Classically trained in saxophone, piano and choral music, it’s safe to say Rainbow Chan is beyond talented. The Sydney-based musician is experimenting and pushing the boundaries with her music, incorporating music boxes, thumb pianos and vintage toys.
A first generation immigrant, Rainbow’s Chinese heritage seeps into her tracks, with her favourite childhood memories playing a pivotal role in her song development. This year, Rainbow’s debut album is set to launch. By the looks of it, 2016 is going to big year for the producer.
When did you realise you wanted to create your own music?
I started writing music when I was quite young, so I knew it was something I wanted to pursue. I'd tape songs off the radio and listen to my cassette over-and-over again, so I could arrange Top 40 songs on the piano and accompany myself. The eureka moment was probably when I worked out how to play Kandi's ‘Don't Think I'm Not.’ Still a sick track!
What was your profession before you became a solo artist and producer?
I studied music at uni and was an english and music tutor. I still teach kids saxophone and piano. They entertain me with their curiosity and bad knock-knock jokes.
How would you describe your music in three words?
Premium. Pearl. Milk-tea.
If you weren’t creating music right now, what do you think you would be doing?
Maybe a linguist, a historian or a scholar in Chinese studies. I'm currently reading Wang Hui's China's Twentieth Century. It's great! He tracks the impacts of modernisation, from the early 1900s to contemporary China. I've been researching this topic for art works and installations, that I'll be making in the near future.
You’re currently working on your debut album, Spacings. Is there anything else you’re focusing on for 2016?
I've got a residency at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in June. I'll be performing a new work that explores the intersections of Chinese and Western cultures through music and brands. I've also got a techno side-project called Chunyin and I'm absolutely stoked to be releasing a 12” record with a label based in the UK.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
Ryuichi Sakamoto would be my wet dream collab. Amazing talent and amazing hair.
Do you find your Chinese heritage influences your work?
Yes, I think listening to Chinese music and consuming East-Asian pop culture from a young age has made my [Chinese heritage] an integral part of my vocabulary. In particular, as I'm a first generation immigrant, I hold onto remnants of my Chinese culture as a way to understand my past. I like reconfiguring these cultural tropes into interesting mixes and collages.
You’ve played at some pretty cool festivals including Iceland Airwaves, Dark Mofo, Camp A Low Hum and Vivid Festival. Do you enjoy performing live?
Being able to perform in front of people in cool contexts is quite a privilege, so I try to make the most of it by being in the zone and making it a special experience.
At a young age you learnt to master the saxophone and piano. Has playing classic instruments influenced your decision to create music that is more aligned with the pop genre, rather than classical?
The sonic qualities of pop and classical music aren't mutually exclusive to me. They overlap in so many ways and have been borrowing from each other for centuries. But I think it's more about their different approaches. Going through the classical system and realising I didn't want to be dictated by ‘notes on a page’ made me more connected to pop. I liked that pop was flexible and immediate.
How would you describe your style?
I love pieces that are sack-like and androgynous. I think my style is something like Faye Wong in Chungking Express x Josie Packard.
Do you have a go-to piece?
I practically live inside my black Alpha60 coat which zips up and puffs out at the bottom. It's my Matrix outfit.
Do you have a favourite designer?
Issey Miyake is obviously amazing. I'm also drooling over the stuff over at Ffixxed Studios.