When it comes to Halloween, Osaka really knows how to party. Over the past ten years, the popularity of Halloween party culture in Kansai has gone off the charts. On the Saturday night of Halloween, just take a walk along Midosuji, check out the Dotonbori, or explore Amemura and it’s famous meeting point, Triangle Park, and you’ll witness thousands of people parading the streets in costume. Like no other time of the year, Halloween in Japan has become an awesome night to get into costume and go crazy until morning.
If you’re coming to Osaka during any time between Oct 27th – 31st this year, there’ll be a number of Halloween parties, club events, pub crawls and meetups that you can sink your ghoulish teeth into but there is one event in particular that stands out above all others – Osaka’s famous Halloween Rampage. I caught up with the 3 guys who run the show: Joey Parker, the founder, Mark “Woody” Wood, and Dom Pang for a chat about the leviathan that is Rampage and to find out just why this event has been so important to the Halloween explosion in Osaka.
With having over 1500 plus people parties, there is no better representation than Rampage of how Halloween in Osaka is like. Due to the growing popularity of Halloween in Japan, clubs compete with other parties when it comes to getting people. Halloween in Osaka is a time when the competition is high and event organizers pull out their biggest and baddest guns on this day. However, Rampage outdoes other events due to the unique and genuine of the experience it has to offer the guests. I interviewed 3 of the main guys who run the show to find out more: Joey Parker the founder with Mark Wood (Woody), and Dom Pang.
What is Rampage?
Halloween Rampage is a party 10 years in the making and has been growing year by year. Everything from its design concept, stage setup, sound systems, installations, and performing artists are, as you can see from the video, carefully and meticulously planned to create an interactive, audience-friendly experience that anchors it to an underground party vibe but makes it accessible for all.
Dom explains the Rampage philosophy: “Rampage is everything that is creative, fun and artistic about Halloween in Japan. We avoid cliches and strive to create a truly vibrant, interactive and welcoming space for both Japanese and international party people. We use unique locations – from rooftops to warehouses, have a diverse range of excellent dance music and performers and always use decorations that are original, eclectic and artistic. We want our parties to be memorable, to be an experience where people can explore the fun and fantasy of Halloween, get into character and connect with other people through music, art, and dancing in a non-judgemental and safe environment. I think we’ve managed to get the balance right between a unique underground feel and a feeling of accessibility for everyone. We think creating that balance has been key our success. If we can get Rampagers to leave the party and say ‘Wow, that party was off the wall amazing!. We won’t forget that in a hurry.’ then we’ve done our jobs well.”
What was your inspiration to start Rampage?
Joey explains: “In my early days in Japan, I was really into creating parties with themes, something a little more interesting than the standard club event – events such as “Cheese on Toast” and “NeckbendersTech (NBT)”, where we were experimenting with the relationship between visual atmosphere and music. Halloween just seemed like the perfect fit to get creative so we managed to book Onzieme, one of the best club venues available at the time, and put our ideas to the test. To our surprise, 750 people came. We were blown away by the interest. Technically [it] wasn’t called Rampage then but the seeds had been sown and we knew that we had started something special. So the following year, when Woody joined me, we came up with the name ‘Halloween Rampage’- a name fitting to the type of party we had witnessed and a concept we would passionately develop to this day. Each year we’ve taken a slightly different angle, carefully growing the party, building the Rampage culture and vibe and switching venues to keep things fresh. We’ve moved from Onzieme to Triangle, to Absinthe, Vano, Big Step West and then East and now to our current venues Rooftop bar OO and Alzar in the new Japan hotel in Namba. Each venue has had something uniquely “Halloween” with its architecture and design. Moreover, we’ve always run it in or around Amemura and Namba, which has become the heartbeat for Halloween in Osaka.”
What sets Rampage apart from other events?
Joey: “From day one, we’ve always been very careful to have good sound, design, and performers. We select DJs who have been making a big impact in Osaka. These are DJs who have the capability of building a great party vibe with unique and interesting music. Their sets will surprise but always keep the dancefloor pumping. The DJ lineup, the scheduling of acts should fit together perfectly, with each DJ complimenting the other with their sound and mixing skills.”
Woody adds: “A lot of places just played hip-hop and rinsed out commercial music. We wanted something a little darker… a more beat-driven party. Over the years the vision has changed as Osakans have taken to enjoying Halloween in bigger numbers. As Dom said, we try to keep ahead of the times, with awesome installations, beat-driven dancefloors and labyrinth style venues, but most importantly it’s about the people involved – those who are passionate and dedicated party people, like the Nightbirds crew, for example. Through the amazing efforts of our staff and crew and the enthusiasm of the Rampagers who come to our events, we’ve managed to keep Halloween Rampage an exciting event to be at. It’s about getting the right people involved and attracting the right people to the event.”
How are the Deco and Visuals so unique?
Joey: “For the first couple of years we were running on a small budget and designing everything ourselves. We’d always go out of our way to source interesting props – stuff that we could reappropriate into a Halloween setting that would suit the vibe we wanted to create. I remember in our 2nd year when we moved to club Triangle I got my hands on some 100-year-old “Shoji” (Japanese styled) doors and used that theming to build a Japanese style haunted house around the DJ booth. It was more stylized than the other venues but it really worked in terms of setting us apart from everyone else. I’ve always loved doing set design myself but as we grew in popularity along with the size of our venues I knew we needed to bring in additional talent. So when Dom joined in our 3rd year he connected us with visual artists such as Cosmic Lab and Oreo – people who are VJ, 3D mapping and decor legends in the underground party scene in Osaka. As we invested more and got more people involved, the whole project became more professional, allowing us to be more creative with our visuals and set designs and stay clear of the same old rehashed pumpkins and skeletons you’ll find at most venues.
