Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Meeting Superman.

May 14, 2010

“You don’t know what it’s been like meeting someone like you.”

—–

Of course I was nervous and excited at the same time. Days leading up to Stereophonics’ Malaysia concert, I was trying to appear cool that if ever I could not weave my way to their ‘secret’ press conference, I would be alright, even though I probably would not. And after knowing I have been granted access – double access, in fact, just in case – to meet them, it was pretty hard to keep calm and carry on. I mean, who am I kidding? They are Stereo-fucking-phonics!

So, I do apologise beforehand if this entry sounds a little too fangirlish. Just be thankful it wasn’t Damien Rice I was meeting.

In the span of my journey to Nikko Hotel, where the press conference was held, I smoked three cigarettes just to calm my nerves. Trying to pretend that meeting Kelly Jones  and co was not really a big deal. I made it just in time, and was still catching my breath as the escalator carried me to the second level. Lugged against my back was Vern‘s Takemine guitar, probably bigger than me; this is why I don’t play the guitar.

I expected the band to pull a diva card, being fashionably late and all, but there they were, huddled together behind a pillar talking to a camera. My heart started up triple its normal speed. There they were.

I was caught in a funny situation when I was heading into the ballroom for the press conference just as Stereophonics themselves were going in. I mean. Should I walk past them to go in, would that be impolite. Or should I let them go first, because you know, they are fucking rockstars. At the same time, trying hard not to go on overdrive for being just a breath away from them. Before Kelly Jones led the band in with their own improvised interlude, Javier Weyler caught my eye and smiled at me. I melted inside. Guh.

I did not speak much that afternoon for one reason: I was starstruck. And I am never good with making witty quickies to catch their attention like Reta – pro-rockstar stalker that she is, so for the better half of the press conference, I was pretty much quiet, snapping pictures, and sitting quietly chewing my gum, pretending to be listening to them, when really, nothing was registering in my head.

After calming myself down a bit, I decided maybe I should ask some not-so-silly questions. It is not everyday I would find myself in the same room with people whose CDs are lined amongst the collection I take pride in. I would probably regret not saying enough in later days. So, it was either stay shy and let this moment pass by, or just say something and risk sounding – well, stupid.

Half of the time, whilst my eyes were fixed on Jones, my head was bewildered, “oh my gawd, he’s looking right at me, answering my question. Wait, what was his answer again? Oh gawd, he’s looking at me.” It was such a fangirl moment, anyone would find it funny.

The photo session came afterwards, and of course, I managed to snap a shot with the band. Jones’ height proved true, as I slipped in between him and Weyler. He was merely a couple of inches taller than me. And everyone knows how short and tiny I am. Heh. I also remember Weyler’s arm leisurely placed on my shoulders as we looked at my camera and smiled. He is such a sweetie pie.

Before we media were shooed out of the room, I quickly took out the guitar and have the band sign it. Seeing the guitar, Jones asked if I play, but sadly and embarrassingly, I had to say no and that it belonged to a friend. Our conversation would have been more interesting if I do actually play. Would it be silly to start learning guitar just to have more meaningful conversations with my favourite musicians?

Richard Jones reached forward and ran his fingers down the strings on the neck and said, “Wow, these strings are well-worned.” Even for a non-musician, I thought it was some sort of a compliment.

I muttered to Jones something about Vern being an aspiring musician himself, and he was a little bummed he could not be there that day, and perhaps a little word of encouragement may help? So, he scribbled a quick “be lucky”, before signing his name.

The Takemine has been blessed by one of Brit rock’s bests.

So much so that after that, I could even strike up a tune of Bright Red Star. Not. Heh.

Some roundtable interviews followed. Unlike MTV World Stage last year, we had plenty of time to spare, journalists asked the quirkiest questions in regards to life back home in Welsh – recommendations on where to visit and when to visit, of Lolita Bootsy, Kelly’s baby girl, something about their albums, something about their concert later that night.

It was call time for the last question once again. The journalists have pretty much exhausted themselves with questions, so my hand shot up. And it was quite a cheap thrill for me, when the band got all excited that the quiet me in the group decided to ask the question – well, for me, at least.

“My favourite song is Bright Red Star,” I started.

“Ah, really?” Jones said. “Well, we play the song every night!” (Another mental giggly moment for me)

“I just wanna know: who is Mary in the song?”

There were some chuckles in the group, and Weyler got all mischievously shifty eyed, probably knowing some secret meaning behind the song.

“Mary is just someone I used to know. She’s sort of a girlfriend, but not really.”

“Was the song written to woo her?”

“Nah, it wasn’t really a song to woo her, but more about her. It’s a lot to do with phone calls. Those long distance ones. And you know how sometimes you get to know more of a person through the phone than in person. That’s kinda how it is with her, and that’s what the song is.”

And that concluded our intimate session with Stereophonics.

But not forgetting, of course, to shake each and every one of their hands, especially Jones’. Le sigh.

Listening to Pull the Pin on the way back, every other second, I could not believe I actually met Stereophonics in person just a few minutes ago. Years I have spent loving Jones’ raspy whiskey voice, and making favourites off almost every song off their albums, listening to a few favourites a little too often. It actually happened. It was surreal.

Probably the best fucking day of my life. 🙂

More about the Singapore concert HERE.

