HK Magazine Archive

Endy Chow Kwok-yin Never Thought He'd Sing Solo

The singer-songwriter made his name as a Cantopop singer in the mid-2000s, but put it aside in 2006 to return to indie-rock band Zarahn. 

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 February, 2016, 12:36pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 October, 2016, 4:57pm

I was born in Hong Kong in 1979. My childhood was like growing up in a greenhouse. I wasn’t allowed to go out alone. I didn’t have much human interaction. Later came the emigration waves from Hong Kong [in the 1990s]. We moved to New Zealand. I couldn’t understand the idea of emigration. I thought they just wanted to make me leave my friends.

My first rock heroes were Beyond. They were so cool. There was no internet back then. I could only record them on TV. I looped them endlessly. I would use a badminton racket as a microphone to pretend I was on [TV show] “Jade Solid Gold.” I never imagined I’d be on it for real. When I was 13 I started getting rebellious. I wanted to do something adventurous.

“People from the indie world said I was mainstream. And mainstream bands thought I was indie.”

In the age of Beyond, people would connect rock bands with sex, drugs and triads with dyed blond hair. My parents were strict and never let me out. But they finally gave in and bought me a guitar. They even bought me a Beyond box set.

Zarahn was formed in 1995. We were only 14 or 15. We played in my bedroom every day after school.I bought a four-track cassette recorder and started to write songs. We put our songs onto a 90-minute cassette tape and we managed to sell all 50 copies. We used the money to go for Korean BBQ. My childhood was the period of transition from analog to digital. Young people today might not even know what a cassette tape is.

I believe in technology. But it’s running so fast that people’s hearts are degenerating. When I started out as a singer 10 years ago, people on the bus and trains would recognize me. But now people only look at their phones, without noticing anyone around them. People say technology is all about humans. But I think people are manipulated by technology.

I never thought I’d be a solo singer. I was playing in a band—I never thought being a mainstream singer was a cool thing. But then you can’t choose everything in life. I sang demos to sell the songs I wrote. But no one was interested, so my manager told me to sing them myself. I was lucky to get good feedback.

I had a good year in 2005—everything went smoothly. I won the gold prize for singer-songwriters from Commercial Radio. But I was still young and I didn’t seize my chances. Even though I was solo, my heart was still playing in a rock band. At the end of 2005 I ended all my solo shows. In March 2006 I went back to the band. Some people thought I did it for brotherhood. But it was also for myself.

We didn’t make any money. People from the indie world said I was mainstream. And mainstream bands thought I was indie. I was very frustrated at the time. At first, I got famous with just a little push. But when I tried hard I didn’t get what I wanted. Income was a problem, as was my mental status and my relationship with my bandmates.

I chose to hibernate. In 2008-09 I stopped all promotional activities. I went home and helped my family’s dried seafood business for a year and a half. After three years, I got back and no one recognized me. In 2013 I went to Canada and drifted around, trying to open the cage to my heart and work out what was going on. I came back in 2015. I believe in fate and astrology. I’d always wanted to find my soulmate, but now I think how two people get along is more important.

Some people have said that the local music industry has been a backwater in recent years. But nowadays everyone knows guitar. There are so many youngsters busking on the street. I think the industry is better than before. Competition brings improvement. Recently I wanted to write a movie script so I asked some scriptwriter friends how to do it. They said there’s no formula—just do it. When you are into something, you don’t have to study it—just do it.