Closer to herself
Article from the Sun daily by Marion Fernando (posted on 15 November 2018)
EVEN though singer/songwriter Julia Duclos grew up her whole life revolving around music, she never really planned a career in one.
Her first “gig”, according to the local talent was a Teacher’s Day performance that her mom helped choreographed when she was in Standard One.
She eventually began singing at skate parks for acoustic nights.
“[Big groups of friends] and I would gather at the skate park in USJ in Subang, and we’d just perform acoustics.
“I was always hanging out around musicians because my brother was in a band – all his friends were musicians– and then I made friends in the music scene.”
Two months after graduating two years ago, the 23-year-old psychology graduate was approached by Sony Music Malaysia, and in July this year, she released her debut single, Further.
How was it like working on your debut studio release?
It was so fun, honestly. It was my first time really doing something from myself ... because I’ve lent my vocals to my friends, so I’ve done songs before in the studio.
It was so nice to finally sit in the studio and then at the end of everything, listen to it and be like that’s from me, that’s mine, you know, that is my baby.
My first baby.
The producer that I worked with, Charlie [Lim], he really guided me in a sense where I realised I was a bit of a perfectionist and so that was holding me back a bit.
He helped me get over that perfectionism.
Is that why you produced and recorded the track in Singapore?
I was looking for producers for a very long time because I found it difficult to find someone who could merge the two worlds of genres that I love, which is pop and indie – like indie electronic, R&B.
It’s really hard to find producers who can go 360, in terms of creating music, because a lot of them – who I know as well– sometimes are so used to doing what they [already] know.
My boss came up to me one day and [told me about] Charlie, and it was ironic because I had heard of him early in the year.
It was my first time listening to his music, and I was like wow, this guy is so good.
I was so proud that there was a South-east Asian representing us in that way.
When I got the opportunity to work with him, I just grabbed it, pretty much.
I didn’t waste any time.
Can you tell me what you surrounded the track on?
I was going through a few things in my life that were changing.
When I wrote the song it was about coming out of things stronger and not having this idea of constantly feeling sad and constantly feeling like nothing is going your way or that you need to be in love to be happy.
I wanted to send the message that women can be strong on our own without needing to depend on other people, so that was the backbone for the whole song.
Obviously, it came from a personal place but I didn’t want to leave that relationship with negativity because I just hate carrying negativity around with me, so the whole song was also about just learning about one another and taking the good from one another, and just leaving it at that.
There’s no need to hate each other just because it didn’t work out and I think our society could use a little maturity in that part of life.
As long as you grow as a person. I guess that’s what relationships are about at the end of the day, right, you want to grow and be a better person with your other half.
What are your thoughts on the local music scene as a young Malaysian musician?
I love it. I think out music scene is growing so much.
There’s more youth out there today who are coming out and supporting their local scene, which is great because we have a lot of great independent artists who deserve the attention I feel – like Pastel Lite, Bil Musa, Anamida, Enterprise.
These are all great indie acts that I think people should go out and watch whenever they can because their music is soulful and not meaningless.
I know some of them personally.
It’s not that I’m here to up my friends or anything, but if they’re good, they’re good.
I really want to create a community where everyone can just support each other, and not feel the need to be competitive with one another because yes, it’s a competition, we all know that, but at the end of the day, shouldn’t your competition be only with yourself if you want to grow and be better.
What do you think someone should do at least once in their lives?
Travel. Travel anywhere.
Travel anywhere outside of your country, not because it’s fancy, not because it’s Instagram-worthy but travel to open your mind and to realise that people live differently in different countries.
I love travelling, and the only reason why I love travelling is because to put yourself in an unfamiliar situation and to come back and gain something from that experience is one of the best feelings ever.
First concert ever? “Oh my god, Pussycat Dolls!”
Current musical influence: Noname Gypsy and Kimbra.
Current favourite albums: Sweetener by Ariana Grande and Woman Worldwide by Justice.
Who would narrate your life’s story?: “Can Batman narrate my life? Batman would be awesome!”
Doing it her way
Article from the Sun daily by Bissme S. (posted on 9 October 2018)
MUSIC is her life. That is best way to sum up Kirstie Maximus. The 28-year-old lass from Petaling Jaya is a singer, a rapper and a songwriter.
So far, she has produced three solo singles. Five years ago, she began deejaying and has since become one of the city's most sought after deejays.
