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Fresh new spins

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 17, 2013

A DJ knows he is popular when the club is at full capacity when he is on the decks. Also, he gets more free drinks from regular partygoers than he can consume.

Those things happen when Kate Yong, 22, hits the consoles.

The booze can get so overwhelming that she has to keep an empty cup behind the DJ console to pour unwanted liquor into - "because if it gets too much, I won't be able to DJ well".

The soft-spoken DJ, who has 1,000 followers on her Facebook fan page, tells Life! with a laugh: "I usually have people buying me drinks and it's the same drinks from regulars. I always accept the drinks out of courtesy."

The fresh-faced newbie, who goes by the DJ name Tinc, is fast becoming one of the most popular young DJs on the Singapore clubbing scene, packing in the crowds at nightclubs Dream at Clarke Quay and Mink at Pan Pacific Singapore.

She joins a new wave of DJs aged 25 and below with a sizeable following at popular nightspots. The others are Asian-American DJ Atran (Alex Tran), 25, who spins at Fenix Room at Clarke Quay and Mink; DJ Zushan (Benedict Teo), 25, at The Butter Factory at One Fullerton; and DJ Lincey (Elvin Lin), 22, at Zouk.

These deck jocks are active on social media - putting up their tracks on Soundcloud, Facebook and their personal websites - and have a growing group of online followers as well as loyal regulars who go to see them spin every week.

Tinc is known for her rambunctious stage persona, getting up from behind the console and climbing atop the dance platform to invigorate the crowd.

Whenever she spins her rousing remixes of commercial hits and big-room house tunes, she receives free drinks from her supporters and gets hit on by smitten male clubbers.

Clubgoer Nicholas Ng is among her supporters. The 29-year-old client account manager in the real estate industry says that since he got to know about Tinc half a year ago, he has been going to Dream regularly to see her spin. They have also become friends.

He says: "The main reason is that other than playing top 40 hits that people want to hear, Tinc is daring enough to also play stuff that people may not want to hear... and she's got showmanship. And as long as there's a good DJ around, I'll definitely be there."

Indeed, Zouk's resident DJ Lincey says times have changed and now stage presence counts for a lot in a DJ's success.

He says: "Back in Zouk's younger days, for example, DJs weren't allowed to talk on the microphone because they were there to play music. Now, DJs are thrown into the spotlight and people don't expect you to just spin, they want you to entertain and kind of connect with them, because now, there're lyrics and melodies in dance music and people feel the emotion... and as a DJ, you need to feel it with them."

Tinc adds: "Now that songs are easily available on the Internet, people can just play them at home, so when they go to a club, they expect something more."

Nightclub operators say technology has also worked in the favour of aspiring DJs to help their music reach audiences more easily. In the process, they get noticed by nightclubs and club promoters.

It is also the fastest way for a DJ to raise his profile, says Mr Timothy Chia, 32, Zouk's head of marketing and events. He says: "It's easier in the sense that there are many more platforms these days, especially online, for aspiring DJs to showcase their skills to an international audience, via popular channels such as YouTube and Soundcloud."

While experience is still important, the marketing of a DJ builds a unique brand, says Mr Phillip Poon, 36, a director of lifestyle marketing agency Massive Collective, which manages Tinc and Atran.

"DJs need to build a fan base by marketing themselves, putting out mixes and production pieces. Our resident DJs caught our eye as they are active on social media, know how to market themselves and each have a unique style which we and our patrons appreciate."

In general, local DJs get paid around $200 an hour, or a fixed amount for each gig, which can range from $500 to $1,000.

DJ Atran, 25, recently started getting more active on Facebook and has so far amassed 367 fans.

He says: "Social media is really important because it's an easy way to reach a lot of people that you normally wouldn't be able to get to and allows you to deliver a lot of content, new music and information about your shows."

But social media marketing has its downsides, jokes Atran, who was recently mistaken for a member of Los Angeles dance-rap group Far East Movement.

"I was going into the DJ booth at Mink and two girls asked, 'Can we please take a picture with you?' They were super happy and then they kept insisting on taking more photos. Later, a friend sent me a photo posted on Instagram of me and the girls and in the photo, it said, 'Starstruck. OMG. Far East Movement. So happy.'"

melk@sph.com.sg


DJ TINC, 22

If you see DJ Tinc up on the edge of the DJ platform with her hands in the air while the music is playing during her set, it is not because she is faking it.

