Best known on stage as echod, 23-year-old electronic music DJ Chad Dominic Sahilan witnessed first-hand the drastic changes that changed the scene of live music due to the coronavirus pandemic. The familiar setting of flashing lights illuminating the darkness and the cheers of a crowd ready to forget their worries and dance the night away were all interrupted.
“From an artist standpoint, a lot of DJs are used to performing live in venues and touring,” Sahilan said. “They had to adapt to the new live streaming era of the pandemic.”
The Long Beach State alumni’s interest in DJing sparked in 2016 when Sahilan began to attend electronic dance music festivals. This led him to apply for a DJ internship program in 2017 offered by 22 West Radio.
“The electronic music culture, it was very fostering and it felt like somewhere I belonged,” Sahilan said. “I haven’t really found that same passion for EDM in any other genre. Going there with friends and just partying with all of our favorite artists is an energy that is just unmatched in any other kind of concert setting I’ve been to prior.”
While establishing his growing presence in the EDM community, Sahilan found himself gravitating towards the genre of melodic dubstep, which is a genre of dubstep best known for its uplifting melodies. The versatility of this genre resonated with Sahilan because it allowed him to create music that reflects his own personal struggles with mental health.
“I bounce between these feelings of bright, uplifting melodies into more aggressive heavy music,” Sahilan said. “For me, it’s like telling a story of how I go through my own mental health struggles. The music is representative of how easy it is to find yourself bouncing back and forth between those two mindsets and I try to replicate that through my performances as much as I can.”
Javlin Baloca, photographer and videographer, has worked closely with Sahilan by documenting his journey for the last three years. He has witnessed the time and passion that Sahilan puts into his craft and performances.
“A lot of DJs just focus on the music they’re playing, but he makes sure to interact with the crowd,” Baloca said. “It takes a special kind of energy to bring that forth. He’s goofy. When it’s heavier music, he rips off his jacket and throws it on the floor and bounces ten feet in the air. He’s just in a totally different world and it’s so empowering to watch.”
In 2018, Sahilan was invited to join the Better Than One Collective, which is a group of DJs and producers founded on the principle of “musical growth and collaborative support.”
“I’ve been able to develop a very professional network within our sphere of the music industry and even get networks into playing live shows,” Sahilan said. “I’m forever grateful for that. That was the first turning point for me to think, ‘Wow, I could really take this somewhere.’”
The founder of BTO Collective, Bill Chen, recognized Sahilan’s work ethic early on. Chen said that he saw Sahilan as a reliable member and trusted him with the position of being BTO Collective’s social media coordinator. Chen also credited Sahilan with bringing constant and fresh ideas to implement within the group.
“He’s always on top of knowing what’s new, what’s in and what is mainstream,” Chen said. “That’s an edge he has over other people because he can empathize with his listeners. Whenever he creates something, I sit down and try to draw inspiration from it because I know that there will be something that will blow my mind.”
His position within the BTO Collective allowed him to take part in organizing live stream events for artists to still have a platform to perform.
Cyberverse, the first event, took place at the end of April. The livestream was a two-night event where all of the funds that were raised were donated to a nonprofit that distributed personal protective equipment to medical workers in Southern California.
The second event was a collaboration with a nonprofit called The 2020 Project, where they hosted a virtual festival called Fresh Off the Vote. The purpose was to encourage people to register to vote and become more politically aware.
The most recent live stream that Sahilan was part of celebrated mental health awareness month. It was a fundraiser for the National Alliance on Mental Illness and The Trevor Project, which provides mental health resources to LGBTQ youth. Sahilan, who has faced his own struggles with mental health, uses his platform to be a vocal advocate in support of mental health awareness.
“In a nutshell, this whole live streaming platform was a very abrupt change and everybody had to adapt to it,” Sahilan said. “But in the long run, it has caused a lot of people to become more creative or redirect a lot of our energy within the community to those who need it. Being able to leverage the negativity caused by the pandemic for the greater good had been very fulfilling and humbling.”
As Sahilan builds his brand, he has been offered opportunities to perform, including Associated Students, Inc.’s Big Event in 2019 to open up for Grammy award winning R&B artist Daniel Caesar.
The night before this performance, Sahilan had been offered a chance to open for the well-known EDM artist Yultron at an event called the Rave Prom, which took place at Los Angeles’ Hollywood Palladium.
Jenelle Lee, a close friend and fellow member of BTO Collective, has collaborated with Sahilan for a number of performances, including opening for Yultron at the Hollywood Palladium.
“He has a lot of energy on stage and whenever we play together, he definitely brings out the energy in me,” Lee said. “He’s one of the most hardest working artists I know.”
For Sahilan, those opportunities proved to him how much he has grown.
“[These shows] really showed me how much I developed this craft and branding and network to the point where I’m playing these two crazy opportunities back-to-back,” Sahilan said. “I’m really blessed for that. I still watch videos of it from time-to-time and remember how incredible those opportunities I got were.”