In this episode of Senpai Spotlight, we have Darcy Epikuro from Kawaii Bass! He is an Anime DJ who has been hosting awesome Anime parties and raves for various conventions across North America.
In this interview, Epikuro tells us his interesting story of how he got into DJing, which involved a peculiar music festival and hearing Inyuyasha at a rave far too many times. He lets us know how he decides on which songs to play at raves and how he reads the crowd. Being a veteran DJ for Kawaii Bass, Epikuro also gives us his wisdom on how to be a DJ and what you can do to get started. You can read or listen to the interview here in this post!
Here’s where to find Kawaii Bass on social media:
Senpai: Welcome to the Senpai Spotlight, where you get to experience the cosplay community from a different perspective. And today we have Darcy AKA Epikuro from Kawaii Bass. For those who don’t know, Kawaii Bass…they’re a bunch of DJs who go around to Anime conventions to play their awesome music. So they’ve been to a bunch of Toronto ones, they’ve been to a couple in the U.S. as far as I know. They play a lot of great music!
Epikuro: We also do remixes of Anime songs and our own music in general as well. (We also) setup our own events and play at conventions as well. We also do some fashion shows every now and then. Just a nice interesting mix of things!
Senpai: What got you into DJing? What made you want to start?
Epikuro: It’s kind of having a vision/quest and a lot of other things were coming in. I go to a lot of Anime conventions and one of the things that would always upset me was that a lot of the times (at raves); no actual Anime music was being played. Or if I did hear Anime music being played, then I’d hear the DJ play the same song over and over again. Like I’ve heard this Inuyasha song 18 times already.
At the same time, I’ve heard a lot of Vocaloid and Touhou music videos on YouTube. It sort of struck me as weird because there was all this good music that would be perfect for an Anime crowd. Because you want to hear stuff that’s related to the convention you went to see. So I always wanted to have more of a focus of appealing to that Anime fandom, (while) also branching out to video game fandom.
So essentially I was at a festival, I discovered this tent and there was this DJ that was (playing music) messing around and being ridiculous. The set was terrible but people would still be coming up and dancing to it. Someone explained to me that this was a joke set that everyone was doing for an hour or 2. It was like, “See, people just dance to music if it’s there.” It was a surreal experience for me, but it made me realize I could be a DJ.
Senpai: I’ve been to so many raves throughout my Weeaboo journey. I’ve been to many Anime conventions with good Anime raves and I’ve been to some bad ones thinking, “Why are they playing these songs? I’m at an Anime convention!” But I’m glad you feel the same way, and how that relates to you getting started with DJing.
Epikuro: Yeah! But it’s also weird that I have my own opinion on what I want to hear at Anime conventions. Some people just want to listen to Top 40. Some people want way more Hip-Hop, which would be really great. I think it would be great if there were more raves that could appeal to more parties at Anime conventions. It does make sense to have one big party. But I feel like Anime has gotten so large and different people want to party in a certain way. I feel like having more sorts of different parties would just be ideal.
Whenever I go to MAGFest, I can appreciate that there are always different areas where different people are partying, and everyone is just enjoying things. At Anime North even; people will just setup their own boom boxes and stuff, and just do their own parties in the parking lot. It’s because that way, everyone is having their own Anime North experience that they want to have.
Senpai: That is so true. You bring up a good point that you have so many different subcultures at Anime conventions and then you have one group of people that likes this music, and another group that like this music. So that is a very interesting point you bring up. I always wanted a Coachella type of festival but for Anime. MAGFest is probably the closest thing we have right now, but I’m hoping that it will happen one day.
Epikuro: I think it’s cool because Anime culture keeps on growing. I feel like if you were a nerd 20 years ago, then you thought that this certain age wouldn’t be possible. Like where if you are a nerd, it doesn’t matter anymore because nerds are cool. When I was growing up, it definitely wasn’t. But there is a lot less of that barrier. Anime is very mainstream (now) and there are so many different types of Anime fans.
