We’ve been travelling around the world for the 今天唱什麼 tour, from the Lincoln Centre, NYC to Vancouver, to Beijing etc. But this show has to be the most special as its Wakin’s 30th anniversary in the music industry!
The show was a huge party with guests on and off stage they included 任贤齐, 苏慧伦，李宗盛 and 五月天. I’d say the audience was in for a treat to have all of Wakin’s good friends coming onstage to jam.
I especially liked the stage design as it resembled a cassette tape. Anyone remember those?
or anyone knows where this lyric comes from?
Though I performed with him once as a session guitarist back in 1997. It was only in 2002 when I properly met Wakin by accident in a lift on the way to visit Fish Leong. It was a happy chance meeting which led to a long happy healthy friendship/working relationship with him as songwriter, arranger, producer and touring guitarist. That’s the magic of fate and life in the music industry, you just can’t plan these things!
If anyone deserves such a great party celebrating his 30 year anniversary it’s gotta be Wakin. As a singer songwriter, he’s up there as one of the most hardworking ones I’ve ever met. As a performer he totally understands his role to entertain even when the music stops. As a boss he tries his best to make us feel we’re working with him, not for him. And as a friend he goes great lengths to take care of them and help whenever possible. When LJ was expecting Lyla, he shifted the post production of his album to Singapore so I can witness Lyla’s birth!
Wakin Singapore friends represent!
That’s why his 人缘 has always been so strong and his career shows no sense of letting up. Instead with him exploring different music styles and being able to make music without commercial pressures at this stage, his career might just be beginning.
To top it all off, I had a cool present from Wakin for his 30 year anniversary. A number 85 out of 500 limited edition box set of his albums on vinyl! Wakin knows I love vinyl and this is a gift that I’ll treasure deeply.
Happy 30 year anniversary to a great boss and a cool big brother! Here’s to many many more years. It’s been an honour to be part of your team!
In Taipei for 《今天唱什麼 華健30心頭好特別版 演唱會》second round of rehearsals. It’s Wakin’s 30th year in the music industry. That’s 1986! Maybe some of you haven’t even been born yet. I was in Primary 4 when he was already making his way up and later my mom would be attending his concerts with my dad while I was still immersed in heavy metal!
This time we’re having more rehearsals than we usually do as there are many of his friends on and off stage who will pop by for his 30th year anniversary party and there will be more songs for us to perform. The concert will happen on 19th October, this coming Wednesday. It’s gonna be one huge party and I can’t wait! It’s gonna be fun!
Jinan. The last time we came here was about 2 years ago. To my recollection, the place seemed to be have changed quite a bit since then. However we didn’t get a chance to get out as much this time as the hotel was in the outskirts. However we still managed to find a 清真 (Halal) eating place near our hotel. I always try to eat China’s 清真 eating places whenever I get the chance, the menu is almost always the same so you never go wrong with them!
The night before the show, we managed to get out to check out Banjo, a local pub with a live band playing Mandarin covers. It was not too crowded for a Friday night and the band was quite good.
This time, I had some nerve injury on my leg so I had to wear these Robocop looking shoes for sound check!
And with that, we’re done with the show!
The 《今天唱什麼》tour is finally coming to an end with 2 more shows coming up, but from Jinan, I’m heading straight to Taipei for Wakin’s 30 year anniversary concert! More on that next time.
Right after Music Matters came the F1 weekend. F1 to others might mean “Vroom vroom” but to me, F1 means concerts!
This year’s line up is amazing! Though there were many other talented performers during this year’s F1 weekend, I only managed to catch three of them.
I especially enjoyed the Queen concert and it might be the best concert I’ve seen this year or in the last few years! Adam Lambert did a great job of filling in for Freddie Mercury and I especially liked the way they used modern technology to fuse both Adam and the late great Freddie into certain segments. And of course, Roger Taylor’s huge drum sounds and Brian May’s guitar tone still continues to inspire me.
Though Halsey played an early evening set, I really dug her set. Just 21 years of age, with the strength of her songs, she’s gonna have a long way to go!
