Xiao Linfeng, aka XLF, has put his fingerprint on
almost all of Beijing’s major dance music clubs, parties, labels and festivals
over his 15 years in the game. From all-night raves at 798 warehouses to
intimate showcases of experimental electronic music at Modernsky Lab, the venue
he currently manages, XLF has been an indefatigable force in elevating Beijing’s
electro underground to an international standard. This year, he’ll launch a new
multi-media live performance project along with fellow producer 1van and VJ
XXX. He’ll also actively push at the edges of what he can do with Modernsky Lab
to survive the ‘cruel’ reality of Beijing’s recent hostility toward live music
We caught up with XLF to talk about the larger
changes Beijing’s club scene has undergone over the last decade, his current
party label Beehive, and his plans as a performer and promoter in 2016.
You've been active in the Beijing nightlife scene
for a long time now. What are the most significant ways in which you've seen it
change over the last 10 or 15 years? Over the last 15 years, I've witnessed some
small-scale promoters steadily grow big, and steadily decline. There have been
more and more outstanding electronic music producers and DJs coming out, really
quite a lot. I've welcomed new music bars, been to a lot of club openings, and
seen a lot of them go away too, seen many people in the scene strike off and
look for new directions. 2016 will usher in yet another new journey for the
Chinese electronic music scene.
What are some of the venues, labels, or promoters
you've co-founded or been involved with over the years? I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved with
quite a few great projects over the last ten years: the INTRO electronic music
festivals at 751 D-Park, Crab Island, and Shougang Capital Steel Factory; the
Spooked Halloween parties at Ku-18, Pace Gallery, and the Blue Warehouse in
798; the Nova party at the Green Warehouse in 751; and a few indoor parties at
some electronic clubs around China. I've also been actively involved with a few
parties and labels, including PENG, Acupuncture, Ciqi, and now Beehive.
When was Beehive launched? How is it different from
other parties around town, or other parties you've been involved with in the
past? Beehive was launched in December 2014 by me, Lio,
and Kaize. We aim to break out of the confines of different music genres – house,
techno, tech house, new disco, indie-dance – and bring people quality music
that can let them escape the daily routine and enjoy the natural sensation
music is supposed to bring you. Our main focus is on the quality of music.
Skill in mixing has almost nothing to do with your technical skills – although
to be a good DJ, you need to be good with all the technics. But the best DJs in
the world are the people who know how to control the crowd, to flirt with them,
to infect them. They know how to tell people a story with music, make them fall
in a different world and lose control.
What is the ideal crowd for a Beehive show? No particular traits – it can be anybody. We think
electronic music is receiving more and more attention in China. More people are
realising that going to a party just for music can be magical, but you don’t
need to think of it as a big thing with a dress code, or follow what other
people are doing or listening to. Our music serves the more discerning
audience, who stand in front of the DJ for one reason and one reason only: to
get lost in the groove.
You'll be performing live with 1van at the Freaky Love event on Valentine’s Day at
Modernsky Lab, and again at the Black Sheep party on March 11 at
Lantern. How did this live project come together? Do you have any plans for
further performances or recordings? In 2015, the night before Halloween, Goethe
Institute invited 1van and I to perform at the opening party for their
new venue. We talked it over and decided to form a band, to play live together
on stage. For equipment, we use a few old analog synthesizers, FM synthesizers,
drum synthesizers, electric guitar, and some other conventional electronic
music instruments. On Christmas Eve, at UCCA's anniversary party, VJ XXX joined
us, and we worked well together. We decided that starting from this year, we
want to make multi-media work combining music and visuals. We're not sure about
the style yet, we're just going to roll with it and see where it takes us. The
Valentine's Day show will be the first show we'll play since we formed this
group. In the future we'll be playing as a band, and using live performance to
replace the DJ part of our shows. For releases, we're thinking about putting
out a 60-minute live recording after our set is more mature. Let's see how it
You're currently the manager of Modernsky Lab,
which has had a pretty successful first six months. How did you get involved
with the venue? Modern Sky's CEO Shen Lihui has always wanted to do
electronic music-related productions, be they physical releases or shows. A
natural opportunity presented itself as Modern Sky was beginning to plan
Modernsky Lab, a new chain of venues that will be opened throughout China.
These two factors coming together led me to begin working with Modern Sky. The
goal is to become a platform or a space that contains multiple art forms, such
as independent music, electronic music performance, gallery exhibits, relevant
industry salons, and workshops, and to offer opportunities for people working
in music and art to present themselves, to release their work and gain a better
understanding of their own practice.
Modernsky Lab's bookings alternate between rock and
electronic music. How do you hope to mix different audiences or fans of
different styles of music at the venue? At the moment we're still studying, trying
different things and seeing how it goes. Expectations are always rosy, but
reality is cruel. For now, Modernsky Lab will remain tough and versatile enough
to reach the next phase.
performs live with 1van and VJ XXX at Modernsky Lab on Sunday 14 February and at Lantern on Friday 11 March.