Our DIG DEEPER series see's us explore the ins ’n outs of stand-out record labels who in one way or another, excite and/or inspire, irrespective of following or current level of exposure. It’s also a refreshing and informative way get to know the people and processes behind a brand. Next in the series is DimSumRecords, who, over the past 12 months have epitomised the DIY and collaboration culture behind 2019’s UKG resurgence. Constantly supporting fellow crews, DJs & Producers, events and releases, all whilst churning out quality output of their own.
We reached out to arguably one of the more vibrant personalities in the underground scene and one whom anyone with any sort of entrepreneurship should consider taking a leaf from. Zero-zero-two see’s us talk to Lennox Kwan of DimSumRecords. Join us as we discover the method behind the mandarin (in all it's rawness).
Excuse the request for a formal introduction Len, but for those who don’t know, what’s your name? Where are you from? And where in the UK are you based?
Hello! Firstly I would like to say a massive thank you for the invitation for the second instalment of DIGDEEPER and showing interest in the brand. My name is Lennox Kwan (or Len for short) my parents are from Hong Kong but I was born in the U.K. and I’m currently based in Essex where I’ve basically lived my whole life.
Talk to us about your origins ? Do you work/study or both?
So yes, culturally I’m of Chinese origins, I love my family, friends, my dog Milo and very importantly I love to create. Having been studying at University and abroad in Hong Kong within the last 5 years - I’m currently working full time whilst working on DimSumRecords on the side. I have always had a special connection with music.
Who or what inspired you to go down the music route?
Certain individuals have introduced me to music and inspired me; my Uncle P, who when I was 10, I remember him having turntables. He introduced me into UK Garage. Then some of my close friends have created successful labels like the Hatch Rec boys. I have an avid love for digging for new music and just being as open minded as possible. Good music is good music and this route for music was purely a natural gravitation.
I have mainly been inspired by different people in creating overall and doing your own thing like people like Skepta, Ronnie Fieg from Kith, Virgil Abloh and most importantly my close friends with their own projects. All of these people have shown me that anything is possible as long you are passionate about it.
As a young entrepreneur, we’re keen to hear of your early experiences of the music industry and UK club culture…
I remember my first ever rave, it was one of my favourite DJs Jamie Jones’ label Hot Creations, New Years Day party when I turned 18. All I can say is it was eye opening, like entering into a new world. However, the main period of experiencing the music industry was definitely my time at University in Kent, where I worked as a part-time promoter for House music student nights. Through that I crossed paths and made friends with some very like-minded and talented individuals. The small yet tight-knit community of friends there, created a great party and after party culture. It was just about having a good time and connecting with some incredible people in the process. During that period, I was also going to different parties in London at iconic venues like Fabric, Phonox and Egg, seeing various selectors from all genres. I actually remember some nights being ‘life changing’ as they could change your musical tastes; minimal legends RPR Soundsystem in Fabric Room 1 springs to mind straight away.
Talk to us about the inspiration behind linking Dim Sum, the asian delicacy, with a musical project and record label?
Dim Sum in simple terms is basically what I call ‘Chinese Tapas’. Bite sized dishes of dumplings, Chinese buns accompanied with Chinese tea. It’s a style of Chinese cuisine I have frequently with my family since I was a kid and it really resonates with me. It’s symbolic because it is always an opportunity to get together, have a good time eating some very delicious food. Furthermore it is very parallel with what music does - assembling different people with nothing but good energies involved.
I always believe that music and food can play hand in hand together so when the name came to me, it was a lightbulb moment. The idea of DimSum really is related to the ‘Why’ of the brand; the purpose. Which is ‘Connecting the East and the West’ by building creative cultural bridges. One example of this, was our first ever mix series BaoCast in which we released some mixes from selectors from Hong Kong and Japan; something I will continue to do.
Being British-born Chinese has allowed me to immerse myself in both Eastern and Western culture. I’m very lucky to grow up in a family who puts a lot of emphasis on connecting with Chinese culture. That really influences the creative direction for the project especially with branding where, the artwork especially, is inspired by different aspects of my childhood; such as sauces in my Mum’s kitchen, trips to the Chinese supermarket and Asian snacks that I eat. One of the happiest things from doing DimSumRecords is when people come to me and they say “that reminds of me when I was a kid”. The nostalgia I can bring to people like me and at the same time bringing something culturally unique to the table definitely inspired me to start and work on DimSumRecords.
Respect. Other than yourself, who else contributes to DSR behind the scenes?
So at the moment the DimSumRecords team consists of me only. I play different roles for the project itself, from the day-to-day running of the brand, A&R for our releases, organising shows and other different occasions. One particular role I love to be involved in is the creative direction for the brand. I also love networking with various people and through this I have discovered so much space and love for collaboration. I’m very lucky to be able to work with different people, each one of them has contributed so much, whether it is an illustrator who helps me an execute an idea artistically, or a producer for a release, a DJ delivering a superb addition to the mix series - all these people who have contributed to the growth of the brand, I can now call my friends. I think this is vital, especially when you are running a brand by yourself but collaboration also just makes it so refreshing and fun. Big shouts to every person who I have collaborated with so far! Big love.
