OTH: For anyone who doesn't know, who are you and what do you do?
S: My name is Seven, and I do quite a few things actually.
OTH: You are a very busy person from what we've gathered.
S: Yes! Haha.
OTH: Not only do you DJ at a bunch of different places around Montreal; but you’ve also done sets at Piknik, you’re also a resident DJ at n10.as, then you have your zine “Into Thin Hair” and finally your “Have you Eaten?” project.
S: So for the zine it's me and Emma, it’s a two person operation, and the food thing, I started @_nice_to_meat_you_ as my food account, like I post about food I cooked.
OTH: That goes all the way back to 2016 too.
S: Yeah, and I occasionally threw a Chinese New year pop up because I’m not able to go home for New Years and I missed the vibe of everyone eating a lot of food together, so I did pop ups for that. Before the pandemic started, I was working a restaurant before I got laid off because of COVID, and then in September it was the Moon Festival so I made crab for my friends, and they said this is really good you should sell it, so I started the project “Have you Eaten?” as a house kitchen.
OTH: So you’ve been in Canada for 7, almost 8 years, have all of them been in Montreal? How old are you now?
S: Yes, all in Montreal, and I’m 28 now.
OTH: Coincidently, why is your nickname Seven? Was it easier for you to have a nickname for English speaking people?
S: I’ve had the nickname since I first started learning English in middle school. My English teacher was picking English names for us and mine was Rachel and I knew I didn't want to be Rachel. I wanted to pick my own English name and I picked Seven. So since then, every time I need an English name it’s Seven. I don’t think it’s a nickname anymore, I think it’s just my name here. It’s like my second identity in Canada is Seven and back home is Xiǎo qī, which is Little Seven so it’s the same just pronounced different.
OTH: So people that hear this straight from you, if you are to describe yourself as an artist and creative, would you categorize yourself as a multidisciplinary creative or you’re just Seven?
S: Yeah I’m just Seven, because I’m still learning and doing a little bit of everything but not focusing on one thing.
OTH: In regards to your cooking, are you more of just a home cook?
S: Right now yes but when there’s a restaurant I prefer to cook in a restaurant. For now they pick up from my home. Though right now, "Have You Eaten?" is actually on hold, but I'll have new menus soon.
OTH: You did an event for your one year anniversary with Osmo x Murasan last year, how do you usually approach restaurants like them?
SEVEN'S "HAVE YOU EATEN?" POP UP WITH @osmo_x_marusan
S: Usually it’s the restaurant that approaches me, that’s how it started. And then because I’ve done it in the restaurants that approached me, I have a little resume that says this is how I used to work and do my old pop ups. I usually ask which days they aren’t open for operation, usually it’s Sunday or Monday, so I’ll take over the day they’re not open so I don't interrupt their business.
OTH: You put out new menus often, but could you tell us a little bit more about your process behind “Have You Eaten?”
S: Usually it’s a weekly menu, and when I feel a little exhausted, like I can predict when I’m gonna have a burnout, when I feel negative energy emotionally, I will give myself a one or two week break. The menu when I do it on photoshop I just think what am I gonna cook? Sometimes I have notes like when I’m at a grocery store or restaurant and I eat some ingredients and I say oh I could make this, I write it down as a note. It also depends on the weather, like when it’s getting cold I might make more comfort foods.
OTH: Do you come up with all of the recipes on your own? It’s cool that it’s traditional Chinese food, so it’s a week to keep and push the culture.
S: I think the key for my recipes is I make it how I eat it. So for the spice level I warn people, but for example when I make a really spicy dish, for the first week I don’t water it down, so I give people how I eat it, then I always ask for feedback, and so if they say it’s really spicy, if I make it again I water it down a little bit, but I keep it as a spicy food still for the customers that didn’t complain so they could eat it still as I would.
OTH: Do you take note of all your customers?
S: No, but the communication I use the most is Instagram so when they order, I can see that they’ve ordered this and they like it spicy, so every week I have a sheet with special instructions for each order so I do my notes on order sheets.
OTH: When you do a weekly menu, do you cook each portion individually, or do you cook in bulk and tell them “on this day come and get the food”? How does it work exactly?
S: Usually I post the menu on Thursdays, so you can order Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Saturday is usually the day I go get groceries so usually I close the orders on Saturday. I know for example 25 people ordered this, so I cook according to the orders so I don’t waste food and don’t have to worry about leftovers.
OTH: So you have a team that comes with you? Because sometimes you team up with other people to cook sometimes also.
