Bottled In England are a live drum ‘n bass band from Denmark formed by Daniel Vognstrup on the electronics and the vocals, and August Dyrborg on the drums.
August Dyrborg’s drums are simply insane, he has so much power in his spot that you wouldn’t be surprise to see him getting on fire when he is playing. Daniel on the machines and vocals not only brings the melody to life but pushes the start button to begin to party like animals. So if you wouldn’t be surprise to see August on fire, you wouldn’t be surprise to see Daniel hanging from a tree upside down, then on a next blink having him jumping over you, and before you duck, see him materializing back on the stage to play and jump more, and more. If you are not jumping when Bottled In England is playing on the stage, then maybe you should go to see your doctor for a check because you might be a little dead.
Bottled In England toured China during the last week of May and the first days of June this year. I was with them during the first part of the tour thanks to a last minute gig that caught all the time of Abe Deyo, the guy behind Legal Grey, the production company organizing this tour and so many others around China.
Abe called me a couple of days before the tour was due to begin, so all happened very quickly. Ten concerts around China in two weeks. My chapter began picking them up in Beijing, and it ended with their gig in Wuhan where Abe came to relieve me and go on with the guys until the end of their trip.
I never heard of them until Abe called me to do the gig, so when I heard them playing the first time the first day of the tour at Beijing’s Temple bar it was a great surprise to discover they were huge. There is no better adjective to first describe Bottled In England, they are solid, but also they are big, very much, and they are just two guys on the stage, only two, plus their sound engineer, solid in the darkness. Just them. But the energy that they project is equivalent to the one you’d get from a huge herd of monkeys in a rave of heat… running after you.
That first gig was ultra fun, it was a Tuesday, and Temple was not packed, but alright filled, however the energy was raised up as if we were on a festival. These guys kick ass severely. It was so good gig they immediately got fans that committed to go to the gig they were going to have in Shanghai. And they did go. One gig, and they got loyal groupies, I say that is talent.
That afternoon before the show we had to go to get the train tickets to leave to Zhengzhou the next day, and do some last minute shop for drums supplies. I don’t know well Beijing, but I have many great friends there with quick useful advice at the other side of my mobile in case of need. So finding the drums supply was easy, and even fun. Finding the train tickets was a bit less easy but we made it. Then finding the way back to our hostal in the middle of a hutong, that was it, we were a lost, just a bit thought, but it was then that we activated our individual powers in group and magic happened. From then on we found our way through the wilderness of a drum ‘n bass tour through China.
We made it as far as Xining’s Ta’er Monastery. We survived a couple of super extra long train rides, another couple of adrenaline moments that saw us crossing few cities while quarreling with taxi drivers pushing the limits of logic, also two or six encounters to food that pushed the tolerance of their stomachs, and lots of fire caused by them rocking the hell out of the crowds that got parts of themselves that they did not know they had until they were awaken by the force of Bottle In England.
When the time to change roles with Abe came, I was sad to leave, I could have go on forever with them. These guys are solid musicians, cool party producers, and a huge kick for party junkies (like me). I heard their show six times and I enjoyed them all. The only ‘but’ I had at the end was that it would have been so amazing to see them playing for a crowd of thousands. But that’s my call to have them back soon, and hopefully playing at one or more than one of our big festivals in China. Two months after the tour, I still can easily recall the rush of excitement of travelling with them and jumping like a monkey to their music.
This is the aftermath of their first tour to China.
Layabozi: This is the first question I had in mind to ask you since before we met, and I was keeping it for the interview, so you would not tell me the story twice. The most obvious one. Why are you bottled in England? … and… not in Denmark? What’s the story of your name?
Daniel Vognstrup: We both like gin a lot, and as the label on the old Beefeater bottles said ‘produced and bottled in England’ it just felt natural. And it had a nice memorable ‘drum and bass vibe’ to it.
LYBZ: You have been playing together since… ever. Right? Tell me about that? And why it’s just now that you are going “pro”?
