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Saturday, July 07, 2007

ALLURA



So this morning, I had planned to meet and interview Allura for my Baybeats profiles at Power of Pop. Unfortunately, only Inch and Han Quan were available and even Han Quan had to leave early to take his driving test. Hopefully, he passed...

So most of the interview was spent talking to Inch and the deep impression of a mature soul in this young, 19 year-old person. It was fun, it was serious and there was a connection based on a mutual love of music that transcended generations.

By all accounts, it sounds like Allura has the right attitude, the talent and the determination to make its own unique impact, not only on the Singapore music scene but in the region and beyond. I will update you on the results of our meeting today as soon as it is available.

... still there's more...

Friday, July 06, 2007

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD ESSAY: PART ONE

At the very beginning... of this blog that is... I mentioned I contributed an essay to a book on the local music scene. Well, here it is... part one anyway. Enjoy...

The National Theatre, a hot & balmy Saturday night, sometime in the tailend of the Seventies. On stage, the impossibly thin lead vocalist ( with the incredibly tight jeans ) of rock band The Unwanted is caught in an unfortunate quandry - he's forgotten the lyrics to that classic rock chestnut Burn - and the crowd ( naturally ) jeer him unmercilessly. Uncomfortably, he asks whether he was ' unwanted ' and receives a predictable response!

Pest Infested are next in the firing line and suicidally decide to play the blues. Midway through an impassioned run through Like A Rolling Stone, the predominatly Mat Rok crowd make their own decision - its intermission time! Those who remain, continue to heckle the luckless bluesboys with the chants of ' WE WANT SWEET !!! ' slowly but surely gaining momentum and strength. Disgusted, the group simply give up.

The snacking mass soon return to welcome their darlings - Sweet Charity - and it seems like the entire auditorium erupts into a frenzy of unbridled excitement. Led by Ramli Sarip, the band are in their element, making the right moves, striking the right poses and singing the right songs - they can do no wrong.

Welcome to a typical gig in Singapore circa 1978, where the ticket to audience appreciation is providing faithful fascimiles of classic rock i.e. Deep Purple / Led Zeppellin / Black Sabbath, and nobody but nobody even thinks of the words ' artistic integrity'.

As a mere seventeen year old, my own thoughts were not about whether local bands would forever be doomed to play second fiddle to their foreign cousins. Rather, it revolved around perfecting that tricky organ solo in Highway Star. Yes, it seems strange, but the ultimate goal for any local band two decades ago was to strutt your stuff on the National Theatre stage and hopefully avoid the heckling.

And being part of a fledging outfit myself, my own ambitions did not stray far from the norm. In any case, the conventional wisdom was that this was only a teenage phase and nobody would take pop music seriously either as a career or an artform.

Once the heady days of the Sixties were over, the scene entered its darkest period and would not emerge back into the sunshine for two decades. The perception of musicians as 'band boys' was solidified during this time as whatever artistic merit of local musicians was totally stripped away and reduced to mere functionaries to provide background muzak during dinners, parties & dances.

However as far as my bandmates and I were concerned, none of these matters concerned us as we lived from jam to gig, hoping for greater things, maybe one fine day. Our principal inspiration being The Beatles, we rehearsed and rehearsed, played at various functions and slowly but surely developed our own original repertoire.

By 1979, we knew in our hearts that a bold step was required to bring us to the next stage. And so, we set up an appointment with a A&R representative from WEA and armed with a ghetto blaster and a demo tape, we plunged into the unknown.

Memories are a bit hazy about the actual details-how this man looked like, what his office was like-but what was clear was someone pressing 'play' on the player and listening to the opening psychedelic strains of Fool's Paradise fill the room. After three nerve-wrecking minutes, the man pressed 'stop', stared intently at us and told us that it was quite good BUT ( and there's always a 'but' ) WEA were only releasing Mat Rok albums.

Now, chew on this. If indeed this man was telling the truth, it seems ridiculous. The material was 'good' but not 'marketable' i.e. it would not sell enough to make it a worthwhile risk for a record company. There appeared to be a reality gap between the value of 'quality' and 'commerciality' as far as popular music was concerned-at least in Singapore.

For us, it marked the end of an era and for me personally it was the beginning of a long and winding road that would often bring dissapointment and frustration. This experience also served as a rude awakening for me-it did not matter how 'good' your music was, could it sell? That question continues to haunt all local musicians to this day.

Ha ha! How's that for a melodramatic cliffhanger. Part two to follow... whenever...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

DEAFCON IV

Well, well, well...
This Saturday (070707 - yes) is shaping up to be an intriguing one already as I have been invited to attend DEAFCON 4 (thanks to eXe), which will be held at DXO Esplanade from 3pm. Not heard of most of the bands but the names sure look intimidating. Hee hee.
I have heard of Rosli - who's supposed to be a great guitarist - and of course, Firebrands who have been doing a good job in promoting themselves, both locally and overseas.
Too many choices...

JUNK!

Ever since BigO Magazine stopped being a print mag and also transformed into a political online rant, there has not been a print magazine championing the Singaporean "indie" scene. Well, that's where Junk comes in, albeit from north of the causeway.
The new issue is out and lo and behold, the cover stars are two of my faves, the Great Spy Experiment (yes, them again) and Bittersweet! Also featured are the Baybeats 2007 bands and their music on the CD that comes free with the issue. All this for S$7.00. Not too shabby!
Junk is also online and that's worth checking out as well.

SMS SPOTLIGHT BEGINS

SMS - Singapore Music Scene.
First up, the Great Spy Experiment of course!
Check it out... please.
Oh, by the way, I spoke a little too prematurely about the Groovy People coming together faster than I thought... suffice to say that apart from a bass player, I need to fill vacancies for guitar, drums, keyboards and dancers again... interested?
*sigh*
...back to the drawing board, I guess...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

RAMPAGE THE DURIAN

A bit of a taster for the sumptuous rock fest to come that is Baybeats 2007, Rampage the Durian will be held on 6-8 July 2007 at the Stage@Powerhouse and features the following bands at the following dates and times –

Friday, 6.7.07
7.30 – 8.15 pm Rika
8.45 – 9.30pm A Vacant Affair
10.00 – 10.45pm West Grand Boulevard

Saturday, 7.7.07
8.45 – 9.30pm The Pinholes
10.00 – 10.45pm The Great Spy Experiment

Sunday, 8.7.07
7.30 – 8.15pm Comic Strip
8.45 – 9.30pm The Sallys

Obviously, Saturday’s the night for me with two of my favorite Singapore bands playing. No contest! However, emo fans will enjoy Friday’s line-up whilst ska punk fans will love Sunday. Something for everyone, I guess.

Oh, I should explain that the gig is organized by Rampage on the Airwaves, who put together excellent podcasts that focus on the Singapore music scene. Check it out!

Monday, July 02, 2007

ZONING OUT

After working for 11 straight days, I spent the long weekend (Friday was an off day) basically slacking off and writing new songs. Sent one or two to HYR, who should be back from Oz today. Was hoping to meet Ben (Etc) and Zack (from KL’s Deserters) but didn’t quite work out.
In any case, this coming week I hope to get cracking on the band profiles for Baybeat 2007 and so will be getting in touch with Allura, Bismuth, Caracal, Fire Fight, Giants Must Fall, The Sallys, King Kong Jane, Deputy Siren, Monofone & Stentorian.
*Whew*
That’s a lot of bands to cover in four weeks. Looking forward to it.
Stay tuned for updates!