JAPAN 1970: The Future Was Then

Expo Splash

Japan was flying high in 1970. With the swift modernisation that came in the face of crushing world war defeat and the ever increasing GDP accrued from their manufacturing and patenting successes of the 1960s, the future must have seemed bright.

The Tokyo Olympics of 1964 placed an international seal of approval upon their direction / capital city in the classic tradition of the IOC anointing up and coming countries with money.  Osaka – no doubt with a significant chip on its shoulder (which still survives today) – sought their own recognition and solicited the Bureau of International Expositions to allow Osaka to host a world exposition, finally succeeding in 1965.

Organisers show Logo in 1966

Let The Kickbacks Begin. Photo stolen from web.

World expositions sadly no longer have the cache they once did. In a globalised world, connected by the internet, the opportunity to find out anything about another country is limited by only one’s imagination and typing capabilities. However in the mid 1960s they were still big business and showcased new ideas, technologies and ideologies in equal measure to a populace that may not otherwise have seen them.

For example, the preceding world fair held in Montreal in 1967 gave the first wide exposure to split screen film technology which would shortly be utilised and celebrated in 1968’s Thomas Crown Affair with Steve McQueen. Similarly Buckminster Fullers geodesic dome of the same fair gave hippies and forward looking architects everywhere the opportunity to imagine and create badly built commune styled buildings for future lifestyle choices.  Whilst in 1970, the Fuji pavilion demonstrated the first ever use of IMAX and early mobile phone and MAGLEV train technology was showcased elsewhere within the same Expo.

Thus, it’s of little surprise given the technological advances between 1960 and 1970, that most people of that time imagined that moon colonies and hover cars would be a reality by 2005. That obviously (and sadly) failed to happen. Countries got lazy, funding dried up and technology in the succeeding years seems to have only been measured by the ability to make something smaller and perhaps add a clock to it.

Despite the fact that such progress was temporary at best, opposition to the Expo from left wing students and environmentalists at the time was rife. Demonstrations were staged in Shinjuku and Kyoto by a group known as Expo70 Destruction Joint-Struggle Group. Unlike Japanese student demonstrations of 1968 however, the protests – whilst theatrical – were nonetheless also relatively peaceful and were limited to participants collectively holding hands and running towards buildings or standing in the streets shouting slogans at passersby.

Furthermore, the majority of antipathy was directed towards the destruction of natural land in order to create the expo site itself, and as such, may be seen as primarily ecological in nature and anti-governmental only as a secondary objective.

World expositions are traditionally known for their outlandish architecture and design, and as the first exposition to be held in Asia, the host country and its participants were seemingly determined to be as bizarre and forward looking as technology and time would allow. As Gunhild Borggreen states in the essay, ‘Ruins of the Future: Yanobe Kenji Revisits Expo ‘70’, “…Designed and built as a unified entity from the beginning, the site of Expo ’70 came to signify a large scale model of the city of the future…”

Structures 1970

Overview of Festival Plaza and Official Time Clock. Scan by author.

Australian Pavillion

Australian Pavilion. Photo stolen from web.

Bulgaria Pavillion

Bulgarian Pavilion. Photo stolen from web.

Iasma Nogushi Fountain

Fountain designed by Isamu Noguchi. Photo stolen from web.

Gas pavillion

Gas Pavilion. Photo stolen from web.

Swiss Pavillion

Swiss Pavilion. Photo stolen from web.

Toshiba Pavillion

Toshiba Pavilion. Photo stolen from web.

Ricoh & Kodak

Ricoh & Kodak Pavilions. Photo stolen from web.

Expo Pavillions

Other Pavillions. Photo stolen from web.

Insides 1970

Insides II 1970

Inside Pavilions. Scans by author.

At the time, local design was running wild too. Kenji Ekuan (who designed the ubiquitous Kikkoman soy sauce bottle and Japan’s Nerita Express train), was throwing down future metropolis designs like the prototypical Dwelling City 1964.

Kenji Ekuan, Dwelling City, 1964

Dwelling City 1964. Photo stolen from the web.

Which in this author’s mind was later plundered by the designers of Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Kenji Ekuan, Evanelion Ramiel Angel

Kenji Ekuan, Evanelion Ramiel Angel2

Neon Genesis Evangelion. Screenshots stolen from the web.

Similarly forward thinking architects Kenzo Tange and Uzo Nishiyama were appointed to produce the master plan for the 1970 Expo site and a number of other architects were drafted to make individual contributions to certain buildings, features or pavilions, including Kenzo Tange’s protégé Kisho Kurokawa who designed the Takara Beautillion which was a capsule based residential design.

