It seems like one of those months where the cold has set in, outdoor parties are few and far between. For those soldiering on the Chinese Laundry has been turning out some good music on Friday and Saturday Nights thanks to DJ’s such as Nick Toth and Ajax, but the overall sleaziness of many of the punters can put something of a dampner on the evening.
The tragic death at Sublime nightclub happened only a couple of days ago, and naturally registered pretty prominantly in mainstream media (who of course provided very little in the way of actual information) . The implications are yet to be seen in terms of the survival of this venue – previously with a reputation as one of the cleanest, safest and most professional nightclubs in Sydney, having recently invested in massive overhalls to improve the sound quality and installed cutting-edge studios.
All this aside, thankfully the immensely entertaining, and possibly more cerebral than most FRIGID on Sunday evenings, hosted by Sub Bass Snarl contines to power on, reaching its 3rd birthday on August 1 this year. One of the few events good enough to overcome Sunday night lethargy, Frigid has managed to consistently supply cutting edge and experimental acts and cinema.
Ladies and gentlemen. I introduce Yellow Peril.
Yellow Peril. First of all, congratulations on reaching Frigid’s 3rd birthday! Has it been a tough road?
Not really. We’ve been lucky in that every time things have gotten tough – the closing of Kinselas which forced our first move (December 1996), and then our decision to resign from the Dendy as a result of their change in management (December 1998) – people have come through for us. Frigid has always been structured financially so that it always meets its costs and that goes for everything we organise – Cryogenesis, Cyclic Defrost, the Dung parties with Club Kooky. Neither of the three of us core people (Sub Bass Snarl (2) & Sir Robbo (1)), have money to lose so we set things up on a profit-sharing basis, work to minimise costs, and steer ourselves away from situations where we need to rely on corporate sponsorship or other potentially compromising monetary affiliations. To date, nothing we have ever run (event or CD release) since 1994 has lost money – of course, the amount of profit has never been great and is always channelled back into other projects. Everyone is paid a flat fee, everyone is treated the same, and all profit returns to the punters through the free monthly magazine Cyclic Defrost, special events, internationals, and the rest.
Frigid is characterised to an extent by its openness to the convergence of different genres – both in musical styles and media – Jazz Poets, Electronica remixes of B&W classic Nosferatu, sounds from Detroit Bass to homegrown sampologists to live bands…is this format a conscious ideology, or is it something which has grown over time…
Frigid was established in 1996 as a conscious effort to use the idea of a ‘chill space’ – something we were heavily involved with from 1993-1995 with Punos in the underground rave scene – as a way of exposing people to different sounds and to bring people together. The same ethos underpins the Freaky Loops series of benefit parties for 2SER we have organised (1997-1999). At Kinselas we had hip hop crews and DJs – Leeroy Brown, Metabass – alongside lounge DJs – Moodarama, jungle/drum’n’bass acts – Raised By Wolves, and all sorts of stuff. At the Dendy we started to incorporate the film element with short film nights and regular weekly feature films from La Haine to Planet of The Apes, Foxy Brown and Fong Sai Yuk. Now that we have moved to The Globe (Newtown) we have the extra space and PA to expand more on the live act front whilst retaining the cinema elements. Now that the chill out rooms of early 90s raves are something from the distant past, we are, alongside Club Kooky, the only club that has an explicit policy of diversity.
Neither of us (Sub Bass Snarl and Sir Robbo) have time for people who want to erect barriers between sounds or groups of people. And in the last six months our own sets at Frigid have moved to introduce a greater range of sounds stretching back to music from the 1950s. For us, stylistic divisions in music only serve the needs of marketers and record shops who need to be able to ‘categorise’ what is, at its most basic level, noise. In a way, we are trying to create an anti-subculture where style is fluid, and sound is appreciated not for what it represents in terms of hierarchies of taste, but for what it sounds like and how it makes you feel. Also, because we don’t purposely set aside an area as a ‘dancefloor’ we can also allow performers to experiment with moods and play tracks they usually would not. We don’t need to play ‘happy music’ to make people drink more alcohol, fast music to make people dance, instead Frigid is concerned with building bridges between sounds, identifying commonalities between jungle and dub, techno and musique concrete, hip hop and electro, and the sound of machines with jazz.
By the way, what’s your own background, and where does it tie in with the Snarl collective?
Sub Bass Snarl is myself Yellow Peril – a New Zealand/Aoteroa-born half-Pakeha (white NZ) and half Chinese; and Lex Luthor a British born dreadlocked lad. We hooked up at uni in 1991 and played hundreds of raves and were heavily involved with and influenced by the free party politics of the Vibe Tribe, and the artistic design freedoms of Punos.
Despite the current widespread misuse of the concept “underground” – there seems an anti-greed anti-corparate stance to your events and publications (I noticed with interest your editorial for CD#11 on Urban Expressions Finale) which is truly aimed at a self organising grass roots approach to subculture. To what extent would you say the dance/electronica scene in Sydney is compromised through corporate sponsorship (or its absence)?
The dance scene, and most other scenes around now, are made of people who were growing up in the late 1980s. At that time the Government was privatising everything, and encouraging entreprenuerialism. Rave owes everything to the idea of the entrepreneur – how many rave promoters do you know who paid tax? But at the same time rave was about community. SO you have the two tendencies creating a creative friction. When the venues for raves and related events disappeared as a result of police crackdowns in 1994/5, things shifted to the clubs. Clubs brought alcohol back into the scene and the music shifted accordingly – club venues and the way in which crowds interact with club spaces bring certain musical constraints.
I can understand why people engage corporate sponsors as a kind of venture capital for their events – particularly in terms of touring internationals – but I don’t think people consider other methods such as collective capital enough. Collective capital means that a large group of people put in money – if, say we wanted to tour a band that cost $5000, we might approach ten people who also really wanted to see that act come to Sydney, and get them to put in $500 each. Then if the party only makes $4000 the $1000 loss is spread over ten people. At $100 each, the experience of spending time with a band you have wanted to see for a long time etc, is often a fair trade off. Of course, ten people with money invested will probably each work as hard as each other in promoting the event and therefore you are also maximising promotional efforts.
If you do have to engage sponsors then it is important to realise that they are getting something from the deal as well. There is NEVER a need to jump around on stage thanking sponsors – the sponsor is getting their thanks from being associated with an underground event in any case. In the instance of the Freaky Loops benefit parties for 2SER sponsors are used by 2SER to underwrite the costs of the event, and in return get associated with an underground event of massive scale. People have to understand that when you get sponsored by people like Levis, that they are in a position where their market share of the ‘youth’ segment has fallen massively over the last ten years and they are using the party/event to regain that market – really they don’t give a fuck about the music or the people. Similarly when engaging alcohol sponsor you should be aware that alcohol is the cause of massive amounts of violence at events not to mention raft of social problems.
Snarl Heavy Industries have done one or two things of late – as well as Frigid …So what do you do with all your free time (aside from taking interviews)..?
Free time? In terms of the Snarl collective, I do the webpage, edit the zine with Dale Harrison, write in the street press and elsewhere, and work in IT and teach media and social policy at UNSW and UTS for a day job. Lex makes sounds with a studio of equipment and works in IT during the day. Neither of us have been able to sit at home and watch Sunday night television for three years!
Um…anything else…plans for the future???
More releases, another Cryogenesis event in December and the hopeful continuation and diversification of Frigid.
Text: Adam Hulbert