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March 31, 2011

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King of spin keeps raising the roof

HE has played records for the rich and famous in his native UK and now entertains club-going crowds with his weekly residencies in some of Shanghai's swankiest venues. Michelle Zhang meets the guy who keeps the party going all night long.

Shanghai nightlife is the best in the world, reckons DJ Spenny, widely regarded as "Shanghai's No. 1 DJ."

Having relocated to the city from the United Kingdom about two years ago, Spenny is one of the most sought-after DJs in Asia at the moment. He holds residencies in Shanghai's M1NT and Club 88, two of the most popular night venues in the city, as well as in Taipei's Spark 101 and Hong Kong's Beijing Club.

"I first learned about the title (Shanghai's No. 1 DJ) about six months after I moved here, and I felt really honored," he says.

As the music director of M1NT, Spenny was invited to visit Shanghai by club founder Alistair Paton in 2009. He spent a weekend here, fell in love with the city immediately and decided to stay. It was his first time in Asia.

The club wasn't so busy at that time. Now it's packed almost every night - especially on Wednesdays and Saturdays, when big themed parties are thrown.

And Spenny's job is to make sure that everyone is having a good time, be it in a night club or at a fashion show.

Tall, athletic and good looking, Spenny is also the official event DJ for Adidas, performing at various locations all over China and Asia.

Most recently, he played live tunes for nearly 3,000 guests at a huge party thrown by the sports brand in Shanghai. Despite the fact that the party was poorly organized, he managed to keep the audience's moods high, with his careful selection of recognizable hip-hop tunes and house tracks.

"People pay me a lot of money to have a good party," he says. "It's my job to make sure that everyone is happy."

Spenny's passion for music and ability to raise the roof at the venues he plays at have brought him opportunities to represent numerous world-class clients and stars including 50 Cent, Janet Jackson, Madonna and Lindsey Lohan.

In 2008, he was selected as the DJ for all of Will Smith's movie premieres in London, and played in Leicester Square to some 10,000 people for his "I Am Legend" and "Hancock" premieres.

Among many of the highlights in his career, he once played a DJ set for Madonna's concert at a packed Wembley Stadium.

However, the 29-year-old, who used to play the trumpet when he was young, says he started DJing by accident about 10 years ago.

"When I was 20, I used to hang out with a DJ friend," he recalls. "One night he wanted to leave early to meet a girl and asked if I would press the buttons for him - it (DJing) was much simpler back then."

So Spenny played for half an hour and realized that he was quite good at it, given the fact that he had never done it before. From that point, he started to play in different night spots in London on a regular basis, from once every other week, to once every week, and finally became a resident DJ for famous clubs in the English capital such as Kabaret's Prophecy and Chinawhite.

He also plays the piano, is very good at playing guitar and enjoys listening to acoustic guitar-based music.

Still, Spenny thinks Shanghai is the most happening place in terms of nightlife.

"Every night of the week, there's always somewhere to go," he says.

"I'm drinking more in Shanghai than I was in England," he giggles. "There are just lots of places to go out ... all table service, whisky and green tea."

While M1NT attracts a clientele of social elites, a mixture of local Chinese, overseas Chinese and Westerners, Club 88, where Spenny performs every Tuesday night, features a totally different concept. In short, it is a very "local" club, featuring bizarre decoration, interesting songs and is always filled with happy, hyper Chinese party-goers. (Imagine staff dressed up in "god of longevity" costumes, singing "happy birthday" songs at midnight).

Spenny says every time he goes to Club 88, the crowd is very excited. He alters his playlist to include more hip-hop tunes and doesn't let records play for too long to cater to their taste.

"Local Chinese love hip-hop," he says. "It's a good opportunity for me to connect with the local audience, which is what I wanted to do when I first moved here. I don't just want to play for foreigners. I much prefer to play for the Chinese audience."

DJ Spenny

Nationality: UK

Age: 29

Profession: DJ


Self-description: Energetic, honest and generous. I like to be the center of attention - hence I'm a DJ.

Favorite place: Dragonfly (health retreat), Source (streetwear store) on Xinle Road and Din Tai Fung (dumpling restaurant) in Shanghai Center.

Strangest sight: Shanghai during the day is totally different from it during the night. Shanghai during the night is exceptionally beautiful: The lights are amazing. However, during the day, the gray sky can be a little bit depressing. Well, I don't usually get up until two or three o'clock in the afternoon, so it's okay.

Motto for life: Don't ever miss an opportunity and regret it.

Worst experience: Someone gave me a fake 100-yuan note and I gave it to a taxi driver (not knowing it was fake), who got really upset and called the police. I still don't know how I got it in the first place.

How to improve Shanghai:

More taxis and some streets need to be cleaned up more often.

Advice to newcomers:

Learn to speak Chinese.


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