WOLF RED of BAMBOO STAR ” I like songs with a solid fighting spirit”
Bamboo Star are every bit as interesting and culturally unique as their hometown of Hong Kong. Like their fast-paced city, Bamboo Star’s music, recorded with LA-based producer Bob Marlette (Black Sabbath, Airbourne, Shinedown), is high-energy. The band makes their entry into the US market with their dazzling EP “No Hard Feelings”. Created by Australian Wolf Red (front man and vocalist) and Canadian Terence Ng (lead guitarist), who came together with Hong Kong locals Jasmine Wong (bassist) and Lawrence Wong (drummer) in Hong Kong, Bamboo Star are making some of the most captivating rock music out of Asia.
How did you first get in to music? Who or what turned you onto rock? What got you started playing music and how old were you?
Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My father was always very passionate about singing and my mother came from a family of Cantonese Opera singers so music was always around. Growing up I started learning the piano played saxophone in brass bands in school. The sax and piano were fun but I never felt the drive to really work on it though, maybe because big-band and jazz never spoke to me as a teenager or maybe rejecting the music and singing was a fourteen-year-old’s way of rebelling against Cantonese Opera traditions and the Asian stereotype of loving karaoke. Rock and metal was something else altogether though.
I grew up in Sydney, Australia, where class divide is comparatively smaller (compared to say, Hong Kong, where I was born) and the culture for the most part was quite blue-collar. What that meant musically was that rock and grunge were staple on the radio and AC/DC were a national treasure. I then started listening to the usual pop punk and alt-rock gateways into harder genres my early teens – Sum 41, Killswitch Engage, Linkin Park; and when I started listening to the metal of the 70s and 80s, (Iron maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Skid Row, Judas Priest, Guns N’ Roses, Motorhead) those were tunes that I could really connect with.
Have you always been creative?
For me it’s always been about creating something rather than music itself. There’s just a joy (or relief) I get from turning an idea into reality. Ever since I was young, I’ve always been a visual arts guy and have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember. In university I first studied design and then switched to architecture, which lapsed from purely visual into spatial creation. For me, music and performing live is an awesome medium to say what I have to say about certain topics, but certainly not the only one. I still love to draw and craft things and it shows in the ‘It’s Just Business’ music video which we put together ourselves.
How did Bamboo Star come about?
It was 2011 and I was walked by a guitar store one day and saw an interesting looking bass (it was a pink Rickenbacker) so I thought I’d pop in. As I walked into the shop I heard this guitar shredding a solo over a Guns N’ Roses track (it was either Paradise City or Sweet Child O’ Mine if I’m not mistaken). At the time I had just moved to Hong Kong from Australia and didn’t have too many friends. It turned out that this guitarist, Terence, had also just arrived from Canada. We exchanged contacts and started jamming, which turned into this whole crazy adventure. We played endless bar gigs which turned into competitions, which turned into festivals and tours. Our ethos was just to always keep moving forward and the band just snowballed from there.
How did you become a vocalist? Are you proficient in any other instruments?
For the longest time I never actually thought of myself as a vocalist. Before Bamboo Star it was always a case of trying to find the right singer but every vocalist who auditioned could never do what I wanted out of the music I had in mind. I was the bassist who would sing for the meantime but after a while I figured it might be easier to find another bassist, and that I should just focus on improving my singing! It’s been a few years since I played seriously but I still love the bass guitar. I also dabble in guitar and piano nowadays but just enough to put songs together.
What makes a good Bamboo Star song?
It goes without saying that every song has different strengths, but I think trying to find that chorus which is both catchy and impactfull melodically is pretty signature of Bamboo Star. We usually also love layering in the vocal harmonies and put a lot of focus on having a deep groove penetrating everything, from riffs through to lyric syllables. On top of that I’m lucky enough to work with band mates who are awesome at what they do. They’re all able to write parts which are really quite technical but don’t feel complicated and never steal from the storytelling of the song. Their playing still always blows me away every time we rehearse.
Who are some of your main influences? Who can we hear on your music?
Each one of us brings something a little different to the Bamboo Star sound. Me personally, I’m a huge classic rock and metal fan. Bands like Motley Crue, Skid Row, Guns N’ Roses, Judas Priest and Alice Cooper have a big impact on my writing. If we’re talking other genres, I also frequently listen to Elvis, Eminem and Tim Minchin. As for the others, Terence (guitar) also loves the old school rock but grew up on pop punk and listens to a lot of prog metal these days. Everything from Blink 182 to Dream Theatre shows up in his playing depending on the song. Lawrence (drums) is into more 2000s – contemporary metal, Bring me the Horizon, Avenged Sevenfold, Slipknot; whilst Jasmine (bass) brings in a lot of funk lines, ala Red Hot Chili Peppers or Vulfpeck. All of these bands show through in our individual parts and the diversity of flavours coming through in each song keeps the music interesting.
What artists with a message have made you change in any particular way and what was that change?
Sonically I love that fast, bluesy metal that lets listeners have fun and show off a lot of fireworks in the instrumentals. If we’re talking messages, I like songs with a solid fighting spirit. Lyrics that help muster strength in the face of adversity or defeat like ‘Primal Scream’ by Motley Crue, really helped me get through my own issues. Songs that also really hit it home for me are those that highlight things about our society and ourselves. ‘Charisma’ by W.A.S.P. and ‘1996’ by Marilyn Manson are songs I’ve always loved, and with the increasing political divide these days, those two are songs which motivated me to write more about the nature of power and people.
What was the first music you bought, and what have you bought more than once in a different format?
My family always had music around the house but the first CD I ever bought was Blink 182’s Take off your Pants and Jacket when I was twelve. As for multiple formats, I have three copies of Motley Crue’s Shout at the Devil’, two CD (it was remastered with bonus tracks) and an autographed vinyl.
What is your most prized music collectible and what is your most prized musical instrument collectible?
It sounds sentimental, but the most prized music memento would probably be a Bamboo Star poster from the early days and we were looking for a drummer. We’d put those up around the venues in Hong Kong; it’s just reminds me of where we started. Other than that, it probably isn’t the most valuable collectible I own, but I freaking love my McFarlane deluxe Slash action figure!
Musical instrument – Fernandes made a replica of the Nikki Sixx’s custom Spector non-reverse thunderbird from the ‘85/’86 era and released them for a super brief time in 1990. Got my hands on one of those about ten years ago.
Top 5 albums or songs released in the last 12 months and all time?
(In no particular order) 2018: Halestorm – Vicious Disturbed – Evolution Myles Kennedy – Year of the Tiger Slash– Living the Dream Bamboo Star – No Hard Feelings (!)
All time: Motley Crue – Shout at the Devil Judas Priest – Sad Wings of Destiny Guns N’ Roses – Appetite for Destruction Black Sabbath – Paranoid Iron Maiden – Number of the Beast
Do you still buy cd’s and records or mostly use streaming sites? Which sites do you use?
I still buy CDs to support the bands I like but also to have a tactile experience of a physical piece. I know how much work goes into artwork, lyric booklets and photography so I definitely like having a CD collection. Even with a physical collection though, for listening, I end up streaming the tunes on Spotify anyway. The convenience is just too good in the digital age.
What does 2019 hold for Bamboo Star?
None of us predicted that the EP would receive such a positive response from US radio. We are an unknown band from the other side of the world, and to break through that barrier to find an American audience is unprecedented for a Hong Kong band. The aim for this year is to ride on this high and be more active in the US, hopefully do some touring to support it. In the digital realm we’re aiming to release a music video for all the songs on No Hard Feelings which will be awesome.