Great to know that life is still able to surprise me, even in this day and age. When I originally got in touch with JPNSGRLS regarding their performances at Music Matters Live ’14, all I was thinking about was getting an interview out of that contact. I seriously did not expect more than that. But from the moment, guitarist Oliver Mann recognized my name tag at the first day of the Music Matters conference (21st May) and introduced himself, it set off an unusual sequence of events where I would learn tons, enjoy awesome music and bond with four incredible young musicians!
DON’T SPOOK THE ALPACA
Over the course of the last three weeks, The Groovy People and I did a couple of gigs in support of #alpacablues. Overall, I felt that the band was in top form with Eileen Chai on violin providing the distinctive flavour that carried us over the top. Considering how badly Emo FASCISM was received last time out, I kept my expectations for #alpacablues extremely low. This was the best way to approach these bunch of gigs as well and in the final analysis, I had fun. It was great to see friendly faces at Artistry, Hood Bar & the Esplanade. Most of all, it was amazing once again to play with Patrick Chng, Ray Aziz, Nelson Tan & Benjamin Ang – I love them all as friends and respect them all immensely as talented musicians. It is never easy playing live in Singapore where audiences are not as appreciative as you would like them to be especially with music that they are not familiar with (i.e. NOT COVERS) but once you keep that firmly in mind, you can get by fairly well. Managed to get hold of the soundboard recordings from the Esplanade so check them out below.
… still there’s more …
DON’T SPOOK THE ALPACA!
Six months after launching Emo FASCISM at Artistry, I was back to promote the release of #alpacablues EP with The Groovy People in tow. There wasn’t much of a crowd there but I do appreciate the kind friends who took the trouble and effort to demonstrate their support. Much obliged! These ranged from my latest RP students (Josephine, Fatin & Wei Ren!) to the legendary Vernon Cornelius (of The Quests!).
In the final analysis, I was just happy to be playing with some of my favourite people viz Patrick Chng, Ray Aziz, Nelson Tan, Benjamin Ang & Eileen Chai – all of whom I love and respect so much! It was historical occasion as well as I actually opened for myself for the first time! Basically, I did a 30 minute solo acoustic set before playing a full set with The Groovy People.
All good fun for sure, and it was great to have an appreciative crowd. Sure beats having a packed house ignoring you and talking to themselves! In any case, two more shows before DON’T SPOOK THE ALPACA is done. This coming Saturday (15th) at Hood Bar from 8pm (supported by the amazing Another Sunday Afternoon!) & next Saturday (22nd) at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre from 8.45pm. See you there!
In the meantime, #alpacablues is available at Bandcamp for US$1 until the 15th March! Get it now!
… still there’s more …
I am proud to announce that my new EP – and my second official solo release – is now available at Bandcamp. You can buy the EP for US$1 until 14th March, wherein it reverts to full price. I am quite sure that #alpacablues is probably my best recorded music to date and this has been done to the fine work from my collaborators viz. Ray Aziz (percussion), Nelson Tan (upright bass), Eileen Chai (violin) and Pat Chng (recording/mixing). Not forgetting of course, the wondrous cover art from Andy Yang. Recorded in about five sessions, the songs on the EP represent a watershed of sorts for me. I have decided to put behind me the overtly melancholic sentiments evident on both Emo FASCISM and #alpacablues and move ahead to make brighter music. Already, I have in mind an electronic pop project for the latter part of 2014. But in the meantime, I hope you will enjoy #alpacablues.
… still there’s more …
#alpacablues will be released on 15th February at Bandcamp for US$1 and will be available at that price for a month. Thereafter, the EP will be available at all good digital platforms for the full price (i.e. US$4.00) In the meantime, this is the world premiere of “I Want What I Can’t Have”. Enjoy…
Cover artwork by Andy Yang http://andyyangillustrates.wordpress.com/
(Savages | Siouxsie & the Banshees | PJ Harvey)
LIVING IN A VACUUM
Defining bands according to ‘genre’ or comparing them to bands that came before can be off-putting to most bands. After all, when you are serious about your music, the last thing you want (or need) are non-musicians pigeon-holing you into some consumer-friendly label or category. Music is an art-form and thus should not be treated as a product.
All of which would apply only in an ideal world, of course. In reality, music is a product and thus record labels, promoters and journalists require that in order to facilitate easier marketing and promotion, music must be defined and categorized like items in a supermarket.
