28 February 2008
Album launch
Oh yeah - you may have noticed the new blogmast - yes that's the date and venue for the album launch. I'll be putting up more info about who's performing and what's happening at the launch in the coming weeks. In the meantime, save up some cash...

Ha ha ha... and the CD's not even done yet... ha ha ha... but seriously, the girl from the CD printer picked up the CDs for the audio master and artwork from me today. Hurray for pick-up and delivery!

Should be done in about three weeks... well, that's what she said anyway... but it should be done in time for the launch... lol... unless I bungle it up meself...

Oh and yes, of course, the image in the blogmast next to the album launch details is the cover artwork for the CD illustrated by none other than Shahril Nizam.

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Added a new poem...
Yep, I've posted a new poem on the Imaginary Poem blog. It's entitled "The Woman outside the Painting" and it's based on Frida Kahlo the painter... not the tequila brand.


Lightfalls
(Continuing the series of posts on songs appearing on the album. Here's the seventh one! For songs number one to six, check the January archive.)

















Lightfalls is a bit of an experiment. I don't really know how to explain it. While recording the album with Hardesh, I knew I wanted one song on the album to be sung a capella. It's one of the strange things I like to do while performing live. I do it because that's how I started performing back in the 90s (yes, I'm old). I wrote and sang all these stupid little a capella songs. The only time I ever busked was at Glebe Market in Sydney. I was staying with a friend and was really broke and to earn my dinner money that night I went down to the flea market and sang for two hours with a bit of a flu. I got about twenty bucks which was nice. But I don't think I could ever busk again but I really like performing a capella. It's very liberating. I think people should sing all the time. I really love impromptu performances.

Anyway, I really like how my a capella stuff gets people feeling very divided. Or even indifferent. I met a poet during a recent trip overseas who commented that she didn't think I sang very well a capella. Ha ha ha... my ego took a bruising, yes. But I guess it takes more than a not-so-positive comment to knock me off the stubborn chair. This was the song she heard me sing that made her made the comment. LOL... and here it is on the album. ha ha ha... perhaps I shouldn't be mentioning that incident... but ha ha ha ... it's a humbling experience. Needless to say, I avoided her as much as was possible for the rest of the trip. (giggle)

When I wrote Lightfalls, I wanted it to be a moment to rest the ear. I like albums that let your ears rest. Like an interlude. An inhale. And I wrote it with that mood in mind. It's a little bit of an impressionist doodle. A song that wears its secrets under the skin.

The recording session at Hardesh's studio when we did this song (sometime in October last year, I think) was the fastest. But in a way it lingered for a while untouched. As the other tracks came together, I suggested to Hardesh to add simulated static. Make it sound crackly like old vinyl. After some manipulating, I sat on it for a while. And it wasn't until close towards the end of the production after I got the idea to place a field recording of some traffic sounds I had made under the vocal... that it came together.

CL Toh made a comment when I met him with Hardesh at his mastering studio, that he was spooked out by this song when he was along mastering the CD at night. That it was like part of some scary movie soundtrack. Ha ha ha...



*


Lightfalls


Light falls
I see the buildings growing distant
As the people lock their doors
A shadow moves among the curtains
The moon is hiding all the stars

Light falls
In every shadow passing over
A breath of sadness hides another
Years are spent to be with no one
To dream of cities of the night

Long thin shadows
Stretch all through the streets
Draped like oiled silk
To hide the thing beneath

Long thin shadows
Slip through each unknown
Shiny as a gun
To show what lies undone

Over the houses now we fly
With wings of marble in the sky

Light falls
I feel the trembling of the darkness
A single light gleams like a pearl
The endless pacing of a stranger
Who walks like me until we sigh

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25 February 2008
Justin Timeforchange & Mak Bedah y'all!
Me love this!

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22 February 2008
Rock out your election frustrations at WILD!





















Because everyone and everything goes crazy, manic, feverish, gila babi and just plain uncontrollable during the election period, we felt it apt to celebrate all the craziness with a night of WILD! Please come - I'll be DJing some obscure stuff from the 1980s, still the best decade ever.

