A rebranding exercise can never be easy. After all, what does a former prog rock guitarist do to make a relevant statement in the local indie scene? Simple. He puts down the guitar, reaches out for a bunch of analogue synths, and rocks out like it is 1984 all over again.
That’s not entirely how his career has panned out, though, but LK Wong definitely paid his dues playing with progressive rock outfit Samarkand in the early 2000s, before busting out his folk and blues chops with renowned duo Markiza & Peter.
When rock band Cats In Love came a calling with the need for a keyboard player, the PJ-based musician took the instrument like fish to water. Yet, he has found a voice in playing keys of a retro persuasion.
Michael Jackson and Prince’s music may have met his sonic dietary requirements while growing up, but the sounds of classic rock, from the likes of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Cream, Yes and Rush soon wormed their way into his vocabulary, likewise jazz rock exponents Weather Report and Return To Forever.
His solo debut, Vulcan Sunset, is awash with the warm timbres of analogue synths, a five-song collection which also vaunts his eclectic six-string abilities. While there may be a kiddish charm to his approach on the keys, he clearly has a deep-rooted understanding of traditional songcraft.
1. What kind of a name is LK Wong, anyway? Shouldn’t you have a cooler stage name?
It’s an abbreviation of my name. Yes, I think I should have a cooler stage name, but I can’t think of anything that I can be happy with. Any Western sounding name paired with a Chinese surname would make me sound like a Hong Kong pop star! And that’s not quite the direction I’m headed in at the moment.
2. You’re primarily recognised as a guitarist, so what possessed you to think you could wing it on the keyboards?
Well, it was actually out of necessity more than anything else. I took the opportunity to join a rock band as a keyboardist, to really improve myself on the instrument, specifically in the rock and jazz rock idioms. I wanted to take the rock & roll edge of a guitar player and kick out the jams on the keys. It was really difficult to find a keyboard player who does the rock & roll thing here, so, I decided to just learn it myself. At least to approximate that kind of sound and vibe.
3. Can your music be reproduced live and do you need additional musicians for that, seeing as you’re a solo act?
My music can definitely be reproduced live, though I’d certainly need additional musicians, as there are multiple layers of synths and band instruments within the arrangement.
4. What kind of future is there for music like yours, or is this merely part of a cyclical trend?
I see a huge resurgence of the 1980s sound in a lot of mainstream music now. So, maybe, my music might just fit in somewhere. I do believe this is part of a cyclical trend. What I do know is that, I’ll still be making music whether the trends have changed along the way. Who knows what my next release will sound like?
5. With a project like this, who would you most like to collaborate with, given the chance?
Oh man, there are so many artistes that I’d love to collaborate with. However, to keep it kind of current, I guess they’d mostly be with vocalists. Bruno Mars and Lenny Kravitz come to mind for some reason. These guys have taken the retro route yet have managed to acquire mainstream success!