Sway is Laura Ann Rix. Laura is one of three owners behind Beartrap Productions. Her passion for outdoor parties started on the dance floor taking photographs, and from there on moved behind the DJ box and beyond. Besides for throwing some of the most memorable parties season after season along with her partners, Laura has also become known for her versatile, high energy sets under her alias Sway which always get the crowd grooving. Beartrap Productions will be hosting Ground Zero this weekend in collaboration with West Coast Productions, so we felt it was only apt to learn a bit about Beartrap Productions, the new collaboration, some teasers of what to expect this weekend, and what it takes to gooi an outdoor.
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Psymedia : Howzit Laura, it’s great to finally have a chat. To get things started, tell me how you became involved in Cape Town’s psy scene? I believe at first you were taking photographs, and naturally progressed down different avenues – heading up the Beartrap Productions team, and behind the decks with your Sway alias.
Sway : Gees, that’s a very long story, so I’ll try to condense it for this interview, but like everyone else, I loved the Psytrance scene from day one. I think my first experience was in 1998 and after that, I was smitten. My then boyfriend gave me a camera for my birthday (a total relic, still used film that had to be developed), which I took to a Vortex at Silverstroom to snap a few pictures. I really wish I had them to share, but anyway, one in particular was of this stunning white dreadlocked beauty with the biggest eyes and broadest smile. When I got the print back I looked at it and I thought “Wow, that’s who I wanna be when I grow up” – she was so beautiful and full of life, it just beamed from the photo. Next to her stood a guy, dreadlocks also, but dark haired. You could see that she had looked up at me at just the perfect moment because he was still in mid step, mid sentence and leaning towards her. I could tell that the conversation was intense, but not hectic. What stood out for me then, was that in all this, they were still both dancing – well, now I call it stomping! It was one of those defining moments for me. The contrast, balance, emotion, connection, colour, all of it, just reached up and grabbed me. It’s held on ever since. She’s still my psyspiration in many ways!
So, I did that for a couple of years. I had a website called 33⁰ South and I was lucky enough to shoot most of the parties which I shared online. The site was very popular, especially with trancers from Europe, Australia and South America, believe it or not. Then one day someone gave me a copy of a CD called Refractions, by some unknown someone someone, but boy could that someone make music. I think I wore the CD down in my car. Eventually my friends refused to get in my car unless I changed the disk. But it was that CD and one particularly killer set that Bruce played at Getafix one night that clinched it for me.
I found a willing tutor and for three months, every day, I stood in front of two CDJs and a mixer, for as long as I was allowed to, sometimes for hours, mixing Refractions (by Protoculture), I’m the Supervisor (Infected Mushroom) and a Timecode compilation called Firewall. I probably would have stood there for more than three months had it not been for a visit that Bruce happened to make one day while I was practicing. He insisted that I stop standing there and stand in the DJ box. For the record, standing in the DJ box is tough work. It’s harder for me to do that, than mix! And the rest as they say, well, that’s just how I Sway!
I need to point something – although I’ve come to accept my role as “the face of Beartrap” (sounds like a hippie version of a bad Este Lauder commercial), I think it’s important for everyone to know that I don’t head up or run or own Beartrap, there are two other partners and they just let me think I do! Peter and David are to me (and to Beartrap), what buoyancy is to a Cruise Liner. Think of them as that unseen force that keeps the entire ship afloat. You don’t know that they’re there, necessarily, but without them, it’s sink city.
Psymedia : This year Beartrap Productions will celebrate its 11th year hosting parties. Who was the original crew, what was the intention during its inception, what were the early parties like, and how have things progressed since then?
Sway : Eleven! Wow, it’s been…. forever. Beartrap was born in Stellenbosch, actually. It was started by a group of crazy students with too much time, a huge amount of enthusiasm and what can only be described as an insatiable thirst for Psytrance. Lost & Found was part of the original, original crew with MC, Christian, Louie and a gang of stompers who lived for the next outdoor. Over time, they moved up, over or on and we took over. Obviously it’s nothing like it was then, but I hope that when they see what we have done with it, that they are happy to tell people that they started it all.