WILD!
featuring DJs Sher, JK, Misdeeds and Sarchan
Thursday 6 March
The Loft, Zouk KL
Free entry before 12am, RM20 after
Pass your mp3s on a thumb drive and we'll play it for you

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21 February 2008
Mum
I was checking through the photos I'd taken on my handphone and came across this one of my mum and me playing cards during CNY. It's at my sister's place. And no, it was not me who drank all the beer.

New words and beverage
Last Saturday after the book launch gig at Central Market where I played three songs, me and a couple of friends trudged over to Shahril's flat for an intimate gathering to drink, play games and listen to music (I'm leaving out one of our activities because it's not meant for public knowledge; thanks Brian!). Anyway, while Danny, Daniel, Zedeck and Grace played chua tai ti, Anum, Shahril, Sharon and I played Scrabble, using Shahril's tiny airplane Scrabble set. After fumbling with the alphabet tiles for a bit, I got into the rhythm of the game, eventually winning... ha ha ha... but it was one of the longest games on earth... Scrabble should not be played under the influence.

Anyway, what I remembered most from the little party, aside from the beautiful company, were two things: new words and a new beverage.

The new words came from the Scrabble game. While waiting my turn, I played with the tiles I had, making up words. Here they are, with definitions.


Gwimp, noun. A wimp who is also a gimp.

Petgasm, noun. Orgasm through petting.

Trandy, noun. A randy tranny.

Wetgasp
, noun. A wet gasp. (Sorry, I'd already gotten over it by the time this one came along.)


Anum looked at "wetgasp" and saw "wet gaps". I swear that girl... Anum also came up with:


Juttous, verb. Something that juts out. For example, "Her endowments were prodigiously juttous."


Here's how I remembered these useless details.























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Before, during and after the game, we raided Shahril's pantry (he has an extensive collection of teas) looking for beverages. After Scrabble, needing to sober for the long journey home, Grace, Sharon and me experimented with making concoctions. Inspired by the jar of coffee and can of cocoa Shahril had, I made a mix of coffee and cocoa... which I believe is called a mocha... ha ha ha... but we had ours sugary black. :-)

I call this exciting new drink: Cocoffee.

How to make Cocoffee

1 teaspoon instant coffee
1 teaspoon powdered cocoa
2 teaspoons sugar

Boil some water. Spoon ingredients into an average-sized mug. When water has boiled, pour it into the mug, about 3/4 full. Stir. Add more ingredients if you want. Cream is optional (cream just means milk, duh).

*

I know it's tempting but I don't think Milo should be used as substitute for cocoa. It wouldn't do justice to the dark magic of Cocoffee. Unfortunately I don't have pictures of the Cocoffee... but if you find time to experiment, please put up pics of it...

Anyway... that's it from the exciting lab... I'll be helping out my friend Chris this weekend shooting some photos for his new film. Yay! Something to do on the weekend finally.
A Part of It
Making up for the lack of February posts, here's a short story I concocted the other day. It's entitled "A Part of It"

Salutations, JK


***


After a while, maybe half an hour, we started climbing down the mountain. A part of it was covered in heavy mist. The air was wet and cold. It was already noon, but it remained grey overhead.

The poet from Argentina called out to me. “Hey, where are you going?”

I realised I was lost.

The trail had been clearly marked but I was walking so slowly I didn’t notice the group had gotten so far ahead. They had almost reached camp. But I was still stuck out here in the middle of this rocky black incline.

He looked so small all the way down in the gully. He must have spotted my bright orange parka.

I waved back.

“The trail is that way!” he called out as he pointed towards the red rope snaking its way down the mountain.

I waved back and nodded and started walking towards the red rope.

What a kind poet. What’s his name?

He had a Spanish name, where the J and G and H sound like an exhale. And…

…during the first night of the poetry festival, when the whole town had turned up to watch the foreign poets who been paid to come to this beautiful mountain resort, he read charmingly the story about the lovesick crossword puzzle writer.

He was good looking too. Everyone was in love with him. As was I.

I must remember the name of this poet.

Though I suspect he may be naughtier than he looks.

Yes. I’m back on the trail again.



