CHEATING SONS

Even though I have been managing Cheating Sons since 1st July, I had not yet been to a gig as “Band Manager”. Well, glad to say that that was finally taken care of last night, as the band opened for Two Door Cinema Club at the Esplanade Concert Hall. Which meant that on gig day, I had a couple of admin chores to handle which was par for the course. Which freed the band to focus on the most important thing – the music. So as the band set up on the Concert Hall stage, I took time to savor the wonderful venue, walking in and around the empty seats as the band sound checked.

Once all the little details had been sorted out – won’t bore you with that – I took my seat and waiting for the band’s set to start. The audience started streaming in and I must admit that I was a bit nervous about how the crowd would respond to the band. After all, Singaporean audiences can be notoriously difficult when faced with a opening act that is local. But when the lights dimmed and the band walked out, the audience went apeshit – did they think it was Two Door Cinema Club? Some folks were shouting – “Cheating Sons!” which was intriguing.

But the warm response did not dissipate when the lights revealed the band and Renyi made a few remarks and the band launched into Isles. Throughout the 30 minute set, the audience did their best to make the band feel at home and it was a joy to behold. All my anxiety disappeared to be replaced by a sense of deep pride. Not only that a validation of the choice we had made to work together. I can safely say that this is the one of the best gigs that the band has played so far. Renyi was in great voice and the band was tight! I personally loved the rustic (and unreleased) Amber Lights with its Neil Young vibe as it bodes well for the next album.

So cause for hope that Singapore audiences might continue to warm to S-ROCK? I am encouraged for sure. I will leave Melissa to cover the review of the gig proper. Suffice to say that the game is afoot and I really felt that it was a good start to life as Manager of Cheating Sons! Thanks to Dinesh & Sylvia/Greenhorn Productions and Two Door Cinema Club & not forgetting the professional assistance of the Esplanade staff viz Annabelle, Rina and the sound and lighting crew. Kudos to a job well done!!

…still there’s more…

Photo by Sherilyn Lim

WATCHMEN

As promised, here is your chance to download the entire Democracy album, released by indie label Odyssey Music in August 1993. The album was recorded at BOSS Studios from 6th to 26th June, over seven sessions and cost about S$5,000. The songs were mostly written by me and produced/performed by Tony Makarome & myself. Cover and sleeve was designed by my good friend, Eric Khoo. The album (both CD and cassette) sold about 4,000 copies and the single, My One & Only was a #1 radio hit. You can read a cool review by fan/friend Ricky at his wonderful blog Rock In The Fine City.

As the album has been long out of print and as Odyssey Music no longer exists, I am making available a download of Democracy available in the month of August. I do need a favor though. You would need to follow me at Twitter @powerofpop, send me a Direct Message with your email address and join Dropbox in order to download the album! It may be free but you need to work at it sometimes. Like Democracy…

In the meantime, check out this 5 minute documentary on Democracy by Ricky.

WATCHMEN

Watchmen’s Democracy album was released 18 years ago in August 1993. As the CD has long been out of print and the record label defunct as well, I will be making available a FREE download of the entire album very soon. If you are interested, follow me at Twitter @powerofpop and look out for the download link.

…still there’s more…

CHEATING SONS

TALES OF GLORY

By now, dear reader, some of you would be aware that I am now the manager of Singapore band Cheating Sons. The first time we featured the Sons at Power of Pop was about a year ago in a PoP Confidential discussing the band’s Cat Eye EP. Since then, of course, Power of Pop has been active in promoting the Cheating Sons cause and deservedly so. After having released my album of 2010, the band has been going from strength to strength. In addition, spending time with Renyi, Don & Cheez doing interviews, watching their performances and simply chewing the fat has always been a pleasure.

So you can imagine my surprise and delight (and terror) when the guys asked me to manage them about two weeks ago. It made so much sense, I had actually decided to tone down my management activities and therefore, had the time and attention to dedicate to the band. Already, we have the opening spot at the upcoming Two Door Cinema Club gig at the Esplanade Concert Hall on 11th August (thanks to Greenhorn Productions) and we are now exploring various options within and without Singapore. I really believe in the band and it is certainly an exciting opportunity to us to work together pursuing the rock music that we love so dearly.

Power of Pop has always been more than a reviews site and has served as a vehicle for me to occasionally write my own musical adventures. Therefore, you can expect that I will be filing reports now as well, concerning life as the manager of Cheating Sons. Hopefully, the journey will be long and fruitful. I have a good feeling about this.