It is all part of her live performance, which is planned down to a T.

The part-time DJ, whose real name is Kate Yong, tells Life!: “Some people think I’m pretending because I have my hands up while the music’s mixing, but sometimes, people don’t know the track is preproduced by the DJ, like I do it myself. It’s not cheating because producing is an art as well... it’s not premixing the entire set, it’s just the one song we know will work with the crowd.”

Just two years after she started DJ-ing, the 22-year-old has become a fast-rising star in the local clubbing scene.

A self-taught DJ, she picked up her skills online and through seeking advice from DJ friends.

Her musical background also helped her hone her skills fast. Tinc, a final-year student who is pursuing a bachelor’s degree with honours in music technology from Lasalle College of the Arts, says: “I’ve been doing music since I was six. I play the piano and I used to play the violin. I write songs and sing. Dance music came into the picture only when I started clubbing at 19 and I was fascinated by how DJs blended one song into another.”

Tinc, who has spinned at Mink, Fenix Room, Dream as well as nightclubs in Melbourne, Cambodia and Kuala Lumpur, says she started out DJ-ing for free at road shows and weddings to gain experience.

The work paid off and she soon landed a residency at nightclub The Butter Factory for 11/2 years, which she puts down to “a bit of luck in getting noticed at a time when they were looking for new DJs”. She joined lifestyle marketing agency Massive Collective’s group of resident DJs in March when they approached her to be a part of them.

“They had approached me several times before and I finally decided to switch over when I felt it was time for a change in environment,” she says.

Last year, she took top places at two national DJ competitions: She was the only female to make it to the top five in the Mix Maestro competition and she also clinched third place in the Pioneer Digital DJ contest.

Sexism and the thinking that female DJs are less skilled compared to their male counterparts exist. To battle such misconceptions, she makes it a point not to dress skimpily when she is on the decks.

Tinc, who is in a relationship, says: “If I show too much skin, then people will say I’m marketing myself on looks and boobs, so I’m walking a thin line every week when I present myself. It’s so ridiculous that we get it more than guys.”

But she adds: “People do give me a chance and I think time will tell and my effort will not go to waste. It’s about working hard and it doesn’t really matter what other people think. It’s about the people who value who you are.”


DJ ATRAN, 25

Word among some clubgoers is that DJ Atran has female fans who linger around the DJ console waiting for his arrival at the clubs he spins at.

But he brushes it off with a laugh.

The 25-year-old, whose real name is Alex Tran, says sheepishly: “I’m not sure who told you that... though people do come up to me occasionally. I think sometimes people are afraid to approach me. I don’t know why, maybe I get too focused on the music... but don’t be afraid to come and say hi.”

Atran, an American of Vietnamese descent who hails from Orange County in California, moved to Singapore a year ago to work in business development and marketing for an online retail company.

He got to know the directors of lifestyle marketing agency Massive Collective four years ago when they were club promoters organising parties here and was later asked to take up a residency at their clubs, which include Dream, Fenix Room and Mink, when he moved to Singapore a year back.

Apart from being a resident DJ with Massive Collective, he also curates the music for boutique gym Ritual at North Canal Road and is one of the resident DJs of Sail Spin, a new travel concept that offers customers the opportunity to rent and live aboard a yacht to party.

The music he spins at the clubs is pretty diverse, ranging from remixes of chart-topping hits to hip-hop, R&B and even 1980s love ballads.

Atran, who holds a bachelor’s degree in history and business from the University of Texas, says he started dabbling in DJ-ing from the age of 15 and slowly managed to score big shows at nightclubs during his university days, performing with the likes of Italian progressive house DJ Benny Benassi, American house DJ Kaskade and Canadian progressive house DJ Deadmau5.

When the opportunity for his day job in Singapore came up a year ago, the bachelor, who previously DJ-ed in Singapore four years ago during an Asian DJ tour, decided to take it up and also secure himself a residency with Massive Collective.

That way, he could pursue DJ-ing and travel around the Asian region, something that he wanted to do.

Atran says he has no plans to make DJ-ing a fulltime career, adding that his long-term goal is to be able to run his own business and start a charity organisation.

Beyond DJ-ing, he has also teamed up with local music producer Manfred Lim to come up with original music, which he posts on Soundcloud (www.soundcloud.com/djatran) and tries to introduce it in his live sets.

