Shanghai Rebellion had the chance to meet Rainbow and Tommy at The Mansion for an exciting interview! It is 3PM, Tommy is still sleeping and Rainbow receives me in Pajama. I guess its morning time here. I feel a bit guilty for being so early, apparently it was planned for 5PM. However I take time to settle down and talk to Rainbow a bit. A couple of minutes later we are in what appears to be the meeting room. Where the schedule and serious stuff happens. Tommy shows up and there it goes, I am sharing a cup of coffee with the coolest underground couple in Shanghai.
Most of expats who have lived and live in SH know about the Mansion. We often hear Rainbow high’s name and people are curious to know about your story. Can you introduce yourself quickly for Shanghai Rebellion newcomers?
R: I lived in Beijing for 20 years. I love Beijing for its culture but moved to Shanghai to start The Mansion after working several years for my own modeling agency. I traveled all around the world to find new models but got fed up with the industry.
T: I am born in Netherlands, in the city of Eindohover and I moved to Shanghai 2 years and a half ago, I have spent 20 years in Netherlands.
Before we get into the Mansion topic, we would like to know more about your first job experiences, which path did you take before ending up here?
R: My first actual paid job was modeling, but even before that I followed Bio-Physics studies, I even got my first experience in a lab
T: Yea actually we have a lab at the rooftop if you wanna check it out haha
How about you Tommy?
T: When I was a kid I wanted to get a PS2 but my parents didn’t buy it, I had to find a way to get the money, I decided to throw newspapers shit and I got my PS2!
What is your most memorable party as a teenager?
R: Well you know I am so old *laughs* I lived through so many social and cultural states of China, when I was a teenager it was Mao communism, there was no party at all. Alcohol was forbidden and any gathering would potentially be punished as Mao Zedong was trying to settle new standards. My father was a rich man, and back at the time being rich was about having a lot of books, not money. The government ordered to burn all the books people had, including the ones my father had. So don’t even think about partying! At the time the only alcohol available was for very rich and high hierarchy people, no one could ever afford vodka or even beers, instead rich people were high on opium and literally smoked to death. My first actual party was very simple, for my birthday we would bring a tape player and go into a park to enjoy the music and dance!
R:The only thing we were consuming was long life noodles. *laughs* When I turned 16 we did the tape party on a boat, that’s how we celebrated!
What is the most messed up (Yet funny) thing you ever did in your life?
T: During my first year in Shanghai I had to spend my Xmas alone, all my friends from Fudan University went back home to celebrate. So I searched for a girl to spend a night with, I finally ended up with two girls. At the hotel I found out they were twins. Had the most memorable night in Shanghai, very unique Christmas gift haha
R: Back in 2001, It was in Beijing, I organized the first Rave party in China, about 1500 people attended. Police came by and stopped the party. As the crowd was going crazy we had to figure out a solution to keep partying, so we decided to kidnap the three policemen. Chinese style solution.
R: That’s the Chinese tricks
The Mansion has quite a strong importance on the underground and the music scene in Shanghai. It is not just a place where people can drink meet and party, can you introduce us the whole concept?
R: After having all this international experience with my modeling agency I wanted to build a unique concept with an international human behavior and culture focus in Shanghai. Back then it was very difficult to make it happen, the restrictions were very tough and I had to go 1on1 to every single neighbor, policemen and authorities to get the right to do what I wanted to do.
T: It was very hard, actually a lot of clubs were looking down on The Mansion saying that we were not professional and were just fooling around.
R: For now, we do parties, but also have a music studio, Dj venue, fashion shows, creative and social hub, and finally electronic music festivals.
R: If people have no skill when they arrive they just start as bar tenders, but then we form them in design, using the Adobe Suite, being Djs, you know creative skills. Actually I taught Tommy how to use Photoshop and make posters.
T: The Mansion is a very unique concept, we offer everything to the people working for us. Everything you need and basic needs are fulfilled: that includes a place to stay, a place to eat, and a new family. People working here don’t receive any pay, but instead get all the above in exchange of their time investment. People like the fact the Mansion delivers this special package, thanks to our team we are the only club in Shanghai with foreign bartenders. You can even order in French a “Whisky Coca”!
Recently in 2014 you made a big hit with the YinYang Music Festival which took place on the Great Wall of China. You are going to renew this experience on June this year, with 2000 limited tickets sale. How come you put on such a crazy concept managing to satisfy both techno lovers and authorities?
R: When I was travelling overseas I really got this international culture knowledge, I really wanted to bring these new things to China. After building up another rave party in Beijing in 2005 the government forbid any parties on the great wall as such until 2010. We had to find a solution, we managed to build two stages in Beijing and organized a Secret Wall Rave. It was epic. But next year my partner screwed up and did it himself without me, Fatboy slim even got on stage that day, but police caught many people to jail as drug issue. so no real great wall rave since last 4 years.
There are so many restrictions in China, whenever you want to bring over a foreign artist you have to provide a full detailed document to officials, that includes lyrics of the songs, video clips, after a two month case study the officials give you the license so the artist can perform. All this paper shit is a lot of work. Terrible work. For the YinYang Festival we had to find a part of the wall that was not too far from Beijing city, but also far enough not to gather too much attention from the local authorities. Close to the courtyard, people could sleep next to the wall and then party hard until the morning
When you look back at when the Mansion started, did you see a big change in people’s lifestyle, especially in music and parties. Introducing electronic music and underground parties to Chinese people seems to be a challenge, isn’t it?
