Will be in England with TypeWriter for the next two weeks. Back on 20th May. In the meantime, come and visit Power of Pop as often as you can – there’s still loads of content here for you to explore.
Will be in England with TypeWriter for the next two weeks. Back on 20th May. In the meantime, come and visit Power of Pop as often as you can – there’s still loads of content here for you to explore.
“Beyond the Ashes” is the second teaser off the upcoming album, EMO FASCISM – due in August.
Catch Kevin Mathews/The Groovy People play “Beyond the Ashes” next Friday, April 26th at Identite 9.3 – KAMCO MUSIC at Home Club from 8pm. Cover is $12 (one free housepour and free entry to Kicks! afterwards). Also on the bill – Enec.e, Tricks & Cider and TypeWriter.
See you all there!
My regular readers will be aware of my love of hyperbole. After all, art and music should always be bigger than life and so I am always happy to oblige in that regard. So forgive me, if this post outstrips all previous in the hyperbole department.
No other way to describe the week that will forever be known as The Steve Lillywhite Production Week! As a huge Lillywhite fan (and SGMUSO EXCO member), it was going to be an amazing experience no matter what. However, even that did not prepare me for the surreal, seemingly out-of-body experience that it ultimately turned out to be! See what I mean about hyperbole?!?
I was fortunate enough to sit in the production sessions on the 1st and last day and was thrilled not only to see the legendary Steve Lillywhite in action but to witness the four bands (Atlas, MONSTER CAT, sub:shaman and The Sam Willows) have their collective confidence boosted sky high by a man who so obviously loves good music and music people.
Everyone in the studio was buzzing thanks to Lillywhite’s infectious enthusiasm. It was impossible not to be infected with the buzz! From the bands to the producers to the crew to bystanders (like yours truly), it truly felt like S-ROCK history was unfolding before our very eyes (and ears).
As much as we ourselves believe in S-ROCK, it is re-assuring and comforting to find someone of Lillywhite’s stature to be equally (it not more) excited about the potential and possibilities of the S-ROCK scene. It is validation of our efforts in the scene and our belief in the great S-ROCK bands that toil tirelessly in our sometimes thankless nation.
Best part of all was actually getting to know Lillywhite a bit better and chatting over his experiences producing some of the more important releases of the 80s and 90s. This was aided by Lillywhite’s own humble, down to earth manner – it was impossible not to think of him as a like-minded ally and these are some of the memories I will always treasure.
… still there’s more…
Despite the relative success of “Orchard Road” (with the track getting radioplay and music video being featured on national TV), my ambitions were still modest. I was happy to be able to record and release another song, whatever the platform. The guys from BigO magazine wanted me to test a MiniDisc player/recorded and to review it for the mag. So I ended up writing and recording two songs – “The High Cost of Living” and “The Offender”, the latter as yet unreleased. The song ended up being featured on BigO’s free CD, Death Valley 92328, and was played on radio again (which still amazes me, considering the lyrical content)
“The High Cost of Living” was basically inspired by two things – the opening chords to The Style Council’s “Speak Like a Child” and The Clash’s Cost of Living EP title. Contrary to popular belief, the song had nothing to do with Neil Gaiman’s mini-series about Death. The content of course, was all about inflation in Singapore and little did I realize that 1993 was to the beginning of a vicious inflationary cycle that the country is still a victim of.
Twenty years later, the lyrics still resonate and that speaks volumes in itself. So, check it out for yourself if you’ve never heard it before and download if so minded as well. The song will be the opening song for the upcoming Kevin Mathews/The Groovy People performance at Home Club in a month’s time (see what I did there?). Heh.
More of my music at Bandcamp.
I am a people pleaser. Chronically so, in fact. Sometimes it hurts so much to realize that another human being actually hates me that I lose all rationality and respond in the wrong manner. Two wrongs don’t make a right. But in the final analysis, I’ve come to understand that you just can’t please everyone, no matter how you try.