Oh, and if you need to get in touch with me regarding the band, the email is cheatingsons AT gmail.com

…still there’s more…

Official Site

S-ROCK: 2011 MID-YEAR REPORT

I remember Rai (from Jack & Rai) remarking once (on Live and Loaded) that I could be seen at all the S-ROCK gigs (which is an exaggeration, of course) and subsequently reading some irate online commentator challenging this assertion. Compared to back then (2009 is it?) I probably attend less gigs than I used to.

Why?

Well, to put it bluntly, I am tired of the music. That’s right, the quality of S-ROCK has been steadily declining over the years. Sad but true (all IMHO naturally). In my experience as a NOISE mentor and Baybeats judge, there is little doubt that there are indeed numerous S-ROCK bands/artists out there but how many of them are actually good enough to recommend?

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SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE

I GOT THE MUSIC IN ME – PART II

The late seventies was a turbulent time for rock music as punk and various new sub-genres sprouted. In junior college, I was still quite sheltered in my classic rock world (I had actually performed Band On The Run with a girl’s choir in JC! Bizarro!!) . I do remember a college mate coming back from the UK with an album he had to hide in a brown paper envelope. It was the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bullocks (which was banned in Singapore then!) and when the needle hit the vinyl and Holidays in the Sun blasted from the speakers, we were all gobsmacked! Well, it did not sound like ELP, let’s put it that way…

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SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE

I GOT THE MUSIC IN ME – PART I

A Twitter conversation with a young lassie about music brought home that I must seem rather strange to many youths. Well, I am probably as old as (or older than) their Dads and yet I am able to appreciate the same kind of music that they do. No generation gap! Well, apart from the fact that as a music writer, it’s a professional responsibility to keep abreast of the latest trends and genres, I am a music geek. Pure and simple. Throughout my life, it has always been about the music. Unlike many of my peers, my love of music did not stop when I became an adult, in fact, it intensified.

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SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE

BEST ALBUMS OF 2001

It’s June 2011, almost half the year is gone and I can still hardly believe that 2001 was a decade away. That year was a troubled one as September 11 impacted the entire world and plunged everyone into uncertainly. But life still had to go on despite the circumstances and at the end of the year, Power of Pop determined that these ten albums were the best of a difficult year…

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THE LISTENING BOOTH – THE DOLPHIN SONG (ROUND AND ROUND AND ROUND)

This is my contribution to ACRES Singapore’s World’s Saddest Dolphins Campaign. Recorded at Patrick Chng’s homestudio with Lydia Low, it is my version of the official campaign song and hopefully, it will assist to get the right attention to this cause. I personally find dolphins to be emotionally sensitive creatures and for the Resort World Sentosa (RWS) to hold them in captivity is scandalous. Surely, there are better ways to make money than to abuse these dolphins in this inhumane manner. So I would appreciate it if you could share this song with as many people as possible, get the word out and to pray to RWS to “let the dolphins go…”
Kevin Mathews (ft. Lydia Low) – The Dolphin Song (Round and Round and Round) by Power of Pop

More information on how you can contribute here.

SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE

“15 minutes with you”

Never ever connected with “post-punk” as a genre in the 80s (I detest the word ‘genre’ to begin with). At the time, it was all pop-rock music and the words “indie” or “alternative” held no meaning for me. But certainly in the early 80s, there was a whole shitload of exciting music coming out of the UK and I spent much time, effort and money obsessively collecting singles, EPs and LPs, and reading NME, Sounds, Record Mirror (and even Smash Hits) to find out as much I could about the UK music scene. There was no local music scene to speak of and I knew very few people who shared the same passion and interest in music that I had. So it was very much a solitary obsession.

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FRED PERRY SUBCULTURE NIGHT

This special subculture night consisted of two events.

First, there was a preview of the exhibition at the Fred Perry store at Ann Siang Road where the stories of 18 local persons/collectives (who have shaped local culture – their words not mine!) were featured with personal items and artifacts. Yes folks, yours truly was included in this description! My contribution consisted of the original typewritten lyrics of My One & Only and the personal mixtape where the first demo recording of the song is featured. Truly embarrassing stuff! Even X’Ho thinks so (see below)…

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NOISE-TIMBRE SINGER-SONGWRITER PROGRAMME (2ND EDITION)

NOISE-TIMBRE SINGER-SONGWRITER PROGRAMME (2ND EDITION)

Another packed crowd at Timbre at the Substation witnessed the 2nd edition of the Noise-Timbre Singer-Songwriter Programme. In truth, the majority of the Timbre patrons may have been present for the excellent pizzas rather than the Programme itself but the whole point of the Programme is to expose Singapore songwriting (and songwriters) to audiences unfamiliar with it and so on that count, the Programme has certainly achieved its aim, thus far.

