Kuala Lumpur is not only home of the Twin Towers and Air Asia. It also has a lot to offer for lovers of quality electronic music.
If you want to know how it went down back in the days and what is happening now, listen to Victor Goh: former Ministry of Sound resident and House DJ in KL for 15 years.
Listen to the Interview:
DanoEF: Today I have Victor Goh with me who is to me one of the legends in Kuala Lumpur, DJing here for many years. Played in every club, knowing everyone. Viktor how is it going today?
Victor Goh: Pretty good, pretty good. Glad to be here.
DanoEF: How did thing start for you in Kuala Lumpur, I mean you’ve been paying here for how many years now?
Victor Goh: Club DJing professionally probably since around late 1999 — early 2000 is when I started. Small house parties. Regular club gigs not so much, but on and off. With friends, we organised parties in clubs and also I was taken under apprenticeship in Bangsar (part of Kuala Lumpur) which is close by here. There was the street Telawi 3. And I’m sure you’re familiar with that road. Back in the days that was the Changkat of KL.
– Changkat is where the parties are happening nowadays, but these things have changed a lot so those days the focus of all party crowd was in Bangsar. And you were playing in that area?
Victor Goh: That’s where I started. Not jet in the major clubs of the city. I mean Bangsar has always had the commercial side but also during those days in the year 2000 there was an uprising in house music. There was this club – all seasoned clubbers know it – called the Backroom. I’m sure you heard it. Those who are 28 years and above they’ve definitely heard about the Backroom. That was quite an introductory do house music in Malaysia and KL especially because there was transition of R&B commercial pop music where people were getting bored of and there was an alternative underground club which was in the city, literally underground. It was a basement parking where they started this club. So back to my story. Bangsar has always been the pre-club. People would meet up in Bangsar around 9-10 after dinner, they would have a few drinks and they will move on on to Backroom and a few other clubs in KL. We started off pretty good. We played more soulful house. Tunes to get the party people started to the night before they get more serious into the music, so we played a lot of deep house, soulful house back then.
– Were are you using the CDJs already?
– We were using records! Vinyls all the way, so back then CDs were a very small market, especially when it comes to the house music. We were buying lots of records back then.
– There were records stores in Kuala Lumpur?
– There were! Not to say big record stores like HMV in the UK or something like that. There was a few record stores. But then how I got my records was: I would usually go online and communicate with certain record stores like Black Market Records or Plastic Fantastic in the UK.
– Have you been to Black Market? I did buy a few vinyls there, that was exciting.
– I would communicate with them, then I would make a lot friends who work in the airlines like Malaysian Airlines. I would place an order and then they will go collect for me. So back then FedEx and DHL were a bit too expensive.
– So you had friends is the cabin crew?
– How convenient!
– Yes, that’s how it started. And there were a few records stores in KL.
– Are there any now?
– No, not anymore. Excessive records – they used to sell vinyls. Jungle Jerry used to have his own records store. There was a few smaller ones, but those were really small, you can’t compare to the ones in UK or the rest of the world back in the days. I’m sure right now in UK if you go to record stores, they are all very small because the market is very niche.
– So you were playing in Bangsar and from there it moved on to bigger clubs?
– Yes, bigger clubs, residences here in there. Met a couple of friends who were in the same direction of music and shared the same goals: we wanted to do more parties we wanted to have more nights. So from there, from Bangsar, the club was called Echo, then we moved to bigger clubs in KL, more serious clubs in KL. And we used to have the odd nights, the Wednesday nights, the Thursday nights because on the weekends the had their own resident DJs. And most of those nights we were very successful. We promoted them well, and from there we had more parties in other clubs as well. Wednesday night here, Thursday night there and then weekend gigs here and there, so from there it got really busy.
– What were the main places of those days? Are there still around, these clubs?
– There was one club called «Nuvo» on Jalan P Ramlee near Beach Club and Thai Club. They had really good house nights there, a lot of big DJs like Carl Cox, lots of gigs there. Then there was a club right opposite called «Emporium». And down the street there was a club called Atmosphere. Back in the days before Zouk opened it was the super club. They had a few rooms in there.
– None of these places is around anymore, right?
– No, not anymore. All has changed. There has been a lot of progressions. I will call it progressions in a different phases when it comes to the Malaysian clubbing scene.
