2016 Updates

Very happy to be back posting on this blog!

I hope your 2016 has been fruitful so far and I wish you the reader more of the best that has yet to come.

2016 so far has been uniquely challenging for me. It seems to be a year where my path is changing course and I am embracing it fully.

Teaching and gigging so far have been ok except for some bad months from March up till May, and then things picked up all of a sudden in August. I realised that those said bad months were really a time of letting go some negative people and negative circumstances, and finding a new direction in which to take my life and my work. I feel more secure now.

2016 was also a year which I unexpectedly lost a dear friend and a relative to illnesses, and I am still coming to terms emotionally with these losses. I do my best not to let it affect my ability to function in my daily tasks. I had learn to develop the strength to carry on a life without them physically around. I am happy and secure however in the faith that they are in a better place.

One highlight though, so far, was PLATE’s album launch for Tear Down This Marketplace on May 23rd. You can go to the “Studio Recordings” tab to find posts documenting my journey through recording one of my favourite album projects of the last 3 years. The band was FINALLY able to launch it rather successfully with a well received and attended launch gig at Hood Bar, and pretty decent sales of the hard copy of the album.

Due to forthcoming circumstances, I will not be able to continue with these guys, hence I got another drummer to replace me. I really hope this band takes off as they can and should. It seems that they are starting to get a few more local gigs in the coming months and I am very happy for them.

The Black Monolith, my hard Rock project, is currently preparing to record our 2nd album which we target to release by May next year. There have been alot of delays due to conflicting schedules, but we are determined to see this project through to completion before said target date.

Happy to say that, in my personal opinion, the songs are an improvement over those on the first album. I still have 2 or 3 favourites off the first album. We are also in the process of locking down the ideal recording studio for tracking the drums, and I will be more involved in the production of this album than I was on the first one. More details will be posted soon.

I also have another highlight coming this month which is a TV gig this for a Channel 5 show. More details to follow soon.

The next few months till the year ends seem to be pretty busy and I look forward to finishing off 2016 on a happier note.

Till my next update, take care.

 

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A Masterclass Lesson With John JR Robinson

https://www.zoom-na.com/news/john-jr-robinson-zoomed

If you don’t know who he is, you’re missing out alot. Wiki on him and look at his credits, then listen to those recordings, and you immediately understand why he’s one of the most sought-after session drummers in the world for the last 40 years.

This masterclass (click on link above) gives an insight into the main ingredients that John identified and developed over the years to become one of the great musicians.

Enjoy.

Wise Words From Stewart Copeland

This instalment of “Wise Words” features an excellent quote from the game-changing Stewart Copeland, who once drummed for a mega Rock band, The Police, and is one of my all-time heroes.

Here he talks about the mechanics of playing successfully: Playing the music and not worrying about your technique or the mechanics of your instrument.

You once talked about “playing outside your instrument.” When did you come up with this idea, and can you speak about what it means to you?

“It came to me when I was playing polo – you ‘play outside your horse.’ If you’re thinking about your horse and your equestrian skills, and things like proper riding and hitting the ball, let alone playing the game and putting your horse in the right place on the field…

“See, you shouldn’t even be thinking about the horse. You have to be outside the horse. Your body and horse are one. You shouldn’t be thinking about riding. You have to think, ‘Here’s the ball. I need to get it there. I need to stop that guy from getting to the ball. Uh-oh, there’s a pass and that’s where I gotta be.’ When you do that, you’re thinking outside your horse. You’re playing the game.

“Put this to music: The mechanics of playing an instrument should be furthest from your mind. You’ve got to think outside your instrument, play outside your instrument. You’ve got to think about the music: ‘What is the music? Where are the other players are? What’s going on? Where’s the groove?’ – things like that. What drum you’re hitting, what your technique is – that should be completely subliminal.”

Complete interview at: http://www.musicradar.com/news/drums/stewart-copeland-on-the-police-drum-solos-rush-double-bass-pedals-and-more-546175

David Bowie: The definition of Cutting Edge in music

The music world has lost a game changing hero.

In these past two days since discovering the news of his all-too-sudden and shocking death, I reflected on what David Bowie’s music means to me – how it affected and influenced my musical path and life.

One thing is for sure, he was a great Rocker who wrote some really cool Rock songs that I would listen to right beside my other favourite Rock artists (most of whom are 70’s acts). The riffs and the grooves spoke to me right away. The lyrics were poetic.  It challenged my understanding of what Rock music could be. These are some of my favourite Rock songs by David:

Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold The World, Rebel Rebel, Suffragette City, and Jean Genie.

Just as I thought he was a cutting edge Rocker, he came up with a cutting edge Dance-Pop album called Let’s Dance. It’s one of my top favourite drumming albums and I used to play along to all the tracks on my drums.

David Bowie again challenged my notion of his music when I heard the gorgeous “This Is Not America”. He collaborated with the Pat Metheny Group, themselves a cutting edge Jazz-Fusion band, and the result was a piece of music with such a stunning ambience and truly moving/reflective lyrics.

David Bowie delivered one final album masterpiece called Blackstar. Even in the face of death, not one iota of his staggering creativity was lost. No stone was left unturned thematically, and even his death became such an artful exposition on the track, Lazarus. Some peope dismiss it as a gimmick to sell records. To that, I simply say, don’t listen to the record then.

It is no surprise to me by now that David Bowie could make truly powerful and moving art out of any theme, object, storyline in his music. He knew who he was and where he stood artistically. He never compromised on his artistic vision but his genius lay in his ability to make that vision assessable and commercially viable. How does one do that? Unfortunately we won’t have David around to show us the way, but we still have his music – his greatest message.

