MUSIC, NOT MONEY or romance, is central in Alok Leung's mind. A veteran of the Hong Kong independent music scene, Leung, former guitarist of rock band Pillow and co-founder of experimental dance duo Slow Tech Riddim, has just released his debut solo album. Sipping a morning coffee in Tsim Sha Tsui before rushing off to the record store where he works as a sales assistant, Leung, dressed in a pair of well-worn black trainers, green-and-white striped T-shirt and blue jeans, talks about his new release. Entitled Wahoo!, the record encompasses Leung's take on 21st-century dance music. Where once his music was dominated by beat, he now has added catchy melodies to dance elements such as techno and electro. 'It doesn't sound bad if there's a melody on top of the beat,' he says. 'It makes it more accessible for people. In other countries dance music is usually accompanied by singing.' Having released three albums - Greatest Hits Volume 6 (2000), On/Off with Kim Lam as Slow Tech Riddim, and OK Karaoke (both 2001), a collaboration with the one-girl-band the Pancakes, Leung was longing to produce an album on his own. With this in mind, he decided to take a year off from Slow Tech Riddim projects. To help with vocals, the 29-year-old invited friends from other independent bands: the Pancakes, Nerve, Square Fruit, Ghost Style and Kitmatic. The collaboration, in which singing styles range from pop to hip-hop, gives a new emphasis to his dance rhythms. 'I tried to keep their distinctive characters when I mixed their sound with mine, and the outcome was surprisingly good,' says Leung. He cites Fisimatenten, the track on which he collaborates with the Pancakes, as an example. 'This song has a jazzy feel, but incorporates breakbeat as the bassline. It is a contrast to mix it with the casual and innocent sound of the Pancakes.' Working with a small budget is a problem independent musicians have always faced. But thanks to technology, Leung minimised his production costs to $20,000. 'I recorded most of my music in my home studio,' he says. 'Friends sent me their work and I mixed it on my computer.' Without support from his Slow Tech Riddim partner Lam, Leung says he encountered a lot of technical problems when he produced Wahoo!. 'When I made Slow Tech Riddim albums the work was divided clearly between me and Kim Lam,' says Leung. 'Fortunately, my friend Square Fruit was familiar with music production and helped with the technical side.' Leung also had to produce a video, as the album is an AVCD, which also contains a music video. Leung says the whole project is a dream come true. 'I always wanted to make a music video and my friends said they would help. But nothing came up until now,' he says. The music video, Your Random Centre, is directed by Leung's friend Dom-ting. 'This video has a lot of Hong Kong architecture,' says Leung. 'It looks weird with a lot of cut and paste and random images. It's not logical, but I didn't want it to be.' Leung started taking music seriously near the end of the 1980s. This was the height of the 'Madchester' movement in Britain. 'After listening to Stone Roses, I took up the guitar. I had a year of classical guitar training before moving on to electric guitar.' He then formed rock band Pillow in 1994. Three years later, Pillow disbanded and Leung formed Slow Tech Riddim with Lam, who was Pillow's drummer. The music changed from indie rock to dance. Over the years, Leung has been a studio musician and remixed tracks for Canto-pop stars such as Sammi Cheng Sau-man, Eason Chan Yik-shun and Anthony Wong Yiu-ming. Turning his back on commercial music, he insists on being independent so he can make his own brand of music. 'Many of my friends quit [playing music] because they wanted to follow the mainstream, got married or bought a flat. That's why Hong Kong's indie music scene is not prospering,' he says. Leung understands that making music cannot always be a full-time job. 'I would rather keep my day job and work on different musical projects,' he says. 'I want to keep living like this. Without music I would probably die.' email@example.com An exhibition of Alok Leung's work runs at Chemical Suzy (G/F, 2 Austin Avenue, Tsim Sha Tsui) from now until the end of the month. He will perform a free gig at Chemical Suzy on October 19 at 9pm. Inquiries call 2736 0087. Wahoo! is out now.