Thursday, 13 October 2011

On The Beat and Path in Malaysia (Season Two)

On The Beat and Path Episode Blog (S2 E5)
Filmed: January  – May, 2011
Locations of Shoot: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, East Malaysia

As Gary and I call Malaysia home, it is rather appropriate that we attempt to film as much musical silliness as we can.  Of course, our travel schedules don’t always allow us to be home at the best of times.  Plus, when we refer to Gary being at home it could very well mean he is between homes either living in Erik’s spare bedroom (Erik being one of our main sponsors and accommodation providers) or a bunker with other wayward global artists.  It isn’t always pretty being Gary but at least his cats have a place to stay.

Moving on.

Gary and I have our own musical and creative projects in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  We play in a band that has had difficulty in nailing down a suitable name.  We have gone under the monikers of “Fuzzy Handcuffs” and then in the name of efficiency, shortened it to “The Cuffs” and then we were “4 Dudes Named Gary, Steve, David and Erik Who Have No Name But Like to Rock”.  On October 14th, we played in a bar in Sri Hartamas under the uber rock signature, ICE PUPPIES.  We stole this name from an 8 year old.  It doesn’t matter where genius comes from, as long as it just comes.

We used to be in a band called the BENCHMARX.  Gary played bass, I played guitar and sang and all was good.  Other players in the band include generation two lead guitarist David Ross, generation one drummer Erik Richardson (previously mentioned accommodation sponsor) and first generation guitarist and singer Kenny Peavy.  The BENCHMARX, after recording 2 full length albums, a glorious independent music award, and a pseudo-South East Asian Tour called it quits for reasons that aren’t always entire clear, public, or even worth sharing (it’s better for the rock and roll legend that way).

Some Benchmarx funzies:

So while Gary and I spent the better part of 2010 and 2011 traveling and collecting musical footage around the world, we didn’t play very much locally.  As such, the BENCHMARX ended.  We did manage to squeeze in a few shows around town but like I previously mentioned, under a new, as yet unnamed five some.  Erik and Dave are still around and we enlisted a horn player, Brian Morefield to join us to add a little oomph in all the right places.  These musicians helped us in our Malaysian filming.  More on this later.

So while On The Beat and Path kept us out of Malaysia, we still managed to film a few interesting moments.  My stand up comedy profile and involvement in the local music scene led to me being asked to host the WORLD FINALS of the Global Battle of the Bands.  17 countries around the world sent a winning band to compete for the title of “World’s Greatest New Band”.  I was also “lucky” enough to host two legs of the Malaysian Qualifying Rounds. 

I would like to pre-empt the next few segments by stating for the record that I love music.  I can’t be doing what I am doing if this isn’t the case.  But there is only so much heavy metal a man can take in one night.  And throughout these qualifying rounds, it was predominantly a cycle of metal bands that Malaysia was offering.  Amazingly, Malaysia sent as their GBOB representative, a young, fresh funk band, Bombers. 

When it came time to the GBOB FINALS, I found myself in for the longest night of music in my life.  Had beer been involved (and it was to a minor degree) the evening may have taken on a different flavour.  But hosting is “working” and I required my wits for the cutting and witty banter I had to provide between performances.  Now it needs to be said that every band in GBOB were great and honest to their genre.  I can’t imagine that Ryan Seacrest enjoys every moment of American Idol and I have been to festivals where some acts were head scratchers.  That’s opinion and that’s glorious.  But there appeared to be a disproportionately large segment of the world who sent Metal Bands to this competition.

Admittedly, I have a hard time listening to either Justin Bieber or Slipknot.  However, when you put them together?  It’s worth listening to.

Musical genres unrepresented at the WORLD FINALS include (but most definitely not limited to) Hip Hop, Country, Soul… There were only two female singers in the competition and one singer who wore hockey gloves.  While Metal and Hard Rock appeared to be the genre of choice, it was a Jamaican reggae band, DUBTONIC KRU that took home the GBOB trophy as winners. You can get a glimpse of the whole event here:

Because we had previously filmed in Malaysia (pre-season episode #2: we really wanted to focus on delivering something new.  So we headed to Sabah and East Malaysia.  Here we were introduced to some members of the Hip Hop community in Kota Kinabalu.  In fact, we weren’t the only ones introduced to them, for the members of the U.G.M (Urban Gorrilaz Crew – not sure what the “M” means at this point?  I need to take better notes.  Or should I say, Randall needs to take better notes), the live show that we witnessed in K.K (Kota Kinabalu) was their first live show ever.
Hip Hop in Borneo
 Canadian Hip Hop veteran and current Malaysian Hip Hop Godfather, Jason “Vandal” Schadt introduced me to the fellows during a magazine party and we spent some time getting to know the rhyming youngsters.  They were shy, denying us an opportunity to witness them freestyling live.  So I had to take the microphone and show them a little of what I got in the chamber:

The next day we toured a little of Sabah with Malaysian singer-songwriter and industry heavy weight Amir Yussof.  Amir is an accomplished singer songwriter who has received acclaim for his original music and has performed throughout the world. 

The Monsopiad Cultural Centre in Sabah invited us for a day of traditional Sabah life: Drinking rice wine, hunting birds, and of course dancing.   Their history contains examples of headhunting as territorial instincts were high and the Monsopiads use music and dance to share of their colourful history.  Now for no moment was I worried about losing my head, but a slow loris (small cute animal) did manage to find its way on to my shoulders (3:08 mark of video below) and lick away at my scalp.  It must be my lovely shampoo.
This is a Slow Loris.  He likes Hair Wax.

Finally, it was back to Kuala Lumpur to participate in a photo shoot for ESQUIRE Magazine.  This is normally not my cup of tea but when ESQUIRE calls, you answer.  The shoot was to celebrate the first issue of ESQUIRE to be published in Malaysia.  Because it was April, it just made sense to do an “April Fool’s” shoot with the top comedians in Kuala Lumpur.  I was teamed with Malay comic, Papi Zak.  Every photo captured an old school joke or vaudeville gag.  Ours consisted of the exploding cigar (in my face) and the squirting flower (in Papi’s face).  I got to wear a watch that cost more than my University education.  But then I had to give it back.  It’s not always about winning I suppose.

Steve in ESQUIRE magazine

Next time we are in Canada and the United States of America.

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