Back then the parties were more like squat parties than festivals. Beartrap even managed to get a page one right up in a local Stellenbosch newspaper about disturbing the peace once. I still laugh when I remember that. But in those days Cape Town had no “events” legislation. Each police station or municipality did their own thing and that made it very difficult to do just about anything, let alone throw a party, in a field, on a Sunday. But with the new regulations and the cooperative attitude from the various government, municipal and public safety services it’s evolved from being a “dump and run” kind of gig into festivals that are well organized, controlled and safe. And I think the legislation has also been a catalyst for the growth that we’ve seen recently in the scene.
Psymedia : In my opinion outdoor Psytrance parties have some of the highest production and professionalism – however it has always had a certain stigma attached to it, even though we’ve seen an increase in attendees recently. How can the parties gain the trust of the mainstream public, as well as authorities, and convince them it’s a safe environment for anyone to attend? Or is this something that will always be attached to the culture?
Sway : Three years ago I would have told you that the we’d never be able to shake the stigma, but I totally agree with you now about the level of professionalism in our scene and I believe that this has gone a long way to gaining the trust of the public and the authorities and most of the big production companies work very hard to make sure that it’s done right. Most of us want to eradicate the idea that this is a drug culture, led by a bunch of hippies, with nothing better to do. Because it’s not! Working with the SAPS, municipalities and other government bodies is testament to the fact that the event is totally transparent, and that we are doing it for the love of the music. We’ve come to welcome the assistance and backup that we get with our events and also with managing those elements that try to keep out of the scene.
This would not have been possible five years ago – but the administrative team that now runs the Western Cape has realised the value of music events (in general ) for the City of Cape Town. Not only as a lucrative revenue source but also as a link to our heritage and as a way to market the Cape. They have also realised that for this be successful, Cape Town needs a more sustainable music industry which includes activities around live music, like concerts, festivals, live music venues.
With this in mind, they’ve created ways to encourage events in the province and with the Sports and Recreations Act that came into being in 2010, as a foundation, the role players in local government have put together some pretty hefty, but fair and attainable regulations and guidelines for successful events. I think that it’s important for everyone to realise that more than encouraging events, these regulations are aimed at hosting safe events. I come from a “squat mentality” background, so it’s encouraging and refreshing to know that as long as applications are submitted well in advance and done correctly, you are unlikely to get turned down. It’s by no means easy and it’s very, very lengthy, but once you know how, you know how….. you know!
Psymedia : Tell me about the recurring party titles – namely Creature of the Wheel, Demanufacture/Remanufacture, Celestial Beings, and now Ground Zero.
Sway : Creature was the name of the Beartrap parties held in February each year, when the Stellenbosch crew started it. It kinda speaks for itself, but I think it was intended more as an “anti statement” or the opposite of what they were trying to say – “We are not just Creatures of the Wheel or another part of the cog in the mechanism. We are individuals, unique on our thinking and our displays of who we are. We will stand out and stand apart from the norm.”
Now, after many years, the Creature has evolved. It’s become more about being part of the light, and not about standing out in the darkness, more divine and stellar. It broke away from its earthly bonds and became part of the universal system and so the Creature was reborn as a Celestial Being. It was a big change for Beartrap and a giant leap in a totally new direction but each time a fan on Facebook refers to themselves or to each other as a “Being”, I realize that it was exactly what needed to be done.
Remanufacture started out as Demanufacture in 2007 when we launched the collaboration with MMD. The idea was to try and create an event that broadened the exposure that Cape Town got to the international Psytrance trends and artists. Both crews felt that this was one area in which the scene had begun to stagnate and we wanted to do it differently. Demanufacture was about de manufacturing or changing the way we thought about what it was we did, how we did it and why. Demanufacture 2 was branded Re to replace the De since it was about doing it again.
Ground Zero is a physical location assumed to be the epicenter or origin of a surface transformation which results in a significant alteration of the surrounding landscape. Sometimes used to describe the very beginning or most elementary level of an experience or undertaking”. It was also how we described the dance floor for Remanufacture and since this event takes place in that same energy epicenter, we thought it fitting to adopt is as the name of the event.
Psymedia : We’ve seen an increasing number of Djanes, especially from abroad. Do you feel like there is still male dominance within the scene, or has that changed in recent years?
