The Phuture DJ Battle: the Future of Singaporean DJ-ing

The Phuture DJ Battle: the Future of Singaporean DJ-ing

The Phuture DJ Battle (PDJB) is a recently revived hallmark event as Zouk that sees the best and the brightest amateur DJs that Singapore has to offer come under one roof to battle. It's meant to push the boundaries of aspiring DJs in Singapore, and to generate awareness of what DJs do (spoiler alert: it’s not just pressing the play button, like what many people think it is). We had the opportunity to speak to organizer DJ LeNerd - real name Patrick Lewis - on PDJB, DJ-ing in Singapore and what real DJs do.

It’s clear to LeNerd that DJ-ing is far more than what popular culture portrays it to be. A simple google search of ‘what do DJs do’ generates a cornucopia of results of curious concert goers wondering what the DJ does behind their decks. To the untrained eye, it seems like DJs just stand, clap their hands and keep asking the crowd to "put your fucking hands up". LeNerd hopes that Zouk’s efforts in PDJB will exhibit the intense work that goes into DJ-ing: “[PDJB is] a series that helps to push the art of turntablism and educate people about the amount of effort, thought and investment DJs have to pour into their work. There is way more to real DJ-ing than simply playing music from behind the decks.” So to the uninitiated: what does a ‘real DJ’ actually do? Here's DJ LeNerd and Inquisitive breaking it down:

 

 

Some challenges that finalists will face in the upcoming PDJB finals will be having to curate and engineer innovative transitions between a variety songs from three separate genres. Breaking that down, it means that finalists will have to excel at (i) selecting songs in the appropriate key and tempo, (ii) actually composing the transition and executing it and (iii) engineering multiple transitions that sound good across genres. A key justification for this is to ensure the DJs’ commercial viability. LeNerd explained that “versatility is key for gig hires” and that “music trends are ever changing and crowds are very fickle these days.” To challenge contestants to rise to the challenge of modern electronic music making, organizers wanted “contestants to be well-versed enough with different varieties [of music] so they can read crowds well and adapt to the situation.” This is also in line with his personal view of what makes a high quality DJ: “one who knows how to strike a balance between entertaining crowds and pushing musical boundaries.”

LeNerd also acknowledges ambition, curiosity and humility as core tenets of a DJ who can consistently stay relevant. Having attended older editions of the PDJB back in its earlier iteration, the burgeoning DJ who is steadily gaining fame as one of Singapore’s go-to DJs in one of its premiere clubs stays rooted and fondly recounts his influences: "DJ Motiv, Zushan and Ghetto", and confidently shares that he’s made it a personal goal to be a part of this DJ community and to join the "esteemed World DMC Championships". Singapore, having a very nascent and niche DJ-ing community, doesn’t even qualify for international DJ competitions. This is why events like PDJB are so important: because global competitions often don't consider SG as a qualifying country, PDJB is then used to drive awareness of the art form, in hopes of showing and proving that there are talented and passionate individuals in Singapore that can rival the international DJ-ing scene. His advice for those who are interested but don’t know where to start? "Be curious and open. Find out more about the scene, explore different genres and find out more about yourself. Also remember to stay true and be humble at all junctures".

Perhaps inspiration can be found in those who are starting out right now: Bandwagon also had the chance to speak to finalists of this year's PDJB. They were selected after an online audition where contestants had to submit 3 minute videos of themselves spinning their best set. On the day of the finals, the finalists will take part in 1-on-1 eliminator showdowns, with the winner moving on to the next round until a winner is crowned. We asked the finalists about the genres they spin, an interesting story about themselves and what we can expect from them on the night of the battle.

 

DJPXI

FULL NAME: Sai Hlyan Soe Linn

AGE: 25

OCCUPATION: Interior Designer

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR SOUND: Open-Format , HipHop, Twerk, Trap and Bass Music and more

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO DJ-ING?

From my brother: he was the first person who introduced me to what real DJ-ing is.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU AT THE BATTLE ON 5 SEPTEMBER: Creative Mixing, Scratching,Transition, Beat juggling, body tricks, New music genres and 3Style.

WHAT'S THE ORIGIN OF YOUR DJ NAME?

The origin of my DJ name is from my nickname, Phoe Cho. The short form is pronounced as PC (spelled as P-XI).

LUQ HERE

FULL NAME: Luqman Hakim Bin Khairudin

AGE: 24

OCCUPATION: Freelance Disc Jockey

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR SOUND: Hip-Hop, Dancehall, Twerk, Moombahton, Reggaeton, Latin Pop, Top 40s, Commercial

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO DJ-ING?