Takara Beautillion2

Takura Beutillion

Takara Beautillion. Photos stolen from the web.

For Kenzo Tange and his acolytes had recently created one of the twentieth century’s newest architectural styles which would feature heavily in this master plan. Based around the idea of living cities and flexible design, they had launched ‘Metabolism’ is 1960. The name ends with an ‘..ism’ in order to be congruous with other major 20th century architecture forms (such as ‘modernism, ‘internationalism’ etc.) and the base word correlates with the idea that modern buildings were to be dynamic and interchangeable. Each building was to contain a central core of services (access, water, electricity and sewage) and the remainder of the structure detached, re-attached and altered as per specific (or individual) needs.

Metabolism Poster

Metabolism Poster. Photo stolen from web.

Held between March and September 1970, the Expo attracted over 60 million people and over 70 countries participated in the event. In case people required further entertainment, a full amusement park was built adjacent to the site and christened as Expoland.

Expo & ExpoLand Panorama 1970

Expo (LHS) & Expoland (RHS) Before the Opening 1970. Scan by author.

Not much of the Expo ’70 site remains. Within a year the majority of these crazy pavilions had either been demolished or fallen into a precarious state of semi-ruination that prohibited their re-use. Nowadays, all that is left is the Japanese steel pavilion which currently houses the Expo ’70 museum. I visited in late 2012 and you can get the feeling of the minimalist (indeed brutalist) architecture and pay homage to the remaining colourful costumes of the participants and the eerie splendour of remaining empty space which 40 years hence had previously housed so many people and their futuristic dreams.

Expo Remaining Pavillion_ET

Expo Pavillion Inside_ET

Expo ’70 Site Circa 2012. Photos by author.

Statue Front Then & Now_ET

Tower of the Sun designed by Taro Okamoto. Lower Photo and Diptych by author.

Fountains Then & Now_ET

Fountain Area. Lower Photo and Diptych by author

[Also imagine building an entire monorail line to only be used for 6 months and then scrapped].

FrameworkThen & Now_ET

Festival Plaza Tubular Framework. Lower Photo and Diptych by author

Statue Back Then & Now_ET

Back of the Tower of the Sun. Lower Photo and Diptych by author

ExpoLand_ET

Expoland Circa late 2012. Photo by author.

ExpoLand_Lines_ET

Expoland Ticket Booths Circa Late 2012. Photo by author.

After the Expo, a real estate company president who had admired Kurokawa’s Takara Beautillion, commissioned him to build an apartment tower for single salary men (business men) in central Tokyo based upon the capsule idea he had exhibited.

Constructed on the border of Ginza near both shopping areas and a railway station in 1972, the Nakagin Capsule Tower has been an icon of the area for more than 40 years. It contains 140 capsules serviced by two cores of varying heights. Each capsule measures approximately 10 square metres in floor area and originally featured a bed, desk, calculator, tape deck, television and plastic moulded bathroom typical of any Japanese business hotel.

Elevations_Domus Magazine March 1973

Nakagin Elevations. Drawing taken from Domus Magazine March 1973.

Nakagin Interior Circa 1972Nakagin Interior 2

Interior Views. Photos stolen from web.

Nakagin-Capsule-Tower-Bathroom

Nakagin Bathroom. Photo stolen from web.

Predominantly built off site and then assembled on location, the tower was completed within a short time and every capsule was independent from another and able to be attached / detached as required.

Nakagin Construction

Nakagin Construction2

Construction of the Tower Circa 1972. Photos stolen from web.

The exterior is reminiscent of a pile of washing machines and actually draws comparison with another famous World Expo item, Habitat 67 designed by Israeli / Canadian architect Moshe Safdie for the 1967 Montreal Expo.

Habitat 67

Habitat 67. Photo stolen from web.

The capsules (like virtually all Japanese architecture) were made to be replaced every 25 years and detached and renovated as necessary. Alternatively, the capsules could be detached and moved to other Metabolist building structures, which although envisioned, sadly failed to ever materialise I shape or form anywhere else in Japan.

Nagasin Capsule 2Nakagin Bathroom

Nakagin Interior Views. Photos stolen from web.

Consequently,  a building that was meant to be refreshed every 30 years or so, has lasted for more than 40, and while too young to qualify for architectural preservation (being less than 50 years old), has nonetheless outworn is usefulness and lifespan. At the time of my last visit in late 2015, the building was encased in netting ‘lest it drop debris on passersby, 60% of the circular windows were piled high with garbage and the front doors wore a vehement ‘if you don’t live here – fuck off’ notice.

