Singer Kevin Quan was born and raised a Londoner and he comes from a diverse background being ¾ Chinese and ¼ Vietnamese. He states on how his cultural background is reflected in his music. Already a well known and massively popular DJ under the alias DJ Phat, the musically talented artist has kept his dual personas separate to avoid any confusion or biased opinion.
Acoustic cover of the Ne Yo song, Let Me Love You (until you learn to love yourself)
Kevin’s first real experience with music came during high school from learning the guitar which was swiftly followed by classical piano training.
“As a child your parents’ musical tastes are yours until you start noticing what the other kids are listening to – but it’s funny how they still influence my music. I guess that’s what makes music exciting because everyone’s palette is unique.
DJing was my way of rebelling as music, up to that point I had too many restrictions. I was given pieces of classical music by my piano teacher to learn which took ages and for what? At that time I only listened to classical music when I was forced to play it… Of course now I appreciate and listen to a lot of it.”
It was through DJing Kevin once again discovered his identity in music which sparked a whole new journey that continues today. After years of successful gigging and showcasing as a DJ/turntablist at prestigious venues such as London’s Royal Opera House, V&A Museum, Birmingham’s Victoria Square as well as clubs like SE One, Pacha and Café de Paris. It was only when crossing paths with an up and coming producer called Eric Lau, did Kevin realise that DJing alone presented limited ground for him to express himself in music.
“I remember standing in Eric’s bedroom/studio in pure amazement. I immediately asked how he made music to sound like that on a computer”. He smiled and replied ‘I’ll show you. It’s easy’.
Initially producing only sample driven hip hop beats he started toying with melodies, calling upon music experience from previous guitar/piano training.
“I remember replicating on the piano samples I heard from other tracks, then slotting them into my beats. This was my introduction to the whole ‘how to make a song thing’. Simultaneously I was learning song writing and production which had a massive effect on how I create now.”
A friend, noticing his talent even though still in its infancy, contacted the London City Showcase group on Kevin’s behalf. The annual event was the first opportunity for Kevin to gain exposure in performing some of his early material. It was only after the showcase did Kevin decide to further his music production, song writing and singing seriously.
“I can honestly say I never thought of myself as a songwriter let alone a singer. It felt like the entire thing happened by accident. Most singers know from a very young age, so imagine how awkward I felt ‘falling into it’ the way I did. It was difficult to pass up the opportunity of the City Showcase as people gave me so much encouragement and had so much faith in me. On top of that I passed the audition judged by the same people who previously put through the likes of Amy Winehouse and Keane.”
Having gained positive reviews after his first showcase Kevin still felt a big sense of dissatisfaction. He believed the material at the time wasn’t a reflection of how he wanted to be perceived as an artist. This uneasy feeling fuelled even more his desire to go in search of his ‘sound’ leading him on a rollercoaster journey.
“Lots and lots of trial and error plus many happy accidents is the best way to describe how I found my identity in music. For a long time I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere as nothing I tried felt or sounded right to the point where I wanted to give up. It was only when I decided to write songs for myself and not ones to please other people, things started to fall in place. I suppose coming from a DJ background, the crowd pleasing factor was embedded in me so deep it affected my writing. On the other hand DJing has definitely helped me with the production side as I can experience first hand how sounds affect crowds.”
Our Way, written and performed by Kevin Quan
Kevin Quan will be at The Syndicate Club in Bristol on the 25th October 2012