Artistic self-indulgence comes in many forms. It could be a heavy metal rock singer screaming at his audience while his band thrashes around on stage; it could be a writer rambling on about his personal pursuits; or it could be an artist splashing paint over statues in the park. For Hong Kong's icon of rock bands, Beyond, a little self-indulgence is not necessarily a bad thing if it can be tempered with an awareness of what is happening in the world around us. Its three members are the first to admit they are self-indulgent. 'But I think our self-indulgence is different from what others perceive it to be,' says guitarist Paul Wong Koon-chung. 'We know when we are being self-indulgent and we know to what degree we are being so. You know the outside world might go, 'wah, it is Beyond being very self-indulgent again' but to us, it might just be very little. 'I think we have already compromised a lot. We are a lot more mature, which does not mean we aren't being self-indulgent but just that we know when we are,' Paul says. 'In the old days, you could say we were totally self-indulgent. No one knew of Beyond and our world only consisted of the few of us. Naturally, we just put what we think is right into it [the music] but slowly, when fans support you and follow in your footsteps, you start to think differently. Your self-indulgence changes.' It may seem ironic that Beyond is feeling the need to defend its self-indulgence again. When the band was formed in 1983, it gave the languid Canto-pop scene a good jolt with the unique Beyond sounds. The early days were a great struggle for the band's then four members - Paul Wong, Steve Wong Ka-keung, Yip Sai-wing and the late Koma Wong Ka-kui - who went through a phase where they were accused of 'selling out' their rock roots, by churning out more commercial numbers. 'Oh, they called us 'traitors of rock' and everything, although we get fewer such complaints now,' recalls Paul. Steve adds: 'I think our fans understand why we do and don't do certain things. Sometimes I feel they know us better than we do ourselves. 'Often we will 'reward' them. In each album, there will be one or two numbers that will be totally self-indulgent.' Drummer Yip feels they can never win the argument anyway. 'People are very subjective. Whatever you do, there will always be critics. 'I don't think they fully listen to our albums because criticising it is easy; but getting what we are trying to do is not,' he says. 'But we make our music for the public and for our fans. Critics can say what they want. We do it for the fans who get our message.' To Steve, there has been no other way of doing it. The past few years have been a process of searching for 'their' sound; a process of trial and error. Four years ago, this process received its most severe setback when lead singer and band leader, Koma, died after a freak accident on a Japanese television game show. For a while, there were doubts whether the band could continue without Koma, often considered the soul of the Beyond sound. But it has bounced back with what it feels is a near-perfect niche sound. 'A lot of times then, we were trying out new things to see how it would sound; we didn't know whether it would sound good or bad,' Steve says. 'Now we've tried out a lot of things and we're starting to find a sound that we're happy with. And we want to keep [on doing] what we like and we're reaching that area. 'I think music is a trend in itself. If you play popular music, you just cannot go and play only what you like all the time. You have to look around you and see what is happening and your music has to be level with it,' Steve says. 'You cannot follow the music; you have to absorb it and then use your own ways to re-express it.' The band's new album, Please Let Go, hit the stores this week and the album will see Beyond tackling several genres, from trip-hop to acid jazz as well as a fully instrumental number. Apart from developing their musical careers the three members are also looking to work more behind the scenes, especially with their new 'band room' in Mongkok which they have equipped as a fully-functional recording studio to the tune of $2 million. The new studio is convenient for the band, who only used to use the room for jamming with other rock bands, because the trio now do most of the composing and arrangement work there. The past two records were also recorded there, although mixed overseas. 'Mixing equipment is too expensive for us, but having the studio is great because we're not so worried about studio bookings and can work till very late or start work early,' Steve says. Paul adds: 'It is good to have the mixing done elsewhere. Sometimes it is not so good doing everything in one place.' The new room - which they call '2/F Back Portion' - has also brought the band some new ideals, Yip says. 'We feel we can use the studio to help new bands or musicians get established.' The band is toying with the idea of signing up a new band and say it has found a promising group although the trio will not reveal the name. 'It's not a name anyone would know but I feel that they play really good music. It may not be suitable for the market now but I like their work,' Steve says. Paul interjects: 'They would need a long time to build up but we're not in a rush. But for us, it would be good training to start something like this. 'You can manage your own affairs well, but the question is can you manage others? When you're 50, you can't still be playing in bands like this but you can't start another career only then. So now, we'll help others produce, write and try to help new bands.' Obviously, with their new maturity has also come new-found confidence in their own ability and talent - although critics may term it a certain cockiness. While many musicians are worrying about the post-handover period and mainland talent surging in to grab a piece of the dwindling profit pie, Beyond is looking forward to the new competition. Steve thinks the comparisons will be good for the local music scene because it will make musicians 'more serious' about their music. The three young men are confident they can hold their own against mainland rock talent. 'I think when that time comes and Beyond cannot make a living in Hong Kong any more, then it will be because Beyond is useless,' says Paul. 'If they can all play so well, then I would willingly pack up my bags and go.' And Steve adds: 'But we have confidence that we can do what they cannot do and what they can, we won't strive to do. 'But it's still the same thing; it's still creativity.' 'We just put what we think is right into it [the music]' 'Oh, they called us traitors of rock and everything'