Sway : Honey, this has never been a male dominated scene. It may have been perceived as such for many years, but that’s only because the women who drove it, did so quietly and let the boys take the lead. But seriously, Vortex had Heather and Simona, who is the dominant female force at Synergy (boy is she a force), and also a major part of Rezonance which she shares with Liza from Alien Safari, Nano / Earthdance / Origin / Flamjangled has Monique, Skragg has his Raider, Rubix has his Eqlipse, Hiyarant has his Myzo, Beartrap has its Sway and nearly all the other production companies have or have had a strong female support system throughout. Never has a cliché rung more true but behind every great man…… (well, you know the rest). I honestly don’t know why it’s taken so long for the girls, woman, chick, divas – whatever you wanna call us, to emerge, but I do know that this is the perfect time and it seems to be extremely beneficial. It’s a tough industry to work in, and it’s even harder to do it in the Psytrance community. Just the fact that you have to be outdoors, in the baking sun or howling wind or pouring rain to set up an event is enough to scare most people away.
Psymedia : Beartrap Productions are no stranger to collaborations – working with the likes of Groovy Troopers and MMD. Next weekend Ground Zero will take place – the first collaborative party hosted by Beartrap Productions and West Coast Productions, who are known for their banging Stellenbosch parties. Psytrance and the outdoors have been synonymous for years, with few parties catering to other genres as a main attraction. How will Ground Zero try and address this issue?
Sway : Beartrap is about the experience. And it’s not an experience if you do the same thing all the time. Just think about getting a new car… eventually the novelty of driving it wears off. On the one hand, collaborating keeps things fresh. On the other, you now have access to a bigger crew and more role players who with a stake in the experience, lightens the load and allows individuals to focus on what they are good at. The other reason for the collaborations is access to expertise. Why try and try again, when you can do it right the first time! Each time we’ve wanted to diversify or to expand, we look to an expert. Perhaps this is more evident with Ground Zero because of the shift towards incorporating other styles of Electro on a much bigger scale.
We’ve been toying with the idea for a very long time, but we didn’t want to do a “second” dance floor. We didn’t want to do a “token gesture” stage with sets by DJs that play to the sound guy because everyone is going off on the “main stage”. The idea is to merge the outdoor environment, which is driven predominantly by the Psytrance parties, with what we believe will be the next big musically driven community in the Mother City (if it’s not already). The Electro fans in Cape Town are ready to take it outdoors.
All I know is that no one ever moved forward by standing still and at Beartrap HQ we like to say that we don’t fuck around, it’s balls or the wall so go big baby, or go home! There’s a huge amount of hype out there about Ground Zero, which is crazy, in a good way! Unexpectedly though, it seems to be coming from the Electro fans and the artists themselves, which we are thrilled about. It’s important for us that everyone has the best time and we’ve put a huge amount of thought into how we can ensure this. I hope that this will be reflected in the format of the festival and in the construction of the line up times and the layout of the venue:
Both stages will be driven by Turbosound sound systems that are installed, supported and maintained by RP Sound and Lighting, but other than that, we have made every effort to customize the experience to the fan base, from the presold tickets (which, for the full weekend, are identified by Ground Zero’s Electro logo and the Saturday/Sunday tickets that feature the Celestial Beings logo), to the menu at the bar, which have been tailored to what the different fans prefer.
The Electric Valley stage will run from Friday afternoon till 4am Saturday and again from midday Saturday till 4am Sunday. This stage has been designed and conceptualized entirely by the West Coast Productions crew, from the layout of the dance floor to the running times of the music. We’ve also set it up with its own facilities, including a bar and camping for the Electro artists and fans nearby.
The Celestial Beings floor, which is a purely Beartrap Production, will kick off at midday on Saturday and run through until early Sunday evening (around 5pm). It will feature the biggest daytime line up thus far at a Beartrap Production. It’s also the first time that we have started the music so early, but since it’s the last outdoor for us this season, we wanted to go out with (another) bang.
Psymedia : Correct me if I’m wrong, but this will also be the first time Beartrap Productions throws a 3 day party. From an organisational perspective, how does an extra day change things?
