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27 Questions: Olivia Dawn (Xiaolin), Hong Kong DJ and violinist

Hong Kong is a place brimming with talented and intriguing people. Each week in 27 Questions, we get up close and personal with the city’s notable personalities, learning about their whims, aversions, pivotal life moments, and hopes and dreams — all in roughly the same duration it takes to sit through a two-minute speed date. In this week’s iteration, we speak to Hong Kong DJ, producer and violinist, Olivia Dawn Mok (also known as Xiaolin).

Some paint with colours and others with music. Olivia Dawn Mok’s musical canvas is certainly one that continually pushes past the borders of its genre. The Hong Kong-born DJ, producer and classically trained violinist covers an impressively wide sonic spectrum, and is known for her meticulously arranged tracks that weave through varied genres — from ambient and disco to breakbeat, acid and electro.

Based in both Hong Kong and London, Mok started her musical journey with the violin and piano since the age of five. But while jazz formed the basis of her melodious childhood, it was electronic music that ultimately shaped her musical tastes, naming Larry Heard, Prodigy, The Roots, Boards of Canada, Aphex Twin, and Kraftwerk as some of her most important muses.

With a passion for such an eclectic mix of musical styles, Mok attained a double master’s degree in jazz and music technology at Berklee College of Music, adding to her already impressive credentials as a graduate from Julliard for classical music.

Today, she’s already made a mark as a true musician in the gritty electronic music scene, setting dancefloors alight with her meticulous selection of both vinyl and digital tracks that brings a punchy yet dreamy flair. An avid synth collector, Mok also produces Cantonese-inspired music that pays homage to the past, and incorporates her own original violin and vocal samples that give it a unique and captivating edge that has us asking for more.

As we anticipate the upcoming release of Mok’s debut EP under her new artist name, Xiaolin, we sat down with the prodigal talent and chatted about everything from her favourite movie to fondest childhood memory. Scroll down to find out more.

Name: Olivia Dawn Mok (DJ name: Xiaolin)
Age: 28
Neighbourhood: Wan Chai
Occupation: DJ/producer/violinist/songwriter

1. What is your life motto?

Don’t be afraid of losing people, be afraid of losing yourself by trying to please everyone around you.

2. What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten in Hong Kong?

My grandma brought me up because my parents were both working full time. She used to make this stir-fried vermicelli with ox-tongue and choi sum.  I haven’t had it since she passed away, and I don’t eat beef anymore, but in my memory it’s the closest taste to home.

3. Who is your role model?

My mother. We are very different people and don’t always agree on everything, but she always follows through on her word and never does anything halfway. She stands up for her own beliefs and I respect that

4. What was your first job?

My first unpaid job was as a PR intern at Cartier in HK. I learned a lot about how watches were made and proofread media articles. I sang at jazz bars on the side for a little pocket money. My first proper paid job was being a cartoonist for my school journal (The Juilliard Journal) in NYC.

5. What is your drink of choice?

Sparkling water with ice and lemon. Or the brown Vitasoy.

6. When was the last time you drove a car?

When I was getting my license. Never had to drive in Hong Kong or London, public transportation is so much easier.

7. What is the best thing in or about your apartment?

My home studio. Specifically, my Juno-60, which is a vintage analogue synthesiser I got from Osaka. It was made in the 80s and produces a super warm sound.

8. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Morning person on weekdays, night owl on weekends (gigs and late-night studio sessions).

9. Which phone app could you not live without? 

Google Maps because I have no sense of direction. And ‘Words With Friends.’ Don’t laugh.

10. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Stir-fried Chinese veggies with plain white rice.  I’m Chinese like that.

11. What is your biggest regret in life?

I like to think that everything I’ve done up to this point has happened for a reason, so I have no regrets. Perhaps my only one would be not having flown back to Hong Kong to see my grandma before she passed away. I was in grad school in Spain while she was in the hospital and it was finals week so I stayed there. I miss her a lot.

12. What do you hate most about living in Hong Kong?

Air pollution and humidity. Feels like someone slapped a hot Wet Wipe over your face when you go outside during summer.

13. What is the top destination on your bucket list?

Beirut, Lebanon. For food and music.

14. What is your greatest fear?

Losing my music projects because I forgot to save or backup my work on my laptop. This has happened once when my laptop got stolen and I was devastated.

15. What is your biggest guilty pleasure?

Haribo Gummy Bears. I never eat sweets, yet this is my go-to studio snack. Lately, I tried to switch to something ‘healthier’ — Ribena gummies. Not the same.

16. What is one movie everyone should see?

The Matrix (first one). If you haven’t seen it, we can’t be friends.

17. Which moment in your life would you most like to relive?

There are way too many moments for me to pinpoint a specific one. But possibly my first time playing at a music festival two years ago. It was an outdoor festival four hours’ drive from Melbourne, with dust everywhere and no phone service. My oldest childhood friend came along as my photographer. We didn’t shower for three days and had the best time.

18. What makes someone a real Hongkonger?

If you’re familiar with Australia Dairy Co. breakfast, love Anita Mui or Leslie Cheung, seen at least two Wong Kar-wai films, and have been to Neway/Red Mr for karaoke night.

19. If you could invite any five people in the world to your dream dinner party, who would they be?

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Anita Mui, Wong Kar-wai, Claude Debussy and Floating Points.

20. What is one song you know all the lyrics to?

‘尋愛’ (Seeking Love) by Anita Mui.

21. If you could banish someone from Hong Kong forever, who would it be?

CoViD-19 — in human form.

22. What’s your favourite childhood memory?

The time we went to Macau and I got my first Heelys. They were all the rage back then. My parents wouldn’t let me get a skateboard and I wanted to look like Avril Lavigne at the time, so Heelys were the closest thing I could get to skateboarding.

23. What is your favourite scent in the whole world?

Baby powder. It’s oddly comforting. That or the smell of a homecooked dinner.

24. Who is the best teacher you’ve ever had, what is one important lesson that they taught you?

My former violin teacher who passed away, Professor Lin Yao Ji.  He was the best teacher I’ve had — he was very harsh but loved me like I was his grandchild. He was the first teacher who believed in my potential and taught me that real music isn’t about accuracy, it’s about tone quality and making people feel what you feel. In order to convince someone to feel, you have to convince yourself first. After he passed away, I was miserable and dropped violin for a whole year in high school, before ultimately picking it back up again and deciding to audition for Juilliard.

25. Do you have a catch phrase?

“Best ___ ever!”

26. Do you have any favourite tattoos or special birthmarks? What is it?

I have only one tattoo at the moment. It’s a rocket — the one from Tintin: Destination Moon (“Objectif Lune”).  It’s the cartoon I grew up watching with my brother and reminds me of home. I had it done inside my right ankle, to give myself rocket-powered legs!

27. Would you rather never be alone for a single moment, or be alone for the rest of your life? Why?

That’s quite extreme. I guess if I had to choose, I’d rather be alone. I need a lot of space to recharge so I can stay creative. I get easily influenced by the people around me, which is a good and bad thing depending on who it is. If I’m around big groups for too long, I get tired. How ironic is that?

Cindie Chan
Style Editor
Fashion blogger turned editor, Cindie has spent over seven years covering all things stylish in the digital world. When she’s not busy poring over the latest covetable releases or attending the most talked-about fashion events in town, you’ll find her enjoying some precious downtime with her newborn son and sweet dog Rosy.