Mosaic of China Season 02 Episode 23 – The Beats Collector ("DJ BO", International DJ)

Oscar Fuchs
Welcome to Mosaic of China, a podcast about people who are making their mark in China. I’m your host, Oscar Fuchs.
Oscar Fuchs

What can anyone learn from a DJ? It turns out… a helluva lot, especially when the DJ in question is DJ BO, who has spent the last decade having adventures around China, Mongolia and North Korea.

Mosaic of China Season 02 Episode 23 – The Beats Collector ("DJ BO", International DJ)


BO: If you're only doing things that are safe, what the hell are you doing? You know what I'm saying?

OF: Yep.


OF: Welcome to Mosaic of China, a podcast about people who are making their mark in China. I’m your host, Oscar Fuchs.

If there's one word that I'd use to describe today's guest DJ BO, it's 'eclectic'. So hold on to your red hats, because this conversation goes all over the place. As his name would suggest, my guest today is a DJ, so the through-line of our conversation is the topic of music, and music appreciation, and the lifestyle of a peripatetic DJ based in China. But since DJ BO has so many stories to tell, everything he says becomes a temptation to use him as a proxy to talk about any manner of topics, and to go down any number of tangents. And you'll hear that we do explore quite a few of these tangents. But what I wanted to achieve in this conversation was not to define this person just as the sum of his stories. I wanted to get to a place where we can discuss something that is relatable to many of us. And at the end of Part 1, I think we get there.

DJ BO is a fast talker, so let me remind you that you can follow the transcript of today's show on, or head to YouTube where you can follow the subtitles in real time.

[Part 1]

OF: So you go by the DJ stage name ‘DJ BO’, correct?

BO: ‘DJ BO: No stops, all caps; no brags, just facts’.

OF: Aye. I have the audio of the previous person who nominated you. So why don't we listen quickly to that part.

BO: I heard this, yeah.

[Start of Audio Clip]

Abe DEYO: I'd like to recommend a friend of mine, DJ BO. He's been here for about 10 years. He's DJ’ed all over, like the first time I really got to know him is when he asked me if I wanted to go with him to North Korea to be his photographer. He was the first DJ to perform there. So he has a lot of interesting stories.

[End of Audio Clip]

OF: So tell me a little bit about your relationship with Abe, that was Abe Deyo from Season 01.

BO: He’s a scoundrel. Don't be fooled by him, he’s a sweet guy, but he's a scoundrel and a vagabond. And a great guy, though. It was great having him as a kind of pseudo tour manager for the North Korea project.

OF: Well, that's one of the things I really want to talk about today.

BO: Absolutely.

OF: But before we do, you know the shtick, the first thing I ask you is, what object did you bring that in some way describes your life here in China?

BO: Well, I did come prepared. And I brought a record by Esther Chan. It’s a vinyl record, 12 inches, it's an LP. Esther Chan was an artist in Hong Kong, and she put out this LP, and it's amazing. One song I play all the time is her cover of ‘Hit The Road Jack’, and also her cover of The Lord's Prayer.

OF: Whoa.

BO: Which is real funky and interesting.

OF: Huh.

BO: And so yeah, I mean, as a DJ, I think playing music - that I go out and find in the places that I'm at - that's a big part of my philosophy and what I do, so I brought a record of Esther Chan. And I call the the sets that I do ‘border-breaks international funky sounds’. And it's important to me to reflect who I am and where I'm at, and I spend a lot of time in Hong Kong, and that's a Hong Kong record. You know, as a DJ, where you are someone who is taking snidbits and snatches from audio and music, putting it out in a new way - you're re-contextualising things, I should say - to me, it's ridiculous that right now, in Los Angeles and in London and in Shanghai and Sri Lanka and Tokyo, you might have a hip hop night, and all the DJ sets are the same. To me, if you're in a different place, you should reflect where you're at. I'm here in Shanghai, and I spend a lot of time on the road, so I want to reflect that. I see myself as an old school entertainer. I've always been into vintage gear. And, you know, I consider myself an urbane vagrant. And this is a 宝安 [bǎo'ān] jacket that I picked up in Shanghai at a supply store.

OF: And can you explain what 宝安 [bǎo’ān] means, to those who don’t know.

BO: Oh the 宝安 [bǎo’ān] are the security guys who work in different complexes, and you can find them mostly sleeping in their boxes.

