Monday, May 23, 2005

thoughts on the revolution

wong ka kui in 1986 (click for larger)

whenever i think of the word revolution lately, i come back to anton newcombe in the documentary dig!. in the film it seems this is the brian jonestown massacre visionary's favourite concept: "We're going to kick off a full-scale musical revolution. We're going to take over the world".

while his lofty ambition is undermined by his seeming presence on another planet, he does have the talent to back it up. but as dandy warhols' guitarist pete holmstrom says in the film: "There's no way to start a revolution when you stay underground."

so the dandy warhols end up making expensive video clips while the bjc tag along for free food. but even as they sell big in europe, their music comes across as a pale, pumped up version of what the bjc set out to do. songwriter courtney taylor clearly was on a different wavelength to newcombe.

but as in the case of bjc prior to the documentary's release, how do you make noise if there's nobody to hear you? do you stay underground regardless, or turn to more commercial pursuits?

in the business-orientated hong kong music industry, if you want to even try to change it from the inside, you have to adapt. the listening public cannot even begin to accept your music if it does not fit the mold. once becoming this commercial artist then only can you attempt to stretch the sounds and experience of the listeners. is this compromise worth it?

paul wong has been quoted as saying, "Wong Ka Kui had the knack of combining art and commerce."

ka keung has similarly said, "With Ka Kui, our music scored commercially in those years, proving that we were able to make our music as commercial and popular as any the best of them."

from that it would appear that ka kui was the mastermind of the plan, with a flurry of tv appearances and promotional events after their signing to tvb, followed by their most commercial album at that time, beyond iv. really love you was a big mother's day hit, and the album went platinum.

apart from the heavy rock true testimony, most of the albums released in the early nineties had the hits cinepoly and tvb salivated over. beyond continued to promote themselves, hosting after-school specials and even lending their voices to a cantonese-speaking teenage mutant ninja turtles! the sales continued with fate party went three times platinum, and in an effort to expand their horizons, they went on to sign a contract with amuse in japan, leading to the accident...

with all this commercial success, it is no wonder that on the surface the brightest time for beyond was prior to ka kui's death. the public knew the band well, and ka kui was the face and voice of it. without him, people not loyal to the band sometimes dismissed the work of the remaining three members without consideration, and beyond's attitudes towards the audience changed similarly:

Actually, we know very well that everytime we release our work, the sales goes very quickly in the beginning, but when it reaches a certain number, the sales stop. It's because people who like our music are the loyal fans, so we don't need to go impress them. Similarily, we also don't need to go impress the audience which we can't impress. (paul wong)

having worked hard and fought over record deals and terms for so many years, ka keung concludes that "...we now make the music that we really like. I think that if Wong Ka Kui were still with us today, he would totally agree. We don't care about the market because we just want to make the music we believe in."

but in the end, the musical revolution never happened in hong kong. artists who believe that their music has the possibility for change are still struggling to put something together, but find themselves up against the same barriers.

beyond was the only bridge between the underground and the mainstream. their successors that would continue the revolution never materialised during their time together. in some ways, their hopes of making a real, permanent change to the music scene died with wong ka kui, something that paul recognised:

"...the incident was not merely about a loss of an artist. It was about losing a music revolutionary, and an age of time."

if there was a real documentary on beyond, which made no attempt to hide the truth, what would it say?


At May 24, 2005 5:08 PM, Blogger Artkruger Letchmi said...

Great views and quotes. Can i request an entry on the story of beyond(behind the stage and public)... Cos i'm a new fan to beyond...and eager to know them more!


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