Interview: Simpig

Swiss future bass duo on the eclectic sounds of the Biel underground

Future bass, a catch-all genre tag describing electronic music’s freshest, heaviest sounds, came to Beijing a few years late. Previously confined to a handful of urban nodes — think Chicago, London, Tokyo — vital dance music sub-genres like juke, footwork, non-mainstream dubstep and grime have caught on in Beijing among a certain section of the city’s nightlife set, a demographic that is younger, hipper, more digital. The enthusiasm oozed by this clique of nightlife aesthetes is propelled by internet-speed transmission of sounds, styles, and sensibilities, and has led to a major influx of boundary-pushing producers marking Beijing as a must-stop on any world tour itinerary.

Case in point: Simpig, the Swiss duo of Yoan Jaquenoud (aka Shake It Maschine) and Mike Licci (aka Mr Pigman). They were converted to footwork after seeing it spun in 2011 by one of the genre’s most hallowed prophets, the late DJ Rashad of Chicago. Since then they’ve been producing footwork and juke with their own spin engaging with acolytes of the style around the world.

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Hip to what’s happening in Beijing – they namecheck Howie Lee and Jason Hou as artists they’ve been following – the duo recently got in touch with local producer Oshi, coming off as a pair of ‘super enthusiasts’, according to the French promoter, eager to check out the scene.

They’ll do just that on Friday 26, when the duo play both live and DJ sets at Dada for Oshi’s regular night, The Drop. In a joint email interview, Jaquenoud and Licci talk to Time Out about the sounds of Switzerland, global influences and their expectations ahead of Simpig’s first China show.

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How did you two begin working together?

We’re two musicians-producers-DJs from a city called Biel in Switzerland. We’re mainly influenced by bass music, Chicago juke/footwork, and chiptune, and try to make our own musical concept. We first met in 2007, when we became friends. In 2009 we decided to start working together – on dubstep, bass music, UK funky and grime music – and created our collective, Tomorrow is Today. Later, in 2011, we discovered the sound of Chicago footwork, which quickly became a big influence on our music.

Biel is called ‘the birthplace of hip-hop in Switzerland’. Is there still an active hip-hop scene today?

Biel is an important city for Swiss hip-hop, and [still] one of its most active communities. We came to Biel four years ago because we really wanted to see the local scene, which is very creative. For example, La Vie C’est Facile, Mike Waulie, Hidden Peaks…

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You’ve said that seeing DJs Rashad and Spinn turned you on to footwork. What was it about those sets that inspired you?

Rashad (RIP) and Spinn gave a really fresh touch to footwork – their sets are so energetic! It’s that special vision of footwork they had that made us try to make our own.

Footwork is interesting in that it’s such a localised culture, tied to a specific tradition of Chicago music and dance, yet it’s become globally popular among artists and audiences that don’t necessarily know its roots. What’s your take?

From the beginning, we didn’t want to just copy Chicago footwork, because juke and footwork offer enough creative possibilities to allow us to blend it with other influences, like bass, 8-bit music, grime, and so on.

What is the concept behind your collective, Tomorrow is Today?

Tomorrow is Today is a collective of artists from Biel with various influences. Our goal is to spread bass culture to the Swiss public. We try to bring new producers from around the world together with creative VJs.

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Since teaming up as Simpig you’ve moved towards playing live sets, incorporating hardware like keys and pads. What does this add to your performance?

Playing live forced us to approach our music differently. Our goal was to bring a real experience when performing. Music is more alive when played live, and that allows us to experiment with different versions of our tracks, and offer something the listeners couldn’t hear in our DJ sets and releases.

How does playing together as a duo compare to performing or producing individually?

Playing together is a pleasure we don’t find individually, and blending our personal influences brings a lot more ideas to the table that we wouldn’t have thought of on our own. At the moment we really work as a group, be it while producing, DJing, or performing live.

Is this your first time coming to China? What are your expectations of Beijing?

Yes, for us it’s the first time. We’re really looking forward to sharing and discovering new inspirations as well as the local culture, performing of course, and obviously the food! As for Chinese producers, we’re really into Howie Lee, Achun, Jason Hou,Swimful, and ChaCha, to name a few.

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