On the other hand, bands should volunteer their crucial musical influences as a way to pay tribute to the musicians that made a difference to them. This also operates as a means by which bands can educate their fan base – to point the way to seminal inspirations so that their fans might be edified.
So it’s a fine balance between the two polar extremes, I would argue. In this manner, new bands can be assessed on their own merit (without the unnecessary weight of the past on their shoulders) but at the same time, without unrealistically ignoring their debt to the past either.
Of course, all this breast beating only makes sense if you as a music lover give a damn about music to begin with. Meaning: music as a significant art-form as opposed to music as throwaway entertainment. Like it or not, the reality is that in 2014, the latter probably holds more sway especially with video games and apps capturing the imagination of the younger generation in the manner in which music used to.
Does it matter? Only if you think it does.
Goes without saying that local original music needs more exposure and so I am pleased that STAGEFRIGHT @ Artistry is now into its 10th edition. Tonight, the lineup is –
8.00pm to 8.15pm Che Cereza
8.20pm to 8.35pm Hiroki Sunayama
8.40pm to 8.55pm Richard Philip
9.00pm to 9.15pm The Winged Butter Cats
Come on down and enjoy some mid-week refreshment. I will be playing a couple of new tunes from the upcoming #alpacablues ep at the end. See you there!
It’s easy to be glib about the year that has passed and focus simply on how time flies and all that. I want to resist that temptation and reflect upon the amazing experiences I had in 2013 that I will always cherish to assist me in looking forward to 2014.
Two months after the release of Emo FASCISM, I am working on my new 4-track EP, #alpacablues. Why so soon? Well, in actual fact, Emo FASCISM was recorded a year ago and most of the songs are already old news to me. I am a naturally restless soul and thus…
In any case, I don’t want to say too much about the new music but instead will let you listen to a sampler of the raw mixes so far below.
… still there’s more …
It’s been two months since the release of Emo FASCISM and people have asked whether I was happy with the response to the album. Well, no, to be honest I am definitely NOT happy. It’s not that I expected massive CD/merch sales or crowds at my launch gigs – but perhaps I had thought that the music scene had grown somewhat since the last time I had released an album in Singapore viz Popland’s Groovy (1998). Back then, I had pressed a thousand CDs and sold more than half (yes I still have about 200 copies at home) but this time I cautiously pressed only 300 copies and at this stage, 250 copies remain unsold.
Pardon the shameless self-promotion but here goes…
Mathews has written for Singapore newspapers like the New Paper and TODAY, print magazines like BigO (Singapore), Amplifier, Pop Culture Press (USA) and Bucketfull of Brains (UK) as well as online zines like his own PowerofPop.com, MTVAsia.com and PopMatters.com.
He has interviewed the likes of Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin), Al Jardine (The Beach Boys), Rob Halford (Judas Priest), Ian McCulloch (Echo & the Bunnymen), Robyn Hitchcock, Sean O’Hagan (The High Llamas), Edwyn Collins, James Morrison, Regina Spektor, Conor O’Brien (Villagers), Jimmy Shaw (Metric), Mat Osman (Suede), Michael Franti, Imogen Heap, Buddy Guy, Trombone Shorty and many many others.
He has conducted music-related talks on subjects like rock journalism and songwriting and was a mentor for the Baybeats/Esplanade Youth Budding Music Writers Programme from 2011 to 2013. He has also conducted modules on Arts History and Creative Concepts at Republic Polytechnic where he has been an Academic Associate since 2010.
…still there’s more…
So the new album has been out for more than a week now and to be brutally honest, I feel utterly disappointed by the lack of response. But wait…. what did I truly expect? The CDs (and T-shirts) to be sold out and that all my friends would pack out my shows? Ah yes, the problem of unrealistic expectations – the agony of hope not fulfilled.
After all, wasn’t the recording of the album for my own benefit? Yes and no. Indeed, the album has had a carthatic and therapeutic effect on the emotional rollercoaster that is now my daily existence. Yet, one cannot help but yearn for the acceptance of your peers, which is represented (rightly or wrongly) by attendance at shows, CDs and T-shirts sales. With all my low self-esteem issues bundled into and identified with the ‘success’ of the album, you can imagine it has not been an easy week for me.
Add to that complicated relationship difficulties and it’s not too far-fetched to suggest that I feel royally fucked-up at the moment. But wait…. that would ignore the positives and I really need to focus on and give recognition to these factors in order to survive and ultimately thrive. So here goes…
It was wonderful playing with Pat, Ray, Nelson and Ben (aka The Groovy People) and on stage I felt invincible. It has been amazing to collaborate with Lydia once again, she is so talented that my heart wants to burst – she is my protege in every sense of the word. The fact that she disappears before the end of the month makes this even more bittersweet (typical innit?)
