Singapore's unique, über-underground artist: singer/author/
spoken-word performer/guerrilla filmmaker/satirist ...
a hushed 'rebel' in a hushed fascist State
X'HO + ARCNTEMPL
Available on LP (with digital
download) and CD formats. Also
available on the iTunes store.
"Not easy to read X', for he speaks in irony of irony, satire of satire and under of underdog" - Lin Shiyun
"X' Ho is a walking art piece that pierces into the soul of the repressed Singaporean"
- Kan Lume, filmmaker
Born in the era of early rock'n roll (no number to the age, please, it's "forever 27", if you must know), X' Ho was christened Chris at a young age by his English godfather. He found solace in rock'n roll's singer-songwriter-pioneers and also inspiration in the revolutionary punk movement. His love for a wide range of music - from contemporary folk and country to dark wave to black metal to electronica to old-school chanson - helped shape his musical outlook and personal expression.
Growing up in the "dark ages" of Singapore, he realized he was born in the (still) repressed country for a reason - to discover his reactionary creative voice. Today, he has found his place among the art-terror world of the satirical counter-culture and also the everyday theater of the absurd: A world mostly alien to the whitewashed and narrow tunnel vision of the Singapore Dream which upholds little other than keeping up with the Joneses , excused as mere survival in a competitive world.
Singapore's hushed fascism has become the focus of X' Ho's work. And that's what makes him 'suck' to most of mainstream Singapore. In a satirical voice, he hollers - xhosux!
1979 - Joined Transformer, a garage hard rock band; disbanded in 1982.
1983 - Fronted the band Zircon Lounge - Singapore's first New Wave punk-inspired band . It's debut Regal Vigor was released by WEA Warner Music Singapore, with Dick Lee as co-producer. Zircon Lounge dissolved circa 1987.
1984 - Zircon Lounge contributed two tracks, including a cover of a Thai lukthung number, to Class Acts, the WEA sampler of local bands that went on to be a regional smash with the hit Within You'll Remain by Tokyo Square.
1987 - As a radio DJ, Chris Ho was hailed "King DJ" in the local press when he became the first from Singapore to receive the Paters Award for Most Outstanding Asia-Pacific Radio Personality from The Australian Broadcasting Arts & Sciences for a show he produced and presented on the cable-radio station Rediffusion.
1989 - Recorded and released his first solo album Nite Songs In Day-Glo under the name Chris Ho. The decidedly commercial offering was pitched by WEA Singapore as a potential crossover for pop. The album of mostly covers was capped by a Euro-disco 12-inch single Sunburn, his English rewrite of the Thai smash Baang Ern; it became a hit in Bangkok, Thailand.
1991 - Nominated, at the the inaugural Best Asian Music Video Awards (held in Hong Kong), for the song Fictional Stuff. The video was never aired in Singapore because Ho spotted long hair!
1991 - A single Save The Day, commissioned by Action For AIDS Singapore, was released by WEA, under the name Chris Ho's Rebel Soul. It featured the guest vocal of singer Mahani Mohammed.
1992 - The video for Save Sex, Ho's single recorded as a duet with singer Christina Ong and again commissioned by Action For AIDS, was officially banned. The single's b-side -Deeper is a song Ho had penned with Zircon Lounge's guitarist Yeow. It was first given to Dick Lee with Ho on duet. The eventual solo version became the most loved of Ho's pop efforts.
1993 - Officially changed his name to X' Ho as a singer (while Chris Ho remains his name as a DJ); recorded his second solo album PunkMonkHunk for Pony Canyon Music. This time, it's mostly made up of original material with most of the album produced by Makoto Kubota. It contained two covers - Iggy Pop's Kill City and Elvis Presley's Little Sister, the latter with a set of queer lyrics.
1998 - BigO's Option Publications published Ho's first book 'Skew Me U Rebel, Meh? The Singlish title means Excuse Me, You Mean To Say You're Really A Rebel?
1999 - Option released Ho's first spoken-word CD X' With An X: Me All Good No Bad. It was named Best Album Of The Year by music critic Paul Zach in The Straits Times.
2002 - Option published the second book Attack Of The S.M. Space Encroachers. Ho made his first short film Divine Vengeance, a tribute to John Waters, in Thailand. It was originally for Juergen Bruning's peace project which was later dropped.
2003 - Ho reunited with Yeow, the guitarist in Zircon Lounge, to form Zircon Gov. Pawn Starz, an electroclash project fronted by singer Sue-Sue Law, the alter-ego of DJ Suzanne Walker.