18.2.2008

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New poem
Oh and btw... I posted a new poem on the Imaginary Poem blog. It's entitled Election Day.
Election
LOL. So yes, after the whole excitement over Edison Chen's photos and in between the endless editing and rewriting at the office, I come home in a listless mood and decided to follow Meesh's link to Malaysiavotes to read me some political news. Close friends would know me as a kind of politically vague person. I read the papers only every other week. I roll my eyes at any new controversy and I'm always the last one to know about what my NGO friends get up to. They know I'm indifferent. Ditto with the elections.

When I was growing up in Sabah, it was a great time for state politics. I remember a bit about the 1988(?) elections. There were public demonstrations which I saw on TV the day we were sent back from school as it was closed down because of the public scare. I remember my mum picking me and my brother up. And the state of emergency. I remember how quiet the street in my already quiet neighbourhood was. And even though I was only so young, I remember feeling that shit Malaysia is fucked up. In Sabah, things were different. If only for a moment.

Which was why it was so heartbreaking to see the denouement of that spark over the next couple of years. People still say that PBS shouldn't have left BN. But that's the Kadazan-Dusun's lot. Only in recent time have I understood that true democracy does not exist in any real form, not in this country, not anywhere. Malaysia is by and large a lumbering relic of feudalism. And globally we're all still territorial self-serving dimwits.

Yes, I'm cynical about the political process. Especially the Marxist view. Because it's so depressing. There is no win situation. I understand that the whole political discourse is a constant negotiation between the state of how things are and how they should ideally be. There's not meant to be an endpoint, which is something I'm optimistic about. But at the same time, when that discourse is steered back perennially to the same old tired issues of race, religion, morality, bla bla bla... it's like listening to Mawi sing day in, day out.

And to watch the country's democratic foundations being dismantled one by one... our civil liberties being denied us one by one... our rights... and the rise of a populace frantically swayed by petty politics... not to mention the paranoia-inducing endless state of emergency we are living through. As a Sabahan, I really do feel sad when I see what's happening in this part of the country. I've seen policemen physically attacking innocent people in broad daylight. I've seen traffic cops happily taking bribes. Films and plays banned. Friends whisked off to jail. As though living in such an oppressive money-driven society isn't hard enough.

LOL.

As I get older, the elections seem less joyful. No, joyful's not the right word. I think excitable is more accurate. It's hard to get excited by a race in which you already know the tortoise is going to win. But, for the sake of the elusive democracy we keep alive in our heads, we must put on a brave face and think positive thoughts. What is life without hope, right?

So, yep, though I won't be voting in this election, I hope you would. (Actually I'm confused as to where I should register - here or back in Sabah? LOL.)

But please check out the link to the Malaysiavotes site. It's insightful, harrowing reading but it pays to enrich the political division in the brain once in a while.

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In other news, I secured a date and venue for the REAL LAUNCH of the album. It's going to happen on 12 April at the Central Market Annexe Gallery. Already I've booked Bulimia as one of the opening acts. Am also planning to have an indie CD fair :-)

Now I've got to get the damn CD printed...

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15 February 2008
Press release???
Hurray I'm back from holidaying in KK. I got back on Tuesday. I must admit I was a bit down when I got back. Homesick I think. Unfortunate timing, since I really have to be up and running around getting the album done. (Not to mention do some publicity shots.) (Yawn.) But because I'm an "indie" artist, I've allowed myself to be greased back into the "indie trap". Which is not the same trap as the one I blogged about before. This one's the lazy trap.

Anyway, because someone requested this... I decided to write my press release. I'm not if it should be the official one... but it's quite funny.... ha ha ha...

Here it is...


****

PRESS RELEASE (???)

After fucking around for far too long, Jerome Kugan finally releases his first album, entitled “Songs For A Shadow”. Hitting the shops in March 2008, just in time for the elections!


