Eddie Niguel is a DJ & producer from Singapore. A veteran in the house and techno scene, his tracks have been played by heavyweights like Laurent Garnier, Dixon and KiNK. Currently the label owner of Integrity Records and also the man behind TBR.Mixmaster, he brings with him a wealth of experience in the underground dance music industry. Underground Reactor is glad to have him on board to kick off our new feature!
Hi Eddie! It’s great to have you on board with us for our first interview. I understand your love for music started at a young age with disco, funk and rock due to your dad’s influence. But what was your first introduction to techno and house music like?
It’s my pleasure! I got into house and techno through the disco records that my father had. There was the early mainstream stuff like Earth Wind & Fire, Commodores and also the more obscure stuff like the Prelude Records discography. Back then, I knew very little to nothing about labels but it was disco records that led me to house music later on. I began to discover that house itself has a wide variety of styles. My early house influences were very American, like US Garage, New York House, Philly, Chicago and Detroit House. Then I subsequently got into the UK stuff, with labels like FFRR Records and Junior Boy’s Own.
And was it a natural step from being a music lover to being a DJ? Do you still remember your first DJ outing?
I have never set my mind on it being my profession. I just went on with life like most young adults do, having a normal day job like how most parents would want their kids to be. But because I came from an extended family of music lovers (musicians, DJs, singers etc.), I was always surrounded by music.
Initially, I was a part of my cousin’s crew, they were doing mobile DJs for small events like school and birthday parties. I tagged along and carried stuff for them. Along the way, I learnt how to mix cassettes before moving on to turntables. My real challenge came many years later when i was working at a club in a management position. One of the DJs did not turn up for work and the club was really busy that day. I managed to call one of my DJ friend but I had no choice but to play the first 1 to 2 hours until he arrived. It was a nerve wrecking experience but I fell in love with DJ-ing that night and that experience made me want to learn how to be a proper DJ.
My first club or DJ outing however was at a place called Chaplins in Holland V. A friend offered me a Sunday slot, which was a slow night. I took up the offer as I thought it was a good opportunity for me to learn and that there would be little to no stress since there won’t be much of a crowd to start with.
Subsequently, a friend who worked at the popular club called ‘Venom’ were hiring and he hooked me up for an audition. You get like 10-15mins and they will see if you have the chops to play to a crowd. Venom was a huge club, almost as big as Zouk. They were booking names like Danny Rampling, Josh Wink and Erick Morillo and many other top International acts. Everything happened so fast and to be honest I don’t remember much of that night, I must have been really nervous. I must have done something right though cause they called me a few days later and the rest they say is history. Venom played an important part in shaping my DJ career because I worked there for 6 days a week immersed in the music.
Since then, you have amassed over 20 years of experience on the dancefloor. What were the most memorable nights you had?
Yes, I do have a few! The first was a Pacha-Twisted Records collab party in Manila. I was on the line-up with DJ Vibe, a well-known house DJ back in the day from Lisbon. It was the first time I played to a 8000-strong crowd. The fact that it was one of my first few gigs outside of Singapore on that kind of scale made it even more special.
The second would be a gig in Genting Highlands on Malaysia’s Independence Day, the same one where Global Underground duo, Pako & Frederik, approached me for an edit of a Danny Tenaglia track. There were 12,000 people and I was playing a peak time slot. Goosebumps! And the cold weather made the whole experience even better.
A more recent one would be Midnight Shift’s event with KiNK’s Singapore debut at Velvet Underground, Zouk. Small room, small crowd but amazing vibes. This was after I took a long break from the scene. I didn’t know what to expect but the gig turned out really well and I was humbled by the reception I received. I also got to play with one of my favourite producers!
As a DJ, I understand that you like to keep a balance between playing what you like and keeping the crowd entertained. Besides that, what is your opinion on the balance between selection and technical skills? If you could choose only one, which would it be?
Personally, I believe both are equally important and they are inseparable. A good technical DJ can still sound horrible if he doesn’t have a good selection of tunes. You need both.
You once mentioned in 2013 that you wished you started producing earlier on in your career when you were extremely active in the scene. What kind of difference do you think it would have made on your production career? One aspect I can think of is being able to test out your tracks.
That is definitely one of them. But time is probably the most valuable resource in the world, or the universe. To be frank, nothing tops that. If you are going to have so much fun doing this, why wouldn’t you want to do it earlier? Put differently, I wished that I discovered this satisfaction and happiness of music production earlier.
Producers often have a turning point in their career where they feel that they have achieved their first milestone. While you first gained attention by winning the remix competition for Patrice Bäumel’s ‘Roar’, I am inclined to think that you have an original release in mind.
You are right! For me, it is the Dig Deeper release. It is a totally different feeling from winning a remix competition. It was the first big contract I signed. Danny Howells, being such a prolific artist, and the label had so many well-respected artists on its roster. To be signed to such a reputable label alongside so many great artistes is to me one of my proudest moments.
