ROGER WANG. The First Ten Years. [Post No. 4]

[UPDATE NOVEMBER 23 2010] Roger Wang’s MILESTONES album has now been launched. Here is an excerpt of Roger’s thoughts about the album, taken from Pop Pop Music’s website:

“This is my first decade as a recording artiste summed up in 2 CDs with a booklet to tell the stories behind each album and each song. “Milestones” is expected to hit the retail market just before Christmas, but we are open for online pre orders right now.

The first 299 online orders will receive a signed copy of “Milestones” and a limited “Milestones” guitar pick.”

Go to POP POP MUSIC for Roger’s complete account, more details about the album and ordering details.

Click here to listen to the Milestonesmusicplayer:
http://www.poppop-music.com/player.php?artistid=23

Stephen Lim

“Congraz Roger!! Ten years as a pro is a milestone indeed. Roger is an amazing guitar player, as well as a great song writer with great vision.

I met Roger when we worked together on Jacky Cheung’s ‘Private Corner’. One of Roger’s songs, ‘Love Scale’, was selected to be on the album. I had a great time working with him. What made Roger such an amazing player is he does things with ease on a guitar… I don’t see him struggle or break a sweat when he rips through the strings of his guitar. That is a sign of an amazing player.

Roger is also someone I envy a lot: he is living the real dream of having a professional career and being able to still stay home in KK, Sabah. That is a dream I hope one day I can achieve.” Stephen Lim, sound engineer.

As Roger Wang continued his musical journey, his path entwined with other people who were sometimes at a crossroads.

“When I met Farid Ali, he was entering a new phase in his musical life. He hit 40, and reached that turning point where he started to ask that question, ‘Who Am I? What is my musical identity? And he started exploring the gambus and all that. Before that, he was a George Benson: electric guitar, studied in Berkeley, the whole thing.

“I first met Farid in 2004, at the Kuching Jazz Festival. I think he’d heard about what I was doing, and I’d heard his name. People told me if there’s anyone you want to collaborate with, you should check out Farid.

“At Kuching, he had his set, and I was doing a ‘Double Take’ thing. We met at the press conference, started talking, and he said, ‘Let’s go to the hotel room and just jam.’ That was it. We basically just clicked!

“We performed together for the first time at the Penang Jazz Festival, in December 2004. It was a mixture of guitar-guitar,  and guitar-gambus. Farid sang a song, and I did a few solos, we were a bit short of material to fill a half hour slot! But it worked really well, and we planned what to do in 2005.”

No Strings Attached

Roger and Farid wanted to record an album, and they launched ‘No Strings Attached‘ in November 2006. “Most of it we recorded in KL, at his home studio. So whenever I had a gig in KL, I would spend an extra day or two, to work with him in his studio.  For the tracks I wrote, the basic track were done from here in KK, and then sent over to him and he put his parts in.

“Musically it was a totally new experience for the both of us. Totally new, and very good. Commercially, it didn’t do as well as Double Take and 2V1G.”

Roger noted that Farid faced some critics when he took the gambus into different musical waters, but he crossed new frontiers and made it good.  “The traditional gambus players complained, ‘That’s not gambus [music].’  But Farid made it work for him. He went from being a George Benson wannabe, picked up the gambus and made himself something different. It was his passport into a lot of festivals, and gave him a strong identity, internationally.”

Farid and Roger were unable to take their music further due to outside circumstances.

However, work with 2V1G was taking on a new shape. A new album has just been released.

2V1G

“Regine had left, she got married and decided to take a break from the music industry. It was a long search for us to find someone, because when you’re in a format which is so naked, everything is very exposed, you need maturity in a voice. You need a voice which does not need to hide behind anything. So we went through a lot of what seemed like okay voices, but once we put her behind just one guitar, there were a lot of things missing. Of course the singer also had to live up to what Regine has already done, which was very difficult.

It took a long time to find someone, and eventually we ended up with a guy! Jeffrey Lim.  He was someone who has always been there; he’s in the scene, we know him.  But it never occurred to us to get a guy!

