Cover Story

There is no doubt that one of the most drastically-impacted sectors in society by the pandemic is anything and everything that has to do with live shows and big crowds.

Large-scale events, concerts, down to parties that gather packs of people have been coerced to retreat to their homes and make themselves scarce due to the inevitably high health risks they bring, and the professions that are so intricately tied to them have been forced to simmer down to find other ways to make a living. Despite the dawn of this new age of livestreams, Zoom parties, and a largely virtual ecology as we have come to know it, for celebrated musicians, producers, and contemporary creative entrepreneurs Patty Tiu-Thompson and Mark Thompson emphasize that they’re not and will never be the same.

So, how do professional and full-time DJs survive in this time of reclusion and isolation?

Photographed by Rxandy Capinpin. On Mark: Cut out inside out dress, Proudrace. On Patty: Hot Damn! Shirt, made in collaboration with Rik Rasos at Proudrace.

In the case of the Thompsons, who both have been in the Philippine music scene for years as raved about DJs who have dotted the live events circuit with one sold out event after another, the answer took a while to manifest itself, especially as they struggled to come to terms with this new reality in the first few months of the pandemic. From a totally booked calendar (which includes their planned wedding), to having everything cancelled, the creative power couple saw the whole pandemic as a huge shock.

“I felt like that was a big purpose in my life, to entertain people. And to have that huge part of my life or purpose get carried away, parang a part of me was lost. Na hindi ma-replace ng kahit anong gusto kong gawin,” Patty opened up. Mark, then chimed in, adding that they never would have thought that music events scene—as we know and relish it—would just stop. And stop, it dramatically did.

Photographed by Rxandy Capinpin. On Mark: Denim jacket, Burton Menswear. Recycled multi-knit dress, Proudrace. On Patty: Mesh top with pearl embellishments and repurposed denim elephant pants, both Proudrace.

Patty openly confessed, “We can have these online shows, of course, to adapt but honestly it feels more frustrating. Because you keep doing it and doing it, thinking na ‘hanggang kailan ba ‘to?'”

Despite this, though, being able to talk to fans directly over Zoom chats during shows and comments is an unexpected “silver lining” to all of this. Ironically, in this time of distance, communicating with people before and after every online show through keyboards and chat boxes has actually opened up worlds of connection wider than probably working the crowds while on a DJ podium in a pre-pandemic world has never afforded them.

Patty, who also goes by the DJ moniker of Deuce, opened up about how, even if they don’t feel the same vibe and hair-raising excitement out of live stream shows anymore, the core of being a musician now, more than ever, is in adding a little bit of positivity into people’s lives at these dark times—a vocation, nonetheless.

“Kahit hindi na namin nafi-feel, at least may nabibigay kami sa kanila. At least for those minutes or a few hours, they can forget about the problems of the world.”

Photographed by Rxandy Capinpin. Blazer, Edwin Tan.

Amidst everything that happened during this pandemic, though, perhaps the most significant impact this time gave them as human beings is the startling discovery of the value of learning to constantly invent one’s self. Ultimately, as amplified by these past few months, the young creatives were given the time (and more strongly, a reason) to learn other things on top of what they loved doing for years and broaden the limits of what they knew they can do—things that have then led to the projects they are breaking new ground to.

But of course, it’s not the easiest route to take to completely detach yourself from what had been the biggest part of your life up to that point. For the young musical partners, the art and craft of DJ-ing was the single clear answer to years of not knowing what they wanted to do in life.

Patty stressed that she never had a plan in her life—ever. In fact, whenever she would get that classic question of “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, she would quip that all she wanted was to be a karate black belter.

Photographed by Rxandy Capinpin. Mesh form fitting top, Proudrace. Trousers, Kelvin Morales.

After dropping out of college, she entered the club scene as a promoter, thriving in the nightlife for days on end. Until one day, she walked inside the club at a Kaskade concert, and she was entranced. “Right then and there, I knew, ‘this is what I want to do.'”

To pursue this career, she went hungry and slept at people’s places for a time, just to go after that one dream—a foreign concept for one who had never dreamt before. This story is also similar to how Mark got into the scene.

