Titans of dance music hit Singapore next month

Industry heavyweights such as Pete Tong and Showtek will be in Singapore to talk music and spin up a storm

DJ-producer Nicky Romero (above). -- PHOTO: ZOUK
DJ-producer Nicky Romero (above). -- PHOTO: ZOUK
Unlike previous editions of ZoukOut (above), this year's event will see home-grown DJs play alongside international acts. PHOTO: ST FILE
Dutch progressive house duo Showtek's Sjoerd (far left) and Wouter Janssen (left). PHOTOS: ZOUK
British DJ Pete Tong (left) and at one of the editions of the International Music Summit (above) with Italian music producer-DJ Giorgio Moroder. PHOTOS: PETE TONG, INTERNATIONAL MUSIC SUMMIT
British DJ Pete Tong (left) and at one of the editions of the International Music Summit (above) with Italian music producer-DJ Giorgio Moroder. PHOTOS: PETE TONG, INTERNATIONAL MUSIC SUMMIT

Singapore's stellar reputation as a dance capital of this region is growing year to year.

Next month, the city-state is getting extra groovy when superstar DJs from Pete Tong and Paul Oakenfold to Dutch electronic dance duo Showtek and Nicky Romero come here to talk music and, of course, to party.

They are among global dance music titans and industry heavyweights who will be in town for a long weekend that kicks off on Dec 11 with the launch of the inaugural Asia-Pacific edition of the International Music Summit, considered one of the biggest dance music conferences in the world.

To be held at the W Singapore, Sentosa Cove, it is where music labels, agents, managers and brands discuss and explain new initiatives and business strategies, and make announcements for the DJ touring season ahead.

The one-day summit will be followed by annual outdoor rave-fest ZoukOut at Sentosa's Siloso Beach on Dec 12 and 13, in which more than 20 local and international dance music acts will perform.

This year's line-up features some of dance music's best, including English trance trio Above And Beyond, Romero and Greek-Swedish DJ Steve Angello of famed dance music trio Swedish House Mafia.

Zouk founder Lincoln Cheng, one of the keynote speakers at the summit, says the summit will serve as "an anchor event for people in the dance music industry moving forward".

The summit will be an annual event and "become an integral part of ZoukOut, making it a three-day event", he adds.

"This will make ZoukOut not just a dance music festival, but also a music conference to bring Asia-Pacific dance music industry players together to discuss the future of dance music and to have an opportunity to network."

Life! catches up with Tong, Romero and Showtek to talk about the summit, electronic dance music and what festival revellers can expect from ZoukOut this year.


International Music Summit, Asia-Pacific

Pete Tong, DJ

Few hold as much clout in the global dance music arena as British DJ Pete Tong.

After more than two decades in the business, Tong, 54, continues to be a leading musical tastemaker as the voice of BBC Radio 1's dance programming and having held DJ residencies at famed clubs in Los Angeles, Miami and Ibiza.

His latest project brings him to Singapore in two weeks' time, where he will present one of the world's biggest dance music conferences - the inaugural Asia-Pacific edition of the International Music Summit, which he co-founded.

"We all felt Asia would be the most exciting place to be and Singapore is a good place geographically," he tells Life! over the telephone from Los Angeles, where he is now based, of the decision to bring the summit to the Republic.

He adds that from Singapore, summit participants could see what unfolds in China and India and also "pick up Australian representation".

The Asia-Pacific edition of the summit, held at W Singapore, Sentosa Cove, on Dec 11, will bring together some of the most influential players in dance music, including Canadian techno wunderkind DJ Richie Hawtin, British tech-house DJ Damian Lazarus and Singapore's Zouk resident DJ Jeremy Boon.

Along with music executive Ben Turner, Tong founded the summit in the dance music capital of Ibiza in Spain in 2007, with the idea of having a place where industry players could get together to learn from one another before the start of the Ibiza summer season.

Tong says it was inspired by events such as the Barcelona's Sonar festival of advanced music and new media art and TED talks, the online lecture series comprising videos from speakers around the world. "We wanted to find a way to get the most powerful people in our world in one place and bring in people from related businesses that we could learn from."

Since its launch, the summit has also been held in Los Angeles. Singapore will mark the summit's Asia debut.

The Singapore summit will see about 30 DJs and industry players take part in discussions and make industry-related deals. New technology and exclusive dance music remixes will also be showcased.

The summit is also a platform for up- and-coming DJ-producers or record labels to introduce themselves, something that is very familiar to Tong, who is known for identifying fresh young talent.

Before he became a DJ with long-running residencies at some of the best clubs in the world, such as Pacha nightclub and Eden nightclubs in Ibiza, Tong was a part-time journalist and radio DJ for local stations in Kent, England.