Nakagin Exterior_ET

Nakagin Exterior Circa Late 2015. Photo by author.

Nakasin Enterance 2

Nakagin Entrance_ET

Nakagin Entrance Circa Late 2015. Photos by author.

The windows originally contained a paper window screen that rotated in a clockwise manner to provide shade and privacy which fell apart within a few years. This has thus left the few current residents to find make shift methods of providing similar facilities including curtains and blinds. The insulation that lay between the inner and outer layers of each capsule was made of asbestos which has deteriorated and now the capsules are both too hot in summer and too cold in winter. Furthermore, they are a potential health hazard too as the asbestos fibres may get in the air conditioning ducts and travel throughout the building.

Nakagin Exterior Closeup_ET

Various Window Shade Solutions. Photo by author.

Interior Ruined

Ruined Capsule Interior. Photo stolen from web.

Partially for this reason, the central air conditioning is now permanently turned off, as is the hot water, which was disconnected in 2010. Current residents now only have the choice of a common area shower on the ground floor, utilising whatever public sentos [baths] remain in the area or cold water bathing in their own cubicle bathrooms.

Nakagin Exterior 6_ET Nakagin Exterior 4_ET Nakagin Exterior 2_ETNakagin Exterior_3 ET

Exterior Views Circa Late 2015. Photos by author.

Other than this fairly amazing piece of Metabolism, few others were created. Kiyonori Kikutake later designed the Aquapolis for the 1975 Okinawa Expo which is essentially a James Bond villain lair tethered to a coastline. It was allowed to stay there until 1993 and then was unceremoniously towed towards Shanghai and scrapped.

Aquapolis Okinawa 1975_2Aquapolis Okinawa 1975_3

Aquapolis. Photos stolen from web.

Another Metabolist named Kisho Kurokawa would go on to design further capsule orientated design including the Sony Tower in Osaka as well as the Kuwatii Embassy in Japan.

Kurokawa, 1976 (demolished in 2006)

Sony Tower Osaka 1976. Photo stolen from web.

Kuwait Embassy (stolen from Flickr)

Kuwaiti Embassy 1979. Photo stolen from web.

After the seventies though, the concept essentially died – arguably much like the imagination and hope of the post 1960s dreamers that designed and implemented both it and the 1970 Expo. The Sony Tower was torn down in 2006 and in 2016 fewer people take chances, the world is smaller and money is less likely to be spent on physical testimonies to utopian philosophies. Indeed, if money can’t be made by appealing to the widest array of people for the cheapest possible cost, it won’t get constructed.

You know you are living in a shitty time when hope can only be found in the past.

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

RESOURCES:

Scans were taken from the book EXPO’70 驚愕! 大阪万国博覧会のすべて and elevation drawings from Domus Magazine March 1973.

Ruins of the Future: Yanobe Kenji Revisits Expo ‘70 can be found at: http://www.performanceparadigm.net/index.php/journal/article/view/22/19

 

Stone Island – KT721

SI_Logo

Whilst wandering around the men’s department of Shinjuku Isetan, I came across a Stone Island counter. This would have been surprising if I had not already encountered one in the Mitsukoshi Department Store in Ginza a few days earlier, and now having the time I decided to peruse some items.

Isetan Map

Isetan Shinjuku Map. Screenshot by author.

As Californian rapper Rasco once said, ‘Time waits for no man’, and indeed in my advancing years I find myself drawn to items I would never have considered in my early twenties. Noticeably knitwear, which although once considered only the province of my grandpa, I now know to be considerably cooler by virtue of the fact that Steve McQueen preferred to get around in shawl necks in his prime 1960s years.

McQueen-Cardigan

Steve McQueen Repping Wool. Photo stolen from web.

So, looking for a new item that bore no resemblance to anything else I owned, I chanced upon a funnel neck cardigan that I believe is rather generically named ‘KT721’.

Knitwear_1

Knitwear_2

Unwrapping. Photos by author.

They come in a variety of colours, and without doubt white is – by far – the best looking one. I bought grey nonetheless, as having previously owned white clothes before, I know better than to ever, ever buy some again.  Unless of course, I wind up joining a cult… however presumably at that point, I am unlikely to be making my own choices regarding anything.

White VersionGray Version

White Versus Grey. Photos stolen from web.

It has a traditional button up front with a sneaky zip underneath, a very warm neck that can button up on itself and the standard Stone Island compass patch on the left arm.

Knitwear_3Knitwear_5

Knitwear_6

Zip and Buttons. Photos by author.

