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Old 13th May 2011, 09:24 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Dick Lee returns to his roots: "Before the Mad Chinaman, I was just Dick Lee"

Dick Lee returns to his roots: "Before the Mad Chinaman, I was just Dick Lee"

By Han Wei Chou
Posted: 11 May 2011 1501 hrs

SINGAPORE: "How did the Mad Chinaman [moniker] come about? That is something people often ask me.

Dick Lee

"But you know, before I was the Mad Chinaman, I was a singer-songwriter playing ballads on the piano.

"Before the Mad Chinaman, I was just Dick Lee," said Singapore music legend Dick Lee in an interview with channelnewsasia.com, as he lounged comfortably in a designer sofa at his converted-shophouse home.

Lee said he wanted to reintroduce himself to a new generation of "people who only know me as a judge on 'Singapore Idol'" and allow fans who only remember him from his "Mad Chinaman" days to learn what he is really like as a musician.

And to do that, he will be holding a series of recitals at the Esplanade Recital Hall from May 24, entitled "The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman" that traces his musical journey from the time he started playing the piano when he was seven till he released his hit album "Mad Chinaman" in 1989.

"It will be intimate, just me speaking to the audience and playing songs that have inspired me," said Lee, his voice echoing in the warmly lit, high-ceilinged hall, with walls adorned with all sorts of different artworks.

"There will be old songs that you would never have heard before; I am going to chronicle my life as a composer, especially songs from my teenage days."

Lee added that he will share with the audience everything that happened in his life during those days, even the embarrassing bits.

"I will be playing long lost footage of my television appearances [like those] in the 80s, it will be quite funny, entertaining. The 80s was all big hair and big shoulders!" Lee said with a laugh.


But why is the master of flashy pop productions like the musical "Fried Rice Paradise" holding a small scale 'lecture-recital', instead of staging a massive production like his sold-out 2004 performance at the Kallang Theatre?

The 54-year-old musician explained that doing a small scale performance just felt more natural to him than a big concert.

"That was a big bells and whistles thing in the Kallang Theatre, with backing singers, guest artistes and all of that. That was to mark my 30th anniversary in showbiz.

"I actually want to just sit at the piano [and sing]. That's really where I am most comfortable, not in front of a band, in a costume which was what the 2004 concert was [like]," Lee confided, adding that his upcoming recitals were very significant to him because it also marks a turning point in his career.

Lee said he now wants to break away from doing just pop songs and rediscover how to write good music for himself, to go back to being himself and performing for people with just his voice and his piano.

"It's about time! I seem to have moved so far from what I was, gone on such a different trajectory," said Lee, explaining that it was a 'homecoming' of sorts.

"What happened with the 'Mad Chinaman' release was it launched my music career as a full time professional musician.

"Prior to that, I was doing my bits and pieces, had an event company, [released] albums on the side, you know. It was a kind of a nice, simple innocent life.

"I was able to do what I enjoyed," explained Lee.

Life story

The problems started when he became a popular composer and songwriter after "Mad Chinaman", writing songs for greats like Hong Kong singer Sandy Lam and so on.

A decade of this life left him feeling jaded and uninspired "because I wasn't writing for me, I was just writing for other singers."

"It became like someone wants a song and it has to be this kind of song, the producers give us a guideline, we write the music.

"We don't even know who is going to write the lyrics, we don't even know who might sing it. So it becomes just churning out this music," said Lee, recounting a particularly trying chapter of his life story.

He eventually decided to go on to write musicals instead.

"I enjoy writing those because they are quite a pure form of composition. I tend to just write what I feel.

"But even then, they are not also 100 percent me because I'm serving the story," he lamented.

"I forgot how to write for myself. I have totally lost the ability because when I write now, I am programmed to write a pop song that is karaoke friendly.

"I can't even do the songs I used to do. Every time I sit at a piano and write, it comes out like a Chinese [pop] song!" Lee said, shrugging his shoulders.

"Even my last musical is made up of pop songs, you know 'Fried Rice Paradise'."

"I want to go back to my roots as a singer-songwriter."


Apart from his concert, Lee is working quite a number of projects as he embarks on a new chapter in his musical career.

Lee revealed that he is currently working on another musical which he guarantees "won't be a pop style musical" as well as writing a new play.

"I've been mainly occupied with writing my play which is coming out in July, my first play in many, many years.

"It's a straight play, no music, a comedy. It's [called] Beauty Kings, it's about male beauty pageants," said Lee excitedly.

Fans of Lee's music will still have something to look forward to – Lee is planning a new album though he did not specify when it will be ready.

Lee had a gleam in his eye as he spoke of his new projects and appeared to be very excited about finally getting to freely express himself again, to chase a dream that he had once forgotten.

"This is the time for me to go back and do the things I like!" Lee declared.

"The Adventures of the Mad Chinaman" runs from May 24-26 at the Esplanade Recital Studio. Tickets are on sale now.

Source: http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stori...128153/1/.html

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