As a Filipino kid who grew up in Australia, hitting the clubs since he was young, admittedly years before he was even allowed to go in was all the exposure he would need to decide this is the road he has been poised to take. And then, a prolonged trip to the Philippines introduced him to the Manila nightlife scene and an evening witnessing Quintino’s set solidified his desire to go after it in full. With the option to go back to Australia and enroll in college, or to stay in the country and try becoming a Philippine DJ, instead, the answer was clear.

“There’s no real entry into it. But when you know you want to do something, you tend to gravitate towards the people who are doing it, and slowly find your way,” he mused.

Photographed by Rxandy Capinpin. Mesh column dress, Proudrace. Velvet double-breasted blazer, Edwin Tan. Phalaenopsis Pin, Kelvin Morales.

Since then, many years ago, the pair had filled up their lives with the steady beats and the captivating energy of the crowd. It’s only now, during this global pandemic, that they truly took a step back and was forced to pause but it gave them the ultimate push to pursue other passions, and to try and reinvent themselves as artists.

“I’ve been playing by myself for 7 years, and I knew I would want to try playing with other artists,” Mark started.

Hand-beaded see-through top and trousers, both Kelvin Morales archive.

This new opportunity came in thanks to O/C Records. For Patty, it is her long-established creative relationship with Kean Cipriano, co-founder of the record label, that bridged them to a world of possibilities in the music industry, beyond the live events circuit. “Kean and I have known each other for years, and in events where we see each other we’re always like, ‘Ano gawa tayo kanta?” but it took a while before it materialized,” she recalled.

“I then came home and Mark told me he wants to make a band. He had all of these song drafts, and I had Kean in my mind because I know that O/C Records was already launched. I messaged him, sent him the drafts even if wala pang members, name of the band, lahat wala. Pero may songs na,” she elaborated. That one fateful call opened the doors for collaborations between Mark and O/C Records, finally signing him as one of the first few artists under rock band Project Moonman.

Photographed by Rxandy Capinpin.

“What I really appreciated was that they were willing to take on the weirdness, kasi we’re DJs producing, but suddenly wanted to make a band. [Kean] was really willing to listen, and take us seriously. He even introduced me to my bandmates now because I knew nothing about starting a band,” Mark expressed.

Project Moonman, then came into fruition as this experimental rock band formed in the middle of the pandemic that released their debut full album with “Gemini.”

Their tracks, Mark shared, were actually songs he initially wrote for other artists that somehow didn’t see the light of day. But Cipriano commended them as a different approach to how other artists usually make music, which he believes deserves to be heard by the world.

“I also found out you can make a song with your bandmates without ever meeting them,” he chuckled. As the whole project was created and launched during this pandemic, the Project Moonman band had a very unique experience to forming creative synergy with one another and jamming. But, nevertheless, Mark gushed in excitement to trying something that go against the grain even, and especially, in the middle of all this confusion.

Photographed by Rxandy Capinpin.

Mark then added, “The transition was scary because [I came] from being a DJ, to a producer, to my own band’s singer. But the way I saw it, I have these stories to tell, so who better tell these than myself. I want to put it out into the world kasi sayang naman if I just leave them on my notes and no one ever gets to listen to them. Swerte nalang that there were a few who related with it.”

Dipping his toes into this newfound process of developing and releasing songs off his creative vault, he pointed out unlearning preconceived notions of what constitutes as a well-received hit and the not. For starters, he shared finding out that tracks he expected listeners to gravitate towards to isn’t always the case, in actuality, like the ones he shared he didn’t think about that much while writing, like “I Care”, “The Great Alone” or “Finding a Way.” And on the other end of the spectrum, the ones he knew would be received well gained lesser attention from listeners. He recalled, “I was just writing how I felt, kasi it wasn’t fun. I thought people wouldn’t like it.”

Patty then signed under O/C Records as a solo artist just last year, releasing singles here and there that she believes many would actually be surprised about. As she put it, her pre-pandemic creations were largely music people could dance to—especially in light of a club setting and a wild night. However, the pandemic saw her music-making build melodies and writing tracks that are a lot more vulnerable and emotional.

Photographed by Rxandy Capinpin.

