A hideout for some of the best parties in Singapore – spanning house music, techno and disco – Headquarters by The Council is one nightlife spot that will get your rave on
It’s 3am on a Sunday morning – the riverside bars and seafood restaurants that line the oft-bustling stretch of Boat Quay are dormant, as the formidable CBD skyline peers down from yonder. But while stragglers of the streets lumber home like the stumbling undead, muffled pulses can be heard thumping from an inconspicuous shophouse that you might easily walk past without noticing. Follow the vibrations, stalk the late-night survivors, spot the small sign on a pillar with a perplexing Morse code symbol, and you’ll eventually find yourself at Headquarters by The Council – possibly the hippest underground club in Singapore right now.
You’re not mistaken if you thought you’d heard the name somewhere; The Council – run by Eileen Chan (you might know her as DJ CATS ON CRACK) and Clement Chin (he spearheads the Koi izakaya franchise) – had been nomadically throwing pop-up parties in the rooftops of The Projector, the alleys of Haji Lane, lofts in Circular Road, and wherever their forward-thinking, norm-defying tendencies took them (there was a time when the two chartered a ninja party bus that led me to a secret location, but that’s for another story). It was this characteristic of uncertainty that lent a truly left-field appeal to The Council; diehard punters were always stoked about where the next party would be held. But since mid-May, the rave-hunting had been rendered unnecessary, and honorary members of The Council could rest easy. Headquarters by The Council became their new home.
There are no crystal chandeliers to be found, no diamond-crusted statues with lasers shooting out of their mouths (okay, there is one laser), no Champagne bottles with flashy sparklers – if you’re looking for a place bearing any semblance of posh pizazz, the clubs at Clarke Quay are just around the corner. If not, stay right here.
I won’t forget my first entry into the HQ – it was 27 May, when The Council folks roped in GoldFFinch all the way from Belgium. After climbing up to the second storey, I remember being engulfed immediately by shadows and smoke, bringing to mind the harsh surroundings of Berlin’s Tresor; while the narrow, contained dance floor reminded me of the cosy yet chaotic confines of Tokyo’s Solfa. There is but one bar (often helmed by Clement himself) facing the anarchy on the opposite end of the red-tinted room from the decks, walls are scribbled with all sorts of non-PG-13 marker graffiti (you can ask for markers too), and there’s even an old-school Donkey Kong arcade machine if you wanna take a break and give Mario a spin (playing while inebriated is a lost cause). Aside from these features, you’ll find no other gimmicks here, and that’s ’cos people who come to Headquarters by The Council rely on just one thing – the music.
While most clubs in Singapore commit to commercialised EDM, and others try to balance between mainstream and underground nights, Headquarters by The Council sticks to the latter all the way. House, tech-house and techno are your usual suspects, with all their derivative sub-genres given time to shine in the HQ – minimal, deep, tribal, acid; you’ll hear it all (even some disco if you’re lucky). Barely three months old, HQ has brought down the international likes of Young Marco and Me & Her, and regional elites like Sunju Hargun, Mendy Indigo and Jonathan Kusuma – keep a look-out for HQ’s new Foreign Affairs series if you wish to discover the underground sounds of the region.
And hitting even closer to home, HQ is also pivotal as an outlet for many local and Singapore-based DJs – including Daryl C, Yadin, Muddy, Deen, and one of The Council’s resident jockeys, Julien Brochard – to hone their craft, and for some, to unleash a darker, harder side of their repertoire most don’t get to see. For instance: KFC, who usually plays summery sounds at Lo & Behold events; and Kaye, who gets to go full-on techno when he’s not on saxophone duties.
It certainly helps that parties at the HQ start early in the week, from Wednesdays to Saturdays (and even on some Sundays), giving both DJs the exposure and punters their ravey respite. For anyone craving pure underground music in a setting where you neither have to dress to impress nor put on airs, Headquarters by The Council should be your go-to playground. It doesn’t compromise, it doesn’t disappoint, it doesn’t try too hard, and it doesn’t take long for anyone who steps through its doors to realise that there’s something special about it. So tell your friends – or don’t – Headquarters by The Council is where it’s at.