Adding a new dimension to the term ‘bedroom DJ’, 23-year-old bass purveyor Niko Kenton (aka Zeratone) has revolutionised Singapore’s electronic music scene for the web-2.0 era with the city’s very first DJ-touting live videostream programme. The series, called Panoptkn, was started by Kenton late last year, often broadcasting directly from his home studio in Tampines, and allowing viewers to tune in immediately from the comfort of their rooms.
The format of the show sees Kenton, who was Singapore’s youngest DMC Championship contender in 2005, spinning along with two special guests for the night – previous spots have featured local veteran jocks like Reiki and Masterpiece, as well as rookie decksmiths like FFF Girl DJ Bootcamp graduates FFin and Sarah. We caught up with Kenton to hear more about his brainchild and the road ahead.
Tell us about how you got into DJing.
I’ve been spinning since 2004 when I was 15. I’ve been a big fan of Linkin Park for a long time, and I was watching their live concert DVD where [DJ] Joe Hahn had this ten-second scratching solo. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I bought my first turntables a week after. I’ve always been into all kinds of music, but I really got into bass music some time in early 2011, while attending lessons at [DJ school] Dubspot in New York. I met Mary Anne Hobbs during a workshop and saw her play at [renowned NYC club] Cielo the same night.
How did you come up with the idea of starting a video stream of DJ sets?
Some time in late 2011, I started watching a lot of online audio/ visual streams, most notably Boiler Room (boilerroom.tv). I loved the whole concept of how the DJ could be playing live wherever, and anyone around the world could tune in. With the cameras focused on the DJ, it also gives viewers a chance to see exactly what they’re doing live. I tried getting all my friends to tune in [to Boiler Room], but the time difference was a huge problem – [in Singapore] it’s usually live from 3-7am on Wednesdays.
One night, I thought: Why not start my own show, have it in a more convenient time slot, and provide a platform for local DJs and producers to show their own skills? I told a friend, DJ Motif, about the idea and invited him down to be on the first show with me. Within a couple of days, I got a couple of webcams, learned how to manage the online stream – and off it went.
Does the name Panoptkn have a special meaning?
Panoptkn comes from the word ‘panopticon’, which is like a watchtower in prison with guards in it, but the inmates won’t be able to tell if they’re watched. It kind of fits with the idea of the stream – the whole world can tune in, but we can’t tell who’s watching. In this case, ironically, the people running the show are prisoners and the world is Panoptkn.
Are there any particular genres that Panoptkn focuses on?
We’re very open-minded with all kinds of music. We’ve had shows where the first DJ would play funk and disco, the second would play techno, and the third would play dubstep and drum ’n’ bass. To me, it’s way more interesting that way. As much as I may love a particular genre, I’ll get bored really quickly if it goes on the entire night.
Aside from established DJs, the show also features newer names getting into the swing of spinning. Is spotlighting upcoming talent something particularly close to your heart?
Full House DJs and pals crash Niko Kenton’s (top right) home studio during streams. I’m very passionate about spotlighting these guys. People need to know about DJs that push the envelope. It’s also mutually beneficial for both sides. I get to showcase new styles that keep the show fresh, and the guests get to reach out to a wider audience. A few people I met in New York have seen the show and they mentioned liking this or that particular DJ. If someone 10,000 miles away is finding out about you, I guess something must be going right! [Laughs.]
What sort of feedback have you had from your viewers and past guests?
Past guests can’t get enough of the show, and most can’t wait to return. Viewers love it, especially those who aren’t that knowledgeable about certain music styles and get exposed to them through us. And of course, everyone who comes down to the studio has fun. It’s always informal – everyone’s having a few beers, people come over and cook for the rest. It’s all good vibes.
What’s next for Panoptkn?
There are definitely plans to take it around the world [in the coming months] once I work things out properly. I’m concentrating mostly on South-East Asia right now, with shows in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur as well.
I’ve been doing Panoptkn for about nine months and even though I’ve had some help now and then, technically I’ve been running the show alone. This time I’ll have a team of people working together to take Panoptkn to another level. You’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
Listen in to Panoptkn’s live sets at www.ustream.tv/channel/Panoptkn.