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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.