From Wikipedia. Known as “The Biggest Little City in the World”, Reno is famous for its casinos and as the birthplace of Caesars Entertainment Corporation.
This 10 days America/Canada has been a cool one as I wrote a lot of songs in the hotel room during my free time and I even managed to sell one of them while I was still there. Songwriting is really such a rewarding passion. =D
We had quite a few days stop by at Reno, so other than writing songs, I had time to explore this city of casinos and other than casinos it’s actually quite a laid back place with some nice parks and rivers.
There’s also a lot of pawn shops in the area where there are many interesting things that people put up for sale. I even saw a James Goodall acoustic guitar on sale on one of the shops, trying my luck, the price was at 4000USD so I decided to give it a miss =D
There was also a small little music shop by the lake and once again I had a listen to a few of their Reno local bands. After I listened to them, I decided they were not really my cup of tea so I didn’t buy the albums, however the shop owner was still nice enough to say “That’s ok, I appreciate that you asked to check out our local talent”. Cool guy.
And that was our last stop for our America/Canada leg of Wakin《今天唱什麼》, not sure if it was because this was the last gig, it felt extremely good and the audience was really loud and crazy. And with that, I headed back to Sg to prepare for our “20 Hits in 10 hours” Songwriting camp! With almost 300 entries of demoes to listen, I knew it was gonna be great, and I decided not to waste time and started listening to the demoes on my way back!
Vancouver, I’ve never been here before. However our Vancouver trip was a rushed one before we headed to Reno so I didn’t have much time to wander around. One interesting fact was that Lamb of God, the band was playing a few day after us at the same venue. Every time we do gigs in the west, I’ll find out these fun facts. The last time we did a Mohegan Sun gig where Van Halen played a few days after us and we shared the stage with Celine Dion at Caesars Palace etc.
I’d say the most memorable part of the trip was when we had an hour break before our gig at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre so I took a look around and found a vinyl shop just around the corner simply named, Vinyl Records where I had a good quick intro to the Vancouver band scene by the very helpful owner. I decided to pick up these 4 LPs to check it out.
When told I was touring with a Chinese artist, he asked me for Chinese acts recommendations on vinyl as he’s always on the lookout for cool stuff to sell and his chinese LPs fly off the shelves whenever he comes across them. I shared with him that it’s not often that I see chinese artists releasing LPs nowadays but I told him to check out Stefanie Sun as she does has some releases on vinyl. He duly noted it down.
The gig went well as usual and we were off to Reno!
Ahhhh our America – Canada tour began at NYC! Wakin was very excited to perform there this time as it’s at the prestigious Lincoln Center. Rightfully so, as not only many classical legends have performed there, many icons of the pop world such as Miles Davis, Bob Dylan, Queen have graced the Lincoln Center stage as well.
Usually when I reach to another country, I’ll browse through who is performing when I’m there and I was super delighted to see Gary Clark Jr performing that night! I’ve been following him since reading a review of his “Black and Blue” album on Pitchfork(or was it Rolling Stone?). Have bought all of his albums ever since. So I was totally stoked when I looked under gigs tonight at NYC when I was there last Saturday and there it was! “Gary Clark Jr and Albert Hammond Jr live at the Webster Hall”!!! We got to the club early and got to stand at the front row where we were treated to an explosion of passion, style, virtuosity and an outburst of great tone at the Webster Hall.
During the Wakin performance, I was doubly honoured when I stepped into the David Geffen Hall as David Geffen is my idol as well! Geffen has been a great force in the movie and music business from signing industry changers such as the Eagles to Neil Young, to Guns and Roses, Nirvana etc. .The mood was electric with the crowd lapping it up with Wakin made many cracks about being informal in such a prestigious venue where many great classical performances were held.
And that’s NYC, after that we moved to Vancouver, Canada.
I received a song request around this year’s Chinese New Year when I was in holiday in Bangkok.
動力火車主打歌 – 歌名下一站
Sampling 羅大佑 – 火車 A段的火車 火車. 再發展副歌,
I was instantly intrigued and I felt, ok, I wanna nab this song pitch for many reasons. I first worked with 動力火車 around 2002. In the studio, they are also such a treat to record for many reasons, we have many common influences so I can tell them stuff such as…ok, gimme a “Steve Perry” here, or a “James Hetfield” HAAA over here, and they totally get what I say. Plus the fact that they are really proficient vocalists who constantly deliver take after take and it’s such a breeze for them to be drilled to get a brilliant vocal performance.
