Local scene-star Zul Andra writes, promotes, organises, DJs, and now will hold his own behind the mic for B x Midnight Shift 001 this Saturday at kyo. Let's hear it for the one-man flag-bearer and friend of everything electronic music in Singapore.
You're a man of many talents, what exactly are some of the things you are involved in?
I write on nightlife, drinking and music for Esquire, inSing.com and The New Paper and currently enjoy a deplorable relationship with “off stone” (or “deadline”, for all you mere mortals.) That’s my day job.
I just submitted a piece for SMILE, Cebu Pacific Airways’ in-flight magazine. Expect a steady increase of Filipinos to attend some of the best music festivals across Asia by next year.
Also just worked on a video interview series with Red Bull premiering in December. Raw and intimate. I like raw and intimate stuff. Other than that, I handle the publicity front for Feedback Asia, a booking agency based in Singapore, and secretly wish that there were no such thing as Greenwich Mean Time.
Sometimes I DJ, not really the best out there. But according to the revellers at Gem Bar every Friday and the quarterly parties I throw at Loof called JACK’S HIT, I haven’t had a bottle thrown at me yet.
Favourite hat that you wear?
Snapback caps. I tried a fedora once; didn’t fool anyone. Straw hats are cool when I’m not wearing them.
What drives you to do these things?
Because I used to shave my hair off, but since now I have hair, it’s an embarrassment to my family and humanity in general. That’s why I usually wear a snapback cap.
Oh you mean the work I do? I think that’s the only thing I’m good at. My litmus test is my previous best and worst work. I’m still in it after 7 years, so I must be doing something right. Ultimately, I love nightlife and music. I love sharing about what’s good from those. But to be frank, I’m chasing a certain feel. An experiential feel where revellers on the dance floor, the music, the lights, the vibe all become one. It’s as rare as they come. I’ve always used this analogy: To throw confetti in the air and trying to share with you what that feels like whether in words or in music. I haven’t done it to the best of my ability yet, and probably never will. That’s why I’m doing all these things - to continuously incite that euphoric feeling through different channels. Is that ethereal enough for you?
What's your favorite accomplishment?
When I was asked to handle the PR and marketing strategy for a string-quartet called VOX ahead of their first solo concert earlier this year. I got them as far as ChannelNews Asia and a wealth of media coverage. They sold-out their concert. Well, not because of what I did, but that was the first time they had such a coverage. The backstory is, I haven’t done PR and I don’t think I’m a really good PR practitioner judging from my social awkwardness and impatient nature. I’m not a fan of small talk and empty promises. But I guess that worked and it helped that I fully believed in what VOX was all about.
And the not so favorite?
I had a terrible time in I-S magazine when I was their staff writer and web editor. Mostly because I couldn’t fit in their structure and office politics was something really new to me. I was handling nightlife, but it was subsequently pushed to the last few pages and I had to put out a few fires here and there against a backdrop of corporate politicking. It affected my work and I didn’t like that.
But to be fair, that was my first stint as a full time writer and I owe it to the editorial team led by Terry Ong who groomed me to what I am today. I wouldn’t have kept up with what I do now if I-S wasn’t both a positive and negative anchor.
Tell us a bit more about JACK’S HIT, the concept, motivation and people?
Different variations of house music from both veteran and emerging DJs. It’s simple. But I guess the difference lies in how it’s packaged. I get all the DJs to go through a photo shoot and they will front all the marketing collaterals. I don’t allow monikers, only their real names, and there are no ball of flames or fireworks in the artwork, just them standing there. It’s stripped bare, and it gives the night a human touch.
The last time I had Debbie Chia headlining and backed by veteran DJ Lawrence Chee and up comer William J, someone thought they were a band called JACK’S HIT because it looked like that in the posters. That was hilarious. JACK’S HIT is actually a means to an end. The finale is sometime in the middle of 2014 and I plan to call all the DJs back for one last hoorah. Then, JACK’S HIT will cease to exist and be nothing more than a memory. On to the next concept after that, but it will always be about putting together new and seasoned DJs.
