Going In Deep with China Social Club


Shanghai-based electronic dynamic duo, China Social Club, is making their grand debut in Bali at Karma Beach Club for three events (December 8th, 9th, and the 11th). Despite the name, the group actually comprised of two Aussie lads, university mates Phillip Caspar James aka PCJ and Matt Hildebrandt aka Frau, who’s been hitting the clubs in Shanghai for about six years now. We had a chat with the duo on their musical journey and what makes them settled in Shanghai.

SO WHAT'S THE THINKING BEHIND CHINA SOCIAL CLUB HOOK UP? HOW DID YOU GUYS END UP COLLABORATING AND HOW DID YOU END UP IN CHINA?

So we’re Matt and Phil. Matt’s from Melbourne and Phil from Perth, Australia. We were studying Chinese in the same class at Jiaotong University six years ago, became good friends, and started working and DJing together. There was a time when we were very diligent and studious students, not going out too much except for occasional rock and roll gigs, ghetto bowling, and the odd strange night down in a bomb shelter. Putting in a solid year of Chinese study, sitting at home writing our characters over and over again was one of the best things we’ve ever done. Phil used to DJ and throw parties back in Perth so after a bit of egging on we went down to one of Shanghai’s oldest dives, C’s, threw a night together and the boss offered us a weekly party.
From the beginning we used the name China Social Club because the domain chinasocialclub.com was available. Frau had never DJ’d before but quickly got the hang of it and together we played every Friday night and over the course of a few months, it turned into a really amazing party with a lot of people coming down. From that time, somebody heard us play and we snagged a residency at Le Baron Shanghai. After hooking up that venue, everything trickled down and we were soon playing China Social Club gigs all around the city. The China Social Club brand had built a bit of a name for itself.

WHAT OTHER PROJECTS ARE YOU GUYS WORKING ON?

Last year we really threw down the gauntlet and opened our first venue. It was an impact bar, lasting only six months but for those lovely people who made it so noisy and rowdy, thank you, but also your noisiness sort of got us closed down, hahaha. The bar was called Smash and it was this beautiful hybrid bar where we had a dance floor and DJs most nights, pub-style seating areas, a pool table, and served natural wine, fancy cocktails but also Tsingtao on tap. We loved it but it was such a massive investment of time and energy. Basically, too many police visits meant we had to drastically change the concept, which we didn’t want to do so the option for us two was to sell out our shares and move on. We still get people coming up to us and asking when we’re opening the new Smash. Let us tell you now, we’re probably not going to but then again, you never know...

TELL US ABOUT YOUR CURATING WORK FOR NTS RADIO LIVE?

So, we also curate the NTS radio Live from Shanghai series. NTS radio is a London-based radio station, with studios in LA and also shows airing from homes and venues all around the world. If you want to listen to amazing music, NTS radio is an incredible resource. We’re really proud that we’ve been able to help promote China-based musicians, promoters, and DJs to the international airwaves. Every month we curate four hours of music broadcast live and direct. People are always welcome to come, watch, listen, and hang out. It’s generally at the end of the month so look out for that ‘cause we’d love to see you down. The next six to twelve months we’ll be doing more events and collaborations with NTS in Shanghai and around China, which we’re really looking forward to sharing with everyone.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR MUSICAL INFLUENCE? WHICH DJS AND PRODUCERS INSPIRE YOU THE MOST?

Over the past five years, we’ve brought out a bunch of DJs to play including Francis Inferno Orchestra, Moopie, Andras, C’est Qui, Noise In My Head, Hugo Gerani, and Peggy Gou. We’re still very selective of who we bring out; it’s really just the DJs that inspire us. We don’t do it for money. It’s actually really hard to make money being a promoter in China and most of us do it for the love of music and culture. It’s been amazing watching the scene and our peers develop over the last few years and we think the alternative club scene is the strongest it’s been in the last seven years. What a time to be in Shanghai.

TELL US ABOUT THE MUSIC SCENE IN SHANGHAI? ANY AWESOME PEOPLE WE SHOULD LOOK OUT FOR FROM SHANGHAI / CHINA?

It’s diverse, progressive, and constantly evolving. It’s better to come experience what it has to offer. Lookout for artists Hyph11E, Knopha, Nengnen, to name a few. All have shows available at NTS.live/shows/Shanghai.

YOU'VE BEEN HOLDING FORT IN CHINA FOR AROUND 6 YEARS NOW, ARE YOU CALLING IT HOME NOW?

After a while of living in Shanghai, it just becomes living. You count the years but the length of time becomes unimportant. In short, we love it but you also learn to live according to what you like and avoid what you don’t. Sound overly simple but if there are aspects of Shanghai that don’t suit you, don’t take part. Living in Shanghai is easy. It’s a massive city with everything that comes with that but it’s also a small town and local community where you can head down the street and always bump into someone you know. After you’ve been here a while, and certainly when working in food and beverage it means you know a lot of people working in all the bars, cafes, and restaurants. You’re never alone. If you want to hide away, you really have to leave the city.

IF YOU CAN EAT CHINESE FOOD FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Yunnanese, not sure if that’s a word but Yunnan cuisine for sure.

SO WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO BRING TO THE TABLE FOR YOUR PERFORMANCE AT KARMA IN DECEMBER AND IS THERE ANY DIFFERENT PLANS FOR YOUR SETS ON EACH OF THE THREE DAYS YOU ARE PLAYING?

So we are playing extended sets—it’s going to be a conversation with the crowd for sure. We have a rough idea of what we want to hear but it’s our first time playing in Bali so also ready to roll with the punches.

IF YOU CAN SWAP YOUR MUSIC CAREER FOR A SPORTS CAREER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Cricket commentator.

LAST BUT NOT LEAST, WHAT DO YOU MOST ANTICIPATE IN PERFORMING IN BALI?

Balearic beach weather. 

For those of you curious cats that wanted to listen more to the China Social Club mix tapes...You can click this link below and we promise you that you'll be satisfied!

https://www.nts.live/shows/shanghai/episodes/china-social-club-28th-october-2018
https://www.nts.live/shows/shanghai/episodes/china-social-club-live-from-shanghai-30th-september-2018


Thank you so much, Matt and Phil! See you at Karma!