Imagine Dragons performed a few times in Singapore before, but this was the 1st time I managed to catch them. Their percussive energy was ferocious.
This year’s concert stage at the Padang was situated at the centre of the field, which I find is a much better location than previous years where the stage was set up at the side of the Padang. We totally enjoyed this year’s F1 weekend, especially with the Queen set. Am excited what next year’s F1 lineup will be!
This has been a terrific week of music! Music Matters is part of All That Matters, an annual affair where attendees hear from a Global line-up of key note speakers and connect with the leading players in the business. The performers and speakers this year include Steve Lillywhite, Slot Machine (Thailand), The Veronicas (Australia), Raisa (Indonesia), Bethany Mota(American Youtuber), Pentatonix (USA) and any more. There’s also the Music Matters Music Festival, a free festival featuring live music performances of some of the world’s best up-and-coming artists.
I always try to make it to Music Matters if I am in Singapore as I’ll always leave with a burst of new ideas and meeting new people.
A huge part of the Music Matters conferences focused on the rise of streaming, and live performances. As with every year, SGMUSO members were given complimentary access to the conferences and there’s a Music Matters Academy that invites festival organisers, digital music services and legendary music industry shakers and producers to share with local musicians and artists on how to up their game in terms of musicality, touring, taking their music outside of Singapore etc. I especially enjoyed Steve Lillywhite’s sharing session. It’s always a pleasure to hear the man speak as he mixes humour with thought provoking points with his extensive experience in the world of music production.
Pentatonix showing how they hone their sound to set them apart from everyone else.
The Music Matters Festival had a Singapore Showcase component and I was pleased to see a nice healthy turnout who came to support local artists. This is great as our local community of musicians need all the encouragement and support we can get for our music to be heard and to keep generating great music!
Chong Qing! I love 重庆小面！It’s a blend of spicy mala oil，a whole bunch of other stuff with noodles and you can top it off with beef and a fried egg that looks like this.
The moment I touched down at 1145pm. I told my driver, I want to eat 小面! He promptly obliged, circling around the airport area looking for a 小面 store. I ordered a bowl to go and he said “no no no…you can’t da bao that back, it won’t be nice! If you want to enjoy your 小面 you eat it here!” I said no laahhh, pai say laaaahhh. But he insisted to wait for me to finish it. What a cool guy!
The last time I had a conversation with the 好歌曲 guys in Beijing, they mentioned that NUTS, the first live house in Chong Qing was one of their favourite places to tour. So I had to check it out. Our venue and hotel this time was far from the town area. But that didn’t stop me to take the 1.5 hour taxi ride to NUTS, which was right smack in the city area.
It just so happened it was their 9 year anniversary when we got there. The quaint live house could house about a 100plus audience. What really impressed us was that that it had a really really good sound, instrument and lighting set up. I told the boss 老鬼 that their live sound rivals, if not surpasses some of the live houses I’ve been in the West!
The first band we caught was an indie folkish band with a slight rock slant, next up was a punk rock band with great catchy tunes (ala Green Day), next up was a Hardcore band ending up with a 9 piece reggae band. Other than the Reggae band, the rest were local Chong Qing bands. All of them had great catchy songs. I was most impressed with the audience who seemed to lap up everything. To them, there were no genres, just great music. What a great place to be!
And with that, we did our show the next day at the huge expo hall in the 重庆国际博览中心, had my fix of 小面 (3 days in a row =D ) and I’m back to Singapore for Music Matters!
Beijing is always fun to tour as there’s so much happening musically there. It’s also always a good time to catch up with friends and find out what’s happening there. A friend of mine recently opened up 筷子面, a chain of 重庆小面 stores all over Beijing and it was super delish! I got to have my fix of Sze Chuan food before hitting 重庆，our next stop.
