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Sunday, December 12, 2010

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD


ALL YOU GOOD GOOD PEOPLE

I am not much of a party person. I generally prefer to meet in smaller groups so that more intimate conversations can occur. In addition, whilst I am partial to certain alcoholic beverages, I am not much of a beer drinker (unless its Kilkenny Ale). Not only that but I have NEVER ever been drunk in my entire life. Yeah, really!!

But I must say, that at Lunarin's Post Launch Party last night, I had a smashing good time. Linda (and her hubby, Johnson), Eng Teck and Kah Wye (also Victor and Timothy) did a bang up job in making me feel chilled and at home, even though typically I was early and the FIRST person there! 

The best fun was had chatting with all the good good music people that turned up - Daniel, Jacq, Sujin, Roland, Willy, Chang Kang, Tim, Adrian, Alexius, Evan, Dharma and Mark. Of course, not forgetting my favorite gurl, Rach!  By the time I left, it was 3.30am! Tired and a little buzzed but satisfied.

Thank you, Lunarin! 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

SAVING THE SINGAPORE (ENGLISH) MUSIC SCENE


I just want to dedicate this post to Thong Yang from NLB whom I met yesterday at the Library @ Esplanade. Cos in the course of our discussion about Singapore Music, I actually formulated certain hypothesis about the state of our music scene. Heh!

Basically, the Singapore music scene is caught somewhere in the middle between art and commerce. The National Arts Council (NAC) does not recognize pop-rock music as an art form and thus we are not eligible for financial support. Thing is the NAC has this perception of pop-rock music as commercial but the irony is that the owners of bars and clubs do not consider Singaporean original pop-rock music as commercially viable. Therefore, we exist in this limbo somewhere in between. 

Therefore, as always, saving our music scene, is really up to those of us who love original music made in Singapore. We need to promote the very concept of the Singapore song. And I do not mean Singlish or National Day songs. Every song written by a Singaporean is a piece of our culture and we need to recognize and reward GOOD songwriting so that songwriters will be encouraged in their art to continue development and growth.

Yes, I know that's it's not totally bleak. We have the Esplanade and Noise to showcase new local talent and on the commercial side the likes of Timbre, TAB and Home Club have been supportive of Singapore bands and artists as well. Not to mention the opportunities given by bands to open for overseas artist. But it's not quite enough. Mindsets need to change across the board so that Singapore songwriters are afforded equal opportunities currently given to practitioners of dance, theatre, poetry and classical music.

To that end, I will be working with Timbre to assist to develop Singapore songwriting in the very near future. Stay tuned for the official announcement.

At the end of the Quiet in the Library, it warmed my heart to realize that four young people whom I've been working with in the last two to three years were in attendance and performance (l-r above, Narisa Chan, Debra Khng, Vanessa Faith, Rachael Teo), these young women (and others) are the future of Singapore songwriting and I for one, am going to do whatever I can to nurture and develop their art to the fullest extent possible. I hope you will come on board this adventure with me as well. Let's save the Singapore (English) Music Scene together!

... still there's more ...

Friday, November 12, 2010

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD: POPLAND!


Who or what is Popland? Well, originally after the demise of Watchmen, I thought of recording under my own name but basically chickened out. So in 1995, I gathered a band together viz. Tim Nolan (bass), Patrick Chng (drums) & Ben Harrison (guitar) to record an EP at TNT Studios. We did (although Ben had to leave the country and was unavailable for the recording) and an EP called Modest was released under the name "The Crowd".

After the EP release, I decided to record an album in very much the same vein as Watchmen's Democracy i.e using electronic drums. And so, Pop was recorded with Tim at TNT Studios and ultimately released by Springroll's Cheapskate imprint, thanks to Eric Khoo's referral to Jimmy Wee (Springroll's boss). 

Springroll, to its credit, arranged a couple of promotional gigs and thus we needed a drummer and Jimmy suggested Ray Aziz. We basically hit it off with Ray straightaway and we debuted as a trio at Tower Records in 1996 (below).


When the Asian financial crisis hit in 1997, Springroll went belly up and so I decided to record a new album on my own dollar (is there any other way for Singapore bands?) and I had managed to secure US distribution with American indie labels. One of them, Not Lame Records, advised me to change the name of the band as there was a well known punk band called The Crowd in the USA then. And so, Popland was born!

I've always found the name a little ironic as by that time, the term "pop" was far divorced from what Popland was about, so it seemed perfect for us. Anyways, Popland's Groovy was released in Singapore in late 1998 and distributed in the USA as well. 


We managed to get press coverage from ST (above) and TNP and played a memorable gig at the Heeren to promote Groovy, whereupon a 98.7FM DJ (who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent) told us to let him know when we released our new album! Some things do not change! Hurm. 

Encouraged by the response overseas, in 2000, we recorded about 5 tracks and circulated the CD-R in the USA amongst selected label contacts I had through the Power of Pop (which I'd started in 1998). Eventually, Zip Records a San Francisco indie label, agreed to license the new Popland album - Action! - and the album was officially released in 2002. NB. the album has never been released in Singapore. 

