DSML (or more known to us as our homie David Siow) wears many hats in the Singapore music industry, from having fronted SGMUSO for the past 3 years, playing bass for award-winning Indie-pop band M1LDL1FE, to emerging as a music producer with the moniker, DSML, in 2020 as a way of expressing his personal trauma in the form of music production.
The decision to step out as a music producer stemmed from going through a dark and tough time in his life, enabling DSML to dig deep into his emotions. The result — infusing his collaborations with his own brand of dark emotions and production choices. Releasing a collaboration track every month, the producer has already worked with Singaporean based home-girl GIN.GIRL, pop artist Falling Feathers, Malaysian indie-rock band Son Of A Policeman, Indonesian indie-anthem rock band lightcraft, as well as Singapore based LGBTQ advocate, actress, and musician Jean Seizure. Upcoming in the first quarter of 2021 includes a city-pop inspired track with newcomers Venus Landing, follow-up collaborations with GIN.GIRL, and Jean Seizure, as well as a commissioned track and video by Aliwal Arts Centre to capture Singapore’s Malay historical centre, Kampong Gelam, into a song as part of a 10-part video web series.
We got DSML to share on a playlist touching on his artistic pursuits, of what he was feeling at that point in time, that have impacted his music life greatly, his guilty pleasures and essentially doing what a musician does best – expressing oneself through the chosen art form.
1. Last Dinosaurs, Zoom (2012) First fell in love with these guys in 2014 (even took a photo of them at Camp Symmetry Festival), then met the manager at Music Matters 2017, and thereafter got the opportunity to open for them with the M1LDL1FE bois in mid-2018. We became friends ever since, and Paddy and I even visited them on their farm in Brisbane. I remember listening to the song once in 2017 and I collapsed on the MRT, sobbing quietly in a corner when the bridge hit “I told you, I tell myself It’s alright, alright, alright”. It brought much assurance to me that things would be alright, no matter the torment I was going through. Got an Indonesian artist Nadcil to create a tattoo on my arm based on the song, the Last Dinos bois loved that!
2. Charlie Lim, Bitter (2015) Charlie Lim, to me, represents the hope of Singapore Original Music. I’ve long believed in his music, and he has never disappointed. With my time in SGMUSO, it has also shown me the harsh realities of making it in the music industry – some of the things you need is to have a niche to call your own, and a unique selling point. I played this song once to my friends when we were really sombre at the end of the night in 2015, and we just nearly wept. This song is Charlie’s magnus opus IMO.
3. Glass Animals, Youth (2016) This track taught me how electronic music can co-exist with a band, with the central focus being on groove. Just feel like getting up to bounce every time I hear a Glass Animals track. It helped me think about transitioning the Take Two sound more into the M1LDL1FE sound,where I could use digital elements to bring out the groove in the pulse of the song.
4. Sondre Lerche – Bad Law (2014) At first, I thought this song was a simple indie-pop song, but knowing this artist has quirky tendencies that couldn’t have been all. There’s a breakdown section every minute or so that just HITS YOU, pretty much sums up complex feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, angst all within a few seconds of music, brilliant.
5. Anomalie, Velours (2017) TASTY. As a producer, I had stayed away from hardcore sidechain until I heard this track. Clearly a jazz cat, he combined sidechain with pulling back the beat/feel like in Neo-Soul, absolute perfection. I managed to catch him live in March 2019 at Java Jazz Festival right before circuit breaker started, and this was where Instagram guitarist Mateus Asato came out to jam in set as well. Probably never gonna reach that level of musicianship, but it’s ok I’ll just bask in his brilliance and be inspired in my own way.
6. The Reign of Kindo, Sing When No One’s Around (2013) I had previously been hesitant to insert crazy beats and syncopations into my songs, but this song showed me that it is possible to do it tastefully, and with no holding back.
7. KAYTRANADA, TRACK UNO (2016) It’s like in every producer’s bible to have KAYTRANADA as one of their influences. He takes sampling to a whole new level, guess that’s why so many big-time artists are willing to work with him. One day, one day.
8. Eli Way, cehryl, Papercut (2018) I had always been hooked on old school beats, so when this track came around, I was more than happy someone was melding those beats with synth work and modern pop production. Sometimes you just wanna vibe, amirite?
9. Parcels, Older (2016) Back to the guilty pleasure of the broad genre of indie-pop. These guys hold down groove better than they pull off moustaches and their 70s styling. Every time someone tells me, “eh, bass not important one”, I show them this band and they realize their folly. Every instrument shines equally in their music, a philosophy we tend to apply in the M1LDL1FE songwriting.
10. Lido, Vultures (2018) This song came to me also during quite a dark time, but because it did, I felt it stronger. The lyrics are pretty dark, –it’s really about surrendering to the evil and darkness. I had a period of producing music whereby I’d lock myself in my home studio for days on end, with no contact with other humans. It was in this time that I truly understood what it takes to be an artist, how it’s a double-edged sword where on one side diving deep into your emotions allows for great art to be created, but on the other side it engulfs and eats away at you. Be warned, the abyss of darkness is not for everyone, and a strong support system is needed to get out of the hole.
Also, it helps that the production behind the song is amazing and super unique, with bare sine wave synths juxtaposed against the big ass synth-heavy chorus and sampled kick repetition.
11. B-Quartet, Stupid Luxury (2008) The oldest song on the list, and it’s truly had an impact on how I view dissonance and harmony. After you’ve done B-quartet you don’t go back. It’s a pity they aren’t active anymore.
12. Disclosure, Where Angels Fear To Tread (2018) Barbershop quartet meets sexy chords meet vinyl, lapped on with a thicc beat. Nobody can deny Disclosure’s genius, and this track is no different. Whenever I want to hear barbershop vocals but still want to feel like I’m at Ce La Vi, this is my go-to track.
13. Friday Night Plans, Happy Birthday & UU – Teppei edit (2018) One of the signature characteristics of DSML’s music that I’m trying to develop is the DURTY part of the music, kind of like how in this Friday Night Plans track there’s the real durty chorus but there are also sensual chords behind. It just makes you feel like getting real low grooving.
14. Reality Club, Is It The Answer (2017) Met these guys early on in their career and became steady friends since. Their previous releases also fall into my guilty pleasure category, with catchy guitar riffs and danceable Indie-pop melodies.
15.Jacob Collier feat. Daniel Caesar – Time Alone With You (2019) This is like everything I like within a track – old school beats, jazz vocal harmonies, nice synth work, sexy chord progressions. To me, Jacob Collier is the musician of our generation, with Louis Cole a close second.
BONUS Cid Rim, Denai Moore – Control (2019) I’m digging the industrial sound and detuned synths, could be something I infuse into my music going forward, who knows?