My inherent inferiority complex and low self-esteem have been the bane of my existence but one truth I’ve learnt is that I can never control the way another person thinks or feels, I can only control my own response to this person’s opinion. Of course, there have been challenging negative experiences that have tested this principle to the hilt and whilst it has always been difficult to navigate those stormy seas, I think I arrive home, safe and sound at the end of each voyage.
The S-ROCK scene is nascent but growing. There are many players who are doing their part in their own way to improve the scene for musicians. The authorities are also involved in this process. It isn’t easy by any means – so much emotional and historical baggage to overcome but nothing worth fighting for ever comes easy. Scour through social media and you will, of course, find the ‘haters’ – folks who post potentially libelous statements against these players (yours truly, included) making accusations that are plainly inaccurate and unwarranted. Conduct a simple online search and you will discover these defamatory posts easily.
What can we do? Do we resort to legal means to protect our hard-earned reputations? Certainly, we would be legally entitled to do so but what good would that do, ultimately? Do we fight fire with fire – by posting similarly hateful statements targeted at these ‘haters’ – to name and shame them?
No, we take the higher ground – we simply ignore them. Not entirely of course – which is the whole point of this op/ed. If you’re reading this, dear ‘haters’, I would humbly ask that you would consider spending your energies in more productive activities and stop your futile personal attacks, especially if you truly love the S-ROCK scene. No good can ever come out of this course you are taking. Of course, this is a ‘free’ country and whilst you are entitled to your opinion, at least show respect to a fellow human being, if nothing else. Let’s agree to disagree but kindly stop the personal attacks. Thank you very much.
…still there’s more…
What is the latest update for EMO FASCISM, my first solo album? Well, at the moment we have final mixes for about 70% of the songs and the album should be ready by the time, I perform with The Groovy People at Artistry on July 31st. That’s the plan, anyways.
But I am getting ahead of myself. April 26th at Home Club will be the first appearance of the ALL-NEW, ALL-DIFFERENT, GROOVY PEOPLE and I am glad to announce the line-up -
PATRICK CHNG (lead guitar), RAY AZIZ (drums), NELSON TAN (bass) and BENJAMIN ANG (keyboards).
All amazing ARTISTS in their own right, I am blessed by their contributions and so far the rehearsals have been great fun! I intend to play as many gigs in support of EMO FASCISM when it is released in August 2013 and I really would appreciate all your support for this endeavor.
At the end of the day, the continuation of The Long and Winding Road of being a musician is really about fulfilling my dreams but I am also mindful of the great people who are along for the ride. So stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.
…still there’s more…
Nothing beats shameless self-promotion, eh?
In any case, I wanted to share with you the ‘video’ I put together to help push “Dare” along. It’s actually a simple photo montage chronicling my experiences in the local music scene in the last six years, the bands, the gigs and the people who made a difference. Yes, it’s a little self-indulgent but there you ago…
Here we are – all set to go!
“Dare” is the first track to be made public from the Emo Fascism recording sessions which took place mainly in September last year at Patrick Chng’s excellent home studio. The album will consist of ten tracks (with two bonus tracks on the CD) and for the most part I wrote, sang, performed and produced the lot with Patrick engineering, mixing and mastering the recording. Only one other musician played on Emo Fascism (“Dare” to be specific) and I am proud to say that it was none other than Daniel Sassoon.
Daniel has of course, in the past, been closely involved with legendary S-ROCK bands like Livonia and Electrico. Of late, Daniel has been leading the instrumental rock outfit – In Each Hand A Cutlass – and is renowned for his talent and skill on the guitar. Sometime back, I had finally recorded a proper demo of “Dare” (which has been kicking around for decades – I shit you not) and sent it to Daniel for feedback. What I got was an offer to contribute guitar ideas to the track and I jumped – didn’t need to asked twice! So earlier this year, Daniel laid down his amazing guitar lines (and a mind-blowing solo) for “Dare” in a fecund three-hour session at Thom’s Loft.
And now you can hear the results! I am particularly proud of the final product and I am so excited to be able to share the first fruits of our labours with you all. If you liked what you heard, I hope you will share the links on your respective social media platforms and spread the word around! That would be so cool and greatly appreciated! Remember – Emo Fascism is due for release in August 2013.
