How do you define your sense of belonging to the electronic scene and clubbing?
For me, the club is a sacred space. It’s a place to get lost and disconnect from the monotony
of day-to-day life. It’s not just some mindless activity. It can be deeply personal,
cathartic or even emancipating. If you have ever been to an event with the perfect combination of crowd,
music and energy you will understand this. Being part of the ‘scene’ is the same – it is not for clout or
desire to ‘be seen’ but rather a gravitational pull towards a certain group of people with a shared ethos and outlook.
In my opinion, the strongest ‘clubs’ and ‘scenes’ are built on this basis,
and this is what interests me and what I want to be a part of.
How did the scene develop in your country and which events were the trigger?
If we are talking specifically about the ‘techno scene’, this started long before I ever got involved.
Some early parties in Cape Town were hosted by a collective called Killer Robot, whilst in Johannesburg
you had TOYTOY (both of whom still exist today). From conversations I’ve had with various people,
I understand there were also other large-scale ‘rave’ events happening at that time (mid-to-late-90s)
with some pretty prolific DJs in big venues. But when I was old enough to start going to clubs the dominant
genres were Drum & Bass, Electro, Dubstep and Psytrance, so Techno wasn’t really even on my radar.
But soon things started to shift as some popular venues closed their doors and naturally people started to
gravitate towards other sounds and other communities.
Cape Town is very small,
so when you lose one or two key venues, it is inevitable that you will see things change fairly rapidly.
This is when techno started to rear its head again and you had more and more venues pushing this sound.
Once of the first venues in Cape Town that I experienced ‘techno’ in was called Bullion Bar.
It was essentially an after-hours spot that had a few promoter nights focussed on techno.
This is when I really became interested and started to meet some of my contemporaries who were also getting into
is sound. It is also worth noting that social media was becoming more and more popular during this time,
which meant that people were starting to get a taste of what was happening in Europe.
And since Europe is very much centred on techno and house, you had a lot of the newer generation here
also wanting a taste of this. Within a period of a few years, there were a number of small spaces
popping up that catered towards those looking for good house and techno and more and more promoters
hosting parties and bringing down higher profile international artists. And since then the ball has really
just kept rolling. In Cape Town we have one crucial space called Mødular (where myself and friends often play
and host events), whilst in Johannesburg the aforementioned TOYTOY crew is still going strong in their space called And Club.
Which sounds and influences represent you?
My earliest connection with music was when I was into the live music/band scene.
My high-school years were soundtracked mostly by extreme metal and the majority of
the events I went to played this kind of music. But as my tastes grew I also started getting into Jazz
and experimental/progressive music. My first connection with electronic music was through IDM (Aphex Twin, Amon Tobin,
Venetian Snares, Squarepusher etc.) and other abstract electronic genres (think along the lines of Warp Records,
Ninja Tune, R&S etc.). Around the same time, I also started discovering and appreciating Hip Hop,
Jungle and UK Dubstep. However, it was Psytrance that got me to understand club and party culture.
This scene is very big in Cape Town, and almost anyone you ask has been to a trance party.
I very quickly got sucked into this, and even started producing and DJing trance at one point!
So as you can see, I find interest and influence in many different types of music.
For me there are only two categories: Good and Bad. A lot of this has filtered into the way
that I approach music currently. I don’t like to pigeon-hole myself into doing one thing.
In the studio I like to try various techniques and explore a wide range of sounds and styles. Similarly, when I DJ I also try to challenge myself to go outside the scope of what is expected from me.
To be honest, this is just the way my brain works. I always find it difficult to settle on one singular direction or sound.
I need to explore to keep interested and to continue feeling inspired.
Which are the national and international labels that deserve a mention from you?
Nationally we don’t really have many techno-focussed labels, so I’ll mention a few across a broader spectrum.
One of the first South African labels that came to my attention was called African Dope.
They were really on the forefront of the local electronica scene at the time.
They focussed on a mixed bag of breakbeat, drum ‘n bass, dub and more.
