This is kind of personal, but that’s okay – so is QUAN’s solo record. You might know the guy from a band that he was in, that did the rounds and stole so many of our hearts. But around three years ago he moved to Hong Kong and started working on a solo project.
Bits and bobs came over time, until it all came together and The Amateur album was released around December last year. Quan was added to the Big Day Out bill and was easily the best thing there on the day. Yes. better than Fantomas even. He’s a bit more humble than my raving fanboyism had expected.
“It was kind of weird playing the first shows of this solo project at the Big Day Out and with the Prodigy,” the softly spoken guy opines. “I almost felt like I didn’t deserve it – obviously I had played the Big Day Out many times before with a pop band, but launching [the solo project] on this kind of stage kind of felt like forcing it down people’s throats.”
So the show basically was a drummer and Quan on stage rapping, singing, playing guitar and messing about with boxes. Quan had rung up a session drummer in Hong Kong, they practiced their live show and unleashed it this year, which was a slightly daunting experience. “Having had the security and routine of performance of a band for so long, this involved a lot of unknowns – but it went quite well.” And having a vision about the shows has been quite interesting. “We have tried to have different visuals for our shows each time and piecing that together has been a really rewarding experience.”
The question of difference settles upon talk of the internet. Just how different is it now being a musician releasing stuff compared to when he first started out? “Well there is no way I could have put this record out, even made the record in the way I did 15 years ago. Back then you relied upon a record label to help promote your stuff on radio and the other thing you would rely on was word of mouth. These days, the record label’s role is really diminished and the word of mouth is everything. But due to the nature of it – so many people sharing so many links to so many songs – you have your potential audience’s attention for a far shorter time, seconds now before they can click and find something else, so you have a lot of pressure to hope your first four bars are good, but it makes it much more democratic I guess.” Is this a good or a bad thing? “It’s just a thing”.
Quan quickly points to The One as his favourite song off The Amateur, which both makes sense and confronts – it’s definitely a very r’n’b track and certainly the most holistic departure from his previous style. “That’s actually the sound I like the most, being able to add some darkness into r’n’b in a way that never really is, and that’s what I really want to make more of.” And it was one of those things – at his Sydney show, watching the rock loyal and even hip-hop heads hearing Quan busting out a relatively sweet, seksay r’n’b tune was quite full on. “So much of r’n’b has such saccharine lyrical content to go with the killer production values, I really want to explore adding more horror.”
So Quan’s solo shindig isn’t going away. But the best bit is that it’s coming to Canberra for the first time. Supporting the immense Ratatat, he thinks he will be a pretty good match. “Those guys have the amazing dynamic of using visuals to spice up their shows as well as their music, so it’s going to be quite a good fit.” And it will be.