Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Cultural Perspective: Interview with Jay and Vincent

 Here is a very good interview with Jay and Vincent, circa 2009 about their partnership and which I provided translations for in another forum:


My level of Chinese is just very average high school standard but I can sorta tell what Jay says and will translate as best as I can.

The beginning of the vid is, of course an intro to the interview and talks about the casting for TGH. Host asks Jay about the many roles he has...singer, songwriter, director.
Jay: Music still takes up the biggest part of of his life and about half a year is spent on creating music, songs and concerts.
His childhood dream was to be a concert pianist at about age 8 or 9. He did not want to disappoint his parents after all the time and money his parents had expended on his music lessons.
He was later influenced by pop music and felt it was a better option, as there were already too many concert pianists and he also wanted to find his own niche. He took part in talent contests to see what results he could achieve.
He was quite introverted as a child but started performing first in front of family; later on in school. He was nervous initially but with time and practice, got used to performing.

They then talk about kids who learn music and Jay agrees that it is a way for them to express their feelings and stay on the right path. He would write songs for his friends and girls whom he liked. He would make sure his own kids have music lessons as he would be able to guide them well.

They talk further about how Jay got his chance to get into the industry.
Jay: He talks about how he was discovered by Jacky Wu during the (now-famous) talent contest, in which he was quite anxious about performing in. He describes Jacky as having two different sides to him, on the one hand a humorous host but he could also be very serious when it came to work. Jacky took care of him, was his boss and mentor and frequently used Jay's songs for himself. Jay felt comfortable in the industry even though it was tough and decided to do his best.
He never thought of becoming a singer as he felt he couldn't sing well and often asked friends to sing his songs for him.

Next part is about Vincent:
Jay: Jacky gave him a book with a hundred different song lyrics, which intrigued Jay; also no one else wanted Vincent's work. Only Jacky did and Jay felt that was very good of him and over time, Vincent's lyrics got better.
It could be stressful working for Jacky; he was not above demanding that Jay write a song in two days, which Jay duly delivered, even if he had to sleep in the studio.

On to Jay's music:
A new manager at the studio heard Jay's songs and felt that it was very different; it was like his voice was another instrument and he was playing with the music. Over time, Vincent's lyrics also improved.
Commentary then talks about how Jay's music revolutionised the Chinese pop industry.

Jay: Melody has to be good and memorable, words easy to read and appreciate, although some songs are also not suitable for singing. In his CDs, he likens the layout to something like a dinner menu, with appetiser, main course, etc. He understands his own music very well.

They then talk about Jay's mumbly singing style:
Jay: He's not perturbed about criticisms like that. He also has a perverse streak and decided to sing clearly in some songs just to prove to his detractors that he COULD sing clearly but often just did not want to.

Jay: says he has a rebellious streak which he, however, managed to overcome and manage through his music.

translating in the first person)

Jay: I wanted to be different. The more you want me to do something, the more I would resist. But after my mum had gone away, I would practise dutifully. Around that time too, I got more interested in pop music; I was getting tired of classical music and although those who learn classical supposedly do not listen to pop, I found, as I listened to pop more, it was more free and easy-going and my then rebellious streak didn't last too long.
Host asks him about his collaboration with Li Yundi in a concert:
Jay: I was happy I could keep up with him when playing together. Of course, the gulf between us is very wide but I can honestly say that I did not let my fans down.

Regarding the importance of his fans to him:
Jay: Being still young, my work can influence my younger fans, which is why I keep my rap songs 'clean'. Unlike many American ones, which are usually full of anger and dissent. I wanted to do it my own way and promote more wholesome values like family, filial piety. So even as the music is cool, I'm subliminally teaching such values. These are very important to me and my songs have been used in schools. At autograph sessions, when the kids come with their parents, and the parents will tell them to 'Listen To Mother's Words', I feel that I have, at least been able to be of help. I do want to be a positive role model.

