For more than a decade, Jean Tay aka Reiki has gone to the furthest corners of electronic dance music. From dishing out the earlier sounds of breakbeat to threading through the stripped versions of dubstep, and playing in countless of gigs to getting her hands dirty on advance DJing equipment, the pimpstress of sound has undoubtedly earned her stripes. As a guest lecturer in this year’s FFF Girl DJ Bootcamp, we met up with the DJ-producer as she talks about the local dance music scene, leaving scratches in the minds of punters and being a HTTP 404 type of character.
It was in 1999 when you first got into DJing, how has the local dance music industry evolved since then?
Over here, everyone’s too afraid to fail in originality, so for years, the industry ethos is simply to succeed in imitation. To the rest of the world peeking at us, local dance music industry now looks like Asia’s Next Top Model; only because we are leaning on the spill-over success of our casino-powered resorts.
Who were your lecturers when you first started out?
There weren’t any lecturers or workshops of this nature when I first started out. The ‘classes’ I chose to attend were abstract learning and on the actual dancefloors. It became second nature for me to pick up the vibes of the music and its impact on different people.
You mentioned Yukun, Syndicate, Dharni and the likes of X’ho having helped shape and inspired your DJing career. How important is it to have the support of local DJs and collectives?
The names you have mentioned here are just the tip of the iceberg. I owed my breakthrough as a DJ to many good people over the years. My way of repaying their kindness, is to constantly give something back to the music community and help others out within my means.
Yukun – I was just into the B-sides of vinyl collection while he was (and still is) at the forefront of things. After drawing me out of the ‘Stray Shelter’ to do a promo mix, he named it Dawn of Breaks and helped distribute my sound to the keen ears out there.
Brendon P – Big, big heart. Always great advice from the Doomph! disco man.
X’ho - He’s a rebel with a cause and play quality music at events. A unique case among the local radio DJ personalities.
Syndicate – The crew is always pushing boundaries with their nights from the way they do up their promotional flyers, videos, visuals, music and right up to the mixture of local, regional and international acts that they bring in. I’m grateful for the chance to showcase my home-baked tune at their Beat Invitational, in a venue with a real audience.
Dharni, Koflow, Xhin, Norman C – It has always been a risky venture for locally bred DJs, musicians and promoters to go full-time into this industry. Hence, it’s so inspiring to know that these artists have beaten against the odds, found the due recognition and success elsewhere.
You are one of the lecturers and mentors for the FFF Girl Bootcamp 2011 what will you be bringing to the “classroom”?
I’ll share the fun of discovering fresh tunes and putting them into a mix set.
What do you aim to impart?
Hopefully, my session will inspire them to explore the different genres of music out there.
Participating in last year’s Bootcamp must have taught you a thing or two about your lecturing ability.
Last year, I was using Korg iElectribe on my iPad to highlight the difference in drum patterns among the genres of music. Upon reflection, if I had displayed the iPad on an external monitor, I think more of them would be able to see the presentation better. Clearly, I’m still learning along the way.
You are described as the ‘pimpstress’ of the local breakbeat scene. How did you earn the tag?
Y’all know ‘pimpstress’ is an urban slang for tigress, right? Even though not many people know how this little cub earned her strips, it’s alright. I’ll reveal the secret here… I left many scratch marks in the minds of punters, especially when they chanced upon me playing out bass music roaring out of the speakers.
And from breakbeats you are now branching into the downtempo landscape of dubstep. What’s happening to breakbeats in Singapore and across the world?
This phenomenon is known as ‘The Recession’ in the world of dance music. As with any other genre, it died down when no-one’s paying attention. Crowd simply went for the next hyped-up genre.
Apart from teaching the fundamentals to advance technical levels of DJing, how important do you think it is to share about your impression of the local nightlife culture and ways to navigate through it?
Lead by example. If you survived the odds to tell them, they’ll listen. If you die, they get the idea too!
Having travelled and being in the experience of dance music cultures from other parts of the world, how has this open up your ears and minds to music?
Especially at music festivals overseas, it feels like life’s pilgrimage. You get to meet like-minded individuals and just enjoy every great moment while it last.
In your opinion what is DJing really about and what has it become now?
Control the energy on the dancefloor. Equipment wise, instead of traditional turntables or CDJs, you can even use midi controllers or the likes of iPads to DJ.
Most of the younger generation would see DJing as a way to gain fame and recognition. We all know that going by that principle won’t take anyone anywhere. Do you think it is important to impart reality early on?
No point yapping when they feel perfectly fine in their own bubble as it usually falls on deaf ears. Till they eventually hunt me down with questions about the matrix, I’m better off saving my breath and remain as a’ HTTP 404′ or ‘Not Found’ error message type of character.
What do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned as a DJ and producer being in Singapore?
Be resourceful and always surround yourself with good vibes!
- Zul Andra