Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Interview with MY PRECIOUS
Published in Aging Youth #23 (April 2006)

By Mark Wong

The guitarist’s gone bodysurfing, the rhythm section is frantic and the crowd’s slam dancing like it’s 1979. Somewhere in the eye of the storm, two waifish vocalists are conducting a Dionysian rite, floatin’ like a butterfly and singin’ like Beelzebub. Make no mistake: a My Precious gig is almost always a near-religious experience, an ecstatic union of sweaty body and delirious soul, all to a rapturous groove the band calls “no-core” as if hardcore’s gone no-wave for our musickal salvation. My Precious talks to Aging Youth about their hardcore life.

Could you please introduce each band member with ages and occupation, etc?

Dyn, 29, guitarist, Practising Artist pursuing a Masters Degree in Fine Arts
Hairil, 27, drummer, Shift Manager
Kyn, 27, vocals, Art student pursuing a Bachelor Degree in Fine Arts
Rina, 26, vocals, Assistant Manager
Zool, 24, bassist, Immigration Officer

What’re you guys busy with these days?

Well, if it’s not with studies, it’s got to be our jobs. We’re also working on new material for a second album and hopefully more tours in the near future! We’re also busy with plans to bring two Japanese bands and an Australian band to Singapore for a show in March and June respectively.

Why did you choose to release two split EPs after your self-titled debut album, rather than release a second album?

It wasn’t so much of a choice but rather an opportunity that came with such great timing. Both split EPs were released to serve as a soft introduction of our band to the two countries we toured in. Being on split releases with Gauge Means Nothing (Japan) and Steve Towson and The Conscripts (Australia) was more than just any ordinary splits; it was something that sealed our friendship. We do not know exactly how these things happened. Often, we find ourselves making plans but we do not always know what opportunity lies around the corner.

It’s been a year since you guys were in Japan! And then Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia… Tell us what they were like.

We have been so blessed to have earned so many friends and so many supporters who truly enjoy the experience of our music, our live performances as well as our friendship. It has been truly, truly wonderful. Often we find it hard to just sum the entire experience up in a mere paragraph or two. Honestly, having been on a tour has helped us mature as a band. It has been a rock and roll dream come true! It has really taught us the nitty-gritty of the music business.

Firstly, we have to make it known that it wasn’t just all fun and games. We had to work to make it work. Many people had this impression that we had it all handed to us on a silver platter. We learnt a lot about communication, coordination, financing, fund raising, promoting etc. Going on tour was just like any other project. You needed planning and a whole lot of work! There were so many things to consider and account for… from coordinating people’s leave from work, air tickets, accommodation, transport, budget, weather, luggage, diets, etc. It wasn’t just about you anymore. It was about taking care of a group of people.

You often had to endure long drives (a minimum of 8 hours and the most gruelling of 16 hours) in uncomfortable and usually cramped conditions. We had to pile into cars/vans that also carried our personal luggage, instruments, gear and merchandise! Japan taught us the extremities of playing nightly shows. Every morning, we’d set off early and drive for hours to the next city, reaching it just in time for sound-check just before performing. They taught us humility and respect for every band on the bill. In every gig we played at in Japan, nobody ever loiters outside the venue while a band plays. Out of respect, they attend and watch every band on the bill. Australia taught us that bands carried their own gear to every venue they play at. The full gear; drum kit, guitar and bass amps, stack amps, microphones, cables and sometimes their own PA system. We Singapore kids have it easy; we expect the organisers to fork out their own money to cover venue as well as equipment expenses! (And in some cases, bands expect the organisers to pay them for performing! We hardly even know if they can cover their own expenses.)

While Japan prepared us, Australia rewarded us. We had the honour of receiving airplay as well as being interviewed on several Australian radios the entire time we were on tour. We graced several pages of their local street press as well as music magazines. We had people requesting our autographs! Now, THAT was weird!

All in all, it was truly out of this world. We love performing and we truly appreciate our audience be it in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong – or anywhere else! It was an experience worth earning. It is an adrenaline of sorts; playing to different audiences; people dancing, screaming and singing along, going on the road every day to the next town for the next show, waking up each day knowing you got another show! The best thing we got out of touring as a band, were the friendships and bonds that were created. No matter what had happened during or after the tour, we would always collectively have that experience in our hearts. We hope that every serious band in Singapore would consider going on tour. If we can do it, so can you!

How were these tours organised? How did you finance them?

It was not easy but we often had to coordinate with the tour promoter/organiser through countless emails or international phone calls. It will usually start with a framework of dates and venues which we would have to then coordinate on our side. We had to do fundraising in order to finance our tours. We make and sell or own merchandise; t-shirts, stickers, buttons or patches. Producing the split EPs also helped raised funds for the tours and it also helped promote the tours. In some cases, the tour promoters might organise a benefit or fund raising show in the own country prior to the tour. We also use mostly our own savings to help finance certain areas of the tour.

