Like us, Manfred Lim is a fan of DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s EDM manifesto, “Turn Down for What”. But he tells us that there’s a limit to how much he can tolerate it at the clubs. Now, this phenomenon of uninventive dance music is the very musical malaise that he’s emerged as the antidote to. As MYRNE, he’s responsible for a stunningly elastic imprint wherein the ‘future’ part of ‘future bass’ provides a deft explanation of his concerns. Culling from a host of sounds, he unveiled his debut EP Softsins late in 2015. On-trend but indubitably ahead of its time, it also came bearing the co-sign of Mad Decent honcho Diplo, who has long been astute about hitmaking, wave-making forces. More recently, he flipped the script on R. Kelly’s immortal copulation jam, “Ignition”,and showed us why the cutting-edge is better for his involvement. At the recent sea-faring party that was It’s The Ship 2016, we sat down with the intrepid wiz and received his State of The Union on contemporary dance music.
You’ve had a pretty phenomenal year. What would you say is one absolute highlight?
It would have to be travelling to parts of the world that I don’t normally visit. I had this one off day in Mongolia where I was playing a show with Henry Fong. We were in the mountains for four to five days with no Wi-Fi. There were a lot of heart-to-heart talks, to say the least. I remember one point, when I reflected that I was so far away from home and the accompanying realisation that I get to do this for a living, was mind-blowing.
Did Henry Fong have any words of wisdom for you?
Yes. He taught me a lot about longevity in the game. He’s been doing this for quite a while and he has a family, so he’s definitely got it right. His songs aren’t one-time hits, you know? The pressure to stay relevant in this industry is very real, but he doesn’t believe in caving in and pandering to what the crowd wants. He told me to stick to a certain outlook and have a cohesive sound – those two things are what’s worth striving for.
"Instead of choosing between 'DJ' or 'producer', I consider myself an artist. Making your music exclusive solidifies your artistry."
You’re both a DJ and a producer. At this point of your career, is there one field you identify with more?
I was in St. Andrews Junior College when I got my start doing both. I used to play a lot of chalet parties for a fee of $50 to $100, or just for alcohol. Back then, I’d just play other people’s songs, but it dawned on me that I had to step up my production if I wanted to do anything beyond JC parties. Later, when I played at these huge clubs, I didn't want to play songs that just anyone could play – I wanted to play special edits of my own songs that you can’t find anywhere else. That’s why, at this point, instead of choosing between “DJ” or “producer”, I consider myself an artist. Making your music exclusive solidifies your artistry.
There’s so much handwringing online about how millennials are diluting club culture. As a millennial yourself, what’s your stand on the issue?
I think that Asia’s still a little behind compared to other places. I tour Australia quite a lot and people go to the clubs there because of the artists. Some of them don’t even drink because they want to be sober to experience the music! But in places like Tokyo and Korea, club culture is centred on having a good time. If you forgo music, they’d still have a good time. I feel that not placing an emphasis on forward-thinking music stunts everyone’s growth, whether they’re artists or audiences. That’s why a sound that went viral in the US two years ago is now hot in this part of the world. I believe that a club experience should not be predictable.
What sort of preparation goes into your own live sets?
A whole lot of research. As a DJ, you can’t play the same set across 50 different dates. Every crowd has its specific likes and preferences, and the challenge is to merge my style with those without forcing anything – I always hold on to the MYRNE brand. When I started out playing music, everything was hard. I try to strive towards something that’s melodic and uplifting.
Lastly, having done quite a few interviews, what would you say is one question you despise being asked?
“Where do you get MYRNE from?” is something I really can’t stand. It shows that the journalist hasn’t done his or her research, even though I’ve answered this question 20 times!
Text: Indran P
Images: Various Sources