Featured image credit: Ace Lam
Tomasz Guiddo has earned himself a reputation of one of the most active and adventurous DJs hailing from Warsaw. He was born in Poland, lived in Germany and Spain and is currently based in China.
After his DJ experience gained in Warsaw’s underground clubs, he became a member of the Warsaw Electronic Festival artists community, playing an active role in the East-European experimental music scene.
In 2011 he moved back to his second hometown – Berlin – and signed his house music project Manhooker to Ostgut Ton (the debut EP ‘Wheels in Motion’ came out in 2013 followed by gigs at Panorama Bar). Since then he has released music on some of the most influential record labels such as Beats In Space, Compost, Sonar Kollektiv, Luv Shack, Connaisseur, Mule Musiq.
He has presented his eclectic mixture of house and techno in many of the greatest venues around the world: Tresor/Berlin, Berghain/Berlin, MoMA PS1/New York, Woobar/Bali, Kyo/Kuala Lumpur, Arkham/Shanghai, Potato Head/Hong Kong.
Guiddo currently works at Pepper Club in Shenzhen, where he books world’s superstar DJs bringing the high quality club culture to the south of China. Meanwhile he is also running a vinylshop and produces music with local artists.
Artur Wojtczak: You have entered Warsaw’s underground scene in the early ’00s and have DJ-ed in many clubs. Can you share your memories from that period?
Guiddo: My first, lets say “official”, DJ gig was at a club called Pruderia in Warsaw. Great memories indeed. I remember I really wanted to play there because they had local DJs who sort of inspired me at that time and influenced me with their music selection: Martinez, Burn Reynolds, Wojtek (DJ WWW) from the good old RecordHeadShop (now Side One) and JazzRadio. I felt like this is where I belong and that the owners of Pruderia have a similar approach towards music and partying… more alternative, rooted in jazz and disco. At the same time I was regularly visiting the old Tresor in Berlin, so you see, I was finding inspiration in those two worlds of Nu Jazz and Techno. Few months later I found myself playing at Piekarnia. I remember when I simply walked into the clubs office from the street with my demo CD and said that I’d like to play there. They listened to my mix and introduced me as a chill-out DJ (laugh) to the inhouse booker: DJ Bert. It was him who gave me the big chance and let me play a house set on one very important night in the main room. Piekarnia and Sfinks were concidered the best house music clubs in Poland at that time. Bert must have liked my set and seemed to believe in booking me for many of their later parties as a support DJ for the really big names. This is how I met more artists from UK, Holland, Belgium and Germany. For example Moussa Clarke who’s still my very good friend. We are starting a new label together called Fine Coincidence.
Before moving to China you were living in Berlin managing your recording studio in Prenzlauer Berg. In 2013 your house music project – Manhooker – released the debut EP ‘Wheels in Motion’ on Unterton/Ostgut Ton. Next releases and deals with the most influential record labels followed. But then you suddenly decided to move to China – why? Wasn’t Berlin good enough for you?
Berlin was great and you can’t have enough of this city, there’s so much too do and at the same time it’s very relaxed. It’s a great place to live and work. So many good musicians live there. If you’re a music producer, Berlin and New York are the best places to be. Especially for people like me, who love to cooperate and record with other artists. However I must say that at that time, in 2013, when I first traveled to Asia, I suddenly felt like I needed a bigger change and some new challenges, a different quality of life. I had some doors opened in Berlin, especially after those releases, like you said, so some were telling me it’s silly to leave just now. But I thought I’ll risk it anyway. And it seems like it was a very good move. I can still cooperate with artists and labels from Europe and the US online and visit Berlin anytime I want, and meanwhile I’m doing something really fascinating exploring Asia.
Did you do any research about the club scene in China before leaving Europe? Didn’t you have any doubts about going to “nowhere’s land” where nobody heard about sounds you passionately love?
I performed in Shenzhen at Chop Festival a year before so I already knew something about what I may expect and had some friends who helped me with adapting to the new reality. Zen Lu introduced me to the owner of Pepper Club and other likeminded people. So I knew there will be at least a few people who share the same taste and ideas. But before ChoP Festival I never thought
I would move to China or even play a single gig there so soon. As a matter of fact my eyes were on South America at that time.
You live in Shenzhen, pretty close to Hong Kong. What’s the cultural difference between the Mainland China and Hongkong?