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MTV World Stage : Interview with Pixie Lott

August 27, 2009
What is it like being Pixie Lott – 18-year-old pop star and already with a #1 hit, Mama Do, under her belt and a much anticipated studio album on the way?
It’s been an exciting and crazy experience so far. I get to travel the world a fair bit and meet my fans from all around. I do miss my friends back home though, and I cannot wait to go back and hang out with them!
Why Pixie Lott?
It’s a baby name my mom gave me when I was borned. I was such a tiny little thing! And the name just sort of stuck around.
How does it feel like being the one female and solo performer at the MTV World Stage?
Haha, it was quite a wonderful and fun experience altogether, especially to share the stage with such amazing bands. I’ve also gotten compliments from fans, so that’s always nice!
Did you enjoy any of the performers last night?
I thought All-American Rejects were good. And it was also nice to see Raygun perform, mainly because we’re from the same country.
Did you have a chance to hang out with the other bands?
No, not really. The schedule is pretty tight for me and there is barely time for me to take a breather. I had to skip the after party because I’ve already made plans to meet up with a friend of mine in Malaysia for sushi. After the show, my parents and I were already craving for food so we just skipped all the hoorah to have a little quiet time. But I’ve met Tyson Ritter of All-American Rejects before, so it was great to see him again here.
You started off your career as an actress in shows and plays like West End’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Celebrate the Sound of Music. How has that helped you with your music career now?
It has helped me a lot in the sense of performing to a massive audience. I’ve learned how to keep my nerves in check. It doesn’t get too stressed out about singing in front of a big audience because I’ve kind of done that before already. So, it’s all pretty much natural to me.
Any plans of going back to the theatrical roots?
Sure, why not? I’d like to perform in a play for Chicago.
At only 18, your music career has kicked off quite early in life. Do you ever worry that things will get jaded for you by the time you hit your 20s, like how it was for Britney Spears?
Nah, that doesn’t concern me, really. My label and parents keep a stern eye on me, and I’m confident they will not let me walk down that road. It’s really a matter of choice when it comes to these kinds of things. I grew up in a neighbourhood that breeds such bad influences and vices, but drugs do not really appeal to me.
So, when you’re not performing on stage, what are you doing during her free time?
Sleep. I need lots of sleep! And also hang out with my friends – go watch a movie, shopping or clubbing.
You mentioned hanging out with your friends a lot. Do they treat you any differently now that you’re famous?
Not really. I have been friends with them way before I became famous, and I don’t think they treat me any differently now. But they’re supportive of my career. They go to all of my shows in the UK.
Being only 18 and underage, do you ever have any problems getting into clubs despite your fame?
Sometimes. A lot of times I tag along with my elder sister, and she could bring me in. That’s the good thing about having an older sister. There were a few times when my friends and I would dress up and all, but they’d get turned away. So, it’s one of those moments when I get to laugh at their faces because I get to go in, but they can’t!
But I’ve also gotten into trouble a few times. I was pulled out of the club, and once, I even had my sister’s passport confiscated! She was so angry and didn’t speak to me for weeks. But that’s how our relationship goes. I have a love/hate relationship with her, like all siblings do. But she’s still one of my best friends.
After your performance at MTV World Stage, I’m sure there are a few fans out there developing a celebrity crush on you. Do you have any celebrity crushes yourself?
I kind of have a crush on Robert Pattinson and Zac Efron. I don’t know them in person but Pattinson as Edward Cullen (in Twilight) seems like a kind and strong character, and Efron as Troy Bolton (in High School Musical) is a very nice and kind person.
Since we’re on the topic of guys, how can a guy grab your attention?
The guy would have to have the same interest as me, and he has to be funny too. To me, it’s important to be in the same wavelength with each other to make the relationship work.
Do you have a special someone waiting for you back home?
Haha, no. But I do have a few options.
Who are your music influences?
Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. When I was young, I would put their music on full blast and sing along to them in the living room!
What’s playing on your iPod right now?
Currently, I’m listening to Kings of Leon and MGMT.
You look great in your music videos, Mama Do and Boys and Girls. Do you have a workout plan you stick to?
Haha, thanks. But unfortunately, no. There hasn’t been enough time for me to hit the gym because my schedule has been so tight. I just make sure I consume a lot of healthy food in my diet. I take Vitamin Cs, and fruits – probably a little too much of that, but I just love fruits. Also, plenty of water and peppermint tea. And also to warm up my vocals before hitting the stage every night.
Your debut album, Turn it Up, is dropping into stores on September 14, which is less than a month away. What would you be doing the night before your album is released?
I’m not sure how’s the schedule going to be for me that night, but I’m sure it’s going to be a riot. But if there’s nothing work-related going on, I’d do something as normal as hanging out with my friends. Maybe dress up and head out for a party just to get it out of the system.
Tell us a bit about the album.
It’s up tempo and fun while showing a more serious side of me. It’s an album that portrays the different sides and personalities I have. I try to have as much diversity as I can in the album, and not have one song sounding exactly like the other. It’s my debut album, so I’d definitely want it to be one that will grab people’s attention.
What will you be turning up exactly?
The vibe. The feel. I’d definitely be turning it up loud because loud music is always the best!
You did a cover of OneRepublic’s Apologize and Kings of Leon’s Use Somebody. Are there any songs out there that you wished you’ve penned down first instead?
I’d have to say Love Come Down by Evelyn King. How I wish I’ve written that first!
Finally, in three words, how would you describe your music style?
I’d have to say: fresh, soulful and contemporary.

I will let you in on a secret. Before Pixie Lott arrived for her interview with us, we at the table shared a little info one of us overheard that she is a little bit of an airhead. Did she prove us wrong on that? Well.

Granted the interview was in the afternoon the next day after MTV World Stage, and we were all still tired from the stalkarazzi and the quarter day standaround we did during the concert, she was pretty – nice. Most of the time.