You mentioned in a 2012 interview with Midnight Shift that “it’s a bad idea to [start your own label] early on in your music career” and that labels play an important role as a “quality control officer”. Having set up Integrity Records in 2016, what has changed in these 4 years that convinced yourself that you were ready to be your own quality control?
Honestly, nothing has changed. I am still one of the harshest critics of my own work, which means I take a really long time to decide if my own work is going to be released on my own label. The process is actually quite clear for me. I go in the studio, I produce, and then I send it out as a promo to a select few DJ friends. I will get the feedback from them and determine whether it is ready for release based on the feedback I receive. The last thing I want to do is to put out a track I am not proud of and regret in the future, so I would say that I am quite a strict QC officer.
One of your reason for setting up Integrity Records is borne out of the frustration of the lengthy waiting time for a track to be released. Now that you are a label owner, do you bear this in mind when you accept demos from other producers and try to release it as soon as possible or has your perspective changed?
Absolutely. When I sign an artist, I do the best I can for them. Right now, I am only releasing digital which makes the process easier. I don’t have to worry about delay at cutting plants, pressing plants or distribution problems. The digital process is more streamlined so I can work out a timetable that is relatively efficient and quick. A release from demo to release date with promotion usually takes a maximum of about 4 to 6 months.
Most new labels today start out with digital releases before moving into physical releases after they have built a following. Do you see Integrity Records having vinyl releases?
Eventually, yes. That will be ideal for the label. For now, I just want to build a good catalog body of work before moving on to vinyls.
Do you still envision yourself releasing original material on other labels besides Integrity Records? How would you decide which ones go where?
Of course! For me it’s all about the timing. If a good label is interested in my music, I will make it a priority. Whatever time I have left from that, I will then produce music for my own label.
You have also set up TBR.Mixmaster to provide mastering and mixing services. While production is a natural step for most DJs, the world of mastering is wholly different and most producers prefer to leave it to audio engineers. Why did you choose to make this step?
Just wanting to learn and to get better at what I do. It’s like the SkillsFuture programme here, it’s all about upgrading your skill sets. I knew that if I could master that art, it would definitely help me get better at making better-sounding records. That was my goal, to be a better engineer, and a better producer as a whole. I believe that they go hand in hand.
With Integrity Records and TBR.Mixmaster, your plate must be full at the moment. Has music always been your full-time endeavour?
Yes it has, I still am a full-time resident DJ today and have been doing commercial post-production work for a long time before setting up TBR. Now with the label and my own production schedule, you can say that I have quite a bit on my plate. I’m not complaining though, I love what I do, it’s all been a natural progression for me.
Moving on to the local scene in Singapore, there is no longer a shortage of quality acts with several clubs and promoters bringing in international DJs every weekend. There is also a strong slew of local DJs. What developments do you hope to see next?
I hope to see more clubs/venues hosting the local talents that we have. Not just as a side show but as a headliner or main event. I’d also like to see more smaller venues with a capacity of 150 to 300 pop up. Bigger clubs here are not able to stay musically underground simply because of economics. As a small city, we just don’t have the numbers to make that possible.
Due to the prevalence of mainstream EDM today, most of the younger generation have a singular concept of what dance music is. What do you think can be done to bring awareness of underground dance music to a wider audience?
This is a question I get a lot. There is two sides to it for me. One train of thought is to adopt a proactive attitude of attempting to help them understand the scene by organising events at places that they patronise often, like SCAPE, Esplanade and even College Halls, basically just making it easily accessible. That is what I think promoters can do and which is, already, I think happening in some form. Now, we have production workshops and DJ academies offering classes at tertiary levels. This is an example of what we can continue to do.
The other side of it is a different train of thought. The term underground music is self-explanatory. People who are hungry for more will search it out. Letting nature takes its course and for things to grow organically can be a good thing. Ultimately, everyone has their own path. Someone who listens to EDM today may end up getting into underground music in the future if they are curious enough. That does not make them any less cooler than us. The music that we do is for everyone, it is not for a select group of people. It has always been there for everyone, they just need to make a little bit of effort to seek it out.
Lastly, what are the upcoming plans for you and Integrity Records for the rest of 2017?
We will be having our 1st anniversary party for Integrity Records on 8th July 2017 in collaboration with The Council. There will also be a special giveaway so stay tuned for details on our Facebook page! Subsequently, in late July, there will be a special anniversary re-release of one of my best sellers ‘Absolute’ on Integrity Records along with a huge remix by Club Cheval member ‘Panteros666’. I’ve witnessed the remix being dropped on dancefloors here and the reactions have been superb. Also scheduled for release in September is The Model’s debut EP on the label which I’m really excited about. Both are releases you will not want to miss!