Terry Lee has become one of the top hip hop music producers in Asia. Mark Koh caught up with him during a typically busy day to catch up…
This Singapore-based producer, song-writer and rapper created hits for stars like Coco Lee, Evonne Hsu, Too Phat, Energy, 5566, Urban Xchange and many more, as well as remixed hit songs for international superstars like Kylie Minogue, N*E*R*D, Maksim, Brian Mcknight, Gorillaz, Jamelia, and David Bowie, all while heading up the music production house known as ChynaHouse.
Aside from hosting and organizing DJ Battles and hip hop events at Zouk for the past six years, Terry is also the man behind the scene on many local hip hop and R’n’B hit songs by acts like Sheikh Haikel, CCCrush and Urban Xchange, as well as leading Singapore acts such as Urban Xchange and Parking Lot Pimps.
Even with this impressive amount of music work, he’s also the voice of the Motomouth man on MTV Asia’s Moto Alert and has produced and performed on various ads including two Coca Cola jingles, two Mcdonald’s I’m Lovin It jingles and others.
GASHAUS: Do you think that the current state of global hip-hop has plateau-ed? I.e.: Will it go the way of Euro dance and Trance such as in the 90s in the youth demographic?
LEE: Take a look around and do a count of all things hip hop…
GASHAUS: How would describe your ‘Asian’ touch to remixing Internationals like the late John Lennon?
LEE: It was beyond just adding a tabla, though Maniam is a genius I have deep respect for. It was also about joining all cultures, lyrically and even in placement and making the many sounds and voices of Asia sound like one unison voice of peace.
GASHAUS: Do you believe that the regional scene can breach the language barrier in Europe?
LEE: If I can listen to music which I do not understand the language and still enjoy it, I strongly believe a lot of other people can.
GASHAUS: How would you describe the current status of Asian / regional music market penetration into the Western world?
LEE: Isn’t Rain the face of Asian music in the western world now? It’s falling down from the roof top as I understand. I let you in on a secret, watch for Paul Kim on American Idol Season 6.
GASHAUS: Ever considered joining Music and Movement? Any Opinions?
LEE: I have been a part of ChynaHouse from day one and have been very happy with where it has taken my career. Everyone has their own path and I am content with mine.
GASHAUS: What are your thoughts on the local institutions like National Arts Council and People’s assembly in their initiatives to push local / asian music?
LEE: The NAC has been extremely supportive of me and ChynaHouse’s vision and has constantly shown continued support for our work. I believe such initiative by local institutions are absolutely a positive add on to our growth as a culture here in Singapore.
GASHAUS: How would you describe your connectivity to industry peers and the youth urban market?
LEE: I believe I am a positive person who is always open to exploring ways to work with new partners and new talent. I have always believed that you can never do anything alone. This year, I have set out to work with a new team of new producers like Adrian Yuen, Don M and Tze, who are extremely skilled in their own fields of music and I constantly look forward to growing with them.
As for the youth urban market, it’s where I came from and a culture I believe I still belong to. I live it and breathe it everyday and in time to come, I hope to see ChynaHouse’s presence grow together with the young and urban.
GASHAUS: Where will “I Don’t Get High to Fly” be distributed?
LEE: For now- www.myspace.com/terrytyelee
GASHAUS: Does the single’s title insinuate a particular stance on narcotics?
LEE: Among other things, definitely. I believe the only thing one needs to be high off is life itself in its entirety.
GASHAUS: With the successes of Urban Xchange and Parking Lot pimp, why go solo?
LEE: One always has to grow and challenge him or herself to pursue the next level, no matter what the difficulty, always accepting the fact that as much as success comes, it may actually be okay to make a mistake. However, I don’t intend to with this decision.
GASHAUS: What do you think it takes for an Asian band to succeed in the region?
LEE: I think it’s about being exactly that- an Asian band and not an Asian answer to something or someone.
GASHAUS: What’s the next step for them (Asian bands) to take on the global stage?
LEE: I really believe we are at the brink of the communication age and the world has become such a small place through the emergence of digital platforms that allow anyone to connect with anyone else, anywhere in this planet. That essentially is global, so embrace change and make good use of it, you’ll never know where it will take you.
GASHAUS: Any shout outs for local hip-hop crews? (iLLers, Break Force Crew, Tree Haus entertainment etc)
LEE: When I first started coming back to Singapore in 1997, there were maybe all of 5 people who were making hip hop and doing events. Today, it makes me so proud to know that I live among a large group of people who live this culture. I give a shout out to everyone in Singapore who loves how the beat makes you feel.
GASHAUS: What do you think is the key element in the success for your production?
LEE: A certain humility that says it’s okay for one to make mistakes which in default should allow you to try anything it takes to make a hit song.