This Beat Is Sick – for many, it’s a handy slogan but for a select few, it’s a mantra, a guiding light that illumines a shared desire to make template-averse art that has its own force. DJ TINC is the multi-hyphenate founder and director of the eponymous, independent entity that grooms musicians into the roles they want to realise for themselves – and for the music they seek to make. In this day and age, where virality has emerged as a desired medium through which to move the needle of the zeitgeist, TINC is standing her ground on making music that resonates with actual talent and integrity. And the ambition in her roster is formidable. That’s why TBIS a triumphant convergence of worlds. In this interview with her, we’re joined by her first signing, rapper Alexander Camden. Together, they break down what makes their beat sick.
TINC, What made you want to start TBIS?
TINC: It’s been a dream of mine since I was young to own a recording studio. I’ve been a musician since I was six – I can play the piano, guitar and violin and I’ve been writing songs since I was 14. I’ve always had this vision of starting something that I could call home. I got sick and tired of waiting around for someone to hear and notice me. So starting my own label was a natural thing to do. The name, TBIS, came about because, it was something I found myself saying about a beat that caught my ear when I began DJing later on. One day, it just struck me to name it that way and I rushed to ACRA to register it. It wasn’t a very intentionally planned thing; it just fell into place. I used to teach DJing in my bedroom and once I was able to support myself from that, I found my own space in Tai Seng. Our launch was great, actually.
Alexander: Yes, it was like a mini-Boiler Room.
And what are your aims and longterm plans for the label?
T: I want TBIS to be an independent label with great artists in the roster. I’m not restricting myself to just Singapore. As long as I come across someone whose music has potential, I’ll work with them. I will listen to people who want to be heard, regardless of genre. He or she has to have a strong sense of the direction of where they want to go. Passion is also important. There’s no point in being talented but lacking passion. Drive is part of the equation as well. I can’t babysit anyone. If you want to get things done, I’ll be here to support you.
“There’s so much talent out there that isn’t covered. What sets TBIS apart is that we are judgment-free. I want to give anyone who wants to make it a shot.”
How did you discover Alex and his music?
T: It was through a mutual friend of ours. I knew him for a few months before I found out he could rap. We were hanging out and one day, he threw me some lyrics. I checked out this Tumblr account he posted his writing on and I was impressed. But on a deeper level, I totally respected the fact that he was passionate about his craft. He was writing relentlessly but he didn’t think it was good enough to be released. Still, I recognised his talent and I asked him to send me something he had done. So he sent me two very raw demos. I heard his voice and I knew from the start that I could work on the production – there definitely was something there. He’s the first original artist signing I’ve had.
And Alex, how do you think TBIS is going to further your development as an artist?
A: I’ve always been an indie, DIY, punk kind of person. I needed someone to help me with production and TINC knew exactly what she was doing. I wanted to work with her when I discovered that she could write her own music. Since then, we’ve played a good number of shows together. Though she’s a DJ, her live aesthetic is more rock-centric. Like, she’d climb on the decks and headbang as the crowd dances. I never knew that you could do that in a dance/pop setting. That was something I’ve always wanted to do.
Tell us about your single together “CUT”.
T: That was an intentional collaboration. I had the lyrics and some of the rap down and as we were recording, we fine-tuning that as well. Lyrically, the song is important to me because it’s about my ex-boyfriend; I wanted Alex to deliver the guy’s point of view. It’s about a boy and a girl who love each other but are on different frequencies, and because of that, are unaware of the fact that they’re hurting each other. In that sense, the song represents total closure. After this point, I knew I had to move on.
A: My verse was four bars and I wanted to make it absolutely killer. The challenge was to write from what I perceived to be the guy’s point of view. I like to think of songs as movies in their own right. When you watch a film, you empathise with the characters though you’re not actually in the show. That’s how I approached this song.
T: There’ll definitely be more collabs between myself and Alex. We work well together and I just like his voice. It’s just refreshing – he sounds like Morgan Freeman!
A: I’d honestly rather sound like Morgan Freeman than Keith Ape and all these guys I get compared with.
And why do you find these comparisons insulting?
A: I don’t find it insulting per se. As long as you have your own style and you’re hustling towards your own thing, I respect that. I just don’t want to be seen in someone else’s terms. Why would anyone want that when as an artist, you’re supposed to be yourself?
TINC, you’ve been in the game awhile. Would you say there’s anything about TBIS that’s different from other crews and/or labels?
T: When I started, I realised that Singapore media, event organisers and clients keep going back to the same people. It was very frustrating to sit on the sidelines and watch that happen. I didn’t understand why it was so difficult for everyone to think outside the box. There’s so much talent out there that isn’t covered.What sets TBIS apart is that we are judgment-free. We don’t put any restrictions on genre or anything like that. I want to give anyone who wants to make it a shot. That’s what I would’ve wanted too when I was starting out.