The nu-disco genre is considered rather obscure in Kuala Lumpur’s music scene. But with a career spanning close to a decade, DANGERDISKO has done a decent job establishing itself as one of the pioneers of the nu-disco sound in the scene.
What made them stick to the ever-evolving genre was the funky beats that evoked the nostalgia of our childhood, much like how their bootleg remix of Malaysia’s jazz legend Dato’ Sheila Majid song “Sinaran” became a certified bop at every single gig that they’ve played.
Little do many know, the duo, comprising of Shaheed Naz (Shah) and Farez Khan aka Robotron 5000, had dabbled a little with hip-hop and rock before they found their signature sound. Earlier in March this year, the 2 even transcended the nu-disco genre by venturing into the R&B genre with “Free”, their collaboration single with Kuala Lumpur-based American jazz artist Q Sound. The song was their first single since releasing their debut album “Hedonism” 3 years ago. Unlike the tunes in “Hedonism”, “Free” is an alluring groovy downtempo R&B track that is laced with their eclectic disco sound.
Before taking over one of the dance floors at Good Vibes Festival 2018 with their highly anticipated live set, we spoke to the dynamic duo about the nu-disco genre, their recent venture into R&B and what their fans can expect from their special live set.
Together with Q Sound, you experimented with R&B to produce “Free”. We read in an interview that both of you actually started out with R&B and hip hop when you were in high school. When did you decide to experiment with synth wave and nu disco?
Farez: Not a lot of people know that piece of history about us. I started out DJ-ing and MC-ing for a hip-hop group called 69 Neighbourhood in the early 2000s. Shaheed was producing some trip-hop stuff, so the basis for our love of R&B and hip-hop has always been there. However, being a fan of music in general, we never limited myself to one style of music. I hung out with so many kids from different subcultures and scenes, that I started absorbing all these different interests. I even started a rock band in high school and worked at a record store in my teens! Shaheed and I were always experimenting with different styles of electronic music; at one point we both were producing drum n’ bass and 2 step garage. It wasn’t until 2007-2008 that we discovered nu-disco and synth-wave that we realised we have found our signature sound, and it all really began from there.
Shaheed Naz: I started listening to electronic music since I was 14 (thanks to CNN for highlighting the upcoming music scene back then). That was when I got to know Techno, House, Drum and Bass, Garage, Left Field etc. Around the time I started hanging out with Farez, we were constantly exchanging knowledge of music and most of the time we would hang out at each other’s homes and bring a CD filled with unknown and upcoming artists (mostly chill out music, neo soul, lounge music). It was really in 2008 that was when we discovered nu disco. The music brings up the nostalgia of our childhood, and it really melts our soul when we listen to those 80s synths piercing through those awesome melodies. I can even feel it now by just saying it. That’s when we decided to venture into that route.
If someone is new to the nu-disco genre, which local or international acts would you introduce them to?
F: So many to name, but if you’d put a gun to my head; I’d name 3 acts: Oliver, Lenno and The Knocks.
S: For me I would say Anoraak.
Some artists, such as Damon Albarn and Radiohead, are known for their sound and music style change during their careers. Was it a conscious decision for you guys to evolve from the R&B sound to keep up with the changing music industry?
F: I wouldn’t say it was a conscious decision, however after doing 10 years of the same genre, we started to grow tired of the genre and was looking outwards for inspiration.
S: We love to experiment with different sounds and genres, we do love what we’re known for but sometimes is best to explore different things. Ultimately, this helps us to expand our creativity and who knows, probably one day we’ll get to create a new genre of our own.
These days, you play to packed dance floors. However, in the past, you must have had your fair share of playing to smaller audiences and half-empty rooms. What have you learnt from these experiences along the way?
F: Contrary to popular belief, DJ-ing isn’t all about playing music. It’s also building a brand; understanding what the public wants, networking, graphic design, branding, marketing and a whole bunch of other stuff. We learned it all on our own, making mistakes along the way, learning from them and most importantly; keeping in pulse with the music. You can be the best DJ in the whole world, but if you don’t build a brand that goes with it, you’re screwed.
S: Yes, there was a time when we were literally playing in an empty club, with the only person on the floor was the janitor, mopping. Determination is the key and don’t give up easily. There will always be challenges ahead of you, and both of us knew nothing comes that easy; we had to crawl before we could walk. It takes time to gain awareness in the market; a lot of sacrifices have been made. The key is to always remain humble and grounded.
Could you take us through the process of preparing for one of your sets? For instance, how do you select your tracks, how do you prepare or decide on the opening phase of your set?
F: It’s important to understand the tracks that you have, and the emotion they invoke. We rarely ever plan our sets, and we always play by ear and play with the crowd’s emotion, so in that sense, the bunch of tracks you bring to the gig plays an important role. Getting the right vibe is like a moving target, and the key to nailing it is broken down to how you understand the crowd.
What I usually do, is identify one or two key people in the crowd, and try to make them move. Get them to start tapping their toes, bob their heads a bit. Eventually if your music vibes with them, their whole body will move. That’s why it’s even harder when you play huge festivals, as you are so disconnected with the crowd of thousands and you can’t hone in into just one person. The bigger the platform, the harder it is. It’s definitely a skill.
S: Well my biggest concern is always to make sure all our hardware is properly connected and synced to the software! Our goal is to set an experience for listener to feel as they are brought through a journey throughout the set.
What can we expect from your set at Good Vibes Festival 2018? (Hope you’ll drop your remix of Sheila Majid’s “Sinaran” on the dancefloor!)
F: It’s gonna be exciting as we’ll be playing a live set – meaning we’ll be literally performing with synths and sampling stations live on stage! We’ve gotten support from our friends at Roland Asia Pacific who have been kind enough to provide us with some magical sounding gears. We’ve never done anything like this before- well, not at this scale, so it would be a totally new and uncharted territory for us. We’ll also have some guest performances and premiering some new music. As for the “Sinaran” remix, I guess you guys just got to stick around and see if we do drop it! It’s gonna be loads of fun, don’t forget to check us out on Sunday, 22nd July!
Good Vibes Festival 2018 will take place on 21st and 22nd July at The Ranch, Gohtong Jaya, Genting Highlands. The festival is open to those aged 18 and above. Early Bird passes are going for RM 330, Phase 1 passes for RM 360, Phase 2 passes for RM 380, and Phase 3 passes for RM 400. All passes will include entry to both days. Find out the full line-up and ticketing info here.
*Interview by Adrina Hoi.