…still there’s more…
About five years or so ago, I re-entered the local music scene as a solo artist under my own name, an aggregation I called Kevin Mathews/The Groovy People. It began in September 2007, playing a short set at the Arts House with Adam Shah (drums) and Benita Lim (keyboards). It was such great fun that this went on for about a year culminating in the release of the Watchmen @midnight EP.
Along the way, other talented musicians joined in the adventure including Esther Low (keyboards), James Lye (guitars), Low Han Quan (drums), Brian Koh (bass), Thomas Wu (guitars) & Bonk Khoo (drums). With 2013 marking the 20th Anniversary of Watchmen’s Democracy, expect the return of The Groovy People, with a brand new line-up! Who’s part of the new Groovy People? Now that would be telling…
In any case, stay tuned for more updates to come about The Groovy People and my new solo album – Emo Fascism – in 2013.
...still there’s more…
I will be 52 this coming February. Mm.
As I get older, the years seem to pass by faster and faster. I still haven’t quite figured out why but I hope it just means that I am living my life to the fullest and so…
My youngest son Jeremy turned 18 this year and it does feel like a whole new chapter of my life is unfolding before me. Pop culture remains the only true constant in my life. My earliest memories always involved TV shows (Astro Boy), scifi movies (Planet of the Apes) and pop music (The Chipmunks singing the Beatles) and that aspect has not changed.
Power of Pop has been the main outlet of my pop culture obsessions since 1998 (coming to 15 years) and whilst it’s not an income earner (I am too idiosyncratic and indisciplined for that) – it has provided me with free concert tickets, access to new albums, interviews with famous pop stars and a chance to work with young, talented writers and artists/bands. These fringe benefits were intensified in 2012 and I managed to watch many gigs (by local and overseas artists/bands) and expanded my contact base within our so-called music industry.
I have noticed many new music webzines sprouting out in our music scene and that is a very positive development and I wish these webzines all the best. I hope that they do not target merely commercial success (in dollar terms) but derive satisfaction and drive from the love of music writing itself, so that in 15 years time, they will still be doing what they love…
Whenever I talk to folks about what kept me occupied in 2012, there seems to be a consensus that I must be very busy. To be honest, I still have loads of time to do more of the things I love and I hope to do so in the coming new year. I am quite hard on myself in the use of my time and get restless when I seem to be doing ‘nothing’. What I have enjoyed most in the last three years are meaningful conversations and developing relationships. There have been numerous bumps and obstacles in this particular journey but that’s life. However, that’s not going to stop me from doing more…
For Power of Pop, I want to thank our fab writers – CJ Ang, Jeanette Chin, Melissa Ng, Samuel Caleb Wee, Desiree Boey, Hydar Saharudin, Cheryl Chew, Maricelle Wong and Rebecca Lincoln for their excellent contributions in 2012. I also want to thank all the wonderful promoters, publicists, managers, artists and bands that provided the materials from which our content was produced.
… and so on to 2013 and on the horizon: the release of Emo Fascism, the 20th anniversary of Democracy and one or more special projects which shall remain a secret for the time being.
…still there’s more…
info AT powerofpop DOT com
*From “Amateur” by Nada Surf.
