Stream of Consciousness: Inside Kaiser Waldon
Kaiser Waldon moved to Bali about two years ago, after being in a successful dance music duo in Australia, travelling the world and a clairvoyant telling him he should go solo. He won the Beat Dude award last week at the Beat Awards 2018 and we thought it must be time to find out some more about this up and coming Australian/Japanese DJ producer who is making a mark around the island and the region.
TB: So what do you think about being Mr Beat. I know it’s a pretty naff name, but what does it mean to you?
Kaiser: For me, it’s being an ambassador for the mag and everything it stands for. But still keeping it fun and not too serious.
TB: There’s nothing wrong with having a good time!
Kaiser: No, but having a good time is new to me. I’m actually always either DJ-ing or in the studio haha! Having a good time admittedly, but maybe a bit too serious.
TB: I suppose most of these are basically popularity awards.
Kaiser: Which is an irony, since I moved here to develop my artistry and craft yet somehow that leads to popularity. In Sydney, it’s all about partying with everyone to build your career which takes away valuable time honing your craft. Maybe that’s why so many jaded brilliant artists get discouraged since logically it doesn’t make sense, but you can’t be a hermit, you have to support your peers and the community.
TB: Well, being a DJ and having your own night (Escape) means you are out at least partying then, right? I think being active on social media promoting your shows, and there appear to be many of them, is also part of the Mr Beat world too. King of promotion!
Kaiser: I’m trying to be active on social media and I’m actually really struggling, but trying to stay on top of it, plus now how it’s all shifting to Instagram, it is a struggle. But yes, true, DJing six days a week and I purposely don’t do Mondays! Sometimes multiple gigs mean I’m out quite a bit by default and this means it now feels like Sydney where “catch ups and dinners” are months in the making.
TB: Yes sure, I can imagine that. It’s good to be busy, though. I am rather busy too. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Kaiser: Yeah! And you love what you do, well some parts of it 🙂
TB: I used to love it more before the internet came along to be honest.
Kaiser: I did too, then I became a producer which means learning how to be an engineer, musician and write dance music, all at same time … Zero glamour for the DJs who chase the fame and status, maximum fun for nerds like myself! It feels like a game. It’s a shame it’s never gonna be like it used to be again.. Now with these smart phones … there’s a generation between X and Y and that’s my gen. We were the last and on the cusp of that tech transition… You’re an X, so you didn’t have the internet all be it dialup in high school right? It was still drive through cinemas and prank calls…Hahaa.
TB: I think I was gen yuppie. When I first got out on my own there were no such things as computers nor the Internet. In the mid to late 90’s it boomed. Computers, internet, mobile and then smartphones later. That’s why I started the beat, just to do something with my new toy, the computer.
Kaiser: Yeah I had the Nokia 5110 as my first mobile… We were happy with snake as our go to game… that old second phone line for the dialup and Windows 95….
TB: Simple times. What are you doing to promote yourself nowadays? It seems difficult to get your word through the firewall out there online sometimes.
Kaiser: Apps will move things back. Now I’m gearing everything up for my social media to funnel to my website and then once I get it made, move to an app and run them parallel. That’s really the future. With Facebook etc, you spend money to get likes (followers) only to have to pay to speak to them… and the more you pay the more you can reach. This doesn’t really play to the long or short term.
TB: People don’t download apps though. Check out the number of downloads of all of them online. Almost zilch.
Kaiser: Not yet, but true followers will. The people that purchased the CDs are your ‘raving fans’. And that’s how you cultivate a brand, because they then become your microphone. One fan at a time. It’s the modern day merchandise but in the digital form.
TB: There seems to be a lot of white noise out there.
Kaiser: We now have an abundance of information and a scarcity of time. Interruption marketing has now trained us to basically ignore everything, so the trick is to figure out how to entice people. Getting someone to download an app is hard enough, reusing it is a whole new ball game. I read quite a bit on these topics to try and tap into their studies and experiences. It sometimes provides valuable insights but is also inspiration!
TB: I think it’s coming back to the old word of mouth.
Kaiser: It certainly is, and that’s how I’m getting by. I’m social media weak. I refuse to use snapchat and I’m only just working out how to grasp Instagram without walking around with my phone out every minute of my life.
