Following a somewhat different trajectory to your typical French DJ, Charles Siegling aka Technasia cut his teeth in the clubs of Hong Kong back in the mid 90s, churning out his signature brand of techno and house as part of a duo with friend Amil Khan. Now carrying the Technasia banner as a solo artist, Siegling has made a name for himself as both a producer and DJ, and is enjoying the life of a truly international DJ.
Chatting to Charles ahead of his Boxing Day show at EGG London, we discussed his beginnings in Asia, the key to a proper party, and whether dance music can really have universal appeal.
Hi there Charles, how have things been going of late?
Pretty good, as always. Intensive traveling and performing all around the globe. I have been taking a little break with productions again but I’m gonna be back on track with it shortly. So stay tuned for new original productions in 2017.
Technasia was founded halfway across the world in Hong Kong, so I’m interested to hear your thoughts on how dance music is received in East Asia. Do you feel like there is a strong Eastern-Western divide when it comes to this element of youth culture?
Yes, I did start in Hong Kong with my former partner, Amil Khan, quite a long time ago, in 1996 to be precise, just before the handover of Hong Kong to China. To keep it short, because we are talking about 2 decades here, Asia always had been quite a different market when it comes to underground electronic dance music. To my opinion, the fault falls on the fact that there was never a vinyl shop culture in Asia, except maybe in Japan, and club residents were therefore never really pushing this music to the night clubs. Of course, over two decades, things have changed for the better. There are way more “quality music” events and people supporting our style of music than it used to be. But all in all, this is still a market with a strong emphasis on commercial music. It is still far from what we know here in western Europe.
You’ve described language as the “ultimate barrier”, and suggested that electronic music is an effective tool in circumventing such obstacles. Do you think that the context of Western dance music and its roots as a haven for counter-culture may be lost on non-Western audiences?
We are living in a connected world. There is to my opinion no better universal music than techno. Beats without vocals are understandable by 100% of the world population. Whether it served as a counter-culture in the western world, such as Punk-Rock did in the late 70s, I wouldn’t go that far. That it is a genre gathering people around art, positive and progressist ideas, yes. That it can touch people in Asia in the same way it touched people in the Western world, I do believe so. But that it will follow the same evolution theme as it did in our countries, this is something quite impossible to tell. You’re referring to a population of more than 2 billion people, several drastically different political regimes, all sort of religions, traditions and customs. No one can predict that really…
I’m interested in how gaps are bridged between cultures and how music can be used to promote understanding between people of different backgrounds, tastes, languages etc. Do you feel that party culture can transcend hedonism to become a tool for integration?
Art in general is a tool for integration. If we think that party culture is an art, then I would like to agree with what you say. Party culture has become a way of life for lots of people over the last three decades. The great thing about electronic music, is that it does not have a specific face or look. You can be from any culture, any religion, social or ethnic background and be part of the techno world. Not only as a person enjoying it, but also as an active member of it, such as producers, promoters, and all sort of people that happen to work in that industry, but were actually never really meant to do it. Techno gave them that, and they would have never probably fulfilled their carreer or dream without it.
You’ve enjoyed playing out in some of the world’s biggest and best clubs. Aside from the usual suspects (the Trouws and Berghains of this world, for instance), have there been any spots that really stick with you as being on that world-class level?
I would not say that all clubs on the planet are born equal obviously. There are places that are way better than others, although it’s the crowd that makes a club what it is. You can have a crappy venue with a shite sound-system and three lights, but load it with a great and explosive public, and you’ll have one of your best shows of the year! Now indeed, playing in venue such as Heart in Miami, Egg, defunct Space in Ibiza, Fabrik in Madrid, Rex Club in Paris, Womb in Tokyo, Sound in Los Angeles, the list keeps going, those are places where I’m pretty sure I’m gonna have a very good time everytime I perform there, connecting intensively with the public, amazing sound system, great promoters… Nothing can’t really go wrong with those spots. Now again, it doesn’t mean that the other places are not good. The great thing with techno is that magic can happen anywhere-anyhow-anytime.
You’ll be playing in the UK as you head to Egg LDN for Boxing Day Egg Presents…and how do you find playing at Egg Ldn and the UK in general?
I’ve been playing at Egg for quite a few numbers of years, and it’s always been an absolut pleasure to perform for the guys. They are amazing hosts, the public is more than enthusiastic, to say the least, great sound system, a venue pushing quality and cutting edge sound and artists over the years. What more can you expect from a club? They’re a 5 stars venue to my opinion and I’m glad I’ve been part of their history until now. Let’s add another good one to it on Boxing Day!
Having gotten to know both the Paris and Hong Kong scenes quite intimately, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on how London’s scene will be affected by the closure of Fabric? Can specific clubs really be that integral to a city’s nightlife culture?
Like I said, there are venue that are so iconic, or just so good, that they become part of the A-list of world clubs. Fabric was one of them. It was made at a time where there was quite nothing like it in London, they had amazing marketing, mind-blowing mix-cd series, superb public, enough space to attend big amount of customers on the big nights… Now, I must say that I am not a nostalgic person. When things stop, it usually means that new things will come, different and sometimes even better. I like change and movement. This techno world is not made of 60 years-old schmucks but people who love to experience new things and look forward. Fabric closed? So be it. Londoners and DJs can start experiencing the other good venues and events that London have to offer. Fabric will re-open again? I hope they’ll take that opportunity to make things even better or newer, to start a new adventure!
Moving back to your own output with our final question, if you had to pick one track that best shows off what you’re all about to someone who hasn’t heard of you before, which do you throw into the mix?
That’s a tough one… I’d say if it was a track of mine, “I Am Somebody” (released on Suara in 2014). If it was someone else’s, it’d be Jerome Sydenham feat. Quell “The Jockey (Rider Dub)” (released on Desolat in 2013). Beats-beats-beats, I just can’t get enough of good techno beats!
Technasia plays at EGG in London on Boxing Day, Monday 26th December. Joining him for the knees up will be Argentina's Adrian Hour and a few more unannounced guests.
Interview by Andrew Kemp
Photo courtesy of David Lewis