Exclusive Interview with 22Bullets
22Bullets first rose to mainstream fame in Thailand when he released “Burn Up The Club” through Dome Pakorn Lum’s EDM label, Iconic Records in 2014. However, for those who did not know, 22Bullets has actually been around for quite some time before that – having won the Pioneer Battle Scratchin’ DJ in 2009. More recently, he has branched out and done what many Thai DJs only dream of, and that is to release some of his own tracks on some of the most famous labels around the world – one of those being Hardwell’s Revealed Recordings.
Siam2nite had the chance to sit down with him and talk about his recent achievements and evolution as a DJ.
We understand that you’ve been around the scene for a while, but 2016 in particular seemed as if the stars have aligned and you have started to come up a little. But before all of this, for some of us who don’t know who 22Bullet is, can you tell us a little a bit about yourself? Who is 22Bullets?
I’m an artist that enjoys making good music. Yeah. Not just EDM, not anymore. Whatever is good, whatever I am inspired by. I make it.
I understand you were the winner of the Pioneer Battle Scratchin’ DJ in 2009, is there where it all started?
Man, that was a long time ago! At that time, I was just DJing and fooling around with the gear you know? Not even into making the music. I love to DJ, but then I realized that’s not my main goal anymore. It wouldn’t take you far if you only just DJ, so I started making original music after I won the competition. I sold all the gear and I bought myself a laptop and I downloaded some crack software *laughs*.
Why all of a sudden did you come up with that mentality though?
I have always been a big fan of music since I remember. So, I always wanted to have my own tracks to play in my set.
Was it a family thing?
Nah. My family enjoys listening to my music but none of them are musicians. They are business people.
So, this is you and your own passion then.
Actually, I got it from my brother. He’s a big fan of music too. He can DJ. I learned it from him. He was the one who got all the gear at first. So, I was fooling around with his gear when I was like really young.
Was it “22Bullets” since back then? What was the name you were going by? And where does the name even come from?
Nah, it was just Beaver *laughs*. But you know, a lot of people ask me about the name. It’s a funny story. At my first gig, the organizer called me and they needed a name at that minute! They were making a flyer or something. And I was watching a movie and it was called “22 Bullets” – it was a French movie. So…yeah…that’s where it came from. And it stuck…I think it’s too late to change it now *laughs*.
Personally, I started to notice the name 22Bullets after you released “Burn Up The Club”. Can you tell us a little bit about how that came about?
That song is a project we did. It’s an album – it came out on physical CDs. At that time, there was Double Dose – Pim (aka Pyra) and Patty (PattyYourVillian) – and we had to do something with them. The style was Melbourne Bounce. It was my kind of thing for a bit.
That was with Dome Pakorn Lam right? How did you get involved with him in the first place?
Yeah, yeah! I knew him for a long time actually. I use to DJ with him at a couple of gigs and I would always talk to him about the gear. It was a connection that turned into more than just friendship.
Since “Burn Up The Club” do you think a lot has changed then?
Yeah, a lot! I have done it all in Thailand. I collabed with all of the big artists in Thailand. I remixed for Bodyslam but I knew that this is not going to blow up the scene, doing EDM only in Thailand. My goal is to try to release overseas. That’s when it all kept growing! We started releasing on a very small label in Australia and then I signed a track to Deorro’s in 2016. The track came out in July and Deorro at the time was the world’s number 23 DJ or something.
Clearly this year you got a lot of international exposure. I mean you have the MakJ collaboration, you have releases on Chuckie’s Dirty Dutch label, Deorro’s Panda Funk label, and then Hardwell’s Revealed label. Where did all that come from?
I use to think to myself, “how do I connect with these guys?” And in the end of the day, the music speaks for itself. You make good tracks, good things will come around. Good tracks, they will ALWAYS be heard.
So what is your style of promoting yourself? Do you just wait for it to be heard?
