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Where do opposites attract? DJ and producer Dis Fig aka Felicia Chan mixes hip hop, grime and R&B with electronic avant-garde experimentation in an attempt at finding the answer to this question. From her rise on New York label Purple Tape Pedigree to the hosting of a Berlin radio show, Dis Fig explores the boundaries of a wide musical palette. We sat down with her to talk about her first encounter with dj’ing, the mixing of genres and how they can tell a story.
Interview by Matias Calderon
How did you start making music?
You know the typical Chinese daughter? That’s me. My parents wanted me to learn how to play the piano, and I got very into singing too for a while. When you grow up in that environment, you develop a sense of musicality, as if your ear gets some sort of training. Dj’ing came into the picture later, about when I started going to clubs in New York. I had quit music at that point, and borrowed a DJ controller from a friend to play around with. I loved it, and from there I started making mixes and playing at parties. It’s when I decided to move to Berlin that I took it all a bit more seriously.
I feel joy when I see the techno kids dance to hip hop and the hip hop kids dance to techno, being all ‘Oh shit, this is kind of good!’
A city like Berlin made you more serious about your work?
I wanted to explore. I had visited Berlin before and I thought it was incredible, especially its music scene. There aren’t many other places with such a strong cultural aura. It’s funny: most people come to Berlin to party but I feel like I came to Berlin to focus. People are always surprised, they are like ‘What? No one does that!’ There’s this joke in Berlin that every person you meet is a DJ. And it’s kind of true. We’re everywhere.
Your sets integrate so many genres. Is this a conscious decision?
I try to be as eclectic as I can with the genres I pick in my sets. I’ve never been the type of person who limits herself to liking only one. I hate that attitude. If the music is good, and it makes you feel good, you should appreciate a genre for what it is. I feel joy when I see the techno kids dance to hip hop and the hip hop kids dance to techno, being all ‘Oh shit, this is kind of good!’ It all depends on what context you’re putting the music into, and I want to prove that different genres can have the same energy.
When I’m mixing genres, I’m mixing the beats. It’s usually also when I discover two songs are actually not that different, and, for me, that’s when the magic happens. You probably noticed I don’t use a lot of tricks. I rarely even loop, because everything is centered on strategic selection. I focus more on the layering of one track to another rather than crazy transitions.
I like to live the moment and see what comes out of it, like a kind of an impromptu performance
Are your live sets different than the ones we can find on your SoundCloud?
Making a mix for parties, I only choose the track that opens the set and the one that closes it. The rest is just improvisation. I used to prepare sets more in advance but I realised that it takes the fun out of it, so now I just go with the flow, and feel the energy of the crowd. I like to live the moment and see what comes out of it. It’s kind of an impromptu performance. As for recorded sets, everything is planned, maybe too much to be honest. I spend a lot of time trying to get everything right, and trying to tell a story of emotion with it. I don’t want people to stay in one emotion, I want them to feel all of them. As if I take the listener’s hand and take him or her with me.
You have something specific in mind for this weekend?
In Brussels you can expect a powerful, emotional dj set. It’ll be quite intense, but I hope people will like it. I think I’m also moving into a noisier direction. I have a friend in New York for example, and he hasn’t seen me play since I left the city. I saw him over Summer and he described my new sound as ‘electronic dance music you can head bang to’. That’s pretty accurate! So maybe it’ll be something like that.
Dis Fig is playing Slagwerk at Recyclart, Brussels on 2 February. This event is free for members before 00.30. Join here.