He joined London Records in 1983 and, in a career-defining move, signed Run DMC, one of the earliest American hip-hop superstars, to the label. Subsequently, he established FFRR Records, a subsidiary of London Records, which played an instrumental role in the evolution of house and dance music, providing the foundation for seminal dance music artists including Orbital, Goldie, Brand New Heavies and Armand van Helden.

At the start of a burgeoning UK rave scene and house music taking off in 1987, Tong joined Capitol Radio and his work there paved the way for him to join BBC's Radio 1 in 1991.

It was there that he created his iconic show Essential Selection and, at the same time, rebranded the radio station as the go-to place for house, techno, jungle and the like. The Essential Selection is still regarded as one of the best places to premiere a new dance record.

Tong, who is married to a Brazilian model and has three children from a previous marriage, says of picking new talent to plug: "I notice quality, individuality, some soul - just people coming out with something new to say.

"Everyone's influenced by the present day and the past constantly and music has never been easier and cheaper to make, so the space has become incredibly crowded. But the choices are infinite."

In such a crowded and fast-changing scene, where world-renowned DJs such as Hardwell, Avicii and Calvin Harris enjoy the same celebrity status as pop stars, he says longevity in the dance music scene boils down to personality rather than the overall standard of the music genre.

Citing American DJ and rapper Diplo, American dubstep producer Skrillex and Dutch DJ Martin Garrix as examples, he says: "It will be more about the personality, rather than you asking, 'Is electronic dance music over?'

"There are people at the very top who have kind of moved into pop territory. You've seen it with French DJ David Guetta. You think he must have peaked, but he's in a business of having hits... and he's done it again with Listen (2014), shocking everybody with a record that's recorded at 90 beats per minute... so, yeah, things are shifting."

As for the key to his own long-running success as a global dance music guru, Tong's answer is simple: Just be a fan and be enthusiastic. "I enjoy it and I'm lucky to do something I love. I'm not faking it and I genuinely like the music I play. And I still find playing records in public is something I get enjoyment out of. That was always my thing."

Although he has recorded more than 40 mix albums, he admits there are still things he has yet to accomplish, like making music. "It wasn't in my generation or in my time to make music. DJs broke through by running great clubs or making great selections. But obviously now, it's 2014 and it's absolutely unheard of - everyone makes music to get started.

"I was a late starter and I still feel there's probably a record in me I haven't put out yet that might actually mean something."

International Music Summit quick facts

What: Regarded as one of the most important music industry gatherings in the world, it is where dance music bigwigs - DJs, producers, agents, label heads and club owners - discuss business, strike deals and introduce new music, technology and DJs.

Who: About 30 music industry representatives will give talks and tutorials and conduct workshops. They include Australian dance duo Nervo, British trance DJ Paul Oakenfold and Canadian techno DJ Richie Hawtin. Also speaking is Zouk and ZoukOut founder Lincoln Cheng.

Where: W Singapore, Sentosa Cove

When: Dec 11, noon to 7pm

Admission: $160 (includes buffet lunch, entry to the summit's cocktail party from 7pm and Woo Bar after-party from 9pm). Late tickets at $200. Special summit plus ZoukOut 2014 combo tickets at $351. Go to www.internationalmusicsummit.com


Showtek, progressive house duo

One of the most memorable gigs Dutch progressive house duo Showtek say they have done took place right here in Singapore.

It is also one of the reasons siblings Sjoerd, 30, and Wouter Janssen, 31, are eager to come back to perform at their first ZoukOut next month.

Speaking from Eindhoven over the telephone, older brother Wouter tells Life! their gig at Zouk in May was such a blast, the duo kept talking about it for weeks after.

He says: "The venue was packed and people were waiting for us and chanting our names for half an hour before we started. I remember I had to play for 11/2 hours, but I played for an extra hour just because I loved it so much.

"Sometimes as DJs, you get super tired and you have a show and you think, maybe it's time to take a rest, but that night, it was like, 'Let's do another hour.' The people were so lovely and so open- minded about music."

The Janssen brothers, who are both single, began producing music 15 years ago, starting out with techno and gradually transitioning to the hardstyle and electronic dance music genres.

Wouter says of their early dabblings in music: "I have been playing piano since I was 10, so I love music. And when I hear it, it gives me a special energy that I love, like when I hear a melody or a riff or someone singing, it just gives me a great feeling and that's why I wanted to make music."

He and his brother decided to work on music together on the computer and began to make house music in 1997. "We did it for fun and within two to three years, we had tracks on our own labels. But in the last two years, it's been like crazy all over the world."

In an interview last year with an online dance music site, they said it is great to be brothers working together "because it makes the experience stronger and the hard parts less hard".

Wouter had said: "We share the same sense of humour and can talk about the show we played and just watch movies and laugh together. We are not little kids anymore and we can fight without fighting and we can argue about stuff without really disagreeing or having bad days afterwards."

Showtek went big in the global dance scene with the release of Cannonball (2012), a huge club hit which was produced with fellow Dutch DJ-producer Justin Prime.

