Singapore’s nightlife scene is in mourning for promoter and DJ Eileen Chan, who died last week aged 32.
As the co-founder of the music promoter The Council in 2016, Chan revolutionized Singapore’s underground club scene, bringing Peggy Gou, Amelie Lens, Charlotte de Witte and many more house and techno DJs to the country and organizing secret warehouse raves.
She also co-founded the cult-favorite venues Headquarters, a two-storey club in Boat Quay with a dancefloor defined by its graffitied walls and red lasers, and Tuff Club, a pop-up-turned-permanent space that operated out of a former Chinese restaurant. Both venues cultivated an approach to partying grounded by reverence for the music, passion for community and love of the dancefloor.
“The idea of Headquarters was simple, we wanted a no-frills kind of place where people could come enjoy themselves and have a good night out, a place where people don’t feel like they need to dress up or spend lots of money to enjoy themselves,” said Chan and Headquarters and Council cofounder Clement Chin in a 2017 interview.
“Headquarters was always meant to be a space people can escape to and not have any care in the world, and enjoy music at the same time.”
Chan DJed under the moniker Cats On Crack, playing festivals worldwide and performing on bills alongside the likes of The Field, Todd Edwards, Cassy and Scarlett Etienne.
NME understands Chan died in Berlin on Wednesday, May 4. No cause of death has been given.
A little throwback to IMI Festival two years ago. Listen back to my set recorded at the afterparty x🎶 http://bit.ly/coc1711imi
Posted by CATS ON CRACK on Monday, November 18, 2019
Tributes to Chan have poured forth from Singapore’s nightlife and club scenes. DJ Zig Zach of music consultancy and promoter Blackout Agency remembered the pint-sized Chan, who light-heartedly called herself “Singapore’s shortest DJ”, to NME. “What she lacked in height she made up in personality and drive, and damn was she driven,” he said.
Zig Zach continued: “At a young age of 32 the events and clubs that she built are achievements in the music industry that many can only wish for. She was always pushing boundaries and navigating her way around many [different] thrown obstacles at her. Singapore lost a really bright star in the scene and everyone is shocked and saddened by it. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and loved ones affected by this tragic news.”
DJ Dean Chew, co-founder of record label Darker Than Wax and of the music-centric bar and restaurant Offtrack, told NME that when he met Chan, he “was immediately attracted to her energy, sharpness and positivity”.
Said Chew: “She was always in the thick of it all and worked extremely hard in her craft. The years of dedication and commitment had paid off in so many ways and many communities have benefited as a result of that. Ella she was a rare one and she will be terribly missed by us all. Rest in power!”
In 2021, Chan launched a project called Happy House, which was described as “ongoing study into the state of happiness in Singapore and want to understand why we have such a complicated relationship with happiness”. Co-curated by Chan and Tulika Ahuja of arts consultancy Mama Magnet, Happy House participated in Singapore Art Week in January with a warehouse exhibit of multimedia installations by musicians, photographers, visual artists and more.
Ambient musician Kin Leonn, who participated in the Happy House event and worked with Chan on other events, told NME that she “showed me the meaning of genuine collaboration – not just as creatives, but as individuals sharing in the mystery of life”.
“Working on Happy House with her was way more than just an art project, it was a journey of real human connection. She always had an encouraging word for me; always affirming and emboldening. She showed me a constant kindness that I almost felt like I didn’t deserve. I know I’m just one of the many people that she’s left an imprint on. Her light from her will go on.”
Listen to ‘Eileen’s Lullaby’ by Kin Leonn above and read on for more more tributes to Chan.
We are immensely heartbroken, as we mourn the sudden departure of our dear friend, collaborator and supporter Eileen…
Posted by Midnight Shift on Friday, May 6, 2022
Additional reporting by Scott Ng