Jun Kung is on a mission to transform Canto-pop
JUST LIKE A SHARK, Jun Kung is compelled to keep moving forward. From humble beginnings the Macau-born pop star has become one of Hong Kong's most noted musicians. And his next move sees him take on the role of entrepreneur by founding production company MoFo Music. His big idea? To produce Canto-pop that, well, doesn't sound like Canto-pop.
The move is not unexpected, as Kung is well qualified to become a producer. He has an impressive résumé as a session musician, he's released a series of critically acclaimed solo albums (the most recent being Playback is a Bitch, which marked the first time that he and MoFo partner Kelvin Avon worked together), and he has won best original song at the Hong Kong Film Awards for the past two years.
Kung has the look of an impresario, too. When he and Avon walked into the interview wearing suits and ties (along with a new haircut for Kung) images of Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z came to mind.
Kung can talk the talk, as well. Instead of giving out business cards, he handed everyone a bottle of "MoFo chilli sauce" - a bottle of sauce bought from a traditional local store and re-branded with the MoFo logo. He effortlessly convinced everyone that the sauce was delicious - for the record, it does taste great - and used it as a prop to shift the conversation back on to an acceptable track when it became too serious.
Kung raised the capital for the company by means of a strenuous touring schedule. For the past three years, he has been touring the world with his fellow Canto-pop artists. It was hard work, but he says it was worth it: "It gave me the financial stability to start my own company, and I met a lot of our clients through touring, too." Now he has decided to give the shows a break to focus on the production side of his career.
To date, the duo have produced music videos for Joey Yung Cho-yee, Jason Chan Pak-yu, and Jay Fung Wan-him. That was hard work, too, but he says, success is all down to "being efficient and not getting stressed out." Working with Avon helps, he adds: "I have found the perfect partner. He is allergic to stressful people, and I am allergic to stupid people, so we help each other out."
Avon brings other qualities to the team. Born in Zambia, he grew up in Hong Kong, before spending a large part of his career composing and producing in Britain and Europe. One name on his résumé is British drum 'n' bass icon Roni Size, who he recently hired for a remix of Kung's Help is On the Way.
Avon is knowledgeable about the Hong Kong pop music scene (he learnt a lot from some never-ending karaoke nights with his local friends), and thinks Canto-pop focuses too much on the vocals. With MoFo, the duo has a vision of producing something that sounds different.
MoFo believes that the artists themselves should spend time songwriting in the studio with the writing team. They reason that if the artist is involved in the process, the resulting song will be more personal and individual.
Kung and Avon think that being a producer is a bit like being a psychiatrist: "Singing comes from the heart. We want to write songs that mean something to the artist. So we have to coach them a little bit, get them to talk about things they may not be comfortable talking about. But emotions are like a door - once it's opened, everything just gushes out," Kung says.
The word "integrity" is mentioned a number of times in the interview. "Doing what we are doing take a lot of guts and integrity. I quit music once, and became a product specialist. But I came back because I missed the music," Kung says.
He says his career is all about making the right choices - and he is as proud of the moves he has made as he is of his chilli sauce. He says he has seen too many musicians become involved in projects they don't enjoy.
He doesn't understand why some artists hand out their albums and meekly ask for comments and feedback. Artists should stand behind their work, he says. "You've got to be proud as a person. Believe in what you do, love it, make people around you love it too. Music is what I do, and I am proud of it," he says.
Kung is now busy preparing for a solo concert in collaboration with Yahoo! Different ticketing packages allow fans the option of attending the soundcheck, and even going on stage for a taste of stardom.
"Music lovers don't see a lot of the things that go on [behind the scenes] ," he says. "Like how the sound and lighting team do their jobs. I hope I can inspire young people to do something with their lives. I want to encourage them to follow their passions," he adds.
Kung has also recently contributed a song to National Geographic, and adopted a new family member, Sir Oliver Brixton - a husky cross - from Hong Kong Dog Rescue. The 35-year-old may joke that he is "falling apart" because of an injured wrist and back, but he appears to be enjoying life at the moment. "I'm happy where I am at right now. No more, no less," he says. "More jobs and more concerts are good - as long as they don't disturb my daily life."
Jun Kung, August 29, 8.30pm, Kitec, 1 Trademart Drive, Kowloon Bay, HK$1,160 (two concert tickets and two CDs), HK$1,380 (two fan admission tickets, two concert tickets, two CDs). Inquiries: tixmart.org