didn’t even know what that was.

SmSh: That’s the beauty of Shanghai. Nobody knows what that shit is. And who cares, really.

Laura: Yeah, but we started playing at Mao, and one night we started playing together, and that’s where it started really. And from there, the energy from the DJ set came to the studio and then we started producing our own tracks.

SmSh: Are you paying attention to whatever goes on in Shanghai? Paying attention to what other people are doing?

Clement: I really liked the music at Mao at that time. Logo. Liked the music at Logo. It was nice.

Laura: At that time it was this German guy -- tootekool -- who was doing music. He was the first guy I was like, ‘yeah this is good stuff’… Actually, Trix and Slackerton, were two guys playing a lot before. Playing a lot of American house, which I wasn’t too familiar with before moving to Shanghai. The house we were listening to was like German house … deeper…

Clement: But I liked the way they were playing with lots of cuts. Working on the mixer, you know.

SmSh: What’s your take on Shanghai’s nightlife scene these days? What do you say when people back home ask you about Shanghai?

Clement: Well, back in Paris I was only going out to see one DJ. You go out to see one thing, but in Shanghai you go out just to go out. Go out to get drunk or whatever. Not listening to music, really. The good thing is as a DJ you play a lot in Shanghai and you improve very fast.

Laura: Yeah, like the Baijiu Robot guys [Heatwolves! and Mau Mau], like when they first started they were shit [laughs], and now when I listen to them, technically it’s more advanced than I am. Better than me. And they are starting to produce… but also in Shanghai we have a family you know. Tina Sprinkles [VJ], she’s covering that side for us and am grateful to have met her and am grateful for what she brings.



Clement: Yeah, I think maybe this is one the one thing that Shanghai lacks is producers making their own music, but Trix is starting to and other people are starting to. I think it’s evolving.

SmSh: So what sorts of gear are you using these days?

Laura: Well, we always want to put a live feeling when we’re doing our music. Most of the stuff is played on a keyboard, outboard gear… very few stuff comes from computers.

Clement: Even the last live set we did, there was no computer, everything is groovebox -- Akai MPC-- and stuff like that. I don’t like to stare at my screen when I’m playing, DJing or making music. I like to actually play…

SmSh: So what is your live set up these days? Like your ideal live set up?

Laura: We each have sequencer drum machines, and in the center is an Akai MPC, with samples going through a filter, and a keyboard that we can play live -- a microKORG or whatever. And everything going through a mix. Like outboard effects, like a reverb, delay, and EQs on each track. So different sequences coming from different machines, and they all come together in the mix, and we mix it live. Like a kick on one channel, stare on one -- everything is separate -- but it’s mixed like a live band, but different electronic instruments…

SmSh: Maybe you could talk about starting to release your stuff -- the digital label and so on…

Laura: We started producing ourselves like a year and a half ago now. When we started we had like a shitty set-up, so we weren’t very comfortable. But still doing a lot of tracks. But we started getting more money, which we put back into the studio. And it started sounding good, like eight, nine months ago.

SmSh: What is your motivation for your own music? Are you looking to slot it into a genre? Or building off other people stuff?

Clement: Not really. It depends on the mood you’re in. People know us for disco and house, but I love doing hip hop. I love doing electronic. I still love Aphex Twin and all that. I love to produce that kind of music…

Laura: Even there is some dub step influences and we do funk and everything. For me, the biggest inspiration is the weather or whatever. If it’s going to be a sunny day, you know…

Obviously, you hear a sample, you have an idea in your head… but I think it’s more about expressing some feelings you have, and that could be house, dub step, disco, hip hop or whatever. So we’re grafting these different influences into our sound over our hardware, drum machines, instruments…

SmSh: How does the actual collaboration work? Are you working together on every song?

Laura: We sit together in the studio. Like some songs we do on our own but we still sign both our names on it, you know. It’s an ongoing process. We have our studio, so the way we are together influences the tracks.

SmSh: Do you get into fights and shit?

Clement: Since we got an ayi, we don’t get into fights. [Laughs.]

Laura: As long as you’re friends and shit is clean, there’s no problem. [Laughs.]

SmSh: So what are you recent releases? What is this digital label?

Laura: We had “Stand By Me Lord”… we were doing free edits that people can download for free on the internet. We don’t want to release original material just yet. We started doing edits to use in our DJ sets, but we started getting recognition from that -- some amazing recognition -- like Dimitri From Paris or whatever. So we started sending people stuff. It’s unofficial remixes and stuff, so we don’t sell it, but we started getting good feedback. Last one has been out a month and it’s been downloaded 750 copies, so it’s nice…

SmSh: Are you paying attention to the promotional side of it? The business side of it? Are you pushing it?

Laura: We push it to a certain level. We’re not the best promoters, but we’ve had some articles in the press back in France and we’re active on Facebook or whatever, but still it’s sort of word-of-mouth. Just started posting shit on SoundCloud and people started paying more and more attention.