Nah, you send it directly to them. Actually at first I thought these big name DJs don’t check their emails. Obviously they do! But if the track is not good, they don’t reply *laughs*. That’s how I got connected to MakJ. F*ck! After 3 months, I got a reply…3 months! And he said “hey, I really like this track. Can we do something together?” At first, I thought the track wasn’t good enough, but then when MakJ said this was solid I knew it must be OK, my track is good! That’s when I started sending stuff to more people! The MakJ connect gave me self-confidence you know?
At EDC Las Vegas this year, I sent him like 16 bars of a drop I made and he just played it at EDC! I didn’t even know he was going to play it and I saw it on the livestream. I was like “what the f*ck, you’re playing this track!” It’s not even done! And he told me he really enjoyed my music and he needed to play it.
Do you think then after you have already collaborated with one international artist it makes it easier to go to the next one? Because your name is out there right?
Actually my name is out there, but only a few people know. But what gave me more confidence to send people stuff for collabs is I think my music is evolving. It’s getting better with many styles. I’m not confined anymore.
Well did you ever confine yourself or classify yourself as a certain type of DJ?
Yeah, when I was making “Burn Up The Club” I was making a certain sound. I enjoyed it back then, but because at the time I was the only DJ in Thailand that was playing that kind of music – Melbourne Bounce with an offbeat bass. I was inspired by Deorro. I went to see him at Onyx and I did an opening set for him. Before that I was a dubstep guy but man, that night it changed me. The next day I started making this kind of music. No more dubstep for me. Right away! It was always my dream that I wanted to release on Deorro’s label. And OK, that goal is achieved. I released on Panda Funk! And then the next goal was to release on Hardwell’s label Revealed. And I did that now! Now I’m just trying to grow in terms of my musicality.
Once you meet these artists in person, how are these guys? Do you learn a lot from them?
Yeah, they are these cool guys you know? I use to think like they party so hard. I went to Laidback Luke’s birthday in Amsterdam and he doesn’t drink at all! And he said to me, if you need to tour almost every day in different countries, in different cities, you need to exercise, go to the gym, and take care of your health. So, that’s what I do.
Is that one of the reasons we might not see you out in the club every night in Thailand?
If you ask me why I don’t do residencies – actually I got a lot of offers to do residencies but I think it’s not healthy for me when I’m focused on making music. Thai clubs they always play the same music, same tracks. If you go to my set, I don’t play the music that people want to listen to. I try to play something that is good but they haven’t heard it yet and mix that with something the crowd could enjoy and think “oh this is also good stuff, I don’t have to go to RCA every day to listen to the same old music every night”.
So, it seems then you’re very focused on the music. But you have fans obviously and they will most likely want to see you live. Where is the best opportunity to do that? How do we see you?
For now, I get to play a lot of festivals actually, but I’m trying to do my Facebook live every Sunday. I used to do it a couple of months back and was focused on how I did my tracks, but then obviously, fans wanted to hear me do DJ sets so when I did it I gained like 200-300 more fans. Clearly this is something I should do a lot more of!
Rather than residencies, you’re just connecting directly with the fans through social media then.
Yeah, because right now I get to tour a lot to different cities outside Thailand. I just played in Amsterdam and before that I played in Yangon with Headhunterz so I don’t get to play a lot in Thailand now.
Do you feel like social media is a big way to connect with the fans?
Yeah it is for sure. But normally I’m not the kind of person who’s that active on social so I need to do that more.
With your outreach, do you feel like you have a big fan base outside Thailand then?
It’s so funny I didn’t even know that you can find out who your target audience is. Obviously most people who like my page are Thai. But second is Vietnam! I have more than 2,000 fans in Vietnam! I’ve NEVER played in Vietnam! It’s so like WTF?! *laughs* So we’re trying to get some gigs there now.
You release a lot of your music online – on SoundCloud for example. What is your opinion on artists releasing tracks for free?
You know what, I think it’s a really good idea because it takes so long to release on labels. I have like 5-6 tracks done still waiting for labels to approve. And if you have a big fan base, it’s good to put out free downloads. But you need a campaign to do that.