Hip-Hop culture - Turntablism is 1 of the 4 pillars of Hip Hop and since I can't spit bars, break (dance) or hold a spray can to even draw a straight line, I turned to turntablism.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU AT THE BATTLE ON 5 SEPTEMBER: Good vibes hopefully.

ELABORATE ON 'GOOD VIBES': WHAT DO YOU WANT THE AUDIENCE TO FEEL AFTER YOUR SET? WHAT DO YOU WANT THE AUDIENCE TO SAY AS YOU LEAVE THE DECKS AFTER YOUR SET? I want the audiences to not only enjoy my performance but also to be intrigued and inspired in one way or another. I want people to think: “wow, champion or not, he is dope. He definitely has his own style, flavour and spin in what he does.”

JOZY

FULL NAME: Joann Khoo Li Min

AGE: 23

OCCUPATION: Student

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR SOUND: Bass music and dubstep

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO DJ-ING?

The performance that DJs showcase through just the controllers instead of traditional instruments and them conveying their feelings to the crowd with music.

WHAT IS ONE MEMORABLE DJ PERFORMANCE THAT INSPIRED YOU? TELL US THAT STORY.

I have not watched this DJ live until now but Alison Wonderland's set during 2015 Mixmag Lab LA has inspired me to disregard everything else during performance. During her set in LA, she was very into playing her music even though the crowd may have been a bit underwhelming for her. During the performance, she channeled her own energy into her audience all while being free and fluid with the tunes she was playing. Alison Wonderland has gone on to take bigger stages and has increased her performance level significantly ever since.  Sometimes she'll roll on the floor, kneel on the console and ask the audiences to "fuck her up on a spiritual level". She's very different from the other normal DJs I've seen: she's a bit more psychotic but you can feel it and get so into it. You just can. I think some importance in lost in some shows because DJs play the music that people want to hear. By doing this, the DJs cant sync their bodies or mind with the music, or might just pretend to be enjoying so they can try to hype the crowd. It works both ways: feeling the crowd and letting the crowd feel you is what's required for everyone to have a good few hours. Choosing the right songs is part of it, but I feel that how you perform is 90% of being a good DJ.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU AT THE BATTLE ON 5 SEPTEMBER: An energetic and smooth set with a never say die spirit.

VIRA

FULL NAME: Vira Suria s/o Vethayanayagam

AGE: 24

OCCUPATION: Undergraduate

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR SOUND: I like to mix and match things up and am always willing to try any kind of genre as long as the flow is sick. Let the music take you on a journey!

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO DJ-ING?

When i was introduced to electronic music production during my republic poly days. I actually started off as a hypeman/emcee at events.

WHAT'S YOUR MOST MEMORABLE/CRAZY EXPERIENCE AS A HYPEMAN/EMCEE?

This is a rather special experience for me. It wasn't the most memorable or crazy moment but my story would definitely fit the occasion. Back in 2014, I was the Emcee/host for a DJ competition called "Live Mix Maestro". The competition was held at the old Velvet Underground at Zouk. During the competition, there was a segment where the previous winner of the competition was supposed to perform a short showcase of his skills. As I approached the previous winner of the competition, I only had one question in mind: "how do I pronounce this fella's name: leh-nerd or le-nerd?"

After meeting him, I told him: "maybe one day, I'll be the one competing in a competition". I find it very coincidental that I'm now in a competition which he is hosting/emcee-ing.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU AT THE BATTLE ON 5 SEPTEMBER: Fresh, surprising and original.

FARIZ (DOPPELGANGERZ)

FULL NAME: Fariz Zulhilmi Hawafi

AGE: 23

OCCUPATION: Student

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR SOUND: Future / Bass house

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO DJ-ING?

After my first clubbing experience, I bought myself a dj controller and was inspired to dive right in.

WHAT WAS IT ABOUT YOUR FIRST CLUBBING EXPERIENCE THAT MADE YOU INVEST IN A DJ CONTROLLER AFTER?

My first clubbing experience was a real eye opener: it was the first time that I ever saw a DJ perform in a club. What struck me the most was the ability the DJ had to control the mood on the dancefloor. I immediately invested in a DJ Controller the next day because I wanted to be the guy on stage that had the ability to make other people happy through music.

I was impressed by the technicality and music selection of the DJ that was playing! Today, my DJing technique is heavily influenced by Laidback Luke. I love the way that uses his technical skills and freestyles his DJ sets. I try my best to add tricks into my DJ mixes because it keeps things interesting. Hopefully it differentiates me from other DJs.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU AT THE BATTLE ON 5 SEPTEMBER: CDJ Masterclass - lol

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT?

