First look at Zouk 2.0 at Clarke Quay

The nightspot's new premises at Clarke Quay boast high-tech features and also pay tribute to the club's past with touches of history

A spaceship has docked at the new Zouk at Clarke Quay.

Hovering over the main dance floor, it shoots out beams of light in various formations and "floats" up and down over revellers.

This UFO-like feature, affectionately titled the "mothership" by its designers, is one of the many high- tech and futuristic features at the new superclub.

In many ways, the opening of the new Zouk tomorrow is a special alien landing in itself.

Punters will likely approach it with equal parts curiosity and caution. They are probably wondering how the club will look under its new owner, casino and cruise-line conglomerate Genting Hong Kong (GHK), which bought Zouk from its founder Lincoln Cheng for an undisclosed sum late last year.

Club regulars are a sentimental, loyal bunch. They gave an emotional farewell to the old nightspot two weeks ago, queueing for hours before Zouk opened for its last party on Dec 3. At 7.40am the next day, as the house lights came on, they cried as the last song, The Beatles' Let It Be, played.

  • Putting a new spin on Zouk

  • Look carefully at the low cocktail tables in the new Phuture and you will discover some “easter eggs” left by the design team.

    They are 12-inch LP vinyl discs, selected by Zouk’s longest-running resident DJ Jeremy Boon and embedded into the tops and sides of the cast resin slabs.

    This is to “reflect actual music played in the clubs throughout its 25-year history”, says Mr Phillips Connor, 58, founder of Independent Consultants, the interior design firm behind the new Zouk at Clarke Quay.

    Mr Connor, who also designed the interiors of the original Zouk in Jiak Kim Street, says the new club aims to be “a new space that would be perceived as an evolution and not a replicate of the old Zouk”.

    Instead of the flowing, Gaudiinspired interiors of the old club – an aesthetic that was a nod to clubs on the Balearic Islands, such as Ibiza – the new one has a contemporary, neo-industrial style that is inspired by clubs in Berlin and New York.

    It is characterised by the use of materials such as concrete, brick, wood and metal throughout the space.

    That said, the interiors also feature many references to Zouk’s heritage and iconography.

    For example, in the foyer of the new club are custom cast concrete patterned tiles that incorporate the “eye” logo of Zouk. This harks back to Zouk’s “Balearic roots”, says Mr Connor. When Zouk started, the club played house music most commonly associated with the party island of Ibiza.

    Mr Connor, who is American and has been in Singapore for the past 33 years, says thatthe two projects have been quite different.

    Working on the old club in Jiak Kim, he had free reign over how to gut and revamp the three derelict warehouses in consultation with Zouk founder Lincoln Cheng.

    At Clarke Quay, the heritage guidelines are more stringent.

    For instance, he had plans for elaborate treatments for the facade and to spruce up the back lane where the entrance to Zouk is located.

    But the authorities did not give their approval to carry out such extensive work that diverged from the standard Peranakan colour palette used for other traditional shophouses in the area.

  • Coming up

  • What: Soft opening
    When: Tomorrow
    The club may be new, but the people at the decks are the same sure hands. Helming Zouk 2.0’s soft opening are resident DJs such as Andrew Tang, Lincey and Hong, who will keep the party going from 9.30pm to 4am.

    What: Official opening
    When: Jan 13
    For the official launch party, international DJ sensation Diplo will fly in for a night of revelry.

    Where: The Cannery,  3C River Valley Road
    When: Wednesdays and Fridays, 9pm to 3am; Thursdays, 9pm to 2am (only Phuture is open); Saturdays, 9pm to 4am; closed from Sundays to Tuesdays
    Admission: Wednesdays: $25 for men, free for women; Thursdays: free; Fridays, Saturdays and eve of public holidays: $35 for men, $30 for women. Special event nights and A-list events: $45 for all

Is the old Zouk gone forever? Is the new club a worthy successor? The Straits Times pays a visit.

The new Zouk is housed in The Cannery, a space once occupied by Ministry of Sound and Zirca. At 898 sq m, the area is about the same size as the old premises.

But the interiors are completely different. The old club had an iconic biomorphic design, with organic forms and curves in its walls. The new Zouk is sharper and neo-industrial in vibe, with details such as exposed brick walls and metal grilles.

The first floor is dedicated to the two dance zones that were mainstays in the old club: the main Zouk dance floor, which plays dance music by resident and international DJs and holds 1,900 partygoers; and Phuture, which plays hip-hop music and holds 700.

The difference is that the two zones can be combined into a gigantic dance floor. The wall separating them is a series of soundproof panels that can be removed for special occasions, such as Zouk's official opening night on Jan 13, for which American superstar DJ-producer Diplo will be flown in.

Also, in the past, with the lack of live-feed television screens, partygoers had to crane their necks to see the action on stage.

In the new club, huge live-streaming screens will be mounted behind the five bar counters so that no one misses the action.

Meanwhile, house music fans may lament the fact that Velvet Underground and Velvet Lounge are not returning, but a yet-to-be- named third club concept that occupies part of the second floor may provide some consolation.

For old-timers, there are nods to history. The curvy DJ console in the main room mimics the fluid forms of Zouk in Jiak Kim, and the toilets on the second floor have communal wash basins - just like at the old club. The new Zouk will also sound like the old one. The sound system, designed by renowned audio engineer Gary Stewart and used in Jiak Kim for its 25-year tenure, has been retained.

GHK's chief information officer Hui Lim, 32, was the brains behind the revamp, which cost an "eight- figure sum". The Malaysian is the eldest son of Mr Lim Kok Thay, chairman and chief executive of Genting Berhad, the holding company of the Genting Group.

The younger Mr Lim says he wants to respect the club built by Mr Cheng while scaling it up internationally into a bigger nightlife and entertainment brand.

He notes that when Zouk opened in 1991, it was a cutting-edge product for a niche audience. "I respect Lincoln Cheng for his forward- thinking vision, but now, dance clubs have become more holistic in terms of being a part of the bigger entertainment industry."

Hence, Zouk is moving rapidly from a standalone nightclub in a quiet street into a global lifestyle brand, starting with Zouk At Sea, a club housed in Genting Dream, GHK's newest cruise ship.

It is also venturing into food and beverage with the September launch of Asian-themed restaurant and bar Red Tail, a pre-party spot located about 200m from Zouk.

And the cogs are in motion to take the ZoukOut dance festivals to the rest of Asia, with a series of pre- ZoukOut shows in Boracay, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Mr Lim says the real testament to the brand's success is "when we get off these shores".

He adds: "It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when."

He does not write off future expansion to Europe and the United States. And he rubbishes talk that rapid growth might dilute the Zouk brand.

"Why do we have to keep it a hidden gem in Singapore? Zouk has been a huge success here, why don't we share it with the world?"

And to sceptics who feel Zouk might lose its soul after moving to its new digs, he says they have to experience it for themselves before making judgment.

"We're trying to elevate the product and, hopefully with that, widen the target demographic for the club. We believe that Zouk at Clarke Quay is a flagship product and Singapore is always home for Zouk."

Correction: In an earlier version of the story, it was stated that Independent Concepts is the interior design firm behind the new Zouk. This is incorrect. It should be Independent Consultants.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2016, with the headline 'Lights, sound, Zouk'. Subscribe