Inside the garment, you get a few spares buttons as well.

Knitwear_7

Spare Buttons. Photo by author.

The inside tag features some kind of clothing equivalent of microdot technology that enables the owner to identify whether it is legit or not and where it came from. Called Certilogo, interested customers can use the 12 digit code from the label  to check the authenticity of the item. Having bought this from a Japanese department store though I don’t feel the need, but appreciate the idea having seen how many fakes there are online.

Whilst hardly a bargain at close to $600 (AUD), this is nonetheless a comfortable, warm and in my opinion stylish piece of old man’s clothing.

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

LINKS:

Isetan Department Store: http://isetan.mistore.jp/store/shinjuku/index.html

[FYI, The Stone Island counter was located in what could only be described as the casuals section of the men’s department. Immediately adjacent were Montcler, Lacoste, Victorinox and Burberry/Aquascutum].

Stone Island: http://www.stoneisland.com/au

MONO Magazine

Mono Logo

Written and published in Japan, Mono is a pop culture document par excellence. Evidently aimed at men, it focuses on a variety of subjects, although predominantly features food, vehicles, fashion and technology with a slight emphasis – least in the issues I have seen – towards military history and its accoutrements.

Watch CoverUSA Cover

Articles have included the history of Japanese technology between the 1970s and 1990s, World War II bomber jacket designs, hand luggage and camping gear reviews and history of smugglers cars, whilst recurring features include convenience store food reviews and watch and shoe release updates.

Hand Luggage

Luggage Reviews.  Photo by author.

Combini Comparisons_4 Combini Comparisons_3 Combini Comparisons_2 Combini Comparisons_1

Convenience Store Food Reviews.  Photo by author.

Bikes

Motorcycle Reviews.  Photo by author.

Smugglers Cars

Analysis of bootlegger smuggling.  Photo by author.

Their authors tend to analyse the less covered segments of these common areas too. For example, in their USA Issue, they travel to the Mexico / USA border and speak with border patrol guards and check out dive bars in Juarez. When they look at shoes, it’s what’s on the feet of tech nerds or the best 1980s jogging shoe. If it’s watches, they ignore the Swiss and instead turn their attention 1970s Tokyo time pieces or Timex and low grade military watches.

USA Article USA Border2

USA Issue.  Photo by author.

Nerd Sneakers

Tech Company CEO Footwear Analysis.  Photo by author.

80s Sneakers

1980s – 1990s Jogging Shoe Analysis.  Photo by author.

70s Japanese Watches

Japanese Watches of the 1970s.  Photo by author.

Sadly, as my Japanese is poor, the virtue or lack thereof of the writing is impossible to analyse, but it is incredibly photo heavy and its attention to detail is on par with a variety of Japanese periodicals which seem to focus on the minutiae of their topics with an autism like focus.

Jeep Timex  WWII Bomber Jackets

Various Articles.  Photos by author.

Through their own shop, advertised in the back pages, they also sell many items such as authentic Vietnam issued Zippos, C-rations, military styled patches, pens, watches and various other items.

Vietnam Zippos Military Patches

Example Items Available Through Their Mail Order Shop.  Photo by author.

Freely available in many bookstores and libraries in Japan, it’s worth picking up and always entertaining.

Written and posted by Horatio Cornblower. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and The Eastern Terraces with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

LINKS: http://www.monomagazine.com/

Diggin’ in the Carts

I’ve just enjoyed the first two episodes of this RBMA documentary. Hats off to whoever made this documentary of immense quality and depth.

For me THE revelation of the first two episodes was finding out that the guy from Nintendo was a fan of Jah Wobble from P.I.L…..and I guess it was slightly disconcerting just to find out that this stuff was made by actual humans and not by a computer…

Watch the whole thing here:

http://www.redbullmusicacademy.com/magazine/diggin-in-the-carts

Gunter Logo

Posted by Gunter Sacks

Drunk Monk and Subculture Shanghai

subculture

One of the most unpleasant things about living in Asia and loving music is having to deal with the human detritus known as “expat promoters”. We’ve all witnessed the unedifying spectacle of expat no-hopers with delusions of grandeur who think they can reinvent themselves as music promoters in an Asian country, despite having no understanding of the music. Too often this leads to a stream of mediocrity that undermines the music scene of the host country. Grubby “festivals” with cheesy acts and tacky corporate sponsorships. It’s fair to say that most of the people who have built the really meaningful underground scene across Asia in the last few years were locals…I’m thinking DJ Jase in Vietnam, Red-I and Soulflower in Manila, DJ Dragon in Thailand.

