Silent-J on EDM's Popularity, His Beat-Mixing Philosophy, Working With Miss Krystle, and How 300 Inspired His Tracks
Despite what his nom de guerre of Silent-J might portend, Jimmy Ng is rarely at a loss for words. Ask him his opinion on the current state of electronic dance music or what skills are necessary to succeed as a DJ these days and you'll get an earful from the veteran producer and mixer jock.
Such was the case when the Chicago native took time out of his busy schedule -- which includes collaborating with Miss Krystle (who was profiled in this week's issue), spinning at a variety of raves and club gigs, and slaving over a hot laptop mixing up even hotter beatscapes - to speak with us on a variety of topics for this week's DJ Dossier.
Name: Jimmy Ng, Jr.
AKA: Silent J
Preferred genres to work in: Electro, Dutch, dubstep, hip-hop, mash-ups.
How did you get started as a DJ?
Back in 2001, a friend and associate of mine had bought a pair of Numark Axis 4's and was spinning "Juke Music" in Chicago, I became determined to learn how to use them after seeing him at a basement party. Two days and six hours later, I had beat-matching down and started spinning along side him at house parties, clubs and underground events in Chicago as DJ Burnout.
Explanation behind your DJ name?
It was actually given to me by Richard Anthony and friends. When I was younger I lost my fiancée to gang crossfire and didn't speak for some time. Which has led to myself being quiet around people I don't know. I feel and express my emotions through my music silently. Hence, Silent J.
What's your opinion on the current overwhelming popularity of EDM?
I feel it's a long overdue process honestly. It's a great thing for producers like myself to branch out into a completely different realm that some of us may be striving for. The ability to succeed as well as others have such as Skrillex, David Guetta, Benny Benassi is another reason for the rest of us to work even harder to reach our goals. Knowing Sonny personally from hanging with him a few times just reminds me furthermore that anyone can do it with the right amount of dedication. So I think its something that is great for the music industry. Change is always good!
How have you benefited?
Well its benefited me with my production that more labels and artists are looking for that sound to capitalize on that market. So remixes that i have done, unofficial or official, have gained more attention than i could have dreamed! It has also led to great collaborations like my current collaborations with producer/singer Miss Krystle.
Is there more awareness of the beat-making or beat-mixing craft?
Absolutely. Producers of EDM are getting a lot more respect and recognition nowadays versus five years ago. Today, anyone can tell you Pitbull loves to have House music on his releases. Not many realize that he has been doing it for years. EDM has come a long way from underground, and I believe this is only the beginning. With the public eye now aware of the vast possibilities of the EDM genres such as house, electro and dubstep, its going in a direction that will take music to a new level! That also led a lot of people to realize that events such as EDC, WMC/Ultra and events like mine aren't just events with a bunch of random people dancing in them, they are concerts just like any other. The Grammy's were a clear sign of that with major acts like Deadmau5, and David Guetta performing live.
Is there also the perception that anyone can be a DJ?
I have indeed seen and heard the assumptions that producing and performing House and Dubstep is a very simple thing. But the plain truth: ITS NOT. [People] may say that Skrillex's sounds are just loud noises clashed together (or that house is just a simple kick with added sounds) when in truth, Sonny's production is a extremely high amount of melodic structuring and placement. It's not quite so easy to place these sounds in the correct areas in the right areas and still be appealing to crowds. The same goes for any serious producer.
Any other advice to potential DJs?
My advice would be to start producing. These days there are a lot of DJ's out there reaching for the spotlight. I found the best way to express myself through music is through music that I produce. There's no better feeling during a performance than to see a crowd of people dancing and reacting to something you created yourself as an expression of what u felt moved you. An aspiring DJ/producer must realize that nothing is going to be hand fed to you, if its what you truly want, you have to work hard at it.
How do you create your beats/sounds etc?
Primarily I use Ableton, Sylenth and Massive for basslines and synths, and Izotope Ozone for mastering. From there it comes down to sequencing, frequency placement and knowing when to hit it harder and when to give the listeners ears a break! Im a big fan of remixes. Remixes normally have a 1 day turnaround for me cause its the easiest type of producing and its the most fun to put your own swing on another producers great work!
What's your production process like?
When I am getting the inspiration to produce a track, strangely enough my inspiration comes from movie sound tracks or songs no where near the EDM genre. I just hear a melody or sound and my ears just break it down and change it around to sound evil or happy and I get inspired to try that in a song. I relate it to the mood I had been recently feeling and then it morphs into something that can dance to.
My creative base is primarily from something I am feeling or have felt related to something i heard or saw in a movie. For example, "Kick the Groove, my Beatport charttopper, was inspired from the movie 300. It is in no way related to the movie whatsoever, but somehow that beast came from it.
What goes into a great set or a great mix?
Track structure, reading the crowd, DJ performance such as reacting with the crowd or with your tracks. A lot of DJs forget that they are part of the main focus when performing on stage at a event. The crowd looks to you for reactions. If your not reacting, its a good chance they wont as well. Also mic announcements or live vocalists and singers do amazing things for crowd attention!
What skills are a must for any DJ?
Beat-matching is definitely number one, level management, mixing in key knowledge, and must know how to read and refocus to a crowd. If the crowd isn't feeling something, try a different approach.
Are you associated with any DJ crews?
I actually run Silent Unspoken Entertainment, based out of Arizona and has a sister company in Chicago. We have 19 DJs, 7 go-go dancers and an event crew as well. We throw EDM events, host club events and coordinate staging and create props or graphic design as well.
What's your mantra when it comes to DJing?
Well it depends on the type of set I want to play. Most of the time I spin it can reflect my mood, If im energetic. I play alot of dutch house and peak hour, if im angry, I play the heavy bass line or wobble tracks. If im feeling uplifted and energetic from the crowd, I will do crazy tricks on the decks or quick mixes, mash ups, etc.
What's your favorite track of the moment?
That's a tough one. I'm stuck between Nicki Minaj "Turn Me On (Sidney Samson Remx)" and Bingo Players "L'Amour."
What else have you been listening to lately?
Alot of Annger Dimas, Steve Aoki, Nicky Romero, Usher, Chris Brown, Rihanna,Linkin park, Mr Robotic, MC Flipside and Miss Krystle's Albums. I love diversity.
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