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Artist Spotlight: How Busyboi takes care of business & succeeds with a motivational mindset

Adam Wright speaks with one of the standout figures in the new generation of Hong Kong DJs

  • Adam Wright
  • 21 August 2023

Hong Kong has emerged from its years-long COVID-19 craziness as a changed city and emblematic of these changes is a new generation of forward-thinking young DJs who are currently in the process of rebooting and reformatting the city’s nightlife.

It’s the biggest revolution in the Hong Kong scene in years and one of the most prominent faces in this fresh, young group of artists is Busyboi.

As his name suggests, he’s been having a pretty hectic year. So far in 2023 alone he’s appeared at Clockenflap’s comeback edition, released a slew of original bangers and performed at pretty much every respected nightclub throughout the land.

Busyboi — born Jonathan Lam — is open about his vulnerabilities, modest about his successes and humble about his position as one of the standout Hong Kong DJs pushing the scene forward, both as a solo artist and as a member of the THÜR crew alongside fellow local DJs Adipta and Subez (also of the Yeti Out crew).

His new single 'Suspire' has just come out — it’s a stripped-back, percussive electro number built around a floating 303 acid bass, dreamy pads and a seemingly innate understanding of how a groove is constructed. Taking an interest in the tune (in addition to Busyboi’s story), I used it as an excuse to reach out to him, but Busyboi is such a lovely dude that I'd happily talk to him any time.

I had the pleasure of quizzing this Busiest of Bois about how he got where he is, his insights into his burgeoning career, his tips on local and regional artists, the true value of a McDonald’s breakfast and how Canto-pop introduced him to the wonders of music.

Hey Busyboi, tell us a bit about your background!
I'm a normal freelance artist who came from absolutely no art or musical background. I was a flight attendant before getting involved in music. Now I have a part-time office job during the day, and I spend the rest of my time with music.

How did you come up with your artist name — anything to do with you being super busy?
I’m the kind of person who always tries to occupy my time doing different kinds of things. I feel guilty when I'm not doing anything. It’s getting better now, but the guilt still pops up sometimes. This mindset of having to stay busy has become a kind of lifestyle for me, and it also pushes me to keep improving. That's where my artist name came from.

What kind of music did you listen to as a teenager?
Before taking music seriously, I mostly listened to K-pop and Canto-pop. Music was basically just a form of entertainment for me back then. Things changed when I came across hip-hop on YouTube. I started to understand how to appreciate the different layers of music and began learning the histories of different genres. I never thought I would become a music producer, especially because I had no prior knowledge of music. Luckily I eventually met my crewmates, Adipta and Subez!

How did you first get into DJing and music production?
Around 2018, I went to an event at 65 Peel with Adipta. The venue had invited a few DJs to perform and one of them was Subez, and we were incredibly impressed by her underground style of mixing. Subez talked to us and invited us to her next gig, and that's when I started learning about mixing and electronic music. Now, we’re all together in the THÜR crew.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the entire DJ scene for years. I couldn't just sit at home doing nothing, so I started learning about music production on YouTube. There were many failures, but I eventually developed my own workflow and knowledge of production.

What’s your earliest memory with music?
When my dad, who was a huge fan of Chinese pop music, took me and my family to a concert by Hong Kong singer Stefanie Sun. This was the first time I felt the huge emotions that music can release when a bunch of people are in the same space!

How would you describe your sound?
Groovy, minimal, energetic and dreamy…

We’ve got your new track ‘Suspire’ on heavy repeat — tell us how it came about!
It started as a demo I made about half a year ago. I was trying to use a 909 and 606 drum kit in Ableton to build the groove of a track, just trying to create something simple. I was impressed with the result because it was built using less than 15 tracks. This was a lesson that taught me that more is not always more.

Read this next: Hong Kong’s industrial club Acadana celebrate 7th anniversary with a visceral short film

Has your sound and production style changed from your previous release ‘Tribe Exploring’?
It’s changed a lot. For my previous releases like ‘Tribe Exploring, I didn't focus much on sound design and used a lot of samples to build the overall structure. However, as I've spent more time producing, I've dedicated more time to tweaking hardware and VST synths to find the sound I want. This process has also helped me understand how sound works in electronic music.

We hear you’re also a multimedia artist — what kind of work do you do?
I have been learning simple graphic design and video editing since I started making music. Initially, it was just because I wanted to add music to my artwork. But I’ve been fortunate enough to meet loads of talented graphic designers during my career, and now I prefer collaborating with other artists, rather than doing everything myself.

Who are some of the best young Hong Kong DJs you’d like more people to know about?
Distrikt, Madctrl, Konnection and Xiaolin. They have distinctive styles and an understanding of electronic music that has inspired me when it comes to mixing and music production.

What’s your favourite band or kind of music right now outside of dance/electronic?
Hip-hop, especially the kind with electronic elements. If I had to pick one artist, it’d be Tyler, the Creator.

What’s the most bizarre gig you’ve ever played?
It was during the pandemic when the illegal raves were happening. Once we were trapped by the police outside the door of a warehouse, and we had to stay silent for almost an hour without air conditioning. It was the most panic-inducing experience I've ever had.

Read this next: 15 aesthetically pleasing DJ booths from across Asia

Go-to hangover food?
McDonald's breakfast. The hashbrowns never disappoint!

What one DJ will you always get you out of the house and onto the dancefloor?
Diskonnected from Taiwan. The most memorable set I've heard was when he played a hard trance set at a countdown party last year. I danced non-stop for four hours straight and it’s probably the best DJ set I've ever experienced!

What’s the best book you ever read?
I don’t usually enjoy reading, but I recently read The Courage to Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga. It helped me deal with self-criticism.

Tell us about the first DJ gig you ever played!
It was at a block party at Central Pier. It was quite raw; we had a pair of second-hand speakers and a tiny controller. Despite that, the crowd was incredibly supportive and friendly. We danced for hours until we couldn't handle the heat.

If you could play with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?
Jeff Mills. It’s like he’s playing instruments on the mixer, and he was a pioneer of the art of the DJ performance. I’d definitely learn a lot from him.

If the world were ending, what’s the last song you would play?
That’s a tough question, but the first song that pops up is 'Born Slippy' by Underworld!

What’s your favourite place to play in Hong Kong?
Acadana, but I’m not providing any details. You need to experience it for yourself!

If you could give one piece of advice to a younger you, what would it be?
Take that first step and don’t just talk about it.

For more Busyboi updates, follow him on Instagram here.

Adam Wright from Omni Agency is a contributor to Mixmag Asia; follow Omni on Instagram.

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