The basic difference is that Shenzhen is a very young city where everything is being built and shaped from zero including the clubbing culture. This gives you a lot of possibilities of course, but also teaches you to be patient. It can be frustrating and fascinating at the same time. Hong Kong has a disco tradition that goes back to the 80’s. Local DJs say there’s not much left of it now, but you can still feel it when you go to smaller clubs and bars in Hong Kong. You can also feel the history and international influences when looking at the architecture, visiting restaurants and cafes. In Shenzhen everything is new, sometimes it can feel too artificial or even kitsch. On the other hand it’s more comfortable in many ways, it’s modern, bigger, cleaner etc. but what you also need to understand is that it’s mostly a city of businessmen. The two cities are very different despite the short distance. I can see Hong Kong from my window. Yet Hong Kong has a much different vibe, different language, different architecture, different currency, left-hand traffic and so on. Now Shenzhen is also very different from the rest of Mainland China. Shanghai and Beijing are another story.
You are resident DJ and booker at Pepper Club in Shenzhen. This location seems to be the promised land for clubbers: top-name DJs used to play there already – Richie Hawtin, Dubfire, Terry Francis, Tiga, Dr Motte to name a few. How come you are able to invite such big stars and living legends of the club history?
This is sort of a speed-up lesson in history of house and techno music for the young generation. I have the possibility to invite the top DJs, so I’m arranging the bookings in a logical order to slowly make the mainstream audience familiar with more alternative electronic music culture and its roots. I mean, people here know perfectly who Richie Hawtin or Dubfire are, but the majority is still after something more commercial. It also seems that most electronic music fans stopped following the scene around 2005 for some reason. Finding a balance and pushing the contemporary underground quality slowly and gently is crucial in such young city with no clubbing tradition.
What’s the way of dancing and partying of the Shenzhen clubbers?
They like to jump (laugh). Parties start early and people get drunk fast. The prime time would be just after midnight. It’s not an afterparty crowd. Chinese people love drinking-games, they sit at their tables playing and getting drunk before they start dancing. That’s why there are more sofas and tables and the dancefloors are much smaller even if the venue is big. It’s also all very posh everywhere.
In November 2016 CHOP Festival took place in Shenzhen presenting the highlights of Poland’s electronic avant-garde. Experimental Electro-acoustic pioneer Jacaszek, deep- and dub-techno guru Michał Wolski and his Technosoul – companion Błażej Malinowski performed for the Chinese crowd together with local producers like Zen Lu and Mulian. Who organized the festival and what’s the full story behind it?
The story goes back to maybe 2006 when Grzegorz Bojanek started an online cooperation with Zen Lu. Again, it’s all rooted in Warsaw Electronic Festival. Bojanek was a member of the WEF community, this is how I met him. He was traveling to China regurarly. Zen Lu performed in the Polish National Art Gallery Zacheta in 2009. I played for ChoP Festival in 2013 for the first time. Last year the festival turned 10 years old so it was a very special event. A new venue called MARS just opened and we did the final performance there on the 10th floor. It’s a big art space with Funktion One soundsystem. ChoP is about avant-garde electronic music, sound and video art, noise, experimental stuff. It’s supported by the Polish Ministry of Culture and it can be considered a cultural exchange: Polish artists perform together with Chinese new media artists. It’s live performances, workshops, interactive art installations, discussions and also club event dedicated to deep techno music. You can tell there is a big community of experimental electronic music fans in China.
You established your own DJ shop called VINYLHOUSE in Shenzhen. What is your target group of customers?
When you run a shop you need to be more flexible and prepared for what the demand may be. After few months it turned out that our customers were mostly techno DJs. But we are also aiming audiophiles and home-grown record collectors. We have a lot of LPs, jazz, rock, soul, ambient etc. rare second hand records, 180g reissues and so on. We are a small shop, we don’t necessarily have the latest stuff and we don’t really want to catch up with the “new arrivals” section at big stores like HMV. We are focusing on the hard to find and unique records, building a relation with the local DJs and music connoisseurs. I feel very happy when they like my recommendations and leave the shop with some new titles discovered. This is how, for example, Technosoul won a few dedicated fans here in Shenzhen.
In the summer of 2016 you took part in the T-Mobile Electronic Beats Session at the Vistula-river bank in Warsaw. What was your impression about Wasaw’s rave scene after the years?
Well it wasn’t a rave, it was a rather relaxed sunset session, which was great. I came there right after playing an afterparty and it was nice to continue DJing by the riverside in this beautiful and quite nostalgic scenery. It’s hard to say what changed and what didn’t, it was only one weekend and also a pretty busy one. I left Warsaw over 7 years ago… It obviously changed. There are more bars. You can definitely feel that the clubbers travel more, you can see it by the way they dress and dance and what they are listening to. People hang out more, drink and dine outside their homes much more often than they used to. The music scene seems still small or maybe that’s an impression after living in China where all the venues are packed even on Mondays. There is a lot of great music coming from those hidden Polish home-recording studios, a lot of new labels being launched. Especially deep techno. From the distance I’m trying to follow it as much as I can. I play these releases here in clubs and festivals or on the radio or anywhere else I can when I’m traveling to perform.
Words: ARTUR WOJTCZAK
Image credit: Benny Xing