DJ BO on His All-Rockin' Roundtable 'The Critical Music Club'

By Ned Kelly, May 20, 2022

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DJ BO, tongue-in-cheek self-proclaimed “Shanghai's #2 DJ” is a wearer of many hats, both literally and metaphorically; he's a full-time DJ, lecturer on culture at universities, senior editor/co-founder of Mongolian culture brand ARTGER, writer and host-curator of 'The Critical Music Club.'

We caught up with the Florida native to find out about all that and more.

First things first – what's the story behind your silver top hat and suit as a kid?
This is the best I've ever looked; three years old and it has been downhill since. I grew up in a dance studio, as my mother is a dance teacher. I did 10 years of tap, jazz and ballet. 

Recently, I've busted out my tap shoes again, and incorporated that discipline into performances at LOFAS and Shake. I'm not quite Fred Astaire, but then again, Astaire didn't know how or where to scratch a James Brown record to get the best breakbeat, so fuck Fred.

What is The Critical Music Club for those not in the know?
The Critical Music Club is “The All-Rockin' Roundtable” where musicians, DJs, music writers and miscellaneous miscreants meet to talk tunes. It started at La Mezcaleria, but has since moved to online weekly meetings on Sundays at 8pm.

Basically, it's a music discussion group, going over everything from 1950s folk to local post-punk. People of all knowledge/experience levels are welcome; as long as you do the 'homework' listening you'll be 100% fine.

Check it out live or the videos I post after on my WeChat Channel (BorderBreaks) and YouTube.

What can people expect?
There's two main parts to each meeting. There's a Critic List, which is a ranked Top 5 list on a fun theme, such as “Animal Songs” and “Travel Songs.” Our Critics send them in to me before each meeting, and then we discuss them at the meeting.

Then there's the Album Discussions. Our critics listen to the assigned albums and then we go over them in the meeting. For at least one of the albums per meeting, we have someone associated with it come to talk about it.

That's included blues guitarist Seth Pandu Blumberg for the Grammy winning Ike Turner album Risin' with the Blues; #1 Billboard hit songwriter Phillip Jarrell to talk about his debut album I Sing My Songs for You; and local post-punk band Solid Liqui – 固体李逵 – to talk about their album Countless Mirages – 无浪击石.

Tell us about some of the guests you’ve got coming up…
We've got a wide variety...

Legendary Hong Kong DJ Andrew Bull to talk about a very rare mix LP of his being digitized for the first time ever.

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Beijing superstar Helen Feng to talk about her band Nova Heart's influential self-titled album.

And USA experimental/electronic rock band Zen Mother to talk about their new album Millennial Garbage Preach.

Are you involved in any other projects right now?
Besides writing poetry about soggy cabbage? [See below] I'm doing DJ livestreams on my WeChat (BrianOffenther) both for my usual residency at La Mezcaleria and kids parties; still working daily on ARTGER, the Mongolian documentary brand I co-founded; and I'm excited to relaunch the “GOING THROUGH PAGES Rock N' Roll Book Club.”

Interesting. Tell us a bit more about ARTGER?
I am the co-founder and Senior Editor for ARTGER, which primarily produces documentaries based in the country of Mongolia. The word ger is the Mongolian word for yurt, and is also the basis for the word for family gerbuth. So, it's an “art family.”

I had lived in Mongolia for three years, the first two in the countryside with the USA volunteer program the Peace Corps. When I'm able, I still go up there annually, whether to bring the first international reggae tour there, host some of the ARTGER videos myself, but always especially to see a place very special to me.

ARTGER has Facebook, Instagram, Bili Bili, and more, but it's primarily on YouTube, where it has over 448,000 subscribers. Javkha Ara is the director and hands on the most, doing incredible work.

The breakout star is undeniably Nargie, aka the “homeboy from the hoodoo (countryside).” When I met him, he was a part-time Mongolian language teacher for Peace Corps Volunteers. I knew he was a star instantly.

The first time he ever was in front of a TV camera was when I directed him to be Mongolia's first ever Elvis tribute artist for a small education show.

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Now, because he's such a celebrity for ARTGER, he's the face of Little Sheep Hot Pot in Mongolia!

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ARTGER also has a weird little brother, which is called FunkyGer. For that channel, I've produced some content based in Shanghai, some of which features “Nargie's Cousin,” City-Boy Baagi.

Scan the QR to check out ARTGER's YouTube Channel:

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And what about your GOING THROUGH PAGES Rock N' Roll Book Club?
I started the GOING THROUGH PAGES Rock 'N' Roll Book Club in March, 2020, when Shanghai had our first – and gentler – lockdown.

I knew I wanted to keep events going at a time when most venues were shut. I always have loved reading, and I take my job as a DJ very seriously, which includes knowing all about the music.

I had never been to a book club before, but also really loved the contradictory spirit of rock 'n' roll mixed with something that people associate with old ladies in red hats. Damn it, I wear a red hat, too. Why do those old ladies get all the fun?

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Photo by Zachary C. Bako

All the books have the general theme of rock 'n' roll, everything from biographies to cultural studies to books about recording studios. We read them at home and then meet to discuss them twice per book. 

We've been lucky to have some authors and other special guests join us in-person or online, such as Wayne Kramer of the MC5 and Curtis Mayfield biographer Travis Atria.

We just finished a massive tome on Paul Robeson, who influenced singers like Harry Belafonte, Bob Dylan and others. Hit me up to join the next book.

The success of that club lead me to start the Guilt Free Cin(ema) Club, which organizes film screenings exclusively for public domain films. The highlight of those has been silent movies featuring jazz pianist Tony Bott. I look forward to getting back to the Guilt Free Cin. Club when the lockdown ends.

Scan this QR for a YouTube posting of a Guilt Free Cin. Club presentation of Japanese silent film A Page of Madness featuring all Shanghai heavy metal.

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Scan the QR to add DJ BO and enter his weird and wonderful world...

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Soggy cabbage

By DJ BO

It's for dinner

It's for a snack

It's coursing through my veins

When I'm lying on my back

 Do I want to have a talk?

No, there's soggy cabbage to chop

It's time to exercise, maybe do some pushups

But how can I do that, with hands made of turnips

What's in this kuaidi box, in a neat cardboard package?

Maybe something fancy, to make my room more lavish?

Fuck, no. It's Traditional Chinese Medicine

And soggy fucking cabbage

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