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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

Switchfoot rides the wave

Posted: 05 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

Rock band Switchfoot takes fans on a whirlwind journey in the documentary, Fading West.

ONE of the most poignant moments in Switchfoot's Fading West documentary is when members of the band contemplated on whether or not they should say "hi" to Slash at the 2012 Soundwave Festival in Australia.

The band, together with Slash and several other big names in rock music, were part of the festival. Backstage, the band chose to just walk past Slash and wave at him. Unfortunately, the legendary guitarist didn't really reciprocate.

"Well, he kinda looked at my direction for a second," Switchfoot guitarist Drew Shirley said in the film.

Formed in 1996, the San Diego, California band already has eight albums but somehow, bassist Tim Foreman feels that Switchfoot – which also comprises vocalist Jon Foreman, drummer Chad Butler and guitarist Jerome Fontamillas – has yet to find a sense of belonging in the vast mainstream rock music scene.

After the less-than-exciting backstage "encounter" with Slash, Foreman says in the documentary, "We don't know where we fit in."

Filmed during Switchfoot's whirlwind year of touring in 2012, Fading West offers fans a glimpse into their lives. Shirley described the band's touring year as "crazy with a lot of air miles".

During a recent phone interview with Shirley, he revealed why the band decided to make the film.

"As a band, we're always looking for ways to tell a story. There's only so much you can tell with a four-minute song. So we decided to let this camera crew follow us around for a year to document our travels. We didn't know how or where all the footage would end up," he said.

While Slash and some metalheads might have snubbed Switchfoot, the band found its moments of clarity while travelling through South Africa, New Zealand and Indonesia and getting acquainted with the countries' oceans via surfing. In fact, surfing is one of the most essential elements featured in the documentary, so much so that the band decided to incorporate surfing music in their upcoming album, which is also titled Fading West.

Shirley revealed, though, that the album will not be a typical surf album. "Most people would think surf-inspired songs would be laden with that particular guitar reverb and 1950s-kind of music. But for us, it was more of incorporating an international experience to our songs.

"At places like Bali and South Africa, we paid attention to the sound that traditional instruments made and thought of how it could fit into our songs," he explained.

He added that touring around the globe also gave the band a broader perspective on life. South Africa in particular, he said, left a deep lasting impression on him.

"We visited kids who were affected by HIV/AIDS. You always think that you're going to be the one to help. But, honestly, I think they are the ones helping me. In many ways, they taught me a lot about life."

Shirley also talked about the "correlation between surfing and performing live on stage".

"The way the crowd behaves during live performances and the waves that form at sea – it's all really organic. Both are just things waiting for you to take your chances and make something happen."

At the end of the day, Shirley said it's important to "forget about waiting for things like the perfect wave or moment".

He added: "The result is entirely up to how you choose to shape it."

Despite the tiresome 2012 they had, Shirley noted that the band is ready to take on the new year with another tour. "It's going to be a fantastic time in our band's life!"

The positive vibe that you get from just speaking with Shirley is infectious. So much so that you may actually feel like disliking Slash for snubbing the guy!

"We hope that our fans will take away a message of hope from Fading West. We live in a world full of pain and joy. But at the end of the day, how you live your life is really what makes a difference."

> Fading West – the album and documentary – will be available on Jan 14 through Warner Music Malaysia.

Wakin Chau's new album

Posted: 05 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

The Taiwanese singer talks about his latest work.

SINGER-songwriter Wakin Chau's idea about his latest album, Jiang Hu, was born in a small noodle restaurant in Taipei, Taiwan, six years ago, when he was dining with notable author and literary critic Chang Ta-chun.

Chau suggested Chang write the lyrics for his new album, while he composed the songs. Chang was at first dumbfounded because he has never written lyrics. That dinner lasted for hours and led to more dinners in the same restaurant before the completion of Jiang Hu, which means "world" in Chinese wuxia (martial arts) stories.

The two attended a recent preview concert of the album in Beijing, where Chau performed five new songs while Chang played the role of narrator.

All 12 songs on the album are written in ancient Chinese language and performed using Western instruments.

"He is a born singer-songwriter and keeps on pushing the boundaries," 56-year-old Chang says when asked what drew him to Chau. "He is also an interesting man, who knows many people and tells funny stories. As a writer, sometimes I narrow down my perspective and stay in my own world, but Chau broadened my vision and imagination."

The writer says he is not worried if the lyrics can be understood by the audience, especially the youth.