Senpai: I feel that’s what Kawaii Bass is for! To make Anime-type of music more popular and more mainstream and something that everyone talks about.
Epikuro: I would say to everyone out that if there’s an (Anime) community out there and a potential for Anime conventions, there is a potential for Anime conventions. And if you really want that to happen in your community, you can make that happen. And if you want our own cities with our crazy Anime parties, then anything is possible. I think that would be great.
Senpai: What are some things you like about DJing for Kawaii Bass?
Epikuro: I really like mixing songs together that you wouldn’t expect to go together. Just throwing some video game songs or some aggressive rap together. When things combine together that way I’m like, “Oh man this is cool.” And you have a crowd of people that appreciate that too.
There is definitely a lot of ways to DJ. I’m definitely not a scratch DJ and I give a lot of respect to that because it is its own skillset. Honestly, when you can make certain musical combinations together, that’s really amazing sometimes. You can just be surprised sometimes. (For example), you can put an A capella of Snoop Dogg and you put on top of over Love Circulation and…you have a good time!
Senpai: Do you do the mashups before your set or on the fly?
Epikuro: It depends on how people approach it. Sometimes it’s such a good mashup that I’ll just take my time with it. Sometimes it’s a little prep. But sometimes you’ll have an A capella and have a good time with it. When you’re messing around (on the fly), it can be really cool. You can find your combination of things that you never really imagined…that really makes you laugh. You’re even telling a story with the tracks that you’re choosing.
Senpai: At Holiday Matsuri, they did a mashup of the Nintendo shop channel music and it was amazing! It’s the most subtle song out there, and it sounded great.
Epikuro: It’s something you definitely feel a bit of emotion about. When you’re at a convention, you do want something like that happen. People have their own style, their own spin on things. If it works and people are moving, then I’m not going to really complain too much. When you’re at an Anime con and it’s a good vibe, (then) you’re having the time of your life. It’s like a holiday basically.
Senpai: When you’re DJing on stage, do you see how the crowd reacts to your music? For example, if the crowd really doesn’t like the song you’re playing, do you just stick to it? Or do you change it up?
Epikuro: When I was a lot more inexperienced, I would just stick with things because I just didn’t really know any better. I didn’t have the skills at that point. But as I got better with DJing, I started getting better recognizing how to play for my crowd a lot better; just trying to read what they respond to. I try to get to requests as best as I can, but I don’t even have the song they’re requesting.
Senpai: I remember once when my friend requested a song to play and you’re like, “No way!”
Epikuro: You get that a lot and I’m like, “Sorry I’m an Anime DJ.” And it sucks because I got invited to a lot of shows and had to let them know I’m an Anime DJ.
When I first started DJing, it was very rough. Lots of bad performances, getting people to dance was a tricky thing. I learned that I had to cater to more people than just Anime crowds and a lot of different selection of things. It’s impossible to have everything but you do your best.
Senpai: Ah, so you have a variety of songs in your setlist to cater to everyone, so everyone gets their fair share of song to dance to? You go to so many conventions, how do you know what the crowd wants?
Epikuro: Nowadays I’ll think about the crowd I’m playing for, then throw together 40 songs or so and just see if people are responding to them. I kind of setup things and play what I’m feeling and go along with it.
Honestly, you can’t really know what the crowd wants when you’re from out of town. You just gotta play what you think is good. As you better with things, you start noticing what people are dancing to or not. Also, spending time watching DJs and seeing what they do.
There was definitely a time where I thought I reached that height of DJing, but it was only because the other DJs I knew at the time didn’t really improve from when they first started. You get to a certain point where you think you’re a great DJ, but then you see better DJs and you’re like, “Oh I’m kind of shit. I should practice more.” I think you got to keep improving as much as possible. You’re going to suck at first but if you can figure out your groove and suffer a lot of terrible performances where no one is really dancing to things, then eventually you’re going to get there. You got to be humble at it; if you think you’re good, you probably need to work on (DJing) more.