OF: Right.

BO: That’s my jacket with the buttons. I got my bandanna here. Oh, the T-shirt is 武汉 [Wǔhàn] Prison, a legendary bar. I think I was the first DJ to perform there. And I think it's the best bar in China.

OF: Wow.

BO: Then they opened 武汉 [Wǔhàn] Prison Tattoo. And right next to it, they opened up one other store. I'm going to ask you, Oscar, what do you think it is? We have 武汉 [Wǔhàn] Prison Bar, 武汉 [Wǔhàn] Prison Tattoo, and…

OF: Oh gosh. Mine’s such a mainstream guess, is it a restaurant?

BO: 武汉 [Wǔhàn] Prison Bagel, of course.

OF: ‘Bagel’. I should have been more specific, dammit.

BO: I love that whole thing. So especially in these times, I want to give a shout out to 武汉 [Wǔhàn]. And I got my hat, which is kind of a signature thing for me, it’s this red hat I picked up in Дархан [Darkhan], which is a city I lived in for a few years in Mongolia. The mayor of Дархан [Darkhan] gave me the highest Citizenship Award you can give someone, for some of the charity and other arts in contributions that I've done with Дархан [Darkhan]. It's got the symbol of Дархан [Darkhan] on it. And I… people like when I wear the red hat, it gets requested. I wish it was something that was easier to get around, you know, it's a big thick hat. Like, I wish I had a signature thing of like, you know, a ring. Because that, I can stick in my pocket, and I can bring that around. But if you're going to get DJBO, you want to get the red hat.

OF: Oh dear. Look, I think you've exemplified what I am excited and scared about with our entire interview. Because I've just asked you one question, and you were able to talk for five minutes. And you talked in a manner which went through the city of 武汉 [Wǔhàn], the clothes that you're wearing, your experience in Mongolia, and perhaps five other things that I could jump off from, which is making my head spin slightly.

BO: Sorry.

OF: So how the hell are we going to make this work for a 25-minute podcast? I guess the thing that I wanted to latch on to mostly with what you said was, the world is becoming more globalised. And in that way, it's slightly diluting different cultures, because as you said, we're playing the same music in every bar.

BO: Sure.

OF: And I think the skillset that I like about you - which I think is a really modern skillset - is the curatorial skillset. Like, to have access to so much in terms of media, in terms of information, but the ability of one person to actually curate that into something, which is special; which says something about not just the venue but you as a person; which creates an experience. Is that part of your ethos?

BO: Absolutely. It's that I love that when you look at something with context - which requires some time and space - you’re able to examine its place, and its effect, and really what it is. So for example, right now we can go to a movie at the movie theatre, and we can see the brand new movie. Or you can choose the best movie of 1950 - which happens to be Sunset Blvd. - and you can look at the careers of the people before and after; you can look at its place in culture, and examine it. And I really see my interest in music being kind of concentric circles where I would find an artist, and just kind of surround that artist, looking at his contemporaries and looking at his influences.

OF: Right.

BO: Chuck Berry played shows with Jerry Lee Lewis. OK, well now we need to learn about Jerry Lee Lewis. Chuck Berry's guitar was influenced by Carl Hogan, who was the guitarist in Louis Jordan And His Tympany Five. OK well now I need to look up Louis Jordan, I love Louis Jordan, and Chuck Berry influenced other people after him. So I love being able to examine those things. And contextualising things, and understanding where they come from, allows you to curate it better.

OF: Yeah, because it's all of the texture, the colour, the history, the connections, the influences. I'm always impressed with people who have that kind of catalogue of references. How do you catalogue it? How do you know when to use a certain piece, from which era, mixed with what modern piece of music?

BO: It's really hard to verbalise, you know. It’s “Am I trying to get people to dance?” And then you need to look at the energy of the song. And the beats per minute tends to be something that DJs look too much at. But it's an important thing in terms of smooth transitions. If you play things that are completely without context, people get lost. But also, if you play things that just people know, and they're already familiar with, what's the purpose of you doing what you're doing at all anyway? I'm not here to punish an audience, but I hope they pick up things from it. You know, nothing makes me happier than when someone goes up to a DJ booth, or wherever I'm at, and says “Hey, what was that?” And then I can connect them with the people.

OF: Yeah.

BO: And it makes me happy too, so everyone wins in that situation.

