Endless practice and an ear for the right sound have made Ocean Lam one of the Hong Kong’s most sought after DJs.
Perhaps it all began at the roller disco. Alongside her friend, mentor, and fellow DJ, Wendy Wenn, Ocean caught the bug and glimpsed the future: loud music and writhing bodies in a dark room. “I get very emotional about it,” she says over a beer at The Black Star in Sheung Wan. “I forget everything and put all of myself into the music. It’s only a few hours, but through it you can escape from everything.”
At high school Ocean fell into reggae, as well as the requisite Canto-pop and indie bands of the day – including Garbage and Oasis (whose concert she attended on her own because none of her friends wanted to go). Even so, she began her music career late – in around 2008 to precise – with a set at the fabled Yumla. This is somewhat surprising given her entrenched popularity here in Hong Kong. It feels like she’s been around for longer, which is a sign of her skills as a DJ and her humble approach to her craft.
The pivotal moment came when she saw John Digweed play at the Regal Hotel in TST; the mass of people and the intense sound resonated strongly. From there she went to club nights at C-Top and other joints around town. She then met Jay Forster, one of the co-founders of Clockenflap, ‘who made a big impression on [her]’, while at the same time Wendy was dating Brandon Ho, aka Ghost Style from 24Herbs, and it was at their apartment that she learned how to use a mixer and turntables for the first time.
“If you don’t practise, you’ll never make it,” she says plainly. And it’s precisely that attitude that has brought her to where she is today. Over the past six years she has played at virtually every club in town, launched the successful Humdrum night, as well as the all-female Foxtrot, and supported some of the best international DJs: Dirt Crew, Dave DK, and Efdemin.
More recently, she has been invited to play in Europe – with gigs in Sweden, Germany, and Belgium. “Playing there has definitely helped me because you have to work harder for the crowds,” she says. “They expect more, and you can go deeper.” She has also turned her hand to producing. To date, she’s had releases on Yumla Records, and a new track ‘Perfect Dream’ is out this month on Typhoon8.
She says she started mixing minimal Techno because it was easier, and then spent a few years immersed in the tech-house scene, which later became the sound of the city. More recently she has begun incorporating classic house and minimal Techno back into her sets, as well as getting into garage and 2-step at the Hummingbird nights.
As for the forthcoming Secret Island Party, she is excited to return for a second year in a row: “It’s a really special event. The sound is perfect, the atmosphere is cool, in the jungle, and there are no bugs!”