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Excursions: DISTRIKT redefines Hong Kong's scene with boundary-pushing events

Meet the three friends who turned their passion for music into transformative events that resonate with the city's underground community

  • Words: Arun Ramanathan & Amira Waworuntu | Image: Dave Teng
  • 30 May 2024

In the vibrant chaos of Hong Kong's nightlife, there's a crew making waves and flipping the script on the underground electronic scene. Meet DISTRIKT—a tight-knit squad of friends who are more than just promoters; they're pioneers of sonic exploration and creators of unforgettable experiences.

Picture this: a gritty yet intimate rave, pulsing with beats that defy genre norms. That's the DISTRIKT vibe—a fusion of passion, friendship, and a relentless pursuit of sonic perfection. Their story? It's one of organic growth, born during the COVID era when Hong Kong's nightlife had to pivot inward. But from those challenging times emerged something special—an underground movement with DISTRIKT at its helm.

Their secret sauce? A deep understanding of the music scene, both locally and globally. They've hosted heavyweights like DJ Nobu and D.Dan, but also dive into the depths of eclectic niches with artists like Kia. It's this diverse line-up that keeps the crowd on their toes.

But it isn't just about the beats— it's also about community. They're all about creating a safe, inclusive space where music lovers from all walks of life can come together and lose themselves in the rhythm.

Whether it's a sweaty night at 宀 Club or an all-out warehouse rave, the crew's events are undeniably authentic and avant-garde.

And they're not stopping there. With plans for a podcast and more boundary-pushing events on the horizon, DISTRIKT is leading the charge, shaping the future of Hong Kong's electronic scene one beat at a time.

In your opinion, what makes DISTRIKT unique?

Justin: There are a lot of collectives in HK who are in this for different reasons. For us, it’s about our friendship and a circle of unwavering trust in each other's taste in music. DISTRIKT, at its core, is a friendship.

Scott: DISTRIKT as a concept is not that unique. We are a bunch of passionate people trying to make magic happen. What we do have to our advantage is that we are all hard workers and are great friends who share the same vision of what throwing parties is all about. We also share a deep understanding of the underground music scene both in Hong Kong and internationally, which helps us to make informed decisions when planning upcoming events.

Enlighten us on your beginnings, what was the root idea behind DISTRIKT?

Jordy: The genesis of DISTRIKT was totally organic. Hong Kong was in peak COVID times when we started and there were some serious travel restrictions in place. The local scene really had to pivot and look inwards. We saw an opportunity to bring people together in an intimate environment and connect over something fresh, so we dove right in with the amazing support of the 宀 Club team.

Scott: I was also working at 宀 Club for a year before DISTRIKT formed. I saw many amazing parties and other parties that were not as successful. Over time I learned what went into making a good night and tried to carry that knowledge forward into DISTRIKT.

What about the name choice—tell us the story behind the brand!

Justin: I remember so clearly when we had to come up with a name for the night/collective and I just kind of spat out words that came to mind—I created a poll with names like “Revert”, “District” and “Transmission” in our group chat. We all immediately chose “District” and decided to swap the “c” for a “k” to make the name visually sharper and better to design with.

Jordy: I wish there was a cooler, more elaborate story to tell here. “District/Distrikt” felt snappy and incisive, and I think that’s why we were all instantly drawn to it.

Who is behind DISTRIKT?

Jordy: We are friends first and foremost. All of us have a mutual love for underground music and bonded over wanting to curate something around that. Even though Scott, Justin and I have spent several years overseas at various points in our lives—the UK, USA and Australia—we were all born in Hong Kong and take a lot of pride in building a community here.

Justin: DISTRIKT also goes far beyond the three of us. There’s Bryan, a close friend, who designs the graphics, flyers, and animations while managing the collective’s Instagram account. There’s JF and Samy, who help us with the bookings, organizing, and running our nights. There are the WAGs (Wives and Girlfriends) who are at the front row of every party while assisting with hosting our guests and making them feel at home. Lastly, I can’t forget to mention our family, friends, and followers who truly believe in what we’re trying to do and support us unconditionally.

Is there anything specific about Hong Kong that adds to the values of DISTRIKT?

Scott: With limited space here, we’ve had to be very specific in the events that we decide to curate. People in Hong Kong are extremely dedicated to parties that they enjoy and that enables us to put together parties that show interesting musical ideas that we may have, knowing that we have the full trust of our supporters.

Jordy: Everyone in the underground community here is highly devoted—club owners, promoters and ravers alike. DISTRIKT has always valued showcasing proper music above all else, so the engagement that is given back to us is something that we’re very grateful for.

Hong Kong is super high-octane and frenetic, so I find that people are very intentional in how they spend their time and tend to have short attention spans. That pushes us to keep cultivating events that are uncompromisingly true to what we want to deliver.

And how do you feel you as a crew have contributed to the city’s electronic culture?