Rest in peace, Major Tom.

 

 

Gabriel Liew, another great student achieves distinction in Grade 7 Trinity/Guildhall Drumset exam

Every once in a while, a student comes along who is really hungry to improve in his/her craft and become a better musician. He or she sees Music as a career and not merely a hobby. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with viewing Music as a hobby, but Music is so much more…It’s life…

Gabriel is one such student. He listens, he practices his butt off, and he applies what he learns effectively.

So, a big congratulations to you, Gabriel. You deserve this fantastic result.

Gabriel is currently studying for a diploma in music and audio technology at the Singapore Polytechnic. He also has his own youtube channel and soundcloud page:

youtube.com/user/Gab12357

soundcloud.com/gabriel-liew.

Image of Gabriel’s exam transcript shown here with his kind permission.

 

 

New Album Out: Sunny Deo And The Ninth Order’s Mystic String

Hope your new year started off on a good footing.

It’s with great pride that I announce the release of a newalbum that I worked on between the fall of 2014 and May of 2015. It’s called Mystic String and it features a diverse set of 10 songs which run the gamut from Pop to Rock to Jazz to even abit of World Music.

Working on developing the song arrangements with the band and producer as well as recording the drum tracks are certainly two of the greatest highlights in my career so far. I learnt so much more about recording with greater precision and consistency from working with a grammy-nominated producer, Duke Purisima, who presided over the production of this album; and grammy-nominated recording and mixing engineer, Jerry Chua, who designed the sound of this album. Jerry is also a very well respected drummer, thus alot of scrutiny was naturally placed on my performances!

All in all, this album captures some of my best drumming in the studio so far in terms of creative drum parts, versatility with different styles, time, feel, and consistency. I certainly look forward to doing another album with this band and this production team.

Here’s the link to previewing the album online and purchasing it as a digital download:

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/sunnydeoandtheninthorder.

Feel free to give me your feedback on the album!

 

 

 

2015 Wrapup

“Time Waits For No One”, as the old blues song goes and time had certainly raced past. It seemed like only a couple of months ago that we ushered in 2014 and I was looking forward to the cool gigging, recording, and teaching projects.

As December 2014 got underway, I had a very strong feeling that 2015 would turn out to be a year where I would achieve alot more in my chosen career. I had the hunch that important new business connections would be made and it was time to up my game in terms of my drumming and the way I conducted myself professionally. Looking back, I had indeed both rose to the occassion and been thrown some curveballs which were invaluable lessons….and of which I’m grateful to have come out sane and even happier than before.

One notable challenge presented to me early this year was working on the Ninth Order debut album project with a seasoned producer and a highly respected sound engineer. When you’re asked to do more than three takes per song, either for having more creative/musical options or simply to play a more perfect take, the stamina required both physically and mentally was nothing short of that required on a 3 hour gig of high energy music.

From that album project, I came away with a much better understanding of recording for an all out commercial pop album at the international standard. I say that because the producer and engineer I worked with were the first two from Singapore to receive a grammy-nomination for their past work with a world music artiste, Arun Sheroy, so they definitely have what it takes to produce something or help a band produce something worthy to be heard on the international stage.

Playing 6 nights in a nightclub which I did for about 6 months was another great challenge that tested my willpower, discipline, and consistency as a live performer. It’s pretty much akin to being on tour, playing the same songs night after night and having to deliver your best. How I managed to remain passionate about music is most likely a testament to the fact that this is truly my calling. The fun part was working with different singers, with different genres, and having to transcribe as exact as possible the original drum parts of the songs in a short amount of time.

2015 was not without some difficult times too. Home Ground Studio where I worked from Nov 2012 to June 2015 had decided to pull out of it’s space at Lew Building. The intervening months between moving out of Lew Building and suffering a setback where the new studio at Goldhill Centre I was supposed to move to did not happen because the original tenant decided to continue with the space, left me stranded.

Update: I’m now at King George’s Avenue with some great people and it’s a joy to teach there. Still accepting new students!!

Without a regular gig, surviving through those months was hard to imagine. I fought on. It was obviously a blessing that I could still function during this period, but it was also solid proof that in order to survive in the music industry, you’d have to wear many hats and draw your income from different areas of the industry: teaching and performing being the basic areas of the industry a musician can comfortably eke out a decent living, but also even doing live sound for events.

With my recording studio experience, having tinkered with audio mixers, and being pretty good at rigging up a live audio system, I was able to venture into another area of the business thanks to the opportunity given by an events company who urgently needed help. Through this experience, and a back-breaking one I must say, I learned so much more about not just the equipment,  but also the acoustics of different venues, and how to achieve good sound with the limitations of the equipment I’m given. I’m also learning how to handle the demands of both the hiring clients and the musicians, and to do my best in giving them what they need to put on a good performance where they feel comfortable with the audio The real treat is to hear good musicians perform from a sound engineer’s perspective. This allows me to develop a much more balanced approach on the drumset which is a work in lifelong progress. I’m acquiring an improved understanding of accompanying different musicians through different musical styles via learning the nuances that each performer brings to his/her craft on stage as I witness them.

So there you have it, my 2015 in music, which is also my 7th year in the scene. Thank you 2015 for these wonderful opportunities of growth. I’m ready for what 2016 brings and I can’t wait. Life only gets better when you’re willing to step out of your comfort zone and discover your true potential.

In closing, I wish you, dear reader, compliments of the season and a fantastic new year. Thank you all for your generous support: my family, my close friends, my dear students, and my peers in the music industry whom I enjoy working with.