Asked about the differences between club culture in the United States and Singapore, he says: “I feel like back at home, if you were to play new stuff, the crowd would be more receptive, but here, people want to hear things that they know and like. But I definitely try to introduce new songs without killing the dance floor.”


DJ ZUSHAN, 25

When your older brother is one of the most popular DJs on the local clubbing scene, you are bound to feel pressure when you decide to follow in his footsteps.

DJ Zushan, whose real name is Benedict Teo, displays his skills at the same club as his more established older brother, DJ Andrew T, 35.

The 25-year-old, who is the resident jock at The Butter Factory’s Art Bar on Friday and Saturday nights, tells Life!: “There’s always that feeling of having to live up to him, but from the start, I wanted only to be my own man, to be different not just in music style, but also in what I dabble in – like I’m more into music production and he’s more focused on events.”

Zushan, a graduate in music technology from Lasalle College of the Arts, is self-taught, picking up his DJ-ing skills by watching videos online and getting tips from fellow local DJs.

Funnily enough, he was not mentored by his brother.

But he says: “I used to go and watch my brother DJ at places such as the former Cocolatte club in Robertson Quay, see how he did club mixes and try to emulate them at home.”

Though he is known now for his electro and bass music sets, Zushan says he started out as a hip-hop and battle DJ six years ago, polishing his turntabling and scratching tricks by taking part in local and international competitions.

Last year, he won the Pioneer DJ Battle Singapore competition and went on to take third place in the Pioneer Digital Battle Asia competition.

In the region, he has played at nightclubs in Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines and has done mini tours in Australia.

Last year, the astute DJ started a music collective called O$P$, producing original music. An EP is planned for release later this year.

Music fans can also check out his mixes via a live online DJ streaming show called The Spaced Out Show at www.ustream.tv/channel/spaced-outshow.

Despite his current success, he is already looking beyond DJ-ing.

Says Zushan, who has been with The Butter Factory as a full-time DJ for 1 1/2 years: “I’ve been moving around through different genres of music. Since I started at Butter, I have had to play every type of music.”

In the long-term, the DJ, who is in a relationship, hopes to do more production work in the studio, or venture into artist management.

“It’s always a challenge. When you look at DJ-ing at an older age, you wonder if it’s feasible or not. That’s why I want to take it to a more studiobased level, like doing music production,” he adds.


DJ LINCEY, 22

The ability to score DJ gigs at popular nightclubs is sometimes a matter of who you know rather than due to merit and talent.

So it is more credit to Zouk resident DJ Lincey for being a shining example of how patience, determination and hard work pay off.

At 22, he is the youngest DJ in the iconic nightclub’s stable of resident DJs, spinning primarily at Velvet Underground.

As an aspiring DJ since his late teens, Lincey, whose real name is Elvin Lin, says he would do a mixtape every month, “sending them to whoever, people who work at Zouk, Indochine, Tanjong Beach Club”.

“Most of the time, you don’t get a reply, but after a while, you kind of make an impression and when you get better, they remember you.

They may say, ‘Now he’s kind of good, let’s give him a shot’,” he says. The self-taught DJ, who is known for his electrohouse mixes, holds a diploma in audio engineering and a bachelor’s degree in music production from the School of Audio Engineering Institute Singapore. He started out DJ-ing for free at friends’ parties in 2008.

“It’s very tough to get residency because there are just so many people who want to be DJs and it’s so easy to become one now, with new technology. So it’s very difficult to convince people. It’s hard for people to know how good you are until you are good, if you know what I mean.”

With difficulty in securing gigs, let alone paid ones, Lincey, who also started his own music label in June last year, producing for pop and acoustic bands, just took whatever opportunity that came his way.

Indeed, his first gig was at a birthday party by the poolside in 2008 or 2009, DJ-ing on a makeshift table with cheap speakers. He played for six hours and was paid $50.

He says he has been blessed thus far, adding that his parents are “very supportive and happy that I am able to do something I enjoy so much”. He is in a relationship.

Eventually, he was spotted one night when he was spinning at a party at Indochine and the club owners Tanjong Beach Club offered him a DJ stint at their Sentosa restaurant-bar.

Later, Zouk approached him to take up a residency at Velvet, where he has been spinning full-time since May last year.

Patience and perseverance paid off for Lindsey, who gives this advice to aspiring DJs: “The scene is saturated, so it’s about people you know sometimes. But you must always remember to keep the passion and stay true to yourself.”

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 17, 2013

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