LIFE in the music arena is not only dynamic but also extremely volatile.
Things can be as fluid as water flowing in a river – or calm and steady at certain times but turn furious and frenzied at other times. And those who ply their trade in this river of sounds, with its pervasive ebbs and flows, need great courage, perseverance and flexibility to survive.
Serious musicians have to keep their sanity under control at all times. This is what a four-man band – MAD August – from Kuala Lumpur has been doing to avoid a meltdown. And it’s to their credit that after nine years, the members are still together, thrilling fans with their electrifying sounds.
MAD is the acronym for Make A Difference, a tagline spurring the group to scale the heights.
During their career they have gotten mad at each other, but they have always been pragmatic to let sobriety and maturity prevail after each spat. That’s the secret behind their accord as a band – never losing sight of the importance of unity in achieving their goals.
MAD August comprises Jim Loo (guitarist), Jeff Phua (bassist), Kit Wong (drummer), and Peter Haziq (vocalist). They got together as a group in August 2011, loving the fact that the birth of the band was in August because the month is associated with the number eight, a number with good vibes according to Chinese tradition.
Before forming the band, the four youthful musicians toughed out the often sapping music scene together, doing gigs at nightclubs and pubs around Kuala Lumpur. They were buddies who knew each other’s temperament – a plus point when they decided to gel as a quartet. Another advantage is they all have been dabbling in music for about a decade prior.
Peter, from Kuching, already has 17 years’ experience singing in nightclubs while bandmates Loo, Phua, and Wong were with another band – Crossfire – for over 10 years before opting out to form MAD August.
thesundaypost met the band members in 2016 and ran an article on them but out of curiosity decided to check them out to see how they had been coping with the Covid-19 pandemic.
So far, MAD August had four to five shows cancelled, and during the lockdown, the members went their separate ways. But they aren’t worried about drifting apart with their strong bonding, having weathered the vicissitudes of their career together.
They said they had kept the faith and once some form of normalcy has returned, they will get back together to do their thing. Moreover, they do need the income to maintain or speed up the momentum. And one new idea they are toying with is doing online shows.
True blue musicians
All the band members admitted music is in their blood and soul.
Phua revealed, “For me when the stage is already ours, I often feel I can’t wait to be on it – an uncontrollable urge to run up the stage to rock and share my energy and excitement with everyone.”
Among the band’s more significant activities over the last couple of years are doing shows, composing songs and renovating their studio.
According to Wong, they did their first ticketing show – ‘MAD August Chao Rock Party 2017’ in Kuala Lumpur and Penang on Dec 8-9. Then in 2019, the band released four singles and held their first ticketing concert – ‘MAD August Fighter Concert 2019’ — to mark with their eighth anniversary.
“So far, we’ve produced two albums and six singles. A full album has more than six songs in a release whereas a single has only one,” he explained.
They have two singles where ‘Guang’ and ‘Zahh’ are the theme songs of local TV dramas ‘The Men in Black School’ and ‘Behind the Scam’ respectively.
‘1st Instinct’ features as the theme song of ‘Project CSR’, which is aired by ntv7.
The group has also produced a Malay song, titled ‘Berdiri’, themed around fighting for one’s rights.
Asked what was their bestselling item, they said it was their first album ‘Wei Wo Bu Zhi Dao’, which contains songs of Modern Rock and Emo Rock genre. It was mastered by Big City Recording Studio in LA (USA), and distributed by Warner Music Malaysia. The producer was Peter Chong.
Their biggest achievement was winning the Chinese AIM awards in 2016.
During the Malaysian Chinese Music Industry Award (AIM), organised by the Recording Industry Association of Malaysia (RIM) in Kuala Lumpur that year, MAD August won the Best Band Award in the Chinese category.
The group was nominated for three categories – Best Music Arrangement, Best Album, and Best Band.
The Fighter Concert 2019 was another achievement, Wong said.
Message to fans
In a message to fans, the group said in trying to achieve goals, never expect things to be easy by thinking circumstances would automatically fall into place to produce the desired results.
“What people should do is to focus on their goals and work hard to achieve them. They should take the obstacles or setbacks in stride and forge ahead. They must be daring enough to step out of their comfort zone and be different,” said Wong.
Phua had this advice for young bands about to hit the stage for the first time – stay cool, relax, and enjoy the stage. Even if any technical hiccup crops up, laugh it off and tell yourself and everyone else the show must go on.
Stage fright? Kill it, he said, by conditioning your mind to think all those down there waiting for your performance are your buddies.
“Show them what you’ve got – it’s a happy time together,” he added.