OF: Nice. And is that something which you do, actually, intentionally. So let's say, you have one track that you know is going to be popular, and then you place it next to one where you know that it might not be as popular, but you can try and get some leverage from that feeling?

BO: Yeah, you know, you always have to balance. It's, you know, it's ‘the sugar and the medicine' thing. Like, you know, you give them something that they can go away with. And I want someone to be able to listen to what I do for two minutes and be able to say “Oh, that's DJ BO”.

OF: Yeah. Well, you have talked about where you've lived, where you've been, where you've travelled. So this harks back to the introduction that I got from Abe, which was when he said that you and he went to North Korea together.

BO: Sure.

OF: So how long ago was this actually?

BO: Oh, it's got to be, like seven years now, about.

OF: Right.

BO: Look, North Korea is a it's many things, but it's also just a very sexy topic because it's such an extreme situation. When I think about North Korea, I think about - you know, because I was able to get away from the tour group, because I was doing the DJ thing - we went to the burger joint In North Korea, and people were singing karaoke songs, which was an amazing experience. And it was really just a beautiful thing.

OF: Wow. Well, let's just talk about North Korea in terms of the DJ’ing experience then.

BO: Yeah.

OF: So what was that story, very briefly?

BO: Very briefly, Simon who is the head honcho at Koryo Tours, had a friend who wanted to do a tour in China, a musician. And I helped him out, and he said “How much do I need to pay you?” I was like “I don't want any money. I want to DJ in North Korea.” He said “No, forget it.” I said “I want to DJ in North Korea.” He said “No.” I said “I want to DJ in North Korea.” He said “OK wait, let's think about this”. And it went through a couple of different iterations, but in the end they found a hotel next to the one where other foreigners stay at, and a basement, a big karaoke area. We were able to set it up, Abe made a beautiful poster for the event, actually. And I DJ’ed. They said “Don't play any South Korean music.” I did. You know, the power went out a couple times. You know, things started off slow. But then I would play something like ‘The Twist’. And it was something were the expats there, they can grab North Koreans and show them how to dance. Because the North Korean people had never danced in an un-choreographed way before.

OF: Oh right, of course.

BO: They were super sceptical about what to do, it was very much like, you know, a Kevin Bacon movie from the 80s.

OF: Right. And we have skirted around one part of your background, which we haven't really gone into.

BO: Oh.

OF: But a big part of your China story was actually that you first came into Mongolia, correct?

BO: So I went to the University of Florida, my home state, and less than a week after I graduated, I was shipped off to Mongolia with the Peace Corps.


BO: Are you familiar with the Peace Corps?

OF: I am, yeah.

BO: You get a letter in the mail, ‘Mission Impossible’ style, because they don't tell you the exact country until you receive it in letter form. I opened it up, it said Mongolia. I had really no knowledge of Mongolia at all. I was like “Sure, whatever”. They shipped me out to Mongolia. I did two years three months, the full Peace Corps service. Only about half the people make it through Peace Corps Mongolia completely. And then I stayed for a little less than another year working at a nightclub, managing a place called ‘The Cross-Eyed Gypsy’. But at the end of it, I was sick of getting beaten up by the ‘Dayar Mongol’, the Mongolian neo-Nazis. I was sick of -40 degree winters. So I moved back to South Florida.

OF: So how long had you been in Mongolia at that point?

BO: About three years.


BO: So I was back in South Florida. I worked as a dancer and an MC for Platinum Gold Entertainment, danced at the halftime show at the Super Bowl, had a lot of fun. But I was sick of being in South Florida with my family, Florida was just boring for me at that point. And so I applied for jobs all around the world. But the first place to accept me was Disney English in China.

OF: Oh.

BO: It was in Shanghai.

OF: Oh so you didn't then go straight from Mongolia down to China?

BO: No, I had about six months in South Florida.

OF: And it wasn't even on your radar to go to China?

BO: It was not. So I ended up in Shanghai. And now I have more people living in my neighbourhood in Shanghai than in the entire country of Mongolia.

OF: Yeah, exactly.

BO: One of the biggest projects that I run is something called ARTGER, which I run with a friend named Javkhaa Ara. We show Mongolian culture - some traditional thing, some modern things, some fusion things - and we’ve got 200,000 subscribers on YouTube, and it's a big project that I do. And we're starting ARTGER China now, where we're putting things on 哔哩哔哩 [Bìlībìlī]. Because honestly a big influence on that was, a lot of people in China were just stealing the content and posting it down here anyway.

