WIN! Rising Beijing producer Howie Lee and his Do Hits Collective celebrate four years in the game

By Andrew Chin, June 11, 2015

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After a stellar 2014 that included BBC shoutouts by Gilles Peterson, Beijing producer Howie Lee is leading the pack for the Mainland's electronic underground. While he's putting the finishing touches on his debut full-length, he'll be stopping off at Arkham on June 13 to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the Do Hits collective. With a mission to craft a sound that is truly "made from China," Do Hits DJs Starman, Guzz and Veeky will spin. Franck McWeeny will make the trip from London to guest and Lee will perform a live set. We chat with the ascending producer about his acclaimed EPs, his upcoming album and which Beijing producer is destined to take the scene to new heights.

Last year was a really crazy year with three EP releases...
It’s always crazy. Hopefully next year will be crazier.

What were the reaction like to each of the EPs?
The all got pretty good feedback. Eastside Sampler probably got the best reaction because it’s very dancey and no one had really heard anything like that before. Swallow was a different experiment, I was incorporating more new synthesizers sounds into my music. Borderless Shadows was my first big release on Trapdoor. 

You also came up with a video show for Borderless Shadows.
Borderless Shadows was my project for my Master’s Degree so I put a lot of time figuring out that live show. I’m working on my new live show, so I won’t play anything from Borderless Shadows. It will be me and a drummer who has an interactive device that captures all his movements and uses that data to generate some visuals. It won’t be ready until my new album tour around October, but hopefully we can bring some part of it to the Shanghai show.

So what kind of grade did you get for Borderless Shadows?
My major is fine arts so one of my teachers really liked it, but the others... But that’s my university. They ask me why I was doing this.  I really liked it and I don’t give a fuck whether my teachers liked it. (laughs)

What was the feedback like when you were living in Lonon?
To be honest, when I was studying in London, dance music people didn’t know me. While I was living there, I only performed for my degree show which was really, really good. It wasn’t until I came back to China and did Eastside Samplerthat people in the UK discovered my music.

No VPN? Watch the video on Youku.

What was the Borderless Shadows China tour like?
Beijing was definitely the best one and Chengdu was pretty good because it was very intimate. A live show requires a very dark environment and I call my show live cinema. Most people and clubs weren’t ready yet, though. But this year, I played live shows in Chengdu and Chongqing that were really good. I started using Chinese sites like Xiami and Douban this year and have been getting more reaction to it. People are starting to know my music better. For this show in Shanghai, I'm going to play all my originals live. At least half of the stuff is from my new album.

How is the new album going?
It’s around 60 percent done. I wrote most of the stuff over two months in Taipei and I’m hoping to finish it next month. Most of my stuff is a blend of Chinese music, heavy bass and weird stuff I’ve discovered. A sample selection is essential and I’m always digging weird Japanese samples, Bali music and things that sound different from music you listen to at nightclubs. I developed a lot of Chinese percussion sounds last year and am starting to put together new rhythms. The album is very conceptual. It looks at nature and urban life. It’s almost surreal when you live in a very contemporary environment but are still surrounded by nature. 

The show celebrates the fourth anniversary of Do Hits. How did you come together?
At first, it was Salumi and Billy Starman, who co-owns School Bar in Beijing. When they did School Bar, they had no idea what they were going to do. Salumi and I thought let’s do something electronic. We didn’t really DJ that much at the time and wanted to find a place where we could DJ. That was the simple reason.

Billy comes from a rock background and he used to manage Queen Sea Big Shark. He learned how to DJ from me and we did this party at School Bar for two years. The beginning was pretty good. We played electro-rock and disco-punk and it was mostly rock people. But every month, it went down and I remember a time when we wanted to stop this shit. Then DADA opened and saved us.

How often do you play?
Every month. In Shanghai you have choices. In Beijing, DADA is the only place to go if you like bass music.

There’s also going to be the first Do Hits! compilation release. Can you give us a preview?
Except for Billy, everybody else is a producer. So I want to help these really good, new producers get heard by someone. They call it beat music in Beijing and the scene is very small. Every month, we have a ‘Beatmakers’ meeting where we teach them how to get new songs heard by Chinese DJs who play underground clubs regularly. I also try to connect them with overseas DJs I know who probably will play their music. 

On the compilation, we have Guzz He started doing electro-rock stuff and went to acid techno and has come back to bass. He’s doing some interesting music. We also have Veeky, who lives in Shanghai. He always has this dark Chinese stuff going on in his music. And we have Zaliva-D.  

Zaliva-D is the future. He has the most potential in China, but no one really understands his stuff. I take his music to Europe and the US and good DJs are like ‘whoa, this is the shit!’ No one understands him in Beijing. He’s got a very strong energy. The last time we played, I actually opened. He has has such a weird vibe that’s so strong that I can’t play after him. I don’t know the people in China who will play his stuff, but his stuff is siiiiick.

// June 13, 10pm-late, RMB30 (with shot). Arkham.


We have a pair of tickets to give away. Simply e-mail with the subject 'Do Hits' by June 10 for your chance to win.

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