DJ Gavin Skewes’ Journey from Turntables to Boardrooms

In a captivating and introspective interview with DJ Gavin Skewes, we delve into the profound impact of his cultural transition from Auckland, New Zealand to Manila, Philippines. Through his unique artistic expression as a DJ, Skewes has navigated the challenges of integrating his style into a diverse music scene, ultimately leaving an indelible mark on the industry. With the flair and finesse of a true visionary, he has become a prominent figure in the nightlife scene and a catalyst for change in the Philippine music landscape.

2017 URBN QC

Cultural Transition: From Auckland to Manila

Skewes acknowledges the initial challenge of adapting to the unfamiliar sounds of the Philippines, with his exposure to Original Pilipino Music (OPM) limited to his mother’s musical preferences. However, being an artist from a different country turned out to be a blessing in disguise, allowing him to infuse new sounds and vibes into the Philippine music scene. Skewes credits his immersive experience with KUMU, a streaming platform, and his collaboration with notable DJs such as Budah and Steelo, for gaining a deeper appreciation for OPM and further developing his Tagalog skills.

Technical Mastery: Blends and Scratches

From the early days of his career, Skewes has been captivated by the technical aspects of DJing. While many DJs were riding the wave of the EDM boom, he sought to go beyond the limitations of the genre. Skewes discovered that by creating unique blends and on-the-fly mashups using different acapellas, he could set himself apart from his peers. Additionally, he emphasizes the importance of mastering basic scratches, an art form that lies at the birth of DJing. Skewes expresses his gratitude to mentors DJ Aryan and Carlo Atendido for imparting their knowledge and shaping his early understanding of the technical nuances of DJing.

A Turning Point: Winning the San Mig Light DJ Spin-Off

Undoubtedly, winning the national finals of the San Mig Light DJ Spin-Off marked a significant turning point in Skewes’ career. With tears of joy, he recalls the emotional impact of that moment, realizing that his life was about to change forever. While the expected flood of booking requests did not materialize immediately, the prestigious title opened doors and introduced him as a force to be reckoned with. Skewes used each booking opportunity to showcase his talent and prove why he earned the title of champion.

Pushing Boundaries: The Red Bull 3Style Experience

Skewes’ journey continued with his participation in the highly competitive Red Bull 3Style Philippines competition. Fusing different genres and styles became his forte, as he believes there is no such thing as bad music, only different tastes. This experience pushed him to elevate his skills, dedicating two months solely to preparation, practicing eight to ten hours a day. Skewes acknowledges that Red Bull 3Style sharpened his abilities and further expanded his musical versatility.

DJ Gavin Skewes, Top DJ Philippines - Midnight Rebels

Leading the Way: Director and CEO of URBN Company

When hiring staff I always keep an eye out for good people more so than good staff. Good people can be trained into good staff. But good staff cannot necessarily be trained to be a good person. 

DJ Gavin Skewes

Transitioning into the roles of director and CEO of the URBN company (URBN QC & URBN Makati) within the nightlife industry, Skewes emphasizes the importance of constant growth and adaptability. With an extensive background as a DJ, performing in various venues across the Philippines and Asia, he gained invaluable insight into the inner workings of the industry. The challenges of managing a business of this magnitude are not lost on Skewes, as he meticulously synchronizes various departments to achieve optimal success. Additionally, he consistently seeks out new projects, piecing together the puzzle of innovation and opportunity.

Challenges and Growth: Fostering an Inclusive Environment

Skewes recognizes the significant challenges he has faced in fostering a supportive and inclusive environment, managing talent, and striking a balance between commercial success and artistic integrity. On the DJ front, he acknowledges the toll of constantly playing commercial music and the political challenges he faced as a foreigner in the industry. Yet, he remains committed to allowing his career, titles, and skills to speak for themselves, choosing to let his accomplishments and abilities do the talking. Skewes highlights the importance of attitude, taste, and skills when managing DJ talents. He values individuals with a positive attitude, willingness to accept constructive criticism, and the ability to see the bigger picture. Skewes commends and rewards those who embody these qualities, ensuring a harmonious and successful working relationship.

Sustaining Motivation and Expanding Artistic Horizons

In an industry known for intense competition and constant evolution, Skewes shares his strategies for sustaining motivation and continually expanding his artistic horizons. He draws motivation from the political challenges he has faced, utilizing them as fuel to prove himself through skill and talent rather than engaging in unnecessary discourse. Skewes maintains a critical mindset, reviewing every set to identify areas for improvement. He adheres to a rigorous practice schedule, dedicating a minimum of 30 minutes each day to honing his craft, firmly believing in the adage that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. Skewes’ unwavering belief in his abilities and relentless hunger for success have propelled him forward, solidifying his commitment to the art of DJing.

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Influence and Inspiration: Laidback Luke and Personal Identity

The influence of renowned DJ Laidback Luke is evident in Skewes’ musical style and personal identity. Skewes admires Laidback Luke’s dedication to the craft and his ability to excel both as a DJ and a producer. Emulating his idol, Skewes has incorporated elements of Laidback Luke’s techniques and philosophies into his own performances. However, he emphasizes the importance of developing a distinct sound and style that is uniquely his own, combining inspiration from various artists to create a truly innovative sonic experience.

Future Vision: Growth and Expansion

Looking to the future, Skewes envisions significant growth for his career in the music industry. His goals extend far beyond the confines of his current two clubs, aiming to reach new heights and expand his brand to unprecedented levels. With new projects on the horizon, Skewes plans to navigate the ever-changing industry landscape, overcome obstacles, and leave a lasting impact on both the industry and his audience. He understands the importance of surrounding himself with good people, recognizing that their support and collaboration will propel him forward. Skewes remains steadfast in his commitment to doing what he has been doing for the past decade, leveraging his experience and expertise to continue thriving in the music industry.

Acknowledgments: Mentors and Support

Throughout his journey as a DJ, Skewes acknowledges the pivotal role played by mentors and individuals who have shaped his career and supported his artistic growth. DJ Aryan Magat, his original mentor, imparted the foundational knowledge and basics of DJing. DJ Carlo Atendido expanded Skewes’ understanding of technical DJing, opening his eyes to new possibilities. DJ Brandon Jon encouraged him to participate in the San Mig Light competition, showcasing the diversity of DJ sets. Skewes expresses gratitude to AiS NiCaution for teaching him music theory and different approaches to battle sets. Lastly, he extends a heartfelt shoutout to DJ Will Crozier, acknowledging his kind heart and unwavering belief in Skewes’ abilities.

Cultural Transitions, Fusion, and Leadership

DJ Gavin Skewes’ journey from Auckland, New Zealand to Manila, Philippines has been marked by cultural transitions, innovative fusion, and industry leadership. With his unique style, technical prowess, and unwavering determination, he has carved a path of success, leaving an indelible impact on the music scene. Skewes’ story serves as an inspiration, illustrating the power of passion, perseverance, and an unwavering commitment to one’s craft. As he continues to evolve and expand his artistic horizons, DJ Gavin Skewes stands poised to shape the future of the music industry with his artistry and leadership.

Featured image by: Fidel Bretaña at URBN Makati


Hey, I'm a music producer, DJ, and event curator for BASS N' BACON, and run a record label. I can speak English, Tagalog, and Bisaya, and I enjoy writing about music and culture. Whether it's through my music or writing, I bring a unique perspective and lots of experience to every project I do. Thanks for checking out my work!

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