Interview for KARJALAINEN (national newspaper of Finland)

1. Your stage name is DJ Angelo, but what is your real name? You were born in Burma, but raised in UK. Where in UK have you lived?

My real name is Angelo Tun. I used to have a pretty ridiculous stage name when I first started out but when I won my second national DJ title in 2003, I just announced my name as Angelo. So I’ve been DJ ANGELO ever since. Sometimes I wish I thought of something more creative 🙂 Especially as there are other DJ Angelo’s out there – but only 1 that matters 😉

I was born in Burma (now known as Myanmar) and emigrated to England when I was 8 months old. My family moved around to wherever my dad could find work so I lived everywhere from London to Scotland, but spent most of my life in the Midlands (Derby, Nottingham, Leicester). I currently reside between England and Germany.

2. How did you become a DJ in the first place? On your Facebook page, it says that your first turntables were homemade. What’s their story, and when were they made? Do you still own those turntables?

I’ve always loved music, so from a young age, I was looking for an outlet for this passion. I tried traditional instruments like guitar and keyboard but didn’t connect with them. I then discovered DJ culture when I started buying mixtapes from a local record store, and a friend of mine showed me his turntables one day after school. I was hooked immediately and knew I had to explore DJing further. I already owned records and would mess around on my parents hifi when they weren’t looking but knew I needed my own setup. I didn’t have a clue what gear to buy and didn’t think my parents would support it so I saved whatever I could from a weekend job working in a kitchen. Then one day as I walked home from school, I saw some turntables in the window of an electronics store for only £25 each! I couldn’t believe how cheap they were so I bought them immediately. I soon discovered why they were so cheap. What I had actually bought was not complete turntables 😕 They were only spare parts for a twin deck DJ coffin – basically only the top layer of a turntable. No base, no cables, and no means of powering them. I was so determined to make it work somehow so soldered RCA cables and a multi-voltage mains plug onto the circuit board, then built a base for each turntable from scrap wood and gaffer tape! Once I’d bought needles, a small boombox, and some house records – I was ready to go. Soon after I started watching the World DMC DJ Championships on VHS and my focus switched to hiphop and Turntablism. I struggled but managed to teach myself to DJ on this rudimentary setup over a few years and later sold the turntables to some friends when I went to university. I wish I’d still kept them but last year I managed to find another pair and will restore them for nostalgic reasons.

3. How hard was is it to become the DJ and ”International Party Rocker” you are today? What have been the biggest obstacles in your career?

I’d say the biggest obstacle in building a DJ career (and any entrepreneurial pursuit) is maintaining a cashflow while you’re still developing. Nothing came easily and I’ve earned every bit of my success the hard way. I still do. By 2005, I’d walked out of a soul-destroying job in finance to focus on my true passion but had to find ways to survive without my regular monthly wage. I managed to find gigs here and there, and somehow fell into a side-hustle of teaching DJing for government-funded music projects around the UK. This helped supplement my income and in doing so, I discovered I had a natural ability for teaching. Over the course of 4 years, I became a leading music project coordinator for various different clients and youth institutions. I continued to hone my craft at home and proved myself in public at various club residencies and DJ battles, but what I really yearned was to travel and entertain everyone, not only UK audiences. I posted mixtapes and emailed 100s of clubs around the world but no one ever replied 😞 I relied on my abilities and local reputation to be given a chance but hadn’t understood the value of global marketing and branding myself internationally at this stage. In my frustration, I kept working and being productive and after discovering YouTube in 2008, I decided to put my teaching experience to use by making my own easy-to-follow Turntablism Tutorials, filling a much needed void online. To cut a long story short, these humble home-made videos unexpectedly caught the attention of a lot of people worldwide, and I’ve since built a global following, expanding on my teacher status to that of an international entertainer, DJ coach, brand ambassador, and strategic consultant.