When did your passion for music start?
"I've been exposed to music since I was in my mother's belly. My mother put headphones on her stomach and let me listen to music. The moment I could speak, I began singing.
"When I learnt to write, I wrote words that could rhyme. My first words were 'Michael Jackson'. He is my biggest inspiration in the music industry."
Did your parents object to your dreams to be in the Malaysian music industry?
"My father worked for a logistic company while my mother was a [special needs] teacher, teaching dyslexia and autistic children. They are the typical Asian parents who want me to be a lawyer, a doctor and an engineer. But they were never against my musical ambition.
"They did say [the] Malaysian music industry can be challenging. I do not blame them for saying that. They were just stating the truth. They wanted me to have some paper qualifications to fall back on in case my music ambitions did not take off. So I took a diploma in sound and music to please them."
What has been your biggest challenge in the music industry?
"I am one of the few female rappers in Malaysia. As a female rapper, some people expect you to dress in a certain way and I do not believe music has a dress image. I do not listen to their suggestion. I stand on my own ground.
What advice would you give to youngsters who want to make music their career?
"Never sell yourself short. When you know what is your worth, set your price and stick with it. I wished somebody had told me [this] when I started my career.
"I had to learn to swim the hard way, otherwise I would have sunk. You must never stop learning. I took short radio production course in London, four years ago. I stayed in London for six months. I checked out the London's music and night scenes to enhance my knowledge on music. "
What are your future plans?
"It is the dream of every singer to take their music internationally and I am no different.
"[But] I won't put a time frame on [my] dream. I always believe in living one day at a time."
What motivated you to become a deejay?
"People have this misconception that being deejay is all about putting your finger on a play button. But there is a lot of art involved in deejaying.
"You have to get the audience immersed in [an] atmosphere where they will enjoy themselves. You have to make good song choices and you can only do that when you understand the history of the music. You also need to be passionate about the music and passion is something you cannot teach. What I like about my job [is that] I have freedom of expression. But you have to be ready, there will always be people who [may not] like what you spin."
What is the best compliment you have received about your job?
"Someone had said to me: 'You are the centre of a party. Without you, no party can happen'. But I have not always been successful.
"I have learned my lesson well. I should not mixed genres. I should stick to one genre. Success can only come from failure."
What is something you hate as a deejay?
"I hate requests. I think all deejay hate requests. We comply requests because we want to make the people happy. Deejay have planned their routine before the night began and some requests can mess up their plans."
What is your strength and your weakness?
"My strength is that I am a perfectionist. I always over-think. That is also my weakness. When you over-think, it can be stressful and that is not good for your health."
What do you do when you are not playing music?
"I play futsal and go the gym. I do a lot of cardio and some weight training."
Dare to dream
Article from the Sun daily by Jason Lim (posted on 5 June 2018)
HE FIRST started out singing at friends’ and relatives’ weddings, before taking a chance and leaving a corporate 9-to-5 job to pursue his passion for acting and singing.
Today Daniel Fong is performing onstage in front of large crowds, and made his acting debut late last year in a Chinese-language web-drama series titled May I Love You.
The 24-year-old former TV commercial talent and model said: “I wouldn’t consider it my big break yet, but the web-drama was pretty much how I kickstarted my journey.
“It certainly appears to be a really good portfolio, and because of the drama, I’ve received opportunities to be involved in a lot more [roles].”
On the music front, Fong already has one EP under his belt, and is scheduled to release a second EP this coming September.
He recently sat down to discuss his achievements so far, and where he plans to head next.
When did you first decide that you wanted to be in the entertainment industry?
I’ve always liked the idea, but it [was just] an idea and a dream. But later in high-school, I was exposed to speech and drama classes, and that was how it kickstarted everything.
Acting-wise, it’s not how I pictured it to be when I first started, because when you’re actually doing it, it’s not as glamorous as it appears on the screen.
How do you juggle between modelling, singing and acting, while trying to have some time for yourself?
It comes and goes, either I am really busy, or really free. I have the freedom to have a say in scheduling a job. Pretty much every two weeks I’ll have a day or two free, that’s when I catch up with my friends and all, I also make sure that I go back home for dinner every night.
In terms of how I juggle everything else, and working out to maintain a good physique, honestly, it’s pretty tough, because I don’t get a lot of time off to hit the gym. So what I do is a 15-minute run, up and down the stairs, to keep the heart pumping.