DV: We’ve been playing music together since primary school and we’ve been playing all kinds of different genres like swing, world, progressive and punk. And from all those genres, we’ve gotten a lot of inspiration and experience, so I guess we just found a rather good recipe. Going ‘pro’ was never an option; really, we don’t know how to do anything else.
LYBZ: You have a “hidden” member of the band, Michael Benja Hansen. And you told me you have other guys that sometimes join you on stage too. But Michael is your other…one third. Tell me about the people working with you?
DV: Well, we work with a lot of different people. For the China Tour this year, we had to keep it a tight crew, because we knew it would be a ‘tough ride’, so we just went August, Sniper (Michael) our sound engineer and myself.
On most occasions we bring features on stage which during the last tour was: MANKY (MC), Tobias Kvæde (violin), female vocalists Lydmor, Maria Mortensen (Scarlet Chives) and Katrine Brocks, not to forget Troels Abrahamsen of the Danish electro rock sensation, VETO.
LYBZ: The music you make has a lot of energy, it’s music for partying, to jump, and to go crazy. What is the source of that energy? Having fun? Something else?
DV: It’s hard to say, really. Over time, it’s just become the way we play our music. It makes it a bit tough doing ten shows in thirteen days, but we just love playing so much that it always seems worth it.
LYBZ: During the tour you told me about the implicit social rules that govern social interaction in Denmark. How these rules have affected your musical evolution, or your evolution as a band?
DV: Ha, ha! Right, Janteloven (The Jante Law) captured in its essence by Aksel Sandemose. Look it up in full for your own amusement, but it is basically a list of quotes stating the fact that nobody ever should think anything highly of themselves. Like law no 7: ‘You’re not to think you are good at anything’, and so on and so on.
It’s not directly told to you as you grow up, but through behavior and the Danes’ sarcastic approach to everything, it just, somehow, sets some limitations on what you wish for and what you think you can achieve in this life. Sadly, this might be the reason why we are called ‘The Happiest People in the World’ – it’s all about the low expectations.
LYBZ: During the last year you have tour a lot. During the days in China you told me the story of your most terrible experiences touring, some of them are pretty legendary I’d say. You saw really bad times in Poland, and weird moments in Germany. And even those bad experiences you have kept touring, and even going to the same places, like mad mad mad people. Touring of course is a great way to promote yourselves, but then when we go to extremes there are other passions in action, what do you think? Is not only about promotion? What are you looking for in your tours?
DV: Actually, the live shows have always been at the heart of Bottled in England, which means touring has been a natural part of the process from the very beginning. But indeed, WE LOVE TO TOUR! Especially outside Denmark. That’s why coming back to some of those ‘weird places’ (that goes for China as well) seems natural. If somebody wants to listen to our music, we think less about the travel costs and more about spreading the music of Bottled in England. But I definitely would not limit our way of touring to be just of ‘promotional value’. If you don’t love being on the road deep in your guts and you do have other things in our life – I would definitely recommend the guided tours to both Eastern Europe and Asia instead.
LYBZ: Why did you come to China? And how was the production of the tour before happening with Abe?
DV: Abe wrote us out of the blue and asked us if we’d like to come. Frankly, China wasn’t on our map until he contacted us, but we’re so thankful he did, because traveling around China amongst the Chinese has just been an amazing experience.
LYBZ: Do you remember what were your expectations, thoughts, or fantasies about what was going to be your tour to China? What were they?
DV: We were actually told to be ‘ready for anything’. Basically that’s all you can do, really. Despite anything we read, anything we thought we knew about China, the country just seemed vaster, huger and even crazier than we’d ever imagined.
LYBZ: I know it is impossible to summarize days of adventures in a few words, but try it, and tell me what you extract out of your first tour around China?
DV: China is, as said, so vast, so extremely large that the miles alone you travel from one place to another are unimaginable to a European. The traffic is like a reenactment of a war scene, so you just get used to be on the move all the time, being observant and stuff, which gets really tiring, but at the same time, it’s also what makes it so exciting and overwhelming. And people are, mostly, the most kind and helping individuals we’ve ever met. Still, after coming home, I haven’t really found out if I lost my heart or my mind in China..haha..
