We haven’t heard much of the duo Bass Sekolah until a few days ago. But the story was just too great to pass up: They make music in the jungle – literally! Their studio is located right outside of the Berembun forest reserve, in Malaysia, a cozy place frequented by global players such as Modeselektor, Africa Hitech, Daedelus, Perera Elsewhere etc. Bass Sekolah has played some of the most important festivals and club nights in Asia, yet outside of being featured on Phon.o’s Crackling Spaces Pt. 1 EP, they haven’t released a damn thing! This is about to change with Lighthouse, their official debut single.
We caught up with the duo and tried to find out a bit more about them:
Just out of curiosity, in the game Dungeons & Dragons Sekolah is a powerful devil/deity. Is this where you picked up the name?
Darren : Sorry wrong number. I’ve never played the game. Haha!
CEE: Sekolah is a powerful deity you say? That sounds just like us hahaha…. but for real. Bass Sekolah comes from ‘Bas Sekolah’ which is ‘school bus’ in Malay. Bass is global thing. Who knows what actually falls under ‘bass music’ even though people love using it, but we would definitely keep you locked in for school with the bass education we have in the plans.
The music we’ve heard so far is as electronic as it is organic. I know it’s hard, but how would you describe it in your own words?
Darren : There is a certain definition of sound when composing with electronic sounds and I think that helps us create a sturdy pie crust of beats. Besides that, we constantly throw in whatever elements our ears call for be it organic instruments, a 3 year old’s voice or hornbills flying over Cee’s house.
CEE: As a producer I always loved the power of dubbing, the authenticity of vocals and here and there the skillful play of a ‘real musician’. I like my music cooked with love to detail and this organic feel. It’s hard for me to describe it really, but I know both of us want to achieve a sound which keeps the listener wondering. It should be accessible and complex at the same time. I hope we do sound like that…
We heard that you’re operating out of a jungle in Malaysia! How did this come about?
CEE: My mother in law owns this beautiful little jungle resort one hour outside of KL (www.thedusun.com.my) . My wife and I help manage and market the place. Lucky us. All our houses are quite open to nature and recording here is like being in field recording paradise.
Darren : Ditto
What are some difficulties you are facing with producing music in the jungle? Do you have constant electricity there for a modern studio?
Darren : It does more good than bad really. Nothing inspires me more than a good sunset or a gust of good oxygen from the surrounding trees. Back in the day, challenges of recording with tape and lack of software was what brought out the best in musicians to think creatively to overcome their setbacks. And that showed in the music. You definitely gush a different style if you made music here as opposed to music made from an apartment underneath your comfy pillows and air conditioning.
CEE: We don’t have any soundproof place so the jungle always ends up on the recordings which is great, if you are in for crickets in your music. It adds a lot of grain to our compositions. We do have black outs ones in a while, but it hasn’t stopped our work flow yet.
Apparently you’ve had some pretty famous visitors recently. Can you share any details or names?
CEE: Well, I run a little booking agency called Detour Asia and I usually have my artists come and stay with us on their off days during the Asia tour. For some of these artists the Dusun is the only place they see of Malaysia and they might not even have a show in our country. Modeselektor chilled here in between the Singapore show and the India shows. Also Daedelus, Phon.o, Perera Elsewhere, Flosstradamus, Bot, Housemeister and Skinnerbox to name a few..
DARREN : ^^^
How is the South East Asian music scene? Do you get to play out in nearby cities or are you more focussed on producing in the studio?
CEE: The scene is steadily growing and coming together. We have a few outstanding festivals in the region, but also a lot of super mainstream blur. We only started playing proper Bass Sekolah live sets and dj sets in mid 2014 and we were indeed lucky to get a quick recognition for our sound. Asia is definitely on to something right now and I have the feeling we will see a lot more from Asian artists in 2015. My favorite hot spots are Shanghai, Saigon, Singapore and Manila.
DARREN :The scene here is healthy. There is a constant need and people want to relate still. From my point, Bass Sekolah been going at it in the studio getting things sounding right. There’s still much to do but it’s on the brink of spilling over with release dates set to go. But we do get our selection of fun gigs to play!
When I say successful, which person comes to mind and why?
DARREN : ‘Successful’ is a big fat term with everybody scrambling and scraping to get onboard. Some paid their dues and some snuck in the back door. I could name a few “successful” people but who knows how they got there even if i follow their careers intensely. How many people you’ve helped or reached out to (regardless of what the media says about you) is more of a valid scale to me. Richard Branson brought some change to the world. Daft Punk has endured through the times and is still relevant. Justin Timberlake is still rising since back in the day. Will Smith is oozing success and his kids are catching on too. Jim Carrey was not only talent as the box office can explain. They picked a side, survived the storms and are still enduring. Success can be easily attained via sneaky methods. Those who last taking the long route bring more than just success to the table. Unfortunately many of my favourite artists aren’t “successful” in my books.
CEE: Successful Asian artists are people like Yuna. She is super talented, gorgeous and successful. I personally love her work. To me she stands for successful and great popular singing and songwriting. When it comes to underground success I admire the Syndicate crew from Singapore. A loose collective of music heads and visual artists. I also want to big up DJ Jase from Saigon, Gaz & ChaCha and the whole Shelter crew from Shanghai, the Dada Bar crew from Beijing and Shanghai, the B-Side crew from Manila and my Japanese friends like Gothtrad, Ena, Daisuke Tanube, Yosi Horikawa and Sahib.
8. One piece of advice to upcoming musicians & producers?
CEE: I am not so good in advice but since we run Bass Sekolah as an educational program I would like to say only one thing: Make honest music. How can you tell when your music is honest? You will just know it when you found it.
Darren : Stand at a distance but study what your critiques say with a microscope. There’s always a snippet of truth somewhere. Yes, block the hate out but who said anything about blocking out criticism. If you are content with pleasing a small sector of people who like your music, you are limiting no one but yourself. Not caring what the world thinks only applies on certain levels. You can’t not care about a world you’re trying to relate to with music. Embrace change. Embrace criticism. Fall in love with trying.
What do you associate with Brooklyn?
CEE: I associate Hip hop, street wear, record shops, pizza, burgers, tags, graffiti and Jewish school busses with Brooklyn. And of course BK Radio : )
DARREN : An awesome accent that i’ve always wanted to learn. Adam Ferrara.
Time to plug your upcoming release or shout out any local/non-local musicians or artists!
DARREN : Really looking forward to releasing this mix of song made with all the artists who visited the jungle. Good nuggets of gold music in that cd. And it’s going to be free 🙂
CEE: On Nov 28th we are releasing our debut single called ‘lighthouse’ on the Swiss Indie label Mouthwatering Records. After that we will release a compilation of amazing music we recorded with artists like Daedelus, Skinnerbox or Perera Elsewhere together with Goethe Institut.