They kept the momentum going with a slew of successful hard-hitting club anthems, including Booyah, How We Do (with Hardwell) and Get Loose (with Noisecontrollers).

In the global DJ rankings, Showtek have jumped 10 spots in the past year to reach No. 17 in the DJ Mag Top 100 DJs poll.

Wouter says their music is inspired by "cultures from all over the world", and that they basically "just do what we want to do".

"We've been in the industry for 15 years and we kind of know how it works and we're not afraid of it.

"We just want to create a track and if it's too progressive or forward-thinking, that's fine by us.

"We just want to have our own inspiration and creativity put into a track and, hopefully, it works around the globe."

Of Showtek's upcoming projects, he reveals that they have been working "a lot" with French DJ-producer David Guetta and on a new Showtek single that will be released after summer.

"There's so much material, we don't know which one will be the best to be released.

"We're just looking for the right time because, sometimes, a good track is about having good timing... and managing the popularity of the song."

Nicky Romero, DJ-producer

Dutch DJ-producer Nicky Romero, who sits at No. 8 on the authoritative DJ Mag Top 100 DJs ranking, is among the new generation of young guns leading the electronic dance music charge.

Like his DJ peers Danny Avila, Martin Garrix and Dannic, Romero has been one of the faces to watch in the dance music scene since he gained mainstream success on the back of hits such as Toulouse (2012) and I Could Be The One (2013).

"Electronic dance music grew so fast... but there needs to come a change. Everyone's doing the same thing and making the same records and there's going to have to be a few people who will stand up, to be able to continue at this level or continue in this scene," he tells Life! on the telephone from Stockholm, Sweden.

In order to be one of those who stand out, he has been trying to find and cultivate his signature sound in the new material he is working on.

Is he close to achieving that goal? Romero, 25, is not giving anything away, although he acknowledges his future music will be "similar, some of it more groovy, some of it more musical... it's just going to have my sound".

Next month, he will be flying to Singapore to spin at this year's ZoukOut rave-fest at Sentosa's Siloso Beach.

Although the Dutch megastar says electronic dance music's popularity is not about to die out soon, he is not one to rest on his laurels. He has been "locked in the studio" working on new material, adding that he has just wrapped up a new record with his mentor, French DJ-producer David Guetta.

"It's going to be a really cool song and there might be another song. I'm also working on a new album, which I hope to deliver maybe in the beginning of next year," he says of his current projects.

Romero, whose real name is Nick Roteveel, was born in 1989 in the small city of Amerongen, Holland. He started off as a drummer in his teens, but after a few years, he switched his drums for a set of turntables, driven by a passion for music production.

"Everything kind of changed into DJ-ing, then I started work in a really small bar, then that turned into me wanting to be a real DJ," he recounts.

"I didn't have any records and I didn't know how to make them, so I was trying and trying... it took some time, but in the end, I managed to produce a sound and make it a Nicky Romero sound, which I'm happy about."

His music, a blend of progressive house brushed with elements of electro and acid, soon caught the attention of Guetta, who became his mentor and supporter. In the summer of 2012, Romero accepted a residency at Guetta's famed FMIF club night at Pacha in Ibiza, off the coast of Spain.

Now, he can easily command a crowd in the tens of thousands at big-name festivals such as Tomorrowland in Belgium and Ultra Music Festival in Miami.

It is a far cry from his first live DJ set in his school days, where he played for an audience of just 200 people. "I didn't make any mistakes then, but it would be far from a performance I would give now, of course," he says.

But if there is any DJ who he wished he could emulate, it would be Scottish DJ and music producer Calvin Harris. The bachelor says: "He's my all-time hero. He's the one who puts songs together, he writes, he sings and he produces. I don't think there's anyone who can beat him."

ZoukOut quick facts

What: Singapore's biggest annual outdoor dance music festival where revellers can party from dusk till dawn. ZoukOut's past 13 editions have always boasted a strong line-up with the world's top DJs. In recent years, the beach party has attracted a crowd of more than 40,000 over two days.

Who: More than 20 local and international dance music acts will perform, including Dutch DJs Nicky Romero, Martin Garrix and Dannic; English trance trio Above And Beyond; American dubstep producer Skrillex and Greek-Swedish DJ Steve Angello of Swedish House Mafia.

For the first time in the festival's 14-year history, the annual event will have home-grown DJs playing alongside these big-name acts. Fifteen local and regional DJs, including all of Zouk's resident DJs and popular local DJs KFC and Debbie Chia, will be performing on the main stages.

Where: Sentosa Siloso Beach

When: Dec 12 and 13, from 8pm till late

Admission: Standard two-day passes at $208, VIP Venus Stand two-day passes at $388; advance single-day passes at $128 for Day 1 and $138 for Day 2; standard single-day passes at $148 for Day 1 and $158 for Day 2 from ticketing.zoukclub.com or www.zoukout.com

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