“The Future of Electronic Music in Guam” – An Interview with Electric Island Festival Co-Founder Jia Wang

By | April 25, 2016
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EIFMaiNStage

Electric Island Festival in Guam

 

In our effort to spread hearing protection awareness throughout the world of dance music we have decided to team up with Electric Island Festival (EIF) in Guam to provide DownBeats hi-fidelity ear filters on the island throughout the festival weekend. VIP ticket holders will be receiving complimentary custom-branded ear plugs while General Admission attendees will find them available at the merch booths.

In its fourth year as Guam’s premier electronic music festival, EIF has received tremendous support from the local community, becoming a festival destination for dance music fans that live on the island and beyond. In fact, since inception EIF weekend has morphed into an industry getaway for people in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Philippines and beyond!

This year, EIF organized a sold-out 5K EIF Sunrise Run on the island and will be hosting Road to EIF nights leading up to the festival, with dates scheduled for GuamTaipei and Tokyo. Last week, the festival’s lineup was released exclusively through XLR8R, with the likes of Donald Glaude (USA) Dusty Kid (Italy), Trent Cantrelle (USA), Silky (UK), Shinichi Osawa (Japan), DJ Cookie (Taiwan) and more international artists joining local favorites for the two-day festival taking place June 24-25.

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We had the chance to sit down with Jia Wang, the Guam-born and raised co-founder of EIF to discuss the festival’s inception, future and role of dance music on the island.

How did the idea of EIF first come about?

It had always been my intention to organize a large scale electronic music event when I first got into the scene 10 years ago, but the idea that something like this would be possible in Guam came during Summer 2010 at the last EDC to be held in LA. I was told that there were at least 15-20 separate groups of people from Guam who had flown from other U.S. Cities where they were going to school just to attend EDC in LA. My group was also predominantly from Guam, which made me realize just how much this scene had grown and spread to people back home.

I knew it was the right time for us to finally do this in Guam and so I began planting seeds and reconnecting with some of the local DJs on the island that got down with our scene. It took us 3 years since that realization to finally bring the idea into fruition as people and companies on the island didn’t immediately buy into the vision and potential for us to move forward. Unfortunately some of the original investors that we had spent a great deal of time with had too many requests which didn’t allow us to do the event the way we wanted, but I’m glad that everything then worked out the way it did. It is also worth noting that finding the right business partner in Andrew Hong was very much a big part of how this idea could finally become a reality. Though he didn’t know it at the time, during our first dinner meeting I was actually interviewing him to be a business partner with EIF. Producing a festival 6,000 miles away from our HQ was not an easy feat, and still isn’t to this day. We are blessed to have an amazing team through 6AM LA, Guam, and Asia to give us the resources and support we need to carry on.

Electric Island Festival in Guam

Electric Island Festival in Guam

What is your vision for the festival and dance music in Guam in the coming years?

One of our strongest vision for EIF is to truly add benefit to Guam’s economy. We want the festival to be a platform that launches what we like to refer to as “Music Tourism” in that part of the world, that is tourists who travel for music and big festivals as we see happening everywhere now at EDC Las Vegas, BPM Festival in Mexico, Movement in Detroit, Ultra in Miami, Tomorrowland or Ibiza in Europe, etc. We want the same for Guam and have been working very hard with our industry peers in Asia to make this vision a reality. It’s a big goal and there are some major hurdles we have to jump through, but overall we are heading in the right direction. Asides from Guam, we are aiming to expand EIF to other destinations around Micronesia, Asia, and even here in the U.S. very soon.

We are also looking beyond the festival’s financials and expansion. Another one of our key visions is for EIF to act as a platform to ignite creative inspiration within Guam and to keep it alive for the island’s future generations.

WOMB Tokyo will once again be hosting a stage at EIF this year

WOMB Tokyo will once again be hosting a stage at EIF this year

Growing up in Guam myself, a small isolated island, I always knew that it wasn’t the best environment to encourage young adolescents to dream big, be different or do things outside the norm. If you didn’t fit in, you were not accepted and if being yourself didn’t fit in with the crowd you would be the outcast and this sort of behavior and mentality resonates a lot with Dance Music Culture, where it wasn’t always accepted by society and especially so in its early years. EIF came in to the island with the thought of being who we are and promoting the music and culture we love, hoping that our infectious energy and vibe would radiate onto the people of Guam. We always preach Danny Tenaglia’s famous life slogan, “BE YOURSELF” because growing up in Guam it was hard to do just that – you had to try to fit in or you would risk having no friends. This of course happens throughout the world, so we try to use some of the positive light and welcoming spirit of electronic music to give hope and inspiration to people in Guam who may be struggling with issues relating to fitting in and being themselves.

