Interview: Five minutes with Fifi Rong

      Image credit: Dylan Chubb

Born in Beijing, based in London and making herself known for her geisha meets avant-garde style, Fifi Rong has announced the release of her upcoming self-produced solo album – There Is A Funeral In My Heart For Every Man I Loved. Ahead of the LP, the songstress has shared several singles, the most recent being ‘Another Me’ which has just been paired with a stunning music video created by the director Rok Pat. Fifi Rong is known for working with the likes of Skepta Tricky, Yello, and Phaeleh as well as the talented Emika however, we feel her own music stands our firmly – marking her as an artists to watch in her own right.

‘Another Me’ on SpotifyiTunes

Naturally, we had to sit down for an exclusive interview with the rising singer – catch all you need to know below.

Set the tone for us. Why the arts?

Art is the end in itself rather than a means to an end. True artistry is 100% purity or being who I am in the process of the creation with no judgement of the self, no insecurity, no expectation, and no attachment to the outcome. It’s a spiritual practice, keeping the ego in check. It’s a humbling experience. That is the “music being art” side of things. Anything else becomes to the music business. The trick is to differentiate the two and balance them to stay sane and well. Apparently, this life of making art and making a living is an art of itself. So it depends on how deep the question wants to go.

Which comes first when you’re producing – the sound or the idea?

Ideas are more to do with lyrics. The sound is quite simple, I like it or I don’t. It depends on if I’m making an outfit for a song, or I’m making a sound then use my voice to decorate it. I do both, but I had to learn to let one to lead and the rest follow. 

I like poetry in songs. Although I dedicate 90 per cent of my time producing and mixing my songs, I’m ruthless when it comes to binning my songs if they don’t make the cut. By that I mean, if a song can’t be sung acapella and still moves me, it’s trash.  So with this album, the concept and songs came first.

Does your material feature any collaborations?

Nope. This is a solo album. I have collaborated with countless producers. For me, that’s holidays and fun times. When I do my own solo stuff, it’s more to do with crafting, documenting, and searching for who I am and who I have become.  

What’s on your current playlist?

Mediation music mainly. Holosync, Theta and delta waves, Solfeggio tones.

Tell us about the chemistry you have with your fans on stage.

It’s a connection between the emotional and mental level through flow and stillness. It’s not  a physical type of interaction like African traditional music, which has its transcendence in the grooves and moves. With me, I think people get hypnotised a lot and only realise it when they snap out of it. Their bodies are here but they’re going somewhere with me. I hear the word ‘mesmerised’ a lot, so I’m just guessing.

What techniques do you experiment with to get your original sound?

I sample my own voice a lot to be percussions, keyboards and violins and synths. That’s something only I have, and others can’t recreate. I also use my voice like an instrument a lot, but that is also a part of embodying my heritage of the traditional way of Chinese singing. 

I also slice up all the modern music element. A bit of dub, a bit of trap, a bit of IDM, a bit of ambient and a bit of Jazz…. and so forth. Whatever I can think of, there’s no rule. I think a sense of freedom is underlying everything I do. Imagine if I had to create within a genre. That would feel like a prison to me. 

I think most importantly, it’s my way of morphing from Chinese culture into western and then back and forth that makes it different. For example, I might sing in English with a Chinese delivery and a melody. Whereas, if I sing in Chinese, I might use a more western tone and style to deliver. I try to keep a balance in playing these elements to be a bit retro, a bit futuristic. A bit familiar, but mostly a challenge to either Western or Eastern ears. 

Take us through a day in the recording studio.

It depends on if I’m writing, producing, recording, or mixing, different roles require different type of energy and endurance. I enjoy all of them. Usually fun but sometimes frustrating. This work requires a lot of patience, humility and an attitude for excellence. Usually, I have a high standard but I don’t believe in perfection.

Was there a specific moment in your life where you thought, “this is what I want to do”?

Never. This would the case if it came easily. If only you knew what it took me to finally get to do this, and how painful it was to not do this.

My life would be utterly pointless if I haven’t created what I have created and will be creating. 

Any emerging artists on your radar?

I have no sense of what it means by ’emerging’ these days, but there are great artists and creative expressions everywhere we look. It’d be like counting stars. they could have been doing music for all their lives.  I would say my Spotify playlists I put together are good demonstrations of who I like listening to.

What gets your creative juices flowing?

A good night sleep and good coffee optionally

Take us through your collection of gear, tech or software that accompanies your creative expression.

I use neumann mic, Adam A7X monitors and UAD DUO audio interface on logic pro X. I have kept my gear and software very simple and haven’t updated during the many years I have been working on this album. My softwares are usually bunch of things friends give me. I’m a slow learner so I use really basic tools, but I’d rinse it to death once I know how to use it. I find that much better than option overload.

Any side projects you’re working on?

oh yeah… I’m working with Emika, and other exciting projects I can’t share just yet. I love doing other projects. No matter how life and death I make music sound like to me, in the end, the only reason I do it is because it’s fun.

How have you refined your craft since you entered the industry?

I think the refinement is in every song, every production, every meltdown, and every ordinary day. The craft matures inevitably if we are in it for the right reason. 

Breakdown the news for us: what can we expect from you this year?

Double album: 24 songs. 12 English 12 Chinese 

Live music short film series: episode and season based. And build a Patreon community around this project. We are developing season 1 at the moment

Exclusive live streams via Discord and possibly other platforms too. This could include my music sessions and performances.

Crowdfunding campaign for the double album release:  highly exclusive collection items such as Vinyl, CD cassette and fine prints. Also, there will be other creative credits and opportunities such as writing songs with me, and many more that only happen during the campaign. 

Famous last words?

I’ll wake up at 5AM tomorrow and start work early

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By Sarah Britton