Thanks to Beady and Mod for putting up with us.
For more information on the Braids show with Monomania and Free Typewriter, click here.
Since 2007 Mod Phim-Ngam and Beady Williams, the husband/wife team behind Mind the Gap have been prolific concert promoters (they brought the Charlatans and Buzzcocks here!) as well as managers for local Thai rock bands such as Tabasco, Abuse the Youth and more recently, Monomania. We haven't seen them in action for a while but with a show coming up featuring the Braids from Canada, I thought it would be a great opportunity for Andy (Underground Retro Blog) and I to sit down for a chat with them at my favorite vinyl shop in Bangkok, 1979 Vinyls and unknown pleasures. In this long form podcast, we asked them about the early days of Mind the Gap, what they look for in bands they want to manage and just what rock band managers actually do. They have some great stories and a ton of experience to pass on.
Thanks to Beady and Mod for putting up with us.
For more information on the Braids show with Monomania and Free Typewriter, click here.
Listen to podcast
The Australian songwriter, Garbriel Lynch, seems to have a spiritual guide through the quagmire of the music business. While working as a full time composer, he dreams of spending 100% of his time on his own music. Until then, he'll hone his songwriting skills on compositions for others. Recently, Gabriel answered some questions on his musical career, the music business and the songwriting process.
Can you briefly introduce yourself and give some highlights of your musical career thus far?
My name is Gabriel Lynch. I'm a singer songwriter from Australia. I've been performing for some fifteen years and have been lucky enough to independently record and release a handful of records. I've also performed all across Austraila and toured throughout Europe and South East Asia. The highlights are always the shows, and among those that stand out, being a featured artist at Singapore's MOSAIC music festival a couple of years back (alongside my heroes Elbow and Architecture in Helsinki) was definitely a stand out.
Another great joy of my career so far has been collaboration with artists from around the world. I've played and performed alongside Iceland's Svavar Knutur, Singapore's Charlie Lim and Jonathan Meur and - most recently, in Kuala Lumpur) United States ex-pats, Juny Brothers. I'm also one half of an EDM duo called Stray Nation.
Where do you see your career in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?
I suppose I see myself doing what I have always done. I would think I'll release plenty of music in that time (and hopefully collaborate further with as many artists as I am able). I also hope to continue to tour regularly. Playing is my great passion, and I want to cover as much of the globe as I can. I've had Japan and the US in my sights, and I hope that I can find an audience in both those countries. I recently started work as a composer at Maveriq Studios in Kuala Lumpur which means I am now able to steadily work on my own music while keeping my songwriting skills in check. Writing on demand isn't easy, but it's excellent practice and I think will dramatically impact the way I approach my own music. My hope is that in 10 or 20 years I might be able to devote virtually 100% of my time to my own music (be that in a studio, or on the road). But honestly, if I can just continue to get by on music - in any capacity - I'll always be happy.
Do you have a particular marketing strategy or do you just play music and hope for best?
It's a constant 'play-it-by-ear' situation for me. I now have a little more support than I did say 12 months ago. I have people taking care of certain aspects of what I do (publishing, some help organising shows, etc.). But it still remains a very grass-roots approach. I tend to focus my energy on the small steps along the way. If I'm releasing a new song, I enlist the help of everyone I can to hit up the appropriate sources (music blogs, social media, some press and radio, etc.). If I'm touring I target the places I'm heading to particularly and make as much noise about the fact I'm coming as possible. It is getting easier as I now have such a strong support network in most of the places I go. So I suppose the short answer is, no, I don't really have a strategy. But my firm belief is that the people who follow me at all have seen me performing in person. That and the power of word of mouth. They're the two most important ways by which I've made connections with new fans.
How do you feel about digital streaming platforms? Are they beneficial to musicians like yourself?