Bio
Who the fuck is Jerome Kugan? Originally from Kota Kinabalu, Jerome Kugan is a 33 year old singer songwriter who first dabbled in music while still a student in Australia in 1996 when he joined a Casio punk band called C.U.N.T. Imploding after four shows, Jerome struck out on his own, first singing a capella songs, then collaborating with electro musicians. Upon returning to Malaysia, Jerome started writing music more seriously, but it wasn’t until he relocated to Kuala Lumpur in 2000 that he started performing in earnest. Between 2001 and the present time, Jerome has performed in various venues in KL, featuring his quirky yet accessible brand of music (no doubt a result of his rather artless self-taught approach). Performing in both acoustic and electronic (MIDI) formats, Jerome’s music and vocal stylings have been compared to Bjork, Morissey, Depeche Mode, Jeff Buckley, PJ Harvey, and The Notwist, among others. On the same token, he has also been descibed as “a poor man’s Kylie in shorts.” Aside from bewildering local audiences with his unconventional performances, Jerome’s instrumental MIDI compositions have been featured in early films by local filmmakers Amir Muhammad and James Lee. He was even awarded the 3rd Cameronian Performing Arts Awards Most Promising Artist and Best Original Music (Theatre) for the music he composed for the 2005 stage production “Ops Ophelia: A Fashion Opera” directed by Rohaizad Suhaidi. Aside from making music, Jerome is also a gig organiser. As one-third of Troubadours Enterprise together with fellow singer songwriters Azmyl Yunor and Tan Sei Hon, Jerome co-organised KL Sing Song at KLPAC which is an annual showcase of local singer songwriters. He also co-organises the recurring spoken word show Wayang Kata with Doppelganger and The British Council. Jerome is also a published poet and writer. He has previously been invited to participate in the Ubud Writers Festival, Singapore Writers Fest and Utan Kayu Literary Biennale. Exactly what were these people thinking?

Album
Anyway… in 2006, Jerome began recording his solo debut album “Songs For A Shadow” with producers Hardesh Singh and Ariff Akhir. After one and a half years of recording sessions (with a lot of breaks in between), it’s finally done! It’s set to be independently released as CD and digital download in March 2008. It contains eleven original songs written by Jerome, concerning various well-trod topics including love, relationships, flowers, homophobia, and cats, delivered in Jerome’s inimitable style. Continuing with the adventurous spirit that has defined Jerome’s artistic output in the past, the style of the album is defiantly electro-folksy, featuring Jerome’s untutored vocals and minimal guitar playing against pulsating austere arrangements courtesy of Hardesh Singh and Ariff Akhir. But the album is not avant garde by any means. For those who are afraid of new music, be rest assured that “Songs For A Shadow” is quite accessible, melodic, poetic and polished even, thanks to years of humbling experiences and a childhood of being forced to listen to disco and country music.

****


Someone please send me to a finishing school...

In other news, please don't forget the book launch tommorrow... cause I'll be performing some choons... who gives a fuck about the book, right? :-p

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02 February 2008
Songs For A Shadow - album release postponed to March
Lots of people have been asking me when the album is coming out. LOL. While I usually set myself a deadline to get it all done, I think it's part of the good and bad of going "indie" that deadlines develop a sort of flexibility syndrome.

So, it's with cheekiness that I make this announcement. The album's release has been pushed back a month to March. Sorry for all the unnecessary excitement that I've been encouraging over the past few weeks. :-p

Not that there's anything wrong with the songs. In fact, I went with Hardesh to the mastering studio on Tuesday and Friday to have a listen to the mastered versions of the songs, and yep I'm quite happy with the way it's sounding. I also got to meet mastering guru CL Toh, which was nice. (It's always nice to meet new people.) Basically, there's just a few small glitches left to clean up and it'll be done sometime after Chinese New Year.

Here's a shot of Toh hard at work.
















Good news on the art front! The artwork for the CD cover is all done--kudos to Shahril Nizam for staying up til 2am on Saturday night to help me finalise it! And he did a wonderful job too. Here's to hoping people will buy the CD because of the cover... heh heh heh...

While waiting for Toh to finish up in the mastering studio, I'll be going back to Kota Kinabalu for a week to celebrate Chinese New Year with my family.

So, March it is.