S: I have one person that cooks with me with her own menu sometimes, and I have one person come to help me do the prep. I don’t really have much patience to do the garnish part, I’m more in the pot or on the wok.
OTH: Usually, on average your orders are around 25?
S: It’s hard to say, every week it’s different. I always have a lot more when I do the crab, but I limit the crab to 30. Sometimes there’s more than that but I don’t want to do that because I kill the crab alive by myself. I’m not religious but in a way I think killing more than 30 is a little… It's a lot.
OTH: So you source all of the crab fresh. Where do you do most of your groceries?
S: Chinatown. I don’t have suppliers because my orders are too small. But I have a good relationship with vendors in Chinatown, they always give me discounts and I can communicate with them before I order so I can make sure they have everything I need. So it’s pretty supported by them. The reason I do this is because I can’t do a 9-5 office job because I feel I’d rather be busy 24/7 instead of sitting there trying to find stuff to do, and I love cooking. It’s a really amazing feeling when I go to a party and I can say, I’ve fed you, you ate my food, you’ve ordered, like half of the party has tried my food.
OTH: You’ve been doing this for a few years now, but when you first got here, you came to study communications, so what were you doing from the time that you got here to when you started “Have You Eaten?”
S: I studied 5 years, so I was basically just a fulltime student and a DJ on the side, and then on New Year I’d do the pop up. The cooking was mostly me just hosting friends at home. There was a really cool thing called restaurant day in Montreal, and basically you sign up and upload your menu and share your location and random people just come to your house and order what’s on your menu. People do it in their backyard, in an alleyway, I did a few in my apartment, I gave lessons on how to do wontons, I’d teach my friends and then I’d go cook and then my friends would teach the customers who came to do the wonton workshop. It has been going on for a few years, I have participated since the second one.
OTH: How did you get into DJing?
S: I never thought I’d become a DJ. I was in charge of booking for a club called The Mask in China, and we had electronic music Wednesday, and people would send me their Soundcloud or their set to see what kind of music they played and we’d invite them. It’s kind of like an open deck but for just 2 or 3 DJs a night. So this guy sent me a set, the music was pretty lounge house and I thought he could open, so I invited him to come play as the first DJ. He was playing latin music and people were there on Wednesdays for electronic so I talked to him and said “I’m sorry your vibe isn’t right, we have to switch you off, but you can still get free drinks for the effort.” and he said “are you a DJ”, I said no, so he said “You’re not a DJ you don’t have the right to tell me what’s electronic music.” and I’m really competitive so I don’t like when people tell me what I can’t do so I said come back next Wednesday and I’ll show you what electronic music is. I was working a second job at the time, so I had to fly out of the of the city for a business trip, so I just watched YouTube on the flight and learned and the next weekend I borrowed all the equipment from my DJ friends, like headphones, a controller, all I had to do was download music. Back then I didn’t know how to download good quality music either, I just ripped from YouTube. And then on Wednesday all my friends came too and that was my first time DJing and I just played all the songs that I listen to, and at one point I got off the stage to dance with my friends and the music stopped. I was like “Fuck the DJ!” and I realized I am the DJ and then I just really liked how I can control the dance floor and I stuck to it afterwards.
OTH: Your first time DJing was in China?
S: Yeah it was around 2011ish.
OTH: So when you came here you were 21 and came to study communication, and at that point you had been DJing for 3 or 4 years in China?
S: I would say around 3 years. Very busily for 3 years, I’d say every week I had a gig.
OTH: And where were you based in China?
S: Kunming in Yunnan province. It’s near southeast Asia.
OTH: When you came down here and started DJing, how did you get into the scene here? Did you start with all the little spots
S: I started at Blue Dog haha. I started playing trap music there. I don’t know if you know Cas from Apt. 200 and Cole and Bruno, basically they do a lot of hip-hop parties at Blue Dog, and I know one of their friends from school so they heard I used to DJ back in China so I just came along to DJ with them and someone else heard my music at the party and reached out to do a rave, so more and more links from parties just reached out to DJ somewhere else. And at first I had to play trap music or music linked to hip-hop, but I had a little insertion of my music not just blindly playing what fits the vibe, I wanted a little bit of what I like. And when I got reached out to by other parties I could start to play what I actually like to play.
OTH: What is your style more like? Do you try to implement Asian producers within your sets when you play at like Datcha and stuff like that? What’s your vibe like?
