On The Record: DJ Timo
BY KALANI WILHELM / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Driven by ambition, Timo Lee is integrating her passion for music with running a business and relishing the moments.
A solid fixture in Chinatown’s bar and club scene at the now-closed thirtyninehotel as well as on the airwaves at college radio station KTUH, Lee partnered with well-known Honolulu mixologist Christian Self to open Bevy in Kakaako last year.
“It’s great to have your own bar and be a DJ,” Lee said. “My partners at Bevy are very supportive of my musical choices for the bar. It’s nice to be able to have the right music for the atmosphere at the right time.”
Lee grew up in Taiwan and aspired to become a DJ at a young age. She said her mother, who worked as a radio host, had a major impact on her career path. She bought her first set of turntables in 2004 and nurtured her persistent infatuation with music, which eventually led to hosting “Afternoon Delight” on KTUH in 2008. The popular Thursday show experienced a successful four-year run before she swapped time slots and began hosting “Starship 109” from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays on the station.
“I love to share music with others, and the radio definitely (gives) me the outlet to do so,” she said. “It feels so amazing when you have the connection through music with others. It’s almost spiritual.
“I’m a child of the ’90s and was in love with the rave scene for quite some time. My style has kind of evolved into an eclectic thing at this point. It’s rooted in house and disco, but I’ll play anything from nu-disco, indie dance to jazz fusion, depending on the situation.”
Lee, who garnered much success behind the decks with a sound synonymous with mellow grooves, walking bass lines and funk rhythms, also worked extensively in promotions and marketing at thirtyninehotel. She said the experience made her decision to move into bar ownership an easy one.
“Owning a bar (has) always (been) one of my dreams,” said Lee. “Christian and I have been planning to open a neighborhood bar with great cocktails, food, music and art for quite some time. When the space in Kakaako was presented to us, we were ready to take on the project.”
Adding to the satisfaction, she said, was being able to make music a big part of the equation when running the bar. Along with holding down a residency at Bevy, Lee regularly brings in in a host of like-minded soul junkies, including DJs King, Paul Shih, Ramyt and Jimmy James, to help create a comfortable environment. Longtime KTUH DJs Ross Jackson and Davey Shindig were also brought into the fold.
“The number one priority for me is to create a fun and welcoming atmosphere for people, (and) that includes the right music and ambiance at all times,” Lee said. “Being a business owner is hard, (but) I’m glad that I can involve music in my business.”
Kalani Wilhelm covers nightlife and music for the Pulse. Contact him via email or follow him on Twitter.