OF: Oh is that right?

BO: Yeah, so now we are trying to put a footprint here in China, stronger. But we're also filming content here, and really just promoting Mongolia things. You know, I've known other people who have been all around the world, and I've been told by multiple people that Mongolia is just a place that has a deeper impact in a lot of ways. I know you've been to Mongolia, I think you've expressed similar sentiments.

OF: Yeah, it was like nowhere I've been before. And then what is your take on the relationship between China and Mongolia?

BO: Well, that's a very sticky topic. Чингис хаан [Chinggis Khaan], 800 years ago, starts the biggest land empire. Not ‘Genghis Khan’ like white boy Westerners say, Чингис хаан [Chinggis Khaan]. His grandson is Хубилай хаан [Kublai Khan], and he comes down to China. And he makes Beijing the capital of the empire.

OF: Yep, 大都 [Dàdū].

BO: Yeah. And so over time, you know, the family kind of falls apart, very classic style. And you have China kind of reigning over Mongolia then, essentially. Until in the early 1920s, you had Сүхбаатар [Sükhbaatar] bring in the White Russians. Then from the 1920s to the very early 90s, you had the Russians taking over. But during that period, when the Russians took over, they basically told the Chinese “Hey look, lay off of Mongolia, but we're gonna cede the area now known as Inner Mongolia to the Chinese”. So it was part of Mongolia, and now it's China. And it puts Mongolia in a difficult situation. Because, you know, for example, there's always a new controversy every year, where there's a new heritage instrument, and China will claim a Mongolian instrument, for example. But Mongolians will say “Hey look, that's our stuff, lay off”. And so Mongolia trying to keep its own identity - while still relying very heavily on the Chinese economy - makes things very difficult. This is a very big, intense topic that I'm only just scratching the surface of.

OF: Yeah, absolutely. No, but as you're describing it, I can certainly see the tension there. Because of course, the Mongolians of Inner Mongolia, which is inside of China, they are a protected minority group. And so that is a Chinese minority, they would say in China.

BO: Yes. You know, I've talked with Mongolians who are visiting Inner Mongolia and they said they faced racism. But I've also had popular rap songs by Mongolian artists that specifically use derogatory terms for Chinese people in their lyrics. In some ways, they kind of take that on a nationalistic spirit as well.

OF: Which you did touch on earlier. That was one of the reasons that you were like “Oh, forget this. Let's go back to Florida”.

BO: Yeah, and let's be clear, like, I refuse to romanticise things, I like to take things as they are. So I'm not going to say things about Mongolia that are just universally positive. But I can say that because I love Mongolia. You just have to look at things truthfully, you know, I want to still maintain my compass of what's good and right about the world, while still respecting other perspectives. You know, it's like when you go to a show that you're not invested in, it's very easy just to sit back and clap because you don't care. But if you really care about something, you're more engaged with it, and you're willing to be angry or upset when it doesn't meet some standards that you might have.

OF: Do you prefer a ‘boo’ to a polite clap?

BO: Oh, let's put it this way, I'll say I would rather have a reaction in some way than no reaction at all. So a ‘boo’ to a polite clap… maybe. Every once in a while, you need to clear the dance floor to make sure you know you're still pushing things a bit. You know what I'm saying?

OF: Yep.

BO: You know, it's the same thing with stand up comedy, or any other art, you know. If you're only doing things that are safe, what the hell are you doing? If people go out and they're their real selves, and they're representing who they are, they can really do anything.

OF: I want to get back to something you said earlier about your experience DJ’ing in 武汉 [Wǔhàn], and how you like the punk scene there, which I've heard is quite unique, right?

BO: Uh-huh.

OF: Tell me a little bit about the scene in China. I'm most interested in perhaps what the differences are between the different regions that you've experienced.

BO: Sure, well, you have different scenes that have developed in different cities. With 武汉 [Wǔhàn], it’s a punk city. In 成都 [Chéngdū] you have hip hop, a couple of really interesting clubs were built there, and it being a little bit more isolated, they could get away with getting into a music and an art-form that in other places might have been pushed to the side. Shanghai has always been seen as less of an important city from an artistic standpoint. It's always been seen as kind of a commercial city. There's been some interesting things in the electronic music scene - some of the experimental music scene - in Shanghai. Beijing, they have a sound. It's the most developed in that way. A lot of atypical chaotic sounds that are sustained, if that makes sense.

