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The Art of Love | Jonathan Kiat and Cherry Chan

The founders of audio-visual collective Syndicate are familiar faces of Singapore’s electronic dance music landscape. Creative director of Oh Play, and iconic DJ and producer Jonathan Kiat together with Red Bull Music Academy participant and DJ Cherry Chan, are a husband and wife pairing set in an intergalactic realm (both love space stuff.) ActuallyMAG finds out how they sync both their personal and professional life, why turntables weren’t their ticket to the biggest gig in their lives – marriage, and how Cyclops from Monsters Inc. got them together.

How did your relationship begin?
Jonathan Kiat: We met on the internet. No, really! I was just in an MSN with the guys and sharing some post travel news and then I noticed this odd moniker I didn’t recognize. It said “DEATHTOE”. Basically, I ended up chatting with this random person and one thing led to another and we met up. Fast forward to present day, and we’re together.

Cherry Chan: We met 8 years ago and on our first date, he invited me to watch the cartoon film “Monsters Inc.” I will have to credit that green “Cyclops” monster with a single eye and stringy limbs as our official match-maker.  We had common friends, so got to hang out, and we hit off well… not on music at first, but at generating hyperbolic theories and stretching comedic discussions to very strange places.


In a sentence, how would you describe your relationship?
JK: A cosmic explosion filled with laughter, music, online documentaries, food, travel and great friendship.

CC:  A magical wonderland with some booby traps and we are the two adventurers. Holding hands tightly, surfing through its lightness and darkness, and savouring its magical properties whilst supporting and loving each other. 

Both of you have been DJing for years, how has that played a part in the development of your relationship?
JK : I don’t think DJing has developed our relationship in any way. But watching her hard at work on the mixes and set preparations does inspire me as I’m pretty lazy when it comes to pushing myself in that aspect. I try not to talk about DJing with her as I would like us to be just talking about normal stuff like what to eat for dinner or plans for the week.

On a DJing note though, I can be there to give her support if she had a gig that didn’t turn out the way she wanted to for whatever reason as I’ve been there loads of times. Other than that, we don’t really chat much about DJing but I really do admire and respect her sets of late as I’ve seen her build them from scratch to what they are. And of course it makes me happy to see others enjoying her music too!

CC: (Laughs) It would be really funny if our relationship development is linked to DJing. In fact when we first met, I had no idea what he was playing or attended his gigs. I was deeply into Detroit techno, microhouse and Intelligent Dance Music whereas he was entrenched in drum and bass and hip hop.

But with all great friendships, we exchange notes on musical influences and recommended each other heaps of tunes but we never spoke about DJing techniques or do a versus set.  We have been writing some tunes together as “Thangka Satellites”, a project still at embryonic stage. Perhaps that made our relationship activities slightly more interesting than visiting the mall on weekends.

The secret here is of course, I’m also a very successful groupie as I think Kiat’s DJing is kickass.


Even your day jobs involve much creativity. What’s the most creatively romantic thing you’ve have done for each other?
JK: Cherry made me a little crochet badge with the Imperial logo as she knew I was a big Star Wars fan. It meant a lot to me as I knew that she put in a lot of effort in making this little badge. 

CC: (Laughs) it would be hard to convey to readers the creativity or romance as that’s a rather contextual question but I am most touched by his thoughtfulness on Valentine’s Day, when he gave me a self-designed voucher indicating that I now have lessons with artistes I love – Aya Sekine for piano classes and Andy Yang for painting. I had mentioned to him, in a really quick fleeting moment, that as a child, my family couldn’t afford piano or art lessons. He took notice and fulfilled these childhood dreams, which I myself had nearly forgotten.  To me, one doesn’t have to be incredibly creative to be romantic; it’s the sweet attentiveness that’s truly endearing.


You are the founding members of audio-visual collective Syndicate. Is there a difference to how you relate to each other professionally and personally?
JK: Although I do try to not talk about Syndicate or any other music/art related cultural topics with her unless we have to discuss it, I find that very often, conversation slips into those areas really easily. I guess we’re both passionate about contributing to our cultural scope so it’s bound to happen that a simple chat sometimes ends up in a little intense discussion about stuff.

But when it comes to discussing serious matters like Syndicate topics, I think we both put on a different hat… and if disagreements do arise, we both have a mutual understanding that it’s nothing personal but in the interest of the collective.

CC: We’ve both worked in competitive creative businesses before and are very aware of its dynamics and effects on ego, spirit and thoughts. There is a deliberate marked difference in how we relate to each other on the two planes. Syndicate is produced in a very professional manner and require a lot of energy and could get emotional. Sometimes, we disagree in the professional realm but it doesn’t spill over to the personal.  We’ve been through enough to know not to let work disturb what we have now.

Plans for the future?
JK: We’re planning to launch the Syndicate label in the last quarter of this year with what I would (in my personal opinion) describe the most creative and forward thinking music I’ve ever heard coming out from this island. I won’t disclose any more information at this point (laughs).

Other than that, there are always plans for the future of Syndicate, we’ve got stuff lined up till early next year so it’s all looking quite exciting! 

CC: There are heaps of plans for Syndicate. We’ve kicked off 2011 with an excellent run, great local Syndicate gigs, explored improvisational performance set with much respected local band The Observatory, playing at Low End Theory Los Angeles and San Francisco, collaborated with Brainfeeder Sessions for its Los Angeles vs Singapore edition and now we are going on our Europe tour, playing at Giles Peterson’s Worldwide Festival and throwing down “SuperHelix: London and Singapore Bass Exchange” in UK.

For 2012, there are plans to give back all that creative inspiration by creating a deeper immersive state for the Syndicate supporters so as to facilitate more inner paths to outer dimensions.

Personal plan wise -I need to go hug some trees in New Zealand.

What’s love to you?

JK: Love to me is something that can’t be described accurately really. It’s quite hard to put it into words. It’s a blend of all things that exist between us, past, present and future. Sometimes, I think love has the ability to bend time as well.

CC: Love is just a word until someone comes along and gives it its meaning. The wonderful rainbows, the dark abyss, the ambiguous bridge, so on and so forth. It’s such a crazy evolving galaxy of meanings and emotions, constructing and deconstructing parts of our self.


Tell us more about your personal beliefs.
JK: That everyone has a reason to exist and we are slowly discovering that the reason why we are here isn’t bound by what we know thru science. Each of us has a greater purpose in this planet and it’s up to us to discover in our own time the reason for our existence.

CC: We live in a space where parallel universes exist and, us -the conscious beings are empowered to choose and shape realities. I find it truly amazing that each and every choice that we make is a pathway to a self-created universe within the bigger unknown.


Kiat’s famous last quote of Cherry.
“Can I have the last chicken wing?”


Cherry’s famous last quote of Kiat.
“I give you the last chicken wing, ok?”


-Zul Andra

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