Phang Khuan Hoong is a copywriter, keyboardist for local band Citizens of Ice Cream and a man who’s always been there to lend a helping hand to Soundscapes’ ventures. Here he shares with us his admiration for Mak Wai Hoo’s (of Soundscapes) boldness and persistence in contributing significant growth to our music scene, and the honor he had opening for Mono during Soundscapes’ 10th anniversary gig with his band COIC.
In a haze of extreme fatigue, smiles and smoke, I slumped into the couch in the corner of the room and watched as Mak and Taka’s conversation trailed into music and life and experiences. Men who, if I were to be so bold, would undoubtedly leave their mark in music history in the days to come.
In fact, I believe they already have.
Mak, with an indie music label that had started off in the rich, rebellious musical ditches of the Malaysian Chinese fringes. The label that dared to kick the sorry nuts off the Malaysian Chinese mainstream media’s bland and defensively shamed idea of local music, and had since, not only defiantly survived the impregnable sub-cultural restrictions of Kuala Lumpur, but had gallingly strived forward for the past decade to bring us some of the greatest musicians the city had ever seen – all with a calmly raised middle finger.
Taka, a living musical deity who brought a band to America on a haphazard tour with nothing but the sheer dream of sharing a music that comes with such incredible honesty, engulfing emotion and soul-echoing resonance. A music that had since moved, inspired and enveloped hearts across the world. A band that made countless college kids pick up guitars and strummed their dreams of making real music that could truly touch souls. A man who seeks to express the truest form of music by journeying to the deepest reaches of his inner musical realms, like catching the echoes of the universe and plucking the melodies from them.
“I prefer simple,” he said, “no gimmicks, just music. And honesty. And ORIGINAL.”
He told of his experience working with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra for a Mono performance. “In Japan (orchestra), “chords” is king… but I don’t know chords. So, the first day of meeting the conductor, who is a very famous, top composer in Tokyo, I told him ‘I don’t know chords. Let’s just play and we’ll see how it goes.” He described clouds and mountains, winds and oceans to the composer, how the soul would feel reaching for these visions, and how its music would sound. “Later,” he continued, “I bumped into one of the violinists in the washroom, standing in the cubicle next to me and he said ‘that was very good!”
The sold-out show remains as one of the greatest Mono performances. Rock band and orchestra, neither was the usurper, and neither was the master, it was the music that soared, roared, echoed, crushed, cried, soothed and caressed. A music that could only be achieved as every sound and instrument on stage that night resonated to its perfect honesty, to its perfect emotional epic-ness.
Such a performance was also mirrored during Mono’s second visit to KL two years ago. With warm lights in surreal, intimate colours, KLPac Pentas 2 experienced the band with a mini orchestra of young local musicians that had not only complimented Mono’s musical prowess but brought the music’s sheer soulful grandness to its most fore. How could anyone forget the strings rising to Ashes in the Snow? Or not stifle one’s heart to hold back the crushing tranquility and roaring crescendos of Follow the Map rippling through our bones? Or finally letting loose our souls to ride with the thundering waves of melodic battle cries in The Battle To Heaven?
Nor could anyone forget the shattering performance of opening band Deepset; the band’s edging intensity and crushing epic-ness finally given true form on an embracing stage befitting of the band’s music. An opening performance that was not only well worthy as a welcome, but resonates as a testament to Malaysia’s true musical potentials.
“I find that this time it’s different,” said Mak, trying to describe what he felt about organizing the show last night, particularly working with Mono. “We’ve worked together for three shows now and I find that each one has a different feeling to it.” “I’m just the same guy all three times!” Taka exclaimed with a smile. “I think it’s like a different level.” Mak replied. He couldn’t quite find the words in the end but what I found when I tried to read his expression was one more of a natural camaraderie, like welcoming some visiting friends for a good night out instead of the headiness of putting up an international show. Or like an unspoken bond of trust where one does not worry about impressions in front of the other, where honesty is like breathing, never an action in need of forethought. “It is souls,” said Taka, “We all have the same souls.”
It was the Soundscape Records 10th Anniversary Show last night, two years after Mono blew our collective minds in KLPac, and this was Mak’s way to mark 10 years of pulling off shows and putting out bands and generally giving us a hell of good music time in KL, with Akta Angkasa, Furniture and our band before Mono took the stage once again. But this is not a review of last night’s show. It’s really just a music nerd’s little recollection of hanging out with two of the greatest men I’ll ever meet in my life. And as our band went on stage just a few hours ago, I stole a look across the packed hall and the words came to me but I could not utter them aloud. “Tonight, we open for our heroes.”
By Phang Kuan Hoong
The Wknd would like to congratulate Soundscape Records on their ten years of making music good for us. We wish them continuous success and support from local music lovers. Keep them good acts coming and the gigs going, guys!.