2019 has been all about UKG, DSR is now 10 mixes and 3 digital dubs deep and is at the heart of the scene, especially amongst the newcomers that have emerged. What do you see for the scene over the next 12 months?
Firstly, thank you! I’m incredibly flattered to be considered ‘at the heart of a community’. It’s really humbling, especially as the brand is still young. 2019 has been a year of laying some firm foundations in terms of the sound and it has definitely created a very positive forecast for 2020. Next year, I definitely expect some interesting projects to unfold, some wicked vinyl and digital releases and some more awesome parties being thrown. I have already mentioned about the amazing culture of collaboration in 2019 and hopefully we will see more of that next year.
This links me to the significance of our ‘community’ including the use of Facebook groups like Shuffle N Swing (Shoutout to the SnS crew), who played a big role in creating this environment, helping to fuel collaboration and facilitating DJ’s, producers and appreciators to connect with each other. Along with labels like Equal People Records, Entity:London and Dr Banana who help uncover new talent, which has definitely made 2020 look very exciting. Importantly there is also a big appreciation of the older legendary tracks by platforms like UKG Vibesey, we’ll definitely continue to see them making movements. Personally I just hope I can continue to contribute to this ‘pure’ community.
What’s in store for DSR during that time?
This is a hard question to answer because, in 2019 especially, we found ourselves seeing new doors opening and working on projects we never thought of working on. I have learnt about the importance of taking it day-by-day, focusing on quality with a positive plan and outlook for the year ahead. To me, what is most important is the focus on organic and long term growth. I always imagine myself writing our 10 year anniversary book and asking myself: "What would I like to include in this book?"
That being said 2020 is going to be a very exciting year and we have a few things planned. However we do want to keep some of these plans on the down-low. We adopt a ‘minimal announcement policy’ and really like the element of surprise in whatever we release. One thing I can say is hopefully we’ll be moving onto vinyl releases next year, I have already started working on the concept, so watch this space.
There are also some other themes that I like to work with next year such as more ‘fruitful collaborations’ and doing more ‘cultural impactful’ activities. I also definitely want to link up and do some special projects with more Asian creatives.
What advice would you give to someone looking to build a brand on social media nowadays?
In all honesty, I’m still learning myself but here are some things that I have learnt this year. Definitely make the most of using social media as it is a really powerful tool in terms of connecting with the people who appreciate your brand and mould that identity for it. However it is also equally as important to take that into an offline sphere as well. The balance. The next is probably the most important which is “Quality Control”. This is so vital, especially with the high volume of information and content in our faces everyday. Something I like to share is “Quality output always attracts the quality opportunities” I always ask myself “Am I WOWed by this myself?”.
Putting time and effort into creating memorable content then links with another major aspect in building a brand: Consistency. Consistency in executing and releasing new and refreshing pieces of content definitely puts the brand in a good position for success in the long term. One last important lesson I acquired whilst building DimSum involved establishing your ‘Why’. This could be simple like ‘make dance-floor centred music’ but a purpose definitely gives a brand a sense of direction. Again these are purely lessons I received myself and I believe there is no rule book at all for building any brand. Just do what you love and create a project where you can express yourself in a positive and creative way.
Last but not least... Shoutouts.
I would like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to everyone who has supported the brand since we have started. Firstly Big love to my whole family who have continuously acted as a strong pillar for my creative work. Large up my close friends who have always been showing love and inspiring me. Big up to everyone who has contributed to our content from the selectors on our mix series, the illustrators who have played a major part in executing ideas for our creative direction, the producers of our releases. Special shoutouts go to: Mint, Mike Yu, Tom Ringrose, Isaac Seago, Nick Beard, Jack Saunders, Claire Wolf, Bailey Ibbs, Pinder, Peaky Beats, Jordan Dessar & Equal People Records, U.K.HUN, Jack Michael & Orbital London, Harry Luda/Illudastrations, Entity:London, Sandy aka Dr Banana, Perception, Ollie Rant, EL-B, Hatch Rec boys, Shuffle N Swing, Vibesey, Council Work, Fraise LDN Gather Southend, Herb LF, Operate Berlin, T3x3 from Russia and many, many more.
U.K Hun X DimSumRecords: Combo Meal pt II takes place at the Lion & Lamb on Saturday 23rd November feat. Mike Millrain, Harry Wills b2b Alec Falconer (Phone Traxx), Frankel & Harper, Owen James, Tom Marron, Ricky Sahota & Nicky Sahota. Click on artwork for tickets...