SAL is the DJ pushing the boundaries of traditional club culture

By Rachael Morrow on September 18, 2020

Sally Lam aka SAL, is the Melbourne based DJ, model and event curator highlighting the versatility of club music. Her sound bends and warps the traditional ideas of the club scene, creating these spaces where any genre or vibe can coexist in rhythmic harmony. Her creative vision spans a variety of areas, each demonstrating her deep understanding of herself and the world around her.

SAL brings a minimalist approach to her aesthetic, using her style as a tool of self-expression and exploration. Her look is curated by her passion for culture, fashion and art, and how combined, they are a reflection of one’s self.

We had the chance to chat to SAL about her love for Canto-pop and the importance of wallowing in melancholy, every now and then.

Tell us why you love music?

Music is powerful. It has that force that can evoke emotions and thoughts, create journeys, and tell stories. I love how music can amplify an experience or create a sense of healing in a moment of time. Life would be dull without music, period.

Who was your biggest musical inspiration as a kid?

It’s hard to pick one, so I’ll go with Spice Girls and a Cantopop duo – Twins. Spice Girls were such a diverse female power group at the time from their personas to each member’s styled fashion. Twins were my introduction to Canto-pop. I would spend weekends and my school holidays watching their live performances with my cousins, so Twins has a lot of sentimental value for me.

Talk us through your creative process?

Having an open mind with genres of music when I am sourcing tracks and samples opens me up to much more opportunities with how I can play with sounds. I often lose focus when listening to the same genre for extensive hours, so genre-blending has kept me on my toes, whether it be performing live to a crowd or working in the studio. Creating in this manner has allowed me to generate a body of work that aligns with who I am, how I feel, and how I want my music to make other people feel.

How do you feel our concept of the musical genre has changed over the years?

Many new genres, sub-genres and cross-genres have risen and fallen. I don’t think any artist should be restricted to one genre as we are forever evolving creatures, and creativity shouldn’t be based on the numbers of followers, plays or clicks.

Who is your go to artist when dealing with heartbreak?

Arca’s Self-Titled Album -so I can wallow in melodic melancholy and then move on.

What has been the biggest struggle in pursuing your dreams in the music industry?

Having doubts in myself, and that no one will show up to my gigs or parties. I’ve had to get myself out of these spirals and continue pushing myself forward with a positive attitude, hopefully resulting in a positive outcome. If all goes well, I walk out of the club/show into my didi with my head held high, a sense of self-achievement and a natural high.

What are some of the challenges you’re facing during Covid-19?

Staying motivated during stage-four lockdown, controlling my screen time, and how much news I take in, have been some of the more difficult challenges I’ve faced so far. Although I am no longer DJing in public spaces, I am extremely grateful for my day job. It’s given me a healthy dose of physical, social interaction during the lockdown. It’s also allowed me to have a steady source of income to pay my rent and pay the rent ( Even though this year is whack, I have to remind myself that there is always a way to celebrate life.

How do you personally navigate the creative industries as a POC?

As the issue is being more frequently brought forward to the public’s eye, the landscape is ever-evolving, but there are little things that all of us can do that have big impacts. For example, when I am approached with opportunities, and there are jobs to be filled I extend my help by offering my network of POC creatives, but recognising the stark contrast and being able to identify tokenistic bookings too. It has taken some time to learn to navigate. In my past, I have used my position of colour to curate events which have focused on booking POC artists, especially emerging artists, which has been incredibly rewarding.

Who do you think is currently changing the music industry?

Any artists, industry leaders, and community members who are constantly working towards supportive spaces that challenge the status quo and empower coloured and queer communities.

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