Do you have a big team behind you that works with you right now?
Yeah, we’re building a really good team right now. It’s going towards the right direction.
We know that you have management across the world, not just in Thailand. Can you tell us a little about that?
At first I started with my friend. He owns an agency in Thailand. He books a lot of DJs for Onyx. So, I sent a track to him and he likes it so he hooked me up with a label in Australia. After that I sent my tracks to the manager of Headhunterz and he really liked the tunes. So, he offered us a management deal. I used to make some hard electro so I sent a couple of tracks. EDM and pop. They liked the EDM stuff but what made me stand out was I was also able to do pop sounds because everyone can do EDM right now. And that’s how I was offered a deal.
Because you say that you like so many music styles, what is your favorite style right now?
So hard, but I enjoy pop at the moment. There’s not so many good EDM tracks out there at the moment.
What’s a track that you would really love to play right now at any of your sets?
Honestly, it has to be my tracks! But when I play I try to match it up with tunes that everyone knows for the breakdown. Galantis or something. But when the drop comes, it’s always my tunes.
How many of your own songs do you have ready to play right now?
In my 1-hour sets, it would normally be around 27 tracks and around 50% would be mine. People don’t really know they are my tracks, but I try to make it crowd friendly by doing mashups so they can sing along. Most of my own tracks are unreleased IDs.
As a fan of music myself, I love IDs. It’s cool, it’s new. But for the casual fan it’s hard to sing along.
Yeah, IDs people are not supposed to know. That’s why when we do it live we mash it up.
From the things you said, we know you don’t play at clubs that often. But festivals are a big thing for you.
I mean I try to do club gigs but it’s so hard to get some here in Bangkok. Maybe it’s because they don’t want to pay high fees. I mean I don’t want to compare it with the DJs that do it for less. It’s just not worth it for me. Festivals however, they want to get me on the line-up so they pay. It’s not that I rather do festivals than clubs. I would love to do both but festivals just want to book me more *laughs*. I mean at clubs they would say to me “this guy he would do it for this much, why don’t you do it for this much?” But from my point of view, if I would do it for less, the standards I’ve been setting for myself would have been done for nothing. I’ve been in the game for too long. I know how it works, so I don’t want to settle.
In that case, what are some of your favorite festivals?
It’s got to be S2O. I’ve been there since their first time. I hope to be going back again. It’s so good there. I feel the energy and it feels good you know.
So, it seems like you represent Thailand pretty hard. Do you go abroad and fly that flag quite a bit – declaring you’re Thai?
Of course! I just did an interview with a big Dutch channel. They were surprised because they never have Thai DJs on their show. It just surprised them. They didn’t think we even had a scene in Thailand. I mean we’re growing. As a country, we’re going in a good direction for listeners. But for artists maybe not so much. I still think Thai DJs in general are not inspired. We have all these festivals. I would expect all these DJs to start making their own tracks. But none of them do! The door is already opened, you should start getting your name out there with your own tracks.
Did you start off with your own tracks?
Yeah. Because why wouldn’t you make your own music? As a DJ, you obviously want to play your own tracks. I mean it’s so good when you hear your own stuff being played. When you get people vibing to it, it’s awesome.
I know music is a big deal for you. But outside of music, what else do you have going on for you?
Nothing else. I mean I do teach. I make music. It’s all music related. It kind of runs in the veins. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’m going to give myself a couple of years and if it doesn’t work out, I can come back to the family business. But not now. I’m giving it all I have right now.
2016 was a pretty big year for you, do you think 2017 will be better?
