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HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam (Reuters Life!) - Singer-songwriter Ken Stringfellow, best known for his work with R.E.M. and as a member of The Posies and Big Star, is touring Asia, exploring and experimenting along the way.
Stringfellow, who arrived in the region in December to promote the new album of his band, THE DiSCiPLiNES, has performed in the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Taiwan, as well as Vietnam's commercial hub, Ho Chi Minh City, where Reuters caught up with the Seattle-based musician.
Q: How did it happen that you're playing in Vietnam now?
A: I had an offer to come to Singapore and Malaysia to support the release of my band's album. I figured since I was coming all that way I should add some shows in some places I haven't visited before and my contacts in Malaysia introduced me to people who introduced me to people.
Q: Internationally, Vietnam isn't known for its music scene so why did you choose it? A: I wanted to discover the country, music is my avenue to interact and communicate with people.
Q: People here are usually subjected to cover bands, how did they react to your songs? A: Yes, it was really easy for me to blow some minds! What I saw was, yes, cover bands, and foreigners who were doing well here by playing that kind of thing or playing something typically "American" but old timey -- jazz, blues, this kind of thing. So, for what I do, which is totally on another plane, I had the city to myself, in a way...
So, the thing that makes my show special in any context is how personal it is. I'm not a "performer" giving a "concert." I make the audience, the concert, everything, just one thing, no wall between. And I think the intensity of my original material makes it something hard to ignore even though it's unfamiliar.
My show is also quite quiet, you know, people are used to having loud bands in their face, and I do the opposite -- you have to lean in to hear it, which takes it from being background noise to being foreground noise. So, perfect timing for me to show up in Ho Chi Minh City in 2010. They were hungry for something new.
Q: Are you exploring any new music horizons here or in general?
A: Well, reaching new audiences of course, I picked up on lots of music on this tour, will be digesting it when I get home.
Q: What are your future plans? Is Vietnam in them?
A: The next step would be to get the Posies over, that would be great. I will definitely return to the country, that's for sure. My experiences here were superb, I loved so many things about the country and really want to see more, go deeper. Plus the shows went well, so I think there would be sufficient interest. My immediate future plans are to finish up work on The Posies' and THE DiSCiPLiNES' new albums... for release this year.
Q: Is this a one-time visit or is there a commitment to Asia? A: I don't plan to omit an entire continent from my future plans! But, really, this trip was an exploration, an experiment, and an introduction...and it went well, and I will work on visits with my next touring project, I would guess the Posies will do the most extensive touring in the next year.
Q: What is your take on the music scene here, or in Asia, or back home? Does this tie in with your career plans?
A: My plans are pretty much tied into what I'm working on. I think I have developed my art to the point where it has a strong enough vision to work in almost any context. So, my work continues alongside, or in addition to, any music scenes at home or otherwise. It's always been like that for me and I think that's my strong point as an artist, my individuality. (Editing by John Ruwitch and Miral Fahmy)