*

In other news, I finally got to meet up with the two friendly guys from Transient Vortex: Sam and Sugs. They played me their remix of "A Shadow" which has a very nice dubstep vibe. :-) They're going to push it to be played on radio sometime soon so I'm looking forward to hear how people will respond to it... Afterwards we hung out and talked shop in Bangsar. It's nice to work with and get to know local musicians and share stories about doing it independently. There's no better way to really get a gauge for how the local music scene is like than comparing notes with one's contemporaries.

Distribution of local music is definitely an issue. Most local musos who have CDs to sell, especially those from the "indie" scene, are not too happy with getting a raw deal from distributors. I think "indie" writers know about the situation too. Basically, big distributors to the music stores take a huge cut of the profits, sometimes up to 60% or 70% per cent of the sticker price. I'm not crying foul. It's standard practice with a lot of the merchandise you find in shops. The store owners take a cut too. Everyone has to earn a living. Still, when you have no dough to afford a spiffy nationwide marketing campaign, putting the CD in stores is a bit of a waste of time. It's nice if local radio play your stuff and people know about your work enough to get motivated to hop along down to the local CD shop and then decide if they really like it enough to fork over the cash. But that ain't the case, unfortunately. Then again, radio's not to blame either. Most people tune to commercial stations because they play all those hits from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s (and all the mainstream chart stuff) that everyone loves (to death) and popularity is what advertisers like to hear. It's rare to hear radio listeners demanding to listen to local music (Malay pop excluded), much less obscure indie singer songwriter stuff. LOL. I think the only radio station that's friendly to local content is Fly FM. Though I'd be lying if I said I really know what the score is since I'm not so much of a radio listener. I prefer my little mp3 player cause it has all my favourite songs on it! (And no static or DJ chatter!)

Anyhoo... concerning distribution...

I like Ad Lib Records' approach. I'm sure if you've spent some time hanging out in the mamak restaurants in Bangsar or Hartamas, you've been approached by table-to-table salespeople hawking CDs by The Hypercubes, or the latest Ad Lib CD, Technology, a compilation of electronic music tracks by various artistes. It's quite an aggressive sales technique but I think it's quite effective. Why put your CD in a shop somewhere and wait? Take it straight to them! It's such an obvious thing to do. But I guess that famous Malaysian shyness really gets in the way.

... pondering if I should approach Ad Lib. LOL.

Anyway, being realistic about the marketability of my music sometimes get me down. Over several years of gigging (intermittently), sometimes I'm not sure if the music I make gets through to Malaysian audiences. Being a solo act sometimes excludes what I do from the more vibrant band scene. Sitting on the borders of various genres definitely makes it a tough proposition for most ears. Some people say it's all about presentation. But that's marketing talk.

I had a conversation with someone at the Soundscape Labradors gig at KLPAC who asked me about the music life. I must admit it's not an easy thing to sustain, especially when you don't fit the "package". One has to be willing to play a game, selling not only the music, but a "concept" to go with it. I used the word "calculative" which is a bit cynical. But "calculative" doesn't always have to be considered in a negative light. It can range from taking care of who you choose to collaborate with to deciding how the CD cover should look like. As an independent musician, I'm quite chuffed with being able to call the shots. If I had been linked to a label, I definitely wouldn't have been able to get away with the "artsy" CD cover or the "adventurous" music arrangements. It's nice to have the control. But I have to be careful too, I guess, not to overdo it. When I have to make choices for the songs on the album, I have to consider how I would perceive it if I were on the receiving end. And I have to be frank with myself about such things. Since I'm the sort of person who can relate easier to something that's different, interesting, arty, thought-provoking, or earnest even, rather than your run-of-the-mill tryhard soundalike stuff, I have to stay true to that. And if that makes the music not so commercial, then so be it.

Which makes me feel really good when people come up to me and say "I like what you do because it's different." LOL. I think that's a wonderful compliment to get.

But, you know, I'm optimistic that my music will find a place somewhere in the Malaysian sonic landscape. What matters at the end of the day, when it's just me and the music, and all the time and energy (and money) that I've invested into doing this thing that I love, is that I actually like it.

And so ends my little babble...

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Oh and yep, I put up a few poems on my Imaginary Poem blog... the ones that didn't make it to final version of the Imaginary Poems manuscript, which has more or less reached its final final draft... I think...

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