DHA Mix #317 + Interview By Yang Bing
Yang Bing has been an integral force in defining the underground sound of Beijing with his signature fat bass and funky tech-house sound.
The first Chinese DJ to play in Europe, Yang Bing began DJing in 1995 when the city had no clubs playing electronic music, and commercial pop music dominated the scene. A true renaissance man of the scene, Yang Bing’s role in developing electronic music awareness in his home country includes everything from organising the mainland’s first rave’s, its famous China Pump Party concept, epic events on the Great Wall, to a nationally touring festival concept and beyond.
Now, with Yang Bing bringing his sounds alongside a slew of his country’s finest contemporaries to Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE), he will feature in a variety of ways across the week. For al the details you can find them HERE, but make sure to set aside 18 October when Yang Bing and the likes of Elvis. T, Mickey Zhang, Wengweng, and more join DJ Sneak, Karotte, and Amsterdam’s Fewture & Freddie Glitch at the newly opened Chin Chin Club. Ahead of that event, we present Yang Bing to you via this exclusive mixtape.
Also, we spoke with Yang on all things Chinese electronic music, which you can find in our extensive interview below!
To start, let’s go back to the early 90s and tell us what your first introduction to electronic music was? I’ve read it was around ’95 when you started DJing, when there wasn’t much of an underground scene in your home.
Back then the clubs were playing very commercial music and there weren’t any Techno clubs. I did like to go to the Disco clubs at the time, just for fun…I was 20 years old. I’d go and check out the girls there. One day I went and I saw a DJ from The Philippines who played the “normal” music for a while, but then he started to play more techno after a certain time. I thought it was a really weird sound! It was Acid Techno, which I heard later. I asked him, “What is Techno?” He told me about it and also how he was just in Hong Kong – Aku, where they did have huge rave parties. It all gave me a very good feeling so when I went back home I asked all my friends if anyone knew anything about this. At that time, no one knew it. At that time it was more rock music and heavy metal. One day I started to learn DJing with a DJ from Hong Kong. He was in China doing a commercial DJ set so he showed me how to spin vinyl and introduced me to some of the underground parties in Hong Kong.
Going back to this time, what was your first turntable setup that you worked with?
It was very difficult to get turntables back then. They were hard to find and they were also very expensive. Huge money actually! I asked friends and family to borrow some money and I ended up getting a small Gemini turntable setup.
When you had that conversation with your family, how receptive were they? Were they open to your newfound interests?
They thought I was making the wrong decision. I went to University for one year and stopped. They asked me why I stopped and I told them because I wanted to do music and throw raves!
What were you studying?
It was a more general study plan, just for one year. Nothing specific. Once I got the turntables was really focused on the music.
How were you first getting the music that you would play at first? Obviously, now you can just download what you need but back then it was really reliant on record shops and physical copies. How did you come across those physical records?
Still now, there are no record shops basically. Back in the 90s it was very hard to get music. The only way I could was to ask my friends and other DJs. If anyone would travel to Europe or something, I’d ask them to bring me back some music specifically so I could play it.
It sounds like there wasn’t much choice as to what you could play. basically, you were forced to find a way to play what you had, or what you could get, and make it work…
…yes, it was hard but we made it work!
When did the idea start where you realized you wanted to open up your own club?
After I did many parties in Beijing, at clubs and houses and so on, it was always most difficult to adapt to the places. They always had their own stye, and I had mine. There were also some difficulties about money and time and things like that. I thought, if I had my place we could just do whatever we wanted. At one point I went to Germany and played Fusion Festival an I also went to Berghain. I thought it would be really awesome to do something like that back home. I remember the first day still. People came and immediately started talking about it. That was a great time!
So, you found that people were open to what you were doing immediately?
When we opened we did have about of a name already. I think at that point we had been doing parties for nearly 10 years already. 70% of the crowd was expat, with 30% being locals, but everyone was there for the music, so we didn’t do any tabel service or anything like that. The crowd loved it.
If you wanted to open a new club in 2017, how would you compare that to 2003? Even in 2003 it was an expensive endeavour, but I’d imagine now it’s even more so. Would you consider it easier to open a club now, more difficult, or exactly the same?
I think it is more difficult now. The financial side is trending upwards. Back then, things were expensive but if you compare them to now they seem affordable. Also, the scene is bigger now so there is more competition. 10 years ago there was a small underground scene in Beijing, but now it’s more popular and people are making more money, which changes some of the dynamics about who exists and where. It’s good because there is more money and recognition, but it might also be a bubble.
It’s interesting how the dynamics of cities around the world operate in the same way. Your impression of Beijing is so similar to dynamics going on in places like New York or London. naturally they have always been expensive places to live and operate but now they are completely out of the reach of the “normal” person. Rather, catering to the elite of the society. When watching the documentary, it seemed like a lot of what you and your peers would be frustrated with are exactly the same as my own frustrations operating out of new York for a while…
How about some other scenes in the country. Aside from Beijing, where would you say is a place that has a good underground scene? I hear Chengdu is where it’s at these days….
Chengdu is for sure a great place. 10 or 15 years ago, when Beijing was just starting to have all this, it was the only place, but now there are other cities. In Beijing, you have the population and interest but you also have the problems that come with a capital city…like, police being more strict or difficulty getting a liquor license. Sometimes, when you can move out to other places this gets a bit less, which helps with the atmosphere on the ground. Chengdu is one of those places. Naturally Chengdu has it’s own problems though.
What is the relationship like between nightlife as a whole and the country’s government? Is it supportive?
They are supportive but they just don’t know some of the specifics about it. Right now they realize that there is potential to profit there but they also see it in two ways…the business behind it and the nightclubs. Naturally, to them, the nightclubs are the hardest part to grasp because people drink there and take drugs from time to time so they treat the business aspect a bit differently.
What would you say is the strongest aspect of China’s nightlife industry?
I think the strongest part is just the interest, and therefore, the money that has gone into the industry lately. It allows a lot of people to do a lot of interesting things and gives us the chance to have our own scene.
…and what about the opposite? what would you say is still needed for China to become a true International Dance Music center?
We are still young so there is a lot to learn still. We just need more. Basically, more of everything, from artists to labels.
Who are some artists people outside of China should know about?
I think Wengweng, who is a Techno godfather in China. He was one of the first to do Techno parties in China. He has no wife or children, it’s all just music for him. Also, Elvis. T is a very good Producer for some 15 years now. He has many machines and just knows how to use them.
What about record labels?
RAM Music, who have started recently. i think they are doing a great job because they really help the Chinese artists. This is good because a lot of artists have good ideas but may not know how to see it get made. Labels like this help that happen.
After the week of ADE and the events you’re organizing, what you hope to have achieved with the full event? And what would you like to achieve on the long term with this? Which message would you like to provide to the ADE audience?
It is exciting to have started this long term project. I will continue to create platforms for direct human connection. I want to help more people from other countries deepen their understanding of China, to see that China has more depth than just an abstract market for financial endeavors, I want people to see that there are people here who are working with strength and heart to make and live their dreams, I want to create more opportunities for these people in China to collaborate with the larger world, I also want more people in this industry abroad to understand more about the depth of history and development of electronic music in China, to help them set aside their prejudices or misconceptions, China is not just a place for trying to figure out how to make money, China is a place with an electronic music culture, we have a lot of highly qualified people here in this field, we also have high quality music, Most important I want to see real understanding grow in both directions, in all directions, I want to make these connections for people from different cultures and countries in this industry with China, to help us better understand each other and ourselves.