I think they are. I get the feeling that there's a lot of reservation among some musicians (particularly indie musicians) about formats like Spotify and Tidal. But I suppose it's exciting to think that those platforms to have certain features that allow people to quickly access your music (without commitment) and even discover you vicariously through tools like 'playlists' or 'you may also like...' features. Will I make millions from Spotify? No. Do I make millions selling music online anyway? Nope. I think the best any musician can hope for at my level is that the internet serves as a means by which people can discover you. It's the times when those people wind up coming to my shows when I'm in town that counts the most. And it's always at my shows when I sell records. The live aspect has always been the most important in my experience.
If you could meet any musician living or dead who would it be and what would you ask them?
I think Elliot Smith would be a fascinating person to talk to. I've read he wasn't a particularly extraverted person so it might be hard work. But if I had to ask him anything, I'd probably ask him what emotions drive him the most to write music. A lot of people would argue it's sadness or depression. But I think that he was as hopeful as anybody else in his songs. Hearing an answer of any sort would be a comfort. He seemed to have a deeper insight into the human condition than many other musicians I've loved over the years.
What was the process for writing the last album All of Us? Didn't you crowdsource song ideas?
That's right. Some of the songs came from a campaign where I offered to write songs for anyone who helped me finance some of the costs involved in recording. Some of the best songs that came from the suggestions of those people made it onto the record. It was a very different approach because it meant I wasn't writing about myself from start to finish. I had to, in a lot of cases, very sensitively write about these deeply personal experiences that belonged to other people. I think the exercise strengthened my ability to write a great deal. Finding the way to connect my music to an individual's story or idea was a challenge but the result is an album that is less about me and more about the common threads that seem to link us together. At least that's how I feel about it.
Which part of the art of music do you prefer: songwriting and recording or live performance?
Well I suppose I love all of it. The songwriting is the part that leads to recording. Having a recording is often a catalyst to book a tour or a show. But really, when it's all said and done, there's nowhere I love to be than on a stage sharing my music with anyone who's willing to listen. I can be a particularly awkward person at the best of times, but performing is the one time I truly feel that I get to say exactly what I meant to say. And I do that by singing my songs. From a musical point of view, I also thrive on the thrill of the unexpected. In a live setting, anything can go. Even if I've played something thirty times before, I'll still find something exciting or new about that song. Particularly if it's being shared with other instrumentalists.
What do you want people to get from the music?
Whatever they want really. I guess there are a thousand ways you can interpret any song or any musician's work. For me, I suppose the only thing I hope carries across is that it's generally sincere. If I've written it, then I really meant it. What they make of my songs is up to them, but I always hope my material has the mark of honesty on it. That's the common link between most of the artists (irrespective of genre) that I idolise and admire.
What do you think you the secret to a successful music career is?
I think the number one thing is perseverance. So many people in artistic fields lose stamina or become disheartened over time. How many people do you meet who say that at one point or another they were a photographer or in a band. In my mind, the longer you keep with something, the better you'll be come, the greater the odds become that you will strike great opportunities. I have gone through many episodes where I've wondered if I'd be better giving up and pursuing something else. But in hindsight, every such episode has been followed by chance encounters or events that have reignited my confidence. If anybody, in any field, stays with something long enough, and works hard at it, I believe they can and will find every success they could have ever hoped for.
What was the last band or musician you heard that blew your mind?
I was recently introduced to a band called Can who were a quite prominent German kraut-rock/psychedelic band during the 60s and 70s. I'd never ever heard of them, but then someone showed me their song 'Vitamin C' and I was in love. Such a quirky and brooding sound. It's also amazing how well their recordings hold up all these years later. I wish I could have seen them live!
Gabriel Lynch is performing at Skytrain Jazz Bar on July 18th with Jenny and the Skallywags and JINTA. For more information, click here.
Old school metal and hard rock fans in Southeast Asia have cause for jubilee as Hong Kong hard rock band Bamboo Star embark on a short tour of the region with performances scheduled in Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Frontman of the band, Wolf Red, took some time to answer questions about the music, the Hong Kong music scene and the tour.