S: I always have Asian producers' music in my playlist, but when I do parties, I don't focus on who made the song, or if they’re Chinese or not, it’s just more for the party vibe. The set I did for Chinatown was for that though. I made a list, like Asians can make cool music too, trying to send a message. Mostly my style is house, like funk house, but I realised I changed a little bit since the raves started again after the pandemic, I went way harder for the raves because why not? Because I saved all the rave tracks for this type of occasion.
SEVEN FOR @stickyricemagazine
OTH: Was your new style what you played at Piknik?
S: Yeah, even more linked to drum & bass.
OTH: Do you have any inspirations when it comes to your home cooking or your DJing?
S: For cooking, all of my philosophy is based on my grandma, like some of the ways she processes food. I don't know why you have to do it, but I’m just gonna do it because that’s how she taught me. I forgot if she told me why or if it’s just her way, but I never questioned her and it works so I just follow that. For music I think my friends in China keep on inspiring me. They never stop making music and they always send me their stuff so it’s mind blowing, and that’s also why I want to start a music label to bring their music from Asia to here. Because I obviously have a better platform than them because back in China you don’t get recognized as much, you stay underground until you go mainstream but then you have a lot of restrictions of what kind of stuff you’re allowed to do. So the music label will also be called “Have You Eaten?” because I think it has the same value as food, it also feeds you, because I feel like food and music you don’t need to understand it, you taste it and you feel it immediately. I watched this documentary called “Pretend It’s a City” and in it the artist says “There are two kinds of people who bring pure pleasure to the world. It’s musicians and cooks.” and when I heard that I was like Oh my god this is me right now, and all of a sudden I thought "Oh! I have my purpose."
OTH: What made you choose Montreal out of everywhere else you could’ve gone?
S: My ex-boyfriend is from here. Ex-fiancé I guess. It didn’t go well. But I decided to stay because I had already started my own life, so it’s my decision. I feel that I will stay here until my projects have grown into their own shape and after I’ll go somewhere else to explore.
OTH: Do you want to go back to China, or are you looking to go somewhere else?
S: Ideally, I’m looking to create an opportunity that’s like half a year in Canada and half the year in China. That would be a dream situation so I could link up with what I miss, like my heritage one a year, because I feel like I’m losing a lot, especially my vocabulary in Chinese. And they’re moving fast, there’s so many new terms all the time that I had to look up and I don’t like that.
OTH: Earlier you were talking about your communications studies and being behind the scenes. What did you learn from your internship at Phi Center back in January 2021?
S: You do know everything what the fuck haha. I learned programming, which opened my eyes, and learned a lot about how booking a show works. It’s way harder than it looks and it takes a lot of communication skills when you talk to artists' agents. From my perspective, I feel like I can see some unbalance between who gets booked and how much they get paid. Because between your headliner and your opener, the payments are hugely different. At a party it’s not only the artist, there’s also the audience that you have to take care of. There’s so much more manpower that you have to get involved, which I never really thought of before. Because for me, I’ll get on stage, do my show, and then get off. You need all the promotion and the contract work was also a blindspot for me because it involves a lot of legal work, and we need to add a lot of details, especially when they have agents who would find loopholes to get you. That scared me so I had to learn a bit more about performer laws in Canada to understand. I went in with 10% knowledge of what it is and definitely left with a lot more.
OTH: Do you eventually want to go back and work with Phi Center one day? Or would you rather start your own thing instead.
S: I’d definitely want to go back. They have a really good platform and connections in every field I'm interested in, so I’d definitely like to work with them and right now my supervisor right now gave me an open window. She said whenever you have a project in mind, bring it in and we’ll talk and we’ll help you. I’m really grateful for the connection I built when interning there.
OTH: Have you ever thought about creating a magazine for “Have You Eaten?”
S: I’ve definitely thought about it. I had a moodboard and a list of stuff I’d wanted to do, but when I want to do something I’m too ambitious. I want to include a lot of things, and in the end the basic thing didn’t even finish. I want to create a handbook for when people go to a grocery store.
OTH: The only thing we haven’t talked about is you being over at N10.AS. Off The Hook has been involved with N10.AS in the past, do you still do shows with them now and then?
SEVEN/MOLLYGUM DJING FOR N10.AS, MAY, 2022
S: Yeah I’ve started doing shows with them again. With COVID they didn’t do studio recordings anymore, it was all prerecorded, so it was a lot of time management. I had to record, convert it, then send it. So it always felt like an assignment instead of something I was enjoying. I think I’ve done N10.AS for 6-7 years now. So I’m so excited to be back in the studio. I’m really grateful for N10.AS too, when I wasn’t having many gigs, this was something I was always looking forward to and would remind me like, “You’re a DJ!”
