Notes From The Underground [February 2015]

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The Groove Thief

SYNC SING SIN Sits down with dub & reggae maestro to talk Hong Kong’s music scene and the common misconceptions of dub music.

Throwing parties or simply heading to them regularly does get you to know different people, and the biggest benefit is that you don’t have to text endlessly to confirm the meeting spot and time. I first met The Groove Thief in some party that he opened for. And eventually we ended up just bumping into each other on a regular basis and chit-chatting on social media, We ended up supporting each other’s events. Apart from spinning his dub selections, TGT also ran a monthly newsletter that covers everything worthy in the HK underground. I thought now would be the right time to grab him for an interview, before he went on to bigger things.

So, tell us, what are the origins of The Groove Thief?

Prior to arriving in Hong Kong in 2011, I was a club DJ whilst living in South Korea, but I grew weary of playing banal music, so I knew I want something different. After going to some local bass nights I felt there was a bit of a musical gap – I wasn’t hearing the styles I like being played much – so that’s when I established The Groove Thief. Later on I’ve found a crew [Paragon Sound System] with reliable like-minded promotion and performance partners, and a Thursday night residency at Oma, Pomegranate, and Baomass.

What makes you stay in HK? Considering that this is not a really good place cultural-wise…

Coming here was a bit arbitrary in a sense, so the city has definitely exceeded my expectations, and I’m still here due to the opportunities available in higher education. I disagree on the cultural point: of course the economic realities really put a lot of pressure on all creative endeavors, but that just makes their prevalence that much more impressive, there’s in fact a lot going on. However, it is true that a lot of concepts can’t gain traction here.e due to the costs, and the mainstream

The scene usually seems to be just about profit, but still, HK has quality just not quantity How would you describe your style?

Bass is key, but just because a song is heavy doesn’t mean it can’t have a full sound. That’s the magical blend found in so much Jamaican music. I do play mostly dub and reggae in a sense, but blend together in unexpected ways. Genres are just suggestions. With so many songs readily available: how best to connect them for the crowd remains my biggest joy of DJing.

How do you see the dub genre in HK? What makes you think we need dub here?

There are so many misconceptions about dub. Roughly speaking, dub began as versions of songs without the vocals, which led the engineers to start experimenting with effects, the removal and alteration of elements, etc. With outdoor play on powerful soundsystems in mind, the natural progression was to bring the drums and bass to the fore while limiting the vocals so that deejays [MCs] could chat over the riddim. So dub is reggae, remixed using analog sound boards. That means the influence of dub is everywhere, including just about every popular modern genre of music. The need for dub itself comes down to respecting this foundation – if you love music, you really ought to give dub a proper listen.

You do your own edits too – would you mind sharing a trick or two for the ones who wanna start doing the same kinda thing?

Yeah, they’re necessary for when you have a song with a weaker section you’d like to remove before playing. Proper production involves assembling lots of tiny detailed ‘puzzle pieces,’ but with edits the pieces are fewer and much bigger. For me, that’s more satisfying. Just do what you want the way you want to do it. Failed experiments are usually more valuable than successful ones.