Sanjeev Raj wears numerous hats. Not only is he the head honcho of entertainment at KYO Kuala Lumpur (KL) that just turned three, he sometimes spins as DJ Axel Groove.
Inspired by the French Touch movement with greats such as Bob Sinclair, DJ Falcon, DJ Gregory and the mighty Daft Punk, it was not before long that Sanjeev decided to pick up the art of DJ-ing under Bryan Burger of Excessive Studios 8 years ago. He fell so deeply in love with it that he made the decision to leave the humdrum of corporate life 4 years into learning the craft and has immersed himself in the labyrinth of the KL nightlife scene. Some have mistaken Malaysia as next to China, a myth he hopes to dispel by giving all of the acts that come through their doors an unforgettable time.
Popspoken: Could you share more about Kyo KL’s music booking policy, as well as 3 tastemakers in Asia that you look towards when deciding which acts to book.
Sanjeev: We are predominantly a hip hop club now but we have never strayed too far from the club’s original DNA, with plenty of house and techno still being programmed on select nights. I am a big fan of OMNIA Bali and how they have a great balance between commercial and the underground bookings. Collective Minds in Singapore does some really incredible and diverse acts which I wish i could do in KL. I also admire the HQ/Tuff Club team in Singapore for surviving this long while staying true to their sound.
Popspoken: Tell us more about how the CircoLoco Kuala Lumpur gig came about. How did the crowd respond to it?
Sanjeev: CircoLoco KL was originally supposed to be in Hong Kong but due to the political uncertainty at that time they decided to move it to Kuala Lumpur. JK58 then contacted us to work on this project and together with Air Asia Red Tix we put on an incredible show to a sold out crowd. It had been a very long time since Kuala Lumpur had witnessed an underground event at this scale and the crowd loved every minute of it.
Popspoken: It is not easy balancing business with booking credible music acts, seeing as the costs of artists are constantly rising in Asia. Share with us your struggles through these years and how you overcame them.
Sanjeev: It’s amazing how many agents are still unaware where Malaysia actually is. A lot of them think its right next to China and automatically assume that we have deep pockets. It’s crazy! It took a lot of hard work and tough negotiations to get the artists we wanted, but everyone that has ever played for us has left completely blown away by the club, its sound system – especially the Malaysian crowd. These artists then go back to their agents and friends and rave about the scene down here, which really helps us. Shout outs to Seth Troxler and Pan Pot!
Popspoken: Trust is a big word when conducting business relations in Asia, since we have noticed people rarely go on the offensive when it comes to breached contractual arrangements. How do you keep all your stakeholders happy?
Sanjeev: Trust is extremely important and quite hard to find in this industry so always know who you are doing business with, study their track record and most importantly, always have a good lawyer.
Popspoken: E-gaming as a trend has been picking up globally. Has the Malaysian crowd responded to this trend?
Sanjeev: E gaming in Malaysia is strong and is only going to grow even bigger with the current governments backing. A Malaysian team came second at the International Dota 8 tournament in 2018 winning a US4.1 Million dollars!
Popspoken: What are some compromises you have made in your personal life to pursue your passion in electronic music?
Sanjeev: The long working hours and high stress environment has lead to a lot of neglect but it’s important to find a good balance. So that’s my goal for 2020.
Popspoken: Describe your working relationship with EJ Missy. Tell us something the public doesn’t know about her, as we know she likes to keep a relatively low profile.
Sanjeev: Fun fact, EJ Missy has been in KYO much longer than I have been. She was from original KYO Singapore team and is currently our Marketing Guru. We’ve known each other since 2014 and I can confidently say she is one of the best DJs I have seen. Period. She is also a real foodie and loves cooking.
Catch Sanjeev on the panel of Wired Music Week happening at Zouk Genting from 12 – 15 March 2020.