Jason Chong

Freelance music producer

"A music producer basically gives creative direction to a track...He shapes how a song sounds and he also shapes the sound of the artist."

JASON (AKA JAYDOS) and I were in the same design school but we didn't meet each other until we were in Melbourne for university. I was curious about what a music producer really does and after a few questions with Jason, I realised I needed to sit him down proper and get an interview going. — Alyssa

"I studied Audio engineering at GMC academy in Melbourne, Australia. I’ve always been into sound since I was young, like 8 years old, pulling the roll out of tapes. What got me into audio was when I was in church and it was the easiest thing for any kid to get into! They had this little mixer desk and I got into that.

In Singapore I did a diploma in Interactive Media Design where I majored in multimedia and animation, because film was a bit too much effort. I think the reasons were because they didn’t really have an audio course in Singapore so I did multimedia. I did a lot of audio for my coursemates’ films, so I handled the audio aspects on site when they did the filming. I also did music scoring for school projects and spent most of my time in the audio room. I don’t know how I managed time for my own projects as well but I did it. I composed the music for a short (film) called “Superheroes”. My lecturers thought I did a good job and recommended I do sound full-time because I was pretty decent at it, and most of it I picked up by myself. When I finished my diploma I interned at a Hollywood post-production and did a lot of radio jingles back home in Singapore.

A music producer basically gives creative direction to a track. Sometimes the producer can be the songwriter as well or just a creative directing the song, giving ideas to the artist. He shapes how a song sounds and he also shapes the sound of the artist. That’s part of their job. Most of the artists I work with are pretty new and they usually listen to what I say because they think I know everything! Generally artistes have a say in their music and it also really depends on the music contract. I don’t idolize any music producers but I have a lot of respect for them. One of my really big time favourites is Rodney Jerkins (aka Dark Child). He produced for Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Mary J Bilge and the other big names. He produces some of the most amazing melodies I’ve heard and he’s able to connect with the listener, and he knows how to work with the artiste.

Currently I’m working at a production company of three called Ammobox productions. We’re based in Melbourne and got together late November 2011. We’re basically a music production team and we write tracks. We started on a pilot project with 3 girls who were keen to do music, and they have a number of years of singing acting and dancing between them. There is no ‘Indian chief’ in the group so we all do a consensual agreement on things, but as producers we do exercise authority on music direction and songwriting, but not to the point where they have no say. As producers, we finalise the lyrics and melody.

A lot of this is self-funded at the moment. We specifically targeted the Japanese market, partly because we’re fans of the whole Japanese market from pop to rock, and also because it’s the biggest music industry after America. We told ourselves it might not work out and we’re facing really strong competition, but we wanted to give it a shot anyway. It’s a huge gamble and everything is in Japanese, and I’m learning Japanese right now! A recent trip to Japan resulted in a Japanese label keen to pick the girls up and we’re in talks with other labels for our music production because they really like what we do. It’s really hush-hush at the moment and we haven’t released demos or anything online because we want to make an impact when we debut, and we haven’t told a lot of people about it, and nothing about it online.

The line between work and study is pretty blurred. You realize that school teaches you very little stuff; very theoretical and not really about experience. Technically a degree is quite academic and you have to write a lot of stuff, which is what I do and I find that funny. In a way school is good for certain things; for the technical stuff like this electronics module I’m taking this semester. Work—you get to deal with clients and be in real-life situations.  When I was working at the audio post in Singapore I dealt with high profile clients like CEOs for radio ads, and I got scared because they are quite powerful and I was afraid of messing up and getting sued, haha! School doesn’t teach you how to please a client and deal with stressful situations and people skills, which a lot of people don’t have but you learn when you work.

In my industry, there are certain things seasoned veterans know but they don’t teach in school. I would say it’s competitive, but I won’t say it’s selfish either but it keeps it going. Everyone has their own tips and tricks when they work on music production to get whatever effects they want, but there are no hard and fast rules for music. The music industry runs on secrecy, so while I can’t say much but I have something exciting going on next year. I’ve been spoken to in Melbourne to do some music production as well.

One really important thing I learned from my production partner is that talent doesn’t get you anywhere, but resilience does. You can be really talented, but if you give up…you don’t go anywhere. A classic story is Savage Garden. 150 labels rejected them but only one music producer responded, and they were immensely popular. It’s something I’ve learnt myself too. Even in Japan my partners got rejected by a lot of labels. My oldest production partner has been through a lot of rejection so he takes it a lot better than I do and my other production partner, who’s Japanese and younger than me. Getting people saying, “No” in my face is something I have learnt to accept in life."

This interview with Jason was originally published in WOOP ZINE #2 in early 2013. He is now back in Singapore looking for work.


Check out Jason's Soundcloud


Jason's home studio back in Melbourne