R: For Chinese it is a big challenge, I only found a bit of improvement. Pretty frustrating but not that much. since The Mansion has a worldwide focus rather than a narrow minded Chinese ambition.
R: I had big time back in 2007 to 2008, my father died of cancer, this really was hard and fell into depression for 13 months. My managers at the time stole everything from my modeling agency, money, papers, documents, network. I was feeling so awful. People lifestyle has changed a lot since the arrival of capitalism. The money drives people and make them hateful, school even teach kids the skills to trick people. The death of my father was a big change, life is so short I realized I had to make a difference to change people mindset in this very fucked up world. And then I created The Mansion.
R: I have met a lot of French people and I really like the French mindset, trust me I have been on every continent, and I finally haven’t found open minded people like them, they are the first people to give me models and trusted me in business when I had my modeling agency.
T: French people are such a mystery, on one hand they have this very open minded spirit and food culture, knowing what makes something beautiful and not, and on the other hand they are the most stubborn and arrogant people on earth, just hanging out between French people and messing around. Too many French people lol
R: 10 years ago french embassy was kicking them out of shanghai!
T: By the way Rainbow can you tell the alcohol delivery guy not to piss on the walls when he stops by next time, thanks.
Being on the planning and organization side of events seems like a compromising job, how do you reconcile both partying and working the same night when one of your DJ throw awesome shit?
T: I really enjoy my time working actually, the fact is when I stay in a corner of the room people come to me and we have these empty conversations about where I come from and the concept of The Mansion. I need to be practical and effective during the parties. Actually we are working on evolving the media part with a radio, we have a soundcloud and a mixcloud where we put on big free playlists of artists playing at The Mansion. I really enjoy working on that, it’s all new and it is very rewarding. One guy I met in Nantong was so happy to get new music from our Xiami radio, he told me he downloaded all the stuff and is listening to it every day in his car on his way to work. 200 hours of electronic music!
R: Yesterday I had a dream we opened a TV station lol
Did Tommy and Rainbow met at the Mansion? We want to hear your love story, if that’s too much asking you can switch on to the next question.. LOL
R: Everyone knows that story! Come on!
T: It was a Tuesday night at what is now called Downtown. I was coming back from a trip in Thailand and I was working to make a documentary about Shanghai, I was interviewing people to show Dutch people what was Shanghai like. It was all about underground music scene, so I went to this place called Amber to interview a famous Chinese DJ.
R: Back then I just opened The Mansion two months ago, the beginning was tough and I was feeling a bit down. So I went to Amber to relax.
T: Then I saw that girl with Zebra pants lol, she was so hot and I was a little bit drunk, just the amount that turns me into a 100% honest man, so I told Rainbow about all these things I wanted to tell her. And it seems she loved my honesty haha
T: The day after we met she introduced me to The Mansion concept and I moved in, since then we kept working and living together at The Mansion every day. I stayed there for free and was really impressed by her kindness, very big heart. It was a tough decision for me as I was still a student at Fudan, I had to make a choice because The Mansion would take too much of my time. Eventually I dropped out school, and graduated a year later.
What difference do you see between Beijing and Shanghai music scene?
T: The Beijing music scene is mainly run by Chinese, where the Shanghai music scene is mainly run by foreigner. One thin I don’t like about the Beijing music scene that it’s mainly the same “old guys”, no offence to you Rainbow, are managing everything, young people have no chance to be on shows and make a difference. Shanghai is much more dynamic and 2015, Beijing is a bit rusty to me, too old school. I want to give new people a chance to play and get the scene they deserve.
R: Beijing has this strong culture focus, Shanghai is much more international, you can feel that in music, but you can actually feel it everywhere.
Among all the events you have organized, what is the most memorable thing that ever happened? The worst and the best.
T: Definitely playing my DJ set at the Great Wall YinYang Festival. I was feeling exhausting, two months of intense work to plan and organize everything, the festival was over, only a couple of guys were remaining (on the dance floor) on top of The Great Wall. I was finally enjoying my relaxing moment as the sun was slowly rising, then a friend of mine told me: “Hey Tommy look back!” The sun was rising over the hill and giving the first sunlight to the crowd as I was enjoying my remix of Billie Jean lol. Very unique and special moment, that will stick to my mind till the rest of my life. You know I like old school music more than electronic music actually.
R: I never had the recognition I expected, no one even knows I organized the first rave ever made in Beijing.
T: Still you got the top ten most influential people in Beijing award back in 2007!
R: Yes but you know. There is something more personal that has more value. During this first rave I organized I decided to create unique lamps to display them around the place for the ambiance. There was about 200 people, at the end of it I decided to give each lamp to all participants. Later on 10 years after I went to visit a friend, and I noticed he still had the lamp in his living room! And that is such a precious act of recognition, I was really touched.
In a parallel universe where Chinese authorities offered you millions of RMB to finance a massive event, what would it be?
T: I would invest on the long term, only one big event would screw up the perspective of growth.
R: He meant something crazy! I think I would bring helicopter with massive speakers and throw awesome music at people during traffic jams! You know? Like traffic jam parties!
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us guys! Hope to hear from you soon.
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