TB: Isn’t there a lot of smoke and mirrors?
Kaiser: In regard to soc-med manipulation, let me point out, back in the day record companies would buy records from the stores to manipulate the charts and slip the radio guy a few bucks with the record to get radio plays. I would have been a radio host for sure back then! Manipulation is always there and inflation, but the new artist focuses on authenticity, it trumps all those things. In an increasing unauthentic world we humans crave authenticity because that’s the only thing that makes anything real and you can’t deny it when you see it. Your body reacts with tingles, shivers, goose bumps, tears… all sorts of stuff.
TB: You can’t deny the power of big boobs. Put some of those on your next YouTube track and see how many hits you get. That seems to be a big chunk of social media now. But it’s like all promotion and all business, for that matter. If you give them what they want, they lap it up. If trying to flog a dead horse, nothing has changed there and as you say, originality and authenticity is the only way forward. And a rather huge slice of luck.
Kaiser: Yep, originality comes, but through time and hard work and following your own taste! Luck. If you’re referring to right place right time etc, I guess it does, but also you gotta know how it all works and still not be discouraged and just be someone making a living while you make your art. Also important is to have full creative control over your brand, and the harder you work the more luck you can create.
TB: The amount of people with talent and drive that don’t get anywhere is astounding.
Kaiser: And the amount of people without either who do is also amazing.
TB: I really believe you have no choice to do anything except exactly what you want. Stand by it and scream it out. So, you seem to do ok for yourself. How is that?
Kaiser: Yes, but also have others do the screaming, the concept is called raving fans! Build up one fan at a time, so to speak, like a cult. So you’re on the journey together, except you aren’t the guru you’re the guy they feel part of! It’s hard to explain. But cults are ego driven, this is different. I’m a raving fan of artists. It’s a human thing to follow and lead and to be good at one, I believe, you have to be good at the other. I play the long game and I learnt many mistakes early and got into it late age-wise.
TB: Well I enjoyed your posts in the run up to The Beat Awards.
Kaiser: I’ve got more to give the beat, plenty of that love where that came from.
TB: Engagement comes from all the above. That’s what you are talking about, right? Engagement.
TB: But they have to feel it to engage. What do you think of EDM? EDM DJs are the most soc-med savvy dudes I have ever seen.
Kaiser: EDM is a product of the American marketing machine grabbing hold of an industry and systemising it and manufacturing brands. I was in the EDM scene, that’s how I got in. I started DJing and one year later signed to Ministry of Sound. Two years later I had a release on their annual compilation, also Clubbers Guide and also mixed a One Love compilation. I learnt it all the hard way, but I worked out how to get what every artist wants. I know so many that are unhappy who have made big bucks, but they no longer like the stuff they are doing.
TB: So, why did you get involved in the first place? Clubbing?
Kaiser: Clubbing. I was a frother on the dance floors.
TB: Phewww, I could imagine.
Kaiser: But throughout my life I’ve always curated mixtapes, just not mixed, which didn’t really occur to me till I started DJing. I discovered that I love entertaining people and bringing them happiness.
TB: Did you play an instrument?
Kaiser: Drums in Primary school, but had no band so it didn’t go far. Now I spend most of my time on my keyboards and had to learn musical theory.
TB: You got the rhythm.
Kaiser: Yeah, dancing plus percussive knowledge. I was in a duo that got signed to MoS and it was almost like a band. Then a spiritual person in Bali said I need to launch my solo career because it will go massive.
TB: Well, they are often right.
Kaiser: Yes, but like anything your attitude determines your altitude. Not only how high, but how consistent you can stay there. Many DJs want to be a DJ for different reasons. So that’s the first self-regulation. The ones that just want the fame or to be worshiped or girls etc, they kind realise it’s not all that easy and don’t go the distance. I spend so much time in the studio and I’m old. 33 is late. I’m competing with 16 year olds who have more time and more talent. So I have to use my wisdom to out maneuver them. Basically, you gotta play to your strengths.
TB: But those kids have less real experience and that’s what the real people require.
Kaiser: Yes, less life experience. Business acumen, etc, etc. I started DJing at 27, producing solo at 31 and I’m now 33.
TB: Ohh, that’s an awesome age to be. How do you think being half Japanese has affected you and your DJing?
