15 May 2008
Article in The Sun
An article on me came out in The Sun on Wednesday... if you missed it, like I almost did, here's the text of the article.


theSun His | WEDNESDAY MAY 14 2008 p.5

Poetry in song

Jerome Kugan has fufilled his dream of becoming a singer, writes Kimberley Lau

DESPITE launching his first album Songs for A Shadow last month, Jerome Kugan does not really consider himself a musician.

"I wasn’t really a natural when it came to music. Two of my brothers – Abraham and Moses – had better singing. I sang out of tune and out of time,” laughed the 33-year-old.

At age 14 he took two months of organ lessons which he hated. He also claims that he can’t read music.

So what was Kugan thinking when he decided to be a musician?

“I’m not a musician in the strictest sense of the word be-cause I’m not a virtuoso. I can’t play complicated chords on the guitar. The music I make is tailored around the singularity of song ideas, so it’s quite simple. But simple doesn’t mean it has no complexity.

“I’m more of a writer who works with music. I started performing as a poet fi rst,” said the self-proclaimed nerd who used to be obsessed with reading encyclopedias when he was younger.

“Then I got bored and experimented with singing the words. And then along the way, I picked up the guitar and taught myself how to play it,” said Kugan. “But I did have silly dreams of becoming a singer,” he said.

Waist-deep in the music scene, Kugan is known for using a laptop as part of his band. He has won two Cameronian Arts Awards in 2005 for music he composed for the play Ops Ophelia, and is one-third of Troubadours Enterprise: a company that organises singer-songwiter gigs around Kuala Lumpur, including KL Sing Song.

Currently working as a sub-editor for two lifestyle magazines and writing freelance on the side, he still dabbles in poetry and is currently looking for funding to publish his poetry collection Imaginary Poems and his poetry journal Poetika. But words and songs is not all that he likes, as Kugan indulges in cooking once in a while when there’s company.

“I love cooking. I like making pasta dishes, salads dips. But I only do that when there’s a dinner party happening,” he said. Making food for his guests however is a serious affair, with his kitchen and vegetables being off limits to everyone but himself. “I like to know where things are and cut things a certain way. When other people, whom you know have never been in the kitchen, try to be polite and help out, I usually tell them to just sit down.

“It’s better that they just sit down, relax and have a drink or something … that way I don’t have to worry about them cutting the vegetables in a funny shape,” said Kugan, laughing.

On “ordinary days”, he makes simple food so that he does not have to do dishes. “I just make myself simple tuna and pesto sandwiches … you know when you cook alone you don’t want to deal with washing up.”


Kugan on Songs For A Shadow

“WITH this album, I wanted to merge two genres that I love: folk and electronic music,” he explained.“I must admit it’s an unusual mix. For folkies, technology is a big no-no while electronic musicians sometimes feel folk music is a bit too quaint. But I think the two genres really augment each other. “To put them side by side, the human touch of folk music and the machinistic texture of electronic music, for me is like a metaphor for bringing the two different worlds together.”

Lyrics for the 11-track album were written over a span of seven years and based on various experiences.“It’s quite an intro-spective album; a bit emo, a bit poetic, a bit vague, a bit direct.“I’m not sure if it’s an album that’s best enjoyed in big groups of people,” Kugan confessed.

For updates, you can go to jeromekugan.blogspot.com

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09 May 2008
Album reviewed in Off The Edge + New job at Annexe
Songs For A Shadow got a nice review in this month's issue of Off The Edge (May 2008, issue 41), one of my favourite Malaysian magazines. It's written by the magazine's regular music columnist and composer CH Loh. I'm reproducing it here without permission for those who are too lazy or too cheap to get their own copy.

