For much of the new millennium, Editor/Columnist and DJ, Jason Cheah aka J-SUN has been continuing to refine his reputation not only as a provider of the latest nightlife news in and around Kuala Lumpur but also providing the soundtrack to many over the last twenty years with his jazzy, groovy, deep, soulful house grooves, with a dash of tech and progressive beats within Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur scene.
20 Year Mixes over 20 Weeks
"It's taken me some time to finally start this' Jason says "But here it is. For the next 20 weeks, I'll be providing you, via my Mixcloud page a weekly series of mix sets featuring music spanning my 20 years DJ'ing the underground scene of KL with all of you".
Jason continues, "I've done 30 years of clubbing in the KL scene as well and some of you have known me for up as long as that. These are my pastiches of the KL Underground Dance Music Scene seen and heard from my eyes and hearts as I traverse the scene over the years,"
It's been almost a year since the idea first sprung to mind and Jason may admit that Covid-19 had been the catalyst for it.
"I've recorded a few sets in the last year," he says, "Featured in a few live stream events here and there, did a couple of my own from home too, but like everyone else in the scene, it has been well over a year now since my last actual legal, physical gig at a club. With this series, I'll be traversing the 20 years I've been DJ'ing Kuala Lumpur and occasionally beyond"
"I'm starting right here in the present, during these trying times" Jason explains. "With music from around 2019-2021, featuring my current favourites from labels such as Beatfreak Recordings, Flemcy Music, Findike Records, Armada Subjekt Holland, Sweatbox Records, Soul de Anima, Toolroom, LTF Records and many more"
With that in mind, we wanted to ask Jason a few more questions from the past 20 or so years, how he got started and the thought process behind the mix series.
Jason, you have been DJ’ing (amongst other things) in and around KL for the past 20 years, how did it all start for you from a DJ’ing aspect?
My dance music experiences go way back to the very early 1980s in the UK where I was studying at the time. When I was at Uni in Birmingham, I even played records at disco uni parties that we constantly organised ourselves. All that ended when I finally came home to Malaysia in late 1986, and it wasn't until almost the end of the 1990s when I started thinking about having a go at DJ'ing again. Music wise, I'd already shifted from the old pop 80s new wave disco loving days to playing the house and techno underground music side by then, although I do still love my 80's music.
What were the first couple of gigs like?
Odd places like post midnight bars in between shopping malls like Tube in PJ 1Utama just playing vinyl listening sessions. Bangsar Bars like Echo/DeLawi were my starting points as well, playing Sunday Chill Sessions in the evening. They were great times, starting out, trying to find my way in the scene. There were ones that didn't go so well, of course, like my first and only (very disastrous) appearance at a famed venue of the day on Jalan Sultan Ismail. I won't criticise. It was an experience, even to be replaced really early into my set.
At what point did you think this was something you would like to continue?
Pretty much when I started DJ'ing here during 2001. After I got back to Malaysia, it took some time before there was anything close to a desire to get into, and that was years after I joined the media and rediscovered my love for dance music while checking out the club scene here. I'd been involved in other areas in music (teaching, classical and gospel) initially before joining the media in 1992, then worked my way towards being an entertainment journalist by just after the mid 1990s.
I'd also been checking out the Klang Valley clubbing and nightlife scene since the early 1990s, and when I started watching DJs play here, especially in the very late 1990s hanging out with the backroom KL DJs, interviewing them and everyone else I could meet, write about them and their events, memories of my playing around on the decks back in the UK kicked in. I started buying more dance music, mostly records, especially on my annual trips back to UK and Europe, and by 2000-2001, I'd finally bought myself a pair of Technics record decks (they're still with me and in good nick), got a hold of some of my major DJ friends to give me some tips on full on mixing, started practising and went on from there.
What were some of the standout gigs over the years for you and why?
I'd say they were mostly my residencies at some of the underground parties of the day. The Lazygod parties which I co-founded and co-ran monthly for a year and a half from late 2002 to mid 2004 in Bangsar, I would say that was one of my standout years. Those parties sealed it for me in the scene here. Then in very recent years, it's the Daydream Sunday Pool Parties that I've been playing for right through to 2020. Plus, my appearances in clubs like Le Noir KL, Quinte and Jiro KL and my little jaunts to the Full Moon Parties in Koh Phangan, Thailand in 2016.
What was the thought process behind releasing this mix series?
This series is based on my 20 years of DJ'ing in KL. Until recent years I rarely record mix sets, the few that I made were recordings of my live sets at various venues I played at. And even last year during the first wave of this global situation, it had been recordings from the live streams that I've featured in. This idea of making it a full series came about after I went through a music production course in October last year under the purview of Malaysia's producer legend Hayze and Maveriq Studios, which I did along with a host of others from the music and clubbing industry during these trying times. I began to think of recording more mix sets and settled on the idea of a series of tribute mixes to the KL Club scene of the past 20 years, viewing it from a first person standpoint, kind of like musical snapshots of my years in the scene.
How many are you planning on releasing and where we will find them?
20 to begin with, with each highlighting a year or short period in the past 20 years. Each set will have one or two clubs, club bars and shows in mind that I played at for those mixes, with most of my playlists for each mix almost exactly what I had for that club/bar appearance. The ones that aren't will be a reimagining of it. I will throw in a new mix set every month set to current times and new music releases featuring some of the more current labels from this region, with music from this region and the like, along with music from my favourite labels.
I will release everything via my Mixcloud, from my page at https://www.mixcloud.com/Jascion/
How did you determine what was the defining highlight for each year's mix in terms of the tracks you selected?
I keep a fair amount of my playlists from those earlier appearances, and a lot more from recent years. They are the basis of most of my mix sets, and those gig appearances/residencies/short term party series were at clubs over the past 20 years such as Atrium, Quinte, Zouk KL, DeLawi, Bar Amber, the Daydream Sunday Pool Parties, my Lazygod Bangsar/Seri Hartamas parties, Play For Passion parties, Jiro KL, Le Noir KL, those kind of clubs and parties.
A lot of people in and around the music scene in KL will also know you as Club Beat/In The House columnist at The Star newspaper, How did that all come about?
Until a year ago, I wrote for them for 28 years (full time for 16 years, then as club columnist for a further 12 years). It was there that we began to cover clubbing regularly in our columns and the like since the late 1990s and I have been fortunate enough to continue this with The City List since mid 2017.
Are there any interviews or articles that have fond memories for you?
Hard to say, as there were so many. I value every single pop act, rock act, R&B star, DJ/producer, jazz, classical star, both local and international that I've interviewed, whatever the genre. It didn't matter whether I liked them or their music, either. And I've interviewed many.