Cloudy Ku is the Taiwanese-born DJ creating hazy, ambient worlds full of experimentation and freedom. Her ability to transcend the typical techno/electronic genre with alien-sounding synths is what sets her apart from so many other artists. Her prevalence in both Australia and Taipei showcases her versatility and proves the universality of her work. Ku’s deep knowledge of both culture and sound, and how they intertwine, gives her the power to go beyond the realm of ordinary. She has headlined some of Taiwan’s largest festivals such as Organik Festival and FORMOZ Festival, whilst also working with names such as Nina Kraviz and Rrose. Ku has recently started the record label HER 他, a platform centred on the collaboration and celebration of people from all over the globe. During COVID-19, Ku has been working with various artists, further strengthening the community surrounding HER 他.
We had the pleasure of chatting to Ku about her creative influences and the way she channels past experiences (good or bad) into her work.
Tell us why you love music?
I feel a strong connection to music because when I look back at my childhood, I feel like I didn’t really have a friend of the same age who had the same hobby as me, so music has always been my close friend. It grew up with me and allowed me to share in some beautiful illusions. I often imagined singers and composers in a space where they were creating something together. I would always say things like “I love music” or ” No Music No Life’’ and it truly came from the bottom of my heart when I was younger. But, being older and more sophisticated now, I wouldn’t say that music is love, but it still occupies a big space in my heart.
Who was Your Biggest musical inspiration as a kid?
This all depends on what age bracket we are reverting too. As a child, the soundtracks of movies and cartoons, both western and Japanese such as Disney or Studio Ghibli are strong, as was the music of artists like Faye Wong and Teresa Teng amongst many others. However, it wasn’t until my teen years that I turned more toward electronic music. Artists like Air, Telepopmusik, Moby, Daft Punk, Way Out West, and Fat Boy Slim were all early connections I had made, as they were the more accessible of the electronic music world. All this electronic music absolutely blew my mind. I have a strong memory of ‘Star Guitar’ by the Chemical Brothers and its Michel Gondry directed video clip, for me the pairing of the two was just incredible. With this introduction made, knowing that I truly was an electronic music fan, I next found artists like Clouddead, Royksopp, Moodyman, Matthew Herbert, DJ Shadow, and X-Press 2, at my local record store. I did join the punk and rock scenes a little late, but I think the inspiration was truly made and drawn from my teen years with electronic music.
Talk us through your creative process.
I think for myself, the most important aspect of the ‘creative’ process is meditation. Meditation and Buddhism are a super important factor in my life and I know this bleeds into my creative work as well. Without meditation, it’s hard to have a calm mind, and a calm mind is needed to bring about true creativity. I often find myself stuck in a situation where I want to do something perfectly and the best that I can. When I’m in this state I often forget one of the most important things about music and life in general, and that’s to have fun, to create joy and do something with passion. After a while, I have to tell myself ‘ just do it’ or ‘just for fun’ and remind myself along the way when I need to, that as long as I’ve started, I am able to achieve anything.
How do you feel our concept of the musical genre has changed over the years?
I’ve always enjoyed the sensation the flow of music creates. More so, the moment and creation of new phenomena, and its wave of the collective consciousness. Music genres will come and go, out of fashion and new ones will be created, and this is the way it should be. Nothing can last forever and change is always to be embraced, not feared.
Who is your go-to artist when dealing with heartbreak?
As I’ve said earlier music has always been a close friend of mine and a very good friend that can help me through difficult times. For the example of heartbreak, thinking on the spot I would say that the dystopian temperament and atmosphere created in Burial’s music is something that I would link to heartbreak. Others could include some Classical music, Mandarin-Pop, and Post-Rock, these styles also carry this same energy for me.
What has been your biggest struggle in pursuing your dreams in the music industry?
As a physical woman who grew up in Asia and moved to Australia, I have faced a career full of challenges. But, I told myself, good and bad things are equally matched and to always remember that your biggest enemy is yourself. Even though there have been many bad things that truly happened in the past, I’ve used these experiences and struggles as the motivation and inspiration to keep me going and to start my label ‘HER 他’
What are some of the challenges you’re facing during COVID-19?
I think during this time, especially being based in Melbourne, I’ve been lucky. I have my family and pets around me and I’ve been able to keep mentally and physically healthy throughout. As mentioned earlier, in the past I’ve been very lonely before which also lead me to be quite depressed for a really long time, so I knew the emotions of suffering. COVID-19 and the impacts of isolation and lockdown, make me extremely worried about people’s mental state and the violence that can happen behind the door (as well as fears for anyone who contracts the virus). With my work for my label, HER 他, we release a mixtape every weekend, promoting and supporting new artists in this time where we cannot offer any gigs or events for artists to play. As well as this, I am also a resident at HKCR where I host a twice-monthly show, which I have been using to collaborate with more artists around the world. Every day I am talking with artists. Lockdown creates an atmosphere that is hard for working and finding the motivation to work, so I am grateful to my team and to the artists who have been putting in the effort for us throughout all of this. I want to thank each and every one.
How do you personally navigate the creative industries as a POC?
My experiences from the past, however they are, good or bad, are again what has pushed me to do the work that I’m currently doing with HER 他. It is the reason I started the label in the first place. While the intuitive translations for ‘him’ and ‘her’ are respectively 他 and 她 in the Chinese language, HER opts for the former, which may raise a few eyebrows at a first glance amongst natives speakers. In fact, 他 comes with the Chinese radical 亻(or 人) an inclusive idea of everything related to human – from individuals, humanity, and personality. This is exactly why HER exists. We are first human, and then after that, we embrace and celebrate the differences in each other. I want this label to be a community for artists from Australia, Asia, and all around the world to be connected and have a platform to celebrate and promote their work – especially for the minorities in the industry such as female, LGBTQIA+ and POC artists.
Who do you think is currently changing the music industry?
Everyone. Everyone is changing the music industry, and because of this constant change, problems for the future are also emerging. But, while doing your own thing, by being open to learn from the wise, we can breakdown the constant antagonism and open up the dialogue. With strong communication and understanding amongst our community, we can bring about changes that are truly helpful to the ecology, not ones that cause problems and concern.