Popland continued to play several gigs (with local legend Pat Chng supplementing on guitar and sometimes Ray's brother Dean of Padres & Concave Scream and Ronny of Plainsunset helping out on drums, when Ray was unavailable). Amongst the venues we played included Moods, Tower Records, Borders, Harbour Pavilion, Hard Rock Cafe, Youth Park, Roomful of Blues, The Heeren, the Prince of Wales and even IKEA.



In 2002, we played at the Library @ Orchard (above) and that is the last time, this lineup of Popland has played together. In 2006, Tim and I (with a different drummer) travelled to Kuala Lumpur for a intriguing gig (thanks to Aidil from Malaysian power pop band Couple) but somehow it was not the same without Ray. In 2007, I decided to move on from Popland and whilst there were many ups and downs in those ten years, I do not regret a minute. For some of the highlights, check out the music video for the final Popland EP, Camouflage (below)



So it's going to be interesting to see how the band turns out on Sunday, 21st November for Timbre's 5th Anniversary at its Substation outlet, Popland performs from 7.15pm to 8pm. We're been jamming for a couple of weeks and so far, it's been sounding great and the old juices are flowing. Which has me thinking of 2011 as the year of The Recidivists!!!!

Hope to see you at Timbre @ Substation for the final Popland show - it's your last chance, boys and girls. Really...


MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO


Here we go again. I must apologize if this post/rant offends anyone. That is not the intent but inevitably that will be the result. So apologies in advance.

As always, there's the occasional moronic piece in the Straits Times where a writer obvious ignorant about music will comment about the music scene in Singapore. 

According to the Life article today, there are too many inferior cover bands and this is annoying the hell out of pub, club and bar patrons. Seems this is the result of the owners of these fine establishments deciding to provide live music to its patrons as apparently, this is the current popular "trend". 

That's the whole problem with Singaporean business owners in general - positively bandwagonesque. Not only that but they will hack the bandwagon to pieces in an effort to make a lazy quick buck. All's fair when it comes to making money in Singapore.

So obviously, with the sudden increase in the demand for cover bands, the quality is sure to suffer, right? Basically, as long as these cover bands play the cover songs perfectly, everything will be peachy keen with our music scene right?

WRONG! WRONG! WRONG!

All this means is that we are a country of copycats with no creativity and originality - is that acceptable? Do you think a band like the Flaming Lips can come out of a music scene of copycats? Or are we not interested to develop a band as creative as the Flaming Lips? I guess not. 

So to all those people complaining about inferior cover bands - YOU REAP WHAT YOU SOW! Your unreasonable demands for cover songs has resulted in this state of affairs. So shut up and don't complain!  Your uncultured mindset has marginalized the artists amongst us and elevated the copycats - people who just want to give YOU what YOU want.

I will never apologize for being an artist, for writing my own songs and singing them as well. If that's not what you want from me then don't listen to me. If you don't want to recognize me as such, then that's your problem not mine. The ONLY way forward for the music scene in Singapore is in the development of SONGWRITERS. If not then, we will be forever doomed to be a nation of copycats. 

And that's purely up to YOU.



Wednesday, November 03, 2010

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD


Welcome to Popland, population: 2.

As suggested by the name, pop music (in particular, the easy-listening guitar-driven kind that resonates with such grace on their previous album, "Groovy") is really what defines the band.

Fortunately, the passion for the power of pop is equally shared by the two friends making up this Singapore-based outfit -- namely Singaporean Kevin Mathews and British expatriate Tim Nolan.

Perhaps, in fitting with the timeless quality of their music, age itself is irrelevant in a group like Popland. One thing's for sure, these guys are way beyond the average age of typical boy-band members. But that doesn't stop them from continuing to churn out radio-friendly tracks that deserve more airplay than they are usually accorded.

One note of interest: Mathews did in the past scored a radio hit in that very hummable ditty, "My One And Only" (which was recorded under a different line-up bearing the name, Watchmen).

So what can one expects from Popland's new album? Mathews lets us in on all the "Action!"

By MTVAsia.com's YONG SHU HOONG

The new album's title is called "Action!" What is the significance of it?

I believe that in order for anything to happen in one's life, you have to be proactive. "Action!" really reflects my attitude towards the local music scene -- too much talk and not enough action. So I decided to stop merely talking about the music and instead do something about it. "Action speaks louder than words" is also applicable here.

How do you see this album fitting in with the rest of your discography (from your past outfits, Watchmen and The Crowd, to Popland)?

The thing about the Popland albums is that we didn't exist as a performing entity until drummer Ray Aziz joined us in 1997. And so, you could say that the music on "Groovy" and "Action!" is more organic while that on "Democracy" (Watchmen), "Love" (Watchmen) and "Pop" (The Crowd) were more products of the studio. I think that the last two albums contain more accomplished guitar pop than anything I'd done before.