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SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE

Back before streaming and downloading providing anyone with an internet account access to any song ever recorded, the only place you could listen to music (other than the radio) was the record store. In Singapore, before Tower Records introduced listening booths here, one had to actually get the store clerk to play the record of your choice over the PA in order to find out how it sounded like. Or sometimes, if you’re lucky, somebody else would be testing the record and you’ll hear something you like.

That’s where I first heard Huey Lewis & the News sometime in 1982. The song was Do You Believe In Love? (actually written by Robert ‘Mutt’ Lange!) from the album, Picture This, the band’s sophomore album. Based on that, I purchased the album and this ‘new wave’ standard-bearer has remained a favorite of mine.

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PoPINIONS

Is the Singapore indie music scene worth saving?

More than a couple of years ago, I wrote a series of articles for the now defunct Audioload site entitled ‘Saving the Singapore Music Scene’. If you’re reading this and rolling your eyes, it’s probably because broaching this topic is akin to flogging a dead horse. And I totally agree with that sentiment. It’s getting rather tedious to even talk about the Singapore Music Scene. Taking a step back and looking at this issue objectively, quite obviously, I personally have a vested stake in the development of the Singapore Music Scene. So naturally the success (or failure) of the Singapore Music Scene has a significant impact on me. Obviously then, it’s hard not to be emotional and subjective about the subject. But lately, certain encounters have narrowed my perspective somewhat on this issue such that I am even asking the question – is the Singapore indie music scene worth saving?

Before, we move any further, let’s have some clarity about what I’m talking about. For our purposes, the Singapore indie scene comprises of bands/artists writing, recording and performing original English language pop and rock music, independent of any major label support. Thus, this definition excludes the Singapore Idols (who are signed to Universal Music) and bands who play only cover music (like the Goodfellas). Anyone familiar with the Singapore music would then realize that this definition would include almost every Singapore band/artist out there playing English language pop-rock music. Sounds like this would be a rather massive grouping, right? But it isn’t at all. Relatively speaking, the numbers would be quite small. Maybe slightly more than a hundred active bands/artists? By ‘active’, I mean gigging on a regular basis and releasing recorded original material (either for sale or for free). Assuming that Singapore’s population is currently about 5 million people, then the ratio of band to persons is about 1: 50,000. Staggering, isn’t it?

However, out of the 5 million people that make up Singapore, the maximum number of people who would pay to watch a Singapore indie band play, will not be much more than 250-300 people! And the same numbers also apply to number of persons actually purchasing Singapore indie CDs! So… the audience that exists to patronize Singapore indie music is less than 300 people. This is 0.006% of the population of Singapore! Sad and depressing but true.

But… should it matter to anyone other than Singapore indie musicians? I’d like to say that it should and trot out all the usual cultural reasons and compare us to this country and that country but then I come to my senses. After all, this is a country of people that by and large do not understand pop culture or appreciate pop & rock music. Sure, we now host the F1 Grand Prix, rock festivals, two casinos, theme parks and so on BUT this is purely appreciated from a functional & economic value standpoint. Typically Singaporean, isn’t it? Almost nobody appreciates pop culture here on an aesthetic level – it’s purely a numbers game. e.g. number of Grammys/Oscars won, number of albums and concert tickets sold etc.

Thus, purely on this numbers game, Singapore indie musicians are losers and failures. Glorified hobbyists who should not be tolerated or given the time of day. Singapore indie musicians are no better than panhandlers and freeloaders expecting their family and friends to support their hobby. Singapore indie musicians should in fact get a proper job so that nobody else should be put out of pocket and they should be obliged then to give their music away and play gigs all for free. I mean, other ordinary Singaporeans do not expect their family and friends (and even strangers) to fund their hobbies so why should Singapore indie musicians?

This perspective has been formed by decades of social engineering, mind you, so it’s not surprising. After all, no Singaporean raises violent objection (or eyebrows) that the Singapore Symphony Orchestra consists of full-time classical musicians whose salaries are paid for by fundraising activities. You never hear any Singaporeans crying out – ‘get a proper job’ to SSO musicians, do you? But that’s because in the true Singaporean mindset, the thinking will be that these classical musicians actually have proper qualifications as they have obtained a degree in their (classical) instrument in this or that prestigious foreign university so they have the right to be professional musicians.