On the local music front, a fellow musician friend filled me in on the live music scene in China. Currently, there is a music festival craze happening so there is a music festival happening every other week out there, As a result, indie bands have many avenues to perform and get their music heard. He shared that a relatively unknown newcomer band can get about 10000RMB per show (this performance fee doesn’t include travel accommodation expenses) with bigger and more established local bands commanding performance fees 200-300k RMB and up. Plus there are many live house venues all over China for them to tour so music is truly happening everywhere. These are exciting times and I think it’s so cool that they can perform their own brand of music, take it all over their huge country and be able to survive doing that. Talk about living the dream!
Meeting up with the folks in Beijing Gibson, it’s also interesting to learn how fast their instruments are penetrating the music community and how they are working with other brands to create events centred around music. Other than being a Gibson fan, I’m also happy to see music playing an important role in the ever fast growing China market.
And so we did our show at the in Beijing, as usual it’s to a full house crowd. As it’s Beijing, there were many 好歌曲 (Sing my song, a reality show based on songwriting which Xiaohan and I were previously involved in) alumni among the audience as most of them are based there. After the gig we had a good catch up and I’m happy to see all of them still working hard towards their dreams, with some of them already making it good in the indie band scene, touring every other week all around China.
As always, there’s a certain energy and inspiration that I draw from whenever I visit Beijing. It’s amazing to return and witness the fast pacing growth of music making in China. Actually there have been many Singaporeans already making waves in the music scene over there. With the recent success of Nathan as an example, I believe that Singaporeans can be part of these exciting times as after all, we have been exposed to Chinese culture our whole life. In order to do that, one must also have a clear vision, an action plan and most importantly, match up to the passion and drive that I see in the eyes of the super talented musicians I’ve met there. Meeting hard working, driven music warriors always inspire me to work even harder in the spirit of good music. Time to make some music…
It was 1996, and it was towards the end of my National Service. Just like many other guys then I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I’ve was doing gigs covering English pop rock here and there in various bands, mostly playing for free or getting around 15 dollars, if I’m lucky, just to get to the venue and back. It was all in the spirit of passion and fun. I’d never thought that making music could be a proper job for me.
I had a good friend named Benny who had been playing in different bands as well, covering Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Metallica etc so it was quite a surprise when one day he invited me to go check out one of his gigs playing in a 民歌餐厅 (Chinese live music venue) named 木吉他 at Tanjong Pagar.
The setting was just him and his vocalist named Georgi. Initially I was amused as I was so used to playing electric guitars with a band when it came to us band boys doing gigs. And here was Benny playing an acoustic guitar, performing mostly slow songs with Georgi singing Mandarin songs that I’ve never heard previously. But what was cool was that they’ll funk up some of the Mandarin songs and mix up some English covers. I remember Georgi doing a few Cranberries songs in Chinese (which introduced me to Faye Wong). At some point, Benny gestured me to get up on stage to jam with them and that ended up with me getting my first 民歌餐厅 gig!
Gigging there was fun as it was also because of that I started to play acoustic guitar. I was thrashing the guitar up, strumming it like a drum and interestingly got noticed because of that. Other venues started to approach us to play including 爱琴海 another 民歌餐厅 that still exists today,
where I remembered we were amongst the first performing there.
With that, the ‘cheena’ gig got fun, we hopped 2-3 venues per day, gigging 3-4 days a week and managed to take home 50-60 on a good night. Making money while having fun?! To me that was already a big deal.
As the 民歌餐厅 culture caught on, we played full houses to attentive audiences. As a result, Taiwanese and Hong Kong artists started to drop by to perform as part of their promotion and we were asked to accompany them. My most memorable one was playing with David Tan for a new comer from Taiwan who had a power house voice pictured below.
Thanks to June for all these super cool photos!
Little did I know that I would later enter the industry and compose a few songs for her including one of my better known ones named 人质!
Life works in mysterious ways, as that fateful jam at 木吉他 threw open the doors for me to be exposed to Mandarin music, introducing me to a community of friends and talented musicians who got along with no boundaries (I say that ashamedly as I barely spoke Mandarin then). It was a great time where we had fun while working hard, driven by our passion of music to improve ourselves to please the audience. It was that period of life where we were never tired doing what we loved, young, foolish and willing to try anything. Never did I expect that jam would lead to meeting and eventually working with all these artists. And of course, this opened my eyes to an actual music industry way bigger than I could ever imagine. Thank you 木吉他 for that! We sure rocked those times!
