CLOT MIX #004 - Lumi
David Zhou, or better known as Lumi, is a Nanjing-born but UK-raised DJ and producer, and someone on the forefront of bridging the east and the west. Spending the majority of his time in the UK, David co-founded the Eastern Margins brand and has since been hosting events and building a platform for global artists in the UK. With the mission of "creating a platform for the East Asian music community in London,' Eastern Margins has since brought the likes of HARIKIRI, Yukibeb and YoungQueenz to the UK. Aside from London, David can also be found back in China, producing for a number of rappers and artists. Hear his work on London's Rinse FM or NTS Radio and make sure to catch one of his upcoming shows if you're in town.
Check out Lumi's exclusive mix for us, and scroll down for the full interview and tracklist.
You've been Djing for over a decade, what are some of the biggest changes you've noticed?
Two big changes in my eyes. The first one is obvious but worth reiterating- the barriers to entry have been lowered by technology. Today someone can smash a club armed with no more than a USB and having never touched a pair of CDJs / decks before. Kids are no longer dissuaded from becoming DJs (or producers) because of the prohibitive cost of equipment. I think that's an amazing development - it's really allowed people from a greater variety of backgrounds / lived experiences to express themselves. As long as you have something to say, it's easier than ever to say it.
Tied up with the first, the second change is DJs diversifying their creative outlets and cultivating much more than just an audio identity - becoming "multi-hypenate". It's increasingly difficult to build a reputation just through DJing (rightly so imo, we literally just play other people's music). DJs have always had to hustle - the reality is most of your favourite DJs have day-jobs, but increasingly the lines between side-hustle and main passion are being blurred. More people are coming through now not exclusively based off of music. There's good and bad things to that. In the UK, there's disgruntlement about DJing becoming about social media and developing into a content arms race. For me that's just evolution - there now more easily accessible tools than ever to express yourself in a variety of mediums:- you just have to be creative. Being an "influencer" shouldn't be a pejorative by itself. Keep up or get overtaken by the next generation.
How about the influence of globalization, especially in terms of bridging the east and the west?
From my small corner of the world of underground music in the UK and (East) Asia, unfortunately globalization has largely been one way traffic to date. So many Western artists exploit a stylized notion of what our culture is. There's minimal sincere engagement with (East) Asian culture in the UK. Zoning in on Greater China, this manifests itself in two phenomena: either raw appropriation, so an Erhu sample or a kung fu film soundbite used to cheaply denote "Asian-ness", or its more insidious counterpart, Sinofuturism. Lawrence Lek (and several others) have made the point that there's an orientalist tendency for Western artists to portray Greater China as the authoritarian face of the future - all vertiginous marble malls and neon-lit automation - rather than engage with the multifaceted reality. The effect of both phenomena is to reinforce stereotypes about Greater China and stifle the space where actual Asian artists can create.
At an infrastructure level, globalization has often seen "underground" European & American DJs do the same thing - occupy the space where local artists should be. Those DJs will fly in and pack out clubs, creating unrealistic expectations for promoters and venues. They'll then pick a few choice local artists from those scenes to place a temporary pedestal to create the illusion of cultural exchange, all the whilst stunting the work needed to build the infrastructure needed to foster sustainable local community. By contrast, I've rarely ever seen an Asian artist be extolled in the UK in the same way. Part of the reason why we created Eastern Margins is because we saw amazing (East) Asian artists struggle to get any gigs in London.
If that sounds cynical - it looks like things are changing. There's an ever-increasing list of global (Eternal Dragonz, Merci Jitter and Yeti Out) and local (The Boring Room (Xian), Do Hits (Beijing / Taipei), Darker Than Wax (Singapore), UnderU (Taipei) and Grack Thany (Seoul)) collectives reversing the above trends and developing actual cultural exchange between East and West, as opposed to cultural imposition/appropriation.
What inspired you to pursue music? How did you get into producing/DJing?
