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Excursions: Taiwan's Velvet Collective champions diversity through nonchalant chemistry & artistic expression

Ahead of bidding farewell to its breakout series ‘Femme Fatale’ this weekend, we chat with the crew about party preferences, past experiences & future endeavours

  • Henry Cooper
  • 3 August 2023

Welcome to Excursions, our feature series where we interview the providers of cultivating dance floors and distinctive musical affairs from around Asia. Today we introduce you to Velvet Collective — the crew that was born out of the pandemic and ended up being one of Taiwan's most celebrated collectives in the house scene.

With roots in Amsterdam and now flourishing in Taiwan, Velvet Collective has undeniably made its dent in the local house scene. Consisting of five exceptionally talented artists — Nathan Alzon, Mateo Savo, Yuhan, Chupis, and Daniel Imanga — Velvet has garnered a devoted fanbase for their events and artists, often selling out clubs and creating some of the most excitable dance floors you can find in the city. The events rarely feel like just another club night, and you can really feel the excitement for the events months in advance.

Velvet Collective's series of events are usually comprised of the same line-up (with maybe a special guest or two), where the members effortlessly compliment one another with the sonic repertoire they’ve become known for individually. Their performances intertwine elements of house, minimal, electro and more, all masterfully accompanied by aesthetic visuals and unique live art crafted by their resident artist, Johnny Chen.

Taiwan is known for featuring stellar visuals across many of its late-night shindigs, and Velvet Collective's are no different. Their signature reddish tones that spill onto the dance floors evoke feelings of romance (or danger, depending on who you ask). Their iconography shines through the smoke-filled rooms via their neon lights. The VJs work overtime, bringing the most engaging, ever-changing visuals pairing in perfect sync with the audio. Live art performances feature metal work with an angle-grinder, with sparks flying in all directions — it really must be experienced to be believed.

As Velvet Collective bids farewell to their breakout series Femme Fatale, they do so in grand style, organising a never-before-seen rave in a warehouse nestled in the heart of Taipei. In this exclusive interview, we delve into their final hurrah, the collective's future endeavours, their take on Asia’s flourishing scene and much more.

Hi, guys! So, tell us a little about Velvet Collective!

Matt: Velvet Collective is a passion project formed by a group of boys who get along, I’d like to think. Our nonchalant nature and chemistry have paved a smooth path for us into the usually quite rugged music industry landscape because we look out for each other. We're the boys who love to throw parties, love the music, and love the people. It doesn't get too much more complicated than that.

Nathan: Velvet initially started as a launch party for my EP, but it’s grown into much more than I could have imagined. Matt and I started this collective with the idea of throwing events as friends for friends. I’m really proud of the fact that we’ve been able to grow our brand, all while keeping that family and friends vibe that we strive for. All of us members are good friends, and we always have as much fun behind the decks as outside of clubs.

Yuhan: The love for this particular sound gathered us to become a music collective, sharing what we love with people, but on top of everything, fully loving the music we wanna share. This is a crucial point as this passion creates a real energy and unity among us, and after doing 9 successful events, people feel this energy and are craving more.

Is there any particular concept behind your signature club night, ‘Femme Fatale’?

Matt: Femme Fatale, in other words "Fatal Attraction", is this helpless feeling of seeing that gorgeous person across the room who simply makes your heart melt. As vague as it sounds, our premise was that feeling translated through the decorations, lighting and, most of all, music. We wanted our track selections and atmosphere to have people look back and melt at the fond memories we created that night.

Yuhan: The combination of our signature red hues, this particular “sexy” house music that hits you right, and our art exhibitions and performances at every event made us stand out in the Taiwan music industry. The atmosphere we always bring is incomparable, and the crowds always add to this sense of romance.

Enlighten us on your beginnings. It started in Amsterdam and migrated to Taiwan during COVID-19, right?

Nathan: Velvet’s first event happened in Amsterdam, and it was actually the first time I played in public. The reason behind it was that it was the launch party of my first-ever EP under my previous alias. Unfortunately, COVID-19 hit, and we couldn’t do anymore. Since I moved back to Taiwan during the pandemic, I brought the idea to Matt, and we relaunched our brand in our home country. In hindsight, I think that was the best thing that could happen for Velvet, to have a party in the city we grew up in.

What made you want to start hosting your own events in addition to being the DJs?

Yuhan: Mixing a set will only show your style of music and make people dance to your vibe during that night. However, hosting your own event will create a whole new atmosphere, a recurrent energy that people want to be part of again and again. We have the liberty and the possibility to offer people our world and immerse them in it.