– And after that you were asked to design the Ministry of Sound outlet in Kuala Lumpur?
– Not fully design. I was part of the management to kick-start the whole thing. I was there during the construction stages. We did put a lot of ideas into it.
– Which year was that?
– 2007 I would say. The guy who got me the gig in the Ministry of Sound, he was also one of the founders of house music in Malaysia. He doesn’t live here anymore. He moved to Australia – Jungle Jerry. I’m sure you heard his name. He was also one of the pioneer DJs of the Backroom, the guy who made Backroom, so he got me the gig in the Ministry of Sound, he was he was the resident DJ, and also helped on the marketing side of Ministry of Sound.
– So that club really opened up! There was a Ministry of Sound in Kuala Lumpur?
– Yeah. It was called “Euphoria by Ministry of Sound”. Initially they wanted to call it “Ministry of Sound”. But MOS has certain criteria – I think you need have to have five rooms, a certain capacity. So they gave us a sub-brand called “Euphoria”. But you can still carry the logo of the Ministry of Sound. It was quite a big club with, I would say, one of the best sound systems.
– I hear the dance floor was vibrating.
– They designed the whole dance floor on rubber points. There were 22 double-18″ Martin Audio subs right around the dance floor. So when the bass kicks you, it really kicks you all the way – you feel it in your heart.
– From beneath. From underground.
– So if you find the sweet spot in the dance floor, it just sounds amazing. You can dance for hours.
– So bad I missed this place.
– It shut down for a few years already – in 2010.
– So only for three years they were operating. They never found enough crowd.
– There was a lot of good nights. Probably things just didn’t work out.
– Did they come with a musical policy? If you carry a name like a “Ministry of Sound” I guess that you have to comply to some kind of musical directions.
– During the beginning there was a strict music policy. Being selected to play in the “Ministry of Sound”, to be one of the Residents, carries a high responsibility and credibility as well. Not any Tom Dick and Harry could just be part of that. But then again there were a few changes in terms of the music policy. I left after 1.5 years because they were going in a different direction. But I did have a lot of good times there.
– I can imagine! To have a sound system like that to play on – that alone must be very rewarding.
– Very! Coming from the KL scene where not many clubs pay attention to what the DJ wants.
– And that club was actually built around the audio system.
– Exactly. The guy who got the sound right, Austin, he was from New York. He was the light jockey in «Studio 54». He came a long way. He set up the whole system. I saw the process of him setting it up. It was mind blowing, the technology he brought in. It was definitely state of the art for KL. But it wasn’t a stadium sound system but it was functional and it was effective.
– You’re looking back at 15 years of House Music DJ scene in Kuala Lumpur. How do you see the development?
– There were definitely a lot of phases in a house music. I’ve seen many trends that keep changing just like in the rest of the world as well. There was the Soulful House period and then there was a Minimal period. It reaches out to all kinds of electronic music that was going through the Minimal phase. Then it changed to more Indie, went a bit more electro. Now it’s the whole EDM phase, which I think is slowly fading out already. Then you can hear more NuDisco. Disco coming back which is more organic and very interesting, because that’s where I’m more familiar at. So I mean in terms of the local market – it’s always changing, constant progression, there are always new things. Then again there’s always a limitation where the radio stations are. The mass market is educated by the local radio stations. Besides the fact that they favour commercial music, the radio station start to play more EDM because that’s globally more acceptable and the local market tends to follow that trend. For the other niche house music genres when it comes to Techno, Tech-House and Drum’n Bass, there has always been that scene, but not as big as commercial music. I would say it has a really active and strong but small market.
– If you can actually say there’s quality music, would you say that quality music is rising or do you see a development towards more commercial music?
– It’s developing definitely. I wouldn’t say it’s regressing. It’s getting bigger. Three years ago if you were going to Changkat, everything was the same. If you walked into Zouk four instance, every room was the same thing. And like a mentioned to you earlier Aristo started to have their strict music policy where is more about underground music, more of a breather. And if you see Changkat, if you go down to Mesui (Jalan Mesui – a street in Changkat) it’s completely different than the main street in Changkat. And right now, I can gladly say if you want to go out and have a good night, there’s options to go to. If you have guest around you can ask them «what kind of music would you like?». Even if they say «I like techno music», «oh, I got a place for you to go». It might not be packed, but we have options. Let’s say the SLA boys (Sound Love Affair – a rather popular underground house DJ collective) are playing – so let’s go there. We will find really good music there.
