Following on from our tête-à-tête with Dutch legend Aardvarck back in September, this edition of ‘A Conversation’ sees house and techno stalwart Jerome Sydenham share with our techno correspondent Kemo his reflections on underground electronic music in Bangkok, insights into other emerging markets, and thoughts on the role of music in politics. Enjoy!
Hey Jerome – it’s great to be able to catch up with you again. How’s life in Berlin?
Everything is copacetic here in Berlin, loving it.
You were here in Bangkok not so long ago – did you notice any changes since your last visit?
Yes, a lot of changes, especially to the nightlife. The street vibe was also a little tense; politics I guess.
Where did you perform this time round, and how was your experience? Did you have a chance to attend any gigs or explore other aspects of the Bangkok scene?
This time around my gig was at Ku De Ta. Good sound and a well-heeled crowd that seemed to be enjoying the sounds. I checked out Glow, which I liked a lot – the programming there seems to be on point.
How do you feel the city and the scene have developed since the first time you were here?
I get the impression that Bangkok is getting too expensive and entrepreneurs are all going for the same hi-end model, which in my opinion is a mistake. The characters that keep it stylish, cool and affordable will be the short and long-term winners for sure.
As a stalwart of the house and techno scene, you have witnessed the evolution of many underground music scenes around the world over the years. Which scenes in less-established markets are standing out to you right now, and why?
As I see it, Croatia has emerged as a major festival hub and an affordable beautiful party vacation spot. Also with the success of South Africa’s House music scene, we feel the ripples across Central and Western Africa. As for Asia, I don’t really see much progress as the powers that be are still relying on an obvious top 40 market and are afraid of risk. You even find this mentality in Australia to a large extent. Russia is still trying to make waves but no consistency. I could go on and on…
What, in your opinion, are the conditions necessary for great music scenes to develop? Do you see these conditions present in Bangkok? What do you think we could we do to future nurture the growth of a quality underground electronic music scene here in Bangkok?
Obviously the infrastructure in Bangkok is there, the challenge is actually developing a successful domestic scene. For instance, venues where the musical direction is consistent within a type of genre, say House or Techno, combined with exceptional programming you have a model for success and you also develop a specific scene (which is very important). It is difficult to develop a scene where the venues generally jump from different genres of music, say Hip-Hop today and Trance tomorrow. This is not conducive to the development of a great music scene.
For example, so if I want to go hear some Hip-Hop I should be able to go to a Hip-Hop club and know there is always Hip-Hop there. Let’s not forget there always will be the multi-genre club hence the urgent need for this evolution. There is also the problem of there being insufficient artistic expression coming out of the region and entering the global stage. This is critical and something I certainly look forward to seeing.
Have you ever heard material from any Thai electronic music producers? What would you be interested to see more of from the Thai scene? What do budding producers need to be able to offer in order to release on your label?
There are a couple of Thai veterans out there doing their own thing. Although nothing comes across my desk I certainly look forward to this day. It’s not so difficult to discern a label or an individual’s general taste; it just takes a bit of research (especially these days).
You work with producers from all over the world. Do you find that their different cultural backgrounds influence their creative process in production?
In some cases more than others as some tunes travel and others don’t. But I think the core influences are closer than we may think.
You came to Thailand during a period of civil unrest. How did it feel for you to perform here at this time?
I am somewhat familiar with political unrest so it doesn’t faze me in the least.
We often talk about and analyze worldwide political events. What role do you think house and techno music can have in challenging political and economic environments?
House and Techno, for the most part, are apolitical forms of music so at least they can offer a repeatable temporary reprieve from the diabolical nature of global politics.
Check out latest releases from Jerome’s label Ibadan below: