This is Kevin Mathews, y’know the guy who owns this webzine, taking a break from normal programming to talk to you a little bit about this new album I have recorded under the watchmen moniker.
It has been a long & winding road to reach this point in my life.
22 years since I released my first album with Watchmen back in August 1993 and numerous albums later, I believe that Present Sense is probably my best ever. Why do I make that assessment? Mainly because this has probably been the most hands-off I have ever been about the making of an album. And I was blessed to be working with amazingly talented artists, who poured out their immense creativity to grant vitality to my humble songs.
Back in the early 90s, I was deeply envious of Pat – he seemed to have everything I wanted in terms of a music life. A number one single, a great debut LP and a breakthrough into the public consciousness of Singaporeans – The Oddfellows were the first Singapore band to accomplish that in 30 years! But when I got to know him, I realised that he was much more than his accomplishments – his humility, grace & generosity touched me immensely. Pat was never far away from being a part of the music since then – whether it be working on “Orchard Road” for New School Rock III, on the Love EP or playing second guitar in Popland on numerous gigs. Some of you might already know this but two to three years ago, Pat pushed me to record again – after a hiatus of about four years – and so we did, in his home studio (and the now defunct Thom’s Loft) and the ultimate result was Emo FASCISM (September 2013) – and that got the juices going again with #alpacablues barely six months later. With Present Sense, I wanted to keep my arrangement ideas to a bare minimum – with Pat not only recording but co-producing this time out, especially with his rhythmic contributions. But where Pat is now truly deadly is his mixing and mastering – which in my opinion is second to none. I am always amazed by how he puts everything together post-recording and I never fail to be impressed.
I have to thank ex-head honcho of Pony Canyon Singapore, Jimmy Wee, for introducing me to Ray. I was looking for a drummer in the mid-90s and Ray turned out to be a perfect fit! Like Pat, Ray is a veritable local music legend – having played with numerous top local bands. Ray played drums on the three Popland releases viz. Groovy, Action! and the Camouflage EP. But it’s his infectious enthusiasm that is always a joy – it is impossible not to be buoyed by his seemingly boundless energy, even after all these years. For Present Sense, Ray came in for a day’s session at Leonard Soosay’s Snakeweed Studios (thanks to Daniel Sassoon) and finished 8 songs in 4 hours! Listening to the album, one would be unable to tell for sure! I feel privileged that twenty years later, we are still making groovy music together!
Nelson is a pure talent – he can do anything related to music. Music is his life and again, he plays in numerous bands and excels in each and every one. Nelson is a constant reminder to me that my music is not about sales or recognition but about the potential impact on people. When I finally sat down to have a serious chat with him, Nelson confessed to being a fan and shared that listening to the Democracy album as a 12 year old was one of the reasons he become a musician. Mind blown. How was that even possible? Far beyond anything I could have expected or imagined! It is an honour to be working with Nelson – apart from his wondrous bass playing – his passion and commitment to his craft and even to my songs – is an encouragement to keep going!
I first met Josh in 2007, when I interviewed his band The Fire Fight as part of Power of Pop’s Baybeats Festival coverage that year. Suffice to say, I have been a big fan of Josh and the band for its short lifetime and it was a memorable moment for me to share the stage with them on their farewell show in 2010 on “Train Song” (my favourite FF track). Present Sense was the first time collaborating together on the music and it was a revelation. Josh spent hours working on the guitar parts and his blood, sweat and tears are clearly evident on every track! Especially with “Magic” and “I walked away”, he made these songs his own, somehow tapping into the essence of my own artistic vision and painting in new vibrant colours! He is the soul of Present Sense – without Josh, Present Sense would not be what it is – my best album thus far!
Honourable mentions must also go to Eileen Chai for her stellar violin work on “Nothing Else” and “I walked away” and of course the voiceovers provided by Esther Low, James Khoo and X’ho.
Tonight, I will play the main bulk of Present Sense together with The Groovy People at The Barber Shop by Timbre in what might be my final show with the band for 2015. So I hope if you are free this Public Holiday eve you will make your way down and share this special occasion with us. The wonderfully talented melodic pop-rock band SUASION will be our guests, so please get there by 8pm.
Present Sense is out now at iTunes & streaming at rdio.com. I would greatly appreciate your support.
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Well, boys and girls, that’s all she wrote! With the re-release of The Crowd’s Pop (1997), and the Popland albums, Groovy and Action!, the KAMCO Music – Kevin Mathews reissue program has been completed.
Here are the links. Thanks for your support.
Here’s a Spotify playlist of all 73 tracks of the re-issue programme!
