Faces of EQRUM: DJ Mengzy
The DJ, journalist, model, producer and current PhD student discusses what it means to find balance in her overwhelming schedule.
“It’s very hard to explain what I do for a living because I do so many different things,” says Mengzy.
The word “multi-hyphenate” gets tossed around rather loosely these days. It doesn’t take much to claim yourself as one as simply saying you’re “very busy” and that you “dabble” in a few “things.” But the real ones require plenty of detail work to really get full pictures. The sum of their endeavors are a mosaic of who they are, as is such in the case of Mengzy.
She’s a DJ who’s usually fully booked, a university professor’s assistant as she completes her PhD research in Hong Kong dance culture, a freelance model and a journalist for various publications. Her distinctive style and musical tastes have drawn in flocks of free-spirited club kids that know when to turn up for a good night.
Mengzy works entirely freelance and she somehow manages to juggle all of those things in her life. But there’s much more to it than simply going through the motions. She thinks critically about each of her endeavors, which makes doing them all the more challenging. Mengzy is her own best and worst critic.
“There's still that part where it can be very scary. I’m constantly judging and critiquing myself. So it can be challenging in that sense,”
Freelancing is a double-edged sword. While it offers a wellspring of freedom, it also keeps her on edge with no real stability. Walking a tightrope between absolute independence and arduous discipline, Mengzy’s self-induced pressure is what restrains and pushes her forward at the same time.
She remains, however, optimistic about her work and lifestyle, hopeful about the future of nightlife as venues begin to re-open, ready to throw herself back into the eager crowd.
In this segment of Faces of EQRUM, we get a close glimpse of how Mengzy finds balance in her active life, while discussing some of the challenges that come with it.
What do you do for a living and what are you working on these days?
It’s very hard to say exactly what it is I do because I do so many different things. I suppose my main thing right now is my PhD. I'm doing a PhD in music, researching things like dance music and culture in Hong Kong. And then on the periphery of that, I do radio and DJ, starting to do music production. I'm also a freelance music journalist as well as a freelance writer. They all kind of tie into each other.
These days, I’m writing my thesis and constantly listening and buying new music for my collection. Sometimes writing for publications. I tend to work in waves, so I'll have a few days of kind of mental recharge and then I'll work steadily, nonstop for very long hours and then I'll have another kind of break. So it tends to go up and down like that.
Music is literally your life.
Yeah, it kind of went in that direction in the last three-four years. I've been learning-playing music since I was nine years old, but within the last four years it kind of shifted into my professional life.
What happens when you blend your passions with your professional life?
I would say it's overwhelmingly a good thing. Obviously when you're doing your passion, you feel very motivated and you feel like you're doing your calling, which I suppose is what anyone would want. But at the same time, it's also very exposing and vulnerable because now you're actually putting the most important part of your identity on the line.
You're putting yourself out there to be challenged where I think if some people, their passion is outside of work, they're able to compartmentalize. But it's mostly good, but there's still that part where it can be very scary.
I’m constantly judging and critiquing myself. So it can be challenging in that sense, but it's been overwhelmingly good and fun.
How are you handling that pressure?
I probably put more pressure on myself than necessary. That's always been part of my character. It's always about when you reach a certain point, I'm just always thinking of the next thing. I don't think I'll ever reach a point where I'm satisfied.
A lot of the time when I'm, so-called “not working,” it's actually because I'm organizing my thoughts. For example, with writing, I initially write in my head without having written anything. I can't sit down to write without sorting these mental notes and making connections first. I often feel guilty about procrastinating, but actually everything is kind of marinating in my head. That's why I have these bursts of activity. So then when I finally reach the saturation point, I'll be ready to put it all down. But it's almost like you need to recharge and reorganize before you can do that. Everyone works differently, but that's just how I do it.
Comparing your lifestyle now and before the pandemic, what are some of the pros and cons of those changes?
I think a big con has been, the inability to travel. You can’t do anything overseas or go to festivals to collaborate with and see different artists. There have been big festivals that I was booked for that ended up getting canceled.
We've all learned to adapt. A lot of people have gone into streaming and learned how to do their own streams. Before all of this, for example, not many people were using Twitch for teaching or getting familiarized with how to set up their own thing at home. So we've learned some valuable skills as a result of not being able to travel.
What are some of the ways you enjoy spending time now?
I started setting time aside every day to try and use this meditation app called Headspace.
I'm still at the pretty basic levels. It's been hard and I definitely have more stress than I did. I'm just worrying a lot more. So that's been something I've tried to proactively tackle. Staying in touch with friends overseas, family overseas, trying to nurture those relationships. In terms of my lifestyle, not that much has changed other than my career kind of slowing down as a result of restrictions. I find myself cooking and going outdoors more.
How does being in nature compare to DJing?
Being in nature is to disconnect from other people. It's to be comfortable and appreciate loneliness in that moment. DJing is about feeling the opposite — the connection with people that transcends language. You can just feed off the energy of people's reaction. It's polar opposites that actually.
What kind of music have you been buying?
There's a huge range because I do lots of different types of events. I do like rave parties, underground clubs, but also like people's birthday parties and weddings. Today, I've been downloading some techno and U.K. bass. Definitely on the club side of things.
Clubs are opening again.
Yeah. It's amazing news. You know, the light at the end of the tunnel, it feels like we're almost there. I think it's gonna definitely be a much needed time for the industry, for all the venues, especially that's been suffering, so everyone's looking forward to getting back.
DJ Mengzy’s passion for music informs every aspect of her life. From DJing to delving deep in her PhD research, she’s carved out an avenue that allows her to chase her endeavors with as much agency as possible. But this isn’t without any challenges. The pressure that comes with her freedom is immense — instability. She’s constantly trying to find ways to offload some of that mental burden. For Mengzy, staying in touch with friends and family is one of the most important ways to unwind. Another way she finds balance in her life is by doing the exact opposite of DJing, heading for the great outdoors. This contrast helps sustain her mental wellbeing and will likely continue to as she adds on more to her colorful portfolio.