Can you introduce yourself, your band, and some of the highlights of your time as a musician in your band?
I’m Wilfred (or Wolf Red if it’s easier to remember!) and I’m the lead vocalist for the band Bamboo Star. We’re a four-piece hard rock band based in Hong Kong; and, we’ve been performing for around three years. Though I consider being able to write and perform the music that I love already a huge privilege, specific highlights so far would be performing at the Fanzone Festival 2014, taking our music to Chengdu and Singapore last year. But with our first album coming out next month, an upcoming tour to South East Asia in July as well as winning the opportunity to play at the Envol et Macadam Music Festival in Quebec this September, I think our proudest moments are yet to come!
How would you describe the music scene in Hong Kong? And what about the metal scene?
The music scene in Hong Kong, particularly the metal scene, unfortunately doesn’t get as much recognition as it deserves. It’s a very commercial city here and mass media simply dominates a lot of the culture here. I think it is improving though and in the last decade we’ve seen more bands and alternative acts get more popular and better exposure so there’s definitely hope for Hong Kong music.
How would you describe the music of Bamboo Star? Who is going to like the band?
Bamboo Star has been called J-Rock, Metal, Heavy Metal, Hair Metal, Classic Metal, Blues Metal, Blues rock, Pop-Rock, Modern Rock, Alt Rock… I personally think there’s a bit of all of those in there, but I like to just call it Hard Rock and have people judge for themselves. It’s heavy groove, blues-riff driven songs with high-pitched clean vocals layered with harmonies. At the shows, we usually get young metalheads who want a bit more of a classic vibe or old rockers who feel the metal scene is a little too ‘core’. That, and Terence tends to attract cougars to the show hahaha…
What were some of the influences of the band?
That could take forever to answer! We each have a never-ending list of influences but if we had to each had to state two,
5. How do you feel about music streaming? Has the digital ages made it better or worse for musicians?
Double edged sword really, it’s made everything from production to distribution a lot more accessible; but, then there’s a lot more competition out there. It doesn’t matter if it’s better or worse anymore, it’s happening so better embrace it and try to make the most of it!
How does Bamboo Star write songs?
Each song varies really… Sometimes it starts with a lyric, melody and progression in my head late at night and I bring that into the band room as a base structure. Sometimes it grows from a spontaneous jam that we begin during rehearsal.
What venues can music fans see and hear live original music in Hong Kong? Is it expensive to go to these shows?
We play more often on the Island and so you can generally find us at Central or Wan Chai venues like Orange Peel, Backstage Live or The Wanch. There are some great live houses out Kowloon too, like Hidden Agenda, Musician’s Area, Rock Angel Band House… I really wish there were more venues around town because without them all the music just stays in the rehearsal room, but property prices and zoning laws here really don’t make it easy.
What are some notable Hong Kong metal bands one can see in Hong Kong?
Ha, they so don’t need our plug but if you’re looking for something a bit rougher, check out Qiu Hong and Deep Inside. I personally also really like what Fear Index and Seasons for Change have going on.
Is this your first time doing a show in Bangkok? Was it hard putting together a tour of SE Asia? Where else are you going for tour dates?
Yes! And hopefully just the first of many more! Organizing an SEA tour was a pleasure and we’re super thankful to all the people who helped us out and gave us a chance. We are amazed that we get to take our music to our neighbouring countries and would gladly do it again. In addition to our Bangkok gig (at Fatty’s on the 29th July!) we’re also playing a show in Kuala Lumpur and three shows in Singapore, including the Ventbox Metal Festival, before heading back to Hong Kong for the Lan Kwai Fong Beer Festival. Immediately after that, we’ll be throwing an album launch party show back in HK to celebrate.
Describe Bamboo Star in 3 adjectives.
Intense, Sweaty, Addictive
Bamboo star is performing at Nowhere End #12 at Fatty's Bar and Diner on July 26th with support from classic metal band Sin Tonic and the stoner rocking groove of Superunknow. Click here for more information.
