In Her Element is a photo-series by Delegate featuring inspiring women in Singapore who excel in their various domains. For our latest issue, we visited DJ Tinc at her academy, This Beat is Sick (TBIS). A veteran in the DJ scene with 8 years of experience, Tinc launched the academy in 2014. Now, TBIS offers DJ courses and currently has 7 artistes under its label.
Tinc, whose stage name is derived from her Chinese name, Ting (婷), is a huge hit in the clubbing scene and has been spinning tracks in clubs all over the world–from New York to Chicago, Manilla and more.
She shared that one of her favourite experiences overseas was spinning in an Asian club in New York, in the middle of Times Square. “It was winter, during the Christmas period three years ago. Everyone was having such a good time and it was crazy!”
But, DJ-ing was actually somewhat of a serendipitous discovery for her. Though the Laselle graduate spent her whole life in the arts, she was more involved in the classical genre initially.
Tinc was enrolled in ballet classes since the age of four and two years later, she began a fierce training in classical music, learning to play the piano and the violin. Her first love was dance, which she excelled in.
Music was actually the last thing that came into my life when I was a kid. Dancing was actually the first achievement – I won a lot of awards when I was young and that was my forte.
However, Tinc stopped dancing in secondary school and picked up painting instead. She was particularly fond of acrylic and graffiti painting and in fact, you might even spot a few of her works in the cafes at Haji Lane.
Besides talent, which she has in spades, Tinc stands out for her grit.
She recalled being bullied as a teen but refused to let it get to her. Instead, she channelled her emotions into song writing to express herself and that was when she discovered yet another talent. By the time she was 14, Tinc was signed as a songwriter.
Things perked up for her after entering Polytechnic, which was also when her foray into the clubbing scene began. Her poly friends brought her to her first club, Phuture, where she was shocked to be completely clueless about the songs they were playing.
I was very amazed because I don’t listen to the radio. I listened to things like jazz and Westlife was the most pop thing I ever listened to.
“Does the club have a fixed CD they use every night?” she asked. Her friends then pointed out the DJ behind the console. That was when it all began.
When I saw that there was someone controlling the crowd, I was blown away by it.
She explained: “As a performer since young, it’s something you will always want to do, to have the ability to affect people’s emotions.”
With her strong foundation in music, within three months of learning to DJ, Tinc was already entering competitions. During the first four years of her career, the gigs started rolling in “like crazy”.
I was flying four to five times a month and I even did month-long tours where I didn’t come back to Singapore—I just flew from country to country.
For the internationally acclaimed DJ, her dream had always been to build a school.
As a clueless but determined 22-year-old undergraduate, she signed up for ACRA and began giving lessons from her bedroom. For the first two years, the company was essentially operating out of her bedroom. In 2017, the academy moved into an office space in Tai Seng.
The name “This Beat is Sick” had always been a phrase she used in clubs and one day in the shower, it clicked that it was a good name for her company.
It’s catchy and timeless – even after 10 years, it’ll still sound cool.
With her company now set, Tinc resumed her interest for songwriting. She had always preferred being a singer-songwriter but put the plans for this on a halt as she admitted that she did not have the best voice out there. Tinc may have many dreams, but she was still a realist at heart.
The thing is that a dream is just a dream, sometimes what you like might not be what you are best at. You just have to make do.
“The thing with being a DJ is that you’re using other people’s work to express yourself, which is not 100% of who you are. But, when I complete an original song, it’s my own piece of work.”
Thus, Tinc used her skills as a DJ to complement her passion for songwriting. She has since released self-written singles with her on vocals, which ended up being a hit. Though she didn’t actively promote the singles, they wound up being picked up by DJs across the world. She had no clue until her friends texted her that clubs in Australia were playing her songs.
Even if you told me a club in Singapore was playing, I would be wowed and what’s more in Australia!
It was incredibly inspiring to hear about her story, how she had so many huge dreams and managed to achieve them all, even rising above her negative experiences. Also, despite being such an international hit, the small-sized but incredibly feisty DJ remains down-to-earth and admitted that the success of her singles surprised her too.
Even now, Tinc refuses to sit back on her success.
“A lot of people ask me why I’m such a party animal but in my line, I have to be a party animal.”
To Tinc, being a good DJ is about being able to read the crowd. Skills may be a factor but another is being able to imagine yourself in the crowd – what would you want to hear?
Thus, she refuses to simply spin her tracks and then pack up and go home. Rather, she constantly listens to what other DJs are playing and immerses herself in the crowd to understand what it is that audience would want to hear.
When asked about her goals for this new year, Tinc said that she wants to make it to Tomorrowland by 2019.
“If I don’t make it there, I’ll probably find a rich husband and get married.” After breaking into a burst of laughter, Tinc quickly added “I’m just kidding!”
Jokes aside, she explained that this year she wants to focus on consistency and to release more songs.
“Sometimes I get so busy and caught up with training other people that I forget about myself,” explained Tinc.
“The thing is… I’m very controlling,” she added. “Some of my students have been with me for 3 or 4 years and are capable of teaching already but I’m like a parent – I can’t let them go.”
Tinc explained that if she did, she could’ve used the time to grow the label instead.
“So, 2018 will be more about focusing on my own needs than others’. It’ll be about learning how to let go of some stuff so I can focus on the bigger things.”