Velvet Collective and Femme Fatale have become a staple in the local club scene, bringing some of the most crowded dance floors I’ve seen here; how has the enthusiasm been towards you as a group?

Yuhan: We were really proud to see that many people were willing to join our parties and embrace our energy. It only gave us, as a group, the motivation to do better and show people more exciting events. With every show, there are always some surprises and twists, so people joining our events can be surprised every time without finding them stale.

Velvet Collective and Femme Fatale are very striking names; what are the reasons behind them?

Nathan: So the name Velvet comes from the first EP I ever released, Velvet, under my previous artist name. My track ‘Velvet’ from that EP gave me the feeling that it was the vibe I wanted to build around me, and the collective just glued everything together.

When Matt and I were thinking of a concept for our event, we brainstormed for quite a long time as we wanted to find the right idea. We decided on Femme Fatale as it was the vibe we wanted to bring to our events. The kind that attracted you to come back to the next one. And when you are at that next one, you still experience a night different to the last one, yet still have familiarity. And Femme Fatale (Fatal Woman) represented that in our eyes.

Nathan, you’ve played with labels such as No Art in Amsterdam. What do you think are the best bits of the scene from both the East and West?

Nathan: I think the main difference is the sheer size of the community. House music is still a growing sound in Taiwan; therefore, the community is also relatively new. Whereas in Europe, it’s probably the main electronic subgenre that people listen to and party to nowadays. In Europe, you’ll get the big crowds with the big names, and the production is much larger. In Taiwan, the scene is smaller, more intimate, you’re much closer to the crowd, and most of us know each other, giving it a really cosy family vibe. I think that gives both regions their respective charms, which are different, yet both are as lovely as each other.

What do you think makes a good party/event?

Matt: It's not just the music, sound, or the DJs. When you take visuals, lights, stage directing, decorations, art, and layout into play and everything just fits with one another, you'll have a good event. So much of this often gets overlooked when hosting a party.

What's your dream event?

Matt: Nathan Alzon may be a twat, but his productions are interstellar. Standing alongside this dude sometime in the near future, watching him play in front of thousands as I cackle at the thought of him staying behind at parties to pass his tracks on a USB to the headliner, would make me the proudest a son can be. Supporting the dude who's influenced me more than any other when it comes to the music I play and produce; that's my dream event.

Read this next: The Mixmag Asia Clubbing Guide: Taiwan

Velvet Collective artists all have a distinct sound you as a whole have become known for. We’re curious; which artists would you love to play alongside someday and who helped shape your sound?

Matt: Robert Dietz and Reflex Blue are personal long-time favourites of mine. It's all about the tension in my sets, and I have yet to find artists who do it quite as well without a single snare build-up in their tracks.

Yuhan: Vitess, Sweely, Roza Terenzi, Byron Yeates, Ricardo Villalobos (haha), Richie Hawtin (minimal set not his new techno style) and Barac, Tini, Raresh.

What do the members contribute to the local scene in Taiwan?

Matt: Quality music and good times. So many in the industry seek status and praise for doing what they do. I think we bring a breath of fresh air when I say we don't give a fuck. Let's have some fucking fun.

Yuhan: Expose the Taiwanese local crowds to love this kind of music and have them experience it, love it and come back again and again. Like wine (as it’s my main job), I aim to bring new wines to make people who did not know this kind of wine fall in love with it. Like our music and events, I want people to find new genres of music other than EDM or hard techno, appreciate it, adopt it and be part of our growing community.

What’s one thing the world doesn’t know about Taiwan’s music scene?

Chupis: The scene is incredibly diverse, more than most people think before coming, and the artists are all very talented. Many of the DJs in Taiwan have performed at some of the best clubs in the world or have worked with some of the best artists out there. You can find all kinds of music and parties, depending on where you go looking. Each and every club has its strengths, and although our home and community are based at Studio 9, the overall scene is very underrated. When people think of Asia hotspots for clubbing, Taiwan is never high on the list. It’s truly a hidden gem. One of the standouts about Taiwan, though, is the crowd. The scene of community and care you find every weekend is second to none.

What’s the most significant evolution you’ve experienced/witnessed in Asia’s music scene since you first started?

Matt: Regarding the type of House music at the forefront of the movement in Europe, the scene in Taiwan was competitive and small. You'd see events battle each other to get more significant numbers than the next every week. But as of late, events have become far more appealing and welcoming to newcomers. We've reached a point in house music where the exclusivity and closed-door mindset of hosting an event is practically dead, and everyone can enjoy the culture different music brings. It's flourishing.