Which songs on the album would you consider "singles material"?

Realistically? That's a tough question because local radio doesn't play local music and, worse still, guitar pop isn't exactly popular right now. But ideally, I would like to believe that songs like "Dumb Thing," "Meat From The Sky," "Here," "Feel The Same Way," "Hold On" and even "The Hip Song" would hold their own on the radio, locally or otherwise. But realistically, I doubt it.

Most of these songs have been around for a couple of years now ("Hold On" since 1989!) so it's difficult to think about that. Two songs ("Fallen Angels" and "The Future") were written for and inspired by (Singapore filmmaker) Edwin Yeo's short films.

Is there a particular personal favourite track for you?

My favourite track is "Meat From The Sky" because it's a bit different from the previous songs we've done. Tim provided the offbeat idea for the chorus and we developed it from that point. A bit of a riposte against the banality of the current rock scene, you might say.

You've worked with different people throughout your musical career -- so far, what's it like working with your current partner, Tim?

Tim provides the creative technical backing to my "silly" musical ideas. He's a good anchor and also that important "ear" in the studio. I'm a bit of a lazy sod when it comes to recording so Tim is there to give me the discipline as well. Most of all, he is an excellent bass player and the perfect foil for my limited guitar playing.

Talking about musical partners and former musical partners...is the track "Whatever" intended as a bitter song in the vein of Lennon's "How Do You Sleep?"

Yes and no. "Whatever" was originally written as an exaggerated response to the split of the Watchmen. But since then, my feelings towards that has mellowed somewhat (it has been seven odd years now!) and so I decided to treat the song differently, to take the sting out. Turn it inside out so it becomes a bit tongue-in-cheek. And in my opinion, it has become that much more interesting.

Can you describe the entire process of getting the album out?

"Action!" will be released in the U.S.A. by San Francisco label, Zip Records. The recording and mixing were done in Singapore and the mastering, manufacturing, distribution and promotion will be done by Zip in the U.S.A. Zip expressed interest after hearing a four-track sampler of "Action!" I understand that the CD will be available in Singapore through CreAsian Records, though nothing has been confirmed yet. The album will be available online and through mail order as well as in the stores in the U.S.A.

Can you explain your rationale of not using Singapore as your base for releasing your album?

Although I broke even on "Groovy," the response here was pathetic. However, although there was a better response in the U.S.A., it was difficult for me to promote the album from Singapore. And so, getting a U.S. label on board was the logical solution.

Assuming you have the power to change the world, how would you change Singapore into a more local-music-friendly nation?

Ha! Okay, I'll play along... It's all about awareness of music. Singaporeans, by and large, have no appreciation of pop music. How many people (apart from kids) actually buy CDs on a regular basis, compared to VCDs and DVDs? Not much, I bet! If I have the power, I would get the stores and the labels to jointly launch programs to raise the awareness of pop music amongst Singaporeans. By the same token, Singaporeans have little patience for "live" music. I would then get the clubs, live venues etc. to organise such programs. Once you have a general awareness of pop music raised, an appreciation of local music would ultimately follow.

You've dabbled a little in MP3 and putting your music onto the Net. Is your experience with music on the Net generally positive or negative?

The Net is a tremendous boon for music makers as it provides potentially "free" worldwide exposure and promotion. Anyone in the world with an Internet access is able to listen to a Popland song by logging on to MP3.com, for example -- that is the power of the Net!

I have mixed feelings about Napster though. But more and more, I believe that it does serve as a good marketing tool as well. The issue of copyrights is a vexed one as the apparent "victims" are the major labels who by no means fit into that description. But I believe that these controversies do not reduce CD sales until we have MP3s with hi-fi CD-quality sound and people begin to accept the concept of paying online.

Can you let us in on some of the promo plans for the album after its launch in May?

Nothing really out of the ordinary. Putting the CD into as many reviewer's hands as possible. Placing ads in influential indie mags. Making ourselves available for interviews. Touring the U.S.A. would be great, but unless we get a sponsor for that, it's unlikely.

If this album is The One that makes Popland's name known all over the States, what would your reactions and actions be?

That would be a dream come true, of course. If that ever happened, I suppose I'd be looking anxiously out the window to check if the world has ended already! Actually, I'd be happy just to be able to continue making music for as long as I can.

(Interview from MTVAsia.com circa 2001)

Buy Action at Amazon.




 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD


It happened 16 years ago but it still feels like yesterday... how did something like this happen? I remember when I received the phone call from The New Paper and I could not believe what was happening. The resulting TNP article below lists out the accusations against me that my former friends made. A sad chapter of my life but worth remembering so that history is not allowed to repeat. Hurm.


**********

Kevin Mathews of the Watchmen may sing about My One And Only. But he is not the only one who should be given credit for it, as far as his bandmates are concerned.

Brothers Tony and James Makarome, the other two members of the popular Singaporean band, want the public to know that.

They wrote an open letter to the press recently about it.

