Bok Bok, Night Slugs co-founder, on the Future of Radio, Favorite Non-Music Activity, and Dance Music in London
Interviewed by Fens (Matt Rohr)
Fens: We’ve seen a lot of recent Night Slugs material develop from DJ-ready, club-oriented tracks to full-length albums such as “Dream a Garden,” and hybrids such as your own “Your Charizmatic Self.” Where did this new format come from? Is this sound something to expect more from Night Slugs?
Bok Bok: We’ve been in the game for almost a decade now, so it’s not unusual that we’d want to start expressing ourselves some more in-depth ways. We’ll always keep at least one foot in the club, but we’ve got older, life is realer, it became time to engage more with the reality around us.
Fens: Without revealing any secret weapons, do you have any favorite up-and-coming producers, labels, or club nights that you think are doing something great or revolutionary?
Bok Bok: I’m inspired the most by my friends. My favourite club night in London right now is called Body Party – the music policy is really free but also really specific, a lot of r&b, bashment get played, a lot of new music from London’s various diasporas. I love a pop sensibility in the club. I love to hear songs and warmth versus songless, inhumane electronics-as-message kind of techno that can often dominate club spaces over in Europe.
Fens: As dance music and the club environment become more ubiquitous and a popular experience for people (especially in the US), can you tell us about how you keep things interesting and fresh?
Bok Bok: I have basically always done my own thing, and I plan to continue on that path. But I owe it all to London’s rich and established rave culture. While in the States, going out to dance music seems like a new idea in the mainstream imagination. We here in England’s urban centres are so tightly integrated in that since the days of acid house and then hardcore and then jungle and onward into garage. People of all types have been going out raving. As a London DJ, I am lucky enough to operate in an environment where for most people ‘dance culture’ is a given. That’s precisely why the UK is the perfect (and maybe only place) for my come-up as a DJ – within an already established culture I had the space to try to do something different.
Fens: What song got you hooked when you were first getting started? Is there a DJ or musician in particular that you wanted to emulate when you younger?
Bok Bok: I was and am still obsessed with the Dumpvalve label owned by Rinse FM boss Geeneus. Circa 2003-2004, they put out some of my favourite ever tracks, as DJ-ed and repped by the one and only Slimzee. These are the two people who really set me on their path. A huge ode is due. My first grime 12″ was “What” by Wonder, a classic of that period that’s still as fucked up as the first time I heard it. I learned to beat mix with two copies of this half-steppin banger.
Fens: Do you have any core pieces of hardware or equipment that are essential to your writing process?
Bok Bok: Yes!! But actually I wouldn’t say essential. You can make sick beats with a tin can and a stick. I can and will write with whatever is around.
Fens: As a radio DJ, what rewards come from the radio format? Do you see room for growth with radio? What is RinseFM doing right?
Bok Bok: Radio has been core to my DJ-ing since my earliest days in the game. Pirate radio has had a huge influence on our rave culture so it was the first point in many people’s careers, including mine. The Rinse Night Slugs show is basically me working out what I’m about as a DJ – it’s a chance to be more experimental, try stuff out that I wouldn’t necessarily do live. There’s no immediate audience in front of you so it’s a chance to project more of what you want to say.
Fens: Are you still the head designer for Night Slugs artwork? What’s the inspiration behind it? Did you have an artistic background or did you just pick up design out of necessity?
Bok Bok: I am still art directing. Although lately I have been keen to let each project take its own path and have been less worried about overall cohesion. More than ever, the direction is informed by the music and its creators. Our themes are getting more vivid so it’s becoming easier. I have a background in visual stuff.
Fens: What is the craziest thing you’ve seen in the club? Can you recall a wild memory of any Night Slugs members?
Bok Bok: What happens in the club stays in the club.
Fens: Where is your favorite city or club to play in?
Bok Bok: London because I’ll have my team around me.
Fens: What else do you do besides music? Any hobbies we don’t know about?
Bok Bok: Love to ride my bike!
Fens: What is your most and least favorite thing about coming to America?
Bok Bok: Being fluent in American culture and not being understood back to the same degree.
Fens: Favorite American TV show? When Girl Unit was here in February, he told us he was most excited to watch the show Scandal live in his hotel room instead of watching the day after at home!
Bok Bok: Don’t watch much. Sopranos was my favourite ‘serious’ American show, I don’t think it can be beat. But I’m enjoying Silicon Valley because even though it’s not necessarily relevant to me, I can relate to the hustle.