［PYRO SHOWcase］Shenzhen Underground Music Leader – Mantis Project
PYRO will begin featuring one venue or event organizer located in China to share with our followers. There are thousands of clubs throughout China with a steady growth of events and festivals inside and outside venues and the typical environment. This new feature will bring to light all their unique approaches to the nightlife scene.
Q：Hi Mantis! Its great to have you as our first feature, can you tell us a little about your background and where you’re from for those that may not know you?
A：Hey. I am Mantis, 41, born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, and I have been a clubber for pretty much all my life. Im not really sure exactly when I got into djing, but it is a very long time ago. Im the music Director of Bang Club in Shenzhen and the founder and team leader (for lack of better word) of The Mantis Project.
Q：How long have you been in China and what are your thoughts on the scene here?
A：I have been in China for close to a decade now. I lived in Wuhan for about 5 years, and have been living in Shenzhen for slightly over 4 years. I have played around the country in various different cities, but I can only comment in the parts that I am familiar with. Obviously the scene in China is not as sophisticated as in some other parts of the world, but I do think there is a lot of potential here. Certainly, in the time I have been here, I have seen a lot of growth and changes.
Q：When did you first get into electronic music and what motivated you to take the next step with organising events?
A：Before I came to China, I never went to any club that would play commercial music or top 40. I was very much into the Electro Industrial, Techno and Dark Psy scene back home. When I got here, there were no clubs that played the music I was familiar with and I soon realized that if I wanted to DJ here, I had to play commercial music. I came with my best friend, and DJ Partner at the time, Mechnophile, and we just wanted to create events where we could play the music we like. It turned out to be much more difficult than we thought.
Q：What were some of the obstacles you had to overcome when you first got into throwing parties?
A：It’s probably the same obstacles we still face today. Lack of money; Lack of Venues; Venue owners whose expectations exceed reality; Club bosses who aren’t as open minded and forward thinking as one would expect; and definitely the fact that it is very hard to get proper permission and documentation to do Legal parties outside of already established clubs or venues. I’d say another major issue we face, especially in Shenzhen, is the lack of support from people in general. Underground music really struggle here, and it’s much harder to compete with the more mainstream events or clubs.
Q：Can you share a funny memory of an event that didn’t turn out as you expected?
A：I can’t really think of anything funny, but one night actually stands out for me. It was the night Richie Hawtin played in Shenzhen. He was booked to play at the club that’s directly above us. That night was a particularly slow night for us. By around 2am the club was almost completely empty. It really wasn’t that great. I was the only dj there that night and it was super boring. I was about to just call it a night, put in a mixtape and go home. Then suddenly a whole group of people came in at once, and then more came and then more and more and eventually our club was completely full off cool people who were very much into the music. Turned out after the Hawtin gig, the club went back to playing EDM and those techno fans found a new venue to party. We partied till way past sunrise. I was the only dj there that night.
Q：Is there any kind of vibe or ambiance you try to create at your parties?
A：Not really. Im more focused on the music. The music would dictate the vibe and overall feel. I think that is all up to the djs. I like to give the djs the freedom to express themselves in that way. Having said that, I do only book djs that I feel fit in with my general idea of what I am trying to do.
Q：Can you list some tactics and methods that you use to achieve your goals with these events?
A：I have no specific tactics or methods. I just provide the platform and then book the djs. They do the rest, really. I think people often over look the role of the dj in events.
Q：How would you define a successful club event in your eyes?
A：Im a dj first and foremost, and I look at every event from a DJ’s perspective. If the djs had fun and felt like the night was a success, then I think that’s enough for me. Basically, that means that people were dancing, and enjoying themselves. Im really easy to please.
Q：Whats next for The Mantis Project? Any big goals that you’re shooting for by the end of this year or so?
A：About two years ago or so, we took over events at an unknown small lounge bar called Bang Club. Within a few months after starting events there, I had the owner reinvesting in the bar and completely redecorate it to suit our needs. I have complete control over the music at Bang, and have been using this as our base for The Mantis Project. Bang is located right in the middle of the main “bar street” of Shenzhen, called Cocopark. Cocopark is a very commercial area, and previously, all the clubs only played Commercial club style music, edm and hip hop.
We (the mantis project) pushed only “underground” music – Tech house, Techno, Drum ‘n’ Bass and occasionally Psytrance. We did it in such a way that I am proud to say that we completely changed the music scene in Cocopark (and Shenzhen in general). More clubs are now experimenting with Techno and Tech house and even Psytrance. One of the more well known and big budget clubs is also now regularly booking techno djs and also plays psytrance on occasion. This would never have happened before we started there.
My future plans are very simple. I would like to continue to influence the music scene and to help expose more people to Alternative Dance music and culture. I have a great team behind me and I have had more than 100 awesome and very talented djs who have all played for me over the past 2 years. I also try to find new up and coming djs and try to help give exposure to more djs.
I am hoping yo continue to work with all these great djs and to just keep pushing and moving boundaries.
Q：Thank you for your time! Feel free to give a shout out with your next upcoming event!
A：Yes, thanks very much. We have events every weekend, so it’s hard to single out just one. For the rest of October and November I have a few awesome guest djs lined up which include (but not limited to), Ellbe Chan (Hong Kong), Blood Dunza (HK) and Far East Lion (China and Japan), BB Deng (Beijing), Jeremy Cheung (Hong Kong) Alan Pak (Hong Kong) and Gordon (Macau), along with Bang Resident DJs Daniel Power and Leevo. You can check our Bang Club Pyro account for more info.