Glass talks to Chinese superstar singer-songwriter Jay Chou

WHEN a press conference reaches a fevered climax and a stampede seems imminent, that’s when Glass finds itself ducking for cover to dodge both overseas fans and Chinese press. Both were united in admiration of one of the aforementioned country’s megastars – Jay Chou –  at the Copthorne Tara Hotel in Kensington, London when The Invincible Concert Tour kicked off the first leg of his first European tour.

Musician, singer, songwriter, record producer, film producer, actor, director and no stranger to hero worship, the Taiwanese native, 38-year-old Chou greeted a crowd singing note-by-note to his classics with superstar coolness before gently launching into generating hype around his tour.

STORY PIC JAY 5The Invincible Tour press conference at the Copthorne Tara Hotel, London

Baptised the New King of Asian Pop by Time magazine in 2003, Jay Chou is best known to Western audiences not for his monopolisation of Mandopop (Mandarin-language pop songs) but for film appearances that have punctuated his journey to becoming one of the most important musicians of his generation. In Hollywood blockbusters such as Now You See Me 2 and The Green Hornet, footholds in China markets were ensured for both films and for the rest of the world Chou’s chiselled and preened good looks were projected for all to see. Large-scale concert tours have also become synonymous with the star’s shtick, allowing his diverse range of musical styles, from rock to hip-hop to blues, to be taken on the road and coupled with extraordinary visuals and heaps of hysteria.

Feature pic stage jay chou JayJay Chou

Before Chou took to the SSE Arena’s stage Glass spoke with the major attraction about a tour that’s already broken records, apparently selling out within minutes in many cities, and allowed him to bring his music and production levels to fans in Europe for the first time ever.

How’s the reception been for you, even ahead of making the long journey to the United Kingdom?
It was shocking how fast the concert tickets were sold out. Pre-sale tickets sold out in an incredibly short time, so another pre-sale was arranged the very next day and in only 22 minutes, the 11,000 tickets for the added second show were sold out again. Even then, more than 10,000 fans were still sticking around in the waiting area. This puts more confidence in my accomplishments so far and what I can accomplish to some extent. If I get a great response from the fans during the concert, I’d definitely want to return to London as soon as next year for another show.

Story pic Piano Jay ChouTangShi3Jay Chou performing at SSE Wembley Arena in London

What are some of the themes of your Invincible tour?
The concert taking place in London is going to be all about nostalgia and old school tracks. One of my songs “Big Ben”, which has London written all over it, will certainly be a fixture of my performances. Performing in a concert always turns out to be quite inspiring for me and gives me more ideas for new music. One of the love songs from my new album was created after a special moment following a show in mainland China. It’s still in production, but Chinese style tracks are guaranteed in the new album, which I aim to release sometime around the end of this year or early next year.

It’s believed that your musical style fuses Western influences with Chinese tradition and include lyrics which are a form of Chinese Poetry. Which artists most inspire you from the Western music industry and in the videos you produce as well?
I hope to always be more innovative. I am grateful that my mom raised me in a very strict environment when I was kid, learning first to play the piano. The learning and practicing of classical music has come to be very important for my journey in music. Chopin is my idol.

Feature pic Jay Chou on stageJay Chou performing at SSE Wembley Arena in London

What made me you then become interested in pop music?

This came after listening to Zhang XueYou when I was growing up. Ever since then, I started writing my own stuff. A lot of people think that my music style combines various elements to become a combination of the East and the West. In fact, I just try to make music that sounds new, refreshing and appropriate for everybody. For instance, a lot of western rap includes a lot of violent themes, swearing and negative energy as a part of their musical concept, yet in my rapping tracks, I really want to show people concepts that are more positive.

Can you tell us what you like most about England and perhaps shed any light on common links between Taiwanese/Chinese and British culture?
A lot of people have come here to shoot films and of course a lot of Hollywood films were shot in England. Sometimes I follow scenes from these films to find inspirations for music videos. When we shot the music video for my track Ming Ming Jiu, we went to Notting Hill.

Personally, I’m very interested in street cultures as well, I remember seeing some places in Camden Town that are going to be demolished, and a lot of street art around those places were in the shots of some of my music videos and I think that we might not be able to see it on the street after demolition.

feature Jay chou 4 TangShi1Jay Chou performing at SSE Wembley Arena in London

Beyond the Mandopop music industry, which you have achieved huge success in, how else would you like to apply your multiple skills to the entertainment world?
Next year, if my schedule allows the time for it, I would really like to direct and cast a Hollywood film myself. I think this would push me even further in terms of being a film director. I’ve done acting and directed music videos, and I think the next big level up from that is to direct a feature film. Along with continuing my music career. I think that’s my new goal for next year. In regards to my shows, I’m touring Europe now then worldwide later in the year, and hopefully I will be back next year to see all my fans in London again.

by Livia Feltham

Images courtesy of Jay Chou