Yes, I’m half Japanese so by default I’m an over engineer and blindsided by a sense of pride, so I can be prone to underestimate people I think are inferior much like the British except we are more tactful in our confrontation.
TB: What would you say to someone starting out today?
Kaiser: Slow and steady wins the race. Everything is about the long game, it’s hard at first but after a while it provides continual yield.
TB: There is also a lot of luck and timing involved.
Kaiser: The harder you work the more luck you create but you have to play on, not banking on any fortune. Unforeseen opportunity always comes, but never play on that. Opportunity is when timing meets preparation. So our goal is to just constantly prepare so when the timing hits we can strike. Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones wrote 800 songs for Off The Wall and they only picked nine. That’s the bench mark. The goal of an artist is to write and follow his own path that is authentic to himself and grind them (tracks) out, so eventually he develops unique signatures. You have to follow your own path.
TB: Yes indeed. Working hard is the only way forward.
Kasier: Working hard, but also working smart, and working strategically. Learning one thing at a time and not being eager to get to the top. Just depends on what type of artist the person wants to be. Some are such strong promoters, but don’t have the time to make their own music. That’s cool, whatever but it’s not me.
TB: How about your influences in dance music?
Kaiser: My mentor is Paul Rogers. He wrote all of Pete Tong’s music. He’s like Miyagi, he’s brutal. I got wind he moved to Oz and I chased him down. He got Sasha his first big gigs and is friends with Barry and Charlie, the brains behind Sasha.
TB: Would you say you are stuck with your own ethos unless a guiding light comes along to show you a new way forward.
Kaiser: The guiding light is your ethos, but you have to get your ethos right and not budge. But also important is not be naive to the game, otherwise you’re a jazz musician resenting anyone who gets fame with no musical talent. I trump jazz musos with a John Coltrane quote. “I never even thought about whether or not they understand what I’m doing . . . the emotional reaction is all that matters as long as there’s some feeling of communication, it isn’t necessary that it be understood.”
Basically, it’s more about self-awareness, empathy, hunger for learning, being honest with yourself and taking the time to acknowledge the people on the dance floor! My advice to DJs is more about philosophy and no ego rather than technical. Bruce Lee always said, don’t worry about plugging your flaws just exploit your strengths so much so your flaws don’t matter since your strengths are so strong.
TB: What do you think of playing a track versus playing live music?
Kaiser: They are two different worlds. I love live music. When I was in Oz I spent more time in jazz clubs. Live music has an energy, but it’s different. It’s just too logistically hard and you have to work f-ing hard.
Kaiser behind the decks at Escape last month at Jenja
TB: How was Ultra Singapore?
Kasier: It was good, the Resistance guys said some really nice things, almost ego exploding compliments. I just use that as a reason to work harder. The creative director offered to put me up in his place in Ibiza. They all told me I need to be there and I told them I’ll go when I’m ready. I can’t see the point in going now… too many people doing just that. You need to go when your music has demand. Hard work is the key to this shit… look at all the guys, Prince, MJ, all of them – they just wanted to make music.
TB: Yes it must be a zoo over there for wannabe DJs.
Kaiser: Not just that, but the people you want to get on the radar with are so overloaded it’s better to be a person they want to meet. Don’t ever chase. Be the person people want to know.
TB: Women included.
Kaiser: Never chase women. Actually never chase anything because it implies you don’t have it. Fake it till you make it. While I hate that statement ‘cause it sends the wrong message, what it means is to work as hard as being at the top and eventually you become the top cause you work at their level and people at the top only want to work with people that are serious. Who becomes big is all decided by the people above. My girlfriend is like meet Pete Tong, he’s my friend, I’m like why? “Hi Pete, I’m Kaiser…” Then what? But she got me a good one ‘cause she’s like no, as my boyfriend.. But that’s not what she really means, people think you need to meet all these people. The Beatles where shite, but did so many gigs in Germany they became a unit just like the funk brothers who wrote all of the Motowns hits.
TB: What were you doing before DJing?
Kaiser: Consulting, entrepreneurial. I went to America because I called an author who wrote a book about how to monetise social networks. I called him, he made me pitch our idea and he valued it at a million dollars, then I went to America. The sub-prime crisis hit, everything collapsed and I was suddenly DJing in New York, but I had no idea. But I think it came naturally to me because I loved it. One year later I signed to Ministry of Sound.
