System 10 Interview Series (Standard Receiver): Brandon Khoo, Drummer for Shirlyn & the UnXpected/Simon Yong Band


1. Tell us a bit about your background. What made you want to pursue music as a career? 

I started learning drums from the age of 11 from Yamaha Music School. My twin brother and I enrolled in the course together. The first band that ever got me excited about drums was Mötley Crüe's Tommy Lee in the mid 80s. That guy was a beast on drums. After watching the power, musicality and joy he had on drums. I told myself, "I want to be a drummer". Doesn't matter what band I was in. I just wanted to play drums for a living. 

I urge all the younger musicians to do their study of rock and roll music. Study the history and music of bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Cream, Grand Funk Railroad, Mötley Crüe, Aerosmith... Etc. Despite the hardships and turmoils they went through they made it work, that in itself is absolutely aspiring.


2. What is one song that you never get tired of playing?

I try to be as diverse as possible and have expanded my ability to serve as much genres of music as possible. But if its that one song, it has got to be Slayer's Angel Of Death. A thrash metal staple. I get to play my favorite genre, serve the music and get a good workout at the same time. 



Brandon Khoo with his own Official Brandon Khoo Vater Drumsticks


3. What are some of your most memorable performances so far?

I've many memorable performances in my musical career so far. I'll list my favorite top 3.

#1. In 2013, when I had the opportunity to open up for The Script at the Singapore Indoor Stadium with The UnXpected, playing to a crowd of 8000. 

#2. The maiden tour in Japan with The Simon Yong Band. A whole string of shows in a land where people sincerely appreciated original music regardless of wherever you come from. The 2015 Japan Tour comes in close second. So I'll lump the two Japan tours under #2.

#3. Back in 2006, a couple of friends and I formed a band called "War Ensemble", a band that played nothing but Thrash Metal. We played just one show of as much "Lamb Of God" covers as possible and disbanded immediately after. It was one of the loudest and most intense shows I ever did. 

 And these are my top 3 most memorable performances. 


4. How do you incorporate the System 10 Beltpack in your performances and how is it working out for you?

I use the System 10 as my voice, literally. Using the System 10 head worn microphones, It allows me to serve the music not only by playing the drums, but also to sing or back up the singer. My late mother was a singer from Hong Kong, made 4 albums under EMI, toured with artists like Francis Yip and Theresa Carpio... etc. how can I not at least attempt to sing back up. 

The system 10 has given me nothing but the assurance that it is always there, doesn't fail on me, exceptionally light to use and it doesn't feel like you are wearing something on your head. 

Hands down the best head worn microphone I've ever used. Not because I endorse it. But because I sincerely love it. 


Brandon Khoo enjoying his Audio-Technica System 10 Digital Wireless System


5. How would you describe the music scene now compared to when you first started out.

It is definitely more vibrant in a sense that Singapore bands/artists are definitely getting more support from the general audience. Back in the 80s of the BigO days very few people really cared about the music scene and not much financial or people support was given. Nowadays, you have corporate sponsors and even record labels coming in to support an artist, band or even an event. 

Good and bad, it's a double edged sword, depending on how you look at it. Because if you really want to have full control over the music that you create, then you might want to leave your music out of the hands of corporate sponsors or record labels. 

There are a couple of bands and artists in Singapore that are under that wing of what I would call "Business Music". That is fine, as much as music is music, it's economics. There needs to be returns in financial investment and if every corporate company or record label were to just support bands and artists totally for the love of music, then in no time, they'll be bankrupt, and that will be counter productive.

However, I feel there has to be a line to be drawn. Balance is always good, the beauty of Ying and Yang. Right now in Singapore it's all "Ying", no "Yang". I totally respect the artists/bands that are in this from a business perspective, but from a musician perspective? No. 

That why I love bands like KISS, Slipknot and BabyMetal. They bother to fuse both elements of Music and Music Business together to be the musical titans that they are today and quite honestly, pioneers in their own right in the respective genres and being champions at it. 


6. What is the greatest challenge in your work? 

I wouldn't actually call it "Work". But the greatest challenge in what I Do is getting Singaporeans in general to actually come out of their shell, remove their ties, let down their hair and have fun. Most would just sit there and nod their head to the music. But we try, I know this happens world wide. But it is an even more conservative society that we live in. This has to change. 


Brandon Khoo performing with The Simon Yong Band at Mozaic


7. What/Who are your musical inspirations?

My music inspirations include drummers like Glen Sobel, Dom Famularo, Tommy Lee, Virgil Donati, Mike Mangini, Mike Portnoy. Singers like Corey Taylor, Henry Rollins.  

My very first drum teacher in Singapore Anwar Punya, and Two Singapore Pianist/Keyboardist, Jeremy Monteiro and Stephen Francis. All 3 inspire me to keep soldiering on everyday! 

Non-musical inspirations include my parents, both my late Father, Victor Khoo and late Mother, Lam May Yee, who have given me tools to strive through the brutalities of the entertainment business. 


8. Any parting tips for aspiring musicians?

My words for every aspiring musician is to not forget where you came from. Always respect the musicians who came before you regardless. Keep level-headed and work hard to attain your goals. Nothing comes easy, because easy come, easy go. 


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