So why this sudden memory lane post? A few weeks back I was invited by June, part of the 木吉他 gang to meet up and hang out at Tien Yao’s gig with Jason and Allan at All about Eve. It was great fun! We caught up with what each of us were up to, joined the guys on stage for a jam and had a good laugh. I went back flooded with a insurgence of great memories.
I also imagined what if, I didn’t take up that gig then? Here’s a piece of advice to you, dear inspiring musician. Life is too short for ‘what ifs’, try everything you can. It is never too late. You never know what you gonna get just by trying!
Here are more pics of that era between 1996-1998. Warning : You might recognise some of these people =D
At the start of the year, I set myself a resolution that this year I should buck up and write more songs! Max Martin, whom I look up to, has been having world wide smashes from the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears right up to Taylor Swift, Ellie Goulding, Adele and he’s still raging on. That inspired me to make that resolution and continue trying to chart hits for the Mandarin scene. So far, 2016 has led me to work on the title track for Hebe’s latest album and I’ve also had the honour of sharing a credit with 罗大佑 for 动力火车’s latest tour theme song so I think I’m on the right track! So I’m still writing and working on more unreleased productions to come.
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Though the number of songs I write and produce are far more than the ones that are finally published and released, that has never discouraged me even after doing this for so long. The reason is simply because I enjoy it. I get excited even before I start creating!
Other than having a pure love of making music for others, here’s how I keep myself excited and focused before I approach a song or begin a music production.
1. Finding a direction
Sometimes it’s through the music direction that the record company sends me or sometimes it’s the artist who tells me he/she really loves a song or another artist and hopes to have a song in a similar style. With that lead, I’ll study, at times for weeks, just listening to that song or that album again and again before I even start on the song. It helps that I have an obsession with music =D Picking out hints that make the song work, it might be elements in the music arrangement, the way the melody flows or certain vocal stylings the singer uses. With a direction in mind, it’s easier to set a goal and at the same time, you won’t unknowingly keep writing something similar to your last work.
2. Staying in the mood
I get this question at times “So you don’t have a day job? What do you do everyday?” Everyday I’m listening to music, reading about music, learning, watching music etc. Even when I’m working on a production, a song or an arrangement, in between breaks, I put some music on, sometimes related, sometimes unrelated. I might even get out there to listen to a good band. As long as it’s good music that inspires me, it keeps me stay in the mood plus it gives me a push to try match the standard of the works I’m listening to. Good music is powerful, it evokes emotion out of you to throw you into a certain frame of mind. Listen to good stuff and you will be inclined and influenced to create good stuff as well.
3. Record EVERYTHING
My mobile phone has 1000s of voice notes. Before I even set up a microphone or start up my computer and studio, I will already have many ideas to draw from my phone. A riff, a melodic idea, a groove (yeah, I am not a beat boxer but I got my ways of “singing” drums =D ), sometimes just a vocal note to myself. Most of the time before I even start on a music arrangement, I know how it’s going to sound like from my audio sketches made beforehand. Hard disk memory is ever more affordable today so take advantage of it!
Yeah, that’s about it. No fancy burning candles or meditation sessions. If you like, you can share what you do before you start making music here as well!
It seems like every year we are in Shanghai, no complains here as Shanghai is cool! I have a few friends staying here and it’s always nice to hang as Shanghai is ever changing and a fun and vibrant city.
The Mercedes Arena is a super cool and impressive looking venue and it’s always fun to play here.
Actually we just did 2 back to back concerts with Wakin last year and this was the 3rd encore gig. To our surprise this year’s concert has an even better turn out! Completely sold out, we had audiences way up in ‘the hills’ on top and even right at the side of the stage, almost facing the back of the band. Wakin was very touched and the band performed full force, drawing from the energy of the crowd.
So now I’m back and starting on a very heartfelt production for an artist who’s also a good friend of mine. More on that later!