2004 - Zircon Gov. Pawn Starz released its debut album Follywood, distributed by Universal Records. Guests on it include Chicks On Speed, Peter 'Sleazy' Christopherson (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Coil) and the German singer MIA.
2005 - Shot the second short film My Demon Brother, a tribute to Kenneth Anger.
2006 - Shot the third film Blow Job, a tribute to Andy Warhol, specially for the Singapore International Film Festival. It became a finalist for Best Short but was grandly snubbed with no win while all the other nominees for Best Short all collected some prize or other. With premonition of the snub, X' did not attend the ceremony but sent a rep. Both Divine Vengeance and My Demon Brother were screened at the inaugural Berlin Porn Film Festival in Germany; the former was also a nominee for Best Short at the festival, whose founder Jurgen Bruning once curated films for the Goethe Institute in Singapore.
2007 - Shot the fourth film Allen Ginsberg Gives Great Head. It was also screened at the International Film Festival in Rotterdam, 2008, landing a nomination for Best Short and was the only from Singapore in the short film nominations list that year.
2008 - Shot the fifth film Sex By Nationality, which again debuted at the Berlin Porn Film Festival. Released the spoken-word mini-album Baphomet Sacrum, a collaboration with musician Everafter; the first in a trilogy distributed by Warner Music Singapore.
2009 - After withholding it for a year, X' put out No Ordinary Country, an album of 15 self-penned originals performed by the singer himself for the first time on guitar. The album became Singapore's first ever protest-folk album.
2009 - The third book How To Be More Win-Win Than The MM goes online as an e-book.
2009 - Shot the sixth short film Cum Suck My Nazi, Ho's most hardcore xxx to date, still dwelling on Singapore through a sexual metaphor. Like all the rest, it was screened at the official porn film festival in Berlin.
2009 - Released the album Singapura Über Alles, containing contributions from Dick Lee, Michaela Therese, Vanessa Fernandez, Dawn Ho, Kaye, Dino Vomit, Budi of Wicked Aura, Zai Kuning and veteran pop singer Paul Cheong. A mixed bag of different musical styles, it features covers of Boyd Rice, Emmylou Harris and Jello Biafra. It is also the third in the trilogy of CDs in the Noughties distributed by Warner Music, Singapore.
Music to X' Ho, the music artist, is kinda like what the arts is to the Singapore Govt - a means to an end. You could say he is the only music figure with such a deference in Singapore. X', a non musician, went so far as to actually pick up the guitar to write a bunch of songs on it, recorded himself playing it and released the effort on an album in 2009 - No Ordinary Country, only to completely forget how to play it thereafter. "The point is not about making music with the guitar but, personally, coming up with a no-ordinary way to present Singapore." Putting it plainly, it is all about statements even when it comes to music for X'; if the statements turn out to be also of a musical nature, well and good. But these days, the music has been increasingly secondary to Singapore. Because to X', there are no two ways about it - Singapura über alles !
As Chris Ho:
1985 - Guide These Hands and Lonely When Away From My Love - two tracks by Zircon Lounge for the Warner sampler album Class Acts
1986 - Cold In Buriram and Vaneepok (Thai) - two tracks by Zircon Lounge for Class Acts Two
1986 - The Happy Ghost and Mr. Ant, two tracks by Chris, on the WEA cassette of local indie - Nothing On The Radio, released by Warner Singapore
1987 - Zircon Lounge captured live along with other bands on the cassette No Surrender - Live At Anywhere, released by BigO
1987 - Zircon Lounge played its last gig at the National University of Singapore's Yin & Yang Festival
1988 - Deeper, a song Chris wrote with guitarist Yeow, became a duet with Dick Lee on the latter's Warner Music album Connections
1989 - Nite Songs In Day-Glo, the first solo album, released by Warner Singapore. Singles: Sunburn, Buddy Buddy, A Dream Goes On Forever. Plus Long Long Summer. Produced in most parts by Ricky Ho
1990 - Soon Come, a cover of Peter Tosh, for the unofficial Singapore National Day tribute album Let's Celebrate, released by Warner Singapore
1991 - Save The Day by Chris Ho & Rebel Soul, a 12-inch and cassette single commissioned by Action For Aids Singapore
1991 - Hello, I Love You, a cover of the Doors, for the first Pony Canyon sampler International
