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May 26, 2004

{     Interview : Jason Siu     }    

Jason Siu has been a major player in the booming Hong Kong Vinyl and custom figure scene since its inception. He is considered to be among the triumvirate of artists who have made the scene what it is today, right next to other HK luminaries Michael Lau and Eric So. Jason has stuck true to his urban-vinyl roots with designs that run the hip-hop gamut, from hard-core gangsta to turntablist freaks while also dipping into other creative and design endeavors. With his Gangster Paradise II series of figures ready to hit, a newly reworked version of his N-3B figure ready to be released (with working speakers as part of its design!) as well as a stint at the recent Hong Kong Toycon, Jason Siu is a busy busy man. We were honored when he took the time to answer a few questions, and since Jason is the kind of guy who kicks it on his own, we did it sans translator. (Notes/Further Info in Red.)

&t Adam: I was checking out your first figure, Frey Mui, last night online. The style of that figure is radically different from what you're doing now. How did that change in style come about?
Jason: To be creative, you must be diverse. I was more self-centered before, now I just want to make contact with more people.
;font color="red">(Frey Mui was Jason's first independent comic. It told the tale of a cute young woman named Frey Mui, and her squishy little friend Marshmallow as they sought out their version of Utopia.)

I look at your figures and I can hear different soundtracks, or theme music, for each one. Are your designs inspired by specific types of music, songs, albums or artists?
Any kind- especially Trip-Hop, Reggae, Hip-Hop��

Hip-hop and DJ culture are obviously big influences in your work. Do you feel close to the scene, or do you draw inspiration from it at a distance?
I've been drawing inspiration from the US comic "Break the Chain" by Kyle Baker.
(�Break the Chain" was an innovative exercise- a comic with a hip-hop related storyline and an accompanying cassette soundtrack narrated by KRS-One. Baker envisioned the project as a read-a-long, so you got music and sounds along with the images.)

Who do you love on the Hong Kong scene?
Jordan Chan.
(Chan is one of the few HK "idol" stars to transition his early popular fame and hip-hop oriented musical performance into a substantial film and music career. His portrayal of gangsters and bad guys in films such as Young and Dangerous and God of Gamblers 3 has cemented him into the role of Hong Kong cinema badass. Recently, he's added some horror films to his repertoire, including the gore-fest Bio-Zombie.)

Which US and UK musicians have been influential to you?
Massive Attack and Portishead, mostly.

What are you listening to right now?
Not really one specific thing, I'm not fixed on anything.

I was hoping you could tell us a little bit about the Gangs of Monkey Playground, where this came from�
There's this monkey story in Hong Kong that inspired me to create Monkey Playground.There's an old man (85 years old) in HK who wanted to get his pet back from the government (a little monkey named Golden Eagle) which has accompanied him in selling Chinese medicine in the street market for many years. The only way he can get it back is through the help of mass media�

Your newest Gangster series is set to drop in the US any moment- how are you feeling about the new figures?
The new Gangster series is trying to deliver their own message by creating music.
(MUSS, Phoebe, and Will are available for preorder in the US from ningyoushi.com, individually or as a set. They each come with tons of music/DJ equipment and some of the most stylistic and detailed clothing and jewelry ever to grace a 12" figure.)

Hong Kong Toycon looked like a lot of fun this year. I know the theme was Hollywood Plug-in, and that a lot of designers were given a specific movie as their theme. What was your theme?
2046�. poison. I tried to reflect the dark side of human character.
(2046 is the title of the next film from HK film auteur Wong Kar Wai (In the Mood for Love, Chunking Express). The film is shrouded in mystery, has been in production for years, and the only thing anybody knows for sure is that it may (or may not) be set in the future and that it may (or may not) be a sort-of sequel to In the Mood For Love. The year 2046 also marks the 50 year anniversary of Hong Kong being released from British Imperial rule, and the eclipsing of a non-interference policy promised by the Chinese government, so Jason's ominous take on a film not-yet released is relevant on several levels.)

How did you address that theme? Did you design a specific figure, or just use the film as a backdrop?
I used of one of the characters from an earlier Wong Kar Wai's film "Ashes of Time" and designed a 12 inch custom figure.

What are some of your favorite films/filmmakers?
Wong Kar Wai, Leos Carax, Wim Wenders, etc.

You showed your new Speak Your Mind N-3B pieces at Toycon too, and I've heard good things about the quality of the sound and the design in general. What made you want to stick working speakers into a figure design?
The idea was to launch the concept: "Speak your mind- No music, no passion."
(The camo-cloaked figures feature 3 separate speakers capable of handling 150 watts of power.)

I did get to see your Levi's piece from the Toycon exhibit. That neon sign pointing at the crotch was sheer genius! Also, the clothing you create for your figures has its own style and looks damn good. Do you have any desire to work more in clothing design?
Yes, I'd like to try more clothing design. I've got a series of my own designer T-shirts too.

You're one of a handful of artists who've helped shape the Urban Vinyl scene, and it has blossomed into a huge industry spanning the entire globe. What other artists/designers do you admire, and who would you most like to collaborate with?
Even Lee, my friend, a painter.
(See Even Lee's psychedelic collision of sci-fi, fantasy and reality at http://www.illustrator.org.hk/profile/evenlee/even.htm)

I have a lot of respect for the fact that you've been able to make a name for yourself on your own, and that you've continued to push the limits- what are your plans for the future, and what can we expect next?
A new wave, and creative works.

    » Check out more of Siu's work at JasonSiu.com!
    » Buy Siu's creations at Kidrobot.com