We’ve have remained fast friends with them since. Probably because of our love for good old rock music and also for the fact that they are the nicest people around as they always make time to play host whenever we have free time in Taiwan and of course I’ll take them out for some fun whenever they are in Singapore.
For the song itself, I loved the challenge to readapt a song from 羅大佑. Using just the verse of his song 火車, I was to flesh it out to a full song that 動力 can rock out to in their upcoming concert tour.
And hence I started out writing it. The writing of this song spanned 3 countries, Bangkok, Japan and Singapore. Why? The label felt this song, the classic song involved and the statement it was to make was very important to the next step of their career. They wanted to make sure the song fits the upcoming sold out concert that kick started their tour. As a result, I wrote 2 versions of the song, with the 2nd version having 7 different choruses! So in total there are almost 10 versions of this song! This is definitely the most rewrites I have ever done for a song. However with each rejected version, I felt even more driven to make it right as I loved the challenge, I love rock especially when it’s rocking out with friends! And finally we settled on this version that was released.
The vocal recording session for this song was a blast! This time, I decided to record the whole session in 96khz 24bit and they were very pleased with the higher clarity and punch of the instrumentation. So much that we had to declare it!
So here it is, the final product 《下一站》by 動力火車. Enjoy!
Mixed by Frank Lee at the Neater Dump studio. Drums recorded by Mandric Tan @ Soundfarm Production Studios, Vocals recorded @ H.I.M studio, everything else recorded @ The Neater Dump. #动力火车 #songwriting #musicproduction #writethesonginyou #rockneverdies
Following the post of my experience of the Beyerdynamic T5p I thought I’d like to share about my experience with the power of hi res audio as well.
For those unaware, previously the common mainstream listening format of music was the CD. One day some engineers managed to greatly reduce the amount of data required to represent the audio recording by removing some of the components of recorded sound, ending up with the format most people consume music today, which is the MP3. And yeah, it does sound great for casual listening.
Back to the uncompressed CD, the standard resolution that is used to manufacture them is 44.1khz/16bit. Meaning analog audio is recorded by sampling it 44,100 times per second, and then these samples are used to reconstruct the audio signal when playing it back.
Hi res audio takes it to a different level and currently there are albums out there that are available up to 96khz/24bit, 192khz/24bit and up. All these being numbers, how does it sound?
It sounds glorious! Put on a piece of music in hi res that you were previously used to listening on MP3 and you will find details you never noticed, musical nuances you never knew existed, subtle panning movements in the stereo field, a counter melody. You’ll enjoy the unadulterated luxury of listening to the separation and impact of a mix the way the artists and mixing engineers intended. Once you listen to a hi res audio file, you’ll suddenly realise how much you have missed in the current MP3 age, and way more, as the resolution suddenly surpasses even the CD format which is usually the source MP3s are compressed from. As a music maker, these details unsurfaced actually inspires more ideas when I’m creating my own productions.
There are now brands like Sony, Pioneer, Pono etc releasing Hi Res Audio players. After trying out a few brands, I settled on a Astell & Kern AK100II.
And how do you get these hi res audio files? You can purchase them like what most people used to do Sites like Hdtracks.com offer hi res audio files and they are really not too much more expensive compared to purchasing albums on ITunes if you compare the vast difference in the quality of the files.
I’ve purchased well recorded albums like Beck’s Morning Phase , Soundgarden’s Superunknown , 30seconds to Mars’s LOVE LUST FAITH + DREAMS, Florence and the Machine’s, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful etc. Even though I have purchased some of these albums in CD previously (and some in casette tape and vinyl as well) but I do not regret it. The experience is different and you’ll feel like it’s a new album all over again.
So yeah, I’m a Hi Res Audio convert. Don’t take my word for it, go experience it!
Almost to the mid of 2016! Last year was cool as we continue to not only train but also discover more potential writers from our composing courses to join the FM exclusive writers fold.
