Top: DJ Spydamonkee at his club Tha Beatlounge on RCA. Photo: Kittipong June Tangkamonkit
Metee Quanbooncham, aka DJ Spydamonkee, is one of the pioneers in Thailand’s Turntablist scene. With a career that has spanned two decades, it is a title he deserves.
Those new to the whole DJ culture thing might be confused with the word turntablist. Turntablism is the art of using a turntable and mixer to create music in a way more commonly known as scratching. All this waka-waka scratch stuff may look easy, but there’s quite a lot of theory and practice. I’d say it’s on the same level as learning any other musical instrument only there are no rules and experimentation is the driving force.
Outside of the underground scene, many know Spydamonkee as the official DJ for superstar rapper Joey Boy, an occupation he’s had for over 10 years. But his original claim to fame came in 1997, when he he was the second DJ to represent Thailand at the DMC World Finals, a DJ competition where the best turntablists in the world compete for supremacy.
Besides being an in demand DJ and wowing crowds with his amazeballs turntable tricks, the DJ also runs Tha Beatlounge, a small club space on Bangkok’s Royal City Avenue. It’s here where we met to talk.
Originally a three-floor office space, the top floor was converted into Spydamonkee’s recording studio with the middle and bottom floors used for the club, where people flock to on weekends to listen to DJs show off their skills. There’s a community vibe here and it’s the venues open-arms policy toward any DJ who wants to perform that has made it the go-to place in both the hip-hop and turntablist scenes.
To the surprise of many of its dedicated clubbers, Spydamonkee said he was closing the doors forever earlier this year, but as he explained to me, he re-opened it fully renovated in May in the true spirit of YOLO.
It’s here at Tha Beatlounge that serves as the location for our interview. Inside on the renovated club’s brick walls are pictures of all the legendary Turntablists that have graced the decks at Beat Lounge. With all the hip-hop album sleeves strewn on the walls, it gives off a Jazz club vibe.
Mongkorn Timkul: What made you interested in scratching and turntablism?
Spydamonkee: Well I got into this after you and Khan (Thaitanium). I was just a skater kid at that time and a lot of the music in skate video’s got me interested in hip-hop.I used to play in metal bands when I was a kid, and what I like as a turntablist is that we play the turntable like an instrument. Club DJs mix for people to dance, but we do this for people who want to see a performance.
MT: You spent your college years in San Francisco, is that where you honed your skills?
SM: I was always eager to learn but back in those days there weren’t many places in Bangkok that I could learn. So yeah I really excelled in learning techniques when I went to the states.
MT: You’ve been Joey Boy’s official DJ for his whole career. It must be quite a fun and glamorous job.
SM: Honestly after 10 years it’s like another job, but every time I perform I learn new things like how to interact with people, how to perform on stage and and how to move the crowd.
MT: Tha Beatlounge has always supported underground hip-hop in Thailand, everyone was shocked when you decided to close it. What made you change your mind and reopen it again?
SM: Five years ago I opened Tha Beatlounge because I needed a space for my personal recording studio, which is on the top floor. The downstairs space didn’t have anything, so I decided to build a bar so my friends and I could chill. Another reason is I hate going to clubs where I don’t like the music, also I want the place to be a community center where people can hear good music from all subcultures. I was gonna close it, but I believe in the place and that people still want something different, plus I was worried that if I didn’t give it another shot I’d really regret it in the future.
MT: A lot of kids nowadays are attracted to DJing because they see other DJs, especially those doing EDM, and it looks so “easy.” How do you feel about the current state of the Turntablist scene in Thailand?
SM: Some people, they want to be a DJ because they want to be the center of attention. To me some DJs get paid a million baht for a set not because they’re good but because they have a really good marketing team working for them. Being a turntablist is not that hard, but most importantly you have to practice a lot. I think it’s something that everyone can enjoy, all you have to do is open your mind and try it and enjoy the sound that you create. There’s no right or wrong.
MT: The last time I saw you DJ was when we both competed in Red Bull Thre3style. You were the crowd favorite that night but unfortunately didn’t take the win. But I got a deeper appreciation of what you do and wonder if you plan on competing again?
SM: (Rolls his eyes) Fuck Red Bull! I don’t believe in battles anymore, you know why? Because this is music and you can’t judge music. Battling can be cool because it can tell you where your skills are at but nowadays, especially in Thailand, it’s about the marketing. Fuck Red Bull.