A pioneer of not just Singapore's DnB scene but underground electronica in general, Kiat is a firm stalwart who becomes more relevant with each year. Here we break an exclusive interview and a review of his LP 'The Inner Galaxy' released in June 2012. Catch his performance with album collaborator, Isaac Aesili for Midnight Shift's 3rd Anniversary on 17 Nov 2012.
Kiat is one of the founding members of Singapore-based music collective Syndicate and a pioneer of the drum & bass sound in South-East Asia. With more than 17 years of DJ-ing experience behind him, he certainly knows what makes people move. In extending his musical journey into production, Kiat delves even deeper into an exploration of sonic possibilities. His latest digital release, 'The Inner Galaxy', is anything but formulaic.
The Inner Galaxy is a cosmic voyage of sorts, traversing a spacious alien landscape of experimental electronica. The album melds experimental hip hop beats with dubby bass-lines and soulful vocals, featuring collaborations from all over the world - Isaac Aesili, Klose, Vandetta, Agzilla, Kemo and Digital (UK).
The album leads with the darker, mind-bending tracks. ‘Cat Scorpion’ nails the introduction before pushing into the metallic mood scape of ‘Syndicate’ and ‘Bounty. ‘Alchemy’ switches things up a little, featuring a deep groove cut up with an intricate beat – a divine collaboration with breakbeat pioneer Agzilla.
The dancier tracks surface later in the 13-track sequence. ‘Sunset Skank Over Jupiter’ surprises with its cheeky carnival sounds; and the rolling bass-line in ‘Sine Language’ is sure to please.
‘Method’ is the track that inspired the album, as Kiat reveals. It is a melancholic groove, permeated by the sounds of piano, horns and Isaac Aesili’s soulful vocals.
After the solemn beginnings of the album, ‘Pathway To Wakatipu’ rounds things off on a warmer note. With its ‘freedom’ chant, the track makes for an uplifting ending, befitting of a work that has broken new ground.
Discovery is at the heart of The Inner Galaxy, an album that took 3 years to come to fruition. Behind the desolate themes is a probe into fresh territory as Kiat decidedly pushes for progression, crafting unique, textured soundscapes.
Preview the album and its highlights in an exclusive mini-mix, put together by DJ KoFlow:
As Syndicate promises, The Inner Galaxy by Kiat is the first in a series of forthcoming releases, so stay tuned.
01. Cat Scorpion
02. Syndicate (feat. Vandetta)
04. Alchemy (feat. Agzilla)
05. Message From Dimitri
06. Gatekeeper (feat. Kemo)
07. In The Galactic Dance
08. Riding Past Draco (feat. Klose)
09. Sunset Skank Over Jupiter (feat. Isaac Aesili)
10. Lower Depths (feat. Vandetta)
11. Sine Language (feat. Isaac Aesili)
12. Method (feat. Isaac Aesili)
13. Pathway To Wakatipu (feat. Digital & Isaac Aesili)
How long have you been involved in music and where are you at right now in this point?
Music has always been in my life as a child but I started actively getting involved in it as a DJ just around 1992 I think… it's been a long time! Right this very moment, I've been involved with the Syndicate project and frankly, things could not be more exciting. There have been moments over the last few years before we started Syndicate where I felt I've wanted to settle down (which I did) and what I deem a normal life but as with most things, life threw me a huge curveball which I embraced.
You are versatile in many genres, what is your approach to music?
My approach to music mirrors my general approach to life. It is usually a direct reflection of my current mind state…which is usually a response to whatever is happening around me. I've been fortunate enough to embrace music fully when hip-hop was still in it's infancy with very positive culture of building communities of music, art and dance. So I think it instilled in me and open-mindedness to everything I come across, music or otherwise. Along the journey, I've been blessed with extremely inspiring people around me such as Najip Ali, Theseus Chan, Jeremy Boon, Jason Tan, Jonathan Yeo, Ashidiq (list goes on) who kept pushing me creatively to not settle for what is around and to keep searching through the creative process and that has pretty much kept me going till present day. I've been through many musical phases in my life and the only consistent thing that keeps me excited is to discover new sounds/ideas that excite me enough to present it to others… I've always believed it's not what people want to hear but rather what they need to hear.
High point of your career?
