Shaun Qasir brings soulful New York house to a regular night.
Shaun Qasir, or DJ Q as you more likely to know him, has been in Prague for
about eight weeks. Already a resident at Mecca and a regular at the cities’
top clubs, this 25 year-old Londoner is no stranger to the ins and outs of the
international DJ lifestyle. For the last five years his Residency for Soul Heaven
has drawn him away from its London base at the Ministry of Sound to Ibiza for
the summer season, taking in Paris, Milan and most of Europe on the way. A regular
at the Miami Winter Music Conference, this is a man not averse to partying.
But there is another reason why he’s here: Shaun Qasir is on a mission. The
Pill recently talked to him about what he wants to do here.
Pill:Soul Heaven is one of England’s most respected house nights. How
did you get involved?
Q:I was just a fan really, going to Garage City, Bobby and Steve’s previous
night, [the legendary precursor to Soul Heaven] and constantly hassling them
with tapes that I’d made. Eventually they gave me a chance, and I became a resident.
Pill:How would you describe Soul Heaven’s musical aesthetic?
Q:It’s deep, soulful house music, sometimes funky and sometimes a bit more twisted.
Its influences lie in a blending of soul, funk and disco. Like pretty much everyone
on the scene, Bobby and Steve went to New York and were blown away by what they
saw. Larry Levan at the Paradise Garage particularly influenced them, and so
the sound that we go for is definitely a New York sound.
Pill:Your night has a regular slot at the Ministry of Sound, a club which
is sometimes denigrated for being too corporate or simply filled with tourists.
How do you respond to that?
Q:There are some fair criticisms for the Ministry as a company, but at the same
time, you have to remember that it is this club alone which changed the face
of British clubbing, in effect world clubbing, and has made it what it is today.
Recently, when Little Louis Vega played our night at Ministry, the club was
rammed; and at 4 in the morning there were still 2,000 people queuing outside
to get in, still desperate to see him. These weren’t just fly-by-night punters.
Pill:So how is it that you now find yourself in Prague?
Q:I originally came here just to see what it was like; my brother has lived
here for two years, and all I’ve heard is good stuff. On arriving it quickly
dawned on me that there is definitely a niche in the clubbing market. If you
like tech house, trance or techno, then Prague is absolutely brilliant, but
lots of clubs only cater for these specific audiences. There is a stigmatism
with clubs like the Roxy among clubbers who don’t appear to fall into the 18-25
demographic that it caters for. This is something that Soul Heaven would be
Pill:Bearing in mind the musical heritage of Soul Heaven, do you think
that it is something that the audiences in Prague will understand?
Q:The one thing that I’ve noticed about Prague is how responsive and willing
to learn the crowds are. I want to give them something special, that they haven’t
seen before, with a wide-ranging music policy that will change their attitudes
to house music. There is definitely room out there for a night which can incorporate
not only the 18-25 demographic, but also slightly older clientele who have a
bit of money and want to have a dance but are put off by the sweatiness of trance
and techno nights.
Pill:This is definitely a problem with house music at the moment, since
the genre is becoming more exclusive and self-reflexive. Some djs are simply
stuck in a rut, churning out the same music, week in, week out. How would you
Q:I agree, but not all DJs are like that, just look at Danny Tenaglia – he
epitomises house music, playing anything and everything he wants in his marathon
10 hour sets – tribal, techy, funky, vocal, you name it. Even Marshall Jefferson
has changed significantly in the last 10 years. But specifically, the way to
combat this is to create something special. We don’t want our night to be run
of the mill, so we’re gonna throw it once a month. This will give us time to
research, promote and organise a truly big event. The night will cost 400 Kč,
but will include a champagne reception and free buffet, it will be something
glitzy like Paris, London or New York.
Pill:So tell me the details about the night then.
Q:We’re having a Soul Heaven Christ-mas party on the 22nd of December at Mecca.
Bobby and Steve are coming over to play in the main room together with the Czech
Mecca residents and myself. Downstairs in the C-lounge is a Czech electronic
music and percussion outfit called Face to Face. As I said before, I want to
encourage soulful house here by giving exposure to talented Czech djs and producers,
and our plan is to hopefully bring over the djs that we cultivate here to have
residencies in London under the Soul Heaven name. There isn’t the infrastructure
here that there is in London, and this is something that we want to change.
Pill:And what of your plans for the future? Do you plan to stay in Prague
and carry on with this?
Q:Definitely, this will be a once-a-month affair which I hope will blossom into
something great. On top of that I’m currently looking into maybe doing a series
of retrospective nights, telling the history of house music. Hopefully this
will involve bringing in some of the greats, like Marshall Jefferson, Frankie
Knuck-les, Todd Terry. This is something that we take for granted in the UK
and USA, but maybe Czechs are not so clued up about these things. If we did
it, it would be at the Roxy, since that is a club which really epitomises the
ethos of house music; and has maintained its loyal and knowledgeable crowd despite
all of the flood damage. But at the moment, this is just a pipe dream.
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