A drummer’s world
Derrick Siow has played for notable names in the music industry
Article from the Sun daily by Marion Fernando (posted on 14 Mar 2019)
DERRICK Siow got his big break as a drummer back home a year after graduating from Berklee College of Music in Boston.
He was living in New York and was back for Chinese New Year break in 2015 when he got the call from acclaimed local producer Aubrey Suwito, asking if he was interested to play for a Siti Nurhaliza concert.
Siow, who has been playing the drums since he was eight, said: “That was my first concert, and a couple of months later I moved back for good. It’s kinda crazy how I got that gig.
First contact with the producer came prior when Siow set up a “mini concert” while in Malaysia for summer break.
Suwito was with his family and left before they got the chance to meet, but the 25-year-old’s skills with the drumsticks had already made a solid impression.
A Facebook message from Suwito later, and the two were connected.
Still exploring New York as a musician at the time, they kept in touch, leading to Siti Nurhaliza’s Unplugged show at Istana Budaya in 2015.
Since then, Siow has gone on to play for numerous notable names in the music industry including Talitha Tan, Jaclyn Victor, Kris Dayanti, and even the 2017 SEA Games closing ceremony.
What is it like being a full-time drummer in Malaysia?
I’m a freelance musician. So I play gigs whenever I’m free, and when people call me to session, then I’ll just go play.
I do from a variety from pub gigs, to jazz bars to wedding functions, corporate functions, then to obviously the TV shows, and the big concerts, and whichever artist that calls me.
That is basically it. During the daytime, we’re normally occupied with rehearsals, because our gigs are at night.
Our work is mostly at night. So during the daytime, we’re busy rehearsing.
Do you have a band that you regularly play with?
Because I am a freelance musician, I can just play whatever I want.
I’m not tied down, but there’s an artist that I’ve been working with quite closely for the past year.
Her name is NJWA, Najwa Mahiaddin.
I work with her quite closely, so if you ask me, what is the band that I am with, I would say her.
I work quite closely with her.
We had a Malaysian tour – Penang, JB, and KL.
And then we went to Japan in November [for] a couple of gigs there.
What are your favourite songs to perform live?
I am really into pop, R&B, hip hop music.
I really like those genres.
I don’t have a particular song that I like performing.
Anything that is R&B, pop, hip hop-related, I normally would quite enjoy performing it.
But obviously being a freelance musician, you would have to be able to play different genres of music.
You have to be able to be versatile to get hired, basically.
I mainly play pop, R&B stuff, and obviously do the other stuff like jazz, and Latin too.
Like recently, we did a show in Menara Ken with a band called Tara Kucha.
With Tara Kucha, we play a lot of olden Malaysian songs, like P. Ramlee songs but we make it sound more current.
It’s a mixture of Malay and English. Their goal or their aim is to keep the Malaysian song book alive.
You know how a lot of people say they want to pick up an instrument but they end up never doing it?
What is something that you always say you want to do but have not?
You know, being a full-time musician is great and it’s a privilege, but I’ve always wanted to start my own business of some sort.
I’m really into cars and stuff like that.
That’s something that I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t done yet.
Who has inspired you most with what they’ve accomplished?
I would say, one of the richest man in the world, Warren Buffet. It’s because he started with nothing.
He didn’t have one business that just blossomed and made him super rich, you know.
I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, but he’s somebody who knows what he’s doing, knows his business, knows numbers so well that he was able to invest at a young age in so many businesses.
To be able to pull through and stick to [what he’s been doing] all this time, it’s really inspiring.
It sounds like you have an inclination towards entrepreneurship as well?
I actually do. Like I said, I was very fortunate to do music as a full-time musician, but in the future I would definitely love going out, venturing into entrepreneurship, business, and whatnot.
What is your favourite memory as a professional drummer?
I would have to say the SEA Games closing ceremony in August 2017.
That would have to be like the craziest for me.
There were 20 to 30 different artists that night itself, and we played for all of them because we were the house band for the night.
So that was pretty insane.
I was able to meet and play for practically the Malaysian scene, like the legends, you know.
Amy Search, Man Bai, and Sheila Majid.
What is the coolest thing about being a drummer?
When you do the big concerts, and are able to meet your childhood idols.
I remember when I was in primary school, I was watching Malaysian Idol, and Jaclyn Victor was the winner.
And recently I did a show with her.
So it’s crazy, and we became friends, you know.
That is one of the coolest things, to look up to the people you think you’d never meet or never be able to be in contact with, and then being able to be in the scene meeting them, and being friends with them, I think is one of the coolest things.
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