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Home > Culture > Music > 10 Tracks: DJ Fergus, boxer and disco dai lo of the South Canton Soul Train
10 Tracks: DJ Fergus, boxer and disco dai lo of the South Canton Soul Train

In 10 Tracks, we link up with the cool kids and OGs of nightlife, then ask them for a mixtape. This time around, we talk to DJ Fergus of South Canton Soul Train and Yeti Out — who happens to be one hell of a boxer, too.

Boxing and DJing have more in common than you might think. First, rhythm is key, but you have to be prepared to improvise. Second, the great ones know how to work the crowd. And on a bad night, you might get punched in the face.

Fergus Heathcote, better known as DJ Fergus, is a skilled tradesman in both of these arenas. A member of the globetrotting party collective Yeti Out and founder of the South Canton Soul Train, Fergus returned to Hong Kong in 2018 after several years of touring in the UK and Europe. He stopped drinking, and started boxing.

“I got lost in the sauce over there as a young touring DJ who had succumbed to the dangers and temptations of the workplace,” says Fergus. “I was living in my shadow-self and left a wake of destruction in my career, loved ones and people in general. I needed to go back to Hong Kong and have a clean slate. No more alcohol! At this point in time I was extremely depressed and anxious, to the point where I wanted to end my life by jumping out of a window. The first time I stepped into the gym I fell in love and never looked back.”

Even though the drinks stopped flowing, the show went on. The same year, Fergus and his business partner and artist Akira Mimasu launched the South Canton Soul Train with the goal of pushing funky, soulful, disco-heavy chunes to the partygoers of Hong Kong and beyond. It was a hit, and the pair sold out shows from 2018-2020, before These Unprecedented Times™ dragged us all into this two-years-and-counting vibe desert, a killer for clubs and parties of all sizes. Gyms and fight nights suffered, too — but Fergus kept training, honing his skills as a DJ and as a boxer, ready for whatever the future holds.

“If anything boxing teaches you, it’s to adapt, and adapt I did!” says Fergus.

As things begin to reopen and Hongkongers feel the hope of a sense of normalcy once more (fifth time’s the charm, right?), we caught up with Fergus after a recent show at Soho House Hong Kong to talk boxing, the booth and his “non-negotiable” daily routine. And as always — he made a mixtape to take us into the weekend.

10 Tracks: DJ Fergus

Who is Fergus? How would you describe yourself and your sound? 

I am an artist, producer, events director, DJ, lover and friend pushing house and disco music here in Hong Kong. You can catch me at my residencies at Cassio, Soho House and the Kerry Hotel — as well as my own nights, the South Canton Soul Train and Dream Dancing. I am also a member of the collective Yeti Out.

How did you start South Canton Soul Train?

South Canton Soul Train was created four years ago in 2018 by my business partner and artist Akira Mimasu due to the lack of disco music being pushed in this city. We had sold out shows, back-to-back every month until the pandemic. The ethos was to push real disco music the way they did in America back in the ’70s but with a splash of modern and Asian elements, too, like playing old school Cantopop records from Roman Tam, Sandy Lam and the likes — a nod to Paradise Garage in New York with legendary DJs like Larry Levan.

The night entailed me and/or another guest DJ playing extended five- to six-hour sets. It allows for a truly special and intimate experience with the DJ and crowd as we go on a long and decadent musical journey celebrating modern and vintage disco music from around the world. It was a deliberate and direct counter culture to what we see in the modern scene today, where you have four or five DJs playing one hour, sometimes even 45-minute sets.

When did you start spinning? Do you remember the first party you played? How did it go?

2010! It was twelve years ago, I was only sixteen [laughs]. It was for a German Swiss International School fashion show. The first party I played at was a dubstep gig for the legendary crew Heavy, ran by [Lai] Fai. It went well and I was hooked. Could hardly wait to play on those big speakers again!

What was your most memorable gig? What was the worst?

I’m fortunate enough to have a career that has been abundant with memorable gigs and highlights: Playing “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls at the end of one my sets for David Beckham. Performing at Wonderfruit in Thailand or Bestival in the UK. Representing Hong Kong in the first Boiler Room here. Getting flown to Shanghai to perform for Burberry, sharing the stage and working with my childhood heroes like Skepta, Grandmaster Flash, A$AP Mob, Oneman and Benji B. Touring Asia and Europe with fellow DJ comrades and friends.

The one that sticks out most would be one of my first gigs in London in 2011 at Egg, a 5am sunrise set. Towards the end of the set I dropped “Jamie XX – Far Nearer” — what happened next was a fully packed club of a thousand people who got into the biggest conga line I’d ever seen, then left the room all together to go into the smoker’s area and into the sunrise to rally more conga line troops to come back into the club and dance to the rest of the song — truly magical scenes forever etched in memory. I was lucky enough to have local legends (now friends/stablemates/mentors) like Arthur Yeti and Zaran Vaccha (dai lo’s of the music industry) in the crowd who now play a big part in my professional and personal life today.