With an average of 70 units of songs sold by FM yearly. This firmly makes us believe our efforts are worthwhile to realise our vision of making FM Pop Music School not just a school but also a gateway for us to help aspiring professionals into the industry!
Moving to our spanking new office last year with great vibes and with our new motto “Write the song in you”. I decided my new year resolution was to
try push FM’s publishing unit to greater heights and that included writing more songs myself and with my trusty team of FM Exclusive writers to contribute to the cause!
I’m happy to update that in the past few months of 2016 have been exciting we’ve been pushing our works to many exciting to be announced top artists!
More songs also equal to more fun production cases, I’ve had a hectic first half year recording many fun projects here’s some of them =D
There might be a few factors why this year is picking up for FM Publishing,
for e.g. our fortnightly writers gatherings where we share ideas, the encouraged collaboration, the yellowness of the office or for the fact that we believed and signed the right people to come on onboard our hit making team =D.
This wouldn’t have been possible without our writers’ hard work, and of course our powerful admin team to kick our asses to keep shifting songs and our partners at Warner Chappell as well!
With our upcoming songwriting camp, I believe we’ll be able to attract more promising talents and increase our community of like minded individuals and future hit collaborators!
20 years into the industry and 10 years of grooming talents in FM pop music school…Am I tired of it? Naaahhhh I’m more excited than ever for the FM team. On to more hits!
Lyla turns a glorious three! Im glad that she has grown to be a true jolly bean, having fun everyday and making us crack up with her many expressive faces and random remarks.
It’s crazy cool the positive impact kids have in our lives. I’m still ever grateful I work from home most of the time when I’m not travelling. I can wake up and do silly things with her before actually starting my day.
Though I’m in Taipei for her actual birthday but we had an early weekend celebration with our family.
When I’m back we’ll take her to the Zoo to check out her favourite elephants!
Ok, disclaimer about this blog. 1. This is not a sponsored post 2. I am sharing my experience with these cans coz it’s been rocking my life 3. I have returned these cans and purchased one for myself!
I’ve had these cans on loan for a while and decided to run it in so I can write a more accurate blog about it.
The T5p comes with a sturdy travel case. Made in Germany, it feels solid and well built.
5 weeks later, I’m still enraptured everytime I put them on and listen to a piece of music. Working on music for almost every moment of the day and still feel excited to listen to something when the day ends, that says a lot. It helps that I’m listening it through my Apogee Symphony or more often, with my Astrell & Kern AK 100 II audio player. Previously I tested the T5p 1st Generation cans and I loved the details in the highs however I found the bass a little too mellow. This time, the 2nd Generation has a bump on the bass and that suits my tastes to a tee!
As a self taught musician, I won’t know how to describe the sound in exact frequency speak but as with the music I hear and make, I can tell what sounds good or not, right or wrong. And the T5p sounds really good!
As always when I discover something exciting I’ll shared the experience with many friends, some of whom are experienced recording artists whom I shall not reveal for non endorsement purposes. One thing that kept occurring when they put on the cans and listen to a 96khz/24bit or 192khz/24 bit hi res recording is that they naturally close their eyes. The aural details from the T5p leads you to close out the visual world and draw you into an aural space where you can almost “see” the artist performing in front of you, with all instrument seperation and the depth and space thru the reverb and delays designed by the mixing engineer, clearly laid out for you. And as with all well designed audio equipment, they bring out minute details that you never knew existed listening thru less favourable mediums. When I listen to an old favourite, it’s like I’m listening to a remastered or re recorded version. The T5p does that to me and to some of my friends as well.
As a recording musician/arranger/producer, I find this actually beneficial to my own music making as I find myself picking out things even more clearly in the recordings of others as well as my own.
Retailing at SGD$1899, these cans are not exactly cheap. If you are listening to music thru lossy mp3s or other low res sources, this will be a torture to listen to as it will amplify the discrepancies of what was lost thru compression. However if music is more than just a casual past time for you and you are always looking for something you can take around and absorb the joys of recorded music. This is for you.
So there it is, my personal take on the T5p, these cans have been inseparable whenever I’m travelling or chilling on my own and I suspect it’s gonna be this way for quite a while.