Still there are exceptions, and one of the most notable exceptions is the notorious Drunk Monk. English by origin, he’s quietly built up an operation in Shanghai that encompasses a nightclub (Shelter), a regular bass music night (Sub-culture) and now a record/clothing label (SVBKVLT).  Throughout all of this he’s always displayed a true love for and appreciation of underground bass music. Most true fans of bass music would now be aware of Drunk Monk and the Shanghai scene, especially since Kode 9 released his track Xing Fu Lu, named after the street in Shanghai where Drunk Monk’s apartment is located. This is all quite amazing when you consider that in the middle of last decade the Shanghai bass music scene was starting from absolute zero.

On my trip to Shanghai a few months ago I caught up with Drunk Monk to find out how he made it all happen. Again it’s a testament to the guy’s true underground ethic that he immediately agreed to meet up with a complete stranger and answered my questions about the scene with good humour.

Let’s kick off with a musical biography of Drunk Monk. What kind of music did you first listen to and what kind of subcultures were you involved with before you got into bass music?

My father was a record collector and DJ who played a lot of reggae, dub and jazz. I always grew up around vinyl and records. I guess the first kind of stuff I really got into was jungle and drum’n’bass around the mid-90s, though at that time I was still too young to go to parties. I started off by listening to jungle on the radio. Later on I was DJing Jungle, and then I got more seriously into record collecting and digging for vinyl – looking for soul, rare groove and reggae records.

I’m originally from Manchester but I lived in Liverpool for 3 or 4 years before I came to Shanghai. I was DJing in Liverpool with a crew called “No Faking” – mainly rare groove and hip-hop.  Then I came to Shanghai and started playing more reggae music, then gradually I got into other types of music such as bass music and that’s how Subculture started. We already had a reggae night called “Uprooted Sunshine” and Subculture grew from that. At the beginning it was just a party were we would focus on playing more electronic music instead of reggae.

When did you start going out to parties in Manchester? Did you live through the really violent era of Manchester jungle around ’94-’95?

I started going out when I was 17 or 18, around the year 2000. So I was too young for that earlier era of Manchester jungle.

So what was the Manchester jungle scene like around the year 2000?  Was it still very gang-orientated with the likes of Moss Side and Cheetham Hill turning up?

Well I was listening to jungle and buying jungle more than I was going to jungle parties, but I certainly never experienced any violence.

What year did you come to Shanghai?

I first came here as part of a university course in 2005. That’s when I started putting on events here.

What was the scene like when you came here? Was there anything interesting going on?

Not a lot. There were very few venues that would let people play good music. A lot of the promoters who are big now started around the same time in 2005. Michael who now runs Antidote did his first party in 2005 and then a week later I did my party in the same bar. There were just a few small bars that would let you do your thing. Then gradually we all came together, helped each other out with promoting and it grew from there.

Where was the interest for reggae music coming from in Shanghai at that time? In 2005 was it all expats or were there some locals who were already getting into reggae?

It was mainly expats, there was a small Chinese crowd which has grown over the years.

When you started putting on reggae events here, was there any crossover with the Beijing skinhead scene? People like Misandao who are an Oi! band but who also obviously enjoy skinhead reggae.

Not really, no. I didn’t know much about the Beijing scene at the time – I’d only just arrived in Shanghai.

And when you first arrived in Shanghai in 2005, were you already into the emerging dubstep scene of the time?

Yeah, I was already buying a few bits and pieces.  Around 2005 – 2006 I played a few dubstep sets but it took a while for people here to get into it.

When would you say was the tipping point for people in Shanghai to get into bass music?

When we opened Shelter in 2007 I started Subculture straight away. But for a while it was the slowest of our nights – people didn’t really understand the music. At one point my partner in the Shelter wanted to move Subculture to a Thursday night, because we weren’t getting enough people. But I pushed forward. Around 2008 it started picking up more. Now for the last couple of years it seems everybody is playing bass music!


I’ve never had a chance to visit the Shelter, but what I’ve noticed online is that you’ve always seemed to display impeccable taste in bass music!!  You’ve been photographed wearing a Skull Disco shirt, and of course you have very strong links with Kode 9. So it looks like you always gravitated towards the most interesting end of that scene.  Was that your musical policy back in 2008? Were you playing more “difficult” stuff like Skull Disco rather than the Caspa & Rusko end of things? Or was it more of a cross-section?

We were never really playing the more commercial end of things. The first couple of artists I brought over were people like Goth Trad and the Bug. So it was always that deeper, quality sound.

Who was the very first non-local DJ that you brought over?