LYBZ: Hopefully both! … Now let’s shred the tour, let’s talk about the details and go for the gossip too… First impact in China. What was it?
DV: ‘Wow, this place is…wow, this is…this place is…wow…f… this is huge…’
LYBZ: Previous fear(s) about coming to China?
DV: The authorities… the food… the reactions of the crowd… overweight luggage… doing 10 shows in 13 days for the first time… China, in general, seemed pretty intimidating, actually.
LYBZ: Your feelings during your first gig. Beijing.
DV: We simply felt overwhelmed, confused and happy to finally be ON STAGE in CHINA. We’re always traveling by car in Europe, so going straight from the airport to the venue and playing a gig in a corner of the world you’ve only heard about was a strong contrasting experience during the first 24 hours.
LYBZ: Worst gig? Why?
DV: Well, to be honest, there was a venue – in fact the only venue – in a city with about ten million, citizens where only twenty people showed up. They stood, throughout the entire show, paralyzed, shocked even, filming the spectacle on their smartphones. After the concert, they abandoned the livehouse almost immediately. These kinds of concerts are tough, but it’s on these occasions you really have to show what you’re made of.
LYBZ: Food in China?
DV: Horrifyingly delicious… Still, we’ve seen people digesting things that seem more appropriate for religious rituals than for dining.
LYBZ: First thing that connected you with China? the first thing that you feel you were still in planet earth and you belong to China too…
DV: I think we really did connect with China in many ways; still, it’s such an extraordinary place, such a strange place that in many ways, we were never sure we were on the same planet. But again, what more could you wish for, than to be cast out in to space and boldly go where no one has gone before?
LYBZ: Most stressful moment?
DV: First encounter with the Chinese toilet facilities.
LYBZ: Favorite Chinese word learnt
LYBZ: Most intense moment?
DV: Playing a dive club in Xining! The love and energy between the audience and us on stage was both symbiotic and beautiful.
LYBZ: Taxi drivers?
DV: We rode a lot of cabs and we met a lot of kind, respectable and competent drivers around China. That being said, some Chinese taxi drivers should be labeled as some of the most dangerous, insane, dishonest and horrific individuals in this world.
LYBZ: Your audience in China? What do you know about it now?
DV: They are very different from the European audience. Clearly, most members of the Chinese crowds haven’t had the same cultural upbringing as our own, which makes some of the most common symbols, like head banging and shout outs, seem like a very strange experience for the Chinese audience. But they do indeed appreciate an energetic performance, so, in that way, we connected very well.
LYBZ: Favorite moments of the complete tour.
DV: Playing almost every night in front of a crowd completely unaware of what they are going to witness. First night on a Chinese sleeping cart. Having five year-old kids rocking out in the front row in Wuxi. Shanghai
LYBZ: Coolest thing of China?
DV: That everything is illegal, but anything is possible.
LYBZ: Chinese trains?
DV: The ones that reach around 300km/h are really cool and comfortable. About the sleeping carts, I would recommend people to use them for no longer than 8-9 hours – that is – for your convenience.
LYBZ: Best gig?
DV: The South Wall, Xining. The crowd was simply amazing!
LYBZ: Your feelings during your last gig?
DV: Our last gig was at Whales Bar in Kunshan and I guess we just felt happy about how awesome the outcome had been. Touring China wasn’t easy at all, but it was an adventure for life.
LYBZ: Saying bye to China was …
DV: Amazing! Everything went so well, and at that point we could finally begin to imagine ourselves coming back to China and doing a tour like this again and again and again.
LYBZ: Landing on Denmark was …
DV: Home is where the heart is. It was nice getting back.
LYBZ: What you didn’t do that you have to do next time you come to China?
DV: Play festivals! Try fried duck heads!
LYBZ: Now, what are the plans for you during this summer, and maybe the rest of 2013?
DV: We are writing on our new album that will be recorded in the fall and made ready for release in the beginning of 2014. Besides that, we have a couple of festivals and a forthcoming tour around Germany that will be executed this summer. So will keep busy until next time!