Making (sound)waves

GROWING up in a musically inclined family, it was only natural that Brendan Lim wanted to pursue a career in music. But as most Asian parents go, they knew that music would not sustain their son, so they asked him to pick an engineering course in university.

To that, the 28-year-old had a witty response: sound engineering. Jokes aside, he found guidance in the form of Roslan Aziz, one of the nation's veteran producers, who would then introduce him to the world of professional audio recording. Today, he is co-founder of Dream Rocketeers, a company that does online content creation, talent managing, producing, recording, and more.

What made you fall in love with audio producing?

Audio engineering is more on the technical side, whereas audio producing focuses on the creative side, where you bring in all the other musical elements to create a song. What I liked about it is that music could evoke emotions. I thought that it was such a powerful thing. It's easy to write a few chords, but going one step further and see all these different instruments change or bring out the best of the song – that was what really made me interested. Having a taste of that and wanting to know what more I could do with it made me dive deeper into it.

You also spent some time in the UK furthering your studies and got to work with some big names; how was it like for you?

I'm going to be really frank and say it was really intimidating. I went to the UK to further my degree in Audio Production. I got the opportunity to work with all the big names through my head of department, Ian Wallman.

He used to play in a reggae band in the UK and is really well connected. He's also signed to Universal at that time as a producer. Outside of class, he'd have big names coming by his studio to work with him.

I guess I made a good impression on him, and he invited me over to his studio just to help him out and add value to what he already has. That's how I got to work with all the big names.

Seeing as you had a taste of producing in both UK and Malaysia, how different do they work there?

I'm not in a position to compare because I haven't worked with many producers in Malaysia. But I feel that in the UK, they're a bit more relaxed in a way that they don't really play by the book; there isn't a rule to do a certain thing. For them, that's the creative process. They won't get stressed out on the small details; as long as there's a guitar in the studio that can produce sounds, it'll do.

How did Dream Rocketeers start?

By accident. My brother and I were just helping a friend out with his music. It was Narmi, drummer from One Buck Short. They used to play punk rock music, but what a lot of people didn't know was Narmi made folk-pop music during his free time, which he never showcased outside of his band. He approached us to put together his song and make it commercially viable.

At that time, I was doing my diploma so I had a little know-how, so I said, why not? It started out as a very fun thing; we produced his single Make Me Whirl and it surprisingly had quite a huge success. Once I finished that track, I left for the UK. I thought it was done.

Then, Narmi came back to us, asking if we could market his music. I had learned a little about music marketing, and so we did that. It was our first experience doing marketing, so Dream Rocketeers also became sort of a music label. That became a success as well, and from word of mouth, people started coming to us.

So you and your brother thought hey, this could be a thing?

Yes. Funnily enough, after I graduated, I was at a crossroad. I had opportunities to work with people in the UK as a ghost producer. Or, I could come back to Malaysia and help Narmi's career, because it was really taking off. I guess I didn't expect that sort of response, but Narmi said to me that he needed my help. He asked me to come back, because it was now or never.

Anyone in the music industry knows that artistes have perhaps only one small window of opportunity throughout their entire career, and if they don't capitalise on that opportunity, it will pass and another artiste will take that position. It was a hard choice but I decided to come back and try to pull up the local scene. Our plans were to take local music and put it on an international level.

What do you aim to achieve out of Dream Rocketeers?

Dream Rocketeers has always been a creative outlet for us to turn something that we really like into something sustainable. It was never really about making it a huge thing. We just wanted to work on something that we really believe in rather than slaving away at a nine to five job that had no meaning to us.

In terms of goals, taking Malaysian acts to an international platform is still one of our objectives, but even more so, it's helping the local scene realise that it takes a lot of maturity. Not maturity musically – because we have a lot of talented people musically – but the part that is lacking is the music business.

The local music business isn't sorted yet; they don't know how to market themselves, prioritise where their allocation of budget goes to, social media utilisation, how to monetise off music as well.

That's where Dream Rocketeers plays a huge role taking good, raw talent and making it a sustainable business for themselves, then bringing them international. That is the goal.