If you want to get a taste for underground music in Hong Kong, Absurd TRAX is a label worthy of your attention. Though based in Hong Kong, the label extends beyond the city’s borders, finding tiny pockets of experimental music communities around the world and across the web. Artists from across the musical spectrum have found refuge in the label, cultivating a close-knit band of people who want nothing more than to just make good music. As a result, the sounds that come out are mostly raw and refreshing, taking you to the epicenter of the underground.
Audiophiles might already know such names as Kelvin T, ASJ, Fotan Laiki, Simon Frank and Alexmalism, who are part of this independent label—those who don’t yet know are in for a treat. Absurd TRAX remains on track to becoming the vanguard of young and exciting music from Hong Kong as it steadily continues to nurture the community and show their sets on platforms like Boiler Room.
We sat down with Absurd TRAX founder Gavin Wong for a peek into the depths of Hong Kong’s underground youth culture, covering everything from Absurd TRAX’s artists, the spirit of experimental music, the community and everything in between.
For those who aren't familiar, can you tell us about your label?
Absurd TRAX is a label based in Hong Kong. We started out as a [music] promoter in an extension of our blog, and later in 2018 we began experimenting with music releases. Now we are primarily a music label.
How would you describe your music?
Contradictory. We don't want to follow or create an aesthetic, and we treat every release as their own.
I really liked labels such as Death of Rave and JANUS, as well as something like Maltine and the NON STOP POP radio show on NTS. After meeting various people in Hong Kong who like similar stuff, I decided to go out to start my own.
What made you want to pursue music?
At its core, I'm just a music fan. I play music sometimes but I'm not specially trained nor talented in music, so managing a label allows me to have a deeper relationship with the artist than just being a consumer.
Who are the people involved at ABSURD Trax?
We release for artists both from and outside of Hong Kong. Local artists we released for include Kelvin T, ASJ, Alexmalism, and Anna, who were primarily the performance crew when we held our gigs and ultimately a tour in Europe during 2020, before the pandemic hit. While the performance side [of the label] are on hiatus as members of the group are pursuing personal career goals, the label is figuring out our next step forward in the post-pandemic period.
Do you think going offline is important?
Yes, because I think you lose touch with reality if you focus too much on online representation—sometimes it even overshadows the music itself. That being said, I think things can also go completely virtual too, as labels I really enjoyed such as Maltine Records and Quantum Natives were net labels. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I would say the online environment does get worse and worse as the privatisation of [music] makes it really hard for labels who don't rely on commodifying their releases. In theory we shouldn’t limit ourselves from doing both, but I do miss listening to music from a very loud speaker.
What’s the current state of the music scene in Hong Kong?
I think creators can do a bit more to find their audience worldwide. If you want to be visible to the outside world you will always have to open yourself up globally. I think Hongkongers generally lack awareness of what's happening around the world, especially with what's going on in the global south.
What would you like to see more of in the music industry?
I never really consider myself as being the 'industry'. I'm an amateur through and through, and none of my projects have meaningful relationships with any institutions. That being said, I would like to see the music industry build more infrastructure for young artists and just everyone in general. To start, free recording studios to make music production more accessible or helping young artists to travel more would be a good start. I believe that everyone should have the right of mobility, to travel across all borders. Unfortunately, touring is still a very privileged thing for many people outside of the first world, Hong Kong included.
For the younger musicians out there, what advice would you give them to stay inspired?
I think it's important not to overwork yourself. Music may be your most important thing but there are also many other things you might want to achieve in life. I would advise them to become more well-rounded, as you will make better music when you're a better person.
Cover Image: Courtesy of Absurd Trax
Writer | Charlie Zhang
Charlie Zhang is a former editor of HYPEBEAST and a freelance writer who writes about music, fashion, design, food and architecture.