Therefore, as far as the public consciousness is concerned, the authorities have half succeeded in their determined quest to eradicate rock music from the local culture, which they pursued with vigor in the 70s and 80s. So even if they have recanted previous position based purely on economic grounds, at least they can savor the victory of turning Singaporeans against rock music created by Singaporeans, which is surely half the battle! Yes, let the foreigners make rock music and let our businesses benefit by charging people (Singaporean or otherwise) to watch these foreign rock bands but by no means, let a Singaporean rock band be able to do the same thing. No, that would be wrong… and which would send a dangerous message to our youth that rock music is a viable career option.

So if the authorities deem it as such, it’s no wonder that our sheep-like populace should entertain such mindsets, it’s so logical and ultimately understandable. So any question about educating the general public about music and so on is a losing proposition. After all the powers-that-be do not want such a scenario to materialize. Why else would the Media Development Authority in a fake attempt to explore the possibilities of aiding the Singapore indie music industry commission a foreign accounting agency (who have absolutely no clue about Singapore indie music) to conduct a study into this issue. A study that to date, there is no news whatsoever about. Why else would MDA also sponsor a Mediacorp TV program – Live and Loaded – which sole purpose was to present Singapore indie music in the worst possible light? There cannot be any other reason why the producers of Live and Loaded chose to showcase mediocre bands (including school bands!) on national TV. At least, both MDA and Mediacorp can now declare to the general public that they tried to support the Singapore indie music scene in this manner but found the ground to be less than accepting and thus any further requests to support the Singapore indie music scene can be justifiably denied! A brilliant strategy!

So where does that leave my original query? Is the Singapore indie music scene worth saving? My answer would be no. But that’s because it does not need to be saved and we should not look to anyone to save it! I have said this before and I’ll say it again – if Singapore indie music is important to you, kind reader, then support it… if it isn’t, then FUCK OFF! This entire issue has nothing to do with you then and nobody is interested in your opinion.

I feel exactly the way I felt back in 1998, after the Asian Financial Crisis brought our economy to its knees. if Singaporeans are not willing to listen to my music then I will look for non-Singaporeans who are interested (which is why I worked hard to secure US distribution for the two Popland albums and did not bother with Singapore). Now, in a perverse way, the highly popular immigration policy of Singapore has actually brought many foreigners (not pathologically prejudiced against Singapore music) onto our shores. This is the demographic Singapore indie musicians should target and aggressively as well. Also, look for fans overseas, find the opportunity to gig outside Singapore to find the fans who will appreciate your music (and not care what nationality you are). Start regionally – population numbers in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines are huge and they will listen to your music without prejudice – and then move beyond South-East Asia to Japan, China, Australia, UK, Europe and the USA. Singapore bands have done this before – metal bands like Rudra, Wormrot, Meltgsnow and indie bands like Electrico, Great Spy Experiment, I Am David Sparkle, Stellarium, Etc and Caracal likewise. There’s a whole wide world of unprejudiced non-Singaporeans out there to listen to your music.

So what are you waiting for?

 

WORDS GO AROUND!

It was a week of talks for me. On Sunday (6th March) it was the Bitesize: Music Journalism 101 talk at the Esplanade Rehearsal Studio (full review to follow later). Then on Wednesday (9th) and Friday (11th), I visited two schools as part of the Singapore Writers Festival: Words Go Round program. On my part, my task was to share with students my take on songwriting with special emphasis on lyric-writing. Simple enough, eh?

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THE LONG & WINDING ROAD

THE STORY OF GUM

The song – Gum – was actually originally tacked on to the end of This Savage Garden demo in 1992, with only one verse. When the Democracy album was recorded a year later, I decided to add the second verse and the Hey Jude-like coda. Remember, this was 1993 and so I was not too comfortable about the song receiving too much attention and so I made it a hidden track (very much in vogue then). So imagine my surprise when 98.7FM DJ Suresh Menon played the track on national radio! Not only that but Chris Ho highlighted the song in his Pop Life column in the Straits Times! So much for keeping a low profile.

Well, thankfully, there were no knocks on the door in the middle of the night and the song (and I) have survived till today.

