THE SWEATBOX – one of KL's hardiest Saturday party nights turned 5 (years) just a month ago.
Echoing its founder Daniela Horeanga of Art Xtreme Media - it only feels like yesterday when we were all pulling out our sunglasses to groove to the sunrise view of the 32nd floor of Elysium, it feels like yesterday getting immersed in the dark and well-appointed well-sounding Basement 2 of Kyo KL- Ren, it also feels like yesterday when we were trying to beat the traffic and make it to Le Noir's club lounge for a Sweatbox sesh, with residents through the years Radio Rental, Jonnyvicious, Mendy Indigo, Obadius, Otherkind, Meliha, Rimka and Biscuit. Since March this year, they've kept the Sweatbox presence online with Livestream shows, special shows on the screen, on internet radio, and more, and via Sweatbox Records, all set for a new release on Christmas Day and a compilation release next week.
The City List sat down with Daniela Horeanga of Art Xtreme Media's, the founder of The Sweatbox Parties and Record label, to find out how they're coping in the current situation and future plans.
How long has your record label been operating?
I have started Sweatbox Records in April 2018, as a spinoff from The Sweatbox Parties after a conversation with Kieron of My Digital Enemy that was happening at 5 o'clock in the morning. It seemed like a great idea at the time, and it turned out to be a great idea after waking up the next day as well.
How did it start?
It started with a compilation of 22 tracks, out of which 18 were exclusives and the response we had from artistes worldwide was impressive. It took about 5 months to gather all the 22 tracks that were then released as our first compilation - “ From Sunset to Sunrise”
What were your objectives when you started?
We wanted to make the creations of the artistes who graced our decks at the parties known not only locally but also on a global scale. I thought of Sweatbox Records as a platform, a launching ramp particularly for those producers who have little exposure other than playing local parties.
Why did you start it?
I saw and heard an overwhelming amount of talent in Malaysia and through the hundreds of DJ/producers who played for my Art Xtreme Media parties and having a direction in mind that reflects the journey of our Sweatbox parties in particular; I wanted to reflect that in the releases we were putting out on the label. Actually, if you listen to the first compilation, it starts as a set in a club and ends the same way.
How many releases have you had so far?
We are now at the 3rd compilation – which is coming out on December 30th – Elevated Moods Vol.1 – meant to highlight the releases we had in the past year and we are pleased to say we have had a constant stream of EP's and singles – at least every 6 weeks and we have also reached our 18th SWEAT release. We have released about 60 tracks in total in 2.5 years.
What's next for the label?
We have found our feet lately with the deep and groovy side of music, regardless of the genre - whether it be techno, deep house or minimal and it is a theme I would like to continue to explore in 2021. On Christmas day, Otherkind's 4th release with the label is coming out, and it's a banger. “Freedom” is Otherkind's best production to date and I am very proud of him. He is not only very active on the label but also my longest-standing resident for The Sweatbox parties - which turned 5 in November as well. Art Xtreme Media is also 6 next May and in general we note that time flies when we are having fun. On December 30 “Elevated Moods” Vol. 1 is out as well with 12 tracks from 16 artists who produced for us during the past year.
With CMCO still in progress, what plans from now on for you?
Since we were unable to organize parties since March, the focus was on releasing some quality content on the label. We are not very keen on aggressive advertising at the minute, partly because of the massive amount of content online that happened during the lockdown and continuing further, and partly because our strategy was also always about the bigger picture, bringing fresh sounds and styles to the local soundscape but also trying to preserve the spirit of the underground which is more about a community connected through music than it is about champagne sparklers and doing sponsored posts for every little thing we do.
We would like to build a legacy centred around content, having a clear direction going forward and continuing to educate through variety and quality.
More support from music lovers at this time means supporting the producers who create the music and buying their tracks. No amount of advertising of shiny posts compares to the organic reach and feedback, as well as the support genuinely offered by the very people whom we address our music to.
What can we expect from you coming up for the rest of the year? How have you been coping during this time this year?
I have been keeping busy with work and exercise, connecting more with friends and family and trying to be patient and look at the bigger picture until this Corona situation blows over. We look forward to restarting The Sweatbox parties, and a few other concepts we have in mind and possibly in a new location. Starting from scratch after a pandemic could be daunting and refreshing at the same time, but I trust the quality and the clear direction of our music and we are ready to embrace the future with enthusiasm, all 5 of us - Rimka, Meliha, Obadius, Otherkind and myself.
As for the music on the label, we look forward to presenting you with some more. It's amazing to see all the residents producing their own music and also focusing on the production side and using this DJing downtime constructively. We have been doing a few live streams, side projects such as Outside The Box series with benchmark sets on KL's rooftops from all the residents, but there is about enough live streaming out there so we don't do it very often.
How have you been keeping busy through all this?
I am always busy, if I am not, I am making myself busy with many projects, work, exercise, local travel when possible and when the restrictions are lifted, so I have been coping quite well during the past 9 months. There has been a lot of introspection and decluttering on all plans, and I hope it serves well for the fresh start we will all have after the pandemic is winding down.
How do you feel about how the CMCO is progressing and affecting the music industry in Malaysia as a whole?
CMCO has affected the entire planet. There has been a lot of double standards as far as the entertainment industry was concerned, and a predilection for the government to ignore any cry for help coming from the music industry in particular. There is nowhere near enough aid for the industry to come out of this situation unscathed.
The hope is that music will never die, so a passion for it and enthusiasm will restart the industry, even though it might take longer than other countries. Many people had to change their jobs in lack of other alternatives, venues had to shut and sadly, a massive restructuring is unavoidable.
I am hoping we will still have venues to go back to and do events with after all of this is over. People eventually want to party, restrictions or not, so a smart SOP in place would prevent illegal events to happen and become the norm- for the safety of everyone involved. Very little depends on us at this time, despite of many pledges for help and support, so we can only hope for the best in 2021.