Features Music

HOW AN INTERNATIONAL DJ HAS FOUND HIMSELF ‘WORKING’ THE CATWALK…

We spoke to DJ QuestionMark (aka Stephen) about how important music is for a designers runway show, and what goes into interpreting the designs, into sounds...

The right music, setting, lighting, and models, can make or break a designers runway, so it’s not surprising that these details are as carefully thought out as the clothing designs themselves…

We got introduced recently by friend of Boyfriend, Ross Pollard (@fashionworked) to DJ QuestionMark (aka Stephen) recently as is the Music Director for designer APUJAN, and we wanted to learn more about how important music is for the runway show, and what goes into interpreting clothing designs, into sounds!

Stephen resides in London, and has some impressive credits and awards to his name including DMC World DJ Championship Taiwan Champion, he’s been nominated as Best Producer for a Golden Melody Award (the Taiwanese Grammys), and has played sets at festivals like SXSW, Isle of Wight, Glastonbury and much more.

After starting his classical music training at age 7, Stephen spent many years playing in orchestras and big bands before turning to the turntables at age 16. He continued this love of DJ’ing throughout University where he studied Civil Engineering at National Taiwain Uni, and even started up his own band.

After many years of experimenting with new sounds and techniques, Stephen met plenty of influential people along the way, and after winning the Taiwan Champion in 2011, he came to London for the DMC World Final in the same year. This was also the same time that designer APUJAN started his post-grad studies at the Royal College of Art in Fashion, and the 2 became friends. Apu went to see Stephens DMC battle in Indigo O2 and at that point asked Stephen “If I have a show some day, are you going to make the music for my show?”, I think we can all guess what Stephens response was.

2 years on, Stephen did a mix for Apu’s graduation show and then went on to compose and music direct live music on the catwalks of Apu’s shows ever since.

We asked Stephen a few questions about why he got into music, and what it’s like working with a clothing designer to compose music for their shows…

What inspired you to pursue music with such passion and dedication?
I know it might sound a bit of cliche, but music is my day to day life and I can’t live without. Every time I went to shows or festivals, it’s just a refuel to me. I obsessed with the way how music and live performance drive people. If I can walk such a long way from making music, that might be a sign for me to carry on. 

Another major reason is that I’d like to show and prove that it IS ok to break the rules, structure, frames (you name it). The creativity is everything. It’s a long term challenge to myself, also I have been driven by this as motivation internally. This is also why I kept trying as many different music or types of collaborations as possible.

How does the process work when you are composing a piece for Apu and how does this differ from your normal writing?
During every season, we made our works individually. The guide line is the theme of the season, for example, the latest one is “A Game of Detection”. We spent most of the time on talking through the core concept. List it out the kind of images, colours, moods pop up in our minds. Some time I’ll write a short piece based on a pattern Apu showed me, then he might make another pattern while listening to another short piece I wrote him. We go to and fro with one another a lot but we never try to change each others work, not even a tiny bit. Plus we don’t know how to.

Thus we make both music and clothes organically as individuals, but the relate to one another through threads of themes and ideas. Sometimes they seem quite unalike, but after you see the entire show, you will see the universe we’re building together.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give to anyone thinking of starting out as a composer / musician?
Everybody can compose. So just do it. And don’t worry, you can always learn more from youtube. 

Stay hungry, curious and always be honest to yourself. Then reflect all those feelings in your music. 

Do you have any exciting exclusives or news that you can share with us?
DJ QuestionMark is back in the game. There will be lots of new music from me this year.

“Possibly” you’re able to find more new DJ QuestionMark x APUJAN music released on Spotify after the coming season…

******

You can find out more about Stephen on his website https://www.dj-qm.com/ and follow him on instagram @dj_questionmark

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