Folks who appreciate the song often mistake it for a comic song about chewing gum. Well, okay, that’s partially true but in essence, the ‘chewing gum’ of the song symbolizes anything that has been taken away from us ordinary beings by the powers-that-be. It could be freedom, liberty or any other human right. Still relevant in 2011 as it was in 1992.

MAKING NOISE IN 2011

“My third Noise Showcase!”, as I remarked to Tse Wei (Noise) and probably the best so far in my experience. Van was scheduled to perform at 7.15pm (at the Concourse) and so before that I met her at Tiffany’s Cafe located at the Library @ The Esplanade as she prepared her little extra gifts for her audience. I got to help her “crafting” her special gifts (rather badly though) and meet her good friends Queena and Frannie, with whom I had fun chats with!

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NOISE-TIMBRE SINGER-SONGWRITER PROGRAMME

You could say that this event was almost a year in the making. Having spoken to Timbre co-founder Danny Loong about a dedicated programme for Singapore singer-songwriters in March 2010, it was very satisfactory to finally stand on the Timbre stage and host this event. Happy to say that the venue was packed and particularly so to see my RP students (viz Bryan, Linqi, Emily and Peiqi) turn up as well! In addition, the support of Noise Singapore has been invaluable to the cause.

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PoPINIONS

S-ROCK IS HERE TO STAY… IT WILL NEVER DIE!

It’s funny how things can change from week to week. In the days leading to the Laneway Festival Singapore, I had begun to feel a little discouraged about S-ROCK. First, there was this event organized by the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, which Danny Loong (musician, Timbre co-owner and all-round great guy) was speaking at regarding local music. The idea was to raise awareness about S-ROCK, the thrust of which related to the irrelevant emphasis placed on classical music in Singapore, when more effort should be placed in promoting and developing Singaporean original pop-rock music. Well, I was disappointed somewhat with the response of the audience which seemed very negative and clueless. I’d basically given up and spent much of the time chatting with (supremely talented singer-songwriter) Ling Kai but was ‘cornered’ by Danny to contribute. So I did. My 5cts worth was this – if music is important in Singapore then we must do something to support and develop it. And if music is not important, then forget it! Music, of course, means ALL kinds of music and not just classical. There were a few heads nodding even as I finished off my ‘rant’ so who knows…but I did feel down after that.

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SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE

FOR THOSE ABOUT TO ROCK…

I am a 70s kid. Meaning I become a teenager in the early 1970s, when bell bottoms were in… AND the popular cutting edge music then was HARD ROCK. Not metal (have never really been comfortable with that word). Simply, it’s rock (without the roll) and it was hard – meaning it was played loud and fast! The first hard rock band that I really got into was the legendary Deep Purple. Purple fans all agree that the second incarnation of the band was probably the best viz. Ian Gillan (vocals), Richie Blackmore (guitars), Jon Lord (keyboards), Ian Paice (drums) and Roger Glover (bass). Like many of the bands of that era, Purple started out as a psychedelic/garage rock band and simply got harder. My favourite Purple album is undoubtably Deep Purple in Rock, which contained classics such as Child in Time, Flight of the Rat and Speed King (see live version below)

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HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Well, that was the year that was 2010. Time to put it all behind and look forward to 2011.

What is there to look forward to? On the local music front, we can expect albums from The Cheating Sons (above), Caracal, King Kong Jane, Cove Red and Lunarin. In addition, TypeWriter will be playing Esplanade Recital Studio on 28th Jan.

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SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE

THE MODFATHER

It’s 31st December. So what?

Tomorrow’s just another day – only it’s another year altogether. An arbitrary line drawn in the sand but nonetheless, it’s easy to get all misty-eyed and nostalgic about your life. Especially, if like me, you turn 50 in about 45 days…hum.

Most of all, for some reason, my mind is brought back to the early 80s when I was absolutely besotted with the music and image of Paul Weller (The Jam/The Style Council). I bought all the records (singles, 12″ and LPs) and grabbed every magazine he was featured in. Simply put, I was a fan.

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THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD

2010

Charles Dickens wrote – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” or something like that. It is probably an understatement to say that 2010 was one of the toughest years of my entire life. At the beginning of 2010, I became unemployed or to put it in a nicer way, “self-employed” and for a good ten months, money was really hard to come by. Still, GOD provided and although it was a struggle, we managed somehow. During that 10 months, I applied for the usual in-house legal vacancies but despite going for three interviews, which I felt went well, was eliminated in the first round, so to speak.

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