There's always been a lot of high points in my musical career right through to this present day but if I had to pick a defining moment, it would have to be after my lowest point in musical career. I think it was a December back in mid-2000's where at this point, I've been trying my hand at producing drum and bass for about 2 years and it wasn't really getting anywhere with the UK labels. Although I did write music for my own sets, the fact that there weren't any labels picking up what I was doing did take its toll on me as I did spend countless hours in the studio improving my craft. DJing wise, it got abit uninspiring as well for me as well. At that point, me and Ashidiq were invited to play a gig in New Zealand which I think changed my perception of my own music. I think it was the first gig where we played a 100% uncompromised set comprising of our own music and the feedback we had was tremendous. Ever since then, it encouraged me to have abit more faith in my own ability to produce music. The other highlight was receiving a call from Goldie out of nowhere saying he was really into our beats of course!
Some producers you are listening to right now?
I don't listen to much music at home as people think I do but what's on rotation on my iTunes is music from Gema Putra, Izaak Stern, Funk Community, Kidsuke, Mala, amongst many, many others. There's really a lot of music around these days so it's really hard to pin point specific ones but yeah, it's mostly these guys that do it for me musically at the moment.
What's your pet peeve?
Poor sound systems in clubs! People tend to think that louder is better but I think that's not always the case. I believe a well-tuned sound system with good levels allows the crowd to enjoy the music for longer periods of time as it eliminates ear fatigue. I just feel that it's a pity when they put in all this effort to do a night and the sound isn't well tuned and it in turn compromises the music. It's sort of like seeing a good movie in a poorly maintained cinema. I guess not everyone is as fixated with the sound as I am but I just think sometimes, a venue can be so much more if they paid attention to the right things. The other thing I'm begining to notice is the shortening of attention spans in the clubs…probably due to our accelerated ways of consuming music these days. As with all things, we have to constantly rethink how we present the content to the audience. Having said that, it does give me something else to think about when I'm doing a DJ set….
How did you start collaborating with Isaac Aesili?
This is an interesting story! A couple of years ago, I was in Auckland on holiday and I picked up his album, before I knew who he was, from a local record store and it was really the soundtrack to my stay in New Zealand. Fast forward to a few months after, I noticed this ultra happy Kiwi guy at Homeclub during one of our earlier Syndicate gigs and I was introduced to him by Debbie Chia. Furthermore, Maya Lynn and Dean (Funk Bast*rd) was just telling me that I should meet their friend Isaac who is in town as we'd probably get along. At that point, I was wondering how come so many of my friends had a friend called Isaac who is in town whom they wanted me to meet. So we did meet the next day for a catchup and it blew me away that we had so many common friends in New Zealand and also, it was the same Isaac Aesili whose album I bought a few months ago. We kept in touch via email and along the way, I sent him some beats I had done to see if he wanted to add something on to it. A few weeks later, he sent me a quick bounce of his recording over my tune and needless to say, I was speechless… And this is how it began :)
What is your favorite track off 'The Inner Galaxy'?
Each tune on the album has it's own story behind it so they are all favorites to me but I think the tune that holds the weight for me is 'Method' for so many reasons. I think it was the first downtempo tune I had written in a long time and I wrote it to get away into my own mind as I was going through many changes in my life, most notably would be getting married! This tune was also the first of many tunes that allowed me to explore other musical ideas that I've secretly kept inside but was afraid to share due to personal reasons. Furthermore, it gave me my first opportunity to work with not only a wonderful vocalist like Isaac but also incorporating live instruments like his horns and percussion which took the tune beyond what I had envisioned when I first wrote it. And lastly, Jason encouraged me to play the keyboards live during the final touches to the track in the studio...so that really got me out of my comfort zone and that inspired me to write the album.
What's next for you now?
Currently, I'm working on some visuals for Izaak Stern's Subsession set in December so that's really keeping my mind occupied! In addition, me and Cherry are working on building our portfolio for System Sovereign, which is a boutique agency that we've set up earlier this year to offer branding/communication solutions for our clients. On the musical front, I'm planning something for the upcoming Midnight Shift Anniversary which I'm very excited about. On a personal tip, my mind's been drawing a blank in the studio which has been bothering me for months...I'm guessing it's a result of being in this country for too long as I haven't take a vacation yet to soak in new experiences all year. As a result, I'm off to Iceland for an isolated vacation from the world of sorts later this year for a few weeks. Hopefully, being away from this madness we call home would allow my mind to look at things in a different light.
Point us to a website link?
www.syndicate.sg and www.qilinmusic.com :)
Tell us something about yourself not many people know.
I don't respond positively in a crowded space like clubs. Crowds just makes me anxious and I mentally shut off when I see a lot of people in an enclosed space.
What can we expect for the Midnight Shift 3rd Year Anniversary?
At this point, all I can say it it will be a completely different set from what I normally play at Syndicate and it will also be a preview into the sounds for 2013. It's quite hard to pin it down musically so I guess the best way to find out is to come down :)