To be honest as a Chinese kid growing up in rural England, I was always an outcast in some way. People around me just had cultural touchstones that I didn't grow up with. Music, and especially electronic music, was a way for me to feel connected to the rest of the UK and the world. The fact that it was so foreign to my immediate environment resonated with my own sense of alienation. I remember as soon as I got my driving license, I drove up to London in my mum's Peugeot 206 with three friends for a mid-week party where Dubstep producers Joker, Gemmy and Guido were playing. There were maybe 40 people at that night, but experiencing that music on a real soundsystem with like, other actually ethnic people, convinced me that this was something I was going to invest (probably too much) time in. DJing was then a way for me to participate in a scene that I was geographically dislocated from. Honestly the UK has such a rich musical tapestry, especially the hardcore continuum (all the sounds from Jungle to UKGarage to Grime to Dubstep), I think everyone here feels a pull towards it.
What inspired you to start Eastern Margins?
In short, to hear music we loved on a soundsystem with our friends.
The longer version is... so Eastern Margins is myself and Anthony (@anthonyzsyko), who takes care of the visuals / design side of things. We're committed to the idea that physical spaces and events are vital to engendering meaningful community. There weren't many clubnights centered around (East) Asian culture in London, and almost no physical spaces where we could hear all of this great music, so we decided to try to create it ourselves.
Also, although East Asians are fortunately not burdened with most of the overt prejudices faced by other minorities in the UK, the model minority myth is very real here and affects us. The deal is as long as you remain ethnically invisible, stay quiet, don't eat any smelly food and are good at maths...you'll get a seat at the table of British society. We wanted to resist that, to be loud and proud of our heritage. We're definitely also indebted to a number of cool diasporic crews in London (shouts to Chinabot, Daikon, Indigo Magazine) pushing the boundaries, but we feel like there's always space for more voices. Community not competition!
On a more prosaic level, Anthony and I just had a lot of ideas which weren't getting an outlet, so we decided to create Eastern Margins as a way of voicing those ideas. Anthony has just spent his final years in architecture school developing his ideas on how to formulate a truly contemporary Chinese Architecture, so for him it's another way for him to continue this stream of work in a different kind of unrestricted format which has been exciting.
What are some of the craziest experiences you've had with Eastern Margins?
Definitely acting as a security guard to prevent the mosh pit at the YoungQueenz show toppling the entire soundsystem. We did it in the basement of a theatre in central London and brought in our own speakers (from this old junglist raver). Low ceilings, minimal lighting and sweat dripping on every surface. The energy was crazy, but also ridiculously stressful. We must have had to re-plug in the DJ equipment 3-4 times, because the crowd kept surging towards the front and ripping out the cables. At the end of the night every ceiling light was smashed. Shout out to YoungQueenz, NOLY, Fotan Laiki and Tedman for basically inciting a small riot.
What's the best way, in your opinion, to "expose" western audiences to eastern music, and vice versa?
I think we should focus on cultivating our own scenes and build our own infrastructure, and not worry so much about outside interest. If we make it first, the Western audiences will come on our terms. At the same time, I'm conscious that in the West, we need to tread the line between giving ourselves a platform but not exotifying it. In that spirit, I've tried to place (East) Asian artists alongside Western artists in this mix, pound for pound. The mix could hopefully soundtrack a sunset anywhere from London to Seoul, day to night.
- 功夫胖 - 礼物
- Girl Unit ft. Kelela - WYWD
- Mordecai - Bling
- Camilla Brink - Tell Me (Alf Tumbles 2 Step Mix)
- G.Rina - Utsusemi 空蝉 (Double Clapperz Remix)
- Invader Spade x Aubrey Trnql - Is It
- Proc Fiskal - Megabus
- Royal-T feat. Onjuicy - Flat Shoe Riddim
- Zean - They Used 2 Say
- Swimful - Feather Twist
- Red Velvet - Bad Boy
- Swimful - Bounce (Double Clapperz Remix)
- Travis Scott - RIP SCREW
- J Colleran - and the sky cracked for the first time
- MIWAN 미완 - ERRDAY (얼돼) X LAYER ONE X FREMUSE
- Chip - Darth Vader
- Wilbuforce - Ronin
- Ao Wu ft. Moldy - BURST
- Daniel Ness & HRNO - Fur Coat (ft. Jeff Chery)
- Loski - Teddy Bruckshot
- Sami Baha ft. Dawsha & Abanob - Ahl El M8na
- Awich ft. Anarchy - Whoru?
- DJ BBOY - J'SUI TIA MARIA
- Yayoyanoh ft. Organ Tapes - Off Road
Photos by: Leanne George