What made you want to get in to music production?
I actually studied business and worked in banking for a little while after college, but then in 2008 I saw a job advertised for a music technician at Jerudong International School. So I started working with their Music Department on the A-Level Music Technology course, where students learn about composing and sequencing music and multi-track recording.
I have always been into music, being in the Bruneian band D’Hask, which formed way back when we were in school in 1999. I’m the keyboard player as well as a back-up singer. I’ve also been a session musician for other groups and played at functions such as weddings and even the RTB Orchestra. With my earnings, I invested in equipment so we could record our tracks and see if we could get our music played on local radio – which we did actually, topping the Pelangi FM charts for many weeks.
How did you then start your studio recording business?
After I had finished my studies, I had all this equipment and wanted to make a living from it, so I started to get all these people to come in who needed help in properly recording their sound. It was also about sharing my experience, my message and how music really inspired me. I was lucky that one of my early clients was ‘A Band Once’ – a very popular group who have since exploded on the local scene – and from there on I had loads of groups and soloists wanting to record with me. I also work in composition and was fortunate to work with our now famous Bruneian singer Fakhrul Razi on one of his songs in the early days, so again that exposure helped my business.
As a musician, what have been some of the highlights of your career?
In my band D’Hask, we were fortunate to get noticed and go to the UK in 2010 to record our first proper music video, where we even had Hollywood superstar Pamela Anderson be part of it! We also met so many amazing and supportive people in London, it was very humbling and we are so grateful for the opportunity we had. Plus for our next single we went to the US and had world famous stars like musician Marilyn Manson, actress Bai Ling and singer JoJo also guest appeared. It was an amazing experience in LA, followed by so many interviews and articles in the press when we got back to our part of the world. After that exposure, we agreed it would be good to also concentrate on helping up and coming artists in Brunei – basically helping the next generation. I knew how difficult it is, so I always encourage them to come to the studio and record whatever they want. Actually, that’s what brings me real satisfaction!
Whatever you have done or achieved, you still need to progress. The sky’s the limit so never give up and always push further to be the best you can be.
What would you say are the particular challenges for musicians here in Brunei?
We have only a small market here, so it pays to be versatile and cover many types of musical tastes. As there are limited opportunities for gigs, playing at weddings and events is the way to get noticed. Also if you are in a group, it can be very difficult for everyone to get leave from their jobs at the same time, especially true if you want to perform abroad for example – to break out and be big, you really need to go outside Brunei and get exposure in bigger countries.
What are your plans for the future?
Well the one thing Brunei doesn’t have are proper record labels or music publishing companies. We do have recording and production facilities but not the means to publish and protect artists’ rights or even collect royalties for writers and performers. So I and a number of people in the industry have been working together to see if we can come up with something. Also, I would like to put together proper compilation CDs to showcase local talent.