They really knew how to run a label and set the standard for many other local labels to come.
It’s a great pity that they don’t operate anymore.
On the live music front, we have Permanent Record & Roastin’ Records, both of whom are doing a really great job
at releasing music from world-class local bands and experimental artists.
They are also involved in vinyl retail in South Africa and are doing a lot of work to keep vinyl culture alive here.
Finally, my friend JED co-runs a great eclectic electronic label called City Bowl Wax Network.
They have a knack for discovering and putting out music from some lesser-known local producers.
International there are simply too many to mention. But in the techno sphere,
a label that I always hold in high regard is Token. Kr!z has done an amazing job at showing people the diversity
within the genre whilst still maintaining a consistent thread and character within each release.
Any time I see a new Token release I click!
Among the artists, who do you think helped with the growth and the development of the scenes?
Between past and present
When I was first getting into techno and clubbing, the promoters that stood out were Killer Robot from Cape Town
and TOY TOY from Johannesburg (as mentioned in one of my previous answers).
All the guys behind these collectives also happen to be great DJs that helped form the sound locally.
Some of the newer generation includes the VAULT crew who pushed a harder sound in Cape Town and the BNKR
crew who did a lot of the techno nights at the now-defunct Bullion Bar (also mentioned previously).
VAULT co-found JED (mentioned earlier) is one of the guys that really helped bring the sound to the younger
generation and push for authentic club experiences in Cape Town.
He has been DJing on the circuit for a while now and is also producing and releasing more of his own music.
Clubs and venues that have particularly affected you?
Mercury (Cape Town) – The first place I got to experience a true underground event.
Bullion Bar (Cape Town) – The first place I experienced techno in the right setting.
Fiction (Cape Town) – One of the first venues that believed in me and booked me. RIP.
Mødular (Cape Town) – The first club I could play the sound I really wanted to play.
And Club (Johannesburg) – One of the first clubs I played outside of Cape Town and one that set the standard for me in terms of overall quality.
Berghain (Berlin) – enough said…
Concrete (Paris) – I was blessed enough to experience it before it closed. Attended a Sistrum label night and it was fantastic.
The Block (Israel) – An unexpected gem, and one of the best clubs I have ever been to.
Fabric (UK) – Went on a Grime night and got the true UK experience at one of the most iconic venues in the country.
Das Werk (Vienna) – A small but very memorable club tucked away in Vienna. I met many good friends in Vienna, so this one is sentimental for me.
Gashouder (Amsterdam) – Not necessarily my favourite venue, but I’ve never seen a spectacle quite like it, especially during ADE!
How is the present? What strengths and problems do scenes face up?
I would describe the current South African techno scene as ‘small, but thriving’.
I see more and more of the younger generation finding genuine interest in good artists and labels
and paying more attention to the music when they go out. Although we aren’t at the forefront of the global scene,
we have an intimate community here that has its own special character. Passionate DJs and producers are cropping
up more and more and are experimenting with a boarder palette of sounds than ever before.
In my opinion, the only real ‘problems’ we face here are geographic and economic.
Since we are so far away from the European hub and our currency is comparatively weak,
it is increasingly challenging to try and host other artists and do international collaborations in a sustainable way.
But this doesn’t stop us! We are resourceful problem-solvers and if we want to make something happen we’ll find a way.
And if times are really tough we know we have enough local support to push through.
I couldn’t have said this as confidently just a few years ago. However,
if you ask me what I would like to see improve, I’d say I would like to see more demographic diversity in clubbing and
in producer/DJ circles. I would like to see more hedonism and individualism at events
(which means safer, more inclusive spaces too) and I would also like to see the city get more involved in
facilitating growth in the nightlife industry. Unfortunately, at the moment South Africa is also a high-risk space
for venues from a financial and security perspective so it hasn’t been able to reach its full potential and less
people are willing to take on the risk of establishing new authentic spaces. But as I say this,
I know a few projects that are in the works that once again shows our community’s resilience and pass
and it goes without saying that we need to support those that are putting a lot on the line to put our scene on the map