SmSh: To what extent is being based in Shanghai affected the way people see your music? Is it harder to get people in Europe to pay attention because you’re based in Asia?

Laura: It’s the complete opposite. It’s easier. You’re out of the pack.

Clement: Yeah, we’re kind of exotic.

Laura: Yeah, people see it as a different market. You can sign a hundred producers from Paris or whatever. We’re not superstars or whatever, but you get attention from being in Shanghai. We started pressing vinyl, like a co-operation between our label and Jazzmin, which is the label that signed us now. But it worked very well in vinyl and now we are re-pressing -- you sell 300 and then you can re-press to do 500 -- we are very excited about this. Released in Europe, Japan, the US…

Clement: Yeah actually, we released it on digital and then it didn’t work, and then we had a vinyl release and people ripped it back on to digital [laughs.] We release stuff on digital but it’s not too exciting to do…

Laura: Yeah, you know… it’s a bunch of MP3s that people can get on the internet, you know [laughs.] It’s the 1000th release of the day and you can get it on crappy MP3 digital version. It’s not exciting… I believe that digital stuff has such a small lifespan; it’s not history at all. I guess we’re from that generation that discovered music on vinyl in a physical format.

And it gives your music a life to be on a format. But our next releases, we have something coming out on a UK label as well. And it’s a vinyl only release as well… Japan, UK, US, etc. It’s 300 copies and they’re going to re-press it. And the one after that is one Jazzmin, which is a vinyl release and then digital release. We’re trying to do more and more vinyl. Digital -- you have to do it these days but I don’t really believe the impact is there.

SmSh: So how do you guys feel about playing in Shanghai these days?

Laura: It’s tons of fun, you know.

Clement: I don’t why, but the last six months, the parties we’re doing we’re getting people to come. We both got fired at the same time, so we can concentrate on doing stupid parties [laughs.] But maybe people saw the name, and we’ve played a lot. And maybe people felt the energy of the mix, and now it’s quite full when we do parties.

SmSh: Where are you favorite places to play?

Laura: Dada…

Clement: Yeah, at Dada the set-up of the club is perfect. The dance floor is not too big. And you have a mix of people -- maybe it’s a bit more laowai, but still mixed crowd. But yeah, people dance at Dada, so it’s nice.

Laura: Shiva… I like playing at Shelter. We’re playing with Vitalic there next weekend…

SmSh: So you guys do lots of corporate shows -- private events and commercial stuff. What is like being corporate whores in Shanghai?

Laura: [Laughs.] It’s alright, I take the cash. Sometimes it’s painful.

Clement: Hey, we’re getting to buy a moog next week…

SmSh: No criticism intended. I meant that with profound respect. I love money. It’s a great thing.

Clement: Actually, we don’t do it that much...

Laura: I’ve had some horrible ones, but sometimes it’s just fun and you get a shitload of cash. What can you say. Some hotels… some fucking factory…

SmSh: Is it lucrative in Shanghai still? There’s still money in it?

Laura: It comes and goes. Actually, we do sound design for brands now, which is studio work. But yeah whatever… I get paid to play and make music. I believe that it’s a great life that we’re having here and there are opportunities here that aren’t at home. There are a hundred people waiting at the door to do it back home… it’s easier. It’s more open.

SmSh: Are you listening to other DJs in Shanghai?

Laura: Santo Chino, playing old disco stuff is good. Last time I was at Dada, it was Ian [Heatwolves!] and Gaz playing together and it was good. Gaz plays a lot of dubstep that you don’t really hear. He’s one of the only DJs in Shanghai that can make me dance…

Clement: Yeah, last time at Shelter, he knows how to make it sound good. It’s his home, I guess.

Laura: Tony. T. Easy is my boy. I fuckin’ love him.

Clement: We made a couple of tracks with him. Really nice tracks, actually.

Laura: Patrick Mai… I’d listen to him and I don’t even like progressive house. Mia [Udance], of course.

SmSh: So what’s this Upper East show on Friday then?

Laura: Yeah, it’s a big one. We have horse masks and you know how we do: we play that good old funky house music [laughs].

Clement: Yeah, and it’s with those girls who did those “Anti Glamour” parties at Glamour Bar. We really liked what they did at the Glamour party. It was people dancing and listening to the music, so we wanted to do a party with them, but after we saw this Upper East lounge, with the different rooms… we saw the place and we saw the potential to do something fun.

Laura: Yeah we have stuff going on the different rooms. Tina Sprinkles doing amazing things. Mixing the crowd and doing something all together and doing something new in a new place… and we’re going to try to do it more. Different parties in random places.

We don’t give a fuck, we just want to do a nice party [laughs.]

***

The race track stops at Upper East tonight, for "Horse Play". Details here. No entry fee.

Again keep up with their releases and all things Acid and Pony and Club at their webpages here and here.


TELL EVERYONE

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