When it comes to writing new songs, where do you get your inspiration from?
The inspirations come from daily experiences. It’s like if you were to write a love song, you’ve to be fond of someone, that feeling is pretty much magical.
I hum it, I play with the compositions and then record it on my phone.
[However] I don’t think I’m talented in terms of musical instruments, though I do play the guitar and piano, I just have to practise extra hard compared to other people.
Have you ever experience stage-fright?
I’ve only started performing [in public] last December during Christmas at a mall. I wasn’t paid for that, since I volunteered to do it. I wanted to [gain] experience, and see how I would fair in a public setting.
Obviously, I was scared, but I try not to think about the crowd. At the time, I was worried that I might forget the lyrics, [be unable to] hear the music, run out of tempo, or come in at a wrong pitch.
So what I did was, I closed my eyes.Some people may think I [get emotional] when I’m performing, but no, I just simply didn’t want to look at them.
Ever since then, it has been good. I’ve also been [doing] a lot of performances, forcing myself to take the first step. Constantly telling myself that if I don’t perform now, I might not get the chance to do it again.
What are your aspirations in life?
I always believe it’s now or never, and to just live the moment. I was actually enlightened by someone saying that we tend to live and think a lot about the past and future. Questions like: ‘What’s the plan for the next five years?’, ‘Am I going to be successful?’.
If you think too much about the past, you’ll get depressed, and if you think too much about the future, you’ll be stressed. So it’s better to think about now.
What is one advice you could give to someone who wishes to make their break in the industry?
Do it, if it is really what you want. Do it smartly, but not blindly. Don’t just go hitting the blocks, wishing you’ll get noticed. Instead of waiting for a job, take the initiative to get one by sending e-mails to directors and producers.
[Talent is] very subjective. What really separates the ‘good’ and the ‘not-so-good’, is actually [someone’s] personality, and how easy it is to work with each other.
Fit the Bil
Article from the Sun daily by Joyce Ang (posted on 24 August 2017)
SOME singer-songwriters took their first steps into their craft in their teenage years, while others like Nabila Musa – or Bil Musa, acquired a knack for it much earlier on.
"When I was around 11, I wrote a few songs in Malay. Those were probably the first songs I wrote on the piano. I wrote some prior to those, but unfortunately, I don't remember them any more because I lost my original lyric book," the lass said sheepishly.
The first song that made her mark in the Malaysia music scene was a cutesy song called The Beach, which she wrote in Bahasa Malaysia, English, and French. Little did she know she would be signed to Yuna Room Records, a label owned by home-grown international musician Yuna Zarai.
"The thought of doing music this way never occurred to me. She (Yuna) contacted me and offered me a contract, and gave me a month to think about it. I followed my gut feeling and called back two weeks later, and told her that I wanted to do it," she said.
The idea of putting her music out publicly was so far-fetched for her that she only began to show her compositions to other people in her mid-teens. In fact, even extended family and friends were kept in the dark about her musical talent!
Firstly, how did that shy girl got signed to one of Malaysia's most enviable labels?
I was performing at a friend's brother's wedding. Yuna's manager was there, but at that time, they had someone else signed to them. It was a year before they contacted me, and the rest is history.
I was a really private person; and I honestly never thought of doing music, apart from the few small restaurant gigs that I had done. It was a scary step to take because I need to expose myself and let go of my privacy – and I was worried about my family and friends getting picked on my internet trolls and stuff like that. But it was a risk that I must take.
Was that the biggest struggle?
Definitely. There is always feedback when you put something out and expose yourself this way, which can be a good thing.
Unfortunately, sometimes it is just a lot of personal attacks – attacks on family and friends, on the way I dress, or the way I sing, and so on.
For example, I posted a picture on Instagram of a yoga class I participated in, then someone commented something like "do you know it's against Islam to do yoga?" It's just stupid things like these.
People outside of the public eye already get comments like these, what more when one's in it. Thankfully, however, I have not gotten a lot of those.
Do you see yourself doing singing-songwriting for life?
That's a good question; I don't know. I go in and out of it – I really want to give it my 100%, but sometimes I still have doubts of whether I can do it. I have doubts about it being my career, but I try to think of music as something that I do as I pursue other things.
What are you currently working on?
