‘Before I just wanted a dark room. Just a dark, loud room.’ I’m sitting with Gaz Williams early on a Sunday evening sipping a highball at his new club ALL just beneath Perry’s on Xiangyang Bei Lu. The former Shelter manager is tired; ALL opened the week before, its first major international act DJ Stingray performed last night, tonight’s the launch of Faded Ghost’s debut album Mood
Mad which Williams’ label SVBKVLT has released, and he just finished curating Chinese music platform Douban’s first experimental electronic festival Wetware in Beijing a few weeks ago. It’s been a busy couple of months since Williams’ first venture The Shelter shuttered late last year.
Opened nearly a decade ago and bringing something markedly different to the Shanghai’s nightlife scene, The Shelter was such a landmark institution and its closure
so sudden that for any new ventures from Williams, comparisons are inevitable. But he’s quick to discourage these comparisons, explaining why ALL isn’t ‘the new
Shelter’. For one, it’s
most definitely not
in a shelter. It’s also
a slightly different constellation of
people behind ALL.
The music programme
is more focused;
instead of midweek
club nights, there’ll be workshops, screenings
and lectures. It might even be a place you’d come just for a drink.
‘Shelter was never a place where you could go for a nice drink cause it was quite a
harsh environment. It was a club. That’s all it was for,’ says Williams. ALL is certainly different. You don’t get the sense that they’ll be having World’s
50 Best bartenders anytime
soon, but the space is sleek (designed by
digital artist Kim Laughton) with
wall installations made of material from the inside
of cooling towers and the bar staff are
pouring Aperol spritzes that arrive in tall wine
glasses. The bar and lounge area is separated completely
from the dance floor, and the bathrooms don’t feel like they were designed by teenager. It’s a more mature space. ‘I was 25 when I opened The Shelter. I didn’t have a fucking clue what I was doing. I just blagged it. So there were a lot of mistakes and shit. Mostly about comfort... I’ve just grown up a bit. I see the importance in nicer bathrooms and lighting,’ says Williams.
I ask what this ‘more focused’ music policy is going to look like. Williams laughs, ‘I don’t even know what genres are even called anymore. A lot of the music is very contemporary and kind of 'alternative' electronic music, alternative dance music. We will have some kind of
more classic stuff , older stuff occasionally. Like the guy we had last night who’s been doing it for 25 years. But a lot of it is quite new, weird stuff ... I don’t really know what to call it.’
People start filtering in for the Faded Ghost album release. It’s
a crowd you might have once seen at The Shelter (and still would were it open) but ten years down the line. Visuals flick up onto the screen and a haunting, hazy show that’s closer to performance art than a club night begins.
ALL isn’t The Shelter, nor is
it aiming to be. But in the same way that The Shelter added something to the city’s nightlife scene a decade ago, the more mature, and arguably more evolved, ALL is looking to bridge the gap for a certain music, crowd and feel, Williams says. ‘It’s still filling a void, but the void is different.’
Check out the venue details below.