Sitting in a WOW Suite at W Bali, Damian Saint turns his head and points out the window to the WET Deck below. It was there at Woobar, he remembers, when he got to help his idol out.
He’s been the resident DJ and Music Curator at W Bali for a decade, but he still lights up when telling the story of the time he booked the legendary DJ Pete Tong to spin. “He’s very chilled and doesn’t go around with an entourage. I saw him just walk across the pool and people started to go ‘Pete, can we take a picture?’ People started harassing him,” Saint says. “I stood up and said ‘Look, just give the guy a break. Give him some breathing space and we can do this later on.'” Saint says that Tong appreciated the gesture and “I said in passing, ‘if you ever need a tour manager, give me a call.'”
He began DJing around his native London, and caught a lucky break when he subbed in for a DJ at The Luminaire nightclub. It just happened to be the night that the Regional Director for the famous nightclub chain Ministry of Sound walked in. “He saw this skinny little kid spinning records,’ he says. “We were still using vinyl, it was ’98 or ’99.”
“He comes up to the booth and says, ‘Are you the resident DJ?'” Saint remembers. ” I said, ‘No, the DJ is at the bar, but, you know he’s not in a very good state tonight, so I’m playing.’ And he said ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing.’ So, I played for another hour or so, and he called me back over and said ‘My name is Peter Bowden, I’m from the Ministry of Sound. We’re opening a project in Bangkok, we’d really like you to be involved.'”
He helped open the first Ministry of Sound outside London, and spent years spinning records in Bangkok and Thai Pai and releasing singles. Along the way, he got props from legends such as Josh Wink and Carl Cox, and also earned a degree from the School of Audio Engineering in Singapore. When W Bali opened, he came onboard. Eventually, he started booking the DJs and overseeing the musical direction for the hotel, posting mixtapes online during his free time. He also helped create the hotel’s W Sound Suite, which he calls “the best project I’ve ever worked on. I’ve enjoyed engineering for other people,” he says. “Not just electronic stuff, but recording vocalists and learning how to do it properly.”
The next morning, Saint got a message from Tong’s manager, asking if he’d like to go on tour across Asia. He jumped at the chance. “I freaked out,” he remembers.
He’s had a passion for music and DJing since the early ’90s, “when it wasn’t cool to be a DJ. We were passing mixtapes around school from warehouse raves and stuff like that,” he says. “People at school used to laugh at us and make fun of us, so I stopped. I thought, ‘I don’t wanna do this, but I think something stayed with me.'”
For a while, he strayed from the path, but when he turned 19 he began listening to house music more and more often, and was inspired by a compilation Tong released. “The bug came back,” he says. “I saved up a lot of money, bought some Technics turntables and a bunch of records, quit my job, and then just practiced eight hours a day.”
He’s settled into Bali, having lived here for a decade. It took some getting used to, he admits. But now he loves it. “There is no favorite part of Bali,” he says. “It’s all my favorite. They say it’s the ‘Island of the Gods.’ There’s something very zen and calming about it for sure,” he says. “When I came here, I really missed living in the city, and I was always looking for a way out. I couldn’t shift down two gears, and I didn’t wanna surf, and it really took a long time to embrace it. But once I stopped resisting, it was like … oh, it’s like going in a warm bath, it was like … this is the one.”