1992 - Little Sister, a cover of Elvis Presley, for the tribute album Elvis Asia, released by Pony Canyon; the album was reissued in 1995 with a new title From Memphis To Singapore
1992 - Save Sex by Chris & Chris (the other Chris being singer Christina Ong), a CD single commissioned by Action For Aids Singapore. The b-side was a re-recorded solo version of Deeper, which has since become Chris' best known song in Singapore
As X' Ho:
1993 - PunkMonkHunk, the second solo album, released by Pony Canyon. Singles: Good Master, Down, Motorcycle Hero, Fuzzy Valentine. Produced in most parts by Makoto Kubota
1993 - Save Sex/Deeper included in the Pony Canyon sampler Red Hot & Skin
1993 - Down, the single with Janet Kay on duet, leads off the Pony Canyon sampler Bonus Red
1993 - Queen Of The Construction Scene, featuring Kumar the comedian as guest, for the Pony Canyon sampler Bonus Blue
1994 - Kites, a cover of Simon Dupree & the Big Sounds, Fuzzy Valentine and a new song Michael's So Fey (But Is He Gay?) recorded under the moniker Rude Paul for the Pony Canyon sampler Skin Deep
1996 - Exceptional Babe for the Pony Canyon sampler Dazed & Confused
1997 - We Are Always Halfway There, a duet with Leslie Low (Humpback Oak), and My Perfect Ten, a song with Martin Tang, for the original soundtrack of Eric Khoo's 12 Storeys, on Pony Canyon
1999 - X' With An X: Me All Good No Bad, the first spoken-word album from X' and a first for Singapore, includes some sung numbers and a definitive reading of poet Alfian Sa'at's Singapore You're Not My Country. It was named Best Album of 1999 by music critic Paul Zach in The Straits Times
2004 - Follywood, the debut album by Zircon Gov. Pawn Starz - X's band with guitarist Yeow from Zircon Lounge and singer Sue-Sue Law, released by Universal Music. Singles: Nag Nag Nag, Media Whore. Plus Mouthless Fish
2008 - Baphomet Sacrum, the first of the decade's trilogy on Warner Music, is a goth-black spoken-word mini-album recorded with indie musician Everafter; includes So Worthy
2009 - No Ordinary Country, X' plays guitar throughout except on the a capella title track. The album can rightly be hailed as Singapore's first ever 'protest folk' album
2009 - Guide These Hands, the Zircon Lounge track, is included in +65 Underground, a retrospective anthology of indie/underground rock in Singapore
2010 - Singapura Über Alles, a tour de force in stylistic diversity, contains both sung and spoken-word tracks recorded from 2001 to 2010; includes Fascist Glo Stick
2013 - Lucifugous, an acid-gloom collaboration with ARKN TEMPL (Leslie Low & Vivian Wang of The Observatory); released independently
Writing about Singapore evolved from his music-columns for the now defunct BigO monthly magazine when music topics expanded into a socio-cultural realm. By the time he wrote his first book, Ho had become the 'bad boy' of the Singapore alternative scene. Contrary to what some think, Ho does not consider himself to be political. His second book explored the social ills of space infringement, while his third spoke of logic and common sense or the lack of it in Singapore, especially in some of the country's official press statements.
Check here for an important unpublished essay Hushed Fascism from Jan, 2010 -
You may find Ho's cameo in Eric Khoo's Mee Pok Man and in Jack Neo's slapstick caper Liang Po Po, but his most infamous celluloid role is in Zai Kuning's Even Dogs Have Choices - officially banned in Singapore. In the film, Ho was filmed being tattooed on his penis while passages of his spoken-word are heard throughout.
As an experimental filmmaker himself, Ho is more an underground auteur, seeking no acceptance or approval from his own country. All his films were made, with low or no budget and (with the exception of the third) for the Berlin Porn Film Festival, whose founder-director is Jurgen Bruning (he once curated a film event for the Goethe Institute in Singapore and is producer of a number of Bruce LaBruce films, including Hustler White and The Raspberry Reich). Along with Khoo, Ho was asked to participate in the Festival's inaugural event and his films were subsequently screened in the first four years of the Festival in Berlin.
Ho's objective as a filmmaker is to exploit the empowering avenues accorded by technology and to explore the creative impulses of a DIY culture. His films have been praised and panned as part-political-pamphlet and part-art-porn. All adding up to a big no-no in surveillance-heavy Singapore. As a result, Ho, as a filmmaker, is completely under the radar in his own home country.