Point of order. Despite the title above, this is not a year-end ‘best-of’ review of 2012. Why? It’s simply too much effort and after years and years of putting these features together, it all becomes pretty tedious and pointless. Fast. As you can guess from the featured photo above, pop culture is getting increasingly ridiculous with each passing year, so here’s my attention deficient summary of the year that we say farewell to in a matter of days…
Lunarin – The Midas Session, Nada Surf – The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy, Laneway Festival (Laura Marling, Feist and Girls), Jeff Litman – Outside, Cheating Sons – Time Trails (Live at Esplanade Recital Studio), Lambchop – Mr M, Sweet Diss and the Comebacks – Emerald City Love Song, Brad Brooks – Harmony of Passing Light, Friendly Fires (live at Avalon), The Observatory – Catacombs, Shelves – s/t, OMD (Live at Esplanade Theatre), Orbital – Wonky, James Morrison (interview), Bitch Magnet reissues, Music Matters, ShiGGa Shay – They Call Me ShiGGa, Rick Murname – Wednesday Child, Pugwash – The Olympus Sound, Keane – Strangeland, Marvel’s The Avengers, Fringe Seasons 4 & 5, Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here (DVD), The Newsroom Season 1, Hot Chip (live at Avalon), Empra – s/t, Amazing Spider-Man, SING A NEW SONG, Prometheus, Breaking Bad Season 5 (Part I), Indus Gendi – I’ll Be Good If You Say Yes EP, Stone Roses (Live at Indoor Stadium), The Dark Knight Rises, Rufus Wainwright – Out of the Game, Peter Lacey – Worlds End Amateur Melodramatic Society Ball, Metric – Synthetica, Baybeats Festival, The Beach Boys (live at Indoor Stadium), Cosmo Jarvis – Think Bigger, Peter Doggett – The Man Who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s, Metric (Live at the Esplanade Concert Hall), The Pretenders (Live at F1), Joe Bonamassa (Live at Esplanade Concert Hall), alt-J (∆) – An Awesome Wave, Regina Spektor – What We Saw From the Cheap Seats!, The Whigs – Enjoy the Company, Nelson Bragg – We Get What We Want, Ingrid Michaelson (Live at the Esplanade Concert Hall), Alan Moore/Kevin O’Neill – League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century: 2009, The Sam Willows – s/t EP, Kate Miller-Heidke – Nightflight, Looper, Mumford & Sons – Babel, Simon Townshend – Looking Out, Looking In, Chromatics – Kill For Love, Thunder Band Slam, The Bootleg Beatles (Live at Marina Bay Sands), Jersey Boys Musical, Christmas in Singapore, Fred Perry 60th Anniversary Party, Classic Albums: Peter Gabriel – So (DVD), Sarah Cheng De-Winne – Brand New, Troy Chin’s Bricks in the Wall, Tay Kexin – Get Set Go EP, Uncanny Avengers, Regina Spektor (Live at Esplanade Theatre), Another Sunday Afternoon – The Bookmark, The Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness reissue.
…still there’s more…
I have been involved in the Singapore indie music scene (which for the sake of definition refers only to English language music) for slightly over twenty years (give or take) as a recording artist, performer, critic, mentor, teacher and manager. There have been numerous ups and downs in that time but what I do treasure the most are the many good friendships made. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about – no amount of success would be meaningful without the people to share it with.
As in any music scene, there are many stakeholders which have their own agendas and priorities (which is normal) and quite often one stakeholder may find that its interests may conflict with another stakeholder. This is unavoidable but the way to resolve these differences, I would humbly suggest, is a mutual understanding of what the important global issues are and where necessary making the necessary compromises for the greater good to address these important global issues.
I must confess that I am often guilty of focusing too much on my own issues and I can also see this negative trait in others as well. In truth, I understand where this attitude comes from but in the long run it is not beneficial to anyone as the scene suffers as a whole when there is disunity. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in an honest opinion but we (and I include myself in this) need to figure out how to say the truth in a loving and respectful manner so that we might be inclusive rather than exclusive.
I have personally encountered certain ‘ugly’ scenarios recently and this has only brought home the fact that as a scene we are still quite fractured and self-serving. If the stakeholders in the indie music scene cannot be bothered to commit to support the indie music scene, how then can be expect the general public to do so? Again, I include myself in this statement and have been seriously examining my own motivations when it comes to decisions made in relation to the indie music scene. The question I ask myself – Isn’t it more important for folks in the indie music scene to treat each other with love and respect than to be successful and to further one’s own interest at the expense of another person?
Can we all do better? I believe so. We may be marginalized and we may be mocked but if we are united as one, then it will not matter.
… still there’s more …
Noise Singapore 2013: Call for Entries
Noise Singapore 2013 open call for entries is here again. Submit your works to the Open Categories to stand a chance at being showcased or perhaps even win the Noise Singapore Award! If you are hoping to further your skills and learn from industry professionals, have a go at applying for the Mentorship programmes. Remember to do so by 27 Jan 2013! Find out details here.