OF: Yeah.

BO: And that kind of goes through a lot of the Beijing scene. And when you're in Beijing, and it's smoggy, and there's the cars everywhere, and it's just noisy, you can feel it in the city.

OF: And do they cross pollinate? So do you play Beijing music in 武汉 [Wǔhàn]? Do you play Shanghai music in 成都 [Chéngdū]?

BO: Of course, I think that's so important to do, because again, it's reflecting my journey. One thing that I find super fascinating is, places not taking pride in their local music scene, and wanting to promote what they see as being ‘international’ or ‘cool’. If I'm in Mongolia, there will be a Mongolian promoter who will say to me specifically “Don't play Mongolian music”. Because they see it almost as not as good as the international side. There's something beautiful about the local music scenes. And to me, I want to reflect that, that’s why I go digging in these specific cities. I will go to a place like Dhaka, Bangladesh, and I'll say “Let's go music digging, let me discover music”. And I'll be like "This is so great. I'm gonna play this around the world”. And no one ever believes me, till I send them a video of me doing it. There's such great music that can be discovered, and a lot of it just doesn't make it into the commercial space.

OF: When you talk about going to Mongolia, and they say “No, don't play Mongolian records”, I think that could be just “If I wanted to have a Mongolian record, I would have got a Mongolian DJ. I’ve got you.”

BO: Incorrect.

OF: OK, so tell me.

BO: What you're saying seems logical. But the people in the local scenes won't play the music. I was in Kuala Lumpur, and I played a song by Too Phat called ‘KL’. And the DJs who were in the city were like “Yeah, why don't we play this song more?” To me, it's preposterous that people aren't playing the music from their communities.

OF: I think that you're at a stage where you've done it the right way around. Because there are people who have a very linear career, and they experience one certain thing very deeply in their 20s; and then by the time they're in their 30s they have reached a certain level in that career, which you might say is ‘middle management’; and they're all set for senior management in their 40s and 50s. But then, someone like you, I think you're still in the expanding phase, you are still in the experiencing phase, you’re still collecting experiences, you're still collecting ideas. And then you’re gonna have a choice at some point - which you haven't reached yet - but something is going to coalesce. Or you might just carry on being this person, chasing the next experience.

BO: Well let's get deep here, Oscar, let's get it from the heart. So I worry that in some way - this is something I reflect about a lot, and I go back and forth on it - doing what I do is a manifestation of being afraid of the settling down thing. It scares me, in a way. And also - here's the tricky part - I've been in some situations where I couldn't do things, because of mental illness periods where I've had to disengage with things. Now, as someone who doesn't have a boss - where people are not necessarily expecting me at a certain time, unless I specifically make the engagement - it's very easy to get lost in my bedroom, and not come out. And no one would know. There’s been times in my life where I probably could have died alone in my room, and no one would have known for quite a long period of time. Because I'm engaged with so many things, people might just be used to not hearing from me for a while. I've lost some opportunities because of that. So that's something that I've started to learn, how it manifests and what to do with it. And I thought that as I got into my 30s, based on things that I've read in literature, that it would not be as difficult in some ways. But I found that not to be true. I find that mental health issues don't necessarily go away. So this past winter was one of the toughest that I've had. And I did a ‘mini apology tour’ with some people, and there's some people that I still need to talk to. And it's a difficult subject, because I also know that when I've talked with people about mental health, a lot of people who don't experience it really don't understand it. I find that when I get really depressed, I find it very difficult to talk with people at all. And I really let people down who put faith in me. Part of the manifestation of me having a diversity of interests means that I can always kind of shift my weight on the other foot a bit. It's a good and a bad thing. I love DJ’ing and stuff. But it's also something that makes it difficult to maintain relationships. Friday nights and Saturday nights, those are the times when I work.

OF: Obviously, in that equation, you want someone who probably has similar hours.

BO: Yeah, if you're that person hit me up on WeChat. I don’t know.

OF: Thank you so much, I really appreciated that. I think we've only scratched the surface, but from what you've shared, I personally can understand your eclecticism, your intensity, but actually just the love of what you do.