Senpai: You said DJing can be competitive. Is that so when it comes to DJing at Anime conventions? Or is it pretty easy to get a spot? I’d say if you DJ at MAGFest, then you’re pretty up there!
Epikuro: If you feel that way! I still aspire to do more, like DJing in Japan. That would be a lot of fun. I definitely want to do more Anime remixes; I just really like Anime songs, they get me pumped. (As a DJ), you have to be really okay with dancing to understand what people are going to want for dance music, even if you look like a fool while dancing. You have to get used to grooving. I feel like when you dance to music and don’t feel embarrassed about it, that helps a lot too. (Dancing) is a really social activity. I feel like a lot of people are embarrassed to let themselves out on the dance floor, which is unfortunate.
Senpai: I feel like Anime raves are stigmatized in the community, which is unfortunate. Because raves are a lot of fun and a great way to dance and socialize with people. Everyone has their own negative assumptions about raves and I don’t think they’re true.
Epikuro: Sometimes you can have bad Anime raves. There’s been nightmare convention stories in the past. I feel like now they’re pretty good, but you never know what’s going to happen.
Senpai: What are some things that you dislike about being a DJ?
Epikuro: I really don’t like when people have a request (for me) that’s off-genre. I’m not a big fan of that but that’s something you’re going to deal with a lot (as a DJ). I’m never playing Despacito!
Senpai: Does your music choice in setlist by what is trendy in music, or what’s in style? Do you use new music from Anime and video games?
Epikuro: I don’t really do much in rap, but I do like trap stuff. There is just so much different music out there…I feel like also when you start DJing, you learn more about music. Everyone has got their own taste. I like new Anime stuff too. If the track is banging and it’s Anime-related, I’m usually down (to include the song).
Senpai: Is there any advice you’d give to anyone who is aspiring to be a DJ?
Epikuro: Pretty much the same thing that I did. I feel like if you’re just starting and wanting to be a DJ, it’s worth looking for a controller, even on Kijiji. Looking for something used, something cheap. You can find something under $80 (CAD) that you learn how to DJ with. It’s not what you’re going to perform with necessarily. There’s (also) a lot of free software out there, and a lot of streaming platforms. So just even doing live streaming and DJing like that, it’s a good way to start.
You have to go to a lot of different parties and see what people like. Listen to a lot of DJ sets to hear how a good DJ set is supposed to sound, so you can see how you can improve your own music.
Senpai: Sounds like a lot of trial and error, and a lot of practicing and learning from others.
Epikuro: That’s like basically everything in life! You can’t really fail unless you give up. If you don’t stop trying to get better in life too, part of you kind of dies. The best way to feel happy about yourself is just improve on everything on you.
Senpai: I completely agree. You always got to improve yourself. Otherwise there is no reason to live! I know it’s a little harsh but it’s kind of true. I mean, once you stop improving what else is there to do?
Epikuro: If you really don’t have something to live for, it’s hard to feel really happy about life. It’s not easy, that’s for sure. I know it’s tricky for everyone to find something like that. But I’d say the most important thing is to not give up. Because if you give up, things really never change.
Senpai: I’d say if you want to be a DJ, the most important thing is that you try and you go for it. Even if you make a fool of yourself on stage, at least you tried. For me for example, I tried programming and I found it’s not for me. But at least I tried it. Sometimes you may not enjoy it. Or you can be like Epikuro , enjoy being a DJ and improve on yourself!
Senpai: What would you like to see different at Anime conventions?
Epikuro: I’d like to see one day if people at an Anime convention can bring their own sound equipment, plug it in and party out in the hallway. Maybe book an hour of space. Something like that would be super-rad. I don’t know if that would be possible, but just getting a bunch of Anime communities together could be really good.