Friday, December 25, 2009

So who are these blokes above? Unless you're working in the US film and music industries, chances are you haven't a clue. Answers below.

How about this lady? Yes, that's right, Celine Dion. Canadian songstress who has numerous hits under her erm belt, including the theme song of Titanic, My Heart Will Go On.

Where am I going with this? Well, recently I was watching MTV (yeah, right) and its 100 Greatest Hits of the 90s and got pretty annoyed about how much credit people were giving to Dion for My Heart Will Go On.

C'mon! Why should Dion get ALL the credit? Did she write the song? No! That particular kudos belong to James Horner (noted Academy Award-winning writer of the film scores of Beautiful Mind and Titanic) and Will Jennings (Grammy Award winning writer for songs like Clapton's Tears in Heaven). So yes that's Jennings on the left and Horner on the right.

Credit where credit's due. That's all I'm saying...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Yes, I am surprised as you are. Probably. A few months ago, Chloe (from Esplanade) asked me to give a 2-hour talk on songwriting and I thought - "why not?"

Why not, indeed?

I basically took all the ideas and concepts I'd been sharing with my Noise apprentices these last two years and set them out into a talk. Also, I did a little more analysis about what it means to write songs, not only for myself personally but songwriting as an art and craft.

So, expect the first half of the talk to focus on a little "theory" but in actuality, we'll been listening to loads of great music and songwriters and understanding what makes them (both song and writer) tick. The second half will be personal... how I started writing songs and how it has evolved to the present day.

And so, if you're interested, the talk will be held at the Esplanade Rehearsal Studio on Saturday, 6th Feb 2010 at 2pm. Tickets are priced at $15 and available now at SISTIC.

It will be fun...
Eric Khoo's 1st two full-length features viz. Mee Pok Man and 12 Storeys were also significant for their soundtracks, which featured many S-ROCK bands. The two soundtrack CDs are, of course, now out-of-print and rare commodities. In the light of the new +65 Indie Underground release, it should be interesting to re-look at these two soundtracks.

The Mee Pok Man soundtrack contains mainly score written by John Kompa (with one contribution from yours truly). The rest features great tracks from the top S-ROCK bands of the day e.g. OP (Lonely Realm), The Oddfellows (Over Again/Foggy Daylight), Padres (Radio Station/Teenage Story), Stoned Revivals (Teenage Queen), Livonia (Venus Flytrap), Sugarflies (Be My Baby) and (ahem) The Crowd (I Love Singapore). Also included are a few oddities viz. a version of Corporate Toil's Hope and Requiem by June & CU 1359 (basically John Kompa and Joe Ng) and Little Girl Lost by yours truly. Not to mention a freakout version called Little Girlust from ETC.

Ah, nostalgia!

Two years later, many of the same bands also end up on the 12 Storeys soundtrack, a bit of a glossier affair than Mee Pok Man. Apart from a few piano pieces from yours truly and a new version of My One & Only from actress May Yee (which made the Top Ten Radio Charts again), the following S-ROCK bands were also highlighted - Humpback Oak (If I Am Weak/Stressed Out/Bridge), The Lilac Saints (Wasting Time), Stoned Revivals (Goodil), The Oddfellows (Breach) and Sugarflies (Wrong Again).

One regret about this album was the lost opportunity of My Life, the main theme of the soundtrack. Originally, I had conceived it as a moody atmospheric piece which Jacinta could really get her magnificent pipes around. Sadly, producer Martin Tang saw fit to turn it into a dance track much to my chagrin. I remember first hearing this version on a TV variety show and was aghast to see Jacinta (looking uncomfortable, it must be said) belt the song out surrounded by dancers. One day, I must record the song probably, maybe with Rachael...

With the promise of many S-movies coming out in 2010 and beyond, surely its time for S-ROCK film soundtracks to make their delayed appearance once again... I would loved to be involved in putting that together.

C'mon all you 90s scenesters, any comments about these soundtracks... memories!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Have you got +65 Indie Underground yet?

If not then, I strongly suggest that you do, as soon as possible. It is a veritable treasure trove of S-ROCK goodies, which you're NOT going to find anywhere else. Out of the 3 CDs, my personal favourite is the third disc. Not only because Watchmen is featured (though that doesn't hurt) but it brings together some of the truly classic S-ROCK of the 80s and early 90s.

Not only that but the sheer range of the music is impressive. From the folk-rock of Humpback Oak's, the shoegaze of the Pagans, the metal growl of S.U.D.S., the synth-pop of Convent Garden to the psychedelic blues of Nunsex.

But I would like to highlight a couple of standouts from a magnificient list. Radio Station is the first S-ROCK anthem as Joe Ng went from sensitive electro to flag-waving rocker. The lyrics still resonate - "We're so young/Have we got time?" - the song is worth the entire price of admission.