BO: People can sense that I'm enthusiastic about what I'm doing. And it's not something that I fake in any sort of way. I really just put myself out there, and they can tell. And that makes them happy, and it makes me happy, so it's a great circle.

OF: Agreed. Let's go on to Part 2.

BO: Oh boy. Let's do it.

[Part 2]

OF: So, Part 2.

BO: Yes, the questions.

OF: Let’s go for it. Question 1, what is your favourite China-related fact.

BO: In the 1930s, Shanghai was the fifth biggest city in the world. And if you were a foreign person in the concessions, the rules of China did not apply to you. Shanghai has a great history of jazz, opium and whores. And I hope to be keeping up that tradition, if not specifically, at least in spirit. It was built on the opium trade, in large part. You know, in America you have what's called ‘the old weird America’, but Shanghai has an ‘old weird’ past as well. And I hope to manifest that in what I do.

OF: Do you have a favourite word or phrase in Chinese?

BO: Sure. My favourite one is related to a big passion of mine. And it is the Chinese name of Elvis Presley. Are you familiar with what it is?

OF: I can't wait.

BO: It’s 猫王 [Māo Wáng], the Cat King.

OF: Oh, OK.

BO: And I just love that sort of characterisation of Elvis.

OF: Yeah.

BO: He’s someone I love, such a fascinating person, 猫王 [Māo Wáng]. I mean, it's very 50s slang, ‘cat’. You know, he was that Memphis cat, and he's the king of rock and roll.

OF: Exactly.

BO: And that's what it's about.

OF: What's your favourite destination within China?

BO: My favourite destination in China - we've touched upon this - is 武汉 [Wǔhàn]. It was a city that I've been to more than any other. I love Inferno in Shanghai, Temple in Beijing. But 武汉 [Wǔhàn] Prison is the coolest bar there. And every good bar - every great bar, I should say - becomes the personality of the manager. Her name is Dong Dong, and she is an explosive character that can't really be characterised. Is she 20, is she 40? She wears these layers of clothing, she’s got these big dreadlocks, and she cackles when she laughs, and 武汉 [Wǔhàn] Prison bar is almost a manifestation of who she is.

OF: I've never been, I've heard about the river…

BO: Yes. Because 武汉 [Wǔhàn], I mean, you really have two cities there. It's a little bit like Budapest.

OF: Yeah.

BO: Fantastic.

OF: All right, it’s on my list. I don't know when I'm going to go.

BO: Do it.

OF: If you left China, what would you miss the most, and what would you miss the least?

BO: OK. Shanghai is such an international city. And it's a place where I've met Dutch people, and Belgian people, and Italian people, and Japanese people. I'm able to engage with so many different cultures and people here. You can find some of that in New York and in London, but in Shanghai it just manifests itself so much into the legacy and the history of what Shanghai is.

OF: Yeah.

BO: In terms of least interesting, it’s that sort of policy of not engaging with things that you find in China. The idea that when there's a conflict, everyone stands back and watches. When there's a problem, you just kind of move away from things and you don't engage with things. That’s one of the things I don't like about China.

OF: That's so interesting. Is that just a function of this system of government? Is it a function of history? Is it a function of culture? Like, what is that?

BO: I would say that's what it is.

OF: Uh-huh. I know which part you nodded the hardest at.

BO: Yes, yes.

OF: Is there anything that still surprises you about life in China?

BO: Recently, I just got an offer to go DJ in a city in 江苏 [Jiāngsū] province that I never heard of called ‘Zhenjiang’… ‘Zhanjing’… I don't even know. But like, I thought I was at the end of going to new cities in China. And out of nowhere, I got a hit up from someone who had seen me at a party in 南京 [Nánjīng]. And they said “We want you to come to our city” and I said “Sure”. So maybe sometimes I get complacent, and I forget about things like that. But I love that. That's great.

OF: Where's your favourite place to eat or drink or hang out?

BO: Well, on 定西路 [Dìngxī Lù] by 新华路 [Xīnhuá Lù] there's a cafe on the second floor there. And I consider that my office, because you have food there, there’s good internet, it's a good people-watching spot, so I generally have meetings at that spot. My friends know it as my office.

OF: Oh nice.

BO: So I love hanging out there and doing my thing there.

OF: What’s it called?

BO: It’s the City Shop, which is like the international market there.

