[Interview] We Stay Up Late with Ganja White Night
Photos by Teddy Williams
We were very excited to have a chance to catch up with Belgian dubstep duo Ganja White Night on their stop through Atlanta's Aisle 5. This show was so anticipated, it sold out on the pre-sale, a first for the promoter, Together At Last Presents. The venue was packed with sweaty bodies ready to wobble and groove to the heavy basslines and groovy melodic tunes. Ganja White Night sat down with us to talk about their current tour, a little about their homeland of Belgium, and some of their upcoming plans for the future.
Welcome to Atlanta. You guys are from Mons, Belgium, so why don’t you tell us about home?
It’s called Mons because it’s a hill. It’s an old medieval town, really old. It’s a little town of ten thousand people. It’s where we were born. Underground music there is not that big, not as big as a lot of other towns in Belgium like Brussels and Antwerp. We are in the south of Belgium where people speak in French. Underground music is way more hype in the north of Belgium.
So Atlanta is a huge city for music, which can lead to more opportunities, but also more competition. Sounds like you have the opposite problems.
We’ve never been famous at home. 90% of our fans are outside of Belgium.
Why do you think that is?
It’s a really small country. It’s only 11 million people. They are making the biggest underground music party in Europe, called Rampage, but when you are an underground artist in Belgium, most of the artists are touring the US or sometimes the UK. The festivals in Belgium don’t really book local artists as much.
I know you guys refer to yourselves as a band, not as DJs. Where do you see that difference?
It’s a live set. We have two computers and we are loading samples and stems. I play piano on top of it, and we are running effects and loops. We are for sure not DJs. I don’t know where you can put the difference actually between a DJ and a live act. For sure for us in a live act, you just play your own productions the whole set. You can edit them live and re-create some stuff live with the samples you have. We’ll never play other people’s tracks, only a collab we’ve done. DJs more entertain people with their knowledge of music.
Do you think that because DJs are so popular these days, it’s harder for audiences to know what’s going on in a live performance and to appreciate the extra work you’re doing on stage?
Yeah, when you just play at a festival in front of thousands of people, for sure. They have no idea what you’re doing. For the fans who have been following us for years, they know. That’s the benefit that real fans can have. They can tell what we’re doing on stage, and they know if it’s not just the original track. Fans who listen to the album and then see us live, they can hear the difference.
I loved your recent "Wobble Master" video featuring your character Mr. Wobble (for which their latest album is named). Tell us about that character.
Our friend Ebo drew it, but he was an idea from years ago. We had a track “Endless Sky” and I had this idea of a fat boy who touches everything and it starts to wobble. It was like 5 or 6 years ago, and I thought it was never going to happen because it would cost too much money. So making a full animated music video was a dream actually. And this guy, Ebo, made our first album cover back in 2008. I didn’t even know he was able to do animation, but he did that video in 48 days. He just sacrificed a part of his life for this, it was a tough challenge, and we really respect the job he did. And there is more Mr. Wobble to come, for sure. It was a dream to make a full animated music video, so we will keep the dream alive. We want Ebo to have more time on future work though.
Tell us about your label, SubCarbon.
Starting SubCarbon, at the beginning was the only way for us to be released to be honest. We toured in Belgium at the beginning, but we couldn’t get more than 100 or 200 people in a show. When we started being released and had the opportunity to be heard anywhere in the world, the only way to do that was to create our own label. So we created SubCarbon 11 years ago to release our own work. So after that we started getting contacted because we were on the top charts of JunoDownload. We started getting messages from the US after that, and now we want to make it evolve a little bit. Maybe work with other artists or help other artists.
How would you say your music has changed over the years?
At the beginning, we were more immature. We wanted to be the heaviest, so we released some stuff that even now sound really dirty with screaming wobbles, but it was too soon back in the day. Right now, in the live sets, we play one of our first tunes, and people love that, but that wasn’t the right moment to make those tunes. Our first album, people didn’t know if it was really dubstep. Right now, with Mr. Wobble, I think our music is more mature.
Back home, do you still use the name “Ganja White Night” in English? And where did that name come from?
Yes, in English. Because it sounds cool. The name comes from just staying up all night and smoking weed. A “white night” is when you stay up all night without sleeping, but for us that means staying up all night producing.
Do you have any special stories from this tour so far?
Well, it’s not a good memory, but the craziest shit was when we got busted in Detroit. We were playing with Virtual Riot, and the cops came in and broke up our set. They pulled guns out. Apparently there was some liquor permit issues with the venue, and so Virtual Riot tried to play a song anyway, but the cops said if anyone says “fuck the police” or tries to put the song back, they would confiscate all our equipment. So, we’re on tour, not about to take that risk, so we just shut it down. We got cut after 35 minutes, so we got to play some, but it sucked. At least we got a story out of it.
Wow. That’s nuts. Well, do you have any upcoming projects you want to talk about?
If they like the artwork on our latest album, they should go check out our friend Ebo. For music, we have some stuff coming pretty soon on our label. We’re going to start releasing stuff by other artists pretty soon. There’s a release by Low-Fi coming soon and Lifecycle too. He’s from the Netherlands. So, I think that’s it for now.
The duo played a fantastic set later that night and the crowd was one of the most densely packed, sweaty swarms I've seen yet at Aisle 5. Constantly circulating people in and out from the parking lot to the dance floor, the night was full of great conversations, drinks and dancing. After the event was done, about half the crowd migrated to the after party at a "secret" location, where Ganja White Night played yet another set, accompanies by fire poi, LED glovers, and plenty more sweaty dancing in the heat of a Georgia August night. I hope they had fun visiting our city, as we certainly had fun hosting them.