Interview with artist and singer-songwriter KICCC

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China Underground > Magazine > China Magazine > Interview with artist and singer-songwriter KICCC

KICCC released the first full-length album “The Water Knows” that includes, his previously singles “Here,” “Control,” “Wine,” and “Iced Tea,” along with five unreleased tracks and two instrumentals.

Carson Cheng (aka KICCC pronounced: kick) is a Canadian-Chinese artist and singer-songwriter. He broke out as a solo music artist in 2019 from a previous acting career. KICCC recently released his single “Wine” and after over a year of work, on July 8th, 2020 has released a new music video, the finale to KICCC’s trilogy journey, following, “Here” and “Control.” The music video exhibits various forms of water symbolism that foreshadows the theme for his first full-length album, The Water Knows, released on August 26th, 2020. The album was produced by ENAN, known for his work with TVXQ!, TRINITY, Ted Park, Roy Kim, and more.

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From acting career to music. How did you first get into acting? What motivated you to make the transition? What do you like most about singing?

I first got into acting after graduating from college. I was encouraged to participate in a televised talent competition for a Canadian Chinese-language television network. After the show, I got a couple of opportunities to audition for companies in Hong Kong and ended up signing a contract. My first gig was for a long-running show that I watched since I was a teenager so that was pretty surreal.

After a year or so of work in Hong Kong, I decided that I wanted to channel my efforts and creativity into projects where I could be more expressive about my own curiosities. That’s when I opened up to the idea of a music career and writing my own songs. I was fortunate to have some friends who were already in the music industry within my network so when I expressed my interest they were able to introduce me to someone who later became my mentor.

 

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What I like most about singing is that it enables me to perform in servitude to the story I’m trying to tell in my music. For me, singing feels familiar to acting, playing a character, even when it’s just a certain aspect of myself.

In “Wine,” we see that reality is not immune to interpretation and that rebirth may be the possibility of infinite possibilities. I could relate to this as I learned more about myself, others, and the world around me. Up to this point in my life, I feel like I’ve played so many versions of myself and at given moments held certain truths that were later proven to be more than what they seemed.” – KICCC

What were the biggest challenges when you get into music?

I think the biggest challenge I had to deal with as a musical artist was getting over the fact that I don’t have “formal” music training. I think it was something that inhibited me from pursuing music sooner even though I have always loved and found comfort in music. Looking back, I actually always had fun imagining my own melodies and lyrics as a pastime.

I think my background in interdisciplinary performance art, which was my major in uni, became my biggest strength because even though music and songwriting was never a focus, I gained an understanding and appreciation for using different mediums and art forms to convey a message and a story. As soon as I understood that, I was able to apply my confidence as an artist in music writing.

Can you tell us the story behind your name KICCC? 

 KICCC is the combined initials of my Chinese name and English name. My Chinese name, 程均扬 (which is Cheng Kuan Ieong according to Macanese Cantonese Romanization) makes up KIC, and Carson Cheng is CC, which together comes together to make KICCC. 🙂

I read you were born in Macau raised in Vancouver and worked in Hong Kong. Does living and moving in different countries influence your way to see life and be creative? Are your songs related to moments that marked a significant change in your life?

I can’t say for certain what specific things have caused what. But for sure, yes. Moving in between Macau and Vancouver, and working in Hong Kong has definitely allowed me to experience different things. There’s always a culture shock that comes with going in between the places because you get used to a certain way of life or the common rhetoric, but when you go to other places that sort of common sense or logic doesn’t necessarily apply.

But as far as how it has contributed to my creativity, I think it has allowed my tastes to be quite varied. And it has opened me up to different forms of art or traditions, that somehow in retrospect, would have influenced my work as an artist.

Lastly, yes, I definitely do think the songs are related to moments that marked a significant change in my life. I mean for each song there are certain stories that I’m trying to tell and it’s like an inner voice that is shining through and talking about different things. Whether that be things to do with a relationship, or sometimes the pressure of work, or even the pressure of loving. It could be a person or an activity, or just love for life or for yourself. I talk a lot about self-love with my work.

Music gave me a sense of solidarity. ‘I’m not the only one who’s had those thoughts, experiences, fears or fantasies.” – KICCC

You are fluent in English, Cantonese, and Mandarin. How much is important to think in different languages for communicating in a multicultural world?

 I think that being multilingual in a multicultural world is increasingly important. Even though there are always dominant “world” languages that are taught all over, I think learning languages is the best way to be respectful and gleam understanding of specific cultural nuances that allow you better understand different traditions. In terms of songwriting, I do think it allows me to approach topics from different angles because I have a wide array of contexts that may help me illustrate my story. Sometimes it’s fun to play with non-conventional syntaxes and that sort of thing from different languages when writing lyrics in English.

What is the process of creating a new piece? Where do you get inspiration for your songs? What creative part do you like the most?

The process of creating a new piece, it depends, but as I mentioned earlier, a lot of it has to do with my own life experiences or my own curiosities or fantasies, or just things that I’ve been thinking about. In a way, my mind conjures up an image and along with that image, there’s a sound, there’s a character, there’s some sort of setting. It’s like there’s a vignette or some sort of short loop in my mind. I just try to give that a soundtrack and imagine what that would sound like.

