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The Mad Chinaman

“I HATE [our pairing]! It’s awful!” “Yeah it’s such a waste to be paired up with such a talented person.” Such is the sort of playful, light-hearted banter that you can expect between JAWN and M1LDL1FE for the rest of their journey on The Great Singapore Replay...

Anything But Mild

“I HATE [our pairing]! It’s awful!”

“Yeah it’s such a waste to be paired up with such a talented person.”

Such is the sort of playful, light-hearted banter that you can expect between JAWN and M1LDL1FE for the rest of their journey on The Great Singapore Replay.


A Friendship Like No Other

Indeed, singer-songwriter JAWN and indie-pop quartet M1LDL1FE are no strangers to one another. Both alumni of the Noise Music Mentorship Programme, the boys have since shared the stage on many occasions.

Speaking of their collaboration to reimagine one of the greatest Singapore Classic Hits, both JAWN and M1LDL1FE are confident in how their friendship and familiarity would help in the process.

“In many instances, both parties might be too ‘paiseh’ to argue with each other, but with us and JAWN that will not be the case. We are brutally honest with each other,” said David Siow, bassist of M1LDL1FE.

“Honestly, I’ve never ever written together with other people before or collaborated in such a capacity,” said JAWN.

“It’s interesting to get to make art with your friends - you’ll find out a whole lot more about them you didn’t before. A difference of opinion will occur, for sure, but I think we’re all experienced enough to know what works and what doesn’t.”


‘Mild’ Versus ‘Wild’

Formerly known as Take Two, M1LDL1FE is made up of Paddy Ong (Lead Vocalist), David Siow (Bass), Tan Peng Sing (Guitar) and Jeryl Yeo (Drums). One of the most celebrated bands in the local indie rock scene today, they are well-known for layering guitar-based indie rock with various textures.

“In the past we used to stick almost exclusively to just guitar, bass and drums, but over the years we’ve expanded to include electronic drum sounds, synths, and Paddy sometimes plays a sampler to bring an extra ‘oomph’ to the sound,” said Peng Sing.

On the other hand, JAWN is a folk artist who has captured many hearts with his raw and honest take on songwriting. His style especially shines through in his choice of instruments - preferring to use the banjo to create his distinct blend of folk and blues.

“My music has banjos [in it], but I think one thing in common is that we pay a lot of attention to the guitar lines whether it’s acoustic or electric; very melodic lines that we go into. I’m very interested to see what comes out of this,” said JAWN.


The Mad Men

Tearing off the poster cover to reveal their assigned Classic Hit, the boys erupted into a mad frenzy of delight. JAWN shot up from his seat and roared, “WE GOT THE MAD CHINAMAN! CHINAMAN! BY DICK LEE!”

Just as quickly as they got excited, the animated friends got right down to business.

“It’s in the key of F,” said Peng Sing. And on Dick Lee’s live version, JAWN identified that it was in G. Already, the boys were paying keen attention to the song’s differences in its various incarnations.


Would familiarity breed complacency, or would it lead to a sizzling chemistry? Whatever the case, Paddy claims that he would be looking forward to the fights.

“It will be fun and exciting because we are working with JAWN – someone outside [of] the band,” said Paddy.

“If it fails, we can just blame him,” said David.

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Rowdy and Ready

“I intend to be a dictator,” JAWN comments on his partnership with M1LDL1FE jokingly.

M1LDL1FE cheekily flips the table on JAWN, “We love being dominated.” 

“That’s so weird, you can’t say that!” JAWN immediately responds and they all break into laughter. 

M1LDL1FE and JAWN are a hard bunch to ignore. Easily one of the loudest teams around, they inject a dose of humour to any situation, often ending in boisterous laughter. At about the same age and possessing the same mindset, it’s only natural that quick-witted banter flow between members of M1LDL1FE and JAWN with restless energy.

Boys will be boys until…

However, when it’s time to get down to business, the team reveals a different side. Taking on Dick Lee’s The Mad Chinaman, they listen intently and dissect it with precise analysis. Breaking down both its musical elements and message.

Peng Sing, guitarist of M1LDL1FE, takes a crack at the context of the song, “When he [Dick Lee] goes overseas, he’s representing Singaporeans, Asians. But at the same time he is also aware that Asians are looking back at him. So there is this orientalism and reverse orientalism happening.” 

JAWN on the other hand sums up the cultural dilemma that Dick Lee and Singaporean faces in a way only he can, “We are very peculiar Asians.” 


Indie and Folk meets Tech

The team’s remaking process have been very much driven by technology. The Indie and Folk combination is approaching The Mad Chinaman with a surprisingly electronic take. Incorporating modern synth textures and even samples of speeches on identity, this will be quite the remake to look out for.

Technology isn’t only defining the new sound of The Mad Chinaman but it also plays a heavy influence on the way they work. Having only limited time with each other, a large part of the process “was a little satellite” JAWN claims. “This was more efficient, if a little impersonal,” he continues, showing preference for a more social process.  

And when they do get together, things get a little hands-on. In order to make some recordings, Dave’s laundry room was actually converted into a microphone booth. The team’s reliance on technology for experimental sounds, remote collaboration and a makeshift studio is perhaps a glimpse of how even more bands will find their start in laundry rooms and closets. 


Singaporeans will be Singaporeans

When it comes to creating music in Singapore, M1LDL1FE feels that looking beyond our shores is essential to going global. “We are still fairly undereducated as to how the rest of the world works,” says Dave.

“Outside of Singapore’s music scene, we don’t really know what the world’s music industry is like. We might think we are doing well, but actually that might not be the case,” Paddy adds on. The band thinks guidance from a world-renowned record label might just help guide local music to the international stage. 

JAWN is of another mind, however, when it comes to music production. In fact, he thinks great music production doesn’t always have to be done overseas. “People are willing to spend money to send it overseas to Sweden or America. But I feel that if we can raise the standard of music production here, then why not bring it in-house.” 

The answer is very indicative of JAWN’s pride in local craft and culture. Perhaps this mentality is ultimately the antidote to the confusion Dick Lee faces in The Mad Chinaman. A freedom to not project any form of perceived cultural identity of what a “Singaporean” should be. 

JAWN’s mindset is best expressed when he says, “Relax, I’m Singaporean and you’re Singaporean. Write about whatever you want to write about and it’ll be Singaporean, simply because you are.”

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