Friday, February 25, 2011

Evan Russell Saffer - Chemical Marketplace

Evan Russell Saffer's new video "Chemical Marketplace" from his debut solo album Neon Gas begins with Saffer going to see a doctor, who instead of nurses, has two very intimidating looking "gents" who open the door, speaking every word in sync as those their minds have been melded together. He finally gets to see the doc, proclaims that he's not feeling very well, to which the "doctor" replies: "I think I have something for you." He is then held down by the in sync twosome, while the doc gives him a "shot". The video then switches scenes back and forth between the office and Saffer performing "Chemical Marketplace" in a club setting. It's a fitting video for the song, which starts off with a frenzied but very much in control electric guitar with hard rock drums, which are then joined by a second electronic guitar and an anthemic wail of rock that leads into the first verse. The track is dubbed a floor-it-with-your-head-out-the-window drug anthem, and you will bob your head, move your body, and let your senses go wild with this sensationally well put together masterpiece. It's non-stop hard rock at its best.

Evan Russell Saffer - Chemical Marketplace

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Deserts Xuan: Bridging The Indie & Major Divide In Taiwan

Deserts Xuan is a women of contradictions. I first saw her perform during MIDEM's Taiwan Nights showcase. By far the best act in the lineup, her folksy indie pop style and silky voice drew the attention of a usually fickle MIDEM audience. "I was surprised how very calm and attentive the audience was. It was really touching to feel and see them listening to Chinese songs in such a sincere manner."

But I had mentioned her being a 'woman of contradictions' with perhaps the best example being Taiwan's premiere indie singer/songwriter while being signed to major label Sony Music. Considered a pop singer in Taiwan, she repeatedly exclaims "Lang Lang sucks!" in the middle of Times Square (considers him the Kenny G of classical music). A sweet girlish exterior with the mouth of a sailor (or more properly NYer). Xuan reportedly dropped out of high school because she "couldn't stand the conservative restrictions". Suffice it to say, Deserts Xuan has lots to say and is not afraid to say it.

Considered one of the leading alternative musicians in the Chinese music industry, Deserts Xuan started her career as a member of the rock band Mango Runs, which won the Indie Music Award at the Taipei Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival in 2003 and was featured in the documentary Ocean Fever (海洋熱). She credits her true music education to Yu Jin Pong, owner of Witch House, a Taipei club (livehouse) that showcases independent bands playing alternative music. "Witch House was very important to my development. I look upon it and Yu Jin Pong as a mentor, teacher. It was actually where I was discovered by Sony BMG."

The problem in Taiwan, Deserts explains, is that the independent music community lacks the infrastructure we in the West take for granted. "The West has the advantage of having a long history of producers, mangers, labels, publishers... There is a level of maturity, expertise and professionalism that we simply lack in Taiwan and China." This lack of 'brain trust' to tap, combined with a lack of journalist and bloggers who understand the indie scene, have left independent artists without direction or support.

So somewhat controversially for her fans, when given the opportunity, Deserts signed with Sony BMG in 2006 for her debut album "My Life Will...". "I wanted to learn how to promote and present myself to the public, and I thought that a major could help me understand." What makes Deserts particular is that she has not Xuaned her folk-pop style, or more importantly, songwriting despite the expected major label pressures. Take her second album "Oh, dear. dear. I haven't." (親愛的…我還不知道), which unlike her debut made of songs written from ages of 13 and 19, has deeper and darker lyrics, reflecting "a passage to adult and womanhood" Deserts notes. It was a Xuane that was little appreciated at Sony.

In fact, the songs from her first 2 albums were all rejected by various labels and producers to whom they had been pitched. You see, Deserts is a songwriter who sings, as opposed to the typical songwriter. "I never really intended to sing. I care much more about my songwriting - that is my passion." That is a point I'm reminded of throughout our 3 hour talk. By the age of 19, Deserts had written over 100 songs and was actively pitching them. By the time she released her debut 6 years later, she was already well known in the livehouse scene and online.

"A lot of recording artists would ask me to write them a song, but they would always get rejected by the producer or music company. They'd tell me that the song was too deep for today's listeners and ask whether I could make it more like a love song." So she took the best of those rejects and released them on two major label releases, only to have them nominated for a combined Golden Melody Awards (Taiwan version of Grammys) as well as winning Best New Mandarin Artist at the 7th Chinese Music Media Awards... literally turning lemons into some oh so sweet lemonade!

