Monday, 29 July 2013

BOK BOK [Night Slugs/Rinse FM] interview

When I was researching my "Welcome To The Ballroom" aricle last year, when it was still a freelance piece getting shopped around, one of the first people I reached out to was the UK DJ, and head of the ace label Night Slugs, BOK BOK, aka Alex Sushon. Because of Alex's initial comments about cultural misappropriation, I decided to redraft the whole piece, and to do it as a very straight-faced look at ballroom culture, giving this unique scene the serious recognition it deserves. 

So, even though I didn't end up using his comments in the end, they were hugely influential on the finished article. 

I caught up with Bok Bok last week to ask him some more questions about his label, their recent US tour, and the expansion of the ballroom sound:

How was the recent Night Slugs tour of the States?

Great, thank you. The Night Slugs and Fade To Mind crews played a lot including a lot of back-to-back lineups mixing up the two crews. The synergy was felt by all.

Ballroom seems like a big part of the NS sound now, how did the US crowds react to that?

The sound makes the most sense over in the US, so yeah people tended to react pretty well. Certain tracks from the ballroom scene just tend to work really well in clubs in general, so people usually react pretty well to them, and theres a lot of influence from ballroom in our stuff too, so it all crosses over. And MikeQ was with us DJing on this tour, so bounaries have become more blurred. 
Did you see ballroom culture being approariated by more mainstream clubs while you were there?

I wasn't playing in massive clubs, so I'm not sure really. People dance and have fun at the nights I play, I have seen people voguing at the nights before in New York, for example, but whether that's appropriated or perpetuated culture is unclear and not that important when they're in a club dancing.

What is the attraction to the ballroom sound for you?

For me the sound really nails everything I love in club music - it's minimalist and devastating, it's an extremity of house so of course I'm gonna love it. 
Beyond ballroom, what is floating your boat right now? 

I've been locked away in my internet-less vault of a studio so I'm not sure what's going on in the outside world lately. Not to seem self-aborbed, but one thing that's doing it for me is our sub-label Club Constructions. There was a set of guidelines that was set out when we started it, and now the sound has really come into its own. It's amazing to watch the series develop. There's a definitely a Jersey Club and ballroom influence running through the series lately, especially with the forthcoming Jam City one. 
Who are your current favourite producers? 

Current top producers off the top of my head: Deamonds, Helix, Jam City, Neana, Rushmore, Divoli S'Vere, Beek, Tom Trago, Hysterics. Fiedel is killin it. 

What's up next for Bok Bok, and also for Night Sugs? 
Stuff coming on Night Slugs; a new Egyptrixx LP, a new Jam City release (an EP called "Jazz"), a new Girl Unit release, and loads more Club Constructions stuff etc etc 
Stuff coming from Bok Bok: a new EP on Night Slugs. hopefully before the end of the year is out!
A series of 12"s culminating in 'Night Voyage Tool Kit 2' with Tom Trago, and a subsequent compilation of stuff on Night Voyage. And watch out for my productions on the forthcoming Kelela mixtape on Fade To Mind also : )


Here's some of the initial Bok Bok interview mentioned above that went on to shape the direction of the finished "Welcome To The Ballroom" piece": 
 What is "ballroom"? How do you define it?

To me, ballroom is a style of music influenced heavily by House and Club (Bmore, Jersey, Philly), made primarily to be a soundtrack to  voguing events. There are also House tracks that aren't ballroom per se but are a staple of these events. People like Robbie Tronco were doing the a prototype of that sound years ago, but in my eyes its Vjuan Allure who pioneered the current hard, stripped back sound that replies on sampling "The Ha Dance".
It's not enough to simply sample "The Ha Dance" though. There are a ton of tracks that do that that aren't anything to do with ballroom. The truth is, a ballroom track will simply have the right feel, whether it can be performed to or not is in its vibe and how its put together.  It's a little bit intangible, I'm also not fully qualified to make the call being a DJ not a dancer! But a lot of the stuff being made currently that's influended by the ballroom scene I can confidently say wouldn't work in that context. 
How did you discover this scene/music? 

I discovered the scene through Kingdom years and years ago, when he showed me Mike Q's music, and I remember thinking it sounded a bit like the harder more stripped down UK funky that was happening at the time, and also like Club, and also even occasionally like grime! It was tracky, stripped down, raw. I was addicted straight away. 

What are your top 3 ballroom tracks?

My top 3? It's really really difficult because the tracks are really great in their multiplicity. 
Current off the top of my head top 3:
Vjuan Allure - Silo Pass remix
Mike Q & Kevin JZ Prodigy - I Feel Like
Mike Q & DJ Sliink - The Bitch

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