2004. Divine Vengeance.
Ho's experimental debut, shot entirely in Bangkok, Thailand, was a tribute to John Waters, with a direct reference to the late Divine in Pink Flamingos. It was first made for Bruning's later aborted Peace project. The film was given a belated world premiere at the Berlin Porn Film Festival in 2006, where it earned a nomination in the Best Short Film category. The film contains music by Everafter, Futon and Ho himself.
2006. My Demon Brother.
A tribute to Kenneth Anger, loosely based on the American filmmaker's Invocation To My Demon Brother. It also premiered at the Berlin Porn Film Festival in 2006. Contains music by Leslie Low, Everafter, Ho with One-Man Nation.
2007. Blow Job.
Made specially for the Singapore International Film Festival, it is Ho's least explicit film to avoid being censored. A tribute to Andy Warhol, Blow Job is styled after Warhol's film of the same name but with a more comical tone and satirical edge. It is also noticeably 'silent' (without sound) compared to Ho's other works as a statement of being muted. It was nominated in the his native home festival for Best Short but grandly snubbed when all the other four nominees in the same category were awarded some accolade or other, except Blow Job.
2007. Allen Ginsberg Gives Great Head.
Premiered at the Berlin Porn Film Festival, this is Ho's best traveled film to date, clinching a nomination for Best Short at the International Film Festival Rotterdam in 2008; where it was the only from Singapore to be short listed for the prize there that year. Music by The Observatory.
2008. Sex By Nationality.
The film is "an unexpurgated tale of homosexual desire" to expound on the titular subject of its title. It ends with a quote by modern Singapore's founding-father Lee Kuan Yew. Premiered at the Berlin Porn Film Festival. Music by Convent Garden.
2009. Cum Suck My Nazi.
Premiered at the Berlin Porn Film Festival. Music by Convent Garden.
Chris Ho aka DJ Mentor
As a radio and club DJ, Ho goes by the name Chris Ho. But circa 2006, the moniker DJ Mentor was adopted when he started spinning for the Singapore Dark Alternative Movement's (SDAM) goth parties.
As radio DJ...
Even before graduating with an English literature degree and a Bachelor (Hon.) degree in sociology, Ho was deejaying at Rediffusion, Singapore's then only private pop-rock radio-station. Fed to subscribers via a wired speaker-soundbox, the cable-radio station offered him room to further discover his love for singer-songwriter folk, swamp-rock, new wave punk, industrial, metal and other alternative schools of contemporary sound-styles. His popular shows on Rediffusion included The New Rock Poets, Ready Steady Go!, Groovy and Eight Miles High. In 1988, Eight Miles High won him the Paters Award for Best Asia-Pacific Radio Personality from the Australasian Broadcasting Arts & Sciences presented at the World Expo in Brisbane, Australia. With his affinity for the leftfield, he naturally became the champion of homegrown alternative music, hosting radio showcases like Weird Scenes Inside The Goldmine, Rough Cuts From Home and later, on the AM radio station Radio Singapore International (now defunct), a long-running series Singapop. In the mid 1990s, he finally rocked a broader mainstream audience hosting Hip Parade: The Now Sound Of The Future, which includes Ear Wax, on FM98.7. The music Ho promoted on that show eventually became popular enough in the industry for a station to be launched programming it as a staple - Lush 99.5FM, which Ho also became a regular DJ for, hosting the weekly show Clubscape.
As club DJ...
Ho got started as a club DJ in 1992 when he and Jason Tan (Project Eastward) enacted a club night called Cyber Tech. It was arguably Singapore's first indie club night which attracted the very young DJ Brendan P, Ramesh K and Andrew Chow as revelers. Ho then followed that up with Future Soul during a time of Singapore's burgeoning clubbing scene.
In 2001, Ho became the resident DJ of Singapore's first chill out bar Soundbar@Liquid Room and he has since played in many clubs on the isle - Zouk, Butter Factory, Home, Wavehouse, Blu Jaz, Km8, Stereolounge, New Asia Bar and KPO to name a few. He has also played at the Bed Supperclub in Bangkok, Thailand, and Insomnia in Berlin, Germany. It was at the after-party for the Chicks On Speed gig at Zouk (Singapore) that Chicks' Alex called Ho "a great DJ". He has opened for names as diverse as Alex Barck of Jazzanova and Alec Empire.
In 2001, Ho was given the Individuality Award at the inaugural Singapore Streetstyle Awards held at Zouk for his contribution to Singapore's street culture.