I'm currently working on my new album. It carries the kind of sound that I have been wanting to do from the very beginning.
When I first started out with my EP, I was unsure of what I wanted and was only feeling out this music thing. The music I had on SoundCloud was acoustic, folksy and cutesy.
This album is completely different. The songs have simple sounds, yet are deeper, with darker lyrics. It is more electronic, than acoustic.
Article from the Sun daily by Peony Chin (posted on 22 June 2017)
IN this digital age where millennials shine best, it’s refreshing to see more youngins emerging in our local music scene in varied genres. One of them is Alex Bong, or better known as alextbh; lower case and all. He officially debuted as alextbh in March 2016, when he released his first soulful single, “TBH”. Since then, the young Sarawakian has been slowly but surely gaining popularity, performing in popular gigs around town such as Urbanscapes, and soon to come, in Good Vibes Festival 2017.
How did you get started with music?
I was playing around with musical instruments a lot and when I got my iPad as a gift at the age of 15, I began fiddling around with the GarageBand app.
Afterwards, I proceeded with more professional softwares, but it didn’t really get me anywhere. I was still learning a lot from YouTube videos. Everything I know was selftaught, although I do have a musical background in the piano.
What made you want to make music?
It was my breakup. After ending my relationship, I needed a cathartic release, so I started writing music. It was the perfect time for me to experiment and also figure out which sounds I was really into.
I channelled all my emotions into designing the music, when it hit me that, oh, I was actually really good in making music.
You’re going to be performing at Good Vibes Festival 2017.
How do you feel about going on an international platform like that?
For me, I tend to treat big stages just like any other stages I perform at. Whether I perform in front of 500 people or 10, I still see it as a performance.
Honestly speaking, I do that because I don’t want to get myself too nervous too. I tend to have a lot of anxiety when it comes to performing in a public space, especially if there’s a massive crowd.
What inspired the “tbh” behind alextbh?
Firstly, it’s a millennial thing. Putting “tbh” behind my name adds the millennial element into it, and it’s also because I used to say “to be honest” very often.
Ironically, I don’t say it very much nowadays because I realised that I’ve been saying it too often.
We notice there’s a lot of “millennial pink” going on in your singles album art, and your social media. Why pink?
It’s just embedded in me. I love the colour, and I love colour schemes. I love when things are in order, and I love a unison colour, hence I chose pink as my main element, so people can associate my brand easily.
You are part of the new wave of young Malaysian musicians who are releasing music independently without a music label. How do you feel about it being so much easier now to be part of the industry without going through the traditional means like before?
Being a musician is definitely not a farfetched idea these days; every element is easily accessible to you. From the music-making software to distributing your music through streaming platforms, it can all be done at home and by yourself. I guess the only thing I’m struggling with right now is selfmanagement, but other than that, I definitely see the benefit of staying independent and not relying on labels as the body that backs you up.
What do you think of the current local music industry?
I love it. We have a huge surge of creative, independent musicians out there, and they make really different kinds of music compared to what you’d hear five years back. Back then, you’d usually associate local music with bubblegum, ukulele type of music.
There wasn’t much innovation going on, but these days we hear people making techno, drum and bass, jazz, electro-jazz, funk, hip hop, and more. There’s definitely a wide array of genres, and I feel really humbled. I stepped in the scene at the very right time when all the different artistes are starting to come out.
Junk food for her soul
Article from the Sun daily by Peony Chin (posted on 15 November 2016)
JOCELYN TAN, or better known by her stage moniker Jocelyn Stemilyn, may have been around in the local scene for a little over a year but she has always been surrounded by music her entire life. Growing up near a sugar cane plantation in Perlis, Tan’s family played multiple instruments.
“My mother sang, and even my then domestic helper played the guitar!” quipped Tan, who also sang, played music and danced in church.
Then, she left for Kuala Lumpur to pursue her theatre studies in University of Malaya. It was here that she joined its music club, Yao Lan Shou Music Composing Unit and started singing and composing music.
She debuted last year with her song Junk Food, produced by Dae Kim, with whom she frequently performs. Tan, who veers towards electronica and ambient music, recently released her new single, Pedicure.
Can you recall the first song you ever wrote?
I was 15 years old when I realised I could write songs. I’ve forgotten the title, but it was a song of gratitude towards my friend. It was for a very close friend of mine who left the country to study. She was my closest companion in school and I felt very sad. Hence, I had the urge to write a song for her. I recorded and sent it to her.
