Fresh from his Miami Winter Music Conference debut with the newly invigorated Back 2 Basics, Malaysia?s leading Techno export DJ Gabriel is currently juggling a full deck: a growing production profile, the demands of a five nights a week national radio show and his continuing role as one of south East Asia?s most visible and high profile DJs.
A professional DJ for more than fifteen years, Gabriel is one of the pioneers that has shaped Malaysia?s dance music scene. Rightly acknowledged as one of the founders of the Malaysian clubbing scene he has promoted and played at many of the country?s landmark parties, sharing the decks with DJs like Carl Cox, Roger Sanchez, Sasha both at home and abroad.
Today, Gabriel’s experience as a world-class DJ spans Asia, North America and Europe, with an especially loyal following in the tech-loving countries of Eastern Europe. With a playing style that is constantly evolving, it?s best not to expect the next track out of the box. Known for a classic Techno sound earlier in his career, his sets can comfortably span Techno, Tech, Tribal and Minimal and his latest passion, killer Electro.
Rather than getting hung up on genres, Gabriel is hung up on quality; whether in the tracks he plays out or in the growing number of releases bearing his name. Like ?Omie?, a track that so-grabbed the attention of Apotek records founder Jerome Sydenham on a beach in Bali that he signed the track on the spot, releasing it as a double A side along with his own alias Nagano Kitchen?s ?Jump Off?.
Embracing the digital revolution, you?ll find Gabriel?s releases for sale on a wide variety of sites, including Beatport (www.beatport.com), Trax Source (www.traxsource.com) and What People Play (www.whatpeopleplay.com). But nothing compared to the feeling of seeing his first track on vinyl, nor the feeling he got receiving messages from friends and fans across the world who?s spotted his vinyl in the racks of their local music shop.
“That?s when you truly realise how global this thing is,” comments Gabriel. “That I can share a message through my music; no matter what language people speak.” But he?s no stranger to internationalism. Born Gabriel Chong in Singapore in 1972, he?s had a professional music career since the age of 15 when represented his country as the youngest-ever participant at the 1988 DMC World Championships in London.
With limited musical opportunities in Singapore at that time, his success gave him the confidence to move to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of neighbouring Malaysia, where a hip hop and dance music scene was rapidly establishing itself. Founding a promotion agency called Tempo, Gabriel is credited by many for introducing a previously unheard music to the country: House. With Tempo’s parties plugging Malaysia into the booming global club network of the late ’90s, Gabriel had established himself as a vital link between South-East Asia and the rest of the world.
Soon, DJs like Jon Carter, Carl Cox, Sasha and Ritchie Hawtin, many who had barely heard of Malaysia, began making Kuala Lumpur an essential stop on their tours, and of course, sharing the decks with Gabriel at groundbreaking Malaysian clubs like Movement and Carbon. Gabriel’s links to the global scene soon led to dates at intimate clubs like San Francisco’s Red Melon parties as well as giant venues like Berlin’s Casino.
An astute crowd-reader with precise technical skills, Gabriel is renowned for big room peak sets where he creates a driving soundtrack layered with spectral percussion.
For smaller rooms he takes the mix deeper with warm, straight-up house. An ambitious and progressive experimentalist, he has developed a number of collaborative outfits with keyboardists, vocalists and percussionists, including international artists like Haze, that constantly push the limits of club performance.
In his continuing quest to break down barriers, 2007 saw the release of a highly anticipated collaboration between Gabriel and one of Malaysia?s leading singers, Camelia. That record, Mysticam, caused a quiet revolution in the Malaysian pop market, introducing underground club beats to many for the first time. “I just used what I know from the clubs, and some of my hip hop background and put them together.” Explains Gabriel, with characteristic understatement.
A tireless advocate for both electronic dance music and its Malaysian proponents, much of Gabriel?s energy over the past couple of years has been spent in developing the image of the music at home and creating opportunities for its DJs and producers.
Which is why he is currently investing much of his time in Turn It Up, a new five nights a week radio show on KL?s Capital FM (88.9 on the FM dial). The three-hour shows, which he co-hosts with another pioneering DJ and former Channel V host Joey G, avoid genres, preferring to surprise listeners with the programming and sequencing. And true to form, a large part of the show is given over to exposing music and sets from South East Asian producers and DJs.
Add to that a monthly residency, GUM (Grown Up Music) at KL?s leading club Zouk, which is pushing boundaries ever deeper into the realms of House and Techno and a new night at the club?s most intimate venue The Loft that will see the DJ and a host of guests revisiting the more classic side of house and you have a very full timetable indeed.
Which makes it all the more surprising that a steady stream of tracks and remixes is flowing out of Gabriel?s studio. As well as the ?Omie? track on Apotek, there have been various tracks on Malaysian compilations, with Gabriel once again adding his name to efforts to expose new talent, and there is a growing relationship with Singapore imprint Onewithmusic which has seen Gabriel remixing Aldrin and Akien?s ?Everything Else? as well as the release of his own ?Minimermaid?. “Now I have a radio show I?m DJing almost every night,” Gabriel adds, laughing. “I want to make the show as big as possible and at the same time concentrate on my production. Partly, it?s about giving KL and Malaysia as much musical variety as possible, but it?s also to show that what I do is not something that other people can?t do: I hope that I can inspire others with talent and dedication to add their mark to the scene.”