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It’s a bit surreal to be writing about these KAMCO Music re-issues. Simply because both releases came out more than 20 years ago! It’s seems unreal to think that two decades later, I am able to make them available to the world in a manner that was impossible in 1993/1994. Does the world really need these re-issues, probably not but it’s not about that. Rather it’s more about the historical significance of these releases in the context of my life and that of the Singapore music scene.
For me personally, as a musician who grew up in 70s Singapore when rock ‘n’ roll was suppressed by the authorities, it was difficult to conceive of a local music scene that would accept my original music but thankfully that happened in the early 90s (in my early thirties) with Democracy and Love. That scene now appears to be light years away from where we stand now – and thank GOD for that too! Listening to the music now brings upon me waves of nostalgia and if any of this resonates with you then you can head on down to the various links below and I appreciate your support for all these years.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the kind souls who helped to make Democracy and Love whatever they might mean to folks now – Tony Makarome, Patrick Chng, Ben Harrison, BOSS Studios, Odyssey Records and of course, Eric Khoo.
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In bygone days, it was common for superheroes to be placed in life threatening situations with readers being confident that the hero would somehow escape the clutches of death. But that concept was first challenged in X-Men #137 (1980) when Jean Grey (aka Marvel Girl/Phoenix) took her own life in order to protect the universe from the Phoenix force that possessed her. In an unforgettable sequence, Jean Grey paid the ultimate price in order to save the universe.
Reminiscing. About superhero comic books from the 1980s. Those were the days! *Sigh*
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.
WATCHMEN Democracy (Odyssey Music, 1993)
I often pontificate about how fortunate our young musicians are today. I frequently read about our young bands recording and releasing debut EPs and albums at such a tender age and I am reminded that by the time Democracy was released by Odyssey Music in August 1993, I was already THIRTY-TWO years old!
But back then – now 18 years ago – it didn’t matter how old I was. All that mattered was that I had a recording contract (in my OWN name) and I was finally going to have my own album! Looking back at Democracy, there’s much on the record that sounds pretty terrible – the drum machine for one! – but I will stand by those songs anytime of the day or year. I am still rather proud of the songwriting overall and chuffed by the ‘critical acclaim’ that followed but am also glad that 18 years later I am a much better singer and songwriter now (in my humble opinion).
Thus, for nostalgia’s sake, I am making a download of the entire album available from today till 11.59pm 1st January 2012 as my new year gift to you, my loyal and faith reader. Send an email to info AT powerofpop DOT com and I will send you a link and password. And one more thing, please go to my Facebook page and click ‘LIKE’. Thanks again for your marvelous support over the years. Auld Lang Syne
Check out the Democracy review at rock in the fine city.
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’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.
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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.
Okay. Finally, I have decided to continue the chronicle of my experience of being a musician in Singapore. Though I stopped at 1994 the last time out, I really skimmed through 1993, which was a watershed year for me. So… for the sake of completeness, here is my account of 1993.
Back to the Egg
Signing a recording contract was a dream come true. Honestly, I never thought it would ever happen for me. But there I was in the offices of Odyssey Music, putting my John Hancock on a legal document that basically obliged me to record music in exchange for royalty payments. Much of the credit for that deal lay with the BigO guys viz. Michael, Philip and Stephen . Definitely, they were instrumental in helping me secure the Odyssey contract. It did not hurt that my first proper studio recording – Orchard Road – was getting airplay on national radio and generally good reviews in the media.
There are a couple of versions of My One & Only out there, which is basically me milking it. Or it’s just me trying to get things as perfect as I possibly can. So that was the case with the original version of My One & Only, which is on 1993’s Democracy album. I’ve never been completely satisfied with it for various reasons and so when I recorded the quickie follow-up Love EP (with Pat Chng & Ben Harrison), I figured why not have a new edition with a different arrangement and new instrumentation. I think this ’94 edition is better than the original but of course, that did not stop me from recording another version in 2008, which you can find on the +65 Indie Underground compilation.
Anyways, the ’94 edition has been uploaded at Bandcamp.com and you can download it for FREE here. You’d need to provide a valid email in order to do so, hope that’s not too much of an inconvenience. Thanks once again for your generous support, you are the best!
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VARIOUS ARTISTS +65 Indie Underground (Universal)
Finally! A proper retrospective S-ROCK document of the last 25 years. For that reason alone, anyone who has any links to the Singapore music scene in anyway imaginable must go out and purchase this epochal release now.
Stop & think.
The fact that this release is such a rarity and a treasure for true blue S-ROCK lovers is in itself an inditement on the scene itself. By right, the music found in this set should be readily available but unfortunately unless you bought the original releases in the 80s and 9os, there’s absolutely no way to get your hands on the music. Until now.