How are the audiences different in the different countries?

Because of certain differences in our culture as well as music preferences, people will naturally react differently. Some danced more than others, some react passionately, some prefer to stand and watch while some like to scream their heads off. We have been really fortunate to have our audience truly appreciate our music wherever we went. The Japanese were awesome. They were spontaneous and yabai (crazy). Till then, we never saw anyone dance the way they danced to our music!

What’re the differences between the hardcore scenes overseas and in Singapore?

Not much different, really. Same old, same old. In some places, people are more into the lifestyle, people are more honest, people are more passionate and of course you have the poseurs, fakes, scene politicians and whatever else you call them. It’s the same everywhere.

What does DIY mean to you guys?

Do It Yourself. That’s all it ever meant.

What does no-core really mean?

It was born out of pure jest; a reaction to all the other something-cores we were being called, some of which were sometimes questionable. We wanted to create a platform for our own brand of music which was a mish-mash of many different influences with a tinge of fun. We just wanted people to enjoy our music and performances.

April 2005 saw founder-member Ronny leave the band, replaced by Hairil. Why did he leave and how has this affected the band?

Ronny left due to personal reasons he had to commit to. His departure from the band has definitely marked a significant change of style to the band’s sound. Often people unfairly judge the new drummer’s “need to fill in the shoes of the ex-drummer”. Not true. Two different people. Two different phases. Two different styles. Two different sizes. No filling of nobody’s shoes. We simply bought new shoes.

As much as My Precious is a collective effort, it is difficult not to regard Rina’s and Kyn’s vocals as being the very distinctive core to the band’s sound. Would the band be able to carry on without them?

You think? Hehehe. Thank you for the compliments though...

Who is Tini and what is her role in the band?

Tini is a dear friend of ours who has been supporting the band right from the start. She is significantly the silent member in the band. She writes awesome poetry and lyrics which have been used for several of our songs. She is also our roadie cum merchandise person. She helps us tend our merchandise table whenever we perform.

You guys are all pretty young. But I’m sure you’ve heard about hardcore gigs in the late eighties and nineties, which ran into problems with the police, what with occasional fights breaking out, etc. What are your views on this and what is the state of the Lion City Hardcore scene today?

Let bygones be bygones. We learn and we adapt. Honestly, it’s a whole lot more fun going to gigs and shows and do nothing more than just having fun, enjoying the music, meeting up with friends and checking out new merchandise.

Does hardcore music still have a bad reputation amongst mainstream audiences today? Is it difficult to organise gigs because of this, particularly in places like Community Centres, etc?

Bad reputation is created when silly people decide to do silly things and put other people at risk. Some people are too selfish and ignorant they forget to realise the amount of effort, time and money put into organising a gig especially in this day and time. Erm, we shall answer your first part of this question with a question (perhaps many more).

Why do we have to bother about what the mainstream audience think of hardcore music again? They have mainstream music they can shalala to on the local radio and at local TV events and heavily sponsored and endorsed roadshows which seem much “cooler” than our underground shows. Why bother about hardcore/punk/metal/any other underground bands which for several years now, have represented the Lion City Music scene by touring and releasing albums and split EPs overseas? Why do they give a damn about a group of passionate people and artists who have time and again invested their own time and money into something they love? Why bother about “noise-producing” bands that have put this tiny little red dot on the map!

A lot of other bands have gone on tours or performed overseas – Meltg Snow (USA), Minus (Malaysia, Japan), My Squared Circle (Malaysia, Thailand), Secret Seven (Indonesia), Under Attack (Indonesia), Subtle Revenge (Indonesia), Impiety (All over the world) just to name a few…. There are many more and many more to come.

Local music has increasingly been given more media coverage in the past four to five years, but hardcore music hardly garners a blip on the mainstream media’s radar. What are your views on this? What is hardcore’s place in Singapore music today?

Refer to the previous answer. PLUS… define the term local music . Apparently, the “local music” that has been mostly receiving media coverage is what some of us call radio friendly types. Hence, more acceptable? Not like there’s anything wrong with radio friendly type music. Honestly, to each his or her own. We truly should respect every artist and musician regardless of race, culture or genre. However, the local media has time and again painted this picture whereby local music is defined only by either indie bands, Chinese rock bands or pop bands, etc. All the other bands that exist have been doomed into the shaded region of the local music scene.

In the case of Singapore underground music, well, we guess it is a touchy issue. It’s a two way thing we suppose. One could assume that the underground music has banded together to truly protect the ethical nature of a true underground spirit. Or the local media simply can’t seem to find anything dangerous or wild antics happening in the underground scene to impeach the kids so as to feed the tabloid mongers. In other words, by their standards, as hardcore punks and metalheads, we’re boring!

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