Life is hard right now. Harder than usual for everyone for obvious reasons but as a DJ, music producer and performer its been a trying time.
Due to the closure of nightclubs and music venues around the world I have found myself without my usual means of generating income and as I write and produce electronic music for dance floors which, as previously mentioned are all closed, music sales have also taken a hefty dive.
TEN YEARS IN HONG KONG
For the last decade or so I’ve been living and working in Hong Kong which is currently in the process of having it’s freedoms and human rights stripped away so my lady and I decided to take drastic action, go all in and move to the other side of the world during a global pandemic with a container full of synthesisers and two cats. It was not easy.
Hong Kong has been a great home to me over the years. Since I started coming to the city in the 90s right up to the middle of 2018 everything on the whole was peachy.
I was DJing every weekend at my favourite venues. I had lots of music out and the opportunity to play music all over Asia. My 2019/20 was filling up with lots of exciting projects., life was good and I was getting ready to build a new studio and sink my teeth into scoring my first feature length film. Then a few things happened…
The history of Hong Kong and its relationship with mainland China is complicated with the Chinese communist party now trying to take more control over the people of Hong Kong as it starts to absorb the city into China.
Mostly this has been met with disapproval, mistrust and anger as China’s record of human rights abuses, censorship and severely limiting freedom of speech within its own country is well documented and the people of Hong Kong are concerned that the soul and uniqueness of their city and the freedom of it’s inhabitants are being taken away. This led to citywide protests as China tried to force their hand and the people of Hong Kong resisted.
Then in March 2019 when China started proceedings to change the law regarding the extradition of accused individuals to Hong Kong and their potential further extradition into China. The people of Hong Kong saw this as the first step in China’s plan to take over and the resulting violent protests made front-page news all over the world.
The impact of these protests and the violence inflicted on protestors by the police and pro-China groups was felt across Hong Kong with the government effectively shutting down large parts of the city during protests while protestors and bystanders on the streets were treated to water cannon, teargas, pepper spray and physical violence. Many hotels and restaurants saw a massive drop in guests with tourism drying up as the violent scenes were splashed all over the headlines. Both sides refused to back down and weekly blood soaked demonstrations became the norm.
Nightlife was next to be hit as people became scared to go out in neighbourhoods where protests had taken place earlier in the day. Numbers at clubs and bars plummeted as at night the city entered a kind of pseudo lockdown. With parts of the city literally burning and tensions at an all time high, smaller venues began to close with many of the remaining bars and clubs reducing or completely canceling all music and DJ performances. Personally I took a bit of a hit around this time as local bookings started to dwindle but the consensus between myself and other DJs was that the fallout from the protests would be relatively short and once the winter was over HK would be back up to full speed.
News started to emerge from mainland China about a particularly virile virus which was killing people in Wuhan province. As HK had suffered greatly during the SARS breakout in 2003 people immediately started to take precautions by wearing masks, sanitising regularly etc and although the government initially took a long time to issue guidelines, soon enough all bars, clubs, music venues, restaurants and outdoor events were closed indefinitely and/or cancelled.
My income had completely dried up with no sign of if or when it might return and even then to what level. As the world came to terms with the COVID-19 outbreak and it’s impact, Hong Kong had already been in both figurative and literal lockdown for months and with international travel essentially impossible my entire year had been postponed or cancelled.
We felt we had little choice but to consider a move to somewhere where we could build a new life or ride out the storm while HK settles into whatever form it’s future holds so with not much more that a couple of weeks investigating options online and consolidating our savings we figured The Netherlands would be as good a place as any and bought tickets to Amsterdam without being sure when or if it would be possible to fly.
TIME TO BOUNCE
The logistics of moving to the other side of the world is actually not as hard as it first appears. There is obviously loads of hoop-jumping and bureaucracy but mostly it boils down to making sure your papers are in order, deciding what you want to take with you and how you’re going to get yourself and all of your shit to your new country of residence.
For me that meant exercising my right as a member of the European community to live and work here in The Netherlands. Amsterdam has always been high on my list of “I could live there” cities so the decision to come here was relatively easy. The Dutch have a deep and rich history with electronic music and Amsterdam particularly has a large community of musicians, DJs, producers and nerds so for me it was a no brainer.
We had a few prerequisites regarding where and how we wanted to live so once again I find myself building a studio in a spare bedroom which is bit too small but at least this one has a killer view of the canals.
Some people make their music with little more than a laptop and an idea. I am not one of these people. I like things that make sounds and thats all they do. My drum machine can’t do anything except play drum sounds back to me and I like that it’s limited. The same goes for all of the instruments I use to make music and having them around is an essential part of my creative process. It quickly became obvious that excess luggage or shipping things with FedEx wasn’t going to cut it so we booked a small shipping container, filled it with all of my precious synths, a bunch of furniture and anything else that wouldn’t fit into our luggage and waved goodbye to it all for 3 months. Having the tools of my trade rattling around a shipping container at sea fills me with dread so to keep my mind off it I made some acoustic panels for my new studio and once the speakers arrive I’ll get them up and the room should sound much better.
Next is furniture and maybe a rug. None of my studio furniture from Hong Kong made the cull so that has me thinking about how I use my equipment and what changes I can make to my workflow but hopefully by the end of the month my machines will be up and I can transfer all of these ideas from my laptop into the real world.
So far Amsterdam has not disappointed,
I’ve been writing lots of music, playing on some local livestreams and I’ve met and worked with a great bunch of people already. Like a lot of places we are still in lockdown with no sign as to when clubs and festivals will be able open but there is a great sense of community here with loads of crews doing their best to find some solutions and working together to get the party restarted once the Dutch government gives us the all clear. I consider myself lucky to have been welcomed in with such open arms and I’m already working on a bunch of projects that will hopefully see the light of day soon but my main focus right now is to finish building my studio so that I can get my teeth well and truly sunk in to scoring this film which I’m happy to say is now firmly in the edit. SODO Express coming soon!