4. In your opinion, do modern DJ’s get the respect they deserve? I suppose the golden days of disco elevated the status of DJ’s, but what is the situation today? Has social media elevated the status of DJ’s?

I think right now the recognition of DJs is at an all-time high judging by the abundance of electronic music festivals and their audience sizes that rival those that attend concerts of famous bands. But whether this truly represents DJ culture is questionable. With any industry, there is a corporatised and commercialised side and what you see at these major events is usually producers and hitmakers doing very little in the way of “live DJing”. So although everyone knows about DJs, perhaps the real artform is misunderstood and the more authentic, skill-based aspect of the culture is perhaps not given enough credit. This is something I try to raise awareness for.

It’s clear that DJing is no longer a new thing anymore and the route to entry has become so low that there’s no longer much mystique or excitement about the profession. With more supply than there is demand, it’s truly become survival of the hardest working, most adaptable, and most marketable. Digital technology is a blessing and a curse – it brings so much convenience and innovation possibilities but has also attracted a generation of “lifestyle” DJs who can quickly and casually join the culture without any real passion or the previous expenses of the vinyl era. Social media is also a double-edged sword as it has made it possible for anyone to market themselves internationally for free and possibly achieve a level of fame and success by hiding behind clever and glamorous content. I don’t get too caught up in what others are doing, or who’s real and who isn’t. I just focus on doing what I do to the best of my ability and try to stay competitive. We all have the same tools at our disposal so it’s a case of working smart too, not only hard.

5. Do you face remarks such as ”DJ’s are not real musicians” or ”DJ’s do not make their own music”?

It’s an outdated argument that I don’t hear so much nowadays, and if I’m completely honest, it can often be true. The term “DJ” is pretty broad these days and everyone has a different definition of it based on what they’ve been exposed too. If the majority of people have only been exposed to DJs who merely play other people’s music with zero performance ability, then I can’t blame them for being unimpressed about our whole culture. But as I said, DJ culture is deep and full of incredible artists who create and perform original and complex pieces of music, both in the studio and live on stage. Artists who can create powerful and memorable experiences using a combination of music curation knowledge, technical skill, and human psychology. That to me is DJing. We just need to make this movement louder and hopefully attract just as big audiences for it as our more corporatised counterparts.

6. What makes the show by DJ Angelo stand out from the rest?

The perfect DJ set is my goal and is always a work in progress. I really try to bring as much entertainment as I can to a DJ show. Party-rocking selections for the dance floor, fusing some familiar sounds with some lesser known credible tracks, and with hiphop at the heart of it all. As 1 part DJ and 1 part turntablist, I also bring live performance aspects for spectators who like to see a DJ really working the turntables. It’s not so common nowadays and audiences are perhaps no longer used to seeing it, but I’m all about capturing a raw, fun, almost-house-party-like vibe each time I play. And at the end of my set, I really hope that my audience understood the arc of the selections and feel like they’ve been somewhere with me through the music.

7. What DJ’s do you admire? What artists have been your biggest influences?

I’m influenced by DJs who have very rounded skills to a high level and are also great selectors. No one-trick ponies! DJs who really live the culture and have carved their own path. Such as Jazzy Jeff, DJ Craze, DJ Kentaro, Four Color Zack, and Shortkut. Originality and identity is what I’m all about.

8. What has been the highlight of you career? Why that specific achievement?

Finding my way back to Yangon (my city of birth) through DJing. It was special on so many levels – I finally discovered my roots in person, and had a deep feeling of connection and satisfaction because by following my passion, this had eventually led me back home.

9. On your press pack, it is stated, that you work also as a brand consultant. What does that mean, and what companies have you consulted? With what does a company need help of DJ Angelo?