Very much like Raygun, being kind in answering the questions we bombarded her. But it was not rocket science that she was pooped and would like to hop on a plane and head back to the UK to see her friends, which she mentioned more often than not throughout the interview.

Why Pixie Lott?
It’s a baby name my mom gave me when I was born. I was such a tiny little thing! And the name just sort of stuck around.

How does it feel like being the one female and solo performer at the MTV World Stage?
Haha, it was quite a wonderful and fun experience altogether, especially to share the stage with such amazing bands. I’ve also gotten compliments from fans, so that’s always nice!

Did you enjoy any of the performers last night?
Erm, to be honest, I thought they were pretty much the same thing, what with the rock music and tight jeans and all. Heh. But I thought All-American Rejects were good. And it was also nice to see Raygun perform, mainly because we’re from the same country.

Did you have a chance to hang out with the other bands?
No, not really. The schedule is pretty tight for me and there is barely time for me to take a breather. I had to skip the after party because I’ve already made plans to meet up with a friend of mine in Malaysia for sushi. But I’ve met Tyson Ritter of All-American Rejects before, so it was great to see him again here.

At only 18, your music career has kicked off quite early in life. Do you ever worry that things will get jaded for you by the time you hit your 20s, like how it was for Britney Spears?
Nah, that doesn’t concern me, really. My label and parents keep a stern eye on me, and I’m confident they will not let me walk down that road. It’s really a matter of choice when it comes to these kinds of things. I grew up in a neighbourhood that breeds such bad influences and vices, but drugs do not really appeal to me.

So, when you’re not performing on stage, what are you doing during her free time?
Sleep. I need lots of sleep! And also hang out with my friends – go watch a movie, shopping or clubbing.

Being only 18 and underage, do you ever have any problems getting into clubs despite your fame?
Sometimes. A lot of times I tag along with my elder sister, and she could bring me in. That’s the good thing about having an older sister. There were a few times when my friends and I would dress up and all, but they’d get turned away. So, it’s one of those moments when I get to laugh at their faces because I get to go in, but they can’t!

After your performance at MTV World Stage, I’m sure there are a few fans out there developing a celebrity crush on you. Do you have any celebrity crushes yourself?
I kind of have a crush on Robert Pattinson and Zac Efron. I don’t know them in person but Pattinson as Edward Cullen seems like a kind and strong character, and Efron as Troy Bolton is a very nice and kind person.

Since we’re on the topic of guys, how can a guy grab your attention?
The guy would have to have the same interest as me, and he has to be funny too. To me, it’s important to be in the same wavelength with each other to make the relationship work.

Do you have a special someone waiting for you back home?
Haha, no. But I do have a few options.

Your debut album, Turn it Up, is dropping into stores on September 14, which is less than a month away. What would you be doing the night before your album is released?
I’m not sure how’s the schedule going to be for me that night, but I’m sure it’s going to be a riot. But if there’s nothing work-related going on, I’d do something as normal as hanging out with my friends. Maybe dress up and head out for a party just to get it out of the system.

Tell us a bit about the album.
It’s up tempo and fun while showing a more serious side of me. It’s an album that portrays the different sides and personalities I have. I try to have as much diversity as I can in the album, and not have one song sounding exactly like the other. It’s my debut album, so I’d definitely want it to be one that will grab people’s attention.

What will you be turning up exactly?
The vibe. The feel. I’d definitely be turning it up loud because loud music is always the best!

You did a cover of OneRepublic’s Apologize and Kings of Leon’s Use Somebody. Are there any songs out there that you wished you’ve penned down first instead?
I’d have to say Love Come Down by Evelyn King. How I wish I’ve written that first!

Here is Mama Do, featured on her upcoming album, Turn It Up.

Final instalment of MTV World Stage. Hope you all enjoyed. I shall crawl back to my hole now.

++
Also check out:
MTV World Stage : Interview with Raygun
MTV World Stage : Interview with Stank
MTV World Stage “Live in Malaysia”
MTV World Stage : Backstage

MTV World Stage : Interview with Raygun

August 25, 2009
Tell us a bit about your band, Raygun.
Raygun is made up of me, Ray, the lead, along with guitarist The Adj, bassist Ben and drummer Sam. Adj and I have been a band of sorts for six years now since we were studying in London College of Music. Ben and Sam joined in later and the chemistry was right. Then, as everyone says, the rest is history.
What kind of music of you guys play?
We play a lot of 70s rock. Our influences are those such as David Bowie, T-Rex, Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop, so our music will mostly be inspired by those legends that were big in the mid-70s.
Would you guys consider your music Glam Rock then?
Yes, of course. We definitely would like to bring back all the glamour that was back in the 70s with our eccentric outfits and energetic music.
What separates your from the other bands emerging as of lately?
Well, we are a band who likes to have a laugh. We try not to take things too seriously. There are quite a few bands out there that are quite self-conscious when they go on stage, and we try not to submit to the same path as theirs. We strive to be entertaining and alive when it comes to performing live.
How’s Malaysia treating you guys so far?
Very good! The people have been pretty nice so far. We have never been to Malaysia before and we are liking what we see so far. And of course, the food is just gastronomic!
What was your initial reaction when MTV approached you to perform for MTV World Stage?
We were quite shocked, to be honest. I mean, we have toured with Pink before this, but that was it. We were surprised anyone would even take notice of us beyond that, let alone in Malaysia. But obviously, we jumped at the chance the second we were asked to perform at MTV World Stage.
What can the fans expect from you at the MTV World Stage concert?
Fans can definitely expect Raygun’s set to be an energetic one. There will be a lot of sweating going on, so I hope the fans brought spare change of clothes. Haha.
What do you expect from the fans in return?
Honestly, we are a little nervous performing tonight. This is our first time performing in Asia, and also Malaysia, so we’re not sure how the fans are going to react to our music. We do hope the crowd will not be too reserved, and will let loose and have fun with the music.
Tell us more about your hit single Just Because.
Just Because is a song about indulgence. Like how the chorus goes: “Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should” – it is all about thinking first of your actions before you do them. A lot of people complain that it’s a song about drugs, but I beg to differ; it’s more of an anti-drug song, if you ask me. Just because you have the means to do all the wrong things in life, it does not mean you should.
Are you guys working on a new album in the meantime?
Yeah, we are in the works on putting a debut album together. Hopefully, it will be ready by the end of the year. It is going to be up tempo, like all the songs you can hear from our MySpace page. Like what The Adj here would say: it’s going to be the next Nevermind and Sergeant Pepper. Haha.

