Posted on 11 May By Visionarism

Interview w/ Dean from Darker Than Wax.

Inspired by arts, club culture, spaces, shadows, architecture and the in-betweens, Darker Than Wax is a music collective from Singapore with a unique signature sound. It is essentially a statement on the pervasiveness of black music and the influence it has had on countless genres and sub genres. While they were on their European tour, Visionarism caught up with one of their founders, Dean (@funk_bstrd) to talk about the origins of DTW and what it represents…

Who is Darker Than Wax (DTW)?

DTW is essentially an idea, a movement, an organic ecosystem of like-minded music souls gathering, conversing, exchanging and creating using music as the medium.

What’s the story behind its creation?

Fundamentally, it is the manifestation of a life-time obsession with Black African American music and its countless Diasporas. Kaye (the other co-founder) and myself have been students of Jazz for a long time now, and the years of gigging, hustling and talking eventually led us to create a platform that would enable us not only to express ourselves musically, but to connect with a global pool of artists and the like who are similar in their approaches and ideas. More importantly, we would like to break the stigma that nothing culturally relevant comes out of Singapore.

DTW is a collective with a signature sound, please can you try and describe what that sound is?

It’s very hard (laughs), although we have heard numerous comments about how a certain sound is so ‘DTW’, and that’s actually quite nice to hear. But if I was to put in words, I’d say anything that’s raw, groovy and has the spirit of FUNK.

What is it like having a core 6 members of a collective?

Challenging but rewarding. I think personally, the most difficult moment for me as a co-founder in the early days was to convince the team about the value of the label and the respective roles the team has. Having said that, there’s always utmost respect for one another, and no matter how hard or brutally honest it can get sometimes, we always get stuff done and have fun doing so. I think that’s really invaluable.

Other than yourself and Kaye, what people have been most influential in getting DTW to where it is now?

We owe our existence and growth to a lot of people. But off the top of my head, a big shout goes out to Lefto, the Worldwide FM team, Complexion with his Future Beats Radio show, and many others.

You’re a big vinyl collector, how did you get into that and when did it start?

I first got hit by early 80s British synth-pop and soul – Human League, Level 42, etc, but when I went to pursue Architecture in Australia, the world of Blue note, Impulse, underground hip-hop, Detroit and Chicago house came and that was it.

You’re a big vinyl collector, how did you get into that and when did it start?

I first got hit by early 80s British synth-pop and soul – Human League, Level 42, etc, but when I went to pursue Architecture in Australia, the world of Blue note, Impulse, underground hip-hop, Detroit and Chicago house came and that was it.

What’s your favourite record that you’ve picked up in the past year?

This is a close one, but it would have to be Sound Source – A Naked Theme. Proper Wayne Gardiner production!

What are your biggest highlights of 2016/2017?

The G-Shock collab, the recent EU Tour, and taking over a dance floor of 1000 over people after the legendary DJ EZ!

About the collaboration with Casio this year on a G-Shock, can you tell us how it came together and what it means to your collective?

I was introduced to one of the Japanese managers Teppei Takahashi who relocated to Singapore sometime in Aug 2015, and we sort of kept in touch every now and then. He had already heard of DTW back then, and came for our label showcase in November. Since then, we began conversing rather actively about possible projects and ‘NEW TIMES’ eventually was born out of that. We ended up designing the classic GD-100 timepiece that came together with a custom-made box and USB thumbdrive containing exclusive tracks from our roster of artists.

Do you have any more collaborative projects coming up?

A couple floating around, but I rather keep quiet about them now. (Laughs)

With the DTW x Casio collaboration being such a success with not only music fans, but with fashion and lifestyle consumers, what are your thoughts on the crossover between music and fashion?

I think all facets of street / urban culture are related. Space, fashion, music and arts – they are all essential ingredients of the city and your DNA. This is why I never really saw DTW purely as a music label per se, not in a traditional sense anyway. It should be a very malleable cultural navigator, constantly absorbing and interpreting.

Do you think DTW would ever create your own fashion label?

At this point, I don’t think DTW is ready to make the leap, although we have been producing our own basic line with some one-off pieces from time to time. I love the craft and admire construction, so who knows?

In your line of work, you must be travelling a lot. Where is the most exciting place you have ever played at?

Traveling is a privilege, and I definitely don’t take it for granted. It’s such a blessing to travel for both design work and music. The most memorable one would have to be our showcase at Lions nightclub in Sao Paulo about two years ago. It was mad!

We are lucky enough to have caught you in London during the European tour, how did it go? And what is your view on the London scene?

Thank you for your kind words! It was ok, considering that Anderson Paak was also playing on the same night! (Laughs) I was seriously worried to be honest. But that’s also what attracts me to London – it is such a thriving place for music, arts and culture.

During your trips, you must come across some difficulties while travelling… Any memorable moment / story you want to share with us?

During our most recent EU tour, one of our artists Go Yama had to run off for a bit to buy a power adaptor at Berlin’s main train station. Time was super tight, so Mellowedhigh (our photographer) and I had to walk to the platform first as we were already close to missing our train. Yama was nowhere in sight, but we couldn’t miss this train. We had to hop on, hoping that he actually would make it by himself. For a good 30 mins, you should have seen my face. I was pale, fearing the worst, and then he walked up the aisle nonchalantly and went like ‘what’s up guys?’. (Laugh)

We made the connection with you via our good friend DJ Complexion, how did you guys meet?

Complexion got hip to our music about 4 years ago, and ever since then we became very good mates, considering that we have never actually met in real life. But ultimately, he and I share very similar values and ethics, and that’s what really kept us close together.

Now that the European tour is over, what’s next for you?

Planning the next one in November! Stay locked to the DTW.

Find out more about Darker Than Wax here:

Interview images by @Visionarism.

On stage images by @Mellowedhigh.