I’m always interested in collaborating with brands, even those outside of DJ culture because it allows me to flex my other creative skills and work in different capacities. Likewise, I believe brands are also looking for cross promotion opportunities from tastemakers, so everyone can benefit. For example I’ve previously curated and produced a concept mix for Joshua’s Magazine and Bentley Motors, a podcast for Ape To Gentlemen, I’ve written and starred in a Fashion-meets-Turntablism campaign for River Island, I’m currently Chief of Strategy for Reloop, and my work is also soon to appear in a museum in Brazil and a documentary in Japan. I was even approached by Google a few years back regarding a campaign for YouTube.

10. How long do you plan on working as a professional DJ, producer and consultant?

I plan to keep doing whatever makes me happy. Of course, not everything is sustainable, such as the gruelling international touring however, I have many interests and skills in other areas of the industry so I’ll be sure to stay busy. I’m already gradually transitioning into more of a entrepreneur who DJs. I’m sure there will be a time when I no longer want to be the guy on stage or in the clubs, and perhaps I’ll move more into a coaching or management role to develop other artists. There’s always teaching too. Who knows!? After years of experience building my own career and brand with very little help or resources, I’ve naturally picked up a lot of skills along the way that can be applied to many businesses.

11. I suppose you travel a lot. How consuming is the life of DJ Angelo? How and how often do you unwind?

I’ve been touring consistently for the past 5 or 6 years, often for 1-2 months at a time. It’s an incredible privilege to be able to see the world in this way but I also push myself to deliver on every single show and DJ workshop with the same energy and commitment. But what people might not realise is how draining it can be to always “be on” and alert for an entire tour, sleeping irregularly, constantly being in transit, and spending a lot of time alone with no familiar comforts. All of these things can take a physical and psychological toll. Additional challenges include understanding the cultural differences and musical tastes of many different places having never been there before. I’m usually pretty burned out after a month on the road and miss my own bed. When I’m off tour, I try to detox my body with good food, quality sleep, and exercise. And plenty of time on my couch playing PS4 or Netflix! My mantra has always been “work hard, chill hard”.

12. You have a show in Joensuu, Finland, on Friday evening. Have you been to Finland before? What is your impression on Finnish artists and the music industry in general?

I had a great show in Joensuu 2 years ago, and have also played fun parties in Lahti and Kuopio. I’ve always felt very comfortable and welcomed in Finland. Laidback, open-minded people who party hard and have a taste for less commercial music, such as drum & bass, and breakbeats. I don’t often get to dip into this section of my crates so I always look forward to my Finnish shows. Finland is also a beautiful country with the freshest air and cleanest water 👍

13. How do you see the future of say, electronic music, and DJ’s? What is the next trend in music?

In my immediate sector, I think DJ needles will become a thing of the past as a new technology has just emerged (called Phase) which allows us to continue using turntables for mixing and scratching etc, without a needle to make physical contact on the vinyl. This could be the end of major problems that are associated with using turntables, such as bass feedback, needle-skipping etc.

Also, it’s already started to happen, but a lot of people are predicting the end of MP3s and other digital files so perhaps in the near future, DJs will be performing with only streamed music. This idea scares me a little though and I’m not ready to say goodbye to MP3s (or vinyl for that matter)!

And on a personal note, I’m hoping that popular DJ shows will sway back towards authentic live performances, perhaps with other live musicians and vocalists. For example, I really like what A-Trak is doing with his Fools Gold Day Off events. I just feel that these big stage EDM “glorified light shows” are no longer fooling anyone as legit live performances. Perhaps audiences are starting to have their fill of it already. I’m hoping so anyway. I think society in general is yearning more authenticity – less filters, more rough edges.

14. What is you biggest goal for the year 2018?

This year, my goal is to be more entrepreneurial and to be more creative for the sake of just being creative. I was hardly at home last year due to many tours and business trips which meant I had less time to think creatively about what I’m trying to put out and the artist I’m trying to be. Art and business is always a tough balancing act but after such a hectic 2017, I want to try get back to the studio, back to the turntables, and in touch with why I started doing all of this in the first place. Hopefully I’ll have something(s) to show for it by the end of this year.


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