Sunday, September 2, 2007

Hacken's interview from Be My Guest: career, marriage, awards, first dates...

Hacken Lee in gratutide to Andy Lau for letting him win the competition

Chan (the host for the programme and TVB's General Manager) is one of TVB's senior executives while Hacken Lee is TVB's "godson" - the latter has a higher status. Though it seems like there's a gap between him and Chan, Hacken reveals that this is one of the rare times where he actually talks about Emily.

Hacken has such a close relationship with TVB that he even announced his marriage on JSG. The reason is simple: he performed as guest for Miss HK Pageant Competition back then and hence, got to know Emily. TVB played the role of a matchmaker and Hacken never did forget this.

Hacken and Emily held their wedding banquet in November, 2006. The bridegroom was Andy Lau, his competitor. They competed for the Best Male Singer award in 2002 in which Hacken won, and will remember this friendship for a lifetime.

Caption on the side:
About his first date with Emily, Hacken said "We agreed to have Japanese cuisine. After I ordered a table full of sushi, she ordered Sashimi. I had to eat all the rice from the sushi. That's why, women are hard to fanthom." (some words at the side were blurred, but i think this is what it says. -hahaha, very funny first date!)

Hopes to give birth to a boy and a girl

Chan: How long have you been together with Emily?

Hacken: Since 1992.

Chan: When she competed for Miss HK, you guys starting dating?

Hacken: Right. Because of TVB, I was the guest performer for that year. I went for the photoshoot in England and France as well. The media back then wasn't as bad as today's. They did not follow us around. When the guest performers and contestants are done with work, we can have meals together which meant more chances being with each other.

Chan: When she was crowned, did you worry over if you two should still continue the relationship?

Hacken: We were only in our twenties and did not think much about this. But after we were together for several years and when both parents met, her mother was worried that this "singer kid" (me) was not serious about the relationship. Let me tell you guys a secret. In 2006 JSG when I announced my marriage, I bumped into Rosa (the caretaker for Miss HKs). She clutched my hand, grew teary and told me "I'm happy to hear that you two are getting married. Actually, I was worried that you were only playing around, dragging my girl (Emily) along."

Chan: After she started dating with you, she stopped working. Did you asked her to do that, or did she made that decision herself?

Hacken: I analyzed this with her. Back then, she had the chance as TVB wanted to sign a contract with her. And I said "You can decide to do it or not. I do not want to affect your decision and neither do I know how long will we be together or how our relationship will develop." I could only analyse the pros and cons for her and let her think for herself. Honestly, I was thinking more along the sides of her not taking up the job.

Felt disappointed after his drop out from the 4th Annual New Talent Singing Competition

Chan: After you and Emily marry, will you want children soon?

Hacken: Yes.

Chan: Is this the reason for getting married?

Hacken: Yes. We hope to have 2 children. The best would be giving birth to twins during the first pregnancy: 1 boy and 1 girl. But in life, things don't go according to how we want them to. I'm 38, it's an appropriate time. There'll be an age gap if the father and son's age are too far apart.

Chan: You entered the industry through a singing competition?

Hacken: I hoped to release an album. I joined the competition which was running it's 4th year, the year which Alex Toh won it. I was only 18, and after my exams I received champion in my school's competition before and I felt that I could sing very well. During my first interview at Wah Sing (for the 4th Annual New Talent Singing Competition), there were judges like Leslie Cheung. I sang Alan Tam's song and was worried whether I would be eliminated. After that, I got into the Top 30. I had high hopes and who knew that I couldn't make it to the top 15. It felt like being drenched with cold water. I was very unhappy. I felt that there was something undisclosed about the competition, and also felt that they judged the contestants according to looks. It was the saddest tragedy ever encountered by an 18 year old; it was like tarnishing his dreams of becoming a singer.

Half a year later, a friend whom I got to know through the competition, Vivian Chow, called me through the phone and asked me to join the "19 Territories Singing Competition". The champion for the first year was Jacky Cheung. That time, I was doing my Foundation Studies (not very sure if this meant Foudnation Studies though..but I think it's a course to prepare you for overseas studies). My family had plans to send me overseas to study and had already chosen the school. I joined the competition as a player. From the competitions held in the smaller territories, I went on stage to the finals. I remember the hosts were Lin Jia Hua and Mei Yun. In the end, I became the champion and had the chance to release an album.

When I returned home, I told my father and mother. Fortunately, they were both very open-minded. They let me make my choice and I decided to try it out for 2 years. I wasn't very successful in the first 2 years. I released an EP and album which only sold a few thousand copies. When I was feeling disappointed and looking through the information for further education and was thinking of going abroad, TVB invited me to film Teenagers No More. When the series was broadcast, my album sold well. That's why I always thank TVB, as it was this show that allowed the public to know this tanned and long-necked guy called Hacken Lee. The theme song of the show made me reach my first Platinum album, called Summer's Myth. This gave me a ticket to continue staying and work in Hong Kong.

Chan: Sidetracking for awhile. You got to know Vivian Chow during the competition?

Hacken: Yes. She was fatter back then, not like how she looks now...(can't find the word to describe her)

Chan: Pretty?

Hacken: Both she and I did not reach Top 15. She sang Bo Yuan Fang's Zhui Ai and had a big butterfly ribbon on her head. A little plump girl, quite cute, but she wasn't as fat as Myolie Wu. There were many other friends too whom I got to know through the competition too.

Chan: Have you ever thought of wooing Vivian Chow? (mystery mystery - i want to know this too tongue.gif)

Hacken: She always wanted to sleep and I did not think that she'd become so pretty after a few years. We both attended a DJ training course and were one of the champions.

Chan: Your career sailed at great heights during that time. Was it because of this that people thought you were haughty?

