Fuzen has always, and continues to, played a major role in building, creating and shaping New Zealand’s always evolving music scene. Fuzen currently stands as one of New Zealand’s most successful event promotions and production companies. They bring us our favourite club shows, international artists and their highly hyped (for good reason!) flagship new years festival, Northern Bass.
Incase you’re not clued up, Fuzen Entertainment was developed from the original Fu Bar, Queen Street’s (and later Albert St) DnB hot spot that closed six years ago. The team moved into management after the closure of Fur Bar and Zen, and it seems they haven’t stopped working since. This week marks 18 years of Fuzen, which means a party! Before the party this Sunday, we thought we would take the opportunity to talk to Fuzen director Gareth about the last 18 years; his mistakes, successes, highlights and stories.
First of all, congrats on 18 years of Fuzen! How does it feel to get to this point?
Thank you! Makes me feel old! haha..It’s strange to think that people that have just turned 18 can now come to our shows, and were just being born when we started! My 19 year old brother Max has just started coming to Fuzen shows which is pretty cool though! It actually feels great as Fuzen is busier than ever and we’re always setting new challenges/goals for ourselves so never gets boring!
Fuzen is behind a huge amount of New Zealand’s best club shows, international artist tours and of course your flagship new years festival - Northern Bass. If you had to create a highlights reel of the last 18 years, what performances who be on it and why?
Wow that’s a really hard question, how long have you got?? haha..Fu Bar and Zen were open for 12 years altogether and it’s been 6 years since we closed them both, and we have probably done 2000+ shows in that time, so it’s really hard to pick favourites. Some that pop into my mind though are:
I know it’s not a performance but opening Fu Bar on Queen Street at the age of 26 years old with a bunch of my best mates has to be at the top of the list. It was a very special time in Auckland nightlife and we went against the grain, just did what we wanted...no rules. We followed our passion and luckily a bunch of people seemed to connect with that.
Second would be the first time we toured a member of the Wu Tang Clan, Ghostface Killa. I’ve been a huge fan for years and when I was younger I never even dreamed that I would tour him once, let alone 4 times.
I can’t even pick a drum and bass favourite. It would def be the genre that we have done the most local shows and international tours so picking some favourites would be very hard!
Definitely starting Northern Bass….again not a particular performance but over the last 6yrs we have booked over 300+ acts that’s been a huge challenge and just makes us really happy that people seem to like what we’re doing. Probably the best moment with Northern Bass was selling it out in the 4th year for the first time!
Lastly it hasn’t happened yet but putting together the Salmonella Dub 25th Anniversary feat the Return Of Tiki Tane has been a highlight for me. I have been working on it for about two and a half years and as I never got to see a show myself back when they were together…..I’m not only excited as the promoter but as a fan as well!
Over the 18 years what are some of the most significant changes, both good and bad, you have noticed in local music and entertainment industry?
When we first started 18 years ago our parties were mostly a combination local DJ’s playing music produced overseas. Over the years its been great to see local bedroom producers flourishing to a point where some of our local acts are on the same level as some of the biggest acts in the world! The one thing that has been tough over the years is the changes in compliance needed for events/clubs to operate…anything from closing times, alcohol laws, health and safety, Police, Council etc. Don’t get me wrong some are needed but there has a been a few over the years that make running an event or club extremely hard!
With years of experience, with both Fu Bar and Fuzen Entertainment, what advice would you give to up and coming promoters, event producers and artists?
For promoters/event producers……do it for the right reasons. If you're getting into this just to make money it will be an uphill battle! I often get asked what I do for a job and my answer is I don’t have one. I wake up everyday and work on things that I love so it doesn’t feel like work. But in saying that it is a very stressful way to make a living as it’s a very competitive and ruthless industry so isn’t for the faint hearted…if that makes sense? Above all though, be honest and pay your bills! Our ethos has always been…if your a promoter your taking the risk, not the DJ’s, sound companies etc so make sure you pay everyone even if you lose money on a show.
For DJ’s/acts/performers……work really hard to perfect your craft whatever it may be. Even if you're super talented there are so many people in this world that are just as talented and over the years I’ve seen some really talented people never make it because they treat it like a hobby…if you treat it that way that’s all it will ever be! Unless your someone like Prince or Jimi Hendrix! lol
A lot of us cut our DnB teeth at Fu-Bar. Now a new generation is getting introduced to drum n bass through Northern Bass and the shows Fuzen puts on at various venues round town. What have been the pros and cons of moving Fuzen from having a fixed physical space to what it is now?
I really miss having Fu Bar and Zen for a bunch of reasons, mostly as it felt like a place for a bunch of like minded people to hang out and catch up. I used to watch the TV program Cheers when I was younger (probably showing my age here), and Fu Bar and Zen had that feel. The feeling where everyone knew everyone and were all there for the love of music and good company. It was pretty taxing to have a nightclub for 12 years as it never stops! We used to be open 6 nights a week for the first few years on Queen Street, then slowed down to 4 nights a week but it’s pretty hard to keep the energy levels up. Just as one weekend was finishing you're having to think about the next.
Now that we don’t have the fixed physical space I feel like we have been able to put more into each show that we do and focus on the promoting side of the business rather than running a venue and trying to promote shows. It has given us more time to actually sit down and strategise where we want to be in 5 years time. As we have a small team and are all very hands on with everything we do, something like Northern Bass would have been impossible to do while we had the clubs as it literally takes 11 months to organise, so once one finishes we’re already working on the next.
I wouldn’t change a thing though! There have def been some really tough times over the past 18 years, but everything that has happened has made Fuzen into the company it is today.