How receptive have the island and its people been since you began this project?

We have been met with love and open arms since day one,  when we did our first ever Road to EIF as a feeler event. We packed the club with nearly 1,000 attendees – an unheard of number for any club in Guam at that time. We knew the timing was right, everyone on the island was excited and so were we.

We are humbled by such support as this is one of the biggest factor that fuels us to constantly improve EIF’s experience and push forward.

JIA playing ENTER.Sake in Japan

JIA playing ENTER.Sake in Japan

There’s a lot of people flying in to EIF from all over Asia. What makes EIF such a destination festival for that part of the world?

With Guam’s proximity to Asia and direct flights (average 3-4 hours) from Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and Hong Kong, it’s very easy and convenient for people to make the trip. Before EIF, many of our industry peers throughout Asia had obviously heard about Guam but never had a real reason to visit, as the island mainly caters to  honeymooners and families. When EIF came around, I think it finally gave a lot of the industry members in Asia the perfect excuse to visit Guam, a trend that we hope will continue as we push forward towards our “Music Tourism” goals of making EIF and Guam a true dance music tourism destination.

The feedback we have received from our peers in Asia has been amazing. Guam is quickly becoming a gathering hub for the industry in that part of the world, further elevating its status as a destination to the eyes of many in Asia. Current discussion to launch Pacific-Asia Electronic Music Conference (PAEMC) are in the works and can’t wait to reveal details of this in the coming years.

Ko Kimura playing EIF 2015

Ko Kimura playing EIF 2015

Are there any specific artists we should be on the lookout for this year?

Dusty Kid! The guy rarely stops through the US so for us to have him in Guam, of all places, is truly unique.

Honestly I am excited for everyone on the lineup, as each act was selected for their ability to bring something different to the table. It’s really cool to have some of my industry friends and peers – Steve Prior, Trent Cantrelle, Jamie Charles, Zane, my 6AM family plus more – being a part of this year’s event. Almost all of them will be making their very first trip to Guam. We are proud of our roots in Asia and emphasize the need to bring as many artists from that area of the world to play the festival – to be perfectly frank, the global electronic music scene pays little attention to this side of the world unless a BIG name DJ or festival brand is appearing in the region and I want to change that. The sheer amount of talent coming out from Asia is unbelievable and extremely underrated. We do envision EIF as a bridge in the dance music industry, utilizing Guam to connect Asia with the United States and Europe.

Japanese techno icon Ken Ishii playing EIF 2015

Japanese techno icon Ken Ishii playing EIF 2015

We also focus a lot of our attention on local talent. We love to expose Guam artists and we also need them to help us build and carry the scene locally when EIF isn’t around. Truthfully EIF isn’t a “superstar headliner-driven” festival, yet we get the support we need regardless of who is playing and that is something I am very proud of. This is the beauty of Guam being an infant market that isn’t influenced by what is considered a “cool booking” – we never played that game and hope we don’t ever have to. That is not to say if given the right opportunity, and budget (laughs), we wouldn’t consider booking bigger talent but that’s only if we feel like Guam is ready to take things to the next level – only time will tell.

Custom branded EIF DownBeats ear plugs

Custom branded EIF DownBeats ear plugs

This year you’ve teamed up with Downbeats to provide safe hearing at EIF and you’ve organized a sold out extremely successful 5K run. Why is good health important to you as a festival?

Yes, we have tapped in to the fitness world – sort of! The EIF Sunrise 5K Run was our way to show the island that EIF is not all just “about partying,” but that we truly aim to utilize our network and platform to make a positive impact for Guam and its people.

Being healthy is important, period. People involved in the dance music industry should actually be more aware and conscious about it than any other industry due to the nature and surroundings of our job. More and more stories are revealing the detrimental health effects some of these DJs and promoters are going through simply because they fail to take care of their own body. I think it’s also important that as festival organizers we are both aware and communicative of the party lifestyle and how to remain healthy despite attending festivals and going out to clubs.

We are very excited to have partnered up with DownBeats this year and look forward to introducing the importance of safe hearing to Guam and our friends in Asia. Festivals such as EIF can often have strong bass, and louder sound than other concerts people normally attend. Informing and educating the people of Guam about these health issues further justifies our means to truly shine the positive side of electronic music culture.

Connect with EIF: Online | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

We are looking forward to being a part of the EIF Family for our first, and to be the official providers of ear protection for attendees at the festival! We encourage VIP ticket holders to take advantage of the complimentary ear plugs and to keep the case as keychain and memento for what is sure to be an amazing weekend! Don’t underestimate the loudness of the speakers and the damage they can do – if you’re in GA and need ear plugs head to the merch booth to get yourself a pair! Tickets are available through EIF’s Official Website.

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