Hacken: If I thought that way, it wouldn't have been like this. Till when my friends told me, and they were friends with a certain status, like Joey Leung. He said "You are quite pro." It was around the time when I was filming A Life Of His Own. (Chan added: year 1990.) Firstly, I was young. Secondly, I felt that I was great. I was able to meet girls as I was a singer. I liked to drink back then and had a group of friends: Ekin, Li Jia Sheng and so on. We called ourselves Brothers and Sisters. Once, at a karaoke room, Anita Mui and I were a little drunk and she told me "Hey 'handsome' lad, do you know that you're haughty?" I wasn't very familiar with her back then, and yet she felt that I was arrogant too. It was as if lightning had struck me. A senior had such sentiments too. It was the first time that I felt that there's something wrong with me. After discussing for a long time, I became good friends with her since that night. After that, I tried to change. It took a long time for me to change people's impression of me. To make people feel that you're haughty, all you might have to do is to make one comment. However, to erase these comments and impression you've made, you need 10 years.

Like when fans asked for my signature, I used to just sign and walk off. But then I was worried that by acting like this, people would think that I'm proud. Now, I would have small conversations with them. At the beginning, I wasn't very used to it. My character wasn't like this in the first place. I'm not full of smiles and happy all the time. It was very hard at first. Slowly, I carried on and this made people feel happy. And I grew happy myself. Soon, my character changed too.

Felt embarrassed seeing empty seats

Chan: At which point of your career did the low tide set in?

Hacken: It has got to be the 1995 concert. It could possibly be one of the worst ticket sales ever in Hong Kong's concert history. I had my first concert in 1993, the sales were great. We had to increase the number. Two years later, it failed. In 1993 I had 8 concerts and having 10 concerts on the second time shoudn't be a problem. Who knew that something happened. There were various reasons.

There was a "moustache
pattern" - the seats were only around 50% full, standing up on stage and looking at the empty seats, my tears were dropping in my stomach. Every night, I dare not ask how the ticket sales were. I just hoped that not too many of my relatives were there to watch, as it was very embarrassing.

I remembered one night when Alan Tam was the guest and I was singing Not Changing For A Lifetime. He suddenly appeared on the staircase of the stage, and said "Failure in one concert doesn't mean failure forever. In the future, what you must do is to tell those who didn't attend your concert that they've missed the treasure." This left a deep impression on me. I did not hold concerts for the next 7 years as I was very afraid. Till 2002 when I held a concert, and during the last day I asked about the ticket sales - even tickets for the single seats were sold out. I could not describe how elated I felt. The next year I held a concert with Alan Tam, I hugged him and cried. I rarely cry, I'm afraid of myself crying. That feeling wasn't just thanking him, it was gratitude from my heart.

Chan: Have you ever experienced bad album sales?

Hacken: Of course, I have even experienced not being able to release an album. The first time when I changed companies, I had unhappy experiences as I did not know how to deal with the contract. During the second time when I changed company, I signed an 'invincible' contract which has the thickness of a phonebook. I engaged the help of the most expensive lawyer in Hong Kong, and listed out things like food to eat when working overseas, the promotional fee for each album would be 2 hundred million and so on. I did not want to be cheated.

My album wasn't selling very well, so where would there be money for promotion? The only solution was not to release an album. I had no idea. This went on for a period of time, till the 1998 World Cup where I sang Get Up, Get Up, Get Up (Adventures of A Soccer Fan, first line of the song is Get Up, Get Up, Get Up...). The response wasn't bad and I released an album with new songs and classics. As my contract just ended, a senior executive wanted me to stay for 3 months and do free promotion. I asked him "Can you work for your company for 3 months and not take any salary?" And we did not speak to each other after that, even till now.

Actually, I quite enjoy hosting at TVB. Many people asked me, as a recognized singer with strength, how do I feel when I see new singers coming in to sing and I used a fire extinguisher to spray at them while hosting JSG? (either it means him literally using the extinguisher or they compare hacken to a fire extinguisher...)

They asked if I felt unhappy. I don't think so. Hong Kong people are very good at adapting. Even when the horse died on them, it's still possible. If albums cannot do well, I can turn towards other avenues and shine. I don't think that being a host for the World Cup is a shame.

Chan: When I first approached you to host Minutes To Fame in 2005, you rejected at first. I asked, "Is it because you did not get best male singer award? (andy lau got it in 2005)" and you said, "Of course not. If someone else is to receive the award then probably, but if it's Andy then things are different." Why? Are you and him able to disregard any competition?

Hacken: Andy did one thing and I can tell it to everyone. The first time when I received the best male singer award was in 2002. That year, my popularity was quite good. Andy always enjoyed receiving awards, everyone knows this. And he knows that if I don't receive Best Male Singer award for that year, I might not have a chance in the future. He really hoped that I would get the award and let down his promotons near the end of the year. The deepest impression I had was during the day of the award ceremony, when we had to face the media for photoshoots with our awards. Both of us got an award - Andy received Asia's Most Popular Male Singer award and I received Best Male Singer Award. I thought, he is one of my competitors and yet he even pulled for me, the friendship was strong. Later on, he told me that the photo that was taken (in 2002) in the hotel during the celebration became the wallpaper on his computer. I was very touched.

Captions on the side:
Chan asked if Hacken had already taken wedding pictures
in England and Hacken refused to answer. Only later do we know that they've taken photos at the Manchester United homegrounds. Chan did not receive the wrong information.

Chan suggests to have TVB host his wedding, Hacken said "Couples who had their weddings broadcast by TVB in the past did not have very good endings. Thanks anyway."

[source: Be My Guest book by Stephan Chan]
[translated by Hianez, edited by Kate]

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