I have total control over my music  and usually cannot accept too much of other people's opinions. But in other aspects like fashion styling (!), I let others take over. For my music, I go by instinct and feel more than trying to achieve any 'ideal standards'. Like for example, when I wrote 'Cowboy Very Busy', it was 'cos I wanted to do a fast song for the younger fans and hey! People could actually sing along with it. And another example was that for a mobile phone ringtone. I don't really keep in touch with trends as I feel that I want to be the one to start the new trend. If I have to keep up with it, that means I'm already falling behind.
As for the age-gap between me and the younger fans, I don't think it's a problem as I'm still quite young-at-heart. I can do more in my MVs, like in Secret when I could still act as a student. What's important is that you love what you're doing.

About Vincent: He's a strange fellow; leaves his lyrics to the last miniute and yet produces good stuff. And if I can't understand them, he says: "That's good!" I work well with him and as for other singers who ask him for lyrics, they can be kept waiting for upto half a year!
He has changed the most amongst all my friends...from being a quiet, shy man without a beard to someone more open and can give speeches in schools!

Next part is Vincent talking:

In a nutshell, he talks about his interest in Chinese poetry and how reading is a very important part of how he came being a writer. He started out with a script-writing and eventually went into lyrics.
His language is deeper than Jay's so pardon me if I can;t translate so well.

 Vincent talking about how he writes for songs like Chinese Flower Pot and Faraway; his memorising of poetry in schooldays and how that has come in very useful for his lyrics now. That's in the nutshell again.

At 4:32, he's asked to describe Jay:

Vincent: He likens it to a line in Faraway; Jay may project an image of being very like a child or not being serious but in actual fact, when it comes to his music composition, he is totally serious about it and has complete confidence in his way of working. But not in other aspects of everyday life, like filling in forms, shopping, etc.
Yes, he is a genius and leader in his own musical domain. And it's something innate...eg Mama Chou told Vincent that when Jay was 5 or 6, he was able to pick out melodies he heard on TV and play them on the piano by ear after he had heard them a few times.

First impressions of each other:
Jay: I couldn't tell he was a lyricist when I first met him; I thought he was an Express delivery man!

Then Vincent describes Jay, with cute interjections from Jay who says "ya, he thought I couldn't sing"
Vincent: Jacky gave me two songs to choose the better one and as it happens, I chose the one not written by Jay. At that time, I did not realise Jay was passing by and heard what I said from behind the door (here, Jay interjects to say: "Ok, this guy..you're dead!" *cue laughter*

Jay: So our first impressions of each other were definitely not that great but as time went on, we realised our ways of working and lifestyles were similar and Vincent was also very dedicated enough to sleep over at the studio to complete the work on our songs.

 Jay: We were kinda forced to work together as Vincent was the only lyricist there.

Vincent: One day, Jay called me to ask for new lyrics for Jacky's new CD.
Jay: I felt that his book of 100 lyrics was too meticulous and asked him for new ones. He sounded grouchy and told me to just pick any of them. Musicians are stubborn people and I regarded him as a 'senior', I just got on with the job and wrote a song...which was well-received. Later, I realised that he was unhappy at that time as he had just broken up with his girlfriend.
Talking about Chinese style songs:
Jay: The first album had a zhong guo feng song, 'Wife'. His book of 100 lyric pieces did not have anything in that style and this osng injected a new element into their work. We continued to work along this style after that. We did not set out to popularise it; we just felt it was something special as foreigners would find it different, with the fusion of traditional Chinese instruments like the pipa and erhu, with electric guitar and normal guitar.

Vincent: Wife' is not actually a Chinese style melody but I wrote it and and another song for him to choose and he chose 'Wife'. Which was a pleasant surprise to me as it showed he could share my vision of the song. From then on, we persevered with 'Tea Grandpa Makes', etc, which gradually evolved into the noted Chinese style
Asked what position do they see themselves in the history of music:
Jay: I'm not really concerned about this or how long I've been popular. I just want to tell my kids that which songs I wrote, which era I was a part of.
Being No 1, of course comes with the stress of maintaining that. If your albums don't do well, the critics will be out in full force to tear you down. I'm getting used to the idea that I may be getting less 'hot'. One cannot be No 1 forever. But the most important thing is that I can keep my fans happy. There are also more writers now who write like Vincent too. But stress like that is also good as it makes me want to keep improving myself.
As for changes in style, I will do small changes but my basics will remain the same.

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