Caveat – of course, dear reader, you are aware that as Watchmen, I am featured in this release – so take comments whichever way you want. Personally, I was particularly interested in checking out the 90s-era bands and the representation is hard to fault viz. Corporate Toil, Oddfellows, Padres, OP, Twang Bar Kings, S.U.D.S. (YEAH!), Humpback Oak, The Pagans, Livonia, Concave Scream, Stompin’ Ground, The Ordinary People, Force Vomit, Plainsunset, the Lilac Saints, Etc, Boredphucks. A mean line-up.
Naturally, you could quibble about the absence of AWOL, the Shades, Swirling Madness, ESP, Pink Elephants, Mortal Flower and so on OR you could argue about the song selection but there’s no denying the power of all this wonderful music in one place, so to speak.
Personal faves – Padres’ Radio Station really brings back memories (classic S-ROCK anthem), Twang Bar King’s Daddy in a Lift – still sounds like its at the wrong speed (!), Livonia’s Veageance is Mine, Humpback Oak’s Circling Square, Boredphucks’ Zoe Tay, Stoned Revivals’ Goodil, Etc’s Adolesce & S.U.D.S.’ Braindead Nation.
I could go on but will probably wax lyrical and get too nostalgic (check out the Power of Pop blog for that). Suffice to repeat, that this is bloody essential… now if only we could get proper re-issues of the 90s albums…
And the real issue is posed by X’Ho – “Is Singapore rock alive and free at last?” – hopefully +65 Indie Underground is a move in the right direction.
• Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut Film (includes Tales of the Black Freighter woven in)
• Audio Commentary with Zack Snyder and Dave Gibbons
Disc 2: Over 3 Hours of Special Features
• The Phenomenon: The Comic that Changed Comics
• Real Super Heroes, Real Vigilantes
• Mechanics: Technologies of a Fantastic World
• Watchmen: Video Journals
• My Chemical Romance Desolation Row
• Under The Hood
• Story Within A Story: The Books of Watchmen
Disc 3: Digital Copy of the Theatrical Version
Disc 4 and 5: Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comics
Thanks to /Film for the heads up.
So, Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Alan Moore/Dave Gibbon’s “unfilmable” comic book masterpiece may not be perfect but I still believe that it’ll probably be the best adaptation we’ll ever get. This Director’s Cut adds about 24 minutes to the theatrical cut making it a whopping 3 hour feast and it’s definitely a better film for the additions.
Watching it all over again (with the new scenes) at one go was a thrilling experience and it is in the subtle expositions that the film really hits the spot. Most significantly, Dr Manhattan’s speech on Mars with Laurie about the miracle of human being really touched me. Strange as it may sound, I never really felt the impact of this moment until the movie – a tremendous achievement by Snyder.
Also, I have a greater respect and admiration for Malin Akerman’s portrayal of Laurie as her strength and tenderness shine through to elevate Silk Spectre beyond the token heroine in tights role. Greater scrutiny highlights the amazing work done by Jeffrey Dean Morgan (the Comedian) and Patrick Wilson (Nite Owl), fleshing out the comic book characters with aplomb.
Its no secret that I am a humongous fan of the Watchmen comic (which to me is the finest fiction of all time – trouncing any book or film) and whilst this adaptation is not the greatest movie of all time, it does the job to provide a visual interpretation this fascinating work of art.
That said, there are precious few extras on this two-disc special edition, just one paltry 30 minute documentary and the video journals, previously available online. And most annoying, the digital copy which – as a non resident of USA or Canada – I CANNOT download. Word is there will be a 5-disc Ultimate Edition in December, which I will most probably purchase as well. (I want a solid “making of” documentary!)
For the casual superhero movie/comics fan, this Director’s Cut will do nicely. For now.
For those of you who haven’t downloaded watchmen@midnight Ep yet, you have till midnight, 28 Feb 2009 to do so. Cos six days after that, the highly-anticipated Watchmen movie will be released!
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A Climate of Fear was played on Monday (6 Jan) night on Tan[g]kap Suxx’s show on unpopular radio. You can download the entire show from the link on the site. I must say that Tan[g]kap Suxx’s DJ style reminds me of the late great John Peel. So check it out for some great music – including yours truly.
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For those who missed out the first time and in the spirit of the 15th anniversary of the album’s release, you can download Democracy here.
Comments, please, as usual.
I’m proud to say that I get quite a few requests for an MP3 file of My One & Only. So, to satisfy the demand, I’m making the file available for 7 days or 100 downloads whichever comes earlier. (Yeah, it’s at yousendit.com). Click on the link below, enjoy and please let me have your comments. If this service is popular, I might do it for my out-of-print songs. Let me know, boys and girls.
My One & Only (from Democracy)
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