When the inspiration for a song happens, it can really just be random. It happens when I’m writing at the studio and we’re just listening to a short sample or some sounds, or sometimes when I’m vacuuming or washing dishes. So, I think just because I’m a naturally curious person with an active imagination, that’s going to mean my mind just kind of thinks about different things. And yeah, so that’s where my inspiration comes from.

I also like centering my ideas around a certain topic, then I can narrow in and make sure everything is cohesive in theme, or at least it gives me a starting point. The album, The Water Knows, is going to be my first body of work that’s released with a whole narrative in mind. Made obvious in the title, water, and all its forms and functions were taken into consideration and I talk about what they mean to me.

“What creative part do you like the most?” It’s really hard to say I think it’s always nice when I hum or sing a little bit and I am able to come up with a melody that I’m happy with. I am able to decide that this will be a verse or that will be a chorus and then trying to build around that. I think seeing it grow from a small initial thought or just like a daydream into a full song is something I really enjoy. I think in a way that means I like the whole creative process. There isn’t anything about it that I dislike because I don’t think I would be doing any of this if I didn’t enjoy it.

You work on various sets, for your music videos. Did your previous acting career help you to be more self-confident?

I think having that background and training did prepare me for the filming of my music videos. Obviously, there are still big differences between shooting television with dialogue versus a music video, but similar enough that I don’t feel intimidated going into it.

When you are dealing with tough things and feeling trapped, you are often your own worst enemy and conversely the only one who can save yourself.” – KICCC

What about “Wine”? Can you tell us about the connection with “Here” and “Control” and the story behind this Trilogy?

Definitely, by the time we shot “Wine”, I think I was very comfortable. Maybe a bit too comfortable where I might have been a bit lazy and always just hanging out at the crafty buffet table, eating my hot dog bites and stuff like that. Haha.

I think in that way, I feel a lot more conviction and purpose when I’m going in to shoot my music videos because I want to succeed not only satisfy the brief that the director and I have come up with for the shoot but I really want to be able to sell the story and really get the emotion that I was experiencing when writing the song across. So, when I was shooting “Wine”, I was thinking about the intention behind why I wrote that song. It was supposed to be very reflective and a bit in my own head. It was a song with a lot of longing and it’s a bit melancholy. So, I guess in the music video I didn’t want to just look sad or anything, but I also wanted to find a sense of serenity. I had to act with a scene partner, Athina, who was my opposite lead for the music video and we didn’t meet before the shoot for the music video, but I think just being able to access that mind space and together create great chemistry for the cameras, and it was very natural. And I don’t think I would have been as comfortable without my theater background and training.

So the connection between the trilogy of “Here,” “Control” and “Wine,” it’s technically all about this central metaphor of water taking on different forms, and in a way that it represents a type of rebirth. This alternative reality comes from my own story of taking on different roles, not only for my work but in my life.

I mean, everyone goes through the same thing. We’re not all people with only one dimension and depending on the situation or the people we’re with, we’re different, but at the core, there’s still a part of ourselves. I think we always have to embody and adapt and that’s why I really relate to water a lot because that’s exactly what water does. It’s essential to life. So, I think that the same ability to adapt to people is also very crucial. And in the different music videos, you see me taking on different characters. 

Sometimes that’s quite literal, and I’m actually meeting and confronting myself. Or sometimes they’ve imagined scenarios or imagined people as well as in control. In “Here” I was meeting alternate versions of myself, or different possibilities and outcomes of myself. And in “Control,” it was almost me going into this fantasy, like many worlds where I was living life vicariously through an alternative self that looked to be having a lot of fun. I think that speaks to a few of my interactions and relationship with social media as well.

And with “Wine,” I think that one was the most in a way most literal when talking about readapting, reincarnation, and that cycle of life. In the beginning, I’m literally rising from the ashes. And it seems like the end of that video is the beginning of the video. I believe that my work is very cyclical, just like many things in life are. 

KICCC began his musical journey as a means to creatively process and express his experiences. The album, complete with ballads, R&B, and experimental dance/pop, is inspired by a trip to Seoul.

Can you share with us any meaningful story from one of the backstages of your music videos?

Yeah, so in the music video for “Control”, I had to be dancing and submerged in really cold water. That was one of the hardest shoots because we were filming in an indoor pool that didn’t have heating. There was a bit of choreography and blocking that we had to hit, and the camera work was a bit complicated because of the setup. It was after a couple of long days of shooting but I still had to keep a calm face and try to look presentable, even though I was literally shivering.

Whenever we were in between shots or in between takes, it was really nice, because even though I myself was cold, the crew was really careful and they took really great care of me, whenever they could, they would be warming me up with a blanket. I felt really loved and taken care of at that time. I really thank them for getting me through that.

And the director, Mark, he even got in the pool with me just for a little bit, to see what I was going through. And there were the dancers who joined me in the pool too. So, I want to thank them for really putting their bodies to the test just for my music video.

What do you hope your audiences will get from your music?

I hope that my audience can find something to relate to in my music. I hope that my music, which was born of my self-reflection, can inspire others to take that chance to check in with themselves as well.

Thank you, China Underground for the interview and your time 🙂

Photo courtesy of KICCC and Gramophone.media
A special thanks to Brittany Bowler | Music Publicist

 


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