OF: Yeah.

BO: This one City Shop has a cafe on the second floor that no-one knows about or goes to.

OF: No.

BO: And you can order sandwiches there. They have food ready to eat there. They don't promote it. And it's close to my apartment.

OF: And you look on to the supermarket, or…

BO: Yes.

OF: How funny. What's the best or worst purchase you've made in China?

BO: I mean, so much music and records that I've bought while here. And I love my 宝安 [bǎo'ān] jacket as well.

OF: What is it, is there one supplier that supplies all of the 宝安 [bǎo'ān] jackets?

BO: You know, I always try to keep this mysterious, but I'm going to engage with this. So they have like, army surplus stores where you can pick up a hat, and jacket, and I've got a whole collection of things there.

OF: Don't worry, I think you're safe. I think most people won't go out of their way to do that.

BO: Cool. Good.

OF: What is your favourite WeChat sticker?

BO: OK, now let's talk about this Oscar.

OF: OK, send it to me first.

BO: Got it?


BO: Well, let's talk about this. I invented something called ‘poetremes’.

OF: Oh.

BO: A poetry meme. So I'll watch a movie that's in the public domain., and I'll take snapshots and I'll cut it up into clips that I can then use to make my own WeChat stickers. And now I have a huge collection of them.

OF: Very cool. What is your go-to song to sing at KTV?

BO: Chuck Berry and ‘Johnny B. Goode’ is such a great song, which has a great spirit to it; There's a story; people know it from Back to the Future; It’s got a very very easy chorus for people to sing along to; and it's great.

OF: That's true. Very nice. And finally, what other China-related media or sources of information do you rely on?

BO: I'm really interested in the history of Shanghai nightlife. There's the Andrew Field book, ‘Shanghai Nightscapes’. Super useful.

OF: Very cool. Well, thank you so much, DJ BO. And the last thing that I would ask anyone sitting in that chair is, for the next season of Mosaic of China, who do you recommend that I interview?

BO: I really love the Mongolian community. And I find that in China, especially there's a lot of confusion about who they are. They're not Chinese, they have their own culture and stuff. And there's a very great designer named Ruby, who's done some very interesting work. And I think it's important for that expat community to be recognised as part of the Mosaic of China. So I would recommend Ruby.

OF: Oh, great. Then I can really talk about Mongolia for the whole episode.

BO: She's a very interesting person, otherwise. But if you wanted to, you can.

OF: Of course she is. Thank you so much.

BO: Thank you very much, Oscar.


OF: So I double checked with DJ BO, and the city in 江苏 [Jiāngsū] Province where he was invited to DJ was 镇江 [Zhènjiāng], which it turns out is most famous for its vinegar. It's right next to 南京 [Nánjīng], and it was actually the capital of 江苏 [Jiāngsū] Province from 1928 to 1949 while 南京 [Nánjīng] served as the capital of the whole Republic of China. Also on the subject of cities, when DJ BO mentioned that Shanghai is seen as less of an artistic city in China and more of a commercial city, that was an echo from a similar comment made by the fashion journalist Casey Hall in last week's episode. But there's also another hidden connection to last week's episode, because DJ BO updated me that - in a development from what he said in our recording - in the past few months the Chinese DJs he comes across are now starting to take more pride in music from China, especially Chinese hip hop. So this mirrors the growing trend that Casey had been seeing with Chinese people taking more pride in Chinese fashion brands too. And there was one final connection I wanted to mention, DJ BO is the second Floridian in Season 2, can you remember who the other person from Florida was? 5-4-3-2-1, it was Sean Harmon, the CEO of the Belgian beer company Duvel Moortgat from Episode 09.

As always, you can check out all the accompanying graphics to today's episode on social media. Just type in mosaicofchina on Instagram or Facebook, and the right page will appear. Otherwise add me on WeChat using my ID: mosaicofchina, and I'll add you to the group there myself. And there's also plenty more from our conversation in the PREMIUM version of today's show, either on Patreon internationally or on 爱发电 [Àifādiàn] in China. Here are some clips from what you can find there...

[Clip 1]

BO: Thankfully I was able to teach the history of Rock and Roll in a course I developed called American Pop for Duke Kunshan University online.

[Clip 2]

BO: The greatest show I've ever seen on Earth is the ‘Mass Games’, a performance with 100,000 performers.

