DJ Octo is a well known name in the club scene in Bangkok. He took some time to venture into the daylight hours to chat with NileGuide about how he came to the turntables, to Bangkok, and… to monkhood? Find out what one of Bangkok’s finest DJs recommends for the best of Bangkok nightlife.
How did you become a DJ?
I started playing music when I was very young. At four years old I wanted to be a concert pianist. I was in bands from the age of 14, and spent a while as a professional musician.Then went into advertising. I started DJing just for fun really, while I was in the band. In 1998, I got my first residency in a place called KuNana**(?)* in Reading, a chain of Moroccan-themed clubs. I became full time when I moved here.
Being a musician how did you give up an instrument and move to the turntable?
I didn’t give it up; I still play obviously. But I know what you mean. I had a love for a lot of music that it would be very difficult for you to play like that. I love hip hop. When I was playing in the band it was more rock and roll sort of stuff. There’s a different sound from electronic music. I just think it was very exciting. I just did it for fun really and I got hooked. It’s a very different concept from playing your own music to then sort of playing other people’s music to make it your own. And it’s just you as well. So it’s kind of a selfish kind of attitude.
What brought you to Bangkok?
I came here to be a monk. It doesn’t make sense with what I do now really, in some ways.
I’d been studying Buddhism for a long time in the UK. I’d really gotten into this specific kind of meditation called Samata which originates in Thailand.
I got fed up with working in advertising and wanted to get back into music. I was going to get back into playing guitar. So I bought myself a very fancy Canadian handmade guitar, a Larrivee Parlor guitar. I asked my teacher if I could come out here and be a monk for a month before I went off and traveled. Four months I spent in temples in Bangkok and throughout Isaan.
Does that affect your DJing?
I’m sure it does somehow. I couldn’t say. The strange thing with DJing is that – which I guess is me regressing – is when I was playing guitar in the band, I couldn’t drink or do anything before I played, and I actually meditated before I played. It was a different sort of energy. But being a DJ I can be absolutely drunk out of my mind and still somehow manage to play. The approach is a lot simpler in some ways.What do you like about it?
I get asked How can I start doing it? or What’s the best way in? I always tell them, you’ve got to love music. That’s just the key thing for anyone. The technique can be learned. Mixing or scratching or doing any of that stuff is basically the easy part. The difficult part is the psychology of it. Reading the crowd. Predicting the right music to elevate their mood. That’s the exciting part I think, really, playing in front of people. You’re really relying on them as well. Like in any band or in sports, when the audience is behind you, and the fans are there cheering you on, that raises your levels.
When you see people having a really good time and really responding well to what you’re playing? That’s a great buzz. It feels terrible when it doesn’t work as well. When you get it wrong, it’s horrible. You go home and you’re hating yourself. But when it goes well it’s great. If you can choose the order of music to play, surprise people, and give them a really good night out, that’s the essence of the art.
What’s a perfect night out for you in BKK?
I really like the open-air places. I like being in the middle of this tropical city and having nature. I quite like those places down by the river, a lot of those Thai places.
Part of the reason of being here is it’s difficult to have a beer or go out; back in the UK you need to time it very well otherwise you’re freezing. I like watching some of the great DJs coming here and spinning as well. Maybe go have dinner or drinks with friends, or a beer garden something like that.
When I’m DJing I love the crowd to be packed and going crazy in front of me. But I don’t like being in that crowd. I’m not claustrophobic, but I hate being in the middle of a packed crowd. I’d rather be sitting down and relaxing.What are you favorite clubs to go to?
Bed Supperclub, Q Bar. These places are like my home. I’m lucky to work with two of what I think are Bangkok’s best clubs. They’ve done so much for the scene here in Bangkok. They’ve brought in so much talent from overseas in terms of the international artists. When I first started playing at Bed in 2003, it wasn’t really the concept. Paul Oakenfold would come to Narcissus and he’d come every year, but it was more an annual thing. Now one night you have Krafty Kuts or a couple weeks before, Boy George. That kind of stuff didn’t happen 6 or 7 years ago.
Thai clubs don’t need that as much because it is a different kind of socializing. I do like a lot of the Thai clubs. All the trendy places down on Thonglor. Soi 10 you’ve got Demo. Muse and Funky Villa and those places. They are cool clubs, but they tend to be full regardless of whether there are international artists there or not. Well, 808 has done a good job too.
But my clubs would be Bed and Q Bar. I am an expat at the end of the day. So I like I like fine wine and drink and not necessarily sharing a bottle with my friends standing around a table. My music taste isn’t necessarily Thai as well. There is a kind of shortage of places for expats to go out and club.
Favorite places to work?
I’ve got a rapport with the crowd now; I’ve been working there for years and years. People have an expectation of what I do so I don’t have to sort of build our relationship from scratch again which is something quite difficult. I’ve DJed in different places around Asia as well, Whenever you go there you kind of want to do your thing but you end up sometimes having to do what’s more predictable. The crowds at Q Bar give me a lot of space to do I want to do.
Where can you catch DJ Octo? Friday nights at Bed Supperclub, Saturday nights at /destination/bangkok/bars-and-clubs/q-bar/327198.