Having discovered clubbing at an early age back in the '90s, DJ Low has been a stalwart on the nightlife scene in Kuala Lumpur particularly with the Drum 'n' Bass movement most recently in collaboration with Art Xtreme Media at Le Noir KL. We wanted to find out a little bit more from the ever so slightly outspoken DJ & promoter on some of the changes for nightlife in KL, how his DJ academy is about to celebrate its 20th Anniversary and thoughts on the future.
What got you into DJ’ing and when?
I started clubbing when I was 15 and was throwing many parties at home. Curious about DJing back then, I thought DJs needed to be a proper emcee besides music playing. It was 1995 when I got my first payslip for DJing.
How did you learn, did you have someone who mentored you or did you work through it on your own?
I was self taught. Back then, most DJs don’t really teach anyone that they don’t know well (unless you are relatives or brothers). I saved up money to buy used turntables and a mixer, watched many videos on turntablism and happened to meet some DJs who had the same interest to discover the techniques together.
What are some of your musical influences and describe your sound?
From the era of analogue to digital, I was pretty much into funk, soul, hip hop, acid jazz, chill out stuff. After a while, I accumulated much of it, exploring electronica stuff since the early 90s to the present. I'm mostly into non mainstream vibes. Besides drum'n'bass, bass music and speakeasy, I have a fun project of myself as “Low & MamaDayo” for House & Techno.
What are some of the changes you have seen in nightlife in KL over the years?
Comparing to the old days of the 80s and 90s, there are more bars now. I would say nothing much changes. It's just one outlet opens, another one closes. Not many clubs/bars last longer than 10 years. (Yes, there are a few standing strong) For KL, if any bar survives more than 5 years, it's considered darn good. Eventually, mainstream music is still the main role. Put it this way, when "Wantan Mee" (wonton noodles) is in trend, many people will start venture into it, and you’ll see the street having all the restaurants serving the same meal.
What frustrates you about it (if anything) and what do you love currently here in KL?
When you switch on the radio, it’s all about the top 40. (It should be more versatile… sadly). I always turn to online radio and listen to what’s new, maybe search some music websites or recording labels I follow. Being a KL native, I would say food and friendly people.
You are also a promoter, what are some of the challenges and how do you go about choosing artists to book?
There's not a huge clubbing industry in Malaysia. For non-mainstream music, the toughest is to lock down a venue. It’s either to book the big names to make some money or upcoming artist that I predict may break even, just to keep the movement going. Most promoters experience losing money from gigs.
You’re about to hit the 20 year anniversary of the Bionic DJ academy, what have been some of the highlights and where do you see it in another 10 years?
Throughout the years, people come and go in the entertainment industry. I've met many of them and collaborated in relation to DJ activities. The age of learning to DJ is getting younger compared to the old days. It's always good to know the students want to pursue DJing as a career and doing well in the industry locally and abroad. With more technology invented on DJ equipment, nothing much to shout about. DJs should look into music production besides DJ mixing and turntablism, as music comes before DJing. The music industry is moving fast, it should be much more interesting in the coming years.
Any DJs we should be looking out for?
Definitely looking forward to those newbie DJ who are into beat making and writing tunes.
What has been your most memorable moment as a DJ?
A few clubbers have travelled and followed me to the gigs where I played which are always amazing. Some of them even travelled to four countries!
Without naming names what’s the worst experience as a DJ to date?
Song request, every DJ’s nightmare. In the OLD days it's like "If you don’t play my request, I complain to your manager / boss." NOW: the Clubber (actually) brings you the mobile phone or pen-drive.
Name one DJ you’d like to open for?
Carl Cox. Surprise?
What else have you got lined up personally for the rest of this year and moving into 2019?
Besides drum'n'bass and bass music, perhaps to play some hip hop, house and techno gigs. It’s fun to play different music genres occasionally.