OF: You actually saw one?

BO: Yes, I saw the Mass Games there.

[Clip 3]

BO: You know, life is short, man. And I just really want to engage and be involved. I want to be at the proverbial party.

[Clip 4]

BO: They're trying to be clever, but they're actually not even being clever, because it's not their own words or ideas. You're not engaging with the person, you're obfuscating.

[Clip 5]

BO: But some people say “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture”. I love the idea of dancing about architecture.

OF: Yeah.

[End of Audio Clips]

And that's all for this week. Mosaic of China is me, Oscar Fuchs, with artwork by Denny Newell. Coming up is a catch-up with the tour manager who accompanied DJ BO to North Korea, Abe Deyo from Season 01 Episode 27. And I'll see you again next week.

[Catch-Up Interview]

OF: It is really good to see you. I am calling from a place which would be very familiar to you because you lived literally underneath me for countless years. But you are one of those people who actually left Shanghai before the weird turn of events in 2020. So tell me about where I find you today.

AD: Lamma Island in Hong Kong. It's a smallish island off of the main Hong Kong Island, used to be like a hippie colony back in like the 70s and 80s. It's a nice place. A lot of beaches, no roads, so there's no cars allowed.

OF: Yeah, this is what people who don't know Hong Kong might be surprised to hear, that such a place exists, when they normally think about the big bright lights and the harbour. But that's a really special little part of Hong Kong, isn't it?

AD: Oh, yeah, for sure. I mean, none of the buildings can be over three storeys. Everything’s like little village houses, and a lot of green. Actually, I have a bird that knocks on my window, like every day.

OF: Well, that's the thing about Hong Kong, where you can be downtown, and then you can be in that kind of nature so quickly. It's one of the things that I miss about Hong Kong.

AD: Oh, yeah. That's one of the reasons we chose to move down to Hong Kong.

OF: Yeah.

AD: Plus, it's a very strategic location as far as work goes. You still have access to all of Southeast Asia. Pre-pandemic, let's say. Right now, no.

OF: Yes.

AD: Yeah.

OF: This is a good juncture for me to say that, for people who didn't listen to our original episode, you were a tour leader for the emerging artists arm of Live Nation. Tell me about your work.

AD: Like most people, I was laid off last August.

OF: Yeah.

AD: It made sense. They were spending way too much money. And it's just not sustainable, as we saw as soon as something like this happens.

OF: Totally. I mean, there are some industries that could weather the storm somewhat. But you know, live music is not one of those industries.

AD: Yeah, no. It could be another year before they do large scale shows. But, it is what it is.

OF: Yeah, totally. And when things do return to whatever normal becomes, do you imagine that you'll go back to the same business? Like, what's your plan?

AD: Oh, yeah. So I've already been talking with a couple of companies who do tours and shows here. So once things open, it'll probably be doing what I was doing before. Otherwise, we'll just be hanging out on Lamma.

OF: Well, there are worse places. Come on. There aren't many places where the little birds peck on the window and say “Good morning”.

AD: Yeah. And now it's getting hot enough that we can go swimming again.

OF: Oh, wow.

AD: I mean, I do miss the food. It’s not the same down here. We miss the creative atmosphere. And being able to travel around…

OF: Interesting.

AD: … Because China is so diverse.

OF: Well, I mean… Yeah, but listen, most people aren't doing that much travel. I think it's just the idea of it that you miss. I mean, I remember when you were saying things in your podcast, you were talking about 洛阳 [Luòyáng] a lot, you were talking about 西宁 [Xīníng], talking about 武当 [Wǔdāng] mountain, I've been to none of those places, since you said them in the podcast. So I don't think you need to be too jealous. Most people are just stuck where they are in China too.

AD: Yeah.

OF: Well finally, we'll be releasing this catch-up interview, at the same time as I released the interview with your referral for Season 02, who was DJ BO.

AD: Oh yeah.

OF: Have you managed to keep in touch with DJ BO over the past months?

AD: A little bit, but I also follow his group chat on WeChat. He's always got something new going on.

OF: Well, Abe, it is really great to see you again. As soon as that border between Hong Kong and the mainland opens up, you can expect a knock on your door on Lamma Island.

AD: Oh, yeah. We'll go on a junk.

OF: Excellent. See you again.

AD: Yeah. Thanks for having me. It's always a pleasure.

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