Is there anything Kaye cannot play? This DJ and versatile musician from Singapore has morphed across the performance spectrum — be it bands or live sets — over decades with everything from his trusty saxophone and vocoder to drum machines and analogue synths. Kaye is also one of the head honchos behind Darker Than Wax, the Singapore underground music label that’s been turning heads in the region and beyond — so obviously, he’s pretty good at what he does.
Hi Kaye, what exactly do you do at Darker Than Wax?
I like to refer myself as the ‘man behind the curtain’ nowadays – which is basically a mysterious way of saying that I handle most of the backend (read: the unglamorous) of the business. Paying people, chasing to be paid, book keeping, that sort of thing. If we do larger scale events I usually take on a project manager role, organising people, and planning event flows from set up to tear down.
How did you decide that you wanted to go into the music business?
I didn’t decide, it kinda just happened. I always saw myself more as an artist and a live performer, which I still am, but being involved with Darker Than Wax as a business has forced me to pick up other skills, I guess.
What does the future of the industry look like in the next five years?
Streaming will definitely be the main source of income for a lot of labels, but physical sales are tricky because there’s always a cyclical wave. I mean, whoever would have thought that doing cassettes in the 21st century would ever be a thing? It’s hard to say as the climate is very volatile and ever-changing.
How about musically? Trends, styles, and things like that.
I believe it will be cyclical too. You can never get rid of the past because that’s where people look to for inspiration and ideas to blend with some of the newer genres. The 70s were trending for a bit, then the 80s, then the 90s. Grunge will come back, mark my words.
How often do musicians come up to you wanting to join the label?
Our inbox is always filled with “Hey, check out my release” type of emails, and it’s flattering that we are recognised enough around the world, that people actually want to send us their demos. It used to be us sending our music to other labels hoping for a release not too long ago!
What particular things do you look out for when finding new talent?
I look for a certain ‘Blackness’ in the sound – the roots could be in soul, jazz, funk, or blues, at least one of those. But my principle has always been caring more about the personality than the actual talent. We’re a small label with no staff, and everyone in the team has their hands full with the day-to-day runnings. The last thing I need is to deal with a whiny bitch ass arrogant punk.
You play the saxophone as well. Was that self-taught and what kind of things do you play?
I’m as good as self taught. I took private lessons for about two years when I was a wee lad, but the lessons were very informal because my teacher then, for some reason only wanted to jam with me and not teach me fundamentals like reading music. So yes, I can’t read music to save my life, but I can improvise in any setting.
Is that something that’s easy to blend into your sets?
Well, I try not to do both at the same time because either the DJing will suffer or the sax playing will suffer. I could of course fake it, and no one will know the better, but that’s not something I want to do (I can make an exception if you paid me like 5Gs or something). As for blending with other people’s sets, I haven’t heard a single complaint yet in all my 20 years of doing it, so I guess I’m doing something right!
Please describe your mix for us.
Black, chunky, robo, funky, deep disco, jazzy soul with a heavy backbeat. Oh, and I peppered some of my own tracks throughout the mix … because I can.