Archive | 2009

Outward Bound

My old friend Dave has recently landed in Medellin after over a year of traveling around the world and has finally found a city he can see himself spending time in. I’m glad for him but to me it seemed inevitable from the beginning that it was bound to happen somewhere. Quit your job and travel to enough countries and you’re bound to find a beautiful place that meets or exceeds the conditions of your home – and I’m excited that it’s Colombia because I’m sure it’s stunning and fascinating place. A long time ago Sascha and I were traveling in Sichuan and spent hours talking about Colombia specifically. Discussing the details of how we’d relocate there – Sascha would find a job writing for a newspaper and I would integrate into the nightlife scene. Years have passed since that day which we spent daydreaming about Colombia but the thought has never left my head.

I got an e-mail from Dave a few hours ago:

Hey Charlie,

I think I finally know what it might’ve been like for you to arrive in Chengdu and know you want to live there.¬† I’ve been in Medellin 2 weeks, and have just decided to stay another 1-2 weeks to find out about the prospects of working (teaching english) and living here.¬† The music, the people, the dancing, the women (are beautiful), the cost of living (low), the geography, the weather, the party culture, my attempt to learn and speak Spanish.¬† It’s all been great so far.

How/why did you decide to stay in China?  Any advice for me?

Dave

to which I replied:

I came to Asia off of a personal low point, having felt like I wasted 4 years toiling in corporate America. So by comparison China was a world of new experiences which I felt were more valuable than trying to climb the career ladder. It’s hard to put into words but I think you know what I mean. I’d rather be teaching english and traveling around, always learning and absorbing new culture, rather than living in the states and working a 9-5 office job. And it’s easy to live abroad as an American, teaching english is always an option no matter where you are, and there are always other opportunities which will emerge after you spend some time in one place. Living abroad isn’t for everyone, but I’m certain that it’s for me and I have a good feeling that it’s for you as well. Spend some time there, see how you like it. Don’t listen to people who tell you that you “can’t” just pick up and move somewhere, those people project their insecurities onto you. You only live once and life is too short to waste. Stay long enough and I’ll definitely come and visit, I’m fascinated by that region and I haven’t even been there. Glad to hear you’ve found a place you really like, it was bound to happen-

charlie

Congratulations to Dave for following through with his plan to quit his job, sell his car, and make a trip around the world which so many dream of but so few commit themselves to. Of all the people I know I didn’t expect Dave to be the one to complete such an incredible trip which requires more courage and determination than most people can muster, but now we share much more in common than history. I look forward to reading Dave’s blog and seeing where he ends up. Check it out at gobackpacking.com/blog

Published on February 8, 2009

Laying Low in Dali

A few days ago I arrived in Dali, which is a major backpacker hub in South China. It’s a semi-tropical place, about 14 degrees celsius during the daytime, and it’s host to a large number of domestic and international tourists. I first heard about Dali years and years ago but have put off making a trip here for a long time. Most of my apprehension was because I thought it would just be a city of tourists and fake hippies. And actually, there are a lot of those. So I’m laying low, spending time with a few friends I haven’t seen in a while.

Also the most happening bar in Dali happens to be run by an old friend who I haven’t seen in a long time. It was almost 4 years ago, when he was living in Chengdu, that he told me about the Bad Monkey. It’s been open for 5 years and seems to be constantly filled with people.

Today I had an incredible steak breakfast made by a Burmese guy named Mo. Plus this drink which is fresh orange juice and yogurt, can’t recall the name of that one.

In a few days I’ll be on my way to Vietnam. Check my twitter, I’m updating that a lot now.

Published on February 7, 2009

Bizarre Dream

Immediately after waking up I cracked my laptop and wrote this with my eyes closed.

last night I dreamt that I ran into Tittsworth after one of my own shows in China. The day after my show I was the club area and I ran into some dancers who I knew were there for a big show. And then I go outside and I see a massive tour bus and its got Tittsworth written on it. Oh, and for some reason Nemo was around with me – not when I approached the tour bus but anyway I approached the bus alone to try to find him and say whats up and two bouncers who were much shorter than me came out and started getting all in my face. I was trying to be reasonable, saying that I knew him and just wanted to say what’s up but they were really hostile to me. I asked when would be a good time to say what’s up and they said they didn’t know. So I hung around a bit and observed all these other people buzz around the area making arrangements for the show that night. At one point two massive record boxes come out and people start organizing hundreds of dubplates into a particular order. It was all so much hassle and I think during the actual dream while waiting for an opportunity to say hey I was like fuck this and made myself wake up.

I haven’t seen Tittsworth in years – I talked to him over the internet a few months ago and said that the next time he goes out to HK I’d really do my best to make it out there. I had no idea when that’d be, but I was hoping that I’d know beforehand so I could get myself out there. I noticed on twitter yesterday that he just showed up in HK after leaving Taiwan. So, I guess this dream is a response to my disappointment that I can’t follow through with my plan to journey to HK and check him out. Right now I’m in Dali on my way to Vietnam.

Published on February 7, 2009

2009

2009

Published on January 26, 2009

Twitter

Last May immediately after the Sichuan earthquake I signed onto twitter.com as it became the quickest way to get news updates. I basically haven’t used it at all since then but a few days ago I found a Blackberry twitter application which allows me to update in seconds. So the last few days I’ve been trying it out, posting every day or so. If you’re on twitter, add me! www.twitter.com/justcharlie

Published on January 23, 2009

Interview for HipHop.cn

The other day I did an interview for the magazine and website hiphop.cn, the english translation is below with the chinese link here:

Q: How long have you been in China and why did you come? Did you come with DJ’ing in mind?

