For the 7th entry of our Mix Series, we turn the spotlight on Phuong-Dan, one of Hamburg’s finest selectors. Our editor Lounes Doulache had a talk with him and found out that the longtime resident of the infamous Golden Pudel is specialized in much more than meets the eye.
Hi Phuong-Dan, how’s it going? What are you up to these days?
I do enjoy music, travelling, DJing and meeting both old and new friends a lot at the moment. There has also been some really nice things happening in the past months. This year’s Intonal Festival in Sweden, for instance, was a personal highlight for me – I really liked the programme and the atmosphere at this intimate festival. It was not only great to DJ on the closing night with Helena Hauff, but also, to have been invited to work on a little musical programme was very exciting and fun! Currently, I can’t wait to DJ at both Dekmantel Festival and Dekmantel Selectors in the coming weeks! Besides that, I try to find some spare time to read, see my friends in Hamburg and think of future projects.
Aside from music, we noticed that you have been active in other fields. What made you study cultural anthropology and photography, and in what way does it inspire or define your approach to music?
My curiosity about how we create, modify and eventually live culture in everyday life led me to that. This, in turn, brought me to photography and film as an alternative medium to discover, observe and capture cultural phenomena beyond the more traditional format of text. When it comes to music I wouldn’t say that I refer to this background directly. While I was studying, music provided rather a balance to theory and science. But as cultural anthropology focuses on more the particular things than the general, let’s hope that it has and will help me to discover awesome music! But surely, it can offer you various perspectives on music itself as well as on its appeal and cultural meaning and might makes you ask yourself differentiated questions more naturally.
I recently stumbled upon Ströer Duo’s “Vietnam” and it has been on replay ever since. I have no clue about the lyrics but it’s such a beautiful piece of music that really resonates with me. Does it mean anything to you when artists use Vietnamese, or any other non-major language as inspiration for their music?
Oh, that’s one of my all-time favourite pieces of music! And not just because of its title. Stumbling upon music of Vietnamese origin or Western productions merged with Vietnamese elements is, initially, always very exciting! In the case of Ströer Duo I don’t understand the lyrics either, as they sampled the voices of one of Vietnam’s ethnic minorities – 54 are recognized by the government – called M’Nông, which is located in the southeast and in two regions of the Central Highlands. This alone illustrates that the paramount issue is a complex one. To make it short – it is a fine line between power, cultural appropriation, exoticism, assertion and an artistic license to make use of different cultural contents to express yourself. First of all, it is a question of your particular interests, the criteria and at which level you valuate all these entities. Each has to be rated individually with consideration to the whole context – you need to take a closer look at the artist’s background, his or her artistic work and approach for instance…
Your mix seems to tell quite a suspenseful and gripping story. Could you share some context with us?
In the beginning there was nothing more than a stack of recent findings I was listening to. Somehow the situation of a comfortable sleep paralysis came to mind – when you’re in a state between sleep and waking. Hallucinations might occur and you might perceive bizarre, peculiar sounds. It is said that these can last from some seconds up to one hour. I added more to the stack and tried to record one hour of “Strange Sounds From Beyond”.
On another note: how did you end up becoming the resident at the Golden Pudel, and what is the place to you?
In 2002, after I had moved to Hamburg, I just went there shortly and asked them quite naively if I could play out records at some point. They quickly offered me a date and I haven’t left since. This small, worn-out place, its people – both, the staff and audience – as well as its open-mindedness, eccentricity and spontaneity were more than enriching. You could experiment as much as you like facing an audience that actually expects it. There is no strict door policy, the entrance fee is normally 3 euros – no matter which artist is performing. This makes the Pudel accessible to a much broader range of people than usual. You share the night with totally different folks with all kinds of backgrounds. Overall, it is a fantastic, little place in a world of increasingly regulated and fanciless clubbing.
Are there any guests you are still dreaming of having over for one of your Gatto Musculoso nights at Golden Pudel but didn’t have the chance to invite yet?
Yes, but far too many to mention here! Even though Gatto Musculoso just turned 11, there weren’t enough nights to host all of these awesome artists who are spread all over the world. Just come in for a visit and see some of them in future whenever the Pudel reopens!
The city of Hamburg seems to be sprouting a lot of talented artists. Could you name a few new ones that we need to keep an eye out for, and is there maybe a reason why the city produces so much talent?
As the second biggest city in Germany, on the one hand Hamburg can be really inspiring on many levels with a lot to offer, on the other it has its limitations in comparison to other, much bigger cities in Europe where you have a more intense, international exchange, for example. It is not the most vibrant city. It can be boring here sometimes; you can easily feel like being in a loop. But all this has its amenities too. It is cosey here, most of the people know each other, there is a liability among them, there are not too many things happening at the same time. Personally speaking, this might provide a certain concentration and a focus on your work. Furthermore you can’t really claim something easily here; it is tightly networked and the people are kind of serious, so you have to fulfill it in the end.
A few different new things: the Producers L.F.T., Fallbeil, Scheich in China and Phil Struck, the label VIS, RVDS´s recent Wanderung durch Wald und Flur LP, upcoming music of C, the future venues Kraniche and Golden Pudel Club.
Thanks a lot for having me!