Jordy: Honestly, so many amazing local collectives and event series have flourished recently—Cipher, Goldway, HEX, Entropy, Slimefest, and countless more. There’s a strong culture of encouragement that makes us all better at what we do.

Together with the 宀 Club team, I feel we’ve been able to challenge the culture to go beyond normal or obvious musical parameters. We’ve collaborated with a full spectrum of DJs—heavyweights like DJ Nobu and D.Dan, but also artists like Kia who are at the forefront of their eclectic niches.

It’s awesome to also see how our DISTRIKT parties draw in a crowd from all backgrounds and music exposure levels to witness inimitable artists and gain a newfound appreciation for the underground culture. It’s even better to then see these faces become regulars and bring their friends along to future events.

What got you into event promotion in the first place? Any specific festival that made you go “Now this looks like a fun career to dive into!”?

Justin: We never aspired to be “promoters”, it just kind of naturally happened. It’s hard to not go into full fanboy mode when meeting our guest DJs, as some of them are truly our idolized heroes. But in the end, we’re all just really passionate about the same thing—music.

The hospitality part comes from a genuine place. As Jordy said, we’re all born in Hong Kong and we take a lot of pride in our community. So it means a lot to us when we’re able to show our guests around Hong Kong and take them out to sample the local cuisine while getting to know them on a personal level.

And to be clear, the three of us were friends who bonded over music, without a business/marketing agenda, before DISTRIKT was even born. At the end of the day, we just want to be a great host and show our guests a good time so they leave thinking “Damn! Hong Kong is sick!”.

Jordy: Like a lot of people involved in the scene here, running a collective and event series is very much a passion project. That fact it has naturally grown into something bigger is a challenge that keeps us all in constant motion, and I love that aspect of it.

To be honest, it’s also a much-needed respite from our day jobs. We joke quite often about having aliases and living double lives. Weekday and Weekend personas. But there’s no doubt that DISTRIKT is becoming more and more pervasive.

What Justin mentioned about the hospitality aspect of event promotion is also something that’s really meaningful to us. Partygoers will typically just see the end product—the party itself. But we deeply cherish all of the experiences that go on behind the scenes in the lead-up, even the small things. I remember when Sedef Adasi came to play for DISTRIKT back in March 2023. Seeing her in awe of the urban chaos of Central, or eating hotpot for the first time in her life, are really special moments that stick with us.

We’ve been to your sets by each of the crew’s DJs, and parties hosted by the whole DISTRIKT team. How do you approach your individual artist careers whilst promoting yourselves as a musical unit together?

Justin: There’s so much pressure in organizing parties, and even more so when you have to play at your own. Sometimes it’s nice to be booked to play outside of DISTRIKT or to be able to play for other collectives. It gives us a chance to showcase our diverse tastes and to play a selection of music we wouldn’t normally play at our own parties.

Scott: Something that can be frustrating for us is when promoters in Hong Kong want to book DISTRIKT for short sets. We each have unique tastes in music and hold values as individual selectors. When promoters know our individual sound, it’s easier for them to select which of us may be best suited for their parties. When we throw our DISTRIKT parties, we always have a specific vision in mind and arrange lineups best suited to show this.

Jordy: We’re incredibly aligned and cohesive when we play together as a collective, so people may actually be a bit surprised that our individual tastes outside of “techno” are quite divergent. I’ve seen Justin play incredible sets more on the psychedelic or Goa side, and Scott bust out UK-influenced breaks or micro-house. The fact that DISTRIKT is rooted in friendship means that anything we may do individually is met with total support.

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You’ve hosted some impressive guests including D.Dan and DJ Tool of Berlin’s Mala Junta, DJ Nobu, Kia, Sedef Adasi, Fadi Mohem and a fair few more. Techno is clearly your calling card — but, is there more to your music direction?

Jordy: We’re all super open-minded in our approach. Collaborating with artists who are distinctive and daring in their sound space is something that we’re definitely pushing towards. The best feeling is when we come out a rave feeling inspired to bash our heads together to conjure up bold ideas for our next event.

Scott: Initially, our music direction was pretty much strictly techno. As we developed as a collective and as DJ’s, I think the music direction is taking a shift away from being genre-focused towards picking DJ’s and playing things that we enjoy. It could be techno, but it does not necessarily have to be.

Justin: As Scott said, we started off “techno” and we still primarily are. We’ve learned so much since the beginning of all this and we’ve realized that there’s way more to our music direction than a narrow focus on a single genre. Personally, the best sets I’ve heard have been a cohesive journey through a variety of genres. I think DJing is so much more than being a “Techno DJ” or a “House DJ”. To me, it’s a tasteful selection of music at the right time and place. I get most excited when the music gets me thinking “Wow they can play this stuff?”, “Where on Earth did they find this track?”.

Describe a typical DISTRIKT regular—what would they be wearing, drinking and talking about?