Read this next: Perfectly mixed: Snug encapsulates the extravagance and debauchery of Hanoi’s clubbing community

The Velvet parties are always visually incredible, with art always created and displayed. Why did you make this choice, and why do you think it enhances your events?

Yuhan: A good event is not only about music but immersing people in a moment of joy. These intense moments will create the best core memory of your life. We want people to remember these moments of happiness so that most of them can flee away from their routine and work stress. We’ve made a solid effort to be on top of our game with visuals, from our VJs, lighting, neon signs, and live art performances. It all adds up to a night that you don’t easily forget.

Johnny, you’re the resident artist for the Femme Fatale series and many other significant events in Taiwan. Can you tell us a bit about your unique work?

Johnny: I’ve been drawing since I can remember, with paper and pencil, like how every artist started. When I was introduced to metal carving, it worked as smoothly as if I was drawing on a canvas, but the patterns and reflections the grinder creates on metal are something else.

What do you think of the significance of music combined with artistic live performances?

Johnny: Working with Velvet Collective has always been fantastic. The music never disappoints, and the details take you to another planet. When the events are merged with metal artworks, the effect elevates even more. It brings the best out of both sides and gives people a sensory overload when the two come together. It allows the audience to feel the concept we bring. It’s elegant but chaotic at the same time.

The art changes how it looks depending on where you’re viewing it from, just like how everyone sees things from their perspective and how a party is different with every conversation and interaction one has. Velvet has this sense of seductiveness mixed with a bit of danger, and I think my artwork only adds to this. The sparks fly when I work, and using the angle grinder is always a risk, but I think that only adds to the senses.

We’re gutted to learn this is the last Femme Fatale event from you guys. Why are you leaving us hanging like this?

Matt: We want to put ourselves out of our comfort zone because we'll always want to innovate. After the 10th iPhone, have we really seen much in terms of innovation? We're not like that. We're Velvet… but we're always going to be the same bunch of misfits behind those decks, giggling our asses off, swearing at each other cause each transition was just so much better than the last, enjoying the company of those we love. We’re saying goodbye to this series to make way for something bigger and better just over the horizon.

Anything you can share with us about future plans for the collective?

Matt: Femme Fatale marks the end of a chapter; that's very true, but the sequel is right around the corner. I'm not in a place to disclose much more than that, but we're happy to let you find out when the time is right.

And what about what's in the books for each of you as individual artists?

Matt: I aim to continue working my way into the music industry, releasing tracks and building as an artist. I’ve got many unreleased sizzlers I’m incredibly proud of and am gearing up to start releasing them as soon as possible. Playing alongside these boys has influenced my taste immensely over the years in the best way possible. Being able to positively shit on one another occasionally and pushing each other to aim for perfection has set the standards sky-high, and I love that. My music will reflect the experiences and the love, blood, sweat, and tears I've gathered with these boys.

Yuhan: Get back on music production. I produced music almost 10 years ago but eventually gave up as I did not have the right instrument to play with or knowledge about software such as Ableton. Now that I’ve gained much more experience and know what kind of music I want to produce, it’s time for me to get back on it seriously and create the music I’ve become known for in my sets.

You have a farewell warehouse event on August 5; can you spill some details?

Matt: We're going all in with everything we've done throughout the last 9 femme fatales and more. Whether this will be your first or your 10th, we'll ensure this trumps any experience you've ever had at one of our parties. That's a promise. The sound system is second to none. The space is something new, exciting and never-before-seen in Taiwan. The DJs (we like to think) are at the top of their game, and we can’t wait to see Velvet regulars and new faces saying goodbye to Femme Fatale.

Nathan: This is the biggest event we’ve done so far, and we’ve taken a giant leap from what we usually do. Everything from the venue, the sound system etc., has been taken up a notch. It’s also the first time all five of us members have been together…ever. So it’ll be a nice little reunion, as one of us was always abroad. As this is our last Femme Fatale, we wanted to make sure to come out with a bang, and we’re ready to give you an “Avengers - End Game” type ending to this.

Yuhan: New venue, warehouse rave, incredible festival sound system, international DJ. As I mentioned, we’re able to bring a new experience and energy to our crowd, so we can once again share what we love and make people love what we share!

Velvet Collective’s 蛇蠍美人 Femme Fatale X [The Last / 3-Year Anniversary] event will be held this Saturday, 5 August at Clapper Studio; get your tickets here.

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