Sway : No correcting needed. This is our first 3 day/2 night event but if you look at it objectively there’s not that much difference to the production, it just goes on for longer. We obviously needed to shuffle the venue around and we have spent the last two weeks creating the space for the Electric Valley dance floor, more camping, installing infrastructure like showers and most importantly increasing the area available for parking and making it accessible.
Our focus though has been primarily on logistics that would be affected by the increased attendance and making sure that everyone is comfortable and safe. This has included a new access strategy (which we used in November) and also a very big increase in the number of Ground Zero crew not only so that we can be sure that everything will run smoothly but also knowing that if there is an emergency, it will be dealt with effectively and quickly.
Psymedia : Will Ground Zero participate in giving back to the surrounding community?
Sway : Beartrap has always tried to do that. It’s hard to find a beneficiary that you can support that will benefit the entire community. Since we’ve had to do a massive amount of labour for this event, we looked at contracting skills from the local community instead of importing them from Cape Town. This also goes a long way to building relationships with the residents and also gives them an opportunity to see what and how we do it.
Psymedia : How long in advance do preparations start?
Sway : We wrap around the February 12th this season. I’ll spend much of the rest of summer formulating our strategy for next season. I like to take the school holidays off and spend time with my kids. Peter is still busy with RP Sound and Lighting until April, but winter is a really good time to plan. But each event starts in earnest at least two to three months before with the licensing and meetings with local services, which is tough for us as unlike most of the other organisers who have more than 90 days between events, we have all of ours in a four month period starting end of October through early February. Moving the date for Ground Zero meant it was only 3 weeks after MMD and I was surprised at what a big difference that extra week made in the past.
Psymedia : What critical elements that take a lot of time preparing do most party-goers overlook?
Sway: Everything! It would be best to refer your readers to my post on Facebook called “to drop or not to drop”. The majority of the party goers hasn’t gotten even the slightest clue what goes into just getting permission for these events, let alone actually running them. I think they think we keep the parties in a little blue box under the bed that we take out into a field, do a jig, clap our hands three times, twirl around and say a couple of magic words and out pops a trance party! Not!
Psymedia : Mystical Complex and Harmonika represent a new breed of full-on, high tech, dance floor slammers. What can the dance floor expect, and why do you feel they are a great pick for Capetonians?
Sway : Mystical Complex has been on my hit list for a long time, but I just haven’t been sure, until now, that it was the right time. Capetonians are fickle. Psytonians even more so. It’s one thing to try and educate our dance floor by bringing out debut after debut, but if we debut a producer at the wrong time, it’s going to ruin any chance of making that connection with the fans. Having said that, change has been coming to our community for quite some time now. It started slowly, but the pace is quickening and with it comes elements prevalent in other styles of electro like the techie breaks and dub-type pauses and vocals, which for the longest time were considered to be heresy in Psytrance arrangements, but now even these vocals are palatable, if done appropriately and tastefully. And the new blood (both as fans and producers/DJs) are far more open to this change than the pioneers perhaps are or where. This, coupled with a great deal of exposure to these other styles already makes them open to accepting these influences which in turn makes change possible. I really do believe that this young twenty two year old is gonna do for this generation of psy, what the likes of Infected Mushroom, GMS, and others did back in the late 90’s. Harmonika is also gonna educate us. If you love electronic music, you should not deny yourself the opportunity to see Hugo perform as both Darth & Vader and as Harmonika.
Psymedia : Outdoor parties are extensively advertised on Facebook, among other platforms. I believe Darth & Vader will do an interview on 5FM as well. Unfortunately some people will have a slight distaste for such methods, but also forget it takes money to bring down international artists.
Sway : Too true Evan – having an artist interviewed on 5FM is nothing short of incredible for us for which we have the West Coast Productions guys to thank. But let’s not forget that we’ve had local Psytrance producers and DJs, from Cape Town, on 5FM in the past, most recently Tune Raider (Evan: And SiLo last week) just a couple of months ago. Yes, it’s a break from the traditional and yes, we are exposing the rest of the world to the scene, but Darth & Vader is uniquely poised to bridge that gap. In fact, this is a good time to let everyone in on another first for Cape Town – Harmonika is well known (and well liked) here as well as by Psytrance fans worldwide, but Darth & Vader is breaking ground in the Electro scene at a phenomenal rate and going places that a Psytrance producer will find it hard, if not impossible, to reach – but here’s the kicker: it’s the same person. This will be, to the best of my knowledge, the very first time that an international act has headlined as two different projects, on two separate dance floors, at the same event. And this is something I am very excited about. It’s the way the scene and music in general is moving. Artists must diversify to survive.
