DJ A-Tao keeps the wax spinning as he returns to the fundamentals

By Ted Chen, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Following the outbreak of a sex scandal last year, nightlife in Taiwan has been marred by connotations of unscrupulous debauchery and excess, with the suspect’s trial and conviction, and gory details of his crimes covered in great detail by the media. The simple love for good music and a night out is easily neglected amid the uproars of scathing social commentary following the serial sexual assault incident last year, while nightclubs are painted as prime hunting grounds for deep-pocketed swingers.

Since the proliferation of disco music in the 1980s, electronic music has become the soundtrack to multitudes of night-time revelers throughout the world, of which many choose to adopt the practice of DJing, whether at a party or with aspirations of moving great hosts of people on the dance floor. An Institution of Vinyl Situated off a graffiti-covered alley in Ximending, Species Records (有種唱片) is perhaps the only proper vinyl record store in Taipei allowing patrons the same music discovery experience found in more established electronic music markets in American and European cities. Entering the spacious store, listening stations equipped with headphones and turntables come into view immediately. A-Tao (阿道), the proprietor of Species Records, is also a veteran of the electronic music scene in Taiwan. A DJ knowledgeable about techno, particularly the genre’s roots which originated in Detroit, A-Tao has over a decade of stellar performances headlining by himself and with legendary international DJs.

An avid collector of vinyl himself, A-Tao stated that the most important attribute of DJ-ing is the continuous exploration and accumulation of knowledge in music, ranging from the latest releases to the old classics. At Species Records, patrons are free to browse through its racks of vinyl and preview purchases at the listening stations. “Digging” represents a DJ’s dedication to a chosen craft, said A-Tao in explaining his store’s liberal policy.

“When Species Records was founded in 2003, the store focused on selling imported CDs and vinyl, and we saw a marked decline in CD sales began to be replaced by the advent of digital files and mobile devices, as listening habits change,” said A-Tao. “Fortunately, we found that vinyl sales remained constant, sustained by a small group of DJs, enthusiasts and collectors, and the store shifted focus to selling primarily vinyl.” There is simply no replacement for the tangible feel of vinyl in your hands, gazing at the artwork printed on the label and sleeves, and no end to a collector’s desire for more. Species Records also offers DJ-ing lessons, in which patrons may try their hand before committing to purchase the full array of required equipment, including speakers, at least two turntables or CD players, and a mixer or a digital controller. “I always start fresh students with a vinyl-turntable setup when they first enroll. I believe that all practicing DJs should be familiar with the original tools of the trade, and the craft of manipulating tracks manually,” said A-Tao. “However, after gaining a fundamental understanding of mixing, I am not opposed to students choosing to adopt the digital route. It is a personal choice after all.” According to A-Tao, the advent of digital mixing is a double-edged sword. While online music shops, digital files and equipment have significantly increased the accessibility of DJ-ing, whether as a hobby or professional pursuit, younger generations beginning to explore the genre are missing out from the vinyl experience. Bridging Internationally