Saturday, 29 June 2013 00:00
A banker by day and a DJ by night, Dilruk Wickremasinghe has been DJing for 13 years and today he is one of Sri Lanka’s top DJs. In 2001, he won the Best DJ Award at the Interact Grammys 2001 and later on won the title as ‘The Denon 2006 DJ of the Year’. He has been the resident DJ at famous clubs in the country such as Clancy’s and was one of founding DJs of H2O and Mojo.
A professional in more ways than one, Dilruk started DJing at the age of 16, right after he finished his O/Levels after a very brief stint as the man in charge of music at a cousin’s friend’s party. Back then when we had cassettes and limited CDs, DJing was more of a skill than it is today. Dilruk revealed that he played music off those old music devices one after the other, picking music that would go with the next song.
So who discovered his talent? In a phone interview with Dilruk, the Weekend FT traces his story on how he was found, his career and his opinions on the music industry in Sri Lanka.
By Rashika Fazali
Following are the excerpts of the interview:
Q: What made you want to pursue DJing?
A: It was the satisfaction of making people dance for my music. It’s what drives me.
Q: You mentioned that someone discovered you. Who was this gentleman?
A: At my cousin’s friend’s party, there was a DJ who recognised me and asked me whether I would learn how to DJ with actual DJ gear. He was Himal Perera. I got the opportunity to play around professional gear. He taught me the basics, mixing and sound balance and even hooking up systems – you know all the techy stuff.
Q: Did you have the slightest idea that you would become a DJ one day?
A: I did not know I would end up like this, but I come from a very musically family. My father was a singer in a band. My mother was also a singer in the same band as well. My sister is a professional Latino dancer. So music is in my blood. And I don’t believe in coincidence. I think being a DJ was ordained.
Q: Do you play any instruments?
A: Unfortunately I do not play any instrument. I wish I could play the saxophone.
Q: Could you define the music that you play?
A: I started off as an R&B DJ and later on I switched genres. Now I mostly play tech house, techno and progressive. I’ve actually started liking progressive electro and right now I am experimenting that. There is a possibility I might add it to my list of genres that I am playing.
Q: Most DJs play music that they don’t like. Do you operate the same way?
A: I make sure that I like the music I am playing. As a DJ, yes we usually don’t get to play the music we like because our primary job is to entertain the crowd. But I believe that if you don’t like what you play, you won’t be passionate about what you do. So, I am pretty much open for new music.
Q: What is your take on dubstep music which is popularly growing? Will you maybe play it one day?
A: It is huge in US and in Canada, maybe a little in Europe. There are a few followers in Sri Lanka, but I think it’ll take some time to get there. I don’t see myself playing now, but later maybe. It still hasn’t reached the pinnacle as yet like the other genres, at least in Sri Lanka.
Q: Could you tell us about your gigs?
A: I’ve played at Hikka Fest, for some VVIPs which I can’t mention and played with a few foreign artistes as well. I’ve performed in the Maldives too. I performed last Friday for the World Music Day. There are so many gigs I’ve performed at.
Q: What is your favourite club to play in?
A: My favourite club I would like to play in is Mojo although it is no longer there. I loved the setting and the atmosphere of Mojo, how the DJ was highlighted in that place, the good view of the dance floor and how easy it was to interact with the people.
Q: You mentioned that you use Serato, which is a software used for digital DJing. What made you switch to digital?
A: For me it was the convenience factor. It wasn’t practical burning CDs for the gigs we were doing. There was a huge traffic coming in with the internet opening up. It cost us more than Rs. 1,000 to get a maximum of 15 to 17s songs and professional music was also very limited. We used to treasure that music and the CDs for a long time. The value of a track has depreciated because there is more free access. It became very easy to handle and I believe in moving with technology. If you don’t get onto the train of technology, you will be left behind.
Q: Why was Asylum Corp Productions closed down?
A: All of us were working and studying and we all had our differences, so we took our individual paths. It was a success though, but we couldn’t cope up with it.
Q: Who are your favourite artistes?
A: I love LL Cool J, Montell Jordan, Martin Solveig, Eric Prydz and Daft Punk. I’ve always loved music by Roger Sanchez and even Sonique.
Q: What is current favourite track?
A: I am currently hooked on Daft Punk’s new album. I am in love with that, specifically in love with one song from the album called ‘Lose Yourself To Dance’.
Q: How does it work being a banker and a DJ?
A: Being a DJ didn’t look good as a career. It was good as entertainment. I didn’t look at it as a fulltime occupation. Today, there are more opportunities. You are looking at global opportunities. Most DJs are paid well today. 13 years back it didn’t look like a good plan. I’ve been in the banking industry for nine years.
Q: What is your take on the DJing industry in Sri Lanka?
A: There is a lot of technology used today. It requires minimum skill today to become a DJ. Skill wise, there are a lot of unskilled people making people dance. I wouldn’t say they are doing a bad job at making people dance. Technology has become a gateway. It has made becoming a DJ very easy. There are a lot of talented DJs coming up. People should watch out for them.
Q: Do you still have the old vinyl?
A: Yes of course! I’ve got a close to 100 playable vinyls and CDs maybe – old school vinyl. I treasure them very much.
Q: What do you feel about being one of the top DJs in Sri Lanka?
A: I am flattered. It’s nice to be pioneers in this industry. I hope they won’t ruin the industry that we have created with passion and that they will take it to a higher level and a global level.
Q: What are your future plans?
A: I haven’t reached the pinnacle yet. I hope to be a touring DJ one day where I am known on the global circuit and I would like to end my career at the pinnacle of my career. You leave the game while the players love you, not when they hate you.
Q: What is your advice to new DJs?
A: Please do it for the love of the music and for the passion and not for any other reason. If you have started for any other reason, it has to because you either got wasted or have a real bad family life right now or have no sense of value.