How did studying theatre in University of Malaya open your eyes to the world of performing arts?
Those three years of my life were interesting. Perhaps we’ve watched too many Hollywood flicks or Broadway musicals, so we had a certain expectation towards performing arts. But in Malaysia, it’s way tougher – it’s not always like Broadway.
Sometimes, you have to do really raw, stripped down, and even traditional plays. In a way, it broadened my horizon because I always thought I wanted to be a musical actress, but then I realised that performing is not just about singing and acting. It’s a lot of other things – you need to know how to work the props, lighting, and all the technical bits.
How does your background in theatre influence your music today?
It helps in the way I express myself, especially during live performances. People have commented that when I perform, I have a certain persona with one song and a different one with another.
What’s your opinion on the local independent music industry, as a newcomer?
More and more people are doing music independently. There’s definitely more variety, more shows and it’s more interesting; there are new faces all the time. So far, I feel that everyone is very supportive; we usually talk to each other at gigs and have a good time. The circle is still really small and everybody knows everybody. But I’m glad that it’s expanding. People are also more open about cross-genre music.
What has been your most memorable performance to date?
When I performed with Dae Kim at Findars’ ELECTRIC DREAMS back in August. It was a small event, but the attendees were very relaxed and open-minded. When I jokingly asked everyone to stand up for my song, they actually did! They moved along to my song Pedicure and stuck around chatting with each other after the show. It was a very heart-warming show which we don’t get very often, to be honest.
Favourite coffee beans: Kuda Mas.
Musician you look up to: Little Dragon.
A purchase she’d make with her first million: A house by the beach.
Favourite beats per minute (bpm): 120.
Singing the blues
Article from the Sun daily by Jessica Chua (posted on 14 July 2016)
AS the eldest child in a traditional family, Tan Yon Lynn feels like the odd one out as she chases her passion in performing arts. Although she's been singing since she was five, Tan was never professionally trained.
"I learned a lot from my choir teacher in secondary school. She was strict, but she gave us an ideal environment to learn music. Even so, I never saw a future in music because I had so much doubt and insecurities," the Penangite revealed.
When she came down to Kuala Lumpur, the 28-year-old discovered music theatre company Dama Orchestra, where she was exposed to music theatre for the first time. The whole concept was so new and mesmerising, it inspired her to attend acting workshops and dance classes, opening her eyes to the industry's pool of talents.
"Being able to perform is a crazy part of my life because I get to be someone I'm not. You get to explore things that you don't go through in your daily life," said Tan, who's an assistant producer at a TV production company. From singing solo on stage, to performing in musical ensembles, Tan went on to play the coveted role of Rapunzel last May, in a local production of renowned musical Into the Woods. Although she doesn't plan to pursue theatre full-time – yet – she definitely sees herself performing for the rest of her life.
When did you first discover that you could sing well?
It was less of acknowledging that I can sing well, but more of wanting to sing. That's why I'm always doing it – singing is something that I do for self fulfilment. If I don't sing, everything gets bottled up inside, and I'd feel funny. Come to think of it, it's not really a dream come true. I'm tired, my body's tired, and I'm singing off-pitch;but I feel happy being able to express myself.
Tell us about your role in Into the Woods.
Rapunzel is not a princess. She lives in a tower contained by her mum, who happens to be the witch. The only human interaction she has ever had is with her mum. It's a sad story because the witch is doing everything for her daughter, yet it ends tragically because Rapunzel becomes crazy.
This is an interesting and complicated role because it deals with our relationship with our mothers. I'm grateful to be in Rapunzel's shoes. I could relate to her; always wanting to chase things while being contained in your environment – an ideal world versus reality.
What challenges do you face in performing?
I always feel like I could invest more time in my craft, going for classes and things like that. Here in Malaysia, we have not achieved a balance when it comes to performing full-time, and not having to worry about how much you earn.
Everyone is pretty much freelancing – getting as many jobs as possible to pay the bills – and at the same time, creating and expressing themselves. It's tough but we have to do it with the right goal, building towards what's best for the local art scene.
Personally, I hope to better manage my time to focus on what I'm able to deliver, and do things that I like. As much as you want to stretch yourself, rest is important for the state of mind. I always ask myself, 'Is this what I want to do consciously, or am I doing this out of habit?'