I guess Goth Trad was the first and then a month later brought the Bug. That was in 2008, it was actually the Asian launch party for “London Zoo”.

How did you actually manage to hook that stuff up? In 2008, you would have expected an Asian launch for “London Zoo” to be somewhere like Osaka or Tokyo, not Shanghai!

There was an English guy living in Beijing named Steve Barker, who used to have a reggae show on BBC radio and also writes the reggae reviews in Wire magazine. I got to know him through mutual friends. He was close with people like Kode 9, the Bug, Shackleton and Mark Ernestus and he introduced me to them which was really helpful.

Wow – you had Mark Ernestus out here as well?

Yeah – with Tikiman in 2009. They spun a lot of dancehall instrumentals.

Alright…now turning to some of the local Shanghai acts, obviously over the last few years the most high profile act to come out of this scene is Cha Cha. But apart from Cha Cha, are there any other locals who are starting to produce some interesting music?

Hmmmm….its more in the hip-hop/beat scene. There’s still not much on the bass music side. There’s a guy called Sig who’s interesting, but it’s not really bass music….it’s more hip-hop. There’s some guys in Beijing but they’re kind of more on the commercial side of things.

Why do you think that is? Normally after so many years of quality DJs coming through, some local kids would get inspired by it and start to make interesting music themselves. In some ways you have a really strong scene here now. You have the club, the label, and Kode 9 has even referenced it in his last single! So why is it that some local kids haven’t kind of latched on to this local music identity and run with it?

Good question… I mean there is a scene of local DJs but they are mainly more techno and electro. I guess there’s not a great deal of money to be made in bass music. Otherwise…I don’t really know why we haven’t had more local bass producers come up!!

So putting aside bass music, which are some of the local Shanghai acts in any style of music which you respect?

B6, a minimal techno producer. There’s also a guy called MHP who makes dark techno, part of a crew called Void. He’s had a couple of vinyl releases.
There’s also an interesting local hip-hop guy called J Fever, from Beijing.

What about some of the other internationally known Shanghai acts like Duck Fight Goose or Torturing Nurse?

Oh yeah I really like Duck Fight Goose and know those guys quite well. I’ve never actually seen Torturing Nurse – I’d like to see them.

So not much crossover then between the harsh noise scene and the bass scene? You’ve never had Torturing Nurse on at Shelter?

No, not Torturing Nurse. We do have a monthly drone/noise night now though. But there isn’t much crossover between the different scenes in general, like between the rock scene and the electronic scene. It’s all still quite segregated. I’m not sure why that is.


So you recently started a label and are releasing things on cassette. What was the impetus behind a cassette label? Were you influenced by some of the cassette labels that have started up in England in the last few years, especially the “No Corner” label from Bristol?

Yeah, I guess seeing the tape thing come back was an influence. But frankly, its mainly because I just wanted to put out a digital product – I didn’t want to do download only. I’m not a fan of CDs and vinyl is quite expensive, so cassette was really the best option!

And as regards touring DJs, what’s at the top of the list of people you want to bring out?

I’m slowing down a little on the international DJs. Kode 9 is coming in December, but otherwise I want to focus more on working with Asian DJs and helping bring the Asian scene together.  In November I’m bringing a couple of Asian DJs representing different countries to play in China. It’s going to be DJ Jase from Vietnam and a couple of others.

And what does the future hold for the label? You’ve started off with some great cassette releases by Caliph8, Cha Cha and others…What surprises do you have up your sleeve?

I do plan to start putting out some vinyl. I’m going to release a 7” by Caliph8’s new band Bent Lynchpin.

Wow….I know Caliph8 is a huge fan of krautrock and 70s prog. Does that come through in his band project?

Yes very much so!

Awesome! How did that whole Pinoy connection come about actually?

I think it started when the crew who went on to start the B-Side bar in Manila came to Shanghai to see DJ Bone from Detroit play at the Shelter when the Void crew brought him out.  The Shelter actually became their inspiration for starting B-Side after they saw what was possible. I met them when they came here, and we started doing bookings together…they were doing Kode 9 and Pinch in Manila when I brought them here. Over the years we just built up a link. It was actually Michael from Antidote who first brought Caliph8 over here.

Ok…now let’s finish up with a real trainspotter question. Give me your top 5 dubstep tracks of the last 10 years…the first ones that come into your head.

Ok…
Loefah remix of “I” by Skream
“Skeng” by the Bug….can I call that dubstep? I guess it is
“Lean Forward” by Mala…just about everything Mala’s ever done in fact!
“Ruffage” by Loefah
I’m trying to think of a newer dubstep track…but can’t really think of one! So maybe my 5th choice would be the Kode 9 remix of “Find My Way”.