Listening to Zircon Lounge's Guide These Hands, it's amazing to consider that Chris Ho and gang recorded the song in 1984, when post-punk/new wave was not mainstream fare at all in Singapore. That said, I want to clear up that misconception that Zircon Lounge was the first alt-rock band in Singapore - that honour rightfully belongs to Transformer, right, Chris?

Disc 3 also features a couple of nostalgic nuggets like Oddfellows' Unity Song (although I'd argue that Lost My Head would have been the better choice), Nonames' My Mama, Twang Bar Kings' Daddy in the Lift (with Leslie on helium) and Daze's Sexy Little Boy (a #1 hit!)

Ah, memories... more to come on discs 1 & 2 soon...

Did I nag you about getting +65 Indie Underground yet? Go NOW!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ah, nostalgia! The +65 Indie Underground 3-CD set dropped into stores this week and it really is a good purchase for anyone remotely interested in Singapore rock. I guess I will be asked why the original recording isn't on this set but the 15th anniversary version instead.

Well, basically I don't own the rights to the recording and the company that does - Odyssey Music - doesn't exist anymore. And... I've always felt that the original recording was too shiny, clean and robotic so that is why I recorded the more organic version with James, Brian, HQ and Esther last year. When Universal got wind of the track, they requested for it to be in the comp and so...

Well, what do you think? Do you prefer '93 or '08 edition?

Anyways - go get +65 Indie Underground now... more about the comp to come...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"You are the only gift I want for Christmas"

Here's the download link for my rough demo of "4Christmas"

Comments, please!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A S-ROCK compilation? Who'd thunk it, eh? In this day and age of falling CD sales and lukewarm mainstream interest in S-ROCK, you just have to hand it to the folks at Universal (especially Kheng) for having the kahunas to release this labour of love.

Compiling some of the best S-ROCK tracks from the mid-80s (Zircon Lounge) to the new generation (B-Quartet), with a major focus on the 90s S-ROCK revival (Oddfellows, Padres, Humpback Oak, Pagans et al), +65 Indie Underground is a timely collection of the finest Singaporean music of the last twenty years or so.

All well & good. My hope for this compilation is not only that it sells in phenomenal numbers and justifies a second edition but that Universal will be able to distribute into the region as well e.g. into Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines and even Japan as a showcase of Singapore music. I think it is a excellent opportunity for the "powers-that-be" to get behind this compilation to promote Singapore music overseas.

Of course, I must qualify that I am - as Watchmen - featured on this compilation so take my comments with a pinch of salt. If you wish...

Sunday, December 06, 2009

We had our last Recidivists jam for 2009 this afternoon and it was done at a leisurely pace. We did however, work through another new song, which in my humble opinion is gonna be another cool and fun addition to the Recidivists' repertoire.

The song is called "Barbarians at the Gate" and it's something I had written quite recently, with the Recidivists firmly in mind. To be honest, though I liked the song, I wasn't quite certain how it would pan out with the band BUT that's the beauty of working with Daniel, Keith and Jocelyn, their ideas and contributions add so much to the dynamic of the song that it took on a life of its own and I can't wait to debut it live soon.

Not only that but I managed to record a Garageband demo of In Your Eyes, the musical-type ballad that I mentioned a few weeks ago. I have posted at my personal MySpace page. Check it out. I would appreciate your comments.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Reviewing Andrew Chen's excellent new album, You Just Might, brought to mind, of all people, the legendary Daryl Hall & John Oates, one of the finest pop duos of the 80s. This, of course, necessitated a frantic search through my CDs before I settled on this "best of" compilation (above) which features such classic hits as Sara Smile, Kiss On My List, Everytime You Go Away, One On One and so on.

After some searching around on the Internet, I also discovered that Daryl Hall is currently hosting a monthly webcast called Live From Daryl's House, which as the name suggests features Daryl (now a spry 63!!!) performing choice material on his own as well as with awesome guests like Todd Rundgren, John Oates, Chuck Prophet, KT Tunstall, Nick Lowe and Smokey Robinson. A brilliant idea!

All of which is inspiring me with regards to possible live directions viz. blue-eyed soul pop, which I think will go down well with the general public. What do you think? Would you leave home to watch classic R&B covers from yours truly?

...still there's more...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

And so, the interview Samuel did with me last Saturday was published today in the New Paper. It's a bit of a strange piece as Samuel basically took one of those "favorite spaces" articles and shoe-horned an interview about my music-making. Great effort by the lad, if I say so myself, no mean feat. I don't look half bad in the photo as well... credit to Kelvin, the New Paper photographer, good job!

Pix of TNP page courtesy of the Green Carnation.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

An interesting Saturday spent in the company of young people. In the morning, Samuel Wee (one of my off and on contributors to interviewed me for the New Paper (where he now interns) and we chatted for almost two hours about music and stuff. Not sure what the article will be about though, interior design tips? Heh. Believe me, it was really fun.

