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If you’ve not been living under a rock since the late 1990’s, you’ve definitely heard of Kuma, who’s been a pioneer DJ; one of the driving forces of Malaysia’s underground electronic music scene and a purveyor of modern Techno. From 2010-2016 he handled the music direction for an underground institution, Quinte which we all miss dearly! With 20 years of making crowds dance near and far, hitting some of the top venues around the world like Womb (Tokyo), Zouk (Singapore), Pacha (Macau), Sugar (Australia), Jungle Experience (Koh Phangan ), Marbella (Goa),Sisyphos ( Berlin), Cafe Del Mar and Eden (Ibiza) as well as festivals such as ADE Festival, Epizode and Lakedance; Kuma has ridden a finely curved crescendo towards internationally renowned success with his own style of four to the floor. Besides having regular gigs in and around the Asian region, Kuma hosts his own Techno online radio show called Revolution Black on Frisky Radio which is based in New York.
You can check them out on top imprints such as Baroque, Contrast Records, Renesanz to name a few. With many years under his belt I’m sure you are all as curious as I am to know about his journey… so let’s rewind into the past with Kuma…
You’ve been in the scene since the late 1990’s, were you always into house and techno or you started your musical journey with another genre?
For the first few years in the late 90’s sometime around 1998-2000 I was playing a mix of genres, I wasn’t holding any official residencies so I was just jamming mostly with friends just mixing anything that I could 80’s hip hop RnB, that kind of stuff, it was in 2001 when I started playing only house and 2003 with my official residency that kicked everything off till now.
Who were the artists that have inspired you on your musical journey?
An artist that inspires me right now is Space 92, who’s making some serious dope techno. I’m a huge fan!
Before Covid you were playing in many cities around the globe, what were some of your favourite moments?
Pre covid I was all over playing really cool gigs big and small, I did all night long sets playing open to close for 6-8 hours in Vietnam, Myanmar and of course my own VOOP nights at Le Noir KL which were huge every month. Besides Asia; Goa and Berlin are some of my favourite places to play. I had many great sets in Berlin at Sispyhos main room Hammahalle the vibe in there is insane every time and you play a minimum of 4 hours, the last I played there before Covid was 6 hours set closing the main room at noon, and there’s always Ibiza, I really love playing in Ibiza it’s one of the most special places in the world for me, super cool vibes I was playing the closing parties for Cafe del Mar Ibiza it was for their 38th-year party and they said it was one of the highlights, rocked it properly.
You’ve been on a production roll, spill some deets on it!
With having all this lockdown time sitting at home and the government shutting the whole entertainment industry, it gave me loads of time to work on productions which I couldn’t when I was playing regularly and I also learned a lot more with a course by CAA something I always wanted to know and learn more, in the beginning of the never-ending lockdown I made an EP for Sweatbox Records and a friend of mine was releasing his 11th album and he asked me to do a remix for one of his new tracks for Contrast Records it had a massive amount of talents on remix duties so yea I was very excited for that, some other latest releases were for my friend’s label Deepsomnia and Renesanz which is a huge Techno Label.
What’s the most rewarding part of being a DJ/music producer from your perspective?
The most rewarding thing being a DJ/Producer is having fun, because when you’re having fun you’re happy and really enjoying it. I’m into it 100% because I like what I’m doing and in return, people enjoy it so I like it and people like it.
What do you usually start with when preparing for a set, are you someone that plans ahead? Take us through your process
Planning is everything, you surely need some kind of planning so that you know where you’re heading and how you’re gonna be in control, for me I like to be in charge of the crowd, doing this for a long time makes you learn how to take control of the crowd you’re playing to. Always find out about what the venue is like and who plays there, what’s the vibe and then I arrange my folders accordingly. Organising your music is very important to execute the right track one after another, decision making is important and if your tracks are arranged well in folders, it allows you to find them when you need it quicker so that you don’t lose momentum, I always play according to the venue and time, I don’t play 10 pm music at midnight 🙂
Walk us through a day in the life of Kuma…
Normal day Pre Covid – wake up have breakfast in the afternoon, then lunch around 2ish after that check my email to see what are the new promos that I like, you’ll need to go through them there’s a lot of nice and not so nice so I’ll filter them out because if you miss it, it piles up and backlogs. Sometimes I play weekly at W KL, it’s a 4 hours set every time so I’ll be needing new tunes every week, it’s 52 new tracks every week just for the weekdays and there are weekends so there is a tonne of new music I play every week, week in week out, so you can imagine the amount of time I take to just source for the music itself, 6ish ill hit the gym for a couple of hours, come back fresh after working out and sauna I’ll get ready for work and make my way to where I’m playing or rushing to the airport straight from the club for another a gig. I really miss filling up annoying landing forms and custom declarations.
Normal day NOW – wake up 8.30 am have breakfast then fire up Ableton till 1 am have lunch then continue working on music production till 6 pm then go for a run back at 7 pm shower and dinner then watch Netflix and sleep by 2 am I’ve been doing this for the past 1 year over, it sucks big time!
You’re mostly seen in black clothing much like many other techno DJ’s, is it a conscious choice you make when picking out something to wear?
Black – hmm I have always felt comfortable wearing this colour, music-wise I’ll say it reflects on how your sound sounds, I like my techno dark and strong just like the colour black, my phone is black, my caps are black and my monthly Techno show on Frisky radio is called Revolution Black, I guess it’s something that comes naturally to me.
Could you tell us more about your role in Quinte? What’s your opinion on owning a club in Malaysia?
I looked after the music part, the bookings, the DJ’s and the music direction. It’s a lot of work owning a club and running it is another thing, it’s not worth the hard work here in Malaysia because we have really shitty rules and entertainment is always looked at wrongly in this country so you’ll never have anything like what they have in Europe, it’s just not worth the sweat.
How has the KL nightlife scene changed from when you started, could you tell us from your perspective?
Back then we had outdoor raves, concerts, amazing club nights, we had a very cool government we had many big super clubs, it was at its best at one time, then gradually everything started becoming smaller, more bar scene bar hopping kind of vibe, then it slowly picked up again, more boutique clubbing vibe, the last 4-5 years I’d say it was one of the best for me in terms of working as a DJ and earning from it in KL.
Any exciting plans for the future?
I was actually planning to move to Goa this year, I’m still working on it, there are some final documents and preparation that needs to be done, with the lockdown it’s been hard to travel outside of KL so I’m waiting patiently to get all this sorted.
After 20 over years of being in this profession, what were the most valuable lessons you’ve learnt?
I’ve learned to not take things for granted, how all of a sudden things can take an unimaginable turn like what we are experiencing now.
In your personal opinion, what can we do to rebuild KL’s nightlife scene post covid?
I don’t want to sound like a super negative person but as much as I want to believe things will come back and we can build back what we had, chances are super thin, almost impossible because there are certain people and a consortium of parties that do not want things to go back to the way they were before, and even if any small amount of it does come back it just won’t be the same because of the restrictions that will be imposed on nightlife here in KL, these are one of the reasons why I want to leave Malaysia, I don’t see any future for music and arts here for now.
If you had one wish you could use for your music career what would it be?
If I had one wish in the music industry what would I use it for? I’ll use it on myself and make myself super famous just like Adam Beyer lol