Contra likes to play with the idea of light refraction and reflection—a stark contrast to its sister club Cakeshop, which sits in the basement and only uses sparse red neon lighting, reminiscent of the strip club it used to be.
Literally embodying the word itself, Contra paradoxically defines and counter defines itself in relation to other clubs, setting itself apart through their diverse and eclectic artist bookings, the club’s spatial design, and even its relative distance from the intense clubbing core that is Seoul’s Itaewon. With its distinctive visual and sonic aesthetic, Contra aims to offer the best in underground house and techno music. Meet musical director Mike Hampton and resident DJ JNS.
Housed in the same building as Cakeshop, Contra is a relatively new club. How are they different from each other?
Mike: Cakeshop is a veteran underground club located on the edge of Itaewon, an area known for its clubbing. The venue has been going for over six years now, and continues to bring a diverse range of music from South African gqom and Portuguese baile funk, to Korean hip-hop, post-internet club music, and all sorts in between. Contra is the sister venue which sits upstairs from Cakeshop’s basement home. The music policy at Contra is more geared towards techno and house, where a wide range of highly regarded DJs have graced our decks. We’ve been lucky enough to have sets from the likes of DJ Stingray, Gerd Janson, Roman Flügel, Young Marco, Krystal Klear, Jayda G, Bambounou, Anthony Naples, Yaeji, and many, many more.
- 1 DJ Honesty – Melonshake
- 2 Sam – Untitled
- 3 Lazare Hoche – Time Guard
- 4 Nathan Micay – Beginning Ballads
- 5 Roza Terenzi – 3.I.Y.
- 6 JNS – I’ve Heard the Future
- 7 Tracey – Metamorphosis
- 8 Cromby – Retribution (DeFeKT remix)
- 9 TNT – Boo One Koze – Untitled
- 10 Batu – Nosema
- 11 JNS – 130bpm
- 12 100hz – Rub Tub (edit)
- 13 Map.Ache – Homerun
“The music policy at Contra is more geared towards techno and house, where a wide range of highly regarded DJs have graced our decks.”
Junsu Kim (JNS), can you tell us more about your involvement with Contra as a resident DJ?
JNS: I’ve been playing at Cakeshop and Contra since 2015. As of this year, with Mike now taking on the role of music director, Contra has decided to add a resident DJ team to the club. The team currently consists of C’est Qui (Naone & Closet Yi), Airbear, Seiryun, Seohyun, and myself. Being a resident DJ means a lot to me but also signifies a new, exciting direction the club is taking.
What makes Contra different from other clubs in the city?
JNS: Cakeshop acted as a catalyst. Both Cakeshop and Contra brought huge changes to the underground clubbing scene in Seoul because both venues have always encouraged young musicians and producers. Having that support really pushes young DJs to explore new directions and elements of their music. Aside from famous international bookings, Contra has always made it a point to book fresh, unknown talent from abroad as well. It’s a great opportunity for young local talent to be able to interact and connect with an international crowd.
What’s the story behind your mixtape?
JNS: It’s a selection of my favorite tracks, some of which I often end up playing at Contra. It covers a bit of everything from minimal and tech house to electro and breakbeat. I also added two of my own original tracks that were released through my label Honey Badger Records. This mixtape conveys both my own work and style as well as the vibe you get at Contra.
Text: Lea Bouchat
Photography: Jennifer Cheng