When I read Raygun’s bio release for MTV World Stage, my first thought was, “Sure or not?” It sounded like a very exaggerating piece with heightened flowery and too big promises for a band that has just started off.

They were described as “lead vox and sonic experimentation”, “war guitar and audio discovery” and “pace maker and heartbreaker”. And apparently they “summon up the razzle of New Wave and the dazzle of the Scissor Sisters’ disco, the filthiness of INXS, as well as the rock nous of a band long ready to start a revolution”, as they vow to “set a new blueprint for pop rock”, because they think other bands “don’t try hard enough to pump our blood, or move our feet”.

It was a pretty release set to impress, but it was very hard to buy it for me. I mean, words are just words, right?

In person, Ray Gun, The Adj, Sam Embery and Ben Lyonsmyth were generally nice fellows. Ray was pretty much the lead everyone expected, doing most of the talking and all. The Adj answered too, but eventually, you would catch on that they did not really apply unless for a laugh. Ben and Sam were pretty much just sitting there being pretty. Heh.

Overall, they were a nice band to interview, though it may probably be dued to the fact that they are new and in a foreign country, so they did not want to offend.

Tell us a bit about your band, Raygun.
Raygun is made up of me, Ray, the lead, along with guitarist The Adj, bassist Ben and drummer Sam. Adj and I have been a band of sorts for six years now since we were studying in London College of Music. Ben and Sam joined in later and the chemistry was right. Then, as everyone says, the rest is history.

What kind of music of you guys play?
We play a lot of 70s rock. Our influences are those such as David Bowie, T-Rex, Mick Jagger and Iggy Pop, so our music will mostly be inspired by those legends that were big in the mid-70s.

Would you guys consider your music Glam Rock then?
Yes, of course. We definitely would like to bring back all the glamour that was back in the 70s with our eccentric outfits and energetic music.

What separates your from the other bands emerging as of lately?
Well, we are a band who likes to have a laugh. We try not to take things too seriously. There are quite a few bands out there that are quite self-conscious when they go on stage, and we try not to submit to the same path as theirs. We strive to be entertaining and alive when it comes to performing live.

How’s Malaysia treating you guys so far?
Very good! The people have been pretty nice so far. We have never been to Malaysia before and we are liking what we see so far. And of course, the food is just gastronomic!

What was your initial reaction when MTV approached you to perform for MTV World Stage?
We were quite shocked, to be honest. I mean, we have toured with Pink before this, but that was it. We were surprised anyone would even take notice of us beyond that, let alone in Malaysia. But obviously, we jumped at the chance the second we were asked to perform at MTV World Stage.

What can the fans expect from you at the MTV World Stage concert?
Fans can definitely expect Raygun’s set to be an energetic one. There will be a lot of sweating going on, so I hope the fans brought spare change of clothes. Haha.

What do you expect from the fans in return?
Honestly, we are a little nervous performing tonight. This is our first time performing in Asia, and also Malaysia, so we’re not sure how the fans are going to react to our music. We do hope the crowd will not be too reserved, and will let loose and have fun with the music.

Tell us more about your hit single Just Because.
Just Because is a song about indulgence. Like how the chorus goes: “Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should” – it is all about thinking first of your actions before you do them. A lot of people complain that it’s a song about drugs, but I beg to differ; it’s more of an anti-drug song, if you ask me. Just because you have the means to do all the wrong things in life, it does not mean you should.

Are you guys working on a new album in the meantime?
Yeah, we are in the works on putting a debut album together. Hopefully, it will be ready by the end of the year. It is going to be up tempo, like all the songs you can hear from our MySpace page. Like what The Adj here would say: it’s going to be the next Nevermind and Sergeant Pepper. Haha.

Here is Just Because.

The new blueprint of pop rock? You be the judge.