To everyone who has attended the shows and purchased the CDs and T-shirts, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart — I do cherish each and everyone of you — you give me hope that maybe I’m not a FAILED MUSICIAN after all….
… still there’s more …
Things are brewing over at Emo FASCISM central. The CD is being pressed even as I write, a pre-release streaming arrangement is being worked out with Spotify and the digital album has been uploaded to iTunes.
However, if you want to download a track NOW, you can pre-order the digital album from Bandcamp, which will be released officially on 1st August. The song is “Texas” — probably the first song that properly kickstarted the writing of Emo FASCISM.
For those of you based in Singapore, you can wait for the first week of August when limited copies of the CD (with two bonus tracks) and a T-Shirt will be available for sale! Until the album release, you can listen to the 4-track sampler (“Silver”, “Dare”, “Edge” and “Beyond the Ashes”) at Soundcloud.
… still there’s more …
We are about seven weeks away from the launch of Emo FASCISM Launch Week!
As far as the music is concerned, Pat and I are working on the final mixes of the 12 songs that will make up the CD. A 4-track sampler is now available at Soundcloud with opening track “Silver” the final teaser in the set. Check it out below.
Eric has done his part – the cover design – and the art concept will be carried through on the CD sleeve, merch and posters (with the assistance of the lovely 23賴). See below.
Four dates have been confirmed during the Emo FASCISM Launch Week. Details to come soon.
Emo FASCISM will also be available on Bandcamp and iTunes in August for those unable to attend any of the gigs.
Very excited about this new milestone in my musical career and none of this would have been possible without the amazing Patrick Chng, who has been an inspiration and endless source of encouragement to me to record a new album after all these years!
So, look out for more news to come in the weeks ahead.
… still there’s more …
Lots of contemplation about what my online presence should be. I have a few blogs floating around although Power of Pop remains the main outlet for my music views. I had previously attempted to make this webzine more popular by including news items and features on modern pop artists and bands (that I really didn’t care about) and this will now stop altogether. From now on, Power of Pop will only feature bands and artists that I personally think deserve to be. Plain and simple. It’s all down to me – the credit and the blame — this has been my mouthpiece for 15 fucking years and will always be (and to hell with stats). My priorities will still remain with promoting S-ROCK at every given opportunity and that will never change…For those of you loyal readers who have been along for this ride all this while, I thank you from the bottom of my heart and always remember…
…STILL THERE’S MORE…
It’s been almost a week since I got back from England where I spent nearly 14 days with TypeWriter on the band’s English Breakfast Tour to London, Plymouth, Cornwall and Liverpool, so I thought I’d better put down my thoughts about the experience before they faded away…
This will not be a blow-by-blow account cum tour diary but more a reflection on how the experience touched me and changed my life. Yes, I know that sounds corny and maybe exaggerated but in the week since I have been back I have been inspired to make actual changes in my life.
Going away on tour with a rock band was something I had done in 2011 (for the first time!) with Cheating Sons but that was China. This was England and the very thought of being in my ancestral home with a band was mind blowing. Seriously, on many fronts, I had serious doubts whether we could pull it off, even as I was the one who had started the ball rolling.
We did! And that knowledge gives me renewed confidence and expanded ambitions to go further with this whole music thing. There are new territories for S-ROCK to explore and conquer at home, in the region and beyond and I want to be in the middle of the action and not an observer on the sidelines.
We met really cool music people and the band was appreciated by an entirely new audience. There were mistakes made but lessons learnt. Everywhere the band played, folks were impressed and were keen to find out more about the Singapore music scene – to many of them it seemed incomprehensible that English rock songs were made in Singapore at all!
At the International Pop Overthrow Festival in Liverpool, it seemed inconceivable that a band had flown thousands of kilometres to play at the famous Cavern Club (I believe the distance between Singapore and Liverpool is about 15,000 km!) and I want to take this opportunity to thank organizer David Bash for giving the band the chance to do so.
As cliched as it may sound, this is only the beginning and as June approaches, there are numerous exciting musical activities coming up for myself and the bands I look after. I am truly excited at the possibilities of the next couple of years within the Singapore music scene and beyond. STILL THERE’S MORE indeed.
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…
HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!
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…