The problem is that the “Asianization” doesn’t exist in the music. Let me explain the birds, bees, dim sums and chicken vindaloos.
For a while, this region created and produced a number of Asian Remixes.
It was a cross between a token- and patronizing- gesture by Head Office and something really wanted by some artists- creative artists like David Bowie- and their management.
People like Tim Clark at IE Management with whom I really enjoyed working and for whom we did damn good work with some unique recordings bringing together Robbie Williams and India’s legendary Asha Bhosle, were great supporters.
It was quality work- why be modest?- work we were so proud of, but the work was never heard by anyone and with no videos to support them plus fuck-all marketing budget. The work was DOA AND MIA.
Listening back to what we did- especially one Remix for Placebo- it makes me think the level of creativity was eight years ahead of its time and just how mealy-mouthed our own people in the Regional Office of EMI Music were for never going to bat for the creative product.
EMI MUSIC? MUSIC??? You must be kidding? It was always, EMI- Every Mistake Imagineable.
As for those in the Regional Office, they had a head start to information from the wikileaks at Head Office and were too busy making loud sucking noises and planning their soft landings with golden parachutes.
These remixes were the successor to so- called “duets” between artists in this region and International acts.
Duets, my arse. These were vanity recordings to soothe the outta control egos of Asian artists who demanded that they “record” with this and that artist from the US or the UK.
To placate them, they simply added their vocals to some backing tracks sent over with all the split parts.
The local artist would record one or two verses in their local language while others like Jolin Tsai from Taiwan decided to murder the English language with her “duet” with Kylie.
All the original vocal parts were kept, the artists from Asia never met their Western idols and these were named “duets.” It was just fluff and one for the scrapbooks.
Then came the trend of having some unknown act from overseas record an English version of a huge Chinese or Korean or Japanese hit and which I got involved with by insisting to the Danish band called Michael Learns To Rock (MLTR) that if they wanted their new album released, they had to record an English version of an old Jacky Cheung hit.
They did and Take Me To Your Heart was not just born, it gave this band’s career who were known in Asia but nowhere else one helluva new boost.
We tried the same A&R strategy with Christian artist Steven Curtis Chapman, Norway’s Lene Marlin, another unknown- this time from the UK named Stewart Mac who worked with me to record a damn fine English cover of a David Tai original- which isn’t an original, Warner-Chappell, but a blatant rip off of the old hit Eres Tu- plus two more English covers of Mandarin hits by Michael Learns To Rock, but copies could never replicate the success of the original, especially when the original was more of a novelty hit than anything else.
To be fair, MLTR should have had a hit in China with their cover of the Faye Wong song, but with no video to promote it and a music company that was disgracefully managed by those who should have known better, its wings were clipped.
Plus, how could it ever compare to the original Mandarin version by the fabulous Faye Wong?
Today, forgetting the K-Pop factory and the always-quirky Japanese artists, what we have are copyists- bands and singers, who, even when they sing in Cantonese or Mandarin, have ripped off some Western artist- style, song, wardrobe, hair- and are happy to be China or Asia’s Rihanna or Chris Brown or, gawd forbid, an aging N’Sync, a Diana Krall, a J-Lo, a Pharrel, a Justin Timberlake etc.
Seriously, why bother with a Karen Mok, a 24 Herbs, a Coco Lee, an Edison Chen etc? It’s all embarrassing shit.
Same with all these Hong Kong “indie” bands- way too many with whiney vocals and lack of melody and musicianship and the massive hype surrounding the Beijing “underground scene” which is just some trashy, derivative versions of the Stooges, the New York Dolls, Velvet Underground and others- and over forty years too late.
In a world where so many great bands from Denmark and other parts of Scandinavia plus Australia and New Zealand- Lorde is an exception to the rule and her lasting power will be tested- can’t even get a look in as far as the US market is concerned- along with so many talented artists from the US, the UK and Canada, why would any audience wish to hear copycat music from Asia of what is already around- and much better?
The problem with musicians in Asia- and here I mean Asian artists and the sycophantic muppets around them- is not looking inwards and taking in what’s around them- like their culture- and creating something new instead of being copyists and just a notch above all the Filipino covers band playing in clubs around town and where mindless people mindlessly pogo to some Filipino singing Born In The USA like the Boss one minute and then, going Jamaican, mon with a rancid version of No Woman, No Cry, the next.
In 2005 and thanks to some incredible support from Yoko Ono and working with a Singaporean writer/producer named Terry Lee, we “Asianized” John and Yoko’s Give Peace A Chance with artists from all across the region.
It was a real labor of love. And it was, I believe good. It still is. Plus it was Asian to the core- and with the blessing of Yoko.
Did EMI market this recording? What do you think? It, too, was DOA.
A group of us were listening to this a few days ago plus all the Remixes we’ve produced- and which fell on deaf ears at a time when some of were part of that insular corporate world, there was no social media, DIY was DOA, and when we thought our name cards made us big swinging dicks in the music industry.
We weren’t. We were part of a very tiny club that exists today and which needs to be torn down and rebuilt.
Those who still play at trying to come across as “saving the Asian music world” make me laugh as that schtick has worn out its Use By Date.
Most music companies house some of the worst executives and publishing houses create laws as they go along- but no one questions them or takes them to task.
Instead, they roll over as that’s the way it’s always been.
Asia is very much a forgotten region to many music companies as the profits from here are jackshit.
Offices are kept open for the sake of having a presence in Asia- especially the China market.
Having a “presence” doesn’t mean having a business with any growth potential. It’s surviving until the Fat Lady finally sings.
The problem is that the tail is wagging the dog and with those running offices in the region and Greater China simply not being any good- not good at business, not good at presenting a company’s assets to business partners and not good at A&R and the business of music.
What are they good at? Reporting to Head Office.
Asians, in general, are also still fawning messes when next to the white man. It must be a hark back to colonial days and some small dick complex.
Well, being an Asian- and proud of it- and not suffering from any penis envy, it’s time for Asians to come together and change the paradigm shift in the music world in the same way that powerful Chinese, suddenly, control the far more lucrative horse racing industry.
This is an industry, where, for example, tonight at Happy Valley Racecourse, the Hong Kong Jockey Club saw a turnover of HK$1 BILLION for an average eight-race card which was attended by the same group of consumers music companies are trying to communicate with- and failing.
Why? Wrong people in the wrong positions, the same tired ideas, the same old boys and girl club and too many trying to go it alone.
There is nothing better and stronger than strength in numbers.
There are a number of wonderfully talented Asian talent- musicians, arrangers, writers, producers, designers, film-makers, entrepreneurs- but instead of going DIY and still not having gone very far- join what we call the Asian Music Foundation- a musical team that is like a combination of the Brill Building, Live Nation, Goldman Sachs, MTV when it was relevant, Lost Highway records, everything David Lynch is involved in and the creativity behind Gorillaz when they had a future.
It’s all about team work and everyone bringing something unique to the party.
If you have something to offer, join us, think revolution/evolution and the world will live as one.
The days of Imagining are over. The days to Just Do It are now and here.