"Kevin Mathews is not the only guy in the Watchmen," James, 32, told The New Paper in a telephone interview from the University of Maryland in the US.

"The Watchmen are three. We're disappointed that Kevin has failed to acknowledge us in public."

Mathews has denied this. The Watchmen's hit, My One And Only, was written and sung by Mathews. The song is in the Watchmen's first CD, Democracy, released in July on the Odyssey label. The album has sold more than 1,000 copies.

In their letter, the brothers said Mathews had "continually" implied in interviews that the other two members of the Watchmen have "somehow disappeared". They were especially disappointed with his remark, on SBC's Live On 5 (aired on March 1), that he had "got rid" of his bandmates, saying he had "accidentally dropped them into the Indian Ocean".

"Just because we're not around doesn't mean we fail to exist," said James. He said Tony, 33, a student at the University of South Carolina, had written to Mathews in Singapore several times, but he had brushed aside their queries. Mathews said it wasn't true.

Said James: "In his letters, he just told us about how well Democracy was doing. Once he said he didn't even know I played on some of our demos."

James said he did not telephone Mathews as he did not have his number. He did not know if Tony had it. The brothers have known Mathews since their secondary school days back in Anglo Chinese School and have played together for almost 20 years.

"We were part of a five-man band called The Hornets," said James. "The Watchmen was formed in 1989."

Tony played on Democracy. His contribution is acknowledged on the album's credit notes. James was in the US when the album was recorded and did not play in it but his name is mentioned in the list of "thank-yous" in the album notes. The brothers want to set the record straight.

"All we're trying to do is to clarify with the press and the public that there are three guys in Watchmen," said James. "It's only fair to us and to those who may be following our music."

**********

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD



If nothing else, the journey on the long and winding road is all about people. When I decided to submit the Watchmen demo to BigO magazine, writer Yong Shu Hoong was assigned to interview me and come up with the Ruff Cuts article you see above.

I also remember Kelley Cheng (who was then really very young) taking photographs of me with my first guitar (a Yamaha nylon stringed) at the void deck at my old Marine Parade flat. I was 30 when the photo was taken (which makes it 1991 - almost 20 years ago!), totally clueless of what was to come. Heh.

But interestingly enough, Shu Hoong is now (like me) an Academic Associate at Republic Polytechnic and we intend to meet up tomorrow at the Poly for coffee at day's end. Strange how things come full circle.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

NOISE 2010 - THE CONTINUING STORIES


I have now met my Noise apprentices (Vanessa Faith & Age of Sinfonia) a couple of times and already I sense a stronger connection between us which has left me feeling very satisfied with the encounters thus far.

For Age of Sinfonia, in addition to the planning for the upcoming recording and showcase, I have been pleased to be of assistance to the band as they prepare for their upcoming debut EP launch. I have heard the EP and I am right pleased with what I am hearing. Good dose of neo-progressive symphonic rock, which is unique in our neck of the woods and hopefully will get AOS the attention it seeks overseas.


With Van it's been a sharing experience as she is exposed to different genres of music and thought challenges concerning the concepts of songwriting and arrangements. These lessons serve to add on to her already impressive songwriting and performing abilities. I am definitely interested to do more with Van but taking it one week at a time.

Anyways, that's where we are two weeks into Noise 2010 - stay tuned for more updates...

Monday, September 27, 2010

INTRODUCING ... AGE OF SINFONIA


From left - Elfie (drums), Jack (keyboards), Jun (violin), Savvia (vocals), Andy (bass) & Rasen (guitar) - make up Age of Sinfonia (AOS), my Noise Apprentice for 2010-2011. I first saw AOS at the Baybeats auditions earlier this year and whilst the band did not make the cut ultimately, I was impressed by its symphonic rock-metal sound. 

Thus, I was pleasantly surprised when AOS appeared in the list of applications for Noise's Apprenticeship Program. I shortlisted AOS for the Noise TAP auditions and saw enough to select it as my apprentice.

I met the band members before meltgsnow's Black Penance album launch where AOS was the opening act and I was encouraged by the band's openness and willingness to learn. There are definitely areas that the band and I will be working together to improve. As usual, it will also be a learning experience for me and I'm certainly looking forward to the next 10 weeks and beyond.

... still there's more ... 




Saturday, September 25, 2010

GENETIC HABIT



GENETIC HABIT From Outside (BigO)

You’ve got to admire the sheer reach of Singapore band Genetic Habit’s eclectic blend of influences. Music lovers will find that this 12-track album contains almost every imaginable genre prominent in the last decade or so. Ballads, jazz-funk, electronica, corporate rock and rap all get featured on this rather ambitious release. However, as the key movers viz. Clifton See and Calvin Nam are music producers by trade, one can’t help but feel that Genetic Habit is a science project of sorts and the production has a certain ‘canned’ atmosphere. It could be deliberate for all I now. Still, the contrived & passionless nature of many of the songs (especially the love ballads) keep Genetic Habit from coming anywhere near the finest Singaporean pop-rock is capable of. C


(from 2005)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

BLACK TWANG


From the "pen" of Robin Chua (ex-Livonia, now Shelves)

**********

Twang Bar Kings - Black Twang (Deluxe Edition)

It's with great pleasure & honour that I get to present to you here a little relic from Singapore's music scene: Black Twang by Twang Bar Kings. Those of you who know your music history well would know that the band's main two members are Don Bosco & Leslie Low. Bosco would later hook up with Mortal Flower's singer Adrian Ho to form Daze, while Leslie Low is the voice behind local legends Humpback Oak, & later on, The Observatory.

