American-born Scott Hess didn’t set out to be a DJ, but his talent on the turntables led to a residency in Germany, and an eventual move to Bangkok
Tell us about your musical influences.
I grew up in Detroit, where I was lucky enough to be exposed to and inspired by so much great music—Motown, George Clinton, Juan Atkins and the birth of techno, Theo Parrish, Iggy Pop and the Stooges, J. Dilla and Slum Village, etc. There was so much great music around me and I really tried to absorb it all without discrimination. That’s a very Detroit thing, this way of looking at different kinds of music without trying to judge or put it in a box.
How did you end up becoming a DJ?
I started out as a bass player. Back then I was obsessed with Parliament, and trying to get my bass to sound like that. Turns out much of that stuff was Bernie Worrell on synth. When I figured that out I moved on to synths, then samplers and drum machines. Next thing I knew I was getting small gigs producing hip hop. I only started DJing as a way to get my studio beats to a live setting for rappers. Ironically it was DJing that became my career and I moved to Germany and got my first residencies, and I eventually got better at it. I also continued to compose, and have had some success with music for films and video games, and I have my own original live electronic music project called Elevators.
Where in Bangkok can people hear you spinning?
I’m at Smalls every Thursday. This is where I’m most free to express myself creatively. I play a lot of my own productions at Smalls, and it’s the kind of environment that encourages me to take chances. I also play every Saturday at Iron Balls Distillery, which is also a fantastic creative environment. Iron Balls is “vinyl only” and that’s a fun challenge to come up with inspiring sets every week with just the vinyl I’ve either brought with me or have found in Thailand. You can also catch me at Quince every Friday night, and at Riedel Wine Bar & Cellar every Wednesday.
How do you make your sets unique?
I don’t categorize music by genre or stick to one style of music all night. Rather, I look for common links between different styles of music and try to bring them together in a way that makes sense, that tells a story. It might be a mood, or key signature, or certain sounds. Also, I like to play a lot of my original productions and I also make my own edits and remixes of other music that I play.
You also post your DJ sets online.
I started to do this for posterity, as a way a keeping a musical record of these amazing nights I’ve been having here in Bangkok. Honestly there’s no place else in the world I’d rather be right now, and I get a special kind of inspiration from this city. So yeah, I started recording my sets and posting them online to share with people at
What do you think of the city’s nightlife scene overall?
I think there’s a special kind of vibe in Bangkok for those who can feel it. There’s some kind of juice here that’s like no place else on earth. My hope is that more and more people will try to harness this creatively, rather than try to imitate things that are happening in other cities, or to just stick to tired music genres and formulas. I think what Chris Menist and Maft Sai have done with their Paradise Bangkok record label and events is really inspiring. What they’ve created is something that could have only come from here, and they’re having huge success worldwide too.
What’s your take on Bangkok’s live music scene?
I think the level of musicianship in Bangkok, especially with the jazz players, is incredibly high. It’s great to see Smalls offering a platform for more adventurous, avant-garde jazz on Wednesdays. Hopefully more venues will follow suit and this “scene” will develop into something bigger. I also love what’s happening at Studio Lam with all the new Molam bands coming up, like Siang Hong Lion and Toomturn Molarm Group. It’s a revival with new innovations of the original form—very inspiring stuff!
Do you plan on remaining in BKK?
I absolutely expect to be based here in BKK indefinitely, and I’ve set up a pretty decent portable studio. Of course, as much as I love Bangkok, I also love to escape as well, to recharge the battery and to find new inspiration. But without a doubt BKK will remain my home base for some time to come. I first came here for a one-year course at SAE (School of Audio Engineering), but I knew after two weeks that I wasn’t going to leave Thailand.
To check out Scott’s original music productions visit: www.soundcloud.com/sushiking/sets/elevators
Interview by Bruce Scott