The four exhausted Swedish musicians were waiting when I arrived at Tesco Lotus Onnut,. With their luggage, guitars and pale skin it was hard to miss them. We greet and I whisk them inside, up the escalator and find an empty table. They take turns getting their meals as I guard over the gear and bags. In a few hours they will take the stage at The Beer Cap at RCA. It's their CD release party and the promoter has done a great deal of work to ensure a successful show. Sadly, they will be departing for the airport immediately after the performance.
While not exactly my cup of tea musically, the band was friendly and earnest and won me over by the time the lunch trays were empty. They performed very well although I could help but wonder what the sound would be like with more acoustic drums in there. Would need to ask New Order (nee Joy Division) drummer how it's done.
So Wilderness is a definite go-and-see if you like synth-oriented music. Tere were also strong performances by Hariguem Zaboy and the LALA spelled l _ / \ - l _ / \. Hariguem Zaboy seem to have gone from My Bloody Valentine's Loveless sound back to Isn't Anything. LALA are a trip once you figure out how to pronounce the name written in characters that might as well be cuneiform. Aerolips finished the night - I think the MacBook had a meltdown- and was on stage for a few songs before I noticed the show was ending prematurely.
It is always comforting to know that I am not the only one selling his prized possession on Facebook. Recently, Basement Tape's Tat Bunnag was reported using the ubiquitous social media network to hock such albums as "Fat Music Volume VI: Uncontrollable Fatulence" and Radiohead's "Hail to the Thief". Apparently the Stereolab box set cost a fortune and the wealth and glory of being an indie rock star were not enough to pay off the credit card without parting ways with a few pearls from an extensive vinyl library. I seized the opportunity to penetrate the mind of a vinyl collector and member of one of the very first Thai independent bands I discovered.
What was the first record you ever bought or received? What year was it?
The first records I ever owned were some old LPs which belong to my dad’s old collection. He got a bunch of early Beatles albums, the Supremes greatest hits, which are cool. But also there are some stuff that I couldn’t stand like Bee Gee’s disco era records...haha. But the first record I ever bought with my own money was Slayed? by Slade, maybe around 2000?
You are selling off some of your precious vinyl collection to pay for more vinyl – what will be the hardest album to give up?
Most of records I put up for sale here aren’t really from my “precious collection”, so I’m okay to sell them haha. Well but the main reasons that I’m selling these is because I may have more than one copy of each album here. Like, if I’ve already own one album, and if I spotted the same album again in a store with different (older) pressing, I sometimes just buy it again. I’m also selling these just because I need some cash to invest on some new albums.
How do you choose what to buy on vinyl or do you just buy everything?
I normally don’t buy CD or downloading any mp3 files, not for at least 5 years. Although I only purchase vinyl records these days, I only buy records that I’m pretty certain that I’m gonna like them. And I’ve also been trying to avoid purchasing bad repress or reissue vinyl, and only get old pressing ones. A lot of people that buy vinyl today don’t realize that they’re listening to CD masters on vinyl, and that’s because the reissue record companies have figured out that people want vinyl, and vinyl has become a new “trendy” thing. But sometimes these companies don’t have rights for the original master tape sources, so they’re only making CD masters in digital, and all the new products that come out on vinyl are actually CDs on vinyl.
How do you buy your vinyl? Is it only online now?
It depends. For some new release albums, you can easily find them from local import record shops, which there many of them in Bangkok nowadays, but it can be more expensive than buying it online. I usually buy records straight from the labels' websites, or from distributer sites such as Insound, Amazon, Norman Records. And of course, eBay for some rare and long out of print stuff.
What should buyers be concerned about when buying used, secondhand vinyl records?
The value of a used record is determined by rarity, just like any other collector’s item. But some sellers tend to sell overpriced for secondhand or some hard to find records, so be sure to checki the current market price for buying. I don’t mind buying used and secondhand records at all as long as they are still in really good condition.