– If someone came from overseas and wanted to see the best places in KL right now – where would you bring him?
– I would bring him to Jalan Mesui, where Clavera is, Nagaba and Pisco. I would bring him there definitely.
– So that’s the hot sport in KL right now.
– Yeah, obviously it depends on who and what else is happening around. Aristo for example: Shazz and Terence C have their shit going on there. So is pretty interesting.
– So there is life in Kuala Lumpur!
– Definitely. There has always been life. A lot of people complain that there is no quality music in KL. I would say there is! It’s whether you get yourself out or not. Many people just want to see quality international DJs while there are so many good local DJs, who are equally as good when it comes to delivering good music.
– The question is: are the people going?. I agree that there’s a lot of good music in Kuala Lumpur but I tend to see the crowd not being huge for these events.
– That’s what I mean. Like I said – when a big international underground DJ comes down, I hear are a lot of people coming up to me and say: I’ve been waiting to hear this for so long!” And I say: we play this kind of shit every week!
– Yeah but it’s just labeled differently and it’s not good enough.
– Exactly. We play this stuff every week, man! You just should get your ass out and stop complaining!
– That’s true. A lot of people just go by brands and when somebody from overseas comes in it has to be good and when the same music is being played by a local person, all of a sudden it’s not that great. It’s a bit schizophrenic. So there is a good music in Kuala Lumpur. Now for the DJs out there, what was your breaking point? How would you describe what made your career take off? Was it a singular event or a singular person or singular thing that you started to do?
– Nothing singular. It’s got to be a team, friends, and the people that I work with, which contributed. I was growing with a team. We started the same common goal. So back in the day there was a collective called Obsession Events. It consisted of me, Azran, Alam, and a few others as well. Azran and Alam are still active in the scene. Alam Shah runs Ohrwurm right now. Azran is more or less like a club owner. He owns Nagaba. Everyone has gone in separate directions but we are still very good friends. I owe a lot to them as we worked together to make it happen. This was 2003 / 2004. We were good friends. Of course we were partying a lot and and we threw a lot of good parties together.
– That’s good to hear. So you not just made it for yourself, you made it in a team. Everybody was contributing and that’s how it grew. Maybe something like SLA right now – Sound Love Affair. I think they are a solid team who are doing very well right now.
– They have their really good nights in Pisco – I’ve bee to few of their nights.
– So in your case it was the team play that made you grow, that made you connect to a lot of people, that made you know the club owners and your strategy was to enter the odd nights in clubs and make them successful.
– Of course. But then the odd night were what was offered to us. Once the club owners had confidence in us, they offered us the weekends as well.
– So what does the future like for you, Victor? Where is it going?
– I’m doing a lot of things right now. I’m busy doing events which is my key day job right now. The last three years I’ve been very busy. Of course music wise, my DJing wise, I wouldn’t say it has taken the back seat. My DJing has been pretty active but not as much as before. Certain priorities that needed to be set straight in certain areas. Looking at KL market there are so many things, so many choices. I let the new boys handle most of the scene right now and I just regulate and I try to get more into the management part of it, the business side.
– Are you happy with that?
– So far, so good. I am very selective of what I play and where I play right now.
– That’s a luxury to be able to be selective and to choose what you like to do.
– Of course, definitely. Obviously, I do plan to get back into the studio again. Back to production. Right now I try to make more music. And since I’m in the events line, the management part in terms of execution – that’s one of the key points in the future.
– Are you looking outside of Malaysia as well? Are you looking at South East Asia?
– Definitely. I keep options always opened.
– You just came back from Europe. You have been to Amsterdam, to Berlin doing stuff over there. Is that where you are looking to do more?
– Definitely. In the future. Next year. Probably making another trip down there next year.
– Yeah, we can go to together – I speak German. Ok, Victor. Thank you very much for having you. We’ve learned a lot about Kuala Lumpur, the music scene here, all the best for you and your future and talk to you next time.
– Thank you, You too.
More about Victor Goh: Sounscloud, MixCloud
Interview by DanoEF