She has since released her third album "A City" (城市) (in 2009) with a new band she created called Algae, and is presently working on her fourth album for Sony Music. So how has the experience with a major been? "Being signed to major, my relationship with Sony is a partnership. I give Sony everything I have and take everything from Sony - the successes and support, but also the rules, pressures and frustrations. It was that experience - the good and the bad of working in this industry - that I was looking for and needed. It was a necessary and healthy experience."

What impressed me most about my time with Deserts was the maturity she has acquired over the years, verging on wisdom. For example, take her view on whether to sign with a major or go indie: "If you know exactly what you want with your music and career, then you are truly independent, whether you are signed to a major or indie label. In either case, for it to succeed, it must be a partnership where both sides know exactly what each wants and the combination is a win-win."

Deserts is also vocal about her beliefs that the Taiwan government should take a more active role in supporting the country's budding indie talent. "An opportunity like showcasing MIDEM should not just be for signed artists such as myself or 1976. The government needs to do their homework on the indie scene and identify those bands with the most potential, but that also reflects Taiwan's unique culture. We have so much talent and potential in our small country, but the Taiwanese people doubt that potential most. The government can help develop it, in part by bringing such bands to events like MIDEM where they can realize what's out there and what they are capable of."

By Eric de Fontenay

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

IMMUNDUS - Dead Bodies Floating On Filthy Waters

Dark, haunting, and chilly are all words that come to mind listening to the track "Dead Bodies Floating On Water" by the Norway project IMMUNDUS. Constructed in the Ghost Ambient genre, the synthesizer and electronic music combine with the murky sound of rain falling in a swamp to produce the eerie effect intended. This one is definitely not one to fall asleep by...especially if you're afraid of things that go bump in the night.

IMMUNDUS - Dead Bodies Floating On Filthy Waters

Monday, February 21, 2011

AO Music Sings A Universal Message

AO Music captures the true essence of heartfelt worldly music on their track 'Ena Na Lena'. This song is beautiful, light and uplifting. It begins with Michael Cooney's celtic penny-whistle that breaks into an incredible African world drum beat. Singing on this track is Johannesburg's Bishop Bavin St. George's Children's Choir, and they give the song a feeling of innocence and deep meaning. The music video that accompanies this track displays images of nature and people from all over the world in their native element. 'Ena Na Lena' is a Afro-Celtic world anthem that foreshadows the power of love and unity by bringing together people from every corner of the world.

One World, One People, One Voice: the message is in the music of ....and Love Rages On! With their new album, released today, AO Music have created a collection of global grooves that manage to be both soothing and propulsive. The music's cinematic sweep and an impressive dynamic range combines booming, percussive cadences from all over the world with melodic vocal and instrumental interludes – recorded in real time by real musicians -- and the sounds of children's choirs from the United States, South Africa, China and the Republic of Georgia.

Watch this on Youtube:

Evan Russell Saffer Debut Solo Album "Neon Gas"

Former Fixer frontman comes out of the basement after 2 years behind the scenes crafting the album he calls Neon Gas. From the grinding yet supremely danceable “Dream of Love”, to floor-it-with-your-head-out-the-window drug anthem “Chemical Marketplace”, the vampire obsessed haunting ode “With You Alone” to the sad but bittersweet optimism of “Just One Day”, the album as a whole reflects a poetic schizophrenia that somehow finds Beauty and the Beast inside Evan Russell Saffer. Dream of Love, With You Alone and Just One Day were produced by legendary producer David J. Holman (No Doubt, Bush, Adema) in Hollywood, CA. The remainder of the album was mixed by D. James Goodwin (Sleep Station, The Number Twelve Looks Like You, The Bravery) in Woodstock, NY.