Originally released in 2006 via the band's official website, this deluxe edition now compiles together Black Twang (a collection of demos), as well as Brownblink by Jug, which is another one of Low's side project. There are also three more bonus tracks thrown in, with a rehearsal take on the Lennon / McCartney tune, "Forgiven". All the songs' quality may be fuzzy & lo-fi, but you can't deny the brilliance. Humpback Oak fans might wanna check out the Jug's versions of "Daddy In The Lift" & "Vein" contained in the second disc.

**********



Tuesday, September 21, 2010

NOISE SINGAPORE- LOUD JUST ISN'T ENOUGH


A little late in the day as I believe that this latest Noise compilation was issued in August in conjunction with Youth Olympic Games. Yes, some of the tracks may have been featured in previous Noise compilations but it's always good to have them all in one place, I guess.

Highlights for me include The Lion Story's rock and rolling Don't Ever Stop, Cove Red's 70s folk-channeling Taste of Life, For This Cycle's distinctive Closure Part 2, Elektone old-school electronic Damn This Disco, Julian Kwok's feisty Working Class Woes, Cindy Teoh's twee Hard To Let You Go, Zahidah's sweet Make Up Song, Crystal Goh's ethereal Fall to Fly and Celina Foo's dynamic Rabbit Hole. 

A worthy 30-track showcase of S-ROCK talent. Get it while you can...



SG STOMPING ROCKFEST


Read more at www.powerofpop.com.


Monday, September 20, 2010

NOISE 2010


The auditions of Noise's The Apprenticeship Program (TAP) was conducted over seven hours on Saturday at Timbre, the Arts House. This is my third year as a mentor with TAP and every year is different and interesting. But what is consistent is the camaraderie shared amongst the mentors. This year Dave Tan (Electrico) joined Don Richmond, Jason Tan, Jon Chan, Patrick Chng and myself as we reviewed the 14 bands and singer-songwriters shortlisted for TAP. 



As usual, the mentors had loads of fun - cracking irreverent jokes and making humorous observations - as the bands and singer-songwriters had the difficult task of showcasing their talent and potential. The applicants had to perform two songs and then undergo rigorous interrogation (interview, really) by the mentors. The main thing we wanted to know was what the applicant hoped to achieve by joining TAP. 



After the auditions, each mentor had to select an applicant (or two) to take under his wing for the next 10 weeks under TAP. Well, as it turns out, everyone chose only one applicant, whilst I elected for two (!) and Jason and Don agreed to share one! Make sense? It will, trust me.


For me personally, once again, it was instinctive - following my gut - believing that there is something I could share with the applicants that would benefit them in their musical path. I'm pretty jazzed by my new apprentices and look forward to working with them pretty soon. Who did I choose? Now, that would be telling...

Pix by Jon Chan.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

LONG LIVE S-ROCK!!!


S-ROCK is dead! Is it really? I beg to differ. Evidence that S-ROCK is alive and kicking was apparent to all that attended (granted, not many but so what?!) the *SCAPE Confessions series night last Friday, 10th September, when The Cheating Sons and Leeson put paid to conventional wisdom and rawked!!!

Both bands use familiar genre trappings (alt-country for the Cheating Sons, Brit-pop for Leeson) as a springboard for their original music. 

The Cheating Sons (above) are fairly new to the scene but you wouldn't think that, listening to them deliver their incendiary set. Composed mostly of songs off their upcoming debut album, the Sons' assimilation of alt-country elements in their indie rock music is refreshing to hear, in a scene dominated by jaded emo bands. 

Leeson continue to combine edgy pop with singalong tunes that are hard to resist to anyone who listens without prejudice. I surprised them with a request for The King which the band kindly performed with their usual gusto. Those tunes sure have legs...

If you like indie music that is a little off the beaten track (i.e. NOT emo), please check out the Cheating Sons and Leeson.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

TAB TONITE!


A gentle reminder that I will be performing a hour long solo acoustic set at TAB tonight from 9.30pm. Also, it's another opportunity to catch Debra Khng as she opens my set with a couple of her original tunes. 
So come on down if you're free. TAB is at 442 Orchard Road #02-29 Orchard Hotel Singapore 238879
(*Note: Entrance on street-level)

See ya!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

WHO ARE YOU?


