DICK LEE & MYRNE

Both Lee and Myrne are re­defin­ing what it means to be a Sin­ga­porean son—al­beit in dif­fer­ent ways. Be­sides chore­ograph­ing sev­eral Na­tional Day Pa­rades and pen­ning the 1998 hit, Home, Lee has al­ways been a cham­pion of cel­e­brat­ing one’s iden­tity through his

Harper's Bazaar (Singapore) - - THE MUSICIANS -

With this dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion, how have things changed for mu­sic?

Dick Lee: Be­fore, you re­ally had to push, there was no way else. I had to knock on doors over and over.To cre­ate buzz you played in li­braries, schools… you had to per­form to be seen. Now, it’s too easy with the In­ter­net—you just post some­thing [on­line]. But it’s also be­come so flooded. Will you get seen? Be­fore, the whole school had to come and watch you.

Myrne: There’s this thing about kids who grew up in the ’90s.The rea­son why there’s a sense of nos­tal­gia is be­cause we grew up with­out much tech­nol­ogy at all.We’ve seen the brick-like hand­phones our par­ents used evolve into some­thing that fits into our pock­ets.We are more adept at things be­cause tech­nol­ogy moves so fast. Right now, so­cial me­dia plays a re­ally big part in mu­sic be­cause it gives a very vis­ual and very per­sonal el­e­ment to the artist or band—peo­ple see a dif­fer­ent side than what they nor­mally would know just by lis­ten­ing to the mu­sic. I think that re­ally changed the game, es­pe­cially in the elec­tronic mu­sic scene, be­cause peo­ple are now hir­ing pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­phers to fol­low them to shows. Even if it’s a re­ally bad show, you just need a good pic­ture. It’s all in ex­change for so­cial me­dia brownie points.The em­pha­sis has also changed from the artist’s mu­sic to more of their im­age.

On the topic of im­age, how would you de­scribe your style?

Myrne: I’m pre­oc­cu­pied with monochro­matic schemes.A lot of the stuff I wear is very prac­ti­cal. Be­cause I travel and DJ, most of my shirts have to be able to wick sweat eas­ily. Brightly-coloured clothes get dirt­ied very eas­ily in a club en­vi­ron­ment.

Lee: Over the years, I have de­vel­oped a pen­chant for many dif­fer­ent styles, which is a re­flec­tion of the eclec­tic per­son I am. I can go from gleam­ing be­spoke suits with a sig­na­ture pocket square to bold silkVer­sace shirts that re­mind me of my days per­form­ing over­seas in the ’90s—I am never one to shy away from kalei­do­scopic prints.Tom Ford, DriesVan Noten, Gucci and lots of vin­tage finds spill from my wardrobe too.

What do you think is next for mu­sic?

Myrne: I don’t want to hold on to old val­ues be­cause if the game changes, it’s prob­a­bly be­cause peo­ple want it that way.Who are we to say what is right or wrong? I think the next big thing in mu­sic is learn­ing how to bal­ance im­age and craft so that you don’t sac­ri­fice your iden­tity. It’s a bub­ble, right? The more peo­ple get ex­posed to this, the more they re­alise it’s all fake and it will go back to mu­sic again. So I’m re­ally not wor­ried.

Lee: Num­bers and fol­low­ers… how real are they? What do they mean? I have seen some artistes with big num­bers but no earn­ings. Mu­sic to­day is very dif­fer­ent.There is a sense of want­ing to sound the same. It is un­der­stand­able. For every era, there’s a trend. I’ve al­ways wanted to be part of it be­cause I’m trend-con­scious.When I started out, I wanted to be like El­ton John.The singer-song­writer thing was on-trend in the early ’70s.

What does your mu­sic say about you?

Lee: Two things: I al­ways try to look for my iden­tity.Who am I as a Sin­ga­porean? Or an Asian? I may be in­spired by El­ton John and write songs like him, but how does that set me apart? That’s why I wrote “Fried Rice Par­adise”, ac­tu­ally. It was an ex­per­i­ment to be dif­fer­ent. If you watch

Won­der Boy, you’ll know that the song was banned when it was re­leased be­cause it had Singlish. It was a prob­lem. Here I am, try­ing to make a Sin­ga­porean song, then it gets banned for be­ing Sin­ga­porean. Does that mean I should be ashamed of be­ing Sin­ga­porean? It’s some­thing I had to bat­tle all my life un­til I wrote “Home”.You see, an­other goal of mine is to cre­ate folk songs for Singapore.We have no folk songs be­cause we’re too young. Songs like these take cen­turies to de­velop and evolve. I’m very ex­cited that “Home” is 19-years-old and still be­ing sung.

Myrne: My mu­sic comes from a very Asian place. I grew up here, so my mu­sic is an in­ter­pre­ta­tion of what mu­sic around the world should sound like, cou­pled with my ex­pe­ri­ences grow­ing up. Peo­ple here have been sup­port­ive. In the past, a lot of my au­di­ence from Spo­tify and SoundCloud came from big coun­tries like Aus­tralia, the States and Europe. But now, Singapore is al­most equal in that mar­ket. I think it’s just very nice for them to look at some­one who grew up here do some­thing else with his life. I think that gives peo­ple hope.

Myrne, do you feel the need to fly the Singapore flag?

Def­i­nitely—even though I dis­agree a lot with how things are done here: Ed­u­ca­tion, the mil­i­tary, fol­low­ing rules… I was priv­i­leged enough to be ex­posed to dif­fer­ent things about the world at a young age. But every time I’m over­seas and some­one comes up to me and says they’re Sin­ga­porean, it’s re­ally cool be­cause I hope the stuff I am do­ing gives peo­ple the op­tion to see that,“Hey, they can be that guy.” It is okay to be dif­fer­ent.

Dick, what’s your ad­vice for the next gen­er­a­tion of mu­si­cians?

I of­ten get asked about the se­cret of my ca­reer’s longevity and I al­ways say it is rein­ven­tion.You need to be like Madonna. She is my role model in terms of rein­vent­ing. Every time she comes out, there is some­thing dif­fer­ent [about her] as a per­former.To do that, you have to keep work­ing, evolv­ing. You can­not have a lull [pe­riod].Tal­ent also makes a good mu­si­cian—and be­ing re­lat­able. That goes with­out say­ing. Iden­tify your au­di­ence and con­nect with them. Be­cause if you just do what you want, will you suc­ceed in the long term? Don’t be too self-in­dul­gent, be­cause that can come later.

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