Love Whisky Love Stories - Interview with Hong Ka-Chun, We Gotta Keep Believing

Text: Vicky Fung

Hong Ka-chun, a.k.a. BFSH – a concert producer, founder of wow & flutter. It's been more than 10 years since I first met Chun. Back then, he was already a prominent concert producer, producing events like the 30-Hour Famine, Music is Live, Ultimate Song Chart Awards Presentation, all of these had been a beacon to me on my way to becoming a musician. In the beginning, I didn’t know much about Chun, but somehow his vibe or his work, or both, have made him an important person in my life. During 2010-2012 we both travelled to Shanghai and Taiwan for some shows, he as a producer, me as a performer. Whilst we worked on the same projects our paths never really crossed. Our friendship has come a long way, from asking him to be the producer of my concert, to teaming up with him to do more concerts, along the journey we have become good friends. With that in mind it is a total pleasure to talk to him about what matters to us, in and out of the music industry, over the past twenty years.

Over the years, Chun has produced many concerts, including working with Khalil Fong, Anthony Lun, LMF, Rubberband, and MOOV Live between 2007-2018 etc. In his bio he describes himself as ‘a concert producer who has been playing around since the 70s’. I wonder how ‘normal’ people see him? I asked Chun to describe himself in a sentence, he asked why I posed such a difficult question, but after a couple of seconds he uttered a line of lyrics to me - ‘together we stand, divided we fall'. He believes in the power of community, as the power of an individual is limited. He quit school and started working at a very young age, and from his experience, he thinks most work has to be done as a team. It is exactly this manner which makes me feel at ease whenever I work with him. I know that he will either be leading from the front, or backing the team up behind the scenes.

For this interview, I asked Chun his preference of whiskies. His answer was simple, ‘a peaty single malt’, hence the Jebsen Fine Wines team and I selected a Bowmore 25 Year Old single malt for him. In the spectrum of Scottish whisky, Islay whisky from the west coast of Scotland are generally considered to be the heaviest, known for their peat and sea salt flavours. Peaty whiskies do not really taste like mud. Some would argue it tastes like cough mixture or ash, while others say the taste resembles licorice, smoke, or fire. Whilst Bowmore 25 Year Old is not the heaviest of whiskies, with its fruity cherry aroma and the sweet flavours of toffee and hazelnuts, it is also filled with the unique ‘Bowmore-style’ smoke, and a rich and mellow aftertaste. It is like a person who has gone through many trials and transformations but still ‘keeps his rough edges’. Chun said Bowmore 25 Year Old is a little gentle for his taste. Although on more than one occasion he describes himself as vulgar and not well-educated, he is in fact a softie. In private, he is the man who runs the home, doing all of the chores by himself. Even at work, he often mentions ‘love'; he even printed ‘It’s only love’ on his business card!

As we drank, we talked about his ‘side jobs’. Apart from being a commercial or pop music concert producer, he has been working on a few independent projects, from his label 89268 to the wow & flutter music festival. Although these projects are not commercial in nature, he thinks that it is important to protect independent artistry, which lacks big funding. In the same way we keep small shops alive to give us an element of choice. That is also one of the motives for him to be a mentor at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts - to nurture students on how to choose. There are two steps to take, first, you need to understand the preciousness of being able to choose, then you have to build your taste. Through the interstage concerts, he shared his views and tastes with the students and then gave them a lot of room to explore their own vision. Yep, that's right. For any kind of creation and production, taste matters the most, as it represents a choice made by oneself.

I poured him another glass of whisky, the Hakushu Single Malt Whisky 12 years which is also peaty. When asked if Bowmore 25 Year Old or Hakushu 12 Year Old resemble him more, his 'stubbornness', he picked Hakushu 12 Year Old without any hesitation. Serving Hakushu 12 Year Old on the rocks, brings out the refreshing taste of young leaves and green grass. He thinks everyone has a ‘ruler’ to measure the right and wrong in this world, even when you are angry with the wrongs, you can still be calm, it does not mean you have to change your measurements. When it comes to style, Japanese whiskies take on the style of Scottish Whiskies with their strength and complexity, but more importantly, they emphasise harmony and balance. Looking at this stubborn guy who never settles for less, but keeps doing what he believes in with love, I feel immersed in his motto ‘it’s only love’.

With time passing us by and still feeling kind of sober, I poured him the third glass, Jim Beam Black, an American Bourbon whisky. Why did I pick this one? Since Jim Beam has been run by seven generations of the same family using the same proportion of sweetcorn, rye and barley for over 220 years, and Chun always treasures long-term relationships with people, I reckoned this family business would match with his philosophy of ‘together we stand’. What I didn’t know was that Bourbon has another meaning to Chun. When he was young, he watched western cowboy films and road trip movies, in which the protagonists always drink Bourbon, so he has a special attachment to Bourbon, in his heart he is a little 'cowboy' - rough, ignores the trivial, but a softie after all. For me the complexity of him makes him more amazing! 

Just as the water and climate of a place gives a certain hint of flavour to whisky, I asked Chun how he sees Hong Kong music in the current climate. He said it is better to look at how this place has changed the lives of Hong Kong people in the past few years. In the process of adaptation, people's views on the city have altered, which also affects how people speak, write and compose. Therefore, the point is that if you choose to stay in a place, you must believe in this place, that Hong Kong is Hong Kong, and that Hongkongers will always be Hongkongers... Once you have faith in yourself, you will own your particular taste and lifestyle.

‘Wherever you are, as long as you keep your faith strong, you can make it…’ said Chun. At this point, I’m afraid the alcohol has kicked in. Before I say anything I shouldn’t say, let’s toast to our faiths in believing, with love.

 

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