The creative venues Saigon Outcast and Rogue Saigon have always been projects of passion to owner Linh Nguyen. Zoe Osborne catches up with Linh to talk about Outcast, Rogue and the future. Photo by Vinh Dao.
Tell us a bit about your background – who is Linh Nguyen?
Well I am originally Vietnamese but I lived in the UK for a good chunk of my life. When I left uni I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do – a generic nine-to-five job wouldn’t suit me. At the time, I was a computer game enthusiast and I wondered what it would be like to get on the other side, and make them. So I worked for free for the first two years to get my foot into the games industry and I became a 3D modeller. During my first career I worked as a 3D game artist, 3D animator, UI artist, concept artist and eventually began working in management for the same industry. That was just before Outcast.
What do you do now? Tell us about an average day in your life.
Right now it’s quite hectic! I have a small ownership in a small IT company called Embrace IT and I look after the finance and the operation for that every day from my office in D2. Then there are my own projects – Saigon Outcast in D2 and Rogue in D1. We have just launched Rogue and we are still working on it and developing it. So, right now I get up bright and early every morning and spend my day driving all around town between the three locations, making sure everything is up and running smoothly.
So what is Saigon Outcast?
Well the concept behind Saigon Outcast is pretty basic. We rent a plot of land and we want to do something original. Outcast is an alternative venue a little bit outside the city. We run regular gigs, workshops and creative events, and we like to support ‘the underdogs’ of Saigon’s creative scene – that’s a big part of the Outcast concept actually. We work with artists, musicians and other creative thinkers who are great at what they do. I like people who have talent and passion – we can share in the same passion and make something happen.
How did Saigon Outcast come about?
When I arrived in Vietnam I was working for game company as the pseudo lead artist, overlooking five GFX departments studios. Each studio had an art department, and I managed all of them, doing a lot of administration, a lot of training, moving projects along and getting the artists ready to receive projects and so on. By this point in my career I was just doing way too much management work, and I was so hungry for some creative freedom. I wanted to do something really different, something I could build with my own hands. And that’s where Outcast came in. At that time I was great friends with a colleague of mine called Ha and we both wanted to be more adventurous, so she did the production side and I did the design side and we got Outcast up and running.
You designed Saigon Outcast – can you tell us a bit about how it was built?
Well at the end of the day it all came down to budget and land permits. You know, it’s funny – the shipping containers that we used have almost become a defining feature of Outcast now, but originally they were just because of budget and circumstance. We didn’t choose to use them because they were cool! We had to build with something that wasn’t permanent because we did not own the land, we were only renting it, and we had a limited budget. So we got creative! If I had had a bigger budget or different permit rights for the land, it would have been totally different at Outcast. This applies to all of our choices in interior design. We drove around and bought a lot of old things that we could reclaim, refurbish and make into something really cool. The first thing we bought was a Volkswagen camper van and it kind of went from there.
How has Outcast changed over time?
Outcast is an ongoing project. It happened organically, and it changes direction according to what restrictions, challenges and opportunities come its way. Thao Dien has really grown recently. We have been tamed a bit by the residents of the area, so we have decided to expand in a whole new realm and do more creative workshops, more interesting events and acoustic sessions, and less live bands. It’s all just a matter of sitting down with the team and figuring out how to turn this challenge into an amazing chance for growth.
You have just opened a new bar in D1. Can you tell us about Rogue Saigon?
Rogue is the little brother of Outcast, like a satellite hangout. It’s somewhere central and unique where people can come to chill after a night out at Outcast – it’s the afterparty! Outcast has been a big supporter of the craft beer movement here in Vietnam since the first brewers popped up in Saigon, and Rogue is actually an all-craft beer venue. We have 16 taps of ice cold brews from a range of local favourites – Pasteur Street Brewing Company, Fuzzy Logic, Tê Tê, Lac Brewing, Phat Rooster, Saigon Cider, 3 on a Bike and Platinum – along with some seriously tasty snacks. Rogue had its soft opening on the 19th August, but just like Saigon Outcast it is an ever-evolving project. I like to think that both venues will be moulded organically by time, context and the people who come and bring the vibes.
How does Rogue differ from Saigon Outcast?
Rogue and Outcast are meant to be linked, kind of like siblings, but Rogue has more of a trendy, inner-city vibe. It’s open very late, and we will be running different kinds of events there. Think beer tasting, pop quizzes, acoustic music etc. But, like Outcast, Rogue is a place to chat and spend time with friends rather than a place to get wasted. The bar spans three levels with two rooftop terraces under the bright city stars. It’s built into an old building with gorgeous views – I fell in love with the view first actually. Right opposite the oldest bank in HCMC, and right next to the New Years fireworks! I also love the history of the building. I wanted to scrape away at the bones of the place and design it using whatever we can find or whatever it has to offer. Rogue is pretty similar to Outcast in terms of its inner decor – we’ve furnished it with reclaimed wood and other materials just like Outcast, and given it a kind of industrial loft feel. We like the idea of recycling old, discarded things and making them into something new and totally unique.