MJ Kuok happy to spin

MJ Kuok happy to spin
PHOTO: Instagram

In the electronic dance music (EDM) scene, he is known as MMXJ, but you may know the DJ-producer by his Singapore Idol 3 name MJ Kuok.

Kuok Meng Jun was among the 13 finalists in the reality TV singing show in 2009, but dropped out for "personal reasons".

"I was studying communications at Stanford University at the time and was told by the Idol organisers that if offered a recording contract, I would need to stay in Singapore for two years (for production and promotion)," the 26-year-old told M over the phone from Hong Kong.

Not wanting to defer his studies, Kuok left Singapore Idol.

He said he was unaware of the two-year commitment when he joined the competition as the contract was revealed only at the finals stage.

Known for his heartfelt performances on the guitar and his boyish looks, Kuok's departure from the show disappointed fans, but he believed he made the right decision.

Born in Singapore, Kuok was brought up in Hong Kong and the UK.

After graduating, he worked in advertising and real estate development in Hong Kong for three years.

But the lure of doing music full-time proved too tempting.

"The first time I was exposed to house and dubstep music at (California music festival) Coachella (in 2012), listening to Alesso and Swedish House Mafia, I was blown away.

"I decided to teach myself to make EDM and seven months ago, I started putting an album together," he said.

So what does MMXJ stand for?

Kuok said it represents his and his two brothers' initials.

His first single, dubstep track Kings, features the vocals of local singer-songwriter Gentle Bones and will be released under the Warner Music Singapore label on iTunes on Sept 25. It is available for pre-order. It will also be part of Kuok's debut album Into The Wild, which will be released this year.

He said: "I've been a fan of Gentle Bones since his first single Until We Die (2013), so I contacted him through his Facebook page and sent him the instrumental version of Kings. He liked it, so we got together to jam and co-write the lyrics.

"Kings is about encouraging people to follow their hearts, just like how we followed our desire to pursue music."

Kuok added that the track was inspired by rough times in his life, such as his feelings of homesickness when he moved to Oundle School in the UK at the age of 12.

"I was far away from home and missed my friends and family. I was the only Chinese kid in my year and got bullied a lot," he said.

More challenges followed when he did his national service at 17. He got into trouble twice and was confined for five straight weeks in camp.

Kuok recalled: "I got busted for making phone calls after lights-out and had to wake up the rest of my bunk mates to do exercises till 2am.

"I was so sure I would get beaten up, but my fellow cadets said they, too, had been using their phones, so they appreciated me taking the hit for them.

"Shortly after my confinement, I got confined for a further two weeks after failing to clear my gun magazine properly during a training exercise.

"That was one of the all-time lows in my life."

On Sept 20, for the Formula 1 weekend, Kuok will spin at an unnamed new club opened by lifestyle marketing agency Massive Collective in Beach Road.

When asked why he chose the DJ-producer path instead of being a singer-songwriter, Kuok mused that it is easier to stand out that way.

"It's a lot more fun collaborating with other artists. The music scene in Singapore is really exciting.

"I'm working with (fellow Singapore Idol alumnus) Mae Sta Maria and Reuby for my new album."

Kuok is also close to local singer Wiltay, who is his cousin and is being mentored by American Idol judge and US producer Randy Jackson.

COLLABORATION

"We hope to make music together in future," said Kuok of his cousin.

Kuok, who is single, dreams of becoming the Singaporean version of Scottish superstar DJ-producer Calvin Harris as "there's definitely a gap in the market I'm hoping to fill".

And his family "are eagerly awaiting the single".

"They've seen that I tried really hard to work in other jobs, but I'm happier making music," said Kuok, who is the grandson of Malaysian billionaire Robert Kuok.

lisat@sph.com.sg

 


This article was first published on Aug 26, 2015.
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