It’s time to let go of the Psytrance scene in Cape Town – to let go of our “purest” ways and set the scene free to be what it will be. If we continue to hold it back, we will throttle it to death. I’m not suggesting we hand it over to commercialism, but I think we need to accept that, like everything else in life, it will change. We can choose to guide it through that change, or not to! It’s no longer about Psytrance, it’s about a community of people in love with music. People who love EDM and who love to do it outside in nature. Just because you also like other Electro sounds or artists or if you enjoy Rascal Flatts, Billy Joel or Justin Bieber doesn’t automatically exclude you from loving Psytrance – (ok maybe Justin Bieber does). And loving Psytrance should not be reason enough for you to be excluded from enjoying Paul Okenfold, Chicane or Pink or even Phineas and Ferb, the soundtrack. Music is the universal language, heard across generations and spoken by all people regardless of race, religion, creed, gender and age. It seems misguided, even ignorant, to use any particular genre of (electronic) music to create a divide. I hope that Ground Zero will be the next of many stepping stones to bridge this.
Psymedia : Let’s chat about DJing for a bit. I’ve heard you drop a couple of Mystical Complex and Harmonika tracks at parties, most recently at MMD’s The Ancients. Do you play international artists you’ve considered bringing down to try and gauge how the dance floor might react?
Sway : Oh yes! But I try to also do it in the clubs or at smaller parties cause it’s actually easier to gauge the dance floors reaction that way – actually, Protoculture taught me that!
Psymedia : Now although as a DJ you don’t play any of your own original music, I’ve noticed you enjoy cutting along with a couple of other mix tricks. How do you make sure each set is memorable?
Sway : I have one rule that I apply to every set: I don’t try to make sure of anything (except being there on time), after all, I’m a DJ. Not a producer. A DJs purpose is to bind all the music together. To connect the dots, so to speak. I can’t do that by sitting at home, on a Wednesday before a gig and deciding what to play and when to play it and how to mix it. I do that in the here and now (or for the purpose of this interview – the then and there!). I take my instructions from the dance floor. If I can see that a track is losing the crowd, I change it, this might happen 2 minutes in, which means I have to add another 5-6min of a new track, that I never anticipated, to my set. If the dance floor is loving a track, I might even play it twice in a set, or use it to fill out other tracks, so create builds in the set. I think that’s when a set is most memorable. That’s one reason I prefer sets that are at least 90min. You just don’t have the space in a 60min set to do that. I do prepare for my sets though. I listen to copious amounts of music in the week before a set. The more important, the more I listen. My set at Earthdance in 2012 was definitely the best set I’ve ever played, both technically and creatively, but I listened to all of the tracks on the drive up. I call it “stealth listening”, like the technique you might use to do quick revision before a test called “stealth reading” (quickly and quietly). But for the most part, I avoid Psytrance for at least two days before a set otherwise I find that I become “psy deaf” for some reason, and I tend to miss all the good stuff in a track.
Psymedia : Have you considered producing at all?
Sway : I did once. In fact, I’m told that I’m pretty good, but we all have our roles to play in this mechanism and I think I’ve found mine. I’m right where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to do – creating spaces for producers and DJs to share their passion and making sure that Cape Town has the very best new, cutting edge entertainment on the dance floor.
Psymedia : Thanks Laura! Anything else you want to add before we end things off?
Sway : I’d like to thank you and the Psymedia crew (and the other bloggers/photographers/reviewers) for the effort you make within the scene. It’s hard work, following every event, all the ins and outs, ups and downs, histories and mythologies, while still managing to deliver such a consistent and informative service. This is the true nature of a community. And it is what it is, because we make it so.
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- Sway on Soundcloud