I've been to my fair share of S-ROCK gigs. I always look around at the people attending these gigs. If I come across an unfamiliar face, I try to figure out why that person is at the gig - is he or she a fellow musician, manager, photographer, blogger, organizer or someone else related to the band in some capacity (like family member or friend). 

I know what you're thinking? Why can't the person actually be a FAN of the band? Because it is so rare to come across a person who attends an S-ROCK gig and is NOT one of those aforementioned things. I mean, really. 

BUT, if I attended a gig by a foreign band then you are likely to find FANS in attendance. You can recognize them as the ones who jostle for space at the front of the stage, scream at every movement, jump and down like drunken folk with every song and queue up for hours to have their CDs/merch autographed. 

Again, you're thinking - c'mon there must be some actual S-ROCK fans, right? Yeah, but discounting the various interested parties outlined above, how many are there really? Can I count them on one hand? So who are you, S-ROCK fan? S-ROCK would like to recognize you! Please leave a comment, if that's YOU indeed!

"the intellectual class"


The debut track from "the intellectual class" is out now at Bandcamp. The track is called the draft and has been inspired by observations of recent events. "the intellectual class" is hoping to raise funds with this track to record an EP for release in 2011. Check it out! Support!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

LONG AND WINDING ROAD


When the first Watchmen CD - Democracy - was released in August 1993, I was already 32 years old with two young boys and time was a premium. So there was no album launch and precious few live performances at all. I do remember playing two initial gigs - solo acoustic - at Takashimaya and MPH Power House to promote Democracy and My One & Only, the designated lead single. 

So... articles in BigO (like the above) were essential to continue to plug the album. This would be a familiar practice down the line with subsequent CDs. Man, I look so young in the photo, you can actually make out a chin. Heh.

You can download the hidden Democracy track - Gum - at Bandcamp.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

THE HEART OF ROCK N ROLL


This is not meant to offend but I really need to be honest about what I see, hear and feel. After all, it's only my humble opinion and you can take it or leave it! Heh!

On Friday (3rd Sep) I made my way to Home Club to catch Basement in My Loft play in a gig that included the Rejeks, the Pinholes and Oz band Carnation.

Quick comments about the performances:

Rejeks - Didn't catch them so nothing to say | BIML - Shaky at times but overall the usual punk rock passion. Songs are getting better all the time | Pinholes - Totally new lineup (to me), chaotic but can't fault the attitude. Kudos! | Carnation - Average fare with the singer unable to hold a tune if his life depended on it. We have better bands than this in Singapore, so why bother? 

After the whole thing was over, Adrian, Peggy and I had a good long chat over supper and one thing that Adrian said got me thinking. He felt that Singapore bands were too "nice". Meaning that there was no edge, no danger - everything was safe. Well, I guess that's a product of social engineering as anything else but he's absolutely right. 

Singapore bands are too often apologetic about their music and their reason for being. I'm not saying that our bands should be arrogant or anything but sometimes the attitude that comes across is "lame". Sad but true. And I'm not saying that ALL our bands are like that but a majority, certainly.




Which brings me to Chunkfest 2010 organized by Ben & Jerry's. I know that the founders no longer own the company but it pains me to think that the hippie ideals upon which Ben & Jerry's was established no longer exist, except as vacuous gimmicks. 

In the first place, the organizers had the cheek (or is it just ignorance) to have S-ROCK legends Plainsunset engage in an idiotic voting contest to determine whether the band would be worthy to grace the Chunkfest stage. Thus, there was a bizarro scenario of a seated ice-cream slurping crowd watching Plainsunset! Weird! Only in Singapore.

But the topping of the day was when Leeson took to the stage and frontman Jamie (rather tongue-in-cheek) rambled on about how he didn't like ice cream because it was too cold and too sweet! Brilliant! And of course the humorless organizers ran to the stage to protest Jamie's comments. 

I mean, C'MON! Do you really think Jamie's comments (even if made seriously) would have any impact on the crowd? As if they would suddenly throw away the ice cream in their hands and suddenly swear off the stuff? Ridiculous. I'm certain the founders themselves would have found the irony amusing.

So who was hurt or offended by that? Other than paranoid gig organizers? Sheesh!!

Oh and I thoroughly enjoyed Leeson's set as it had a certain edge, underpinned by Jamie's unintended commentary on Singaporean culture and conventions.

This, my friends, is what rock n roll is about - yes, it's entertainment but much much more than that... there's still hope for the S-ROCK scene. Yes sir!



Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A TRIBUTE TO S-ROCK


This is something I've always wanted to do - a tribute to some of favorite S-ROCK tunes and playing with some of my favorite people was simply icing on the cake!

The ladies - Narisa, Rachael and Su Yin - were not familiar with the songs at all, when we began but you would not know it at the performance. Their contributions were immense! It was also a thrill to sing the songs in front of the songwriters themselves viz Patrick Chng (Oddfellows) and Joseph Tan (Livonia) even if most of the audience were non plussed.