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You might say that I am doing market research for Emo Fascism with this new mix of Edge by Patrick Chng. There wasn’t much attention when I first issued it a couple of years ago but I felt that the song deserved better than that. *Ahem* In hindsight, it’s clear that “Edge” is a template for the songs on Emo Fascism, being originally recorded on Garageband and exported onto Patrick’s Logic Pro and upgraded accordingly. It also serves as an exercise on digital distribution, marketing and promotion before I undertake the real deal with Emo Fascism next year. So I am putting a certain stock into the overall response to “Edge (2012)” which will determine the extent to which I will go, to push Emo Fascism in 2013. In any case, if you’re reading this, thank you for your continued support and love. I appreciate it all!
“Edge (2012)” is now available at Bandcamp, with more platforms to follow…
What is Emo Fascism gonna sound like?
Well, seeing as how the theme behind the album is “breakups and breakdowns”, it’s somewhat sombre in tone. In that respect, it’s quite keyboard-oriented and does not vary too much in terms of instrumentation. The lyrics are key but the melodies will also communicate the sadness that pervades through the album.
Here are some inspirations, which hopefully will give you some idea of what I’m trying to achieve…
It’s the first week of October 2012 and the new album – Emo Fascism – is done. Well almost. The fact is that the songs were all built up from foundations established in the last couple of years, from basic Garageband files. These GB files were imported into Patrick Chng’s Logic software (at the Neptune) and we tweaked the sounds, added new instrumental backing and recorded new vocals (in many cases, numerous harmony and backing vocals) in order to arrive at the ten main tracks to be found on Emo Fascism.
The Music Society of Singapore (or sgmuso) had its second Music Dialogue on Sat, 8th Sep and by all accounts it was an interesting afternoon for all who attended. Now, although I am an EXCO member of sgmuso, I am writing this article NOT as an EXCO member or on behalf of sgmuso but as an fairly objective observer (but take whatever I say with a pinch of salt, if you must).
Those of you kind folk who follow me on Twitter or Facebook would be aware that I made an announcement recently about releasing a solo album next year. Yes it’s finally going to happen and it will be called Emo Fascism. The music scholars amongst you will know that this is inspired (or stolen) by the original title of Elvis Costello’s classic LP – Armed Forces, which was Emotional Fascism.
The Fast Colors really started as a bit of a lark amongst the three founding members – Chris Toh, Pat Chng and yours truly – a vehicle for the trio of us to indulge in our classic rock fantasies. Also as a bit of an experiment to see if indeed cover bands have more fun in Singapore. Somehow someway the band has evolved into a 90s Singapore indie tribute band! Our last three gigs had seen us presented as some kind of standard bearer for Singapore original music, despite being in essence, a cover band. Go figure, eh?
A satisfying week for all concerned at KAMCO Music (meaning yours truly!) as the first edition of Indie Solo Live ran smoothly with a attentive group of family, friends and fans packing the Soho Coffee cafe. After the success of SING A NEW SONG, it was gratifying to put on a show on a smaller scale but once again with the focus on Singapore singer-songwriters sharing their original music.
I am constantly (pleasantly) surprised by the sheer volume of songwriting and performing talent that we have here in Singapore. Despite our inhospitable arts climate, our singer-songwriter-musicians continue to believe in themselves and their own music and against all odds, thrive.
Skl0 is a Singaporean guerilla artist who has been responsible for street art that has been spotted around Singapore recently. On the sides of roads, she would paint “My Grandfather Road” and she would place stickers on traffic light posts which satirize the behavior of Singaporeans.
My perspective on Music Matters 2012 was straightforward enough. Even though I am involved in the local music industry as a journalist and a manager – not to mention as an EXCO member of the newly formed Singapore Music Society (SGMUSO) launched at Music Matters 2012! – first and foremost I went as a FAN. And as a FAN, I thoroughly enjoyed myself for the two-day duration! After all, I got to meet two legendary rock n’ roll figures – producer Bob Ezrin (left) and manager Peter Jenner (right) - who have been involved and associated (and WORKED) with many of my favourite bands/artists from Pink Floyd to KISS to The Clash to Peter Gabriel to Robyn Hitchcock and so on.