Any words for aspiring performers who are afraid to take the leap?
Take your time to discover who you are – it will lead you to what's meant to be.
If you're constantly distracted, you can't listen to yourself and you'd be doing things mindlessly. Things will happen at the right time so don't rush into it, and don't get agitated if nothing happens. Live in the moment.
Article from the Sun daily by Michelle Lim (posted on 16 June 2016)
IF there's ever a time when music can be produced without creative limitations, that time is now. One of the many self-producing artistes of the current generation is the two-women band, +2dB.
Despite hailing from the same home state of Penang, Jo Ann Choo, 27, and Jeannie Lee, 26, only met each other in Kuala Lumpur through a mutual friend.
"We formed our band in 2011, and made a few tracks together which we shared on SoundCloud. Soon after we released a few of our tracks, we scored our first gig for Shock Circuit, held at
Black Box, Publika," recalled Choo.
The duo epitomises music makers of the new era – artistes who do not rely on a record label or studio to create music. Indeed, most of +2dB's music is recorded and produced in Lee's living room.
Choo laughed, adding, "At times, we get some external noises like rain, traffic and construction. That's okay though; we think they give a unique touch to our music."
Splitting their time between work and music-making is part and parcel of being an independent artiste. Although Lee works part-time as a barista, and Choo works in advertising, both have learnt to work around each other'sschedules to make time for music.
"We tend to take it easy. It's only when we have an upcoming gig that we'd rehearse more often, just so we don't make a fool of ourselves onstage," Lee confessed.
So, why the name +2dB?
We started off without a name and needed one urgently after we scored our first gig. We wrote down a few names and told our friends to pick one, and they picked +2dB for us.
We think it's because this name has the most electronic feel to it since 'dB' technically stands for decibel.
What would you say your genre is?
Experimental. We have all kinds of sounds in the mix – electronic, down tempo, pop ambient, house and so on. We try to play with as many different sounds as possible.
Tell us about your creation process.
We start by creating the beats first. Once we have that, we'll add in the melody, before finally fitting in the lyrics. Our workflow is sort of backwards, but we prefer to craft the sound first and then wrap the experience around it.
Who does what?
Jo Ann taught herself to use the musicediting software, and she has also done a course in sound engineering. Jeannie was classically trained on the piano so she's able to work with the melody.
We each have our own specific talents, but we take our turns in doing everything.
What's your take on online music downloads and streaming?
Most artistes hate it because they don't make money out of it, but our strategy is to make money out of our shows rather than our songs.
Providing free downloads and streams to our fans helps create a buzz, and honestly, it's a give and take situation.
Last year you went on your first international tour to South Korea. Tell us about that.
It was so unexpected; we got an invitation from Merit & Wave, the organiser. We played in three major cities: Daegu, Busan and Seoul – it was a great experience. Everything was amazing; the vibe, culture, setting and the people.
That sounds super fun. What about the least fun moments in your career?
Oh man, that was in 2014 when the Future Music Festival (FMFA) was cancelled. We were backstage and ready to go, but found out that it was cancelled at the last minute. It was a lot of wasted time and effort for us and all the other artistes who were performing that night. That same
year, the Good Vibes Festival didn't happen either, which was a bummer.
What's +2db's dress code?
All black! We try to play with different pieces – flowy skirts, long maxi dresses, kickass black boots – but everything's black.
What is the next big thing for +2db?
There is a music video in the works for our song Cheap Perfume featuring Ali Aiman. Also, we hope to do more international tours this year.
Article from the Sun daily by Yee Jie Min (posted on 31 March 2016)
URIAH See burst into the entertainment scene with a musical background in opera vocals, and the ability to play the piano, violin and guitar.
See has his mother to thank for his current recognitions as the winner of the 2014 Astro Star Quest and TVB International Chinese New Talent Singing Championship. When he was a kid, she would – with the help of a rotan too – pressure him to practise music at least an hour every day. But in retrospect, he is grateful that she recognised his talents and pushed him to excel.
Today, at only 21 years old, See is not only recognised as a musical artiste, but a face in several print and TV commercials, as well as two travel programmes.
Have you always wanted to be in the entertainment scene?
Before I joined Astro Star Quest, I was hesitant about joining the entertainment industry. I didn't know that it would take me this far. I prayed a lot, that if God wanted me to go this direction, to give me a sign – and I was crowned champion.