"Chinese people have the instinct to understand the ancient language because it belongs to the nation," Chang says. "Even if they don't understand the exact meaning of each word, they will get the emotion I want to express."

Chau says Chang is like a man from ancient times.

"He's so knowledgeable, just like a walking encyclopedia of traditional Chinese literature. Citing literary quotes and stories of poets is second nature to him. He once wrote me a letter using ancient Chinese literary language, which read like a poem. I couldn't understand it at all but I toyed with the idea of turning the letter into a song," says Chau, 53.

He has released more than 40 albums in Cantonese, Mandarin and English since the 1980s.

The letter did become a song and was included in Chau's new album. It is titled Jin Lu Qu and describes the friendship between two men. The other songs in the album also depict various people and their emotions, such as a sad farewell between lovers, heroes on a battlefield and a beggars' observation of the world.

"I have written and performed all kinds of songs during the past 20 years. I was looking for something different and meaningful," Chau says. "This album fulfilled all my ideas about music. After this album, I can retire.

"I have been so fascinated about cross-cultural communication between the East and the West. I've learned Western instruments since college and married an American woman," says Chau. "After 40, I realised that the older I am, the more I want to learn and return to my cultural roots and do something about it."

Veteran songwriter and producer Jonathan Lee, who also attended Chau's album preview concert, says: "It is a great thing to see a successful singer-songwriter like Chau doing something unconventional and meaningful."

What was it like for the two men to work together?

"It was also like two martial arts masters communicating with their swords. The difference is that I used a pen and Chau used a guitar," Chang says.

But there were challenges, and both admitted having to move out of their comfort zones.

"There were definitely moments when I thought it would be impossible for me because I couldn't find the right word for a simple tune," Chang says.

Chau, too, calls the album "the hardest journey for him" because Chang's poetic approach meant that he had to rethink his work process completely.

"I had to understand the meaning first and then follow the format to compose melodies," Chau says.

After six years, Chau and Chang eventually found common ground.

"Now, I am a man from the ancient time, too, and we share an interest in calligraphy," Chau says, laughing. – China Daily/Asia News Network

Festive cheer from 988

Posted: 05 Jan 2014 08:00 AM PST

The radio station is determined to spread some festive cheer to ring in the Year of the Horse.

MANY reckon this is the year to tighten our belts, but it really doesn't cost much to have a good time. With just a few weeks to go before the Year of the Horse comes galloping in, 988 aims to keep the festive mood going with entertainment-packed Chinese New Year promotional tours and exclusive freebies. 

Now that's not going to be hard on the wallet at all.

This year, 988's annual studio album – its sixth – is cheekily entitled 988 Ma Ma Mi Ya Guo Hao Nian (988 Mama Mia Have A Good Year). The album is available on CD and DVD and will be given away for free during the station's upcoming promotional tour, along with ang pow packets, calendars and other CNY goodies.

Usher in the new year with festive tunes and catch 988 announcers every weekend beginning this Sunday, Jan 12 (2pm-5pm) at Tropicana City Mall, Petaling Jaya. The tour will continue in Leisure Mall, Kuala Lumpur on Jan 18; Paragon Mall, Penang on Jan 25; and Ipoh Parade, Ipoh on Jan 26.

Also on 988 this week:

> Music Gets Crazy (Monday-Friday, 1pm-3pm): More cool freebies! Fans of the good-looking and talented KPop boy band ZE:A are in for a treat. Every day this week, we're giving away two premium tickets worth RM600 each to the band's concert ZE:A Illusionist Live In Kuala Lumpur, which will be held at Kenanga Wholesale City, Kuala Lumpur, on Jan 18. Stay tuned and wait for the cue to call.

> Pasar Malam (Monday-Thursday, 8pm-10pm): On Pasar Malam this week, multi-talented artist Jane Ng Meng Hui drops in for a chat with DJ Leaf. Ng, who used to be a radio deejay, is steadily carving out an acting career now. So far, she has earned several film award nominations and was named Best Newcomer in 2010's 4th Asian Film Awards for her role in the movie At The End Of Daybreak.

> For more information, log on to 988 frequencies: Kedah, Perlis & Langkawi 96.1; Penang 94.5; Taiping 101.0; Ipoh 99.8; Klang Valley 98.8; Kuantan 90.4; Negri Sembilan 93.3; Malacca & North Johor 98.2; South Johor & Singapore 99.9.

Download our 988 app or stream us online at


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