++
Also check out:
MTV World Stage : Interview with Stank
MTV World Stage “Live in Malaysia”
MTV World Stage : Backstage

MTV World Stage : Interview with Stank

August 20, 2009
Hoobastank has been around for about 15 years now. How do you think your music has changed over the years?
Dan: You know how you hang out with the same bunch of friends, and you cannot really tell what has changed because you see them every day. It is the same for us as a band; we see each other every day, and we cannot really tell the difference. I can say our music has progressed throughout the years, but to get a better opinion, you would need to ask the fans who watch us from the outside.
Throughout your career, was there ever a time when things got too hard and you want to just give up?
Chris: Not really. We enjoy what we are doing, so we are really excited about it to even think we should quit. The only time we thought if we should give up was before we were signed to a label. We were a band for about five years before that, and things got grim as the days passed by. We were beginning to contemplate if we should call it quits, and that was when our record company picked us up.
What do you think keeps a band together?
Chris: To me, being in a band is like being in a relationship. We have to want the same things out of life. Also, giving each other ample space to grow. And of course, most importantly, be humble.
Hoobastank’s music is all about self-motivations and lessons in life. What would you say is the most important life’s lesson you have learned?
Dan: The older I get, the more I learn that not everyone feels the same and go through the same emotions as you. Looking back now, I wish that I have done some things and faced a few problems differently.
Chris: As I grow older, I realised that less things matter. The more important things in life are things like family, health and music. We don’t need to fuss over smaller and more detailed things other than that.
In light of your recent album, For(n)ever, what would you do forever, and what would you never do?
Chris: I would forever do rock songs, and will never do country songs.
Dan: Actually, I wouldn’t mind doing country music. I mean, obviously not with these guys here, but someday, I do wish to write some country songs just for kicks.
The Reason has gotten tremendous approvals from fans worldwide. Why do you think it is so?
Dan: Our lead, Doug (Robb), writes a lot of his songs based on the relationships he has gone through, and The Reason is one of them. I guess, why it got so famous is because everyone, at one point or the other of their lives, can relate to it. Whether if it is with your boyfriend or girlfriend, your mom or dad, or your friends, it is one of those songs that generally click for everyone. Besides, it has a catchy beat!
OK, tell us something true: are you guys sick of The Reason yet?
Dan: Haha, no, I don’t think so. The Reason is one of the few more chill out songs for Hoobastank. It is probably the only time when we can stand still and perform instead of jumping around on stage like we would for the other songs. It’s also a nice feeling to listen to an entire arena of fans sing along to The Reason.
Chris: I mean, why wouldn’t we want it? It’s always good for a band to have such an influential song to our name.
Dan: It’s always a good thing to get airplay for the song on the radio. We didn’t expect it to get so big. It’s gotten bigger than the band, even.
Do you guys find it hard to live up to The Reason after that?
Chris: Well, we don’t really sit around and think of how we can keep producing songs as famous as The Reason. The song did wonderfully for Hoobastank, and it has brought us to renewed heights as a rock band. But it would be silly to mull on the fame of it; the only way is to look towards the future and do our best in producing subsequent albums.
Karaoke is a popular past time here in Asia. Which songs would you sing at a karaoke session?
Dan: I would definitely sing along to Sir Mix-a-lot’s Baby Got Back! Also, maybe a few hip hop and rap numbers like Dr Dre.
Do you guys have any guilty pleasure songs stored in your iPods?
Chris: I wouldn’t call them guilty pleasures because I think they are quite talented in their own leagues. I enjoy listening to Justin Timberlake, and I think Christina Aguilera has an awesome voice too.
What about songs out there that make you cringe?
Chris: Hmm, I would have to say songs that sound British but are sung by non-Brits. Yeah, that makes me cringe every time. It just shows that they’re trying too hard.
Dan: There are a few bands out there who dress up all flashy like those people back in the 60s and 70s. I mean, I’m alright with that; I have nothing against their fashion sense. But I guess, your music has to measure up as well. A lot of bands out there recently don’t seem to be real anymore in their music, and they seem to spend more time prepping their image with fancy clothes instead of focusing on getting their music right. I’m just not convinced when it comes to bands like that.
What made Hoobastank say yes to performing at MTV World Stage?
Dan: Well, it is a good opportunity to leave home and play with some other awesome bands in the line up! Why say no when you can say yes?
Compared to your last performance in Malaysia in 2004 and the MTV World Stage tonight, how differently would you guys say the performances would be to each other?
Dan: Hmm, the only difference would probably be me dropping 20 pounds since our last performance here, haha. What with all the jumping around onstage.
Chris: MTV World Stage is almost not like a real show, because we’ll only be doing about four songs out there. I don’t see it as raising the bar since the last performance, but we’ll still do as good as we do in full blown sets, and try to keep it as enjoyable as we can for the fans, of course.
No matter how long we have been on the road, and how tired we get till we just want to go back and laze around on the couch, when we get onstage it is a completely different thing. We just go on autopilot, and we’ll channel this live energy we have from within us and just rock it out.
Hoobastank consists of lead Doug Robb, guitarist Dan Estin, bassist Jesse Charland and drummer Chris Hesse.
Their latest album For(n)ever was released in January 2009 with notable songs like My Turn, The Letter and So Close, So Far.

It feels like another lifetime ago, when I would listen to albums after albums of rock music, shack up at a place of a friend I barely knew just so I can attend Hoobastank’s concert in 2004 (also finding ways to get rid of the cans of complimentary Coke upon entrance), jump till I sweat along to Crawling in the Dark and scream at the top of my lungs to Running Away and The Reason. Uh huh.

Fast forward five years later, and I got a call that I will be interviewing Dan Estrin, the guitarist, and Chris Hesse, the drummer. I spent the night downloading all their albums because I left the first two back in my hometown and the other two I did not bother to even check out, and spent the entire day before the interview blasting the music in the car and on the headphones.

And I noticed how cheesy Doug Robb’s lyrics were for the first time that day. But at least it was a nice blast to the past, when everything was just loud basses, screeching solos, cymbalic ratatats and all too obvious lyrics with no metaphors whatsoever.