OTH: Do you think it’s harder for you to find residencies at different places because you are a minority?
S: Yeah, that’s a question I always ask myself when I get a gig. Are they booking me because of my music or because I’m the only Asian DJ in town and they need some diversity? My friends told me, don’t think about it because you got the gig and you got paid, but for me, at the end of the day I don't really think about it but sometimes I wish I could find out how I get the gig.
OTH: Most of the time now do they just reach out to you? Like for Datcha, did they reach out to you or did you reach out to them?
S: They reached out to me. I think 99% of the time they reach out to me. Only a few times when I hear someone is coming to town I will ask if I can open for them, but it rarely happens. I don’t know how to do small talk, so when I go out socializing, I don’t really do that with the people who are in charge of booking.
OTH: We’ve talked about all of your creative avenues, but is there a main thing that really pushes you forward to juggle it all?
S: I think if I focus on just one thing and do it repetitively, I’ll eventually lose passion and interest in it. So I switch off. When I’m tired of DJing I’ll do the cooking, and when I’m tired of cooking I’ll go out and DJ a few gigs to bring me back to the mood. It balances it for myself. I don’t want to turn any of them into a job, because when it becomes a job I think I’ll hate it. I like the flexibility that I can always make the call.
OTH: So we talked about you wanted to open a record label, but would you-
S: Definitely not a restaurant. I’ve seen people around me who own restaurants and they just burn out. It’s like having a kid, you can’t just put it on hold, you have to constantly feed it. It’s a big commitment. I’ve seen people take over a restaurant for a short time, like a month, and then give it back, and maybe that’s something I’d like to do.
OTH: Like a long-term pop up. Or a collaborative menu.
S: A Collaborative menu I would only want to do with Asian food, because I’m against and personally fight these fusion foods. Like French with Chinese food, it doesn’t work.
OTH: Is there somebody that if you were to do a collaborative menu or if you were to collab with a DJ, are there people in Montreal that you’d want to collaborate with?
S: I can’t come up with any names right now. There’s a DJ from Vancouver who I met a few weeks ago when she was in town. She’s exactly the same, she loves to cook, she is a DJ and producer, she also moved from Vancouver around the same time as me, it's too similar. She’s way more passionate about music compared to me from my perspective. She wanted to do a music and food thing when she was here, but her schedule was so tight so we couldn’t do it on time. But we’re planning next time she comes back to do something together.
OTH: What’s your biggest difficulty in juggling so many different ventures at the same time?
S: I think it’s motivation for myself. I’m doing what I’m doing right now and new things come out. Like I did this merch with my friend, the apron, for the pop up, we did the prototype, and the plan was to drop it on monday, but I was so exhausted from cooking for 60 people, and I took a week break, I wasn’t talking about business, about cooking, so now it’s Wednesday and we hadn’t spoke about it. So I think it’s the motivation for myself that’s related to mental health, and I don’t have the solution for it yet.
OTH: Since you’ve started all of these different things, do you have one pop up, or gig in mind that you think was the coolest opportunity that you had?
S: I think the pop up at Osmo cafe was one of the most successful things I did. It was the first time I planned and managed everything on my own based off of home cooking for one year. We made no mistake, no food was sent back, everyone was happy, and I was really proud of myself for that one. For music, maybe the Chinatown gig. It warms my heart and I never had this kind of opportunity to showcase the music in a special way. And also it was really special to see so many Asian kids together. That’s what I miss most, it’s the community. I feel like Montreal doesn’t have that much of a community for Asian people to be together. I've been here for a long time now and I can count my Asian friends on one hand. So I think every time there’s a feeling of bringing people together, that’s special to me.
OTH: Is that something you want people to remember you for? Like bringing together the Asian community for food and music?
S: Yeah, that’s what I want to have for the Have You Eaten music label too. Because as I said, I feel there’s not many Asian DJs, especially around me, and I want to use this label to combine our resources and opportunities to share with everyone. I want people from Asia to come here and we can all go to Asia to exchange music. I want to be the linking bridge for this.
OTH: What’re your goals that you want to reach in the near future? We have the label, but what else are we looking at?
S: Well for the music it’s the label like we said so I can go to work and visit Asia more often, and for the food thing I want to do more pop ups and to bring different food, because Chinese food has so many different genres, so just explore and expand. That’s my main focus and I hope that I can stick to it, because I don’t quit but I take my time.