When I joined TVB's competition, I didn't know how it was even possible because the other participants were so good, but I prayed again. Lo and behold, I was champion.
What do you think was your winning point?
I don't think many realise this but song choice is crucial. A lot of people pick songs they like to sing, and fair enough if you can sing it well. It is really important to choose a song you can sing well and perform. You need to know what you can sing, and what you are good at.
The songs I picked have a nice verse and melody, and are in a comfortable range for me. I am a baritone which is considered the lower range of tones, so I had to pick songs that don't hit high notes yet are powerful. For example, John Legend's All of Me is mid-range, has a nice verse and a chorus that doesn't go too high. It also has a nice falsetto which I can pull off.
How does singing differ from hosting and acting for advertisements?
I can really be myself when singing, but when hosting or doing advertisements you have to cater to the theme of the show or be in character, yet be yourself in certain ways. Singing is powerful as you don't have to say anything; you convince people through music and lyrics, and by singing well.
As a public figure, whatever you're doing, people are watching. So I think it is really important to be yourself, do your best and do the right thing. Pretending to be someone else would mean you have to always maintain an image, and that would be hard for me. I'm okay as long as I can be myself.
Tell us about your song, Gei Ai (Give Love).
Seeing the world now in chaos, I hope this song can bring a little bit of hope to the world. It is mellow but thoughtful. I originally wrote it in English, but I wanted it in Chinese so I asked (a composer) KS Chong to translate and write the lyrics in Chinese.
Share with us some goals in your musical career.
Hopefully I can make better songs. I wrote quite a lot of songs, but Gei Ai is the one I felt is different and is 'the one'. My goal is to influence and inspire people to do better. It matters how far I go but at the end of the day, that is the person I want to become.
More than a song
Article from the Sun daily by Joyce Ang (posted on 11 Feb 2016)
BELIEVE it or not, there was a time when Razlan Shah was ridiculed for his horrendous singing , or so he claimed.
"I used to busk at Telawi Street in Bangsar because I was so bad that I wasn't allowed to sing in the house, and oh my goodness, the amount of heckling and trash thrown into my guitar case was unbelievable," he laughed.
However, that experience spurred him on to pursue what he loves – regardless of the rejections and obstacles that came his way – at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.
Now, not only is the 25-year-old an artiste in his own right, he also manages Najwa Mahiaddin, Bassment Syndicate, and Kyoto Protocol.
Would you ever only sing or manage?
As an artiste, I love singing as a mode of expression, but I like to look at different avenues or different mediums to find expression. With management, it's not so much about expressing, but letting artistes express what they really want, as opposed to making them create content that is geared towards generic interest.
The artistes I work with have completely different dreams and creative methods, so it's always fun to explore those with them, and work with their craft. It's a very rewarding process because instead of just working on me, I get to work on other people! It is one thing to make your dreams come true, but a completely different feeling to make another person's dream come true.
What's your take on the Malaysian music industry?
Like any arts industry in Malaysia, it has great potential. We have so much to share! However, I think the biggest obstacle to its growth is the lack of gumption in artistes. A lot of Malaysian artistes are big fishes in small ponds, but many stop when they've attained some sort of achievement, then move on to something else. I want more people to be hungry to do something bigger. The world is so connected and globalised now; it is disappointing to see only a handful of Malaysian artistes that have crossed borders. We have numerous artistes with great original sound – I want more of that – and I'm proud to say that the artistes that I work with are keen to do more.
As an artiste, what do you want to achieve through your art?
You know how sometimes when you watch a film, something they do or say just strikes you and you go, 'Wow, I've never thought of it that way before!'? I want to do that with my art. I want to bring people fresh perspective and different angles to a thought.
What would you like to do before you reach 30?
I want to see my artistes grow and achieve their dreams. For myself, I will release my art just for that sake and not so much to gain awards or airtime.
If anybody wants to listen to my music, by all means they shall. In fact, I will be releasing my next EP, Hounds, for free for the first few months. I also want to hopefully start creating films.
Tell us more about Hounds.
Hounds refer to the hunting dog, which is a metaphor for searching. It is for the twenty-somethings, and is essentially about the pursuit of purpose, and that includes self-doubt, finding inner confidence and the sense of self. It has about five songs; and I have released, with Darren Ashley, a music video for Jungle, one of the singles from the EP.