What about your DJ mixes?
I don’t know why people bother to listen to my mixes. And by people I mean industry professionals. It’s odd, and a bit frightening. I mean I make mixes because I want to listen to some shit on my bus rides. I put it on Soundcloud because I don’t want to stretch the space that my phone does not have. But people are listening, City Nomads picked up on it and Deezer wants me to do something. So now, I’m pimping the mixes out. I’m not technically a good DJ to begin with.
There are two types of mixes I do. One is your standard 4/4 and the other is like listening to a film. The latter is really inspired by a Nicholas Jaar mix on BBC Radio 1. I remember being in my room at W Hotel, Bali being so high on shrooms and listening to that alone. I think I listened to the two hour-long mix twice and left for breakfast overflowing with rainbows. Chasing that feels ever since. I used to do mixes every month, but now bi-monthly because I don’t have the time to curate it and I don’t want to put out something shabby. I realised the mix always start with a female vocalist, then something familiar or something appealing next. The rest is one big emotional wreck after the other.
It’s like putting together one big jigsaw puzzle. 4/4 is pretty straightforward, you play with the bars, keys, pitch, tempo and it’s sorted. But the stuff I do involves chin-stroking stuff. Like if one track ends with a violin, I need something similar to start for the next track. Frank Sinatra’s “Deep In A Dream” is next, oh, lets put Chet Baker reciting the same song (extracted from the documentary, “Let’s Get Lost”) to introduce it. You know, stuff like that.
Where are some spots you are playing at and how are they going?
Right now it’s Gem Bar every Friday. Just got off a month playing there with Paul Seow. Ann Siang Hill has an odd crowd. Sometimes it feels like a riot is about the start, other times you wished a riot had started because it’s too quiet. But the regulars at Gem Bar are open-minded and they know their music. It’s a small venue, so you can really feel the vibe from one end to the other.
I’m planning to do more parties there with a bunch of DJs because Gem Bar has other really nice rooms. Now it’s just a matter of conceptualising it, finding out what discerning listeners want, and not be too self-indulgent.
Top 5 music tracks of the moment?
Disclosure “F For You (Onra Remix)".
The hair on the back of your neck asleep? Listen to this.
Claude VonStroke “Dood”
Sweater Beats “That Feel EP”
Ok I cheated. There are four songs on this EP, but the mini-mix is gorgeous.
Fauxe “Slow Driving”
Cos’ romance. And this evokes images of sipping hot mocha beside a fireplace.
The Hics “Tangle”
First track off my September mix. Heart wrenching stuff.
Sum up the Singapore scene in 7 words or less.
Doubt is a manmade illusion. Bacon. Period.
Who or what are some of your inspirations?
Generally good natured, hardworking people earning a decent living and a kind of open worldview that puts mainstream media to shame. You can be a garbage man or a CEO, doesn’t matter. If you have the abovementioned qualities, you’ve inspired me to some degree and I will follow you on Twitter.
So what's next for you?
I need a break. I need to meet Mother Nature and share insights. Touch Earth once again. I was thinking of Myanmar, through Nepal and down to India. But my wallet suggests Pulau Ubin. It’s all up for negotiation at the moment.
When I return, hopefully not dressed in a robe of some kind, I’d like to curate a mix for performance art. This is actually in the very early stage of discussion, but may or may not see the light of day. Also, an Asian travel, nightlife-leaning website.
Track you'll play on a hot day?
Eilish Ellen’s cover of “Hot in Herre”
Track you'll play on a stormy day?
Snow Patrol “What If The Storm Ends (Aaron Static Remix)”
Local DJ/Producers to watch?
Fauxe, Botanical, Gema, Intriguant, Serene Rene-Ong, Amanda Keisha Ang, William J, Weish from sub:shaman (if she decides to go solo.)
Complete this sentence. In a perfect world...
John Lennon’s “Imagine” come true.
What can we expect from you this Saturday for Halloween?