Written by Cao Tùng Lê for Hanoi Grapevine
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Eleven years ago, a young American man arrived in Saigon. He is Alec Schachner, a musician and sound installation artist with many plans for Vietnam. After a long time working in the field of music, he is preparing to release a compilation album introducing the underground music scene with the participation of 18 bands / artists in Hanoi, titled “Ếch Ếch Vol. 1”.
The 18 bands / artists that appear in the album are: Hub Collective – Sirens of Hạ Long –
Hoàng Hải – Red Eye Rabbit – Hưng Béo- Bloodshed – B52s – Bluemato – Hồ Trâm Anh – Project 420 – Norra Marris – Spooky Jazz Tribe – Mèow Lạc – Danny Bragg – SheS – MnEd! – Phác Họa Xanh – Monoheart.
Below is an interview by Hanoi Grapevine with Alec Schachner – founder/head engineer of Ếch Ếch Recording Studio and producer of “Ếch Ếch Vol. 1” – before the album is launched:
Very quick introduction of yourself?
My name is Alec Schachner and I have a studio called Ếch Ếch studio in Au Co street, Nhat Tan ward, Hanoi. Before that, I worked and lived in Saigon.
Why did you move to Hanoi?
Before, I lived Saigon and worked in the sound engineering field. I started doing some installations and live events, also recording in some rehearsal rooms or crazy places and made some album. For that, I had to look for new locations to make a more professional recording studio.
At that time, I also came to Hanoi a lot and met more people. The original music scene in Hanoi is stronger: more projects, more genres. I still think Saigon has very strong taste like hip-hop or DJ, but for other genres, Hanoi has many more active musicians. For that reason, I decided to build a studio here and suggested my Saigon friends to come and record in Hanoi.
Can you tell us about the process of releasing the album “Ếch Ếch vol.1”?
I moved to Hanoi in August 2018, and on September we put out open call for artists to record one song with us. We want to have network with the artists, to give them the chance to visit the studio. In the beginning we planned to record maybe 10 songs but we got so many submissions and in the end we decided to take 18. There are many stories behind, and in some ways they reflect the music scene of Hanoi. From that time we started to work with artists. My idea is to get a real mixture of all different sides in the music scene, different genres. It’s like a mini scene within a scene.
What is the music style of the album?
The compilation album that we are working on is like everything, from funk fusion to death metal, to covering Trịnh Công Sơn’s works, folk jazz, post rock,…and a little bit of hip-hop. This album focuses more on live instruments, so it’s going to be less representation for electronic genres. For electronic productions, you don’t need the studio that much. It’s easier than dealing with live acoustic instruments.
Your choice of artists is based on… ?
Some of the bands are really established like HUB Collective. There’s a bunch of solo artists from that community but they represent different sides of it. The band B52 did the cover of Trịnh Công Sơn. To me he’s one of the great Vietnamese song writers.
“Spooky Jazz Tribe” is quite an interesting project of David Fryer, a guy from New York who has lived in Hanoi for many years. He’s been in many bands, and he’s a big part of the scene…
We try to get as many genres as we can. The one rule is that the artists are all based in Hanoi.
How is Hanoi’s music scene different to Saigon’s?
This is a big reason why I decided to build a studio here instead of Saigon. I see the musicians here are more willing to be creative and more willing to explore genres. I also see the audience is more willing to listen.
I lived in Saigon for 10 years, I loved it. But Saigon has a bit different vibe. There are some great names like 7UPPERCUTS, Hazard Clique or Datmaniac, but the city is too big and more commercial. Many musicians just want to play covers to make money, the audience only “nhậu”, they don’t come to music events but go party all nights. In Hanoi both the artists and the audience can show more passion about original things. I can play the music I want to play, and people want to hear the music.
What do you expect from this album?
It is my big hope that all of these artists will be listened to by wider audience, both in Vietnam
and abroad. I hope this project can inspire more artists in other cities like Danang, Saigon to be willing to dive in different genres. More Southern artists will come to the North and more Northern artists will come to the South. They can exchange and get wider audience together. Hopefully the artists can go on more tours, have more gigs abroad. If we are super lucky we can even get the artists signed and have more opportunities for their career. I think talented musicians should be able to make a living from their arts. Many artists have to do different jobs to support their arts.
What do you learn from the artists?
From this point, I’m working as a sound engineer. Somehow I don’t believe that some recording studios are better for hip-hop, metal or pop. As an engineer you have to deal with any genre.
To make it sound good, you have to understand the artists’ vision. I just want to help the artists realize their visions. Sometimes I record in genres I don’t know so well. I listen to them more and learn from the musicians, like what they are passionate about. The more I record, the more I realize that you can learn things from one genre and be better with another one.
Release Album Frog Frog Compilation Album Vol. 1 will take place at Manzi, 14 Phan Huy Ích, Hanoi, November 16 and 17, 2019. Don’t miss it!