It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon and we’ve been summoned to a 30th floor rooftop not so far from the now eerily quiet Yongkang Lu. After taking a lift to the uppermost floor, ascending a couple of gloomy staircases and an ominous-looking ladder, it’s quite a view – the kind of view that could inspire some big ideas. ‘One of our friends brought us here – he’s responsible for exploring rooftops in Shanghai,’ DJ Kilo Vee tells us. ‘We like to come to the rooftop to discuss things, to explore our horizons.’
Vee, alongside MC Charity, VJ Tavi aka 16666, and producer/DJs Tess and Khemist, has formed Genome6.66MBP, a collective which after just a few short months in existence is already causing a stir in Shanghai nightlife circles. ‘We want to bring forward thinking, global producers just like SVBKVLT, but we want to do better,’ laughs Vee. ‘We are all deeply inspired by SVBKVLT and The Shelter.’
It’s little surprise that it was The Shelter where the crew first crossed paths – Tavi and Tess met there during a Kode 9 set, and KV and Charity have been going to the club together for four or five years. It was then the place where the two pairs of friends came together. ‘[Tavi] met me at the RP Boo party, she wore a Teklife T-shirt,’ Vee says, ‘and I was like, “whoa, what the fuck? Who wears another Teklife T-shirt in Shanghai?” So I hollered at her and found out we had something similar that we wanted to do.’
They aren’t shy about voicing their ambitions, or about standing out. Kilo Vee exudes swagger, Tavi’s style is reminiscent of the Gorillaz character Noodle, and Charity dons a garish ’80s skiing outfit for the entirety of our interview. But it was the most reserved of the group, Tess, or rather her producer alterego Hyph11E, whose work would inspire the group into life.
‘[Tess] made a song that made all of us very excited,’ says Vee. ‘When I heard the track ‘Yezi’ [‘The Leaves’] for the first time I was on the subway, and I missed a stop. It was something incredible, a local producer who can make a track like that.'
‘Yezi’ is the opening and standout track on the forthcoming Genome compilation and has already been picked up by a number of Shanghai DJs for their sets around town. Starting with feet crunching on dry leaves before the walk is torn apart by a devastating smash of metal and glass, the track is autobiographical according to Tess. ‘One night, a friend brought us to a park and it was the first time I’d been to a park at night,’ she says. ‘I saw different things from in the day, so took many photos with my phone. After I went home and looked at the photos the following day, I felt like recording my feelings from that night. After that, I put my thoughts and emotions into my songs – it wasn’t intended as a jungle sort of voice, but I just added voices from my personal life into the song. I believe that writing a song is just like recording an experience, then retelling it and writing a diary.’
Charity offers another interpretation: ‘I feel that this track is about living in the city, urban life. Some of the things are nature, some things are not. And you can feel some of the sounds are technology.’
The compilation is a collection of experimental electronic music – much of it with the abstract, industrial and forward-looking sound that you might expect of a SVBKVLT record – from underground producers spanning Japan, Russia, Belgium and China, most of whom the crew have never met. Instead, Tavi spent hours trawling through Soundcloud to uncover the material that makes up the release.
While they may have looked abroad for contributions to their debut compilation, in an alternative Shanghai nightlife scene that is largely dominated by foreigners Genome are hopeful that they can help increase Chinese representation. ‘All the parties are organised by foreigners, and I think there is a barrier,’ Vee says. ‘If we are local DJs, local promoters, we can do more for the local scene.’
The crew also bemoan the fact that clubbing and going to gigs in China all too often results in banal experiences. ‘Japanese people already had a long history of copying things, so now they’ve already got their own style,’ Charity says. ‘And Korean people, now they are really good at copying things, so maybe they’re gonna get their own style. But Chinese people are still trying to copy things, you know, so that’s the difference and sometimes it’s sad.’
Vee and co may talk a good game, but Genome6.66MBP only really got off the ground in May and didn’t hold their official label launch party until late last month. Understandably, they’re wary of overexposure while the group is in its nascent stages. ‘We need to have the quality first, we don’t want to go too fast,’ Vee says. ‘For the crew, [the initial buzz] is a good thing, but personally, for Tess and for me, we are not people that want to put out too much. Sometimes I think we’re getting too much attention at this moment.’
Still, if Genome can inspire just a handful of their peers to think more about the music they are making and listening to, that’s something to be celebrated – and more immediately, supported. But what’s with that name? ‘We’re a crew, a collective, maybe a label, forward-thinking. We want to share with the local boys and girls through clothing, music, party, website,’ says Vee. ‘So we will put everything together and it will be like a genome,’ Charity chips in. And the 6.66MBP? ‘I don’t even know what it means,’ admits Vee. ‘MacBook Pro?’ If it sounds a little like the group are making it up as they go along, that’s because they probably are – and that’s no bad thing.