Tell me about your impressions of Halloween in Osaka.
Dom: “It’s wild! There’s a real sense of festival when Halloween happens here. People just seem to release their inhibitions. It’s the perfect storm really; even for those who don’t get usually get into cosplay, dressing up for Halloween opens a door for people to unlock a part of their personality that is otherwise kept under wraps. And the fact that EVERYONE is doing it creates this amazing feeling of fun, fantasy, and adventure.
Interestingly, the whole ‘Sankaku’ park gathering thing in Amemura grew with Rampage. When we were running Rampage at club Triangle, we had long lines of people out the front – loads of people just waiting to get in but who were drinking, celebrating and partying outside.”
Joey adds: “It was critical mass – they started their own party on the steps of Triangle Park directly outside the club and the whole place, despite the police box just on the corner, was taken over with freaks in costumes drinking, taking photos with people they’d just met and having loads of fun just hanging out. From that year on, Triangle Park became a monster of its own”. Nowadays it is THE meeting place to go to before you’d hit the clubs and parties.”
What are your best memories of Rampage?
Woody: “My best memory has to be in 2015 when I was looking out over the Rampage party below from the 8th floor of Rooftop bar OO with Joey, Dom and a bunch of my mates. About 1500 people joined us that year – the fire dancers were going off, the DJs had created this amazing vibe and it was clear that everyone was really enjoying themselves and getting into it. Sometimes Japan can be a little reserved but this was crazy! I was in my element.”
Joey: “I walked outside and saw the auditorium full of people in every kind of costume you could imagine – vampires, superheros, sexy policewomen, giant jellyfish, freaky clowns… you name it, they were going wild on the dance floor! I looked up and saw people dancing on the edge of the roof, dancing everywhere without a care. I took a moment to take it all in and appreciate the fact that so many people were enjoying themselves. I love the photo I have of that moment.
Dom: “Surviving to tell the tale every year. Really, there are too many to chose from but if I had to pick one I’d say our 2013 party at Big Step West underground warehouse. It was the first time I felt like we had a created a truly “rave” style party. It was magical.”
What are your hopes for this year’s Rampage 10?
The 3 of them all agree that throwing an epic party that tops what they’ve done before is their goal.
Joey: “Sometimes we can get caught up in organizing the event, meaning that we can forget to enjoy ourselves because there’s so much to do to make it happen. So this year, we’re going all out to party with everyone who comes along. Stop and have a drink with us! And watch out for the pacman,” he says with a grin.
Dom: “We’ve got the lads from Cosmic Lab back to do visuals and we know they’re going to do something very special for us at Halloween Rampage 10. We’re not giving too much away but we’re really looking forward to seeing what they can create. Each room will have a different visual theme. There are lots of surprises in store!
Woody: “We think we have our best DJ line-up to date this year. So far we have nearly 20 international and local DJs booked and with 3 main stages to choose from. From soul, funk, hip-hop, house, and electro to drum and bass, grime, dubstep, and techno, there’s something for everyone to get wild on the dancefloor.”
So there are rumors…Will this be the last Rampage?
“Ask me next year”, Joey chuckles. Woody adds: “In all seriousness, we thought 2016 would be our last, but like every year the Rampage adrenaline kicks in and we start dreaming of what we can do in the future.” Dom says, “It’s pretty tiring and it takes a lot of energy to pull things together. However, every year when the final punter leaves the venue at some crazy time in the morning we look at each other and say, ‘Wow! wtf just happened!? That was frickin awesome!’ Who knows if we end up doing another 10 years!?”
Any last comments?
Joey: “The organization from the beginning was just three of us. But we never forget that we can’t pull any of this off without the wonderful support and input from so many amazing people in Osaka. We’re so grateful to everyone who has helped us along the way. It’s the people that make the party.”
“So what do you want to say to people thinking about coming to Rampage this year?”, I ask.
Joey: “I’m really honest about what we can do and have done. I’d tell them that it’s the best party that I’ve ever been involved in.”
Having been to Rampage myself, I can confidently say that this event will be the party to be at this year. My recommendation is to check out Triangle park early in the evening then hit Rampage around 10pm for a night of off the wall partying and mind-bending music and visuals.
Over the past 10 years, Rampage has influenced the growth of Halloween culture in Osaka. After interviewing Joey, Woody and Dom, I understood the passion they have for music, art, design and the care they have for the people they work with. Further, I understood just how important Rampage has been in shaping the local Osaka Halloween party scene. I believe that what makes Rampage so successful is their willingness to test the boundaries while bringing along everyone for the ride. Hopefully, you will come along too.
Which brings me to my last point – the details: Halloween Rampage October 28 at Rooftop OO and ALZAR from 8 PM til morning. Entry is 3000 yen w/1 drink or for guest list 3000 yen w/2 drinks. For more details and regular Rampage party updates join the Rampage Facebook page here:
Come party with us.
@2017 Chris - ALLNIGHTOWT.COM
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