{Go buy the magazine lah... it's only RM6 and this month's issue got a lot of good articles including a Q&A with top spot contender Mukriz Mahathir. There are also articles by Hisham Rais, Clive Kessler, Mark Disney, Patrick Teoh, and Farish Noor who btw is Malaysia's sexiest intellectual, after Ann Lee that is... I also contributed a Q&A piece with Pete Teo and Awie about the Malaysian Artistes For Unity project... FYI: I showed up for the filming of the video but I've no idea if they'll use my silly face... and Yasmin Ahmad actually called out to me: "You're Jerome, right?" I was touched... also I got to hang out with, among others, the funny January Low, whose dancing in the Stirring Odissi Festival... LOL}

FYI, The review is part of a bigger article entitled "Things that go pop" on page 71 about Popfolio/Poptopus, which is the online distributor for the album. I only reproduce here the part that talks about the album.

Songs For A Shadow
Jerome Kugan

Well, it's about time! Jerome Kugan has been mucking around with songwriting for quite a while now, keeping the world at large on the edge. I had waited for years, after hearing one of Kugan's demos, for him to go and cut an album already.

And it was well worth the wait. It's hard enough to craft one great song, but Songs for a Shadow is consistently brilliant. It's timely too. When so much of our world hangs in a lopsided dacing, a good dose of Kugan's sunny disposition is just what we need to stop ourselves from taking life too seriously.

Not that any of the songs here are frivolous; far from it. Hey, let's not mope, get over it aready, the often breezy, almost defiantly finger-in-your-face optimistic tunes seem to say.

At the heart of the music is Kugan's simple, plaintive voice, beautiful for all its flaws, an uncut gem with no need for polishing, bringing a rainbow of nuances to the lyrics even when the texts seem obscure. It's a refreshing return to great songwriting as it used to be, a personal statement untainted by concerns for commercial success, the antidote to the American Idol phenomenon.

The hardest part is to pick a track that I like, because there isn't one that I don't. That said, I do like "I Like" (and not just for the pun). It's a great opener, followed by the irreverent whistling that ushers in the catchy "Tomas" with its twist of carioca cheek.

"This Excellent Love", I think, was that early hint of Kugan's genius that I first heard and it still is as good as I remember it. "The Miracle" has fingerprints of The Cure all over it, albeit on uppers, while "Flowers" sees Kugan getting a bit more sober but not missing a beat on its catchy riff. An offbeat sense of humour pervades the "Song For The Service Industry"'s lament for the unsung heroes behind the swing doors, while "Mother" is a real gem whose strength lies in its simplicity.

There's a darker side to the album, too. "A Shadow" has that insistent kick bass that seems to be leaking through the walls from the disco next door while the guitar holds sway against the barest of accompaniments.

From here the album winds down to an afterglow, lights are dimmed, and shadows come out to play. "Lightfalls" sees Kugan trying to outdo David Sylvian's Blemish-style minimalism substituting Sylvian's broken guitar for sounds of rain and record crackle, while "The Magic Word" is perhaps a thinking man's To All The Boys I Loved Before minus the testosterone, or an Alanis Morisette minus the oestrogen.

A final word of wisdom in the closing track, a ditty about a "little cat who has seen some wacky things", sums up this sublime experience. Kugan recently released this CD "just in time for the elections" so the blurb goes, but it is also available for download purchase on poptopus.


In other news, I've gotten over the damn flu and started working for the Annexe Gallery Studio Theatre (where I did my album launch last month). My official designation is Media Officer. :-p

I'd like to say a special thanks to everyone who bought copies of my CD during the Arts For Grabs event over the weekend... best-nyer... and also those who stopped by for a little chitchat...

Pang Kee Teik and Lim Chung Wei, the two hardworking staff at the Annexe, have been making feel welcome over the past coupla days. Thank you, guys... even though I'm sure you two don't read this blog... LOL...

Aside from writing press releases and sending emails about all the fun arty shows at the Annexe, I'm also in charge of organising some events, particularly music and workshop stuff. So if any of you reading this harbour an unbridled desire to hold a show there, you can contact me through my job email: jerome.centralmarket@gmail.com

Or you can send me all sorts of spammish materials... casting couch pics... et cetera...


Also, as I mentioned before... I'll be returning to the stage sometime in June for another round of Acoustic Jaya at Jaya One, and as part of the Troubadours showcase at Urbanscapes in KLPac. More info later.

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