A: I came to China in 2005 and I’ve been here for four years now. I didn’t come to China to pursue DJ’ing, I came as a traveler interested in learning culture and language. Basically just to see another part of the world.

Q: Where are you from? How does the nightlife atmosphere there compare with China?

A: I’m from Washington DC, which along with Baltimore, created one of the first club culture scenes on the east coast. There’s an assortment of venues catering to a host of sounds – hip hop, drum & bass, house/techno, downtempo, reggae, etc. Unless you’re looking for something really obscure you can probably find it there, which immediately sets it apart from China where the range is limited to more traditional electronic music.

Q: Let’s talk about your DJ career . You are a hip-hop DJ, When did you start to DJ in the U.S? How long have you been DJing? How was your DJ life in U.S?

A: I started to DJ in 1998 when I was 17 years old, so about ten years now. The first 3 years of DJ’ing I was practicing in my bedroom, and after that I started doing gigs in Washington DC and Baltimore. The whole time I had a day job, doing IT and design in an office, and would DJ on weekends. I didn’t have many gigs and most of the ones I did have weren’t paid gigs. I actually didn’t want to have money get involved because I feared that it would corrupt something I enjoyed. In retrospect, it was definitely the right thing to do for me. When you’re learning to DJ and having someone else tell you what to play, it sucks the creative spirit right out of you because you’re under pressure to conform to someone elses idea of what you should be playing.

Q: As a hip-hop DJ, you must scratch a lot I guess. Have you ever competed in any events in passed years?

A: I started getting interested in scratching around 2002 and practiced for a few years in my bedroom and with friends. I competed in a few DJ battles and won one.

Q: I noticed your music style is very different than other foreign DJs here, because you draw on a lot of unconventional music sources, especially 80’s music and rock.

A: I like all music so I don’t limit myself to one type of style. Every era has good music which I value, including the 80’s. The 80’s in particular is a good period to explore as a DJ since most people have exposure to popular songs of that time although they don’t hear them often. So, for example, you play an old song that no one has heard in years and people get excited and enjoy that because they’re being reintroduced to it in a new context.

Q: So which hip-hop artists have influenced you the most?

A: That’s a long list – the first group that really opened my eyes to the possibilities of the format was The Fugees, when “The Score” came out in 1996 (although I was first introduced to hip hop when Cypress Hill’s “Black Sunday” came out in 1993). Some other well known artists that have had a strong influence on me are KRS-One, Masta Ace, Pete Rock, Slick Rick. I remember listening to Coolio through a boombox on the school bus when I was 13. Once I started getting into turntablism I had a rush of new influences – the biggest of which might have been The Trooperz (www.trooperz.com), the premiere hip hop DJ crew in Washington DC. Now they’re pretty well known, but listening to mix cd’s by DJ Geometrix and seeing them (DJ I-Dee, DJ Enferno, DJ Quixotic) play live and perform in battles had a big influence on me. To this day I continue to make mix cd’s in what I consider to be similar to the Trooperz style.

Q: I notice that you’ve released a lot of mix cds, are they all hip hop? Where do you get your inspiration when you’re working on music?

A: No, I don’t deal exclusively in hip hop. My last two mix cd’s were deep house and downtempo. In my everyday life I listen all kinds of music – hip hop, jazz, lounge, rock. Generally what I do for mix cd’s is pick a theme and go from there. Inspiration comes from everywhere. I might hear a song or even just a riff that will inspire me to write a remix, mash up, or a mix cd.

Q: Is it difficult to connect with Chinese hip hop fans? Do you mind if people don’t like your music because they don’t understand it?

A: Not everyone will like anything, but I think most people can find something they like among all the different genres and styles I’ve embraced over the years. If not, that’s okay. The music is available to download for free for anyone who chooses to.

Q: Since hip hop as a foreign culture has come to China, more and more young Chinese people like it and continue follow it. What do you think of the state of Chinese hip hop?

A: It’s developing, although very slowly. What happens a lot is misinterpretation of what the artform is. You have a lot of kids wearing fake jewelry and sideways hats but few really embrace the spirit of what hip hop is about. Although the symptoms of this can be found everywhere, including America. The hip hop movement, which used to stand for something, has been heavily diluted by commercial interests. China is still trying to find it’s own style, I think.

Q: What do you think about local DJs in China? Do you communicate and cooperate with them often?

A: I meet new DJ’s every week in China although I don’t usually get to know them too well. Most of the DJ’s I meet are the kind who are paid to play music given to them every night. So while that of course qualifies as a DJ, it’s not a DJ in the sense that I’ve come to know it. Around all of China there really aren’t many DJ’s who are totally doing their own thing because there isn’t much of a community to support them. What motivates a lot of people to become DJs in China is getting a job in a club and making money, whereas very few people in the US will begin with this goal and have it lead to success.

Q: Do you have any other hobbies?

A: My other hobbies are computers and technology, design and illustration, photography, learning Chinese, video games, and chess, to name a few.

Q: Is there anything you want to say to Chinese hip hop DJs?

A: Play what you love and love what you play, and don’t compromise, especially at the beginning. Start a scene and contribute to the community. Don’t start working in clubs immediately, take time to practice and find your own style. Don’t rush or you’ll get burned out.

Thank you!

Published on January 6, 2009