Yeah! It feels good to be able to announce “20 Hits in 10 hours” The songwriting camp that we’ve been working hard on. The idea was spawned when Lj and I chanced upon a songwriting camp ad when we were in LA a few years ago. Fast forward early last year we witnessed how fun it was when Xiaohan and I were invited as consultants for the 12 hour boot camp of 中国好歌曲, where each contestants had to complete a song in 12 hours.That’s when I decided, yes, this is what we should be doing!
Actually this camp would have been a closed door event among our own writers. However after sharing this idea around, everyone we spoke to felt that this will be an exciting thing to open up to the public and with the help of our supportive partners we managed to pull it off! So here’s a big heartfelt thank you to the National Arts Council (Noise Singapore), COMPASS, Warner Chappell, Beyerdynamic/Peak Fusion, Teo Heng Trading & Ktv Studio, the Star Vista, Gibson, KRK systems and Samuel Seow Law Corporation.
And what better time to do it than this year! Being our 10th year anniversary of training new generation hit makers at FM Pop Music School. The past 10 years have been a blast grooming trainees who’s homework ended up in albums by Stefanie Sun, Guo Jing, Angela Zhang, winning songwriting competitions or winning awards thru their very own releases as singer songwriters.
There is no charge to join this camp. However this is not going to be a 2 day training class, this is an open call for passionate individuals who’ve had experience writing songs and believe they can join us at Funkie Monkies Publishing to be the next generation of chart toppers in the music industry.
Interested? Think you’ve got what it takes? Here are 10 things to know if this camp is for you.
1. This camp is open to Singaporean and Singapore PR only.
As our music partners include COMPASS and the National Arts Council (Noise Singapore), who constantly champion Made in Singapore talents. Our aim for this event is to spread awareness of the joys of songwriting and search for the next generation of made in Singapore hit makers.
2. You must have a ready, passionate, hardworking attitude
Success as a hit songwriter is not something that happens overnight, you must be willing to perservere. When I first started, I handed a song every week to my music publisher for 3 years before I struck my first hit single together with 小寒 with纸飞机 by Sandy Lam. I’ll readily admit that those first few 100 songs were raw and mostly bad, but with every song, together with a music publisher who believed in me, plus great advice given mentors, I got closer to understanding how to write for a mass audience.
3. You must be free of any music publishing commitments
Another important aim for this camp is that if you’ve got what it takes, Funkie Monkies Publishing wants to provide you with a platform and groom you to be Singapore’s next hit maker. With over 10 years of experience pushing our writers works all around Asia, this is an open call for us to you, the songwriter who wishes for your works to be heard by millions.
4. You must show us you’ve got what it takes
We don’t need a long story of you and your qualifications. What we need to hear/see is what you can accomplish now. For lyricists, you are to reinterprete and rewrite lyrics over an existing released hit song. For melody writers, you are to send us a clear audio recording with a melody (it can be ‘lalala’ if you don’t have lyrics) sung by a human voice. The music presentation/arrangement for melody writers does not need to be complex. As long as the melody is in tune and in time with a simple chord accompaniment, that’s good enough.
For music arrangers, you are to send us works that are completely arranged and programmed by you.
Only lyricists need to write in Chinese, so even if you can’t speak a word of Mandarin but have a powerful knack for composing a melody or music arrangement, you are definitely welcome!
More details can be found at www.fmmusic.com.sg/songcamp . And you have more than a month to do this (our submission deadline is on the 1st of June). To me, that’s way more than enough time! I’d say submit as early as possible, as we only have up to 80 slots and we’ve already received quite a few submissions!
5. You must be able to work as a team
In this camp, we will be grouping you up with fellow lyricists, melody writers or music arrangers. They will probably be strangers who have passed the selection process and are talented, just like you. We will need you to get past your comfort zone, check your ego by the door and explore working with like minded individuals. Which, by the way, is how successful music professionals work too.
6. You must be clear of your strengths
In the registration form, state clearly what your strengths are. If you are a melody writer who can arrange music as well, go ahead and let us know. If you are a lyricist who can sing well, go ahead and tick your strengths. This will allow us to pair you guys up with suitable team partners for the ultimate 20 self sufficient songwriting teams.