Cheers. So if you don’t listen to much new dubstep, where is your current interest in UK underground music? I know you had Visionist out here recently…

I really like that sound a lot…I play a bit of that 130bpm Keysound kind of thing, like Wen and Beneath. I’d like to bring Beneath out sometime! I also play quite a lot of footwork.

Check out the Subculture site here:

http://subcultureshanghai.com/

And check out the SVBKVLT label here:

http://svbkvlt.bigcartel.com/

 

Posted by Gunter Sacks

 Drunk Monk poses in front of his favourite sandwich shop in Shanghai

Drunk Monk poses in front of his favourite sandwich shop in Shanghai

Caliph8 – SVBKVLT Beat Tape – Derelict Features of the Domain

Caliph8

I think I first saw Caliph8 play at a party in Quezon City in 2005. The party was pretty boring until suddenly out of nowhere this cat set up his equipment and dropped abstract hip-hop grooves while yelling out about Sun Ra. On  a screen behind him somebody was projecting footage of the same cat running through some kind of warehouse while wearing 70s clothes and a crazy afro wig. That’s the way I remember it at least. The cat was Caliph8 and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing.

The stuff was so good that I couldn’t control my fanboy impulses. I think that I did something embarrassing like approach him afterwards to mumble that he reminded me of Labtekwon. A few days later I actually got his number so I could call him up to rant more about how good his beats were and enquire if he had any releases I could buy. Sadly, there were none.

Our paths crossed a few times over the following years, including a great evening of sitting around listening to our favourite tunes in Hong Kong. But still there was no Caliph8 release to file away in my collection.

That situation has finally been rectified by Drunk Monk’s new cassette label SVBKVLT. Drunk Monk deserves the greatest respect for putting his time and money into something as positive as SVBKVLT, and there’ll be a short interview setting out the Drunk Monk story on this blog very soon. But for now, let’s stick to this review of the Caliph8 tape.

It’s hard to believe that this is the debut release from somebody who’s been active in the Asian beats scene for around two decades, but what you have here is a debut from somebody who’s spent 20 years honing his craft to a deadly precision. Those familiar with Caliph8 will know that while he comes from a street hip-hop and graffiti background that spans Manila and L.A., he’s built up a reputation over the last few years playing live film scores at various cultural events, such as this:  http://judebautista.wordpress.com/2010/08/28/caliph8-captures-the-tragedy-of-love/

With this background and his  legendary MPC skills, “Derelict Features” almost plays like some kind of hybrid of Pierre Henry with the Arkestra or the Art Ensemble of Chicago. This is very far out ahead of any straightforward hip-hop beat tape. No obvious bangers, the whole thing really demands to be listened to as a single piece from start to finish. Trite as it may be to say, his time doing live film scores has led to the production of a true example of that oft-abused concept the “imaginary soundtrack”. Musique Concrete elements, dissonant horns, dub effects and drones collide with intelligent and non-cliched breaks over two sides of the tape.  I really can’t describe it better than that and highly recommend that you listen to it yourself. Caliph8 is pretty far out on his own with this one, but if I had to try and file it with something else happening in the music scene today, I might try to slot it next to the abstract beats and electronics end of what Young Echo are doing.

But without wishing to seem too hyperbolic, the comparison which most springs to my mind is a kind of Asian version of Rammellzee, due to Caliph8’s ability to naturally bridge the worlds of the street and modern art (Rammellzee being somebody who bridged the street and modern art without any of the posing of that notorious fool Basquiat).

Derelict features of the Domain can be streamed for free and downloaded for a fee here, though if you know what’s good for you’ll grab a copy of the limited cassette:

http://svbkvlt.bandcamp.com/album/svbkvlt-beat-tape-caliph8

Posted by Gunter Sacks

Out and about in Shanghai

Inspired by Casual Connoisseur’s “Out and About” series, Gunter hits the Bund

A few weeks ago I had the chance to nip over to Shanghai for the first time.

IMG_1273

Flight delays conspired to make this a very short trip, and I didn’t get to cram in all I wanted. Still, I think I got in a little bit of the vibe of the city during the jazz age, when it proudly went by the title “whore of the orient”.

I was surprised by how clean and orderly the parts of Shanghai that I visited were. The bit of the Huangpu river where the Bund overlooks Pudong is positively gleaming, the buildings of the Bund perfectly restored and sitting behind a brand spanking new riverfront promenade. All in all, a much more pleasant experience than Beijing.