In the afternoon, it was the turn of my Noise apprentices to pick my brains (so to speak, or was it the other way round?). First up, was Narisa, as we began the task of arranging the song (called Valentine's Day) to be recorded for the upcoming Noise CD. It's a straightforward melodic slab of sunshine pop which I believe will go down well, if we can work out an arrangement that serves the song best.

Next, was Celina and her intriguing modern grunge-folk sensibility - don't ask me why - I keep thinking I need to play for her Neil Young songs. It all gonna make sense soon, trust me. We worked on her song Cinderella, which we hope to grant an earthy feel to convey the emotional weight of the lyrics.

Exciting stuff!

In the meantime, check out some music from these up & coming singer-songwriters.

Yep, MidnightSugarRush is Celina.

Fight is a marvelous song and deserves to be recorded but maybe for another time. What say you, Narisa?

Funnily enough, neither of these songs will on the Noise CD.

Stay tuned for more updates to come...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

+65 Indie Underground

This (now) 3CD boxset collection pays tribute to the S-ROCK revival that started in the early 90s. So why is it called "+65"? I guess it has to do with the year of Singapore's independence. How patriotic eh? Anyways, the boxset is due at the end of the month and the confirmed line-up is -

Typewriter. Postbox. The Marilyns. A Vacant Affair. Amateur Takes Control. MUON. The Analog Girl. B-Quartet. The Great Spy Experiment. I Am David Sparkle. Astreal. Lunarin. Opposition Party. Ronin. Electrico. The Observatory. aspidistrafly. Serenaide. Tiramisu. Force Vomit. Plainsunset. Boredphucks. The Ordinary People. Livonia. Stroll. Psycho Sonique. Sugaflies. Stoned Revivals. Etc. Concave Scream. Kelvin Tan. The Lilac Saints. Suchness. The Mother. Stompin’ Ground. Humpback Oak. The Pagans. S.U.D.S. Padres. Watchmen. The Oddfellows. The Nonames. Convent Garden. Nunsex. Global Chaos. Twang Bar Kings. Daze. Corporate Toil. Razor’s Edge. Zircon Lounge.


I'm stoked that Watchmen is between Padres and Oddfellows! Apt!

... and there's more ...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My first ever (proper) gig performance was in 1976 in the auditorium at the Anglo-Chinese School at Barker Road. So perhaps it was rather fitting that the first gig performance of the Recidivists was at ACS at Barker Road again, although this time at its new premises. The occasion was this year's school carnival and a half hour set was requested.

We got to the school a little late and made our way to the stage (thanks to Faizal) and caught Keong, Jessica Soo and Kat Ong (and company) finishing their set. Cool 70s classic pop vibe with lovely vocal harmonies. We were going to be an altogether different proposition!

Sound-wise, it was tough to hear each other on stage but as seasoned pros, we managed to pull off a solid enough set and I believe that we gave a good account of ourselves. I was particularly pleased with our two originals, which I enjoyed immensely. Overall, the set was electric, rocking and loud and you could groove to it. Which points to an excellent sonic direction for the Recidivists. Expect the band to go full throttle in 2010.

Set list: -

Don't Look Back
Destination Ursa Major
Sink to the Bottom
It's Not A Fact
Golden Age

Monday, November 09, 2009

The Recidivists, my new project band with Daniel Sassoon, Keith Tan and Jocelyn Ong plays its debut gig at this Saturday's (14th) ACS Carnival at 3pm. The set will be about 30 minutes long and feature mainly covers and a couple of originals. Venue is ACS Barker Road Campus.

Hope to see you all there.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Meet the Apprentices.

Last week, I met up with my Noise Apprentices (viz. Narisa and Celina), to kick start The Apprentice Program for 2009-2010. Ahead of them would be CD recordings and live performances, including a prestigious spot at the Youth Olympics Games musical showcases!

And so begins a two month process whereby I share what I know about songwriting, performance and music in general. Hope they'll enjoy the experience as much as I will.

After all, there's just so much music but so little time. So I'm thinking about what I can do to help them along, guide them in the direction they wanna go and hope it all works out. The two girls are so different but have the same needs - to learn about music and I want to do whatever I can to give them what they need.

Tomorrow will be the first 'real' work session when we'll be focusing on songwriting. I need to suit the session specifically to their strengths and weaknesses (what I perceive them to be). So its a lot of music listening & CD selection tonight to open their ears to a different world of musical possibilities.

Stay tuned for more updates, boys and girls...

Life changes constantly. About a week ago I quit my job without new employment lined up and thinking of venturing into the world of music. FULLTIME! Yes, it's a big ask and its giving me some sleepless nights but the LORD has been speaking to me about asking for what I want and so... here goes.

My last day in the office is January 8th so till then I would need to firm up my new direction which I intend to do by talking with my numerous contacts to set things up.

This blog will be the new HQ for Kevin Mathews, full-time singer-songwriter-musician and whatever else. So please return to check on what's up...

Your prayers and good thoughts are appreciated.