7. You must turn up raring to go write hits
We will provide you with an aim during the camp to write the hits that the guests came for. Guests include Chen Jian Ning from F.I.R, Huang Ting, Ah Guan with Vickey Tseng, Jessica Chang from Warner Chappell. These are either accomplished hit makers or experienced song pushers for top artists. They will provide you with a list of songs that are needed by the market right now. So don’t come expecting to re use an old song
8. You are open to feedback from experienced hit makers and industry leaders
Ask any successful musician and chances are they’ve had 贵人, or mentors who gave them valuable advice when they first started out. I for one, had a lot of useful feedback handed to me 20 years ago. During then, there were many hit music producers from Taiwan and Hong Kong dropping by Singapore to source for musicians. This is another reason why we decided to organise this camp. We want to bring the industry over to your doorstep and give you direct access to tap our expertise. Be open and make the best out of it.
9. You must be prepared
If you have been writing good songs but are used to working alone, time to get out there and start collaborating. Try it before the camp so you won’t be caught off guard . Who knows? You might enjoy it! Many great ideas are sparked through bouncing ideas off others.
10. You are ready to have fun
If you love music, you’ll know music making is fun. Work with others and allow their strengths to compensate your weaknesses vice versa. If you are selected, make sure you keep both days free, there will be the 10 hours camp and the 2nd day will be a full day of listening to your hard work and mentorship sharing sessions. This is going to be a fruitful and fun 2 days. I’m sure you’ll walk away gaining a valuable experience!
So there you go, 10 things to know for “20 hits in 10 hours”, start cracking on your demoes now! Hope to see you there!
Once again, for more details, head on to www.fmmusic.com.sg/songcamp
Was chilling at a hip club in Taipei last night with my 80s rock tee, slacker shoes and berms, looking totally out of place but feeling totally fine when my friend brought over a service staff. He wanted to tell me he spent his high school years listening to 假动作，a song performed by Jaycee Chan, written by Xiaohan and me. The song was released in 2010 and to me, that’s just like a couple of years back, so I was like huh? how old are you?
He said he was 22. Wow…But that’s not the first time, I remembered I once spoke to a 14 year old student, also in Taipei and she said Oh! You wrote 纸飞机？Wow, I loved that song when I was a kid! 金典老歌！
Last year around this time I was at the Naked Finn’s boss bday party, a swanky restaurant at the Gillman Barracks having a conversation with this lady who suddenly exclaimed quite loudly to Xiaohan and me “WHAT? You guys wrote 无底洞？That’s the song that inspired my break up!” At first, we were not too sure if that was a compliment or we were to blame for the breakup =D
On one hand, I’m thinking, wow time flies, and on the other hand, this feeling of ‘job satisfaction’ never gets old.
Just this year, I was told by an artist friend her initial impression of me was that I’m this heck care hippie looking lazy feller till she started to work with me. That’s when she realised that I’m a heck care hippie looking feller who’s actually hardworking =D
I’m only hardworking coz I enjoy making music. And I enjoy songwriting the most. Some might scorn at writing hit songs aimed for the ‘market’, I don’t consider it as writing for the market, I consider it as writing for people. Lots of them, as many of them as possible. I enjoy the look in strangers eyes when they realise this slacker looking feller wrote a song that was part of their lives. I am totally grateful for my ‘part time job’ as a touring musician with Hua Jian, as I enjoy getting on stage and watching thousands of people singing, dancing, crying, united by a hit song. It just reminds me why I still continue writing vigorously whenever, wherever I can. In fact, I’m in the plane on my way back, before typing this post, I was humming a tune into my iPhone.
If this is the feeling I get as a songwriter of a few songs that get a reaction from people around Asia, I can’t imagine the pride people like Paul Mccartney gets when he says, Oh…songs I wrote? Let it be, Michelle, I wanna hold your hand and Yesterday…just to name a few? Or Max Martin when he can say he was involved in writing Blank Space for Taylor Swift 2 years ago and “I want you it that way” for Backstreet Boys 17 years ago! I can’t imagine, but what I can do is keep writing, and that I will never stop doing.
A little teaser here, if you are, like me, an inspired songwriter, always looking to write the song in you. And you’re always wishing that your song can reach out to millions of people. Do keep a look out on our Funkie Monkies FB. Something very fun is gonna happen!