Jordy: Dressed to the nines in DISTRIKT merch, drinking Oolong tea and complaining about the air-conditioning in the club. Kidding. We’ve never necessarily put boundaries on the type of people who we want to attend our events. We celebrate diversity, radical acceptance and being in a safe space. An educated community of dancers is really just a bonus, particularly in Hong Kong. Hopefully, that shines through in all of our parties.

Justin: There’s no vision of a typical DISTRIKT regular. Instead, I like to dream about a typical DISTRIKT crowd—a dancefloor with minimal chatter, composed of people facing the DJ, focused and locked in while respecting each other’s space.

Scott: We definitely believe that underground electronic music is something that should be accessible and can be enjoyed by all people. Come as you are, enjoy the party.

Read this next: Phuong-Dan in a nutshell: "I am enthusiastic about every musical expression"

Name three records that describe the DISTRIKT sound!

Justin: Stanislav Tolkachev 'Back To My Self'
I first discovered this track in Garcon’s Positive Education Festival set and have fallen in love with it since. It has this growing progression of a scratching sound that is dark, powerful and deep while foreshadowing the light at the end of the tunnel.

Scott: Pariah 'Caterpillar'
This was the first time at a DISTRIKT party where the crowd truly went crazy during one of my sets. After playing this halfway through my closing set of the 宀 Club closing party, the club went into a frenzy and it allowed me to then play freely.

Jordy: Peter Van Hoesen 'Breach'
Brooding, menacing, provocative and pure. It never fails to build tension in a room.

What’s one thing the world doesn’t know about Hong Kong’s techno scene?

Scott: There are so many amazing DJs here in Hong Kong, and there are lots of cool underground venues that, unless you are living here, are not easily accessible. This gives the scene a sense of authenticity and a truly genuine feel.

Jordy: In the realm of techno, there really is something for everyone here. Whether you’re into deep, groovy, industrial, old-school or experimental—there are nights and collectives that are consistently pushing all avenues and have been doing so for some time now. The Hong Kong scene lacks in many ways, but proper options are there if you know where to seek them.

Can you tell us about the first DISTRIKT event? What did you learn from it?

Jordy: The first DISTRIKT event at 宀 Club was wild—a packed room before midnight with family, friends and loads of new faces. Everyone was down to have a good time. It was such a relief, but we also had to temper our expectations and stay humble. The rave scene here can be unpredictable and promoters may be tempted to lean into bookings or crafting parties that are “easy-wins”, so to speak. We’ve tried to stay true to our values and focus on meaningful progressions like building a DISTRIKT community for the long haul.

Scott: One thing that I took away from the first party that has rung true throughout DISTRIKT’s existence is that all of the work takes place before the party happens. If the prep for the party is done well, both musically and in terms of promotion everything will fall into place on the day of the event. We all spent a lot of time talking about how we go about promotion, music and what direction we want to take with these things, and it ensured that each of us was in the perfect position to deliver on the day.

Favourite event / DJ set so far?

Jordy: From one of our own DISTRIKT parties, Fadi Mohem sticks out for me. His background in sound engineering and production really shone through with unreal technical ability. Outside of DISTRIKT, OCCA’s set at Acadana was mind-bending. He’s at an intersection of contemporary techno that I had never really heard before—deep, tribal, psychedelic and experimental, all at the same time. It’s hard to put into words just how freakishly special his sound is.

Scott: We have had many great international bookings, but the party that stands out the most to me was when we were asked to play the closing party before 宀 Club temporarily shut its doors for renovations in the middle of 2022. Although musically we have grown so much since that party, it gave us confidence going forward knowing that we are on the right path.

Justin: Behind the booth, my favourite DJ set so far has to be the night Scott and I played after DJ Nobu to close out our own party. There’s this priceless feeling of being able to connect with the other DJ and the dancefloor simultaneously without using words—just track after track as the sun rises and daylight begins to bleed into the room, a rare occurrence at 宀 Club, with all our friends on the dancefloor to witness it happen. We’re keen to release the recording soon :)

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Under DISTRIKT, you’ve laid the foundation for well-curated techno events in Hong Kong. What’s next?

Justin: We’re so grateful for what we have learned and accomplished in the last two years. We’d like to use our platform to focus on integrating regional and local artists with international industry veterans while continuing to contribute to HK’s community-driven scene.

Scott: We have made a name for ourselves within the Hong Kong scene, but going forward we are looking at launching things like a podcast to showcase talent from Hong Kong and other artists regionally that we find exciting.

Jordy: Expanding DISTRIKT beyond our monthly club residency is also something that we’re all excited by. We recently threw a spin-off rave called “Outer Frequencies” in a warehouse venue and we’re itching to continue to curate memorable events.

Arun Ramanathan is Mixmag Asia’s Director. Follow him on Instagram.

Amira Waworuntu is Mixmag Asia’s Managing Editor, follow her on Instagram.

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