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Wednesday, 26 June 2013


I've been trying to write a piece on DJ Stonedog's Big Gay Anthem [Club Remixes], which landed on iTunes last Saturday. But it's hard for me to find honest, supportive words without first drawing attention to a little detail that has been niggling at me as soon as I received the press kit.

DJ Stonedog is known in real life as Evan of "Joseph and Evan," one of the great partnerships without whom Hong Kong's LGBT scene wouldn't be what it is now. The pair established the original Volume nightspot in 2006 - the very place Chris and I first set eyes on each other. (Yes, I fell in love as I passed him by, on my way to the loo.)

Joseph Chan has always been the "brick and mortar" half - the partner whom guests could count on to run the venue, deal with unreliable staff, look after drunk gay boys, appease the neighbours and keep the omnipresent cops at bay with assurances that we are behaving. And if we're clearly not, we will. Fingers crossed. Joseph takes responsibility - and liability - as Managing Director of Volume Concepts.

Meanwhile, the multi-titled, multi-parenthetical, multi-slashed, multi-tasking and multi-talented Evan Steer - mercifully known to me just by the economical nickname, "Ev," - has always been the half who made sure we'd do exactly the opposite of what Joseph promised the neighbours and the cops we'd do. He's the camp, colourful and loud half. He created that unique universe of "fun, friendship and occasional fuck" we now recognize as hallmarks of our Volume experience.

We flocked on New Arrival Wednesdays for the free vodka. We glammed it up for the annual Magenta Ball. We partied all night 'til we were finally ready to Rock the Boat at Floatilla. Superstar showgirl-slash-recording artist La Chiquitta heralded an era of drag fabulousness from her Magenta throne, with Drag It On and the annual Drag Overdose charity event. Ev pulled strings behind the scenes up to a point where it was no longer humanly possible to stitch all these into who Evan Steer is, even with a splashy Creative Director title.

He was a Prospero of sorts, conjuring parties and international acts and marquee DJs to come to Volume. He whipped the crowd into a constant state of of frenzy from his perch on the DJ booth, with an artillery of unrepentant, take-me-as-I-am handbag and sing-along anthems enough for 1,978 lifetimes, wired onto a pair of obnoxiously huge, gold headphones (me = jealous) which would later become his signature. DJ Stonedog had finally broken through as a public persona - replete with an in-house record label called Volume Up Records.

In 2010, DJ Stonedog released his debut album, Club Anthems Asia - an epic, two-CD set magnum opus, for which I did a filler track called "Nothing Yet." It was scheduled to launch at a humongous event hall - AsiaWorld Expo, if I remember correctly. What I don't any more remember is the reason it got nixed and relocated back to good, old Volume, instead. Everybody showed up to support, including featured artists from Singapore, Australia, the Philippines, and only God knows where else. It was a big night for the Asian gay club scene. I was thankful to have played a small part in it, and I was extraordinarily proud of my dear friend, Ev.

Last year, I invited him to join the celebrity panel of judges tasked with selecting the 2013 Mr Gay HK.

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From just a single nightspot, Volume has grown into a brand with many distinct experiences: HEAT is a Thai-Viet bar / restaurant / gallery; BEAT is a club that's also a platform for the record label and branded live events;  and Cafe Queen is Volume's screamingly hysterical answer to Starbucks. As a collective, Volume Concepts' presence in Sheung Wan has officially turned the district into Hong Kong's Gay Ghetto. Oh Em Gee, get the PR machines rolling! We're so mainstream! Forget Spartacus; call The Hyperactive Gay Boy™! Get me Trip Advisor. Get me Travel + Leisure. Fucking get me Conde Nast!

So here's what's been disturbing me all along.

Everybody, including myself, thinks that "Joseph and Evan" - inadvertently mentioned in one breathe up to this moment, though no longer romantically linked as a couple - are a winning team. Sure, they bicker about operational issues and brand philosophy - so what? We hear all about it from everyone, all the time. It's not news when we know we'll wake up to another party weekend with more of this reliable, comforting sense of same-ness.

Except when I got the press kit for the Big Gay Anthem re-release, I immediately noticed the absence of Volume's logo on the album artwork (though the iTunes preview page still indicates ℗ 2013 Volume Up Records).

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Is this a hint of another breakout moment from Ev - this time, of DJ Stonedog breaking free from the increasingly defined parameters of a brand he has created, defined and embodied?

Why a re-release? And why now? The press kit says:

Just in time for Pride 2013! Hong Kong's most prolific gay circuit star DJ STONEDOG re-releases his 2012 collaboration with Dutch producer MATT POP: "Big Gay Anthem" with a slew of updated new remixes from UK's 7th's Heaven's new pop alias STARLAB, as well as remixes from WAYNE G & LFB, DJ SANTOS (USA), BRIAN CUA (Philippines) and lots more!

There's a couple of very noteworthy collaborations in there. This wasn't just a business-as-usual, let's-put-one-out-just-coz-we-gotta type of affair. Ev clearly worked overtime to make this re-release worthwhile. The cuts still showcase DJ Stonedog's  energy and frivolity and love for high camp, but now, there's more focus on high rather than on camp. Instead of giving us a thick, fat wad of gum that gets harder to chew as the night progresses, there are just (and I can't even believe I'm about to use this word) subtle throwbacks to our no-such-thing-as-too-much-Kylie days on Volume's dance floor. Enough for us to remember, but also fresh and thrilling and new enough to inspire us to dance even harder.

Something tells me DJ Stonedog didn't need a fuck-off pair of gold headphones to put this one together. There's a maturity and depth and complexity that transcends cosmetic flourishes or veneers. This makes for delicious listening many times over. Each time, a new layer of sound is revealed.

Welcome to your breakout season with the new Stonedog.


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