One-man HK band
Barry C Chung
He's probably the most highly acclaimed Hong Kong indie musician you've never heard of. He's got a real amateurish air about him. His name card is printed on plain white paper, with uneven edges and lines - the result of being cut with scissors by hand. Looking at him, you'd never even think he is a musician, let alone one of the most innovative in the indie scene.
The self-dubbed 'One-man Electronic Unit', Choi Sai-ho blends audio and visual elements to create a one-of-a-kind multimedia extravaganza. Accompanying him at live gigs are his trusty laptop, mixer, cross pad, electric keyboard, Tenori-on (an electronic instrument with a LED grid used to manipulate sounds) and, at times, a violin.
Choi's set is commonly accompanied by a visual projection in the background showing looped videos. 'Some of the songs must be matched with a particular visual,' Choi explains to Sunday Young Post. 'For example, for my song Lottery Players vs Games Console People, I use a Mark 6 visual. But for most songs, I don't really have a 'must' visual. Sometimes I'll use a cityscape visual to mix with songs.'
The result is an all-out sensory overload of audio-visual stimuli - and Choi understands that for some it might be overkill. 'I know that for an audio-visual performance, something like an hour and a half is too much,' he explains. 'It's not like a concert. For the audience, at some point their eyes and ears will get tired. So I try not to let my live shows drag on. I just keep the most entertaining parts.'
Specialising in audio-visual arts, Choi is a part-time teaching assistant at City University, where he attained a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Media. His students know him primarily as a lecturer, but for the electronic music enthusiasts, he's 'ST'.
'I used to listen to a lot of DJ Shadow, Fatboy Slim, and those types of artists,' Choi says. 'They would all use stage names, so I thought I should come up with one, too. My English name is Steven. So I decided on 'ST'. But after some years I sort of got tired of it. So now I just use my [birth] name. But a lot of people are used to 'ST', so they still refer to me that way.'
Like most indie artists, Choi has struggled to move into the mainstream. The underground nature of his music - combined with his ultra-artistic background - only complicates matters. But like any true performer, every time he steps onstage, he's goes all out to put on a memorable show. 'I want to be entertaining,' he says. 'But at the same time I hope there are some concepts or ideas in my work. So I try to keep a good balance.'
Choi released his debut album Weird Mind in 2009, a two-disc CD/DVD package. He also wrote the score and soundtrack to short indie film Lover's Lover by Heiward Mak Hei-yan. In early December, Choi brought his 70-minute act - complete with lighting, electronic gadgetry and smoke effects - to the HKICC Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity, to great acclaim.
Never one to take the expected route, Choi is off to Portugal next week to perform with other musicians from compilation album T(h)ree, a crossover project uniting artists from Portugal, Hong Kong and Macau. He may not yet be a household name, but it's clear that Choi's passion and originality are going to continue making waves around the world.