Interview with DJ Phil K Lee
Legal eagle by day, barely legal by night. Dance music this good should be declared illegal. Phil K Lee is one of KL’s most sought-after DJ since winning the Found@ThirstDJ Championship in 2010.
Since bagging the championship, he has shared stages with a long list of great DJs/ producers at festivals such as Thirst, Future Music Festival Asia, Speedzone, Godskitchen Boombox, and numerous Future Sound Asia events. On the list are, among others, Avicii, Above & Beyond, Tiesto, Sander Van Doorn, Paul Van Dyk, Markus Schulz, Gareth Emery, Pendulum, The Chemical Brothers, Chase and Status, Fatboy Slim, Jochen Miller, Eddie Halliwell and many heroes of the Malaysian music scene.
Phil is also no stranger in the clubbing scene. Pre & post being Found@Thirst, his expanding DJ resume includes invitations to play at major clubs as well as shows abroad. Phil has held residencies and been a regular face on deck duties at prominent clubs such as Pisco Bar, Como@TREC, Elysium, Blue Elephant, Quinte, Heli Lounge, MaiBar, Twenty One & Zouk Kuala Lumpur.
Regarded by many as a truly talented and versatile performer, Phil has been known to deliver top drawer House, Nu Disco, Progressive, Trance, Techno & Breaks journeys, incorporating many of his own productions, bootlegs projects, live acapella and samples mixing into his performance.
It is a pleasure to have you with us at Kingdome.
1. How did it all begin?
It all started when I met my friends Alan and Ian who had CDJs and mixer at their home and eventually I got to play around with the equipment. I became a bedroom DJ until Ian encouraged me to take part in the Thirst DJ Competition in 2010, which I won. The rest is history.
2. Where did the name come from?
It’s a play on words of my actual name.
3. What gave you that initial push to become a DJ?
I lived through an era in Malaysia when electronic dance music first rose to prominence. For the longest time I wanted to be part of it but the opportunity did not come until it did.
4. What genre would you describe your tracks?
5. Who is your biggest inspiration? Who do you have a lot of respect for?
Eric Prydz. And the Helvetic Nerds artistes such as Dinka, Daniel Portman and EDX.
6. What subgenre you think doesn’t get the attention it deserves?
Melodic progressive trance.
7. What was the first event you ever played at?
The first memorable event would have to be Thirst presents Godskitchen Boombox. The opening set was one of the prizes of the Thirst DJ Competition.
8. When you play is it a pre planned set or live?
It depends. If it is a big event I would plan it just so that I don’t screw it up. Otherwise I would wing it.
9. Which other countries have you played?
Bangladesh and Singapore.
10. What single night out has been the most memorable for you as a DJ?
A group of us went out to this event where one of my favourite DJs, Jerome Isma-Ae, was playing. After the event, my friend Jo managed to persuade Jerome to join us for the after party which eventually ended up at my place. That was a pretty awesome night.
11. What is the best event you’ve played at?
When I opened for Fatboy Slim in KL Live. The energy of the room was mad and that fueled me to play one of the most memorable live sets of my life. I also debuted my first ever production, a bootleg remix of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know. It is an amazing feeling playing your creation to a crowd.
12. Funniest thing that ever happened at an event?
Falling down 5 times at Tomorrowland. The last fall sprained my left ankle. I continued partying though.
13. What do you love about the scene?
You always meet interesting, colorful characters. A lot of DJs are supportive of each other, regardless of the style of music they play.
14. What is something that bugs you about the DJ scene?
15. If you could eternally be stuck on one year’s music scene, which year would it be and why?
2009. That was the year when a lot of amazing progressive trance and techno stuff came out.
16. What was the first record you brought? Ever?
Madonna’s Like A Prayer.
17. What is one track that got popular that you can’t stand?
Party Rock Anthem by LMFAO.
18. What is one track that never gets old for you no matter how many times you hear it?
My Love Will Surround You by Dinka.
19. Out of all the tunes you have, which one “never fails”?
Sweet Dreams by Eurythmic. You still hear it everywhere and people will always go “wooooo”.
20. What is your favorite tune of all time?
21. Are you able to share any of your secret tricks with me?
On digital equipment, beat matching is mostly simple mathematics.
22. (Perhaps a little bit deeper of a question) What is your opinion regarding the difference between old school DJing where everything was restricted to vinyl and modern DJing where most tracks are never put on any physical medium before or after release?
During the vinyl days, DJing was notoriously harder to learn and music was cherished as they were hard to come by. That is probably why it is considered that there were a lot more art and class in DJing back then. For me though, DJing goes hand in hand with evolution of technology. There’s no 2 ways about it. I am an advocate of modern DJing. But the ease of modern technology also means the exponential growth in the number of DJs. That is a trade-off we got to live with.
23. (Follow up) Do you think this has hurt exclusivity of having a certain sound? A DJ’s ability to have a “unique” style? Is having your own style separate from all the other DJs out there even important in modern DJing?
Having your own style is very important in any form of art, if you ever want to stand out from the rest.
24. When all the partying is over how do you like to chill out?
I like to chill out with friends. Talk about nothing and everything.
25. What do you do outside the dance music scene?
I got a day job as a lawyer in the telecommunication industry. That takes up most of my time really. Any spare time I have, I spend them with family and friends.
26. Where do you think the scene is headed? One year from now? Five years from now?
I see a trend where the scene is getting more educated about the different styles of dance music and not just confined to the air-punching main stage sound. That’s healthy. At the same time I think modern technology also breeds a bigger pool of producers and genres are getting more and more varied. But DJs and producers who are truly talented will always survive as their music will stand the test of time.
27. What is one mistake you see a lot of up and coming DJ’s making?/What advice would you give them?
Know your music. Know your tracks. Know their bass, snares, when the vocal comes in, etc. Don’t just collect the tracks. Really listen to them as you play them. Your brain will know how to plan your set more smoothly. It may mean you have less time to find new tracks but it’s a good way to filter out the mediocre tracks.
Thank you so much and it was pleasure having you.
For more music visit DJ Phil K Lee’s Mixcloud