To be totally candid, I had never pegged British singer-songwriter James Morrison as a ‘blue-eyed soul boy’. I received his last two albums in the mail for review but glancing at the covers, I had assumed that he was another one of those folk-pop troubadours in the mold of Damien Rice or Jason Mraz.
This past weekend has been a eventful one for yours truly as my many different roles in Singapore music rather converged into one hectic three-day sequence.
On Friday, I was the singer-songwriter-mentor performing two sets at MAAD Sounds whilst helping Maricelle and Ming See as best as I could with their own short sets. In an intimate setting, I delivered few of my ‘oldies’ and a couple of new songs (Follow Your Heart, I Lost Myself, Less Than Home) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Then I had to pay special attention as Maricelle and Ming See played three songs each. Still work to be done before they ready for the Noise showcase in March. Thankfully, there’s still time.
On Saturday morning, I attended the Singapore Music Forum and had the pleasure of witnessing the continuing growth of Inch Chua, she was astounding in her delivery of two new songs. Certainly working in LA has improved her skills by leaps and bounds. So much more to expect to this talented young lady. As for the Forum, I was rather disappointed that most of the time was spent with panel speakers trying their best to sell us their products – ‘tooting their own horns’ (I will not even bother to go into detail) and hardly any time given to Singapore music itself. That’s all I am going to say about this…
In truth, I was feeling rather depressed and discouraged after the Forum and was thankful that I could forget and focus on Ming See and Maricelle as they played a couple of songs at OOOM. Maricelle was less nervy than the night before and the performance was better for that. Ming See played a beautifully haunting Reminds Me of You which underlined why I think that she is a songwriter with tremendous potential for depth and substance. I believe that you can catch part of these performances (and more) on Okto in February.
Then it was off to the first day of The People’s Party (with Desiree) – a solid mix of local, regional and international acts, with each accorded due respect. I was particularly struck by Monster Cat’s powerful display of nuance and dynamic and was impressed by their calm assured stage presence. The band is certainly ready for bigger things. I also liked Metronomy’s rather atonal and quirky style (very XTC and Wire influenced) although the standard (jaded) disco beats spoilt it for me somewhat – I am getting so tired of that rhythm now. But the prize for the best performance of the 1st day clearly was won by The Jezabels. The Sydney quartet simply blew the audience away with singer Hayley Mary channeling Belinda Carlisle, Chrissie Hynde and Kate Bush, there was something special going on here and some transcendental moment brought me to tears. A band to watch, no doubt!
Desiree and I took some time off The People’s Party to interview The Naked and Famous (courtesy of Universal Singapore). I found the band down-to-earth – they were pleasantly surprised when I could name a couple of NZ bands (the others in the room had probably heard of) and generally found that ‘cool’. Nice touch! Pity I had to miss their performance…
When I finally got to 2nd day of The People’s Party (after piano class), I caught the kids grooving to psychedelic rockers Unknown Mortal Orchestra, which I found strange as the band did not utilized the overused disco beat. The last Singapore Rock band of the Party was the wonderful In Each Hand A Cutlass and it was heartening to see the crowd totally get into IEHAC’s intense instrumental rock. There is still hope for you, Singapore music fan!
I decided to miss TNAF and Bombay Bicycle Club in favour of Lunarin’s launch of The Midas Sessions at the Pigeonhole and definitely there were no regrets on my part. After all, these were people I knew and loved and music made in our very midst. The band played most of the new album and the intimate settings suited the gorgeous ‘chamber’ music to a ‘t’. I was particularly tickled by Linda’s comparison of Singapore Rock to a cockroach. No matter what the challenges may be, Singapore Rock will always survive. That alone was worth being seated right in front of the band savoring every second. Make sure you got hold of the album!!!
And that for me, was the perfect way to end the hectic weekend – with a positive affirmation of Singapore Rock. In the final analysis, even if the government or the record labels or foreign interested parties ignore us, WE will still be hear making our music for ourselves and whoever is interested enough to listen to…