I'm the current Champion of Live Mix Maestro 2018, and I won that competition by mastering the Pioneer CDJ2000NXS2. I spent months learning what the CDJ was capable of doing and my knowledge of the machine helped me showcase my technical skills at the best way possible. In the upcoming Phuture DJ Battle, most of the finalists are turntablists and they're a bunch of really technical people. I hope to showcase my knowledge of the CDJ alongside my technical abilities and hopefully we will see an interesting clash between the Turntablists and the Digitalists.

ETHAN

FULL NAME: Ethan Lian

AGE: 25

OCCUPATION: Disc Jockey

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR SOUND: Commercial music

ARE YOU GOING TO BE PLAYING REMIXES OF COMMERCIAL MUSIC AS WELL? IF SO, WHAT GENRES ARE THEY FROM?

Yes, I have always been mostly a commercial music type of DJ. I enjoy all genres that the commercial market would enjoy listening to, such as Hip Hop, Trap/Bass, Top 40s, EDM and so on. Since it is a DJ battle, I intend to play around with various genres while incorporating some turntable tricks and skills to add more flavor and to give my routines the extra competitive edge over other contestants'.

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO DJ-ING?

Girls!

WHAT ARE SOME LESSONS FROM LAST YEAR'S PDJB THAT YOU HOPE TO BRING TO THIS YEAR'S EDITION?

Last year was a disappointing performance from me personally. The nerves and inexperience got the better of me. I hope the experience and lessons learned from last year would help me deliver a better result this time round.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU AT THE BATTLE ON 5 SEPTEMBER: My best efforts!

MAEGZ

FULL NAME: Megan Foo

AGE: 23

OCCUPATION: University Graduate

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR SOUND: Future / Bass house

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO DJ-ING?

Initially, I was really just interested to get to a level where I could harmonically mix my indie favourites!

WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU ARE NOW AS A DJ, GIVEN YOUR INITIAL GOAL?

I think it's a bit hard to say where I am now as a DJ (success is something that is arbitrary and not necessarily only defined by the number of gigs you get, I think. :)). Subjectively, I think I've grown to realize that DJ-ing is so much more than just mixing. It can be a way to express thoughts, ideas, and feelings.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU AT THE BATTLE ON 5 SEPTEMBER: Hopefully the best I am as a DJ at this point in time :)

KRUMBS

FULL NAME: Khairudeen Abu Bakar

AGE: 33

OCCUPATION: Disc Jockey

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR SOUND: Hiphop, R&B, Boombap, Dancehall, Afro, Trap

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO DJ-ING?

14 years ago when I bought some vinyls and a DJ set and got into watching DMC videos.

WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR INFLUENCES?

My influences are DJ Craze, DJ Kentaro and DJ A-Trak.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU AT THE BATTLE ON 5 SEPTEMBER: An influence of old school and new school routines.

ANREV

FULL NAME: Anrev Kim Yuan Kai

AGE: 19

OCCUPATION: Student / Turntablist

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR SOUND: I prefer heavier sounds, something that can be danced to - primarily a fusion of trap/new-school hip-hop styles. I also prefer the aforementioned genres weaved in with more commercial music (in club sets) to keep the vibe relevant to the everyday partygoer. I enjoy infusing a lot of turntablism due to my turntablist-influenced DJ background. This is to complement the music, not interfere with it. I'm also a major proponent of jersey club music and infusing elements of it into my sets. 

WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO GET INTO DJ-ING?

The versatile nature of DJ equipment that enables it to be a reasonable substitute for any desired instrument. That, and the thrill of battling other DJs.

WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOU AT THE BATTLE ON 5 SEPTEMBER: Something that pushes the boundaries of what is defined as “orthodox” turntablism and/or DJing. Expect me to infuse all sorts of technical and musical elements in my set to augment it in a way that makes it a truly unique audiovisual spectacle for the audience. Expect me to push the limits of the equipment used and display a solid mastery of turntablism, controllerism, percussive and melodic elements, along with a suitably energetic charisma to top off the entire package. Expect a spectacular display of skill built from years of understudying world champion DJs and tricks that have never been seen in local battles up till now. In essence, expect me to break away from the “templates” usually seen in local battles, introduce an international level of technicality and musicality to raise the bar for the next generation of DJs and to inspire my peers.

 

Here's what you might like

Sponsored by Bandwagon