Evan Russell Saffer's debut solo album Neon Gas chronicles the mind of the everyday maniac. He's got a prism of human psyche that tells a story, weaves you through the spiderwebs in his brain and on the tip of his tongue you'll find a shining key to the other side. Part tongue in cheek bittersweet humor, part matter of fact social circumstance, part lover, part dreamer, put in the rock opera blender and hit crush ice. “Neon gas is a substance that when you heat it up the molecules collide so rapidly they create a brilliant, sexy and electrified glow.....and if you inhale it it's deadly.” ~Evan Russell Saffer

In a category all his own, he's calling it Schizo/Rock Opera/Hobo Chic to reflect his mental state while writing the album, his musical twinings and hip meets hobo style. Evan has licensed his songs to Exposure: Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2011 officially released by Playstation Network, Just One Day appears in the indie film Chance Encounter by director David Toth, and ERS is currently a featured artist on A video for the single Chemical Marketplace is streaming online. ERS is headlining the Mercury Lounge in New York City for his record release party on Feb. 25. He plans to take his full rock show across the country with national tours throughout 2011. The entire album Neon Gas is streaming at along with press photos and a full Bio.
All press related queries should be sent to

Japanese Bands Rock Out In Hong Kong On 11th March 2011

Shazza Music is delighted to host the first Japan Rocks concert in Hong Kong.

The show will be held at Backstage on Friday 11th March. The show will comprise of four bands; one amazingly talented band from Tokyo and a female-led-vocalist-guitarist band from Osaka plus two of the coolest Japanese bands based in Hong Kong.

The Osaka band (Sawas Phool) won a competition (in Osaka!) and the Tokyo band (DonRef) won a competition (in Tokyo!) and this is all part of Shazza Music’s new band 'cooperation' concerts, with the first cooperation country being Japan. This cooperation is to gain a better understanding of each other’s city’s live music scene and to create more opportunities for bands to perform in each city.

The two Japanese bands are in town for ONE NIGHT ONLY!

Friday 11 March, 2011
@ Backstage, 1/F., 52-54 Wellington St. Central
10:00pm - 1:00am
HOTLINE: (852) 9486 4648

Catfish Kings (blues)
Sawas Phool (Osaka) (modern hard rock)
Don Ref (Tokyo)(R& B rock)
Sea Monsters (eccentric jazz with super rock beats)

More information about the bands below.


Catfish Kings
Catfish Kings established in 2009 as a chicago blues band. The band started playing in Mr. Moonlight, (a former music bar in Causeway Bay) and since then have played in various venues in Hong Kong. Catfish Kings' music can be described "Pure Chicago Electric Blues". Following real traditional style with harp and electric guitar. It is really groovy and dance-able.
MORINO / Harp, Vocal
YOSHIMOTO / GUitar, Vocal
MIURA / Piano
UMEZU / Bass
KOYAMA / Drums

Sawas Phool (Tokyo)
Thanks to the love and support of fans from as far afield as Malawi and Iceland, Sawa and Zizi decided to start a new band, "SAWAS PHOOL", so named because the band was born on April Fool's Day. Recently they were interviewed by the American radio program "918 The FAN" and are now hard at work with the current line-up working on new material and performing on the Japanese live house circuit. The band's sound is primarily rock, but they have also performed successfully acoustic shows, allowing them to experiment with Latin American rhythms, and are continually in?uenced by their fans and their musical tastes. The band performs in both English and Japanese.

DonRef (Osaka)
Playing a blend of rock, dance and funk, this highly engaging Osaka band is ready to take on the world starting first with Hong Kong. Formed in 1997, based in Osaka, Japan, DONREF is very well known in Kansai area ????. Influences from classic rock, soul, R&B, as well as The Beatles and Michael Jackson, Donref's music genre in simplely rock, but their funky and happy-feeling style is also excellent for party music.

Sea Monsters
Based on the policy of "Freer and No flatter music", this band formed in 2001 by Ogura (from Very Ape) and Koya (from Speed King and Helter Skelter). They recruited a guitar player from the newspaper, and Ito joined to the band. While they were making all efforts to compose original songs, they joined a band competition by Tom Lee Music. Though almost no one dare to play experimental music in Hong Kong, Ito was awarded as the best guitar player. In order to expand their music, Akiyama on turntables joined in 2002. In the same year, they caused a ruckus in a wine bar in Shenzhen as the customers rioted over this 'experimental' sound and the band were stopped after the second song! Come see if YOU are ready for the Sea Monsters experience!