PW-Magazine explored Central European nightlife and scouted the Bratislavian crew BWO x MÄSS. We visited one of their ambitious club nights and entered the local scene.
Craving for innovative club nights with a global view on dance music genres, far off compartmentalization and a predilection for contemporary and experimental forms of UK bass music, I accidentally came across a newly founded club night called BWO x MÄSS in Bratislava. A city that has about 430.000 inhabitants and is just an hour’s drive away from Vienna. For their first night in February 2016 they booked instrumental grime dons Hi5Ghost & Impey and added a local Bratislavian line up that promised to be very interesting.
I took the chance to check out the second edition on May 13 with Sudanim from London-based Her Records and Tobias Lee aka Why Be who released on Rabit’s Halcyon Veil. I made it out to Bratislava to meet with Tea Tralna, one of the promoters, to talk about their views on club music, still existing boundaries and recognition.
Judging from your first two nights and international bookings, am I right when I say you are trying to promote “contemporary club music”? If yes, what does that mean to you? Where do you take your influences from?
You are not wrong, but everybody would imagine something different when they say “contemporary club music”. When it comes to BWO × MÄSS nights, I don’t want to use the term “bass music”, because it’s kind of wide and vague, but it certainly includes what we are focusing on. We don’t want to be strictly genre oriented, so we are not into grime or UK garage only, as people might think after the first club night.
We try to invite the producers and DJs that we like and consider as “fresh” at the moment. Still, our emphasis is not put on riding producers who are being hyped at the moment, we rather try to pick guests who we see as innovative and are bringing their own “idiomatic” sound. Every one of us takes influences from different sources, and that is what I like about this cluster of people.
Via SoundCloud-digging, various platforms and radio stations like NTS, Radar Radio and so on, we could find and at the same time spread the ideas about who we like at the moment and who we should invite. And, of course, we always have an eye on our favorite labels and collectives and their releases. Last but not least, we are quite different in our overall preferences, which makes it very interesting and inspiring to work with this group.
The party on February 12 was the starting point of BWO x MÄSS, but the individuals involved have already gained experience with other projects. What did you do before BWO x MÄSS and why did you start it?
Indeed it was our first night in that constellation. Actually the name BWO × MÄSS consists of two collectives which operate in Bratislava. BWO is the collective of people with a ten-years tradition in organizing different series of club nights, focusing largely on UK bass. Some of their previous guests were Addison Groove, Peverelist, Vex’d, Scratcha DVA, Spooky and Om Unit.
MÄSS is rather a record label, which is run by two young guys named Ink Midget & Pjoni. And finally there is Inso & me. Inso started with DJing in 2003 largely focusing on UK club music as well. And actually I was only a clubber, a passive consumer of music. Three years ago I also started with selecting, rather than mixing.
Last year there was a discussion among us that we want and need to start organizing a club night that would cover our music preferences so we don’t need to travel abroad all the time to see and hear our favorite DJs and producers. So that is the main reason why BWO × MÄSS nights collective was founded.
Does Bratislava have an open-mindedness that allows your nights to thrive there? What could be better?
As there were only two of our club nights so far, it’s hard to say. We are trying to build a “brand awareness” of BWO × MÄSS nights, with the intention to attract people from nearby, who are experiencing the similar lack of a fresh and contemporary sound or who are looking for something new and unconventional within music. Therefore we are addressing “older” visitors of the former club nights, as well as the “newcomers”.Last but not least, we try to create a community of music enthusiasts with our club nights, which is a long-term process. I hope we will find this open mindedness.
But the current situation in Bratislava regarding the club scene doesn’t seem to be very well-disposed for this sort of activities. People in common are more passive and resistant, not willing to discover something new, rather preferring what has been stamped and proven. Music in the club is often perceived only as a “Friday night soundtrack” for gatherings or getting drunk. I really miss the proper vibe - but not when it comes to our club nights, haha.
And what needs to be improved? I guess, the support of less mainstream and conventional stuff in the club dramaturgy. There is also a lack of relevant local media sources like web sites, online magazines, blogs and fanzines and internet radio focusing on new sound, genres, labels, releases and producers from around the world. In other words, I miss this sort of “music educating”, people who get off the beaten paths.
Being only an hour away, what is your connection to Vienna? Do you take influences from certain clubs/DJs/Producers from over here?
Our relationship to Vienna is kind of specific and could be seen from different perspectives. The fact that Vienna is only one hour away is amazing and we love it, because it offers more possibilities, as it is a larger city with far more venues and people who could come to parties or gigs.
It’s amazing that we could just jump over to a party or concert with bigger names, which would be really unfeasible in Bratislava, mainly due to income deficiencies and less market potential. We do like Vienna, its environment, we like to party there, but also I have to admit that we used to visit parties more often when there was The Loud Minority collective, which is truly missed.
But what is strange to me, although Vienna is only one hour away, I could not see any strong connection between ours and the Viennese music scene, any specific collective co-operations or double-booking efforts. Also the “get-to-know-the-other-city-scene” invitations of local DJs or producers between both cities are quite rare. I don’t know if it is about some cultural and social stereotypes here or if it is anything else, but I hope that this will change in time.
Do you think for a city with roughly 2 million inhabitants, Vienna could do more in terms of frequency of relevant nights, labels, DJs that play this kind of sound aesthetic?
As an inhabitant of a city with barely half a million people, I could only say, with a touch of envy, that the support of cultural activities in Vienna seems far better and generous on different levels, than it’s here. But this is only the view of a stranger. I really could not speak for the Viennese people. From this foreigner perspective it seems that there is always something going on in Vienna. Speaking about Viennese club scene, I could observe some recent changes and motions. For instance, demise of some old and emergence of some new venues, collectives or personas, a strengthening inclination into straight beats in time and so on. Maybe it is sort of reinvention process, but who knows.
I know a lot of people who travel between Linz and Vienna for concerts & club shows, but I also have experienced that it can be quite hard to motivate people to travel from Vienna to Bratislava for a club night, despite the short distance and very good and cheap public transportation service.
Even in times of the EU and a shared currency, do you think that the border between Austria & Slovakia still has a divisive power?
Yes, I think the border still works as a limiter, even in EU and Euro times. And it is not surprising for me that even it’s further away, Linz is still part of the same country and that seems to be more comfortable and safer because you generally know what to expect. Maybe the history and language barrier could cause some stress as well, but as I already mentioned, I hope this will change in time. I am glad that you came to our club night and enjoyed it. And I appreciate you talking about it and recommending it to your friends. If nothing works out, we can always wait for the Hyperloop. (laughs)
What’s your plan for the near future? Will you stick to hosting parties, or are there any other ideas?
BWO × MÄSS is meant to be a continual club night series and our booking-wish-list so far is pretty long. We do have plans regarding the parties and we’ve already got dates for the upcoming club nights for the rest of 2016. But there are also other ideas we’ve discussed recently, following the current situation at our local club scene. I don’t want to be more specific at the moment, since we haven’t made any definite decisions yet.
As mentioned before, it’s a long-term process, which is based on people’s volition to explore something specific or unusual when it comes to music. And we hope that BWO × MÄSS could be one of the mediators which enables this sort of experience and pleasure of searching for new music.