A new sound has dropped on the music scene in BC with A Fish Called Piranha and their upcoming album “The Year of the Fish,” to be released on October 12th. After wrestling with management and working with a roster of well known producers trying to find the right style, Michael Kwong, the man behind the fish, finally followed his instinct and moved away from pop to an edgier sound. Finding the right management and right producer has also been a part of his adventure. His decision to record a harder sound has proven to be a great decision as”Rome,” a track off of the new album, has already been added to rotation on Iceberg 85 – Sirius Satellite Radio, as well as being added to a playlist on MuchMusic.
Although he calls himself an introvert, Kwong has shown himself to be a networking maven, meeting the right people at the right time to take his career to the next level. Read on to find out how this songwriter found the piranha in him.
1. Congratulations on the release of your upcoming album, The Year of the Fish. What are your plans for this release in terms of promotion and touring? Well, we start with press releases, print ads, radio, and a CD Release Party at The Backstage Lounge in Vancouver for the 1st week of October followed by a radio tour & press in Toronto & Ottawa.
2. You recently signed with Musebox who has worked with K-Os and Echo and The Bunnymen. How did you go about securing management and what advice would you give others looking for a good manager? I had met someone who worked for Musebox at a ‘ MusicBC marketing seminar’. So, I just called his business card but he was away on vacation. So, the founder of the company called me back. They are my publicist. I manage everything so far. I used to be managed by Cliff Jones Management (Shari Ulrich, Valdy, Payola$) back in the day. And I had met him at an Alannah Myles concert. I was sitting beside the sound engineer booth and Cliff had asked if the seat in front of me was taken. And I noticed all these kids passing him demo tapes. So, he told me he’s a manager. And he gave me his business card. So, I guess it’s always good to sit near a sound mixer board! LOL! And always exchange business cards! They are like autographs & part of that person.
3. You’ve worked with some high profile producers including Mike Plotnikoff (KISS, Cranberries), John Shepp (Matthew Good Band), and John MacLean (Limblifter). How would you advise songwriters to approach high profile producers? Just call them up, I guess. For Mike Plotnikoff, it was a bit different because I really wanted to meet him. Since I knew he worked with Delwyn Brooks (who used to be in a band with me and who’s dad had owned Little Mountain Sound Studios in its’ Bon Jovi/Loverboy heyday), there was a common denominator subject to get acquainted with. So, I dropped into the Armoury Studios (where he was recording The Cranberries at the time) and I asked to see him. And we got acquainted because of the mutual subject. We actually took a picture of us meeting for the first time. Later, when we worked together, we were amazed to see that picture come up again! It was meant to be…
With Sam Ryan, I had met him at a MusicBC Schmooze Night. And we exhanged business cards. I told him I was able to be free to work on some new songs after I finished promoting “The Year Of The Lamb” CD at the time. A few months later, I totally forgot about it. So, I was surprised he called. And it became a great working relationship.
4. You’ve released solo projects in the past, including the Skyjuice EP which reached #1 on the HMV Alternative Indie Chart. What made you decide to rebrand yourself as “A Fish Called Piranha” and what does “A Fish Called Piranha” mean? LOL! I just LOVED the name ‘Piranha’! But there are a few bands out there with the name. So, I was inspired by the Monty Python-based movie, “A Fish Called Wanda”. Thus, I renamed my project, “A FISH CALLED PIRANHA”! Also, I was inspired by Final Fantasy (Owen Pallet), Nine Inch Nails (Trent Reznor), Foo Fighters (Dave Grohl), Caribou (Dan Snaith), Frightened Rabbit, etc… they all recorded studio albums by themselves but promoted themselves as a band. I thought that was cool.
5. In your bio, you mention that there’s been a tension between the style you previously recorded under the guidance of management versus the style the edgier sound of your current project, A Fish Called Piranha. How did you make the decision to strike out on a different path? How has management reacted to your decision? In the past, management wanted me to record pop songs. So, the songs that the fans at our shows went nuts over were never recorded. When I dug them back up, I was startled & amazed at why they were never recorded. So, I recorded them. And I realized they were excellent songs! The next batch of songs coming up are the ‘sad songs’ that were never really recorded!
6. Can you tell us a little bit about the last 2 tracks on your Songwriters Profile (http://www.songwriters.ca/member/MichaelKwong) which are very different from everything else? I got Marni Wright to sing “It Was The Way You Said Goodbye”. And I wanted to find her a record deal because I love her voice. And the song suited her. Also, I wanted to find publishing for the beautiful song. I always thought it as a country song. And I always thought it would make a great ending to a sad breakup on TV/film! LOL!!!… “Dawson’g Creek” or some soap opera…
7. Please share about the creative concept, production and funding process of the video “Rome” which has landed on a MuchMusic playlist. Any advice for fellow songwriters about making a video? “Rome” was sort of a last minute idea at the video shoot. We were actually shooting for my “Swimming With Piranhas” video (that’s being edited as we speak). At the 11th hour, I asked my director if we can shoot a ‘performance video’ for the last 5 minutes of the day (since the crowd & fans were still there at The Biltmore). As he started shooting “Rome”, he became excited when he saw the reaction of the crowd to the song! The director then shot from 3 more different angles! After a quick day edit, we had a major vibe watching the performance video. And we thought it was good enough to send it to MuchMusic.
Regarding advice about making a video… Hmmm… just keep getting business cards & meeting people. I am extremely shy & introverted. But when I let out, I get out there to meet new people.
8. How do you hope to see your career develop in North America and Asia? Mark Jowett (Nettwerk Records) gave me some great advice to push hard in the U.S. West coast (San Fran to L.A.). So, we are planning that. Also, we are planning to get going in Asia soon. But they like more ‘pop music’. So, the atmosphere there is different. But I get inspiration from hearing about bands like Tang Dynasty who sold millions of records in China (and they were more harder edged). But I am currently working on a full album inspired by a schizophrenic friend. So, it will have both of my heavier songs mixed in with sad songs and end with a euphoric song! LOL!… It’ll be more like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”.