TB: Did you ever DJ before going to NYC?
Kaiser: No, I wasn’t DJing before then, but when I got back to Oz I started a duo with my friend. Originally I was going to be the manager because I didn’t know how to DJ properly, but that changed quickly. I was kinda the face of the duo, but I never got into DJing to just DJ, it was always to make my own music, but my partner never encouraged that.
TB: What’s the name of the duo?
Kaiser: Fear of Dawn. We had about eight top 50’s and a No.2. We did a remix of an Outkast track and it went to No 2 on hypem… and Big Boi from Outkast messaged me to thank us. David Willis booked us at Sky Garden six years ago. Mark played with a live drum kit. We came up with the name because when the sun comes up you get that fear. I learnt fast how the industry in Oz worked. Who the power brokers were. I even negotiated a break up with Ministry which was amicable and moved to One Love.
The Fear of Dawn remix of this Weeknd track got a few hits.
TB: What age were you when you went to NYC.
Kaiser: 24. I was obsessed in trying to be the next Mark Zuckerberg.
I was very corporate. You know, the typical mid 20’s chip on shoulder eager to prove a point, insecure because you thought you knew it all.
TB: How old are you now?
Kaiser: 33. Started DJing at 27, producing solo at 30 and I have written 280 songs.
TB: So you lived in in New York a while?
Kaiser: Two months, by the second week I was already doing lock-ins with club owners. It changed my life. When you travel you get a real grasp of who you are since you could rock up dressed as a pirate and that’s how people would accept you.
TB: When was the first time you came to Bali?
Kaiser: Pretty much, one year into DJing. We came over with Tigerlily. Then I came a lot and made friends with everyone and realised people liked what I did here more than Oz.
TB: Was it love at first sight?
Kaiser: We wrote a track on the first trip to Bali which was released on a MoS compilation so there must have been something in the mix.
TB: Why did Fear of Dawn come to an end? (or is it still going)
Kaiser: We haven’t released anything for two years. We are technically still in a contract with One Love but as I said, I met a healer in Bali that told me I need to start my solo career because it’s going to go bigger than I can ever imagine, but she said I have to start now. This was just after Mark Olsen (other half of Fear of Dawn) had just announced his solo thing, so I started mine. But he was always the producer so I then worked 60-70 hour weeks in the studio and Paul Rogers mentored me. And his help and mentorship really sped things up, but he never did anything but give me advice ― I don’t even think I sat in the studio with him.
TB: So you now have gone solo since arriving in Bali two years ago, how has that turned out?
Kaiser: So far so good! I’m writing lots of music averaging 1-2 tracks a week and really just trying to go down my own rabbit hole to develop those artistic traits that start to define you and your sound. You can only get to that by following your own path and being influenced by your taste, experiences and environment. I moved here so I could go “all in”, invest and contribute to the local scene and also write as much music as possible. And get the music to start doing the talking.
Kaiser: Claptone supported a track in my first ever release which was a tribute to Sharon Jones and actually the baseline came to my head while I was watching Sasha play at Jenja so I was with my friend Candice and we raced home to work on the track. Then I found out it was featured in Claptone’s clapcast #99. I sampled Sharon from Her Netflix doco and turned what she was saying into a hook and verse, but what I sampled really resonated with me. The track is my No1 selling track on beat port at the moment called Jharon Shones and it peaked at 38 in the Aria club charts.
Then recently I discovered Joris Vorn, a producing legend, has been supporting one of my tracks and played it at a festival in France and recently at Fabric London. It’s the top selling track on a German label which was a remix I did and because of my solo epic the guy who runs the German label reached out and I said sure. So you start to see how it all falls into place now the focus is really get more disciplined in my production and blocking out larger day time hours for it.
TB: Have you spoken to the healer lady again?
Kaiser: Not for a while but she’s coming back to Bali soon so I’m due for a refresh.
TB: And where can people catch you around the island over the next few weeks?
Kaiser: I’m pretty busy with my residencies, this week I have Finns, Mrs Sippy, Mirror, Gili T/Le Pirate, Ulu Cliffhouse and Single Fin!