Throughout the gig, I could see that members of the audience were enjoying the songs and swaying along and that was satisfying believe me. If only this was a common place scenario in pubs and bars across our little red out - one day! 

I also want to especially mention the awesome folk at Esplanade viz Clarence, Delvin and Ann for making this tribute possible in the first place. Thank you all! The Concourse is now a proper venue with the raised platform and the lights and the sound is great - I love playing there, it's like performing in my living room - so relaxed!


Also want to thank those who attended especially, Patrick, Ivan, Joseph and Kenneth. Of course, a great big thank you to the songwriters for the great S-ROCK music! 

Set List: Circling Square (Humpback Oak) / Foggy Daylight (Oddfellows) / Radio Station (Padres) / Goodil (Stoned Revivals) / Vengeance is Mine (Livonia) / Late Night Request (Great Spy Experiment) / Train Song (Fire Fight)

... still there's more ...

Pictures/videos by Patrick Chng. Enjoy...






Sunday, August 29, 2010

53A


Read more about 53A's album launch at www.powerofpop.com

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

AN EVENING WITH KEVIN MATHEWS


As much pleasure as I take from performing before an appreciative crowd, nothing quite beats the satisfaction of seeing someone else succeed and knowing that you've played some part in that achievement. As some of you may be aware, I've been working with young singer-songwriter Debra Khng since February and last night, Debra made her debut at the Esplanade Concourse (and her second solo performance overall) as she opened each of my two sets with her own originals.

The first, a country ballad entitled Strangers, Debra first introduced at the OOOM in June and many who saw her were surprised that that was her first solo performance. The second, a topical song called The Prince is even better, in my view, and has tremendous potential. We'd spent the last few weeks practicing these songs and Debra has been diligent in honing the tunes and her vocal performance so that she would be entirely comfortable with the final result.

Two bizarre incidents to report - after the soundcheck a group of young Korean girls asked to be photographed with me and after the first set, a Polish lady gave Debra a kiss in appreciation of her performance! Amazing, eh? Even though the crowd could not match the numbers at Baybeats (how could it?), it didn't matter to either of us.  For me, personally, I was glad to perform quite a few new songs (e.g. Silver, Little Red Dot, Liars in Love, If I Wasn't Paranoid I'd Be Dead) and it feels good that I'm continuing to move forward with my music making, whatever the circumstances might be.

I want to thank Ivan, Aloysius, Benjamin, Deb's sisters/friends, Desmond (who I spied in the corner of my eye) and to Ivanified for the great pix. Of course, to Delvin, Ann and the rest of the Esplanade staff for sterling support as always. Last but not least, to Debra for lighting up the stage. 

... still there's more ...

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD


The original title of this blog was The Long and Winding Road - which, apart from being a Beatles song was also the title of a article that I contributed to a book about Singapore indie music (called No Finer Time To Be Alive) that was published in 1995. The article was a vanity piece, you might say, foreshadowing my blogging habits i.e. writing about myself.

Anyways, I'd thought that I'd continue the Long and Winding Road back in this S-ROCK blog and share with you, dear readers, my memories as prompted by magazine and newspaper cuttings. Hope that's okay with you :)

Ripped from a 1994 issue of 8 Days, you can read a short piece about me talking about the origins of My One and Only and my experience of performing the song at Zouk. Also if you look carefully at the right hand side, you'll see that Watchmen is above the likes of Mariah Carey, Radiohead and Stone Temple Pilots in the charts! Hahahaha! Note that My One and Only is #3 and the song was released in August 1993. Rather good staying power if I say so myself....

... still there's more ...

LEFTOVER



ALBUMEP
ARTISTLeftover
LABELSelf-released
  
SUMMARYLike most bands around the world, Singapore bands tend to be influenced by music coming out of the USA and the UK. Leftover obviously prefers the sound of Northern England, with a nod to Embrace, Witness, Elbow and the Verve. More earthy than ethereal, Leftover come across as sincere and earnest and in Kuek, the band possesses a confident and talented vocalist that leads from the front, albeit with the occasional pitching lapse. Favouring midtempo rockers that seldom sets the pulse racing, Leftover’s reflective vibe is pleasing enough to raise great expectations for that full length debut.
KEY TRACKSEpiphany, Justina, Angels Over Asimuth
SOUNDS LIKEVerve, Elbow, Witness, Embrace, Travis
STREAMINGwww.leftovermusic.com
RATING

(From 2007)
***

TYPEWRITER


Read more at www.powerofpop.com.