Outside of music, what inspires you?

Life, people, art, history, philosophy, psychology, books and boxing.

We talked boxing not too long ago. How did that start in your life? Where did your interest begin there?

I got into boxing in 2018. I had returned to Hong Kong from living in the UK and Europe for several years and to put it simply, I got lost in the sauce over there as a young touring DJ who had succumbed to the dangers and temptations of the work place. I was living in my shadow-self and left a wake of destruction in my career, loved ones and people in general. I needed to go back to Hong Kong and have a clean slate. No more alcohol! At this point in time I was extremely depressed and anxious, to the point where I wanted to end my life by jumping out of a window.

The first time I stepped into the gym, I fell in love and never looked back. The hot and sweaty room, constant rattle of the speed bags, whizzing of skipping ropes and a room full of people all working towards positive and healthy goals: It was the start of me coming from the shadows and into the light psychologically, physically and metaphorically. I owe so much of my life to boxing, it has gotten me through so much pain and suffering and has helped build a stronger character and mindset that carries over in my career and personal life. I highly recommend it for everyone (or any other martial art for that matter).

How have the recent Covid restrictions impacted boxing, from training to matches?

It’s impacted it greatly — there are no matches and the the gyms had several closures. But if there’s anything boxing teaches you, it’s to adapt, and adapt I did! I took my training outside to Repulse Bay where I did pads, spars, shadowboxing, beach runs and weights by the playground next to the beach.

Between playing shows and boxing — what do the two skillsets have in common?

There is much in common between the two, but the two biggest things would be rhythm and timing. Rhythm is the backbone of dance music, and it all starts from the heart. The greats in both fields have studied and know how to control and manipulate rhythm and timing to great effect. Muhammad Ali, for instance, danced around his opponents luring them into his rhythm, never allowing them to get into their own. Once fixated into Ali’s rhythm, like a trance, he would hit them on the off-beat, fast and hard, to catch them off-guard. DJs like Floating Points have an extensive library of Latin, African and worldwide rhythms and know exactly how and when to blend them perfectly to always keep the crowd in a sense of wonder and anticipation.

Which is more meditative for you?

Both. Both are extremely meditative. The majority of the time I’m doing both at the same time with painting, as well [laughs]. After 15 years of collecting music and having an extensive collection, it’s becoming an increasingly difficult task to remember all of my records. So I’ve introduced shadowboxing whilst listening to new records to develop muscle memory, and I’ve recently thrown painting into the agenda. I’ve managed to find a nice ecosystem-slash-flow between my three practices. 

Back to music — is there a set or performance that you’ve seen that had a lasting impact on you?

I got to see Prince in London, something as cheap as £8, a couple months before he passed away. The ticketing was cool — there were no tiers and you got to stand or sit anywhere for that price. I was lucky to be right in the front right beside my best friend, the late, great Baytrilla (rest in power) and Cara Delevingne! The show was madness; he is the pinnacle of peak performance for an artist. He must’ve had over 12 outfit changes, and encore after encore. It was the closest thing to a religious experience that I’ve encountered.

Is there any DJ in HK or in the world that you’d drop everything to go see?

The Maestro DJ Harvey!

What’s your creative process?

I have daily non-negotiables which consist of making the bed, drinking a glass of water, skipping rope, shadowboxing, cold shower, gratitude journalling, still life drawing and reading a book for 15-30 minutes every morning. No negotiating, wherever I am! For the rest of the day, I am looking for new music, filing them away into playlists, shadowboxing, painting, making digital renders — sometimes all at the same time, sometimes one after the other, depending on how I feel that day. 

What’s your favourite thing about playing in Hong Kong?

The people! We have truly unique people from all walks of life here and it is a truly a pleasure and a privilege to serve my skills as a DJ here. 

What makes or breaks a set ?

What makes a quality set is selection, timing, precision, wonder and crowd control. 

What’s next? What do you have coming up and where can we see you?

 I’ve been working on a new project with Akira Mimasu and young up-and-coming ripper Owen Turner on a new House night with ethereal and cosmic undertones called Dream Dancing. Apart from music, I’ve also been working on my painting and NFT art.

Nathan Erickson
Editor-in-Chief
Made in Seoul and based in Hong Kong, Nathan has covered food, fashion and music from New York to Paris to Oaxaca. He enjoys street photography, buying too many hooded sweatshirts and he'll never turn down a tequila soda. Catch him on weekends hiking trails all over Hong Kong in hopes of finding his idol, Chow Yun-fat.
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