Hoobastank has been around for about 15 years now. How do you think your music has changed over the years?
Dan:
You know how you hang out with the same bunch of friends, and you cannot really tell what has changed because you see them every day. It is the same for us as a band; we see each other every day, and we cannot really tell the difference. I can say our music has progressed throughout the years, but to get a better opinion, you would need to ask the fans who watch us from the outside.

Throughout your career, was there ever a time when things got too hard and you want to just give up?
Chris:
Not really. We enjoy what we are doing, so we are really excited about it to even think we should quit. The only time we thought if we should give up was before we were signed to a label. We were a band for about five years before that, and things got grim as the days passed by. We were beginning to contemplate if we should call it quits, and that was when our record company picked us up.

What do you think keeps a band together?
Chris:
To me, being in a band is like being in a relationship. We have to want the same things out of life. Also, giving each other ample space to grow. And of course, most importantly, be humble.

Hoobastank’s music is all about self-motivations and lessons in life. What would you say is the most important life’s lesson you have learned?
Dan:
The older I get, the more I learn that not everyone feels the same and go through the same emotions as you. Looking back now, I wish that I have done some things and faced a few problems differently.
Chris: As I grow older, I realised that less things matter. The more important things in life are things like family, health and music. We don’t need to fuss over smaller and more detailed things other than that.

In light of your recent album, For(n)ever, what would you do forever, and what would you never do?
Chris:
I would forever do rock songs, and will never do country songs.
Dan: Actually, I wouldn’t mind doing country music. I mean, obviously not with these guys here, but someday, I do wish to write some country songs just for kicks.

The Reason has gotten tremendous approvals from fans worldwide. Why do you think it is so?
Dan:
Doug writes a lot of his songs based on the relationships he has gone through, and The Reason is one of them. I guess, why it got so famous is because everyone, at one point or the other of their lives, can relate to it. Whether if it is with your boyfriend or girlfriend, your mom or dad, or your friends, it is one of those songs that generally click for everyone. Besides, it has a catchy beat!

OK, tell us something true: are you guys sick of The Reason yet?
Dan:
Haha, no, I don’t think so. The Reason is one of the few more chill out songs for Hoobastank. It is probably the only time when we can stand still and perform instead of jumping around on stage like we would for the other songs. It’s also a nice feeling to listen to an entire arena of fans sing along to The Reason.
Chris: I mean, why wouldn’t we want it? It’s always good for a band to have such an influential song to our name.
Dan: It’s always a good thing to get airplay for the song on the radio. We didn’t expect it to get so big. It’s gotten bigger than the band, even.

Do you guys find it hard to live up to The Reason after that?
Chris:
Well, we don’t really sit around and think of how we can keep producing songs as famous as The Reason. The song did wonderfully for Hoobastank, and it has brought us to renewed heights as a rock band. But it would be silly to mull on the fame of it; the only way is to look towards the future and do our best in producing subsequent albums.

Are there any songs out there that make you cringe?
Chris:
Hmm, I would have to say songs that sound British but are sung by non-Brits. Yeah, that makes me cringe every time. It just shows that they’re trying too hard.
Dan: There are a few bands out there who dress up all flashy like those people back in the 60s and 70s. I mean, I’m alright with that; I have nothing against their fashion sense. But I guess, your music has to measure up as well. A lot of bands out there recently don’t seem to be real anymore in their music, and they seem to spend more time prepping their image with fancy clothes instead of focusing on getting their music right. I’m just not convinced when it comes to bands like that.

What made Hoobastank say yes to performing at MTV World Stage?
Dan:
Well, it is a good opportunity to leave home and play with some other awesome bands in the line up! Why say no when you can say yes?

Compared to your last performance in Malaysia in 2004 and the MTV World Stage tonight, how differently would you guys say the performances would be to each other?
Dan:
Hmm, the only difference would probably be me dropping 20 pounds since our last performance here, haha. What with all the jumping around onstage.
Chris: MTV World Stage is almost not like a real show, because we’ll only be doing about four songs out there. I don’t see it as raising the bar since the last performance, but we’ll still do as good as we do in full blown sets, and try to keep it as enjoyable as we can for the fans, of course.
No matter how long we have been on the road, and how tired we get till we just want to go back and laze around on the couch, when we get onstage it is a completely different thing. We just go on autopilot, and we’ll channel this live energy we have from within us and just rock it out.

Here is The Letter, featuring Vanessa Amorosi, taken off their latest album, For(n)ever.

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Also check out:
MTV World Stage “Live in Malaysia”
MTV World Stage : Backstage

Having a whale of a time.

April 8, 2009

Also guest blogging at Backseat Radio: Alexis(not)onfire.

From the Earth Hour’s green, to the F1 Grand Prix’s red, Malaysia is currently bathed in blue with the Big Blue Exhibition happening now at Mid Valley Megamall. While we have switched the lights back on, whale conservationists are still working hard on saving the Blue Whales from going extinct, much like what they have been doing since the 1960s.

To be honest, I never knew much about the Blue Whales. So, when I was scheduled to interview whale expert, Dr Bruce Mate, I went online and did myself a little educating (Thank God for Wikipedia). And I was surprised on what the species have gone through.

From an initial 275,000 population, they were down to a mere 10,000 today. All because there was no control over whaling in the turn of the 20th century. Between 1930 and 1931, already, 29,400 were taken off in the Antartic alone for human satisfaction of whale meat and whale oil. By the time the activity was banned in 1966 by the International Whaling Commission, dead were 408,000 of them. Because of this, they are enlisted as ‘Endangered’ in the IUCN Red List.

Breaks your heart, doesn’t it?

