KoFlow l Mix Master Wayne
Singapore’s turntabalist extraordinaire has been plying his mad skills on some the biggest stage across Asia climaxing to a recent sold out solo concert at the Esplanade. If you ever plan to burglarize the 2003 DMC champion’s home, be sure to aim for his rare collections of vinyls. Constantly taking his scratch mastery to another level, Wayne Liu aka KoFlow (also known as Ninja in some circles) will be sharing his secret skills with the participants of the 2011 FFF Girl DJ Bootcamp. We speak to the artist hailed as the Grandmaster of Flash as he shares his thoughts on skateboarding, resident DJs, being an artist and DMC.
You came from a skateboarding past which led to your encounter with hip hop. How valuable do you think it is to be in the experience of sub-cultures as a DJ?
I think it gave me a lot of street culture and musical knowledge -knowledge that most normal DJs wouldn’t have. I got the taste for all sorts of street music just by hanging out. Be it punk rock, heavy metal, ska, etc. It’s all part of the street culture that shapes the style of electronic music that we will produce at a later stage. It also gave me a certain connection to the people out there with an alternative music taste, rather than just clubbers and their club music.
It is unquestionable that you are all for the music and the craft that you believe in. Do you think the initial intention for being a DJ determines how they will fare in the future?
The core intention should be about you crafting your music and developing it! I know of DJs, who just wanna play but don’t have a clue about music theory. A mindset to be an ‘artist’ is more important for your development of your future than just being another resident DJ.
You are known as musician foremost and a DJ second, what kind of styles will you be sharing at FFF Girl Bootcamp 2011 as one of their lecturers?
The art of using the turntable as a musical Instrument.
What advice would you would like to instil in the participants of the bootcamp?
Everyone is a DJ, but not everyone is creative. Beat matching is only the very basic and a small fraction of the art form. Please grow on from there as time passes by.
This might come off as an unimportant question, but would girls’ delicate hands affect turntabalism?
As long as they don’t have long nails.
Do you think it is as important to share your perception and experience of the music industry as so to technical abilities to your students?
Yup surely, being technical doesn’t mean you are the best DJ. Musicality is on top of everyone’s list. And being in the industry is a different ball game altogether if you are not a ‘service provider DJ’ that plays in the club day in day out.
It was in 2003 that you were crowned winner of Singapore DMC Technics World DJ Championships. How was the experience like from being a 2nd runner-up in the previous year to winning it?
The days of no air-cons, wearing only boxer shorts and sweating my ass off, and practising 5 hours a day. I think the most important lesson I got out of it is: dedication and hunger breeds success. I think being a 2nd runner-up gave me a sort of energy to go all out to grab the title that I almost had!
There were times that the industry reared its ugly head on you. How do you manage such events in your professional life?
To me, life is either positive or negative. Every action attracts different reactions, but as long as I’m fighting for something I believe in and inspiring people who see where I am coming from, it’s all good. At the end of the day, the industry is not made up of just DJs, turntablist or artists; they [the industry] will never fully understand what is needed of us. I just have to remind myself to stay cool, ‘cos I’m at a position where not many people have been. I just have to take every reaction in stride.
You were very critical of the recent DMC Championships in 2010. What about the DMC now that’s different from the one you were in before?
Back then there were more people who joined DMC. There will be 15 to 20 DJs battling, but right now, the number has decreased to 5 for many years. Back then, we battle with original records, right now they battle by paying someone to produce a record a certain way for them to battle.
I mean, it has turn into ‘Rich DJ vs Broke DJ’ competition which doesn’t justify the integrity of the battle. And also, something as prestigious as DMC should be held at a neutral ground, which holds no political issue as from which club you represent, ‘cos we are representing the country not the club, everyone has a fair chance!
I truly support the DJs who join the competition ‘cos they wanna be a scratch musician, not just a gateway to be a ‘Resident DJ’ in the club, cos that is not the reason why we started scratching. We start on it ‘cos we feel we could be creative on the turntables and make music.
And it is through your hard work and dedication to the craft that have seen you garnered prestigious accolades, launching an album and a sold-out solo concert at the Esplanade. Did you ever imagine reaching this stage?
Never even thought of it. All I wanted is to do is to make music.
Was there a time during your almost decade long DJing career that you thought about giving up?
I do sometimes. I get very disheartened when booking agents or club promoters go, ‘We don’t pay local DJs that much.” I mean, how else are we gonna grow from there? Be a $150 DJ for the rest of our lives? But I also believe we gotta value ourselves as an artist, and industry heads gotta value your local artists as well, or else where are we heading to?
If the artist doesn’t grow, the industry won’t grow either. But sometimes, as much as I’ve struggled, when I received emails and verbal respect on how much I have inspired them, it makes me change my mind on how I should never stop helping people believe in themselves!
I heard you were bullied in school. Did that aspect shaped your fiery passion and expression through the art form of turntabalsim and skating?
Sure think it did (laughs). Part of the survival skills of being in the streets and not being taken advantage of is to learn to defend yourself. But make sure you ‘walk the walk and talk the talk’; if not you probably get doubled by the bully! But I think what contributes most to my passion in the art, is cos I’m born with an artistic brain. I can fail everything in school, but if I have a ‘B’ in art, that is considered a fail to me.
You’ve done almost everything most DJs in Singapore could only dream off. What’s the next step for you?
Should be making more music, hosting more DJ series and concerts.
– Zul Andra
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