How do you organize your vinyl collection? Genre, year released, year purchased, alphabetical, mood?
Very simple. I started by genre, and then alphabetically. But I also dedicated a couple of first two cubes on a record shelve for my current favorite records, or new purchases.
Have you ever purchased a vinyl record and thought, “Wow, this album sucks!” and put it in a microwave?
Yes, sometimes. But the good thing about records is you can always sell if you don’t like them enough. There are a lot of albums that I decided to order without hearing them first. It’s kind of a gambling in a way though, because I just want to hear the album fresh from start to finish without spoil the surprise. I used to argue about this subject with some of my friends who love to download entire album and listen to all the songs right after ordering vinyl, only because he doesn’t have patience. And once when the record arrived, he just leave it sits there for ages without playing, because he got bored with that album already.
What bands local or international would you like to see release a particular album on vinyl?
For local, I’d love to see Crub’s debut album on vinyl. It’s one of the best Thai indie rock albums that was ever released in the 90s, or perhaps of all-time. There are many of my favorite indie bands that never get to release their albums on vinyl. For example, there was a San Francisco band called Beulah. They were an amazing lo-fi pop band that associated with the famous Elephant 6 collective. The band has released a total of four studio albums, and all of which were really good. But sadly only two were made on vinyl format. I also want to see the official reissue of classic albums by bands like Guided by Voices, Yo La Tengo, or Teenage Fanclub. Those albums are long out of print, so the price of their secondhand LPs are ridiculously expensive now.
Is there a rare or mythic record you are always hunting for? Something like the Holy Grail for you as a music fan and collector?
It's "Propeller" album by Ohio indie band Guided By Voices, released in 1992. I've been looking for the first pressing of this album. Initially self-released only hand-numbered edition of 500 copies, each copy of the album are unique, hand painted cover done by band members.
I’m quite a sucker for the rare items. I recently got my hands on the Japanese pressing of Stereolab – “Aluminum Tunes: Switched On, Vol. 3”. It’s a limited 2,500 box sets vinyl included 3 colored LPs, a bonus 7", and a shirt released in 1998 for Japanese market only. This is why I’m selling off the other copy of the same album at the moment.
Is there any chance Basement Tape's first full length album will ever be release on vinyl? It would be pretty cool if it was on vinyl.
Yeah, it’d be nice if we could release the “Blue” album on vinyl. Actually when we were still signed with Spicy Disc label, there was a plan to release that album on vinyl along with other albums by Spicy Disc bands like Sqweez Animal. The label even called me one day to discuss about the artwork designs for the record sleeves. But somehow the plan just mysteriously disappeared.
See slideshow. If you are interested in purchasing any of these albums, contact Tat.
Tat has since informed me that someone tried to trade a Pearl Jam LP for the Radiohead album. This tid-bit provoked all kinds of conflicting emotions. American hard rock versus London art school kids! Should I admit that I sometimes air guitared around the room to the angsty anthem "Even Flow" (yes, we call this music 'jock rock' or 'butt rock') or begin a half-hearted academic defense of Seattle 90s music as a scene far removed from the rest of the world - they could not hide their roots in classic rock and metal. You see, Pearl Jam is a very distinctly American band and Radiohead very British - they cannot be traded one for the other. It is somewhat heretical that they even exist in the same discussion not because one is inherently better than the other but just as in the high school cafeteria, while we may be equal, we are not the same -we are segregated. Metalheads with their long hair and black tees and jeans sit in one corner and the kids listening to REM, The Cure, and They Might be Giants and Radiohead sit in another corner. Never shall the two groups meet unless of course we are talking about Nine Inch Nails, Sex Pistols and Ramones... and maybe Jane's Addiction. And no one really is allowed to like RHCP and admit it. Same for Pearl Jam. While I can admit I love Pearl Jam if I befriend their old production manager, you might never admit this to someone from say... Manchester. Anyway, as I digress... don't forget to browse through Tat's records and find something you like. DC