DJs Al and Fion are probably not names that an average Vinyl Word reader would recognize, but they were the first Taiwanese DJs I ever heard playing rave music back in the early days of clubbing, in Taoyuan, about 10 years ago. Back then, their fan-base comprised largely of young Western English teachers by day, ravers by night, and were known as the "cool Taiwanese DJ couple that plays really dope music."
A few years later, when yao-tou music had taken hold, I had another chance to hear Fion spin in Taichung. Looking more confident, the charismatic Aboriginal DJ put on a solid funky break beat set and had the crowd eating out of her hands.
Yaotou (搖頭) means "head-shaking" and is the bizarre physical reaction of some Taiwanese to Ecstasy. They believe that by continuously shaking their heads, a bigger high can be achieved. Hence, Ecstasy is colloquially known as yaotou pills. Yaotou music is extremely quick tempo trance. Popular tracks include remixes of Mandarin or Cantonese pop songs.
"We have been labelled [by outdoor-party planners] as the commercial yaotou DJs," Fion said. "Al and I were residents at Lion King [an infamous yaotou club in Taichung]."
Regardless of what people may think of them, the pair's biggest hobby, even while working at Lion King, is keeping up to date with non-yaotou dance music, "Just so we could still play what we really like when we get a chance," said Fion.
Al and Fion are unique, not only because this DJ couple has been together for more than a decade, but also because of their capacity for pushing the boundary between commercial yaotou and underground dance music.
"There was a period when we were jobless because we wouldn't play yaotou music," Al recalls. "Then one day, a friend came up to us and asked if we'd work at this mega yaotou club that he was going to open in Taoyuan. It was called Lion King, and claimed to be the biggest dance club in Southeast Asia. So we were like, if we're gonna do this, we might as well be doing it at the biggest one. "
The four-year residency at Lion King turned out to be a money-spinner. "I also got to practice my remixing skills, and witnessed some of the most insane things," Al said. "Crazy things like people firing gun-shots, a bomb threat, and Vice President Annette Lu's (呂秀蓮) visit."
After Lion King closed last year, Al and Fion deejayed for a new club in Hangzhou, China, for a couple of months last winter. "It was an eye-opening trip for us, meeting all kinds of people from all over China was fun," said Fion.
Now, the couple is content to play drum 'n' bass, break beat and electro for small events, and occasionally spin in China as well as spend quality time with their one-year-old daughter. (Information on Al and Fion's upcoming gigs can be found at www.digibpm.com.)