With so much uncertainty in the air due to the global pandemic, people have been relying heavily on music to ease their stress levels. And in response to social distancing restrictions, musicians and creatives have also been finding new means to connect with each other and their fans over the air waves.
We recently caught up with DJ Arthur Bray, #legend 100 influencer and co-founder of music collective YETI OUT, who reminisced about his early days in the UK before coming back to Asia to solidify his music presence. He also spilled about one of his most ambitious projects to date – a part radio-recording, part studio space called FM Belowground that he plans to fully introduce to the public by 2021.
Is there a healthy underground club culture in Hong Kong?
There’s a growing underground club culture in Hong Kong, for sure. Many exciting artists and labels are doing refreshing content, like Minh Club, HKCR, Oma and Eaton along with more DIY spaces/parties, including 18F and warehouse parties in Fo Tan.
Do you recall your early days as a DJ/club goer? Was there a particular party that you occasionally relive in your mind?
That’s a good question. When I used to live in the UK, I’ll always remember going to venues like The Volks or Concord 2 where you’d just dance to a wall of speakers and sound systems, circa 2006, when dubstep was thriving in the UK. It was five pounds for entry and three pound Red Stripes, and a guaranteed good time under a tenner.
Sex with Robots was a night our friend Simon did in Manchester, which we’d go to when we took the one pound bus up north to check out The Warehouse Project. Then there’s Sankeys, Plastic People back in London, Fabric, The Gramophone for Benji B’s Deviation club nights – the list goes on and on.
Besides crafting DJ sets, what other elements do you value in creating an interactive nightlife experience?
Even if we’re dancing in a dark room, there are still many correlating factors to a good party. Good service at the bar, the door person’s on it, and no dicky bouncers. The sound system needs to be spot-on. If there are visuals, then that could also make things memorable. Merch is a factor as well.
What foods do you crave when hungover?
Haha, hmm… I furiously eat cereal until my body heals itself.
What are your thoughts about virtual fests and DJ battles?
People still need to consume music and connect even with social distancing and travel bans, so in the meantime, this will be a replacement. But it’ll never be equivalent to a live music experience.
Do you think that live streaming will take over physical parties and events post-Covid?
I don’t think physical parties can ever be replaced. Although with the vast amount of streaming available, a more curated way of processing all the musical and audio content is needed. There’s so much choice, but that’s not to say that quality can be compromised.
What can we expect from your music collective, Yeti, in the coming year?
We’ve just launched our own radio station, recording studio and sound room in the heart of Hong Kong called FM BELOWGROUND. For the rest of the year, we’re working on backend programming for a full launch in January 2021. We’re excited to create some cool shows for the coming future and make some ripples in these airwaves.
Tell us more about your radio show, FM Belowground. How did you get into radio presenting/hosting?
We first got into radio when we had a residency at Radar Radio in London, then that ended, and we moved over to NTS London and Rinse FM. Being based between Hong Kong, London and Shanghai, we bridged East and West by playing Asian-only artists on London airwaves.
When we started touring around 2016, the Internet radio station thing really took off in the respective cities, so we paired local gigs with radio broadcast shows in each city. From Berlin Community Radio, Lot Radio New York to Tokyo’s Block FM, we’ve tapped into local scenes, and it’s been a fantastic journey connecting with local DJs and creatives who live for good music. With that said, it’s our turn to host and curate now, and we can’t wait to connect with local communities and music lovers – so do come and say hi!