So, I was quite perked up with my interview with Dr Mate. Just to find out more about the gentle giants, what researchers have done to save them, and what we can do to chip in. And perhaps, go into the big blue ocean and give these whales a great BIG hug.

1. How many years have you been doing these kinds of researches?
I began my research on marine mammals 41 years ago in 1968, and in 1978, I started including whales in my researches. Only recently in 1993 did I begin researching on Blue Whales.

2. Are there any difference, researching on other smaller mammals compared to researching the Blue Whales?
There is a big difference, especially in the matter of the Blue Whales’ size and their immense amount of stamina. They can dive more than 1 mile (5280 feet) in depth and stay down there for an hour to feed on squids as big as the size of a room! It just amazes me how they can stay down there for so long in one single breath; we can’t go that deep and stay that long!

3. Throughout your profession for more than 40 years, what would you say is the most extraordinary discovery you have done?
Every research I have embarked on has provided me with brand new insights on the species and changed my mind on how I thought were their behavioural patterns.

One of the most profound researches I have done would be the one over at the Bay of Fundy in Canada. We discovered that because of the shipping traffic up there, it had been the cause for the increased collisions between the ships and the North Atlantic Right Whale. We brought the issue up to the Canadian Coast Guard and in 2003, they adjusted the shipping lanes by just a mere 4 miles (6.44KM) back, and that has lessened the collision risk by 80%.

4. Blue Whales have a slow populating process, what with their small litter size (once every 2 to 3 years) and longer reproduction rate (gestation period of 10 to 12 months), how long do you think it will take before they make up to their initial population?
If everything goes right, the Blue Whales have a chance of increasing their population by 7% every year. Roughly in 10 years’ time, they are able to double their population. There are only an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 Blue Whales left in the world today, so to reach their initial population before the whaling era, which was about 275,000 – you do the math – they have got a long way to go.

5. Do you think it is possible that they will be lifted off IUCN Red List’s Endangered list?
It is possible. For example, the Humpback Whales. During the whaling era, they hit a low of 1,500 before the illegal hunting was banned worldwide. They were on the brink of extinction. But because of heavy conservations, they made a dramatic comeback in a May 2008 study, reporting a healthy population of between 18,000 and 20,000. With that, they were moved from the Vulnerable status to the Least Concern status. So, we are hopeful for the Blue Whales too.

6. In Malaysia, there are rehabilitation centres for Orang Utans in Sepilok, Sabah and Semenggoh, Sarawak, whereby the centres have their own jungles where the Orang Utans can live in a natural environment. Do you think the same can be done for the Blue Whales with a centre set up out at sea away from human civilisation?
Personally, I do not think it is practical. Firstly, the expense is astronomical to rehabilitate a Blue Whale. A Blue Whale calf already feeds on 380-570 litres of milk a day.

Other than that, the Blue Whales move all over the place to get food. It takes about four to five days for them to stay at one place and finish off the billions of krill available in that area, before going off to another spot again. We cannot gather all the food in one place and have them stay there either; it would be against their nature.

The only way we can help them out is to be out of their way while migration, such as relocating fishing lanes and shipping ports. Blue Whales are gargantuan in size, so it is much easier to move the smaller things.

7. Scientists and researchers are already hard on helping the Blue Whales. How can the public chip in before they hit extinction?
The public has to do their part in saving the environment if they would like to help the Blue Whales. For example, do not litter, or throw contaminated and toxic dump into the ocean. Do not let off Helium balloons into the air because in the end, they will drop into the ocean and marine mammals may either mistaken them to be jellyfishes and eat them, or get choked to death with them.

8. Other than whaling and pollutions, I read that Orcas (Killer Whales) contribute in depleting the population of the Blue Whales. Are these attacks accidental or predacious?
It is not accidental; Orcas do go out and hunt the Blue Whales. Some whales eat fishes, some krill and some squids, while others go for other marine mammals. A Blue Whale has great stamina, and it will try to outrun the Orcas with them trying to cling on its back, tearing off its skin. It can get pretty brutal.

9. Is there any way that can be stopped? Maybe create a Whale Song and ask the Orcas to lay off the big guys?
Heh, nah, this is a natural food chain. We can try to stop them, but we do not know what the ripple effect might cause in years to come, which may be more disastrous than the issue at hand.

10. What can the Malaysian public expect from the Big Blue Exhibition?
I would say, expect to be impressed by the size and scale of this unique mammal. We have made a sculpture replica of the baby Blue Whale, which is 9 meters long, and they will grow to be three to four times longer when they are adults. So, it would be an eye-opener to be up close and personal with something that big in size.

11. What is the general message you are hoping to send out during this Exhibition, as well as the National Geographic Channel’s documentary?
Basically, we would like to create awareness and compassion towards these creatures, and hopefully, have them assist in the animals’ plight.

Strong science is important when it comes to helping them. We do not need to create a scene by going into a shipping port and acting all emotional. All we need to do is provide hard facts and how it is harming the animals, and from there, we work for a mutual agreement where we can share the space with the animals.

When it comes to saving the wildlife, there is a pattern to it: identify their habitat. By understanding their way of life, we can change human activities, which will in turn keep them from going extinct.

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The Big Blue Multimedia Exhibition is on now till April 13 at Mid Valley Megamall (East Atrium).
You can also catch the documentary on National Geographic Channel (Astro ch 553).

Less than 98 degrees.