I hope so. I got a lot of tracks done. I mean every track I’ve made I try to push harder. Increase the quality by putting more time and effort into it. Usually taking my time with it and not rushing. I mean my process can last 3-4 months per track even. Sometimes I think it’s finished but then I’m not satisfied with it. I think it can get better. It gets to a point when you just have to say it’s finished and move on but when a track is not signed yet, it’s still not 100%. I am my own worst critic. It pushes me to be better. Some people put themselves in the center of the universe because they think that’s good. I’m not that kind of person. When I compare my tracks to other people, when it’s bad, I’ll know it. Why put out something that isn’t good? People are not going to listen to it.
So, the people that you collab with, you surely have a high respect for them.
Exactly, it’s not just random people for the name. I actually have to like them. My favorite collab so far must be this track with Maddox on Revealed. He’s really talented.
Do you work remotely with these guys or do you actually see them?
Yeah remotely. Although I just met some of the Revealed guys in Amsterdam. I was there for 2 weeks playing a few gigs and met up with some song writers. You know, get the connections. I planned this trip for like 5 months and went even before signing with Revealed. ADE is the Amsterdam Dance Event for people to come and meet up so I went there. I mean I was not even signed to Headhunterz team when I planned the trip. But after everything was signed, it became the trip to actually meet these guys.
You’ve done so much in 2016. What do you think was your favorite memory?
The Revealed release. I screamed so loud when my manager called me. I mean everyone knows Revealed. Everyone knows Hardwell. In person, he’s just this this really humble guy who doesn’t talk too much.
Do you get to engage with these guys a lot or more so the team around them?
Actually, I got to talk to Hardwell. I don’t really know his team. These guys are really approachable when you are in the circle. I get a lot of feedback from Headhunterz now also. He gives me a lot of feedback on music and stuff. At the end of the day though, you have to know what you want to be and not listen to too many people. They will think you want to be like them so they tell you their story. It’s good to listen and learn, but never lose your identity. I want to be 22Bullets. I mean I’m not 100% sure about what I want to do, but I’m still trying to figure it out you know. I’m still evolving. I mean right now if I had to choose someone to collab with it would be KSHMR or Afrojack because that’s what my music is like. KSHMR pushes the boundaries of EDM. His tracks are all so well crafted – the sounds, the melodies. You can tell he puts a lot of effort in it. But Afrojack, he puts on a good show. His music might not be as good as KSHMR, but I like how he does it.
It’s almost like you pick and choose the best things from these veterans and put it in yourself.
Yeah. Internalize and push it out there. You can see I have some mellow tracks and some hard tracks.
For the aspiring Thai DJs that are still stuck in their home studios, what do you suggest?
Just work hard. There’s no shortcut. I mean my family wasn’t even supportive. They wanted me to go back to the family business. But music was my thing. I mean they don’t even know what Revealed was when I was all excited about it but I stuck to it. Maybe at the next big show I will bring them so they have an idea what is going on.
For your creative process, do you normally use a lot of your close friends and family before you actually say a track is finished?
I send my tracks to a lot of people for feedback who would critique it. Especially my manager. He hates everything man. So, if I can impress him it means it’s very good! It doesn’t bring me down. The first track I did with him, I have 23 versions of! And man, all of it was different. Almost as if I have 23 songs done! But I got so much better. When the next track came around, I finished a lot quicker. I learned you know. Getting feedback from these guys just makes me better. I mean my manager, he works with one of the best artists like Headhunterz so everything needs to be perfect. We’re not aiming to release on small labels. We only look for the high-profile ones. That’s the only thing we do now. It’s got to be something special.
How many tracks do you have in the works right now?
Right now, a lot of stuff is done. But I’m always starting new tracks. Something fresh. In 2017, you can expect a lot of new music. A lot of tours globally. I’m planning to do a lot of festivals in Europe in summer – I mean I just got signed so hopefully we’ll get to do a tour in the summer. The idea is hopefully to swing back get booked more in Thailand. But at the end of the day, why would you contain yourself to one country though. 2017 will be the global expansion.
Any final words for the fans?
Follow my page man. Look me up. Hope you like it!
Follow the man himself on his Facebook page for all the latest updates and look out for 22Bullets’ newest singles popping up in the clubs near you.