LUNARIN


Review of Lunarin - Duae at www.powerofpop.com.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


ALBUMFlower Show Riots
ARTISTThe Great Spy Experiment
LABELRiot!/Distributed by Universal Music
  
You could say that I know most of these songs inside out, having heard GSE (viz. Fandy Razak, Khairyl Hashim, Magdalene Han, Saiful Idris and Song) perform on a number of occasions but hearing these polished recordings is something else altogether.The crisp production and mastering (by Howie Weinberg no less) enhance the bright sheen of the songs, in terms of the ability to move your feet, touch your heart and feed your soul. I mean, Flower Show Riots sounds really good and stands up easily to any modern rock LP you may care to point out on the Billboard Album Charts. Not a claim one can honestly make in normal circumstances with reference to a Singapore band but I believe that there’s no exaggeration to declare Flower Show Riots a minor tour de force.
With a keen sense of what modern rock is groovin’ to in 2007 (with the obvious lookback to British post-punk) and a nod to the still-vibrant classic rock influences, the sharp, kinetic andambitious guitar rock on display here is commercially accessible and artistically engaging to any rock fan anywhere in the whole wide world.
KEY TRACKSA Kind of Love, Late Night Request, Class ‘A’ Love Affair 2007, Flower Show Riots, The Great Decay, Flow, Siti in the City, Miss Kensington
SOUNDS LIKEFranz Ferdinand, The Killers, House of Love, the Knack, Oasis, Echo & the Bunnymen
FREE DOWNLOADFirst single Class ‘A’ Love Affair/Captain Funkycurls is available at
www.myspace.com/thegreatspyexperiment
RATING****½



(From 2007)

Monday, August 16, 2010


ALLURA
Beyond the Ashes!

Allura was forged in the fire of conflict and discontent and in the aftermath, has emerged as one of the most promising, raw and young bands out there in the Singapore music scene.
Vocalist Inch Chua, 19, picks up the story…

“The day we (i.e. Auburn’s Epiphany) broke up as a band was the day we went for the Baybeats auditions – 29 January 2007 – one hour before the auditions! We were 90% certain of not even going for the auditions. When we called the Esplanade people to tell them that we wanted to pull out, there was a really ‘bad broken telephone’ going around saying that the band decided to sack the vocalist! They insisted that we come anyway because there was a clause (in the application form) that stated that the band had to give them 24 hours notice, so we had no choice but to turn up. When I came, they were all shocked to see me then they realized that one of the guitarists was missing. So they asked us, ‘what are you going to do today?’ and we said that we’ll just whack a song for you. Which we did and later on the judges came to us for an explanation and they understood the situation.”

Indeed, through the most unlikeliest scenarios, Allura came to be and not only that, even booked its place at the prestigious regional rock festival that is Baybeats! 

It is almost as if, creation and chaos have conspired to bring Allura on the cusp of its biggest moment, so far. Not bad for a band that is mere months old.

Inch and drummer Han Quan, also 19, have known each other since age 14 having attended the same Maths and Science tuition class for about three years. Inch had since that tender age been a big follower of the Singaporean indie scene. Two years later, she saw Marchtwelve live and that experience inspired her to sing in a band and thus, she placed an ad at soft.com.sg and out of the multitude of offers she received, one caught the eye.

Auburn’s Epiphany.

When she joined the band, it lacked a drummer and old tuition mate Han Quan was recruited and in the next year, rhythm guitarist Aaron Wong and bass player Matthew Yap, both also 19, (former school mates – ACS Barker – of Han Quan) became part of the line up.

Auburn’s Epiphany, had been from 2005 to 2007, very active in the local scene until that fateful day in late January of this year.
 However, with the addition of guitarist Mark John, 23, (another former ACS Barker boy! I sense a trend!) and a name change, Allura debuted at the Mosaic Music Festival on 16 March this year. The band has not looked back since. Han Quan echoes these sentiments – “everything was okay, nothing went wrong, the band was new and Mark contributed a lot to the new sound – he helped us a lot.”

With Baybeats just around the corner, Han Quan summarizes what it all means for the band – “Hmm… it’ll be good. First time playing to such a big crowd. Something to look forward to…” Typically, Inch is less phlegmatic – “I still petrified!” The petite singer continues, “Never in my life would I imagine that we would be playing Baybeats – it’s something you only dream about. But I think it’s an experience we’re going to learn from and the amount of exposure we’re going to get is almost unfair! Even people from Malaysia are coming down to watch Baybeats!”

Music-wise, it appears that Allura is a democracy but most of the burden of promoting and managing the band falls on the shoulders of front woman Inch, who also states – half in jest – that in fact, Han Quan is the band leader. But both Inch and Han Quan stress that all critical decisions of the band are made collectively. 
And the band has collectively decided that they are committed to breaking through in Singapore and the region, and perhaps even tour outside Singapore.

They are willing to invest money earned from gigs and the like back into pushing the band forward, whether it is in recording or marketing. Right now, the band is in process of saving up (sponsors, take note) to record its 1st EP or album, depending on the demand (fans, take note). Allura hope to emulate the success of local bands like Great Spy Experiment and Electrico, whom the band looks to as role models. 

With Baybeats 2007 as its launching pad, Allura looks set to make the great leap forward in 2007 as a unique Singapore band. With drive and ambition to match their fledging talent, Mark, Aaron, Matt, Han Quan and Inch appear to be at the right place and the right time to take advantage of the upturn in fortune for the Singapore music scene.

(From 2007)