October 28, 2008

The last time I saw Jeff Timmons and his fellow bandmates of 98 Degrees, it was almost 10 years ago at their album promo tour in Penang. I was at the second floor, crouched under someone’s legs just so I could take some shots of them with my old analog camera, which were not exactly the best pictures in the world either. When the concert was over, we had a hoorah at the front stage, where we were literally fighting over their posters, and I went home with a poster with a huge chunk of it torn off at the upper right corner.

Ah, those were the pop band crazed days. The late 1990s. Everywhere you look there was a new boy band or girl band popping up like mushrooms after rain, and following close behind their heels were a throng of girls with spine-curling screams at their good looks and short skirts. The bodyshakin’ 911, the Backstreet Boys who will never break your heart, the boys from N Sync who are tearin’ up your heart, the Spice Girls who tells you what they want, what they really, really want, and also the not so invisible men of 98 Degrees.

Admit it, you had one of those days yourself too. It would be a total sham if you consider yourself a music fan without going through that phase, no matter how short it was.

Fast forward to today, I have outgrown boy pop, as did the rest of my generation, though still enjoy it from time to time. And 98 Degrees have stopped being a band and gone on to do their individual projects, like most of the bands in their generation. The limelight was entirely on Nick Lachley and his publicised wedding life with Jessica Simpson, from the moment they said “I do” to the day they got a divorce.

A little left from the spotlight was Jeff Timmons, always standing a little behind Nick in the group posters, and singing second verses after Nick’s firsts. I never knew what Jeff Timmons was up to from the 98 Degrees hey days till now. So, when I found out TraXXFM was having a welcoming dinner for Jeff Timmons to join their road tour, the first question that popped into my head was, “Why the heck is he doing here?”

Meeting a musician is not really that fun and exciting unless it is someone you are really thrilled to be in the same room with. He may not be Ben Gibbard or Damien Rice, whom both I already have perfected questions dying to fire at them. I wanted to drill Jeff deep, give him a hard time with the whole boy band business, but alas, I did not have all the time in the world with him to ask him anything and everything. But as a journalist, it will always bring a sense of accomplishment in you when the interviewee patted your shoulder and said, “Great questions. Thanks for the interview.” Maybe he is being polite. Maybe he would take whatever attention he needs, seeing that he is not that popular anymore. But it is still a comforting sound for my part.

98 Degrees have been laying low since 2002, and you released a debut solo album, Whisper That Way, in 2004. The last time you visited Malaysia was in 1999, almost ten years ago. What prompted you to visit us now four years later?
I am planning to have a world tour in January 2009, so I decided to stop by Malaysia first to get things into gear before the New Year begins.

What is the purpose of your visit to Malaysia this time around?
Basically, this your is just for me to meet my fans. After being away for so long, I thought it would be nice to see them again in person. Other than that, I am looking forward to visit the places of interest in Malaysia. Before this, I do not know much about Malaysia, so hopefully, this trip will fill me in on the details. I am really excited about this tour.

Do you have any expectations from your fans in this trip?
No, not really. I am new on this solo-wagon, so I am open for any kinds of feedbacks from my fans. I will just wait and hear what they think of the songs in my solo album, and hopefully, with their comments I can grow more as a music artistes.

98 Degrees was big on being an a capella group. How is it like for you now that you don’t have your bandmates to back you up in performances?
Obviously, there is a big different in performing with a band, and solo. Last time, I have Nick, Drew and Justin backing me up, and sometimes I can afford to slack off a tiny bit. But now that I am solo, I just need to step up and do my all while performing. All eyes are on me and only me now, so I have to pay more attention so I do not screw up.

Are we going to expect 98 Degrees to make a comeback anytime soon? It’s sort of a “now or never” thing. I mean, Backstreet Boys, Take That, Spice Girls and even NKOTB has done it. N Sync has always said they would do it but look at them now, they have broken up anyway. So, what is the verdict for 98 Degrees in this whole comeback business?
We’re definitely coming back. I can’t put a date on it yet, but we have been talking about it on and off. I mean, just last weekend, I was on the phone with Nick and we were talking about putting the band together again. And I don’t think we’re waiting too long for it, because we all have our own projects to work on, but we are hoping to get back into the studio together to make a new record.

Is there going to be a slight change in your music by then?
I think so. I mean, music changes everyday and we can’t really stick to the same stuff all the time.
(Ah well, not that I’m holding my breath: musicians say that all the time and in the end, it’s still the same sound)

You were in a recent reality TV show called Manband. It’s basically a combination of four “has-beens” band members – himself, Chris of N Sync, Bryan of Colour Me Badd and Rich of LFO – coming together to make a new band, Sureshot, and revive the boyband era. How did you think that work out for you guys as a band member?
Well, to be honest, not much really. I mean, the show did well, but for us as a band, it didn’t really do much changes. Sureshot hasn’t done anything since that TV show, and even in the show some parts have been edited. Besides, we all have our own bands to go back to, so I didn’t really expect we would come together and do something serious anyway.

Are you guys really that desperate to revive the “boyband” in you guys? Is “boyband” really that dead for you?
I don’t think boybands are dead. I mean, look at The Jonas Brothers. As long as there’s a young crowd out there looking for music like that, that genre will never be dead. But for us, I think it’s way over and we should move on. I mean, back when 98 Degrees were still together, we were not actually a boyband either. We were already an older crowd and I wouldn’t say we were doing boyband stuff either. (Oh yes, you would). We did mostly ballads. So, we’re definitely through with jumping out of balloons on stage and all that. 98 Degrees have never done that, so I don’t think we’ll be doing that anytime soon.

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Jeff Timmons will be in Malaysia via TraXXFM from October 13, 2008 till October 24, 2008.