Music • 01 Nov, 2016
AAMIXTAPE: DAN BI MONG A.K.A. HIBIYA LINE
We catch a mixtape and a chat with the globetrotting DJ and co-founder of Observatory
Chances are you would’ve heard Dan Bi Mong’s music well before you ever heard his real name. As Hibiya Line, even before he became the well-loved resident DJ and co-owner at ‘Obs’, he’s been synonymous with the house, techno and disco grooves keeping Saigon denizens up all night for years.
Seven years since being invited from his native Switzerland to play his first set in Saigon back in 2009, 10 years after his first visit to meet family (he’s also half-Vietnamese), Dan Bi Mong, and Hibiya Line, haven’t looked back.
So what makes this tennis-playing, French-speaking, venue-owning, disc-spinning DJ one of the coolest cats in town? We turned up at his place in the city, (the one with the ‘Dan Bi Mong’ plaque on the front gate) and asked him exactly that. Then we talked about spirit animals, his musical influences and of course, Observatory’s first three years. Being the kind human that he is, Dan also threw us a mixtape of his own tunes; an hour of freshly baked goodies just for you guys, the fine readers of AnyArena. Check it out, we’ve linked to the mix right after the interview.
Howzit Dan! Thanks for joining us, we’re big fans. For people that aren’t familiar with ‘Hibiya Line’, how would you describe your sound?
Weird, versatile and dancefloor.
Growing up in Switzerland, what music were you listening to as a kid?
The first time I bought any music, I think I was 12. Back then it was on tapes! I bought the tape ‘Stars’ by Simply Red. I actually still listen to that record and I can still hear that housie disco flavour! Before that my dad taught me how to listen to jazz. I still enjoy that sometimes too.
Who or what would you say has influenced your sound?
Maria from Closer Music and everything from Dissident Records. Dissident were a UK based label that unfortunately doesn’t produce anymore, but they were active between 2007 and 2009. But yeah, basically anything that’s anywhere between New York beat, Detroit techno and weird disco.
Top 3 artists on your collaboration wishlist?
I should probably just check which songs I’ve played the most on my usb! I’d say Larry Levan but he is dead. Give me a second, (long pause) I would be terrible in a TV interview...
What names are going through your head right now?
There is like an explosion of 50 names at once that’s the problem!
OK we’ll give you 10, go for it!
Ok, here goes. All the artists from the Giegling Label, Smallville Records, Dissident Records - but they don’t release anymore. There is Motor City Drum Ensemble, the crew from Panorama Bar - they’re amazing like Tama Sumo and nd_baumecker. But that’s almost only Germany and the US. There’s also Red Axes from Israel who I really like. From Glasgow, there’s the group called Golden Teacher. All the people from Amsterdam… Is that enough?
Thanks, we’ll ask about the rest later. Let's talk about Observatory. You just had your big 3rd bday bash. Congrats. How’d it all start?
Well, the first time I came here was in ‘99 and Saigon seduced me immediately. I knew back then I wanted to come live here at some point, I just needed a really specific project first. A few years later I became a promoter for clubs and festivals in Switzerland and then started to produce my own music and organize my own parties. That was when I got invited to play here for the first time in 2009, and so the two ideas came together and Observatory was born.
Cool. Ok tough question, but of the many that have happened, what’s been your favorite night at Observatory?
Haha! Yes, well not one, but a couple of nights. This year there was the Giegling guys, a really cutting edge label from Weimar in Germany. Those two guys came here and played for 14 hours non-stop! That was really something. Also last year, two residents from the Berghein/Panorama bar; nd_baumecker and Nick Höppner played here. That was another interesting night, but there are so many!
Ok, wishlist time again. If you could get any artist in the world to perform at Obs, who would it be?
That’s something I had in mind when I started it. Believe it or not though, until this day, we’ve never made any booking requests and I’ve never let anyone play by default. We’ve been lucky. Tama Sumo - who I really wanted for a long time - is coming next year. I would also love to have DJ Harvey play one day!
What is the best nightclub you’ve ever been to?
It was not really a club, it was this place that lived in Zurich for less than two years. It was called Dachkantine.
What about the music scene here in Saigon. How would you describe it?
In general? It’s totally booming, there are more and more people involved. In my eyes, it’s always about club music, and in that sense, the underground club scene is run by foreign people. There’s no prior culture of that here you know? So it’s still something that lacks local players unfortunately.
Any local acts that get your stamp of approval?
The ones who get invited to play at Observatory! It’s difficult to single any of them out.
Other than Observatory, Where would you take us for a night out?
To the Bia Hoi on Thi Sach.
Ok, lightning round! What film would you most like to soundtrack?
I think one by David Cronenberg or David Lynch, and there are the movies by French director François Ozon.
Your go-to karaoke song?
How would you describe the size of your ego?
Fantasy musician you would open for?
Two beers, cheers!
Finish this sentence: It’s never too late to…
Dan Bi Mong, Thank you for your time. Look forward to seeing you at the club!
Words by Nick J, JA
Photos by Sebastian Graetz
Graphics by Thanh Duong