It was perfect, because he had nothing to live up to, there’s no comparison with Regine. Plus he’s really good. He’s one of the Astro winners (can’t remember which year)  but he’s got a really good voice, probably among the best in Malaysia, for Chinese music.   He doesn’t have a typical commercial pop image which the Chinese Cantopop record companies look for, and this fits 2V1G perfectly! I’m happy with what I hear coming from  him.

So we started recording this year, and this time round for me it was easier. I had a better understanding of Chinese music, and how to approach it.”

2V1G looks set to reach for new horizons in the future. Separately, Leslie Loh, [whose company is audiophile record label pop pop music] said, “Just during Roger’s trip last week, we talked about pushing the acoustic format further to include a cello and a violin. This is the current trend for Chinese pop, which in small ways is encouraged by the success of 2V1G. So we may do more acoustic stuff next year.”

To celebrate Roger’s ten years as a recording artist, a compilation album ‘Milestones’ is due out in November 2010.

Photograph taken from the 'pop pop music' website

“A compilation is hard to do,” said Roger.  “There are three unreleased tracks; two are live recordings with re:mix, one is a collaboration with a DJ from KK, one of the early pioneers of the DJ scene. We did something a few years back, which never ended up anywhere; it’s me in a totally different context – in a house session. He asked me to play a few things, and he took little clips of some ideas and formed a chorus. Then he put his beat and sound behind it, and presented that to me.

“That was very interesting,  but I couldn’t fit it anywhere into my albums.  It only fit his compilation. So we have now polished that up for ‘Milestones’. As for the rest, writing took time; I wanted to have a nice booklet there, with me saying something about each song.”

Continuing to talk about milestones, Roger has set himself a few, looking ahead.

“I want to incorporate more instruments into my work. But an acoustic guitar can’t be surrounded by too many things, otherwise a lot of the beauty of the sound and the style disappears. It gets swallowed up. So you really have to pick what instruments to pair it with, and how you arrange the music.

“Another goal I have is [to record] the next solo album, and to write more. I’ve done so many covers, in the past six albums basically 80 pct are covers.  That was fine, especially in the beginning; when I apply my style of music to a familiar song, it’s easier for people to accept that. It’s easier for them to understand what I’m trying to do. Now I’ve established that this is really my style, I need to create pieces that are 100 pct mine. So that’s where the writing comes in.

“Lastly, I also want to apply myself to a more contemporary context. I’ve done that jazz thing now.”

Milestones behind him and milestones ahead.  Roger Wang is on the road to more discovery. All the best to our first Sabahan finger-style guitarist; we look forward to hearing your future achievements.

Peter Lau by CK Wong

“Me and my brother Simon always enjoy working with Roger. Since we have always performed and done studio work, we kind of understand each other very well. There’s not much words needed while working and we seem like we can read each other’s ‘mind’ very, very well.

Roger always gives us space and freedom whether we are jamming, performing, or working in the studio. He always wants to try out new things. He never says ‘No’ to any new idea.

Roger never gets angry or upset when a player is making a mistake during the show. He will just look at me and laugh! (Cause he always make mistake too! Hahaha) But the great thing is we can always turn that ‘mistake’ into something ‘new’! (That’s what we call ‘pro’, man!)

In the studio, when my drum playing is a bit too ‘busy’ for the song, Roger won’t shout through the mic and tell me. He just lets me complete the whole drum track. He won’t say anything, except ‘Pete, just rest for a while….get a coffee.’ After the drink we head back to the studio. Then Roger will play my drum track and we listen together. At the end, it’s always me who says, ‘Roger, let’s do another take!’ Roger will just smile and say, ‘Good, let’s do it.’ He always respects us as musicians. That’s why we always enjoy working together.

With Roger the ‘work’ doesn’t mean ‘work’, but ‘fun’. We just hope the three of us can just go on and on…like “The Never Ending Story!” Peter Lau, drummer.

Roger Wang. Photo by Horng Yih, from his Facebook album "2v1g-jz8 - Double Bill Concert @ Bentley Auditorium - 21st Aug 2010"

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