Who are you?
I am Chris Wong, Born 1966 and from an Anglo/Chinese parentage.
I am a musician.
Who do you play music for?
I play for Toyah Willcox. I am her guitarist and musical director. I do two shows with her. A band show and an acoustic show. The acoustic show is called ‘Up Close & Personal’ where she talks a lot about her childhood and things she has done, that is with me and another acoustic guitarist.
I am also freelancing for functions in bands, pub bands, and so on. I am a musical director for a pantomime in Kent that I have done for 20 years as well as doing occasional West End deps ,and general freelance music work.
I also play bass with Toyah in a band called ‘The Humans’ which also has another bass player called Bill Reiflin, he was the drummer for R.E.M. in the last seven years of there existence. But we both play bass for ‘The Humans’, and the premise is the bass guitars and the voice, however, when we play live we bring in other hired hands playing other instruments.
What did you want to be when you were young?
I wanted to be a pilot. At primary school I played recorder and violin then I was bought a guitar at the age of ten, but I never really played it. I didn’t have any interest in it until I was fourteen. Then I picked it up. The guitar, so I basically started to play at the age of fourteen really. By the age of fifteen, I was playing semi pro in a local dance trio and playing in local theatre productions in Cambridge. But it wasn’t…. I was supported, but not really, not until I started earning money with music, and doing proper jobs like the music theatre thing. Then it became a respectable thing!
Up until then it was just playing with my mates in silly little bands. Which was not a career path either of my parents would have chosen for me. Only when I started doing theatre work it became OK. I mean, my mother would have supported me if I had…. but she did support me once I had become good.
At school I did sensible A levels so I had something good to fall back on. The plan was to become a pilot and the music would become a hobby. But in sixth form I went for an open day at the RAF and decided it wasn’t for me. And an opportunity came forward for me to study music more formerly so I did that but the A levels I did were ‘sensible’ A Levels !
Who most inspired you when you were young?
Well I always liked music. So I always liked certain musicians. Jazz, Jo Pass, Martin Taylor, and rock, classic rock like Hendrix.
I don’t know if I would say someone in particular was inspiring, but I can say…not inspiring but someone who was a mentor a ‘raison d’etre’ in getting me into more formalized music making. This man was my music teacher Scott, ,who came to the school when I began my O’levels at the age of 14. It was a small school (Parkside) but had a music department, only five of us took O’level music, but the others were not really players. I knew they were never going to pursue it. But my music teacher could see something in me but he didn’t know anything about me because he was new to the school but he just knew I played the electric guitar. One day in the first term towards the end he got us to bring in our instruments and I had by this time been playing seriously for about a year. And he heard me and immediately he asked me to play outside of school in the local theatre productions that he was involved with. So I went on and worked with him for the next two years outside of school and I observed him being a musical director.
So he was quite an influence!
Yes he was and we are still in touch, we are now friends, I was an usher at his wedding and I see him when I go to Hong Kong, which is where he now lives. He first got me into theatre, and, later when he was in town another friend said that the local amateur dramatics group were looking for a new musical director why don’t you do it. I was an electric guitarist, people would say that I don’t play a real instrument ‘you play hooligan music all about sex, drugs and rock and roll’. cheesy stuff…
How old were you when you started directing?
I was twenty so I was a student and this local group was looking for a new musical director and Scott happened to be visiting and said ‘why don’t you do it?’. I said I cant do that I have’nt ever done conducting and he said, “well you have seen me do it, so you can do it, it will be good for you”. I was actually quite good at it and so I put quite a good orchestra together for the first show that I did. Achieved a high standard but its Cambridge, it’s a high standard already so it was not all my doing!.
The amateur dramatics was well established with high standards. It was made not only of enthusiasts but also people who were trained or been to drama school or become teachers so they just werent local musical theatre fans. So the standard was very high. For the orchestra too, so I got lots of my mates from college to play. It was a good standard.
Umm yes that’s how I got into that.
So did you live the life as you wanted as a young boy?
No because I thought I would be a pilot.
What did you develop that became your main career path in life?
Music has been the only career path I have done, nothing else.
What is your ancestors skill set?
My father was a restauranteur. Mother left school at 15, she did secretarial work, waitress blah blah blah. When we were young she did not work at all She had a family, bought us up, that was a job in its self. Dad didn’t go to school, he was from Hong Kong, his father died in the war. He emigrated in the late 50’s and when his mother died, he had nothing, and nothing when he arrived, so he built his empire when he was here. My mothers father used to be a theatrical stage manager and my grandmother used to be a dancer but my mother never did anything like that. So theatre was in the family but never had any influence on me.
So what the most exciting thing you have done?
Doing original music, playing and traveling to other countries or playing to big festival crowds is a bit of a buzz and probably the largest no I have played before was 20,000. What did that feel like? It was the same as playing to 500. We had played in Henley, with Toyah at the Rewind Festival. It’s a laugh, a craic, its pretending to be a rock star band for the day, but you get to be back stage, back stage passes ,your own room, it’s a bit of a laugh. But really your just doing a job. Hired hands. I was 45.
What the worst thing that has happened to you?
I guess failing at relationships.
What do you like doing the most?
Playing the drums is my favorite thing because its relatively new so the rate of learning is greater but the better you get the harder it is to get better. The longer you have to work at something… ‘marginal returns’ in economical terms, but the better you are also makes it harder at getting better. So the drums are relatively new, so the excitement of making progress that you can hear, and other people can hear that you have improved from one week to the next rather than from one year to the next. Its takes a year for something to sink in when you are already accomplished at something, until it becomes a natural part of your playing, as opposed to when you first start, the differences are noticeable. Even day to day noticeable. That was the joy of playing an instrument in the first place so playing the drums has brought that feeling back. And also I always liked the drums. I don’t know why I didn’t do that sooner really. Its physical, use up energy.
How would your friends describe you?
Moody, undemonstrative, serious, having high standards and expecting it from others, funny sometimes at select moments just not very often.
What does love mean to you?
I don’t know any more. Love is when you care for someone unconditionally and they care for you unconditionally. But talking to friends who have had babies recently, they all say that the unconditional love that you have for your child is like nothing else. You can’t describe it if you have not experienced having a child. Or describe to someone who hasn’t experienced it. They say that’s the true meaning of unconditional love and I believe them I just have not experienced it myself