DJ Passenger came to China with one goal; to spread the popularity of high-quality underground music. He grew up in London in the 90s listening to his two older brothers, both also DJs, playing records from all of the new genres emerging from the house and rave scenes. The soundtrack to his youth was a mash of acid house, drum and bass, broken beats and hip hop. Today Passenger uses this experience to suit his mix to the crowd, and is not afraid of change genres regularly to keep the dancefloor moving. Passenger’s current sound represents house & techno from the scenes in London and Ibiza. Passenger founded Electric Underground, an event for underground music in Changsha whose drive is to provide a stage for all the various different genres of dance music from Europe that commercial clubs know little about. Whilst still in the UK,Passenger developed his love of music promotion working with events in London, and brings the UK style of event coordination, marketing and planning to China to provide a club experience that is focused on the dancefloor and the DJs. Passenger’s work in the music scene has made him one of the most popular DJs in Changsha. He has played alongside the best DJs in China as well as at some of China’s top clubs and festivals. He has recently been on qq news, ifeng, rednet and youku, as well as featured in What’s New in Changsha magazine. His monthly 我的十首舞曲mix on 喜马拉雅 FM has listeners from all over China.
Could you introduce to us about your music background? I was exposed to music from a young age. The 90s in London was an exciting time for dance music. A distinctly British scene was evolving from U.S. house and techno. British producers were creating new sub-genres and British promoters were hosting huge – and in the early stages – illegal events that represented a counter-culture driven by youthful rebellion and individualism. I was too young to be involved in the scene directly, but my two older brothers lived it. The sounds they were listening to were passed down to me. A lot of my first memories about music come from listening to tunes in their cars and borrowing their cassettes and CDs (vinyls were off limits due to an attempt to scratch with a white label). I continued to borrow, burn and steal my brother’s collections until I was able to afford my own. I spent my 18th birthday in London’s infamous nightclub, started promoting events aged 19 and by 20 I was rated the number one bedroom DJ in my house. How did you first start your DJ career in China? Before I arrived in my city, Changsha, I was told the place was full of nightclubs. In my mind, I pictured a utopia of dance music; different clubs for different genres, touring artists every weekend, crowds of ravers dancing all night. Let’s just say the reality didn’t meet up to my expectations. My career in China began with my event brand, Electric Underground (EU), and that came about the moment someone first poured me a whiskey green tea; Changsha needed an alternative clubbing scene. The goal for EU was, and still is, to create a similar clubbing culture and experience to what we have back home. The music should be the focus, dancing the expression, equality and liberation the feelings. Egos are left at the door and socializing happens on the dance floor. My partner in crime Chris and I met through a mutual friend in 2012 and we hit off the idea of creating what we saw as a real dance music scene so we didn’t have to DJ or party in the mainstream clubs. We went traveling for a while together and when we came back we put the wheels in motion for the launch of Electric Underground. What is EU? Could you introduce to us something about it? We sum up what we are about on our event posters; 英国人举办的独立地下音乐派对. Our first event saw 150 people turn up to a venue that could only hold about 70. Before long we were hosting our first event in 46Livehouse with a crowd of over 700; our largest crowd to date has been 1000. It was never just about satisfying those with a craving to boogie, it was about spreading the whole culture of dance music to as many people as possible. We did this by inviting live performances from other music scenes to play with us. They would bring their followers and we would show them what we represented. We would promote the DJs playing but keep the live acts a secret until a few days before the event. People came for what they knew, and stayed to experience something new. Our fans grew and grew, and 14 months and 19 days after hosting our first mixed event we reverted back to DJ only events. We had a strong and steady crowd attending bi-weekly events with national and international touring artists, but we were still just an event, just a party; we were missing an appropriate venue. Resident opened in October 2015 and we began the next stage in building a scene in Changsha. Could you introduce to us the club that you are running now: Club Resident? Resident is a venue for electronic music based on the culture, values and goals of the early house and techno nightclubs of Europe and North America. The whole experience is underground. We represent a counterculture against the social norm of commercialism within the clubbing scene. Commercialism sacrifices culture to maximise profit. We focus on having elements of a high cultural value, whether it be the music, the drinks menu, or the club design. For example, we have a large dance floor, rather than filling the space with tables. The music and drinks menu promotes variety rather than familiarity. The design is minimal and acoustic rather than an elaborate VIP illusion. We want to promote choice, affordability, equality and artistic freedom & variety. We’re by no means the first to have these values, and we get some great motivation and support from some incredible people instrumental in other underground scenes in China and beyond. How do you feel about the electronic music scene in Changsha? Do you think that you guys could create something special for this city? Currently the scene has so much potential here, and people are beginning to realise this. 2 years ago we were the only serious promoter in the city doing events, now there are at least 6 or 7 promoters hosting electronic music events everywhere from lounge bars to coffee shops! The scene is growing day by day and it’s a great feeling to know that we had a hand in this. Now with Resident as a dedicated venue for the scene, before long hopefully we can consider our city as a key location for dance music; yet we still have a lot of marketing to do and a massive amount of people to entice into our warm, cosy underground cavern of delights. What is your plan for the 2016? Please talk about it from the music and personal life. The key target for 2016 is awareness. We want our city to become more aware of the alternative nightlife scene, we want our followers to become more aware of DJs and producers from around China and we want China to be aware of what Changsha has to offer. Electric Underground will bring DJs from all over China to Resident every 2 weeks, and the brand will continue to host mixed performance events every few months at 46Livehouse. Resident will be evolving and improving during the first year of operation to create the best environment possible to party hard in. For me personally, on the performance side of things, i’ll continue to keep Changsha jumpin’ as well as trips to other cities to perform. On the production side of things I have a project I want to get completed ready in time for the festival season. Also I’ll continue to share my favourite releases of the month in my ‘My 10 Tracks’ series of mixtapes here on Pyro! Listen to Passenger Jamie’s music on PYRO!