Buying an instrument
Okay, you’ve made up your mind, you want to forego a safe office career in exchange for the highs and lows and financial insecurity of the rock band lifestyle. First, you need an instrument and two of the biggest purveyors of instruments in Hong Kong are Tom Lee Music (tomleemusic.com.hk) and Parsons (parsonsmusic.com.hk). If that sounds a little too mainstream, Tsim Sha Tsui’s Pedal Bunker (bit.ly/pedalbunker) is an excellent choice. Stocking effects pedals by EarthQuaker Devices and handmade strings by R Cocco, the Bunker is a one-stop shop for any aspiring rock band.
Now you’ve got your axe of choice or those drums you’re ready to hit like you’re auditioning for a Whiplash sequel, all you need to know is how to play them. Hong Kong Lessons (hongkonglessons.com), as per the name, is a website that offers a comprehensive list of guitar teachers who will train pupils in electric, acoustic, bass, even ukulele if that’s your thing. Parkland Music Limited (parklandmusic.com.hk) is another solid option that’s been running since 2001, which is able to prepare students for globally recognised courses such as ABRSM and Trinity College London’s rock and pop exams. A third alternative for under 18s is The Living Room (thelivingroom.hk), which offers training for to your entire band and even special intensive holiday camps if you really want to get down to business.
Band members, rehearsal and recording spaces
Check out The Undergound's classified section to find some budding bands members (undergroundhk.com/classified-ads) and when your lineup is complete, it's time to start jamming. Although noise complaints are the bane of many a musician and live house’s existence in Hong Kong, there are still a number of great spots where you can practise and record songs. Avon Studios (avonstudios.hk) is the crème de la crème and the studio where Blur began work on their recent Hong Kong-inspired album The Magic Whip. If that sounds too grandiose, both Zuk Studio (zuk-studio.com) and Honeycomb Studio (honeycombstudiohk.com) offer well-equipped, affordable spaces in Mong Kok and Kwai Fong respectively. If it’s just somewhere to lay down some tracks that you’re after, Red Sound Recording Studio (red-sound.com) can help with the whole spectrum of arranging, recording, mixing and mastering. Alternatively, if you’re skint from getting your instrument and lessons, the likes of GarageBand (bit.ly/osxgarageband) and iReal Pro (bit.ly/irealpro) are both versatile apps you can use to record music for minimum cost.
Booking a gig
You’re ready for your first live shows – what are your options? The Underground, Hong Kong’s largest and longest-running live events organisation, are always on the look out for new talent. Anyone can apply to play one of their events via their website (bit.ly/applytoplay) and this is a great way to start earning live creditentials. Other Hong Kong institutions offer further opportunities for budding bands and artists to hone their craft. Jaffe Road’s The Wanch (thewanch.hk) hosts regular open mic nights for whatever sort of band you’re in every Monday 8pm to 11pm. Phone on the day after 3pm to book your no cost 30-minute slot.
Onwards and Upwards
With your dreams of breaking out of Mong Kok or Central firmly established, where do you go from here? Although Backstage Live may have closed and BeatingHeart never reopened, there are still plenty of venues where you can continue to develop and gain a following. Kwun Tong’s Hidden Agenda (hiddenagenda.hk) caters to the rock and metal crowd, while LKF’s Orange Peel (orangepeelhk.com) is diversifying away from its jazz roots to showcase other types of bands, as evidenced by its hosting of the Planetrox battle of the bands China final earlier this year. A similar movement is afoot at the Fringe Club (hkfringeclub.com), which this summer began a new monthly event, Young Screaming, to highlight the SAR’s young rock bands. Fingers crossed Musician Area (musician-area.com) manages to stay afloat through its current woes and can continue to provide a useful all-round service to bands. If you’re still thinking bigger, you better get yourself a manager and start looking at the Coliseum or KITEC…