“When the pandemic started, and we had more time to conceptualize, it was to put out music that people can listen to—and really listen to, hear, understand, and relate to. I’ve come to realize na hindi na ako nagre-release for me, I want to put out music for them to listen to in these trying times,” Patty said.

Now, the main thing they are focused on right now is the birth of their new startup, the Thompson Collective, Inc., a pioneering roving services shop that marries multiple creative lifestyle services like tattoos, piercings, haircuts, down to a DJ’s booth, closer to the couple’s musical roots.

“Thompson Collective is going to be the new breed of arts, culture, and lifestyle in wheels. It’s a beacon of hope that even in the situation we’re in, when they see the truck roving around, there’s a chance that we can go to a better future,” Patty opened up.

The creative venture is wholly a pandemic baby as well, having been conceptualized in March, with plans to officially launch before the year ends. Talking about this new business venture, the conversation naturally shifted to their hopes of the future, especially now as DJ-artist-entrepreneur hybrids.

Photographed by Rxandy Capinpin.

“In a few years, I hope I’ve grown a lot more. I kinda hope we look at the bigger picture and realize that this thing that we love can disappear. I hope it’s still alive in the next few years. But most of all, I definitely wish that I get to inspire somebody. Someone gave me a shot when I was stepping into this. I would love to do the same for the next generation,” Mark expressed.

All of these things—venturing into the unknown, exploring the vast expanse of their creative proclivities beyond their musical roots, and opening up doors of opportunities not just for themselves but for other creatives while doing it—stem from their bold, firm grasp of their individualities and openness to ideas that fuel that relentless pursuit for greatness, standing their ground on the industry that has served as their playground, home, and platform for others.

For Patty, as one of the forerunners of the DJ industry in the Philippines, shared, “I hope that I can continue to be the voice of the one’s who don’t have a voice, when it comes to our industry. Right now we creatives are non-essential. Hopefully, with the kind of influence that is given to me, I hope I can be responsible to make that non-essential be essential and important.”

Photographed by Rxandy Capinpin.

“As a start-up founder while still being a creative, I hope I can give chances and jobs and give more experiences for people that they can remember. So, that when I’m not here anymore, that will be my legacy.”

Of course, Patty is already an inspiring name in the community, as a woman who has completely conquered this male-dominated industry, while staying true to herself. This includes not shying away from her interests in tattoos and piercings—something traditional Filipino society would usually label as unwomanly and inappropriate—and being a voice for bisexual individuals in a country that, more often than not, passes it off as fable and fiction.

On what good inclusivity and representation looks like, she remarked: “I think good inclusivity and representation starts with really being able to express yourself, your art, and who you really are without listening to the noise. You have to be able to cancel all the noise, and just be able to listen to your own voice and translate it to whoever you want to be. Pag napakita ko yun sayo, I hope na pag nakita mo ko, ma-realize mo na ‘ay, kaya nya maging totoo sa sarili niya, siguro ako rin.'”

Photographed by Rxandy Capinpin.

Mark seconded, “Speak your truth, but do it in the most proper and ethical way. Because there are ways to crawl to the top and you can really burn a lot of bridges doing that, so I think with being inclusive and being represented well, you have to be truthful and not be afraid to take risks.”

Ultimately, the main thing they believe in is: “Let people do what they want to do, and let them be who they want to be.”

In this time of reckoning as artists and as human beings, Patty Tiu-Thompson and Mark Thompson’s uncompromising road to constant reinvention and their individual and collective abilities to take risks with verve and resolve is the energy we all need to emulate in order to not just survive but better.

Photographed by Rxandy Capinpin.

From DJs, to recording artists, to producers, and now to entrepreneurs, while juggling everything at the same time, the Thompsons prove that sometimes—or perhaps even most of the time—it requires a lot of moments of doing the unexpected, the unconventional, and even the most outrageous, to come out of a crisis alive.

And let these wise words ring to be true. In every sense of the word.

Produced, creative direction, and styling by Leo Balante

Photography by Rxandy Capinpin

Hair and Makeup by Kim Roy Opog

Video direction and editing by Christina Zabat

Shoot assistant: Bhernn Saenz

Additional text: Leo Balante

Shot on location at RX Studio