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My name is Tzu Sing. I’m a music producer and DJ. I grew up in Taiwan and moved to Shanghai about a decade ago, after living in Kunshan for a while.

I started the Stockholm Syndrome party back in late 2011 at Dada. At the time I was collecting horror soundtracks, the “Ron Hardy” school of house music, Italo disco, industrial techno, some EBM. I think the first night we had about 50 people there.

Recently, I’ve been playing in Europe. I just played Dekmantel in Amsterdam, the biggest music festival for “underground” music in Europe. I was on one of five or six stages, and I don’t know how many people there were – thousands. I played after Nitzer Ebb, closing the party on the third day.

There were a few breaks but one of the big ones was when Douglas Lee was playing at Sacco’s club, 390, in 2014. He had an industrial project, and I started talking to him and gave him some of my music. He went back to Berlin, listened to it, asked me for more and then passed it on to Ron Morelli, who ran the L.I.E.S. record label, which was really big then. Ron asked me to release the tracks on L.I.E.S., and that was insane.

Then there was the first Boiler Room in Shanghai, which I played, and the host of it asked me to play in Berlin for a showcase at Berghain. I didn’t realize it at the time, but those type of showcases are where all the booking agents and those people go to scout new talent, like a trade show. So out of that, I started to get festival bookings for Europe.

In 2016, I started to split my time between Taipei and Shanghai. I grew up in Taichung, and I always wanted to go to the ‘big city’ — Taipei. I’m a big fan of the movie directors there, and always had a really good time when I would go out there.

But now I’m coming back to Shanghai more. I gave up my apartment in Taipei and cut my studio gear down. I’m really embracing HD sounds and going more digital.

I’ve been having this conversation with my friend Kim Laughton since 2011. He’s very anti-nostalgic. He is all about being forward-looking, and his argument was always that if culture doesn’t evolve, if it doesn’t move forward, it dies. We’re stuck in the era of reboots, of people looking at formulas that worked before, of playing it safe. People should be experimenting and trying new things. He won. So instead of going back to the sound I knew and found comfort in, I’m trying to push myself. Not using vintage synths and drum machines and that type of stuff. But don’t get me wrong — nostalgia does feel good. I was just watching vintage Taiwanese commercials from the 1980s on Youtube the other night.

There’s parallels with Shanghai. The kids who go to clubs here don’t have that reference point for classic synth and drum machine sounds. Shanghai doesn’t have that. You need to have a shared history to play an old track and have the club respond. I remember when I was playing at The Shelter, when it was more Chinese and less expats, I played Nine Inch Nails’ Closer and no one knew it…. You’re like, what? If it was the expat crowd it would work, but the Chinese crowd.. no. Just no.

Shanghai’s sound now is a mix of everything. It feels like the internet, with access to all these genres, mixing things up. I don’t think the city’s “sound” will really crystallize for another decade or two.

I guess you could define the sound of Shanghai by what it is has that other cities don’t — because the sound of Shanghai could be some tech-house track, depending on what club you’re at. But what the kids at ALL — Hyph11e, Zean, Osheyack, Kilo-Vee — are playing is unique. Kids are really digging the internet and finding music that doesn’t even get played in clubs in Europe. Music from bedroom producers trying out new things that aren’t being released on a label, that are just sitting online. In Europe, “undergound” music is a big industry right now, and bookings are more conservative. So ALL gives these kids a chance to play these tracks that DJs wouldn’t even look for in Europe or play out in a club.

My sound? I don’t think it’s ever a genre. I like using dissonant sounds, aggressive and angsty stuff but also emo, emotional; that’s the general framework. I’ll find tracks like this in hip-hop, in techno, in house. I have this general feeling that I’m going for but can use whatever genre to get there. Post-club is the umbrella term, I played some house, some techno, this post-club stuff, some footwork-y stuff, Slikback’s music.

There’s no longer any real “underground” music. Everything is sponsored. Skateboarding is the best example. Back in the day, you had skater owned companies, selling to kids. Now it’s Nike and Red Bull, and you can’t separate it anymore. Electronic music is the same. It’s tied to something else. The culture is very mainstream. Claire Danes is talking about going to Berghain in Berlin now. My mom knows about this. She knows about this dance music stuff, this culture now.

People are so motivated in Shanghai. The community here is more than just the music people. A lot of kids in ALL are in fashion. Everyone is doing something, working on projects, it’s great. I’m about to start a record label, kind of post-club music.

In other cities, it’s may not be like that. Taipei is definitely really slow. People can have two-hour meetings about how to promote a party. In Shanghai, no one has time for that shit.


[Shanghai Famous]:

Shanghai Famous is a SmartShanghai column focusing on people out there in the city makin' the scene. They're out there around town, shaping Shanghai into what it is, creating the art, culture, and life around us. We asked them what's good in Shanghai. We asked them what's bad in Shanghai. We asked them to tell us more, more, more about their wonderful selves.

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