01 December 2016

A Discussion With. Darker Than Wax about Electronic Movement, Similarobjects, and DTW x Casio G Shock

From left to right: Kaye, Marco, RAH, William J, Dean (a.k.a. Funk Bast*rd)

There have been many countless moments that music has saved my life. Endless traffic woes turn into glorious musical-induced sessions. And long queues become opportunities to whip out the earphones and go on an eargasmic trip. For a moment, worries are forgotten and troubles come into oblivion. Add to that the fact that there are a surfeit of genres and sub-genres to choose from. There's surely one guaranteed to fit every mood and every personality.

In recent years, the rise of EDM has seen an unstoppable surge. It's been a constant from dance floors to raves, to topping music charts worldwide. It comes as no surprise then that more and more independent labels are making their debuts left and right. One such label that has achieved a promising fruition is Darker Than Wax. The collective based in Singapore has gained a notable following. Founded by top-tier international DJs Dean (a.k.a. Funk Bast*rd) and Kaye, the collective advocates diversity in music and grows from strength to strength through the curation of on-the-rise electronic artists in the global stage. Theirs is timely a statement on musical depth, that racial/genetic/cultural make-up is irrelevant, only the soul is.

We catch up with the dynamic duo and talk about their humble beginnings, their long-standing partnership with our very own Similarobjects, their thoughts on the electronic music movement, and their current collaboration with Casio G Shock.

What was going through your head when you guys came up with Darker than Wax?

Kaye: The story I tell most people is that it was partly born out of frustration, that even though our music was well received by the international community, things never quite corked out in terms of record deals. So one day we thought, hell, just do it ourselves! On a deeper level though, it’s also a reference to vinyls, popularly known as wax. And a lot of obscure music can be found on wax. And for example, when you dive deeper into the sea, it gets darker. So it’s also a statement about digging, going deeper, learning more.

When taking musicians under your wing for your label, how do you choose and filter through talented on-the-rise artists all over the world?

Kaye: It’s quite simple really – it just has to resonate with us on some level. We’re not about trend spotting only. If something speaks to us in a visceral way, we’re more than ears.

Can you walk us through how you came across Similarobjects?

Kaye: I think I’ll leave that to Dean to tell the story! He is after all the main Artists & Repertoire guy in DTW.

Dean: Actually, I chanced upon one of Jorge's peers, Obivon, during one of my late night A&R sessions on Soundcloud and was drawn to the raw slippery beat-textures on his handle. Naturally, I dug deeper, and it led me to Jorge's handle and once I was there, the rest was history.

What was it about his sound that made you want him be part of your collective?

Dean: I think it was first and foremost his unique and versatile approach to the art of beat-making. He was dabbling in classic boom-bap, but also playing with elements of jazz, abstract beats, and footwork! Maybe it's also his philosophy background that makes it even more of an attractive idea that he would fit into our roster.

What musical philosophies do Similarobjects adhere to that you’d say fits your musical philosophies as a collective?

Kaye: For me it’s an openness to other genres of music, as well as making music that is soulful, no matter the genre – soulfulness is definitely one of the core tenets here at DTW.

Similarobjects has been part of Darker than Wax since 2011. How would you say has his sound evolved since he started out with you guys?

Kaye: For one I think his engineering abilities have definitely climbed up more than a few notches! That’s very important to me because being a producer myself, it pains me that a lot of youngsters don’t really value what audio engineering can do to improve the music overall. And personally I hate this culture where producers spend so much of their time tweaking mixes to make sure the sound of the track is good, then people end up listening to music on shitty earphones or worse, through their phone / tablet speakers. That I think definitely contributes to the art of audio engineering going down the toilet, because so many people are listening to music through shitty devices, and they think that that’s as good as it’s going to sound.

Let’s go to a day in the life of Darker Than Wax and Similarobjects in the same room creating music. What is a typical work session or creative brainstorming with the three of you like?

Kaye: I say just fire up the machines, jam, and let it rip. Something will happen!

Any future plans or gigs with Similarobjects that you guys can share with us?

Kaye: More releases for sure, maybe get him to do a joint release with another DTW member? Put him out of his safe zone and make him make music he won’t normally make? hahaha

One of your current endeavors include your partnership with Casio G Shock. Can you tell us more about that?

Kaye: That’s been an almost year long process, and one of our biggest undertakings to date. It’s definitely very exciting and humbling that a giant like Casio would want to approach us for a collaboration product, that’s for sure. And we’re officially the first music entity that Casio is choosing to work with as far as Singaporean collabs go, maybe even S.E.A? It’s definitely a big honour, and a very rewarding learning experience!

Darker Than Wax is about to celebrate their fifth year on December. With this in mind and being a top player in the electronic music movement in the global stage, what are your thoughts on the electronic music movement in the Philippines? And in retrospect, the world?

Kaye: Honoured that you would refer to us as a “top player”! I think electronic music will always evolve. Now you have this cancer that is EDM, but slowly the tides are changing as well – for example Techno is gaining a huge resurgence in popularity, and Deep House is being spoken of in younger circles (*gasp*!). The most important thing is to stay true to your roots. But before that, you NEED to have roots. If you don’t, you’re nothing but a trend chaser and that is kinda meaningless and shallow. So that, and keeping an open mind for sure.


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