“It is no longer feasible to depend on royalty cheques from CD sales. Our expectation is not to make money as much as it is to travel,” says King. The musician’s cast of world-class musicians and entertainers (Tran Minh Duc on the lead, bassist Erick Swackhammer, vocalists Le Roy Jones and Diane Raz, Zhang Nan on the zither and
Tran Thao on the drums) have been featured on MTV, BBC and performed at Live Earth 2007. “Our best so far was the Jakarta International Jazz Festival; we also jammed with Deep Purple,” says King.
He swears by a better experience-at Taj’s Someplace Else, the live-act venue in Kolkata. A glimpse of King waving his harmonica was enough for the Blues’ band to invite him on stage where he spent the rest of the night jamming. King makes an interesting cultural performance-based observation, accrued perhaps, from the two decades he has spent in South East Asia. “People from Chinese-influenced countries are more reserved as a group and don’t invite performers on stage. Indians are more encouraging,” says King.
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, King’s performing career stretches back to 1995 (“when I got into the band thing in China”), juggling responsibilities as general manager for Tower Records and later, performing regularly at the Crazy Elephant club in Singapore. The SARS epidemic affected not just businesses in the island state, but performers as well. King settled in Ho Chi Minh. “I began piecing together a band; we’ve been performing for the last five years,” he says.
Like his move across South East Asia, King’s music travels in many directions as well. “I spent a week in the mountains in Vietnam recently and all I came up with was this two-minute track for my mother, which she’ll play for the next five years. In that sense, it was a commercial success, because I’m still in the will,” he laughs. His current drive, popular across Vietnam, is to combine traditional Vietnamese music with the Blues. “Vietnamese don’t know how to react to the Blues. Their music is simple melodies that keep people happy,” he explains, “Whereas the Blues has these screaming guitars.”