Thanks to the aforementioned flight delays we only had one proper evening on the town, and we made use of it by visiting Fu 1088.  Somewhere in or near the former French concession, and set in  a colonial bungalow that might have housed a moderately prosperous expat bank employee in the early 1930s.  Private rooms only, where high-end Shanghainese cuisine gets served up amongst faintly chipped and worn remnants of the city’s heyday. As this is not a food blog, I’ll save you the descriptions, but the food was damn good.

Some shots inside Fu 1088:

IMG_1297

IMG_1298

Gunter wears a Moncler Gamme Bleu Oxford Shirt while preparing to tuck into a tea egg with caviar:

IMG_1294

After dinner we took a taxi back to the riverside to stroll along the wonderfully restored Bund. The dowdy vibe of “Clive James’ postcard from Shanghai” is long gone. We popped into the building which used to house Shanghai’s British Club. Now converted into the Shanghai Waldorf-Astoria hotel, it boasts a recreated version of the British Club’s notorious Long Bar – all in all a step up from the mid-90s days when it housed a KFC.

To my immense surprise the jazz trio in the Long Bar (bass, drums, piano) was several light years beyond the usual Asian hotel lobby “jazz band” hacks, and managed to jam out something which to these ears sounded like late 50s hard bop.

Gunter prepares to down a passable Gimlet at the Long Bar while listening to jazz:

IMG_1295

While our stay was short, the whole jazz age vibe of the trip was considerably enhanced by having chosen the Fairmont Peace Hotel as our digs. Close to the northern end of the Bund, the hotel is actually the former Cathay hotel, now immaculately restored.

When it opened in 1929, the Cathay was the most luxurious hotel in Asia and luminaries such as Charlie Chaplin, Noel Coward and Douglas Fairbanks passed through its doors:

Cathay-Hotel-postcard-in-early-1930s

The restoration job is great, and the whole building is fascinating to wonder around in, but the slightly deserted nature of some of the public rooms on the upper floors gave of the vibe of a more art deco version of the Shining:

IMG_1247

IMG_1244

It’s even more spooky when you consider that these rooms once housed the most happening night club in Shanghai, complete with jazz band and Russian prostitutes.

The actual rooms themselves are extremely well appointed and the ground floor with its’ art deco galleries is also a great place for loitering. I even managed to sneak an “Acid Casuals” T-Shirt into one of the shots:

IMG_1258

IMG_1255

IMG_1263

IMG_1283

IMG_1289

IMG_1292

IMG_1291

The last day on Sunday was spent exploring the vicinity of the Bund and sneaking in a brief interview with Subculture Shanghai main man Drunk Monk (coming soon to this blog) before taking the Maglev to the airport. All-in-all, I can’t wait to visit Shanghai again.

Gunter crosses the bridge over Soochow creek and ponders the Broadway apartments:

IMG_1269

Pondering Andre Malraux in the Farimont Peace Hotel’s fantastic French Bakery:

IMG_1252

But before closing out this post, a special mention is needed for the builder of the Cathay Hotel – the notorious Victor Sassoon, a man who would merit a long Eastern Terraces post of his own.

A member of the notorious Sassoon family of Baghdad jews whose commercial interests followed the British Empire eastwards, he first intended the Cathay Building to be an office building, but later changed his mind and put the city’s most luxurious hotel and most happening nightclub on the upper floors. Never one to do things by halves, he then ensconced himself in a penthouse suite on the top floor (in the pyramid-like structure you can see on top of the hotel). Following an air crash and partially crippled, he walked only with the aid of two canes.  Convinced therefore that women would only love him for his money, he dealt with the problem by postponing marriage until old age (he eventually married his nurse) and in the meantime regularly putting some of the city’s most beautiful European and Chinese women on his payroll. As one article puts it:

“Sir Victor had four major passions: beautiful women, thoroughbred horse racing, Chinese art, and photography…..Sir Victor not only had white lovers, but also Chinese ones, at a time when this was uncommon. He often photographed his conquests in the nude, thus combining his interests.”

http://suite101.com/article/sir-victor-sassoon-builder-of-1930s-shanghai-a132604

Sir Victor’s hight times in Shanghai definitively ended with the Communist takeover, whereupon he retired to the Bahamas and remarked: “Well, there it is…..I gave up India, and China gave me up.”

A photo of the great man (one hopes this lady was not one of the ones on his payroll):

sassoon

Finally, a picture of the guidebook that Porfirio Crane carried with him on his 1935 visit to Shanghai:

shanghai

Posted by Gunter Sacks