Spotify Spotlight: Passion For Film, Action And Music Collide In "Deadlock" Theme Song
STORY: Sim Ding En
29 October 2021
What happens when a good smackdown meets an equally impressive throwdown? You get "Deadlock", the theme song of a martial arts film of the same name.
The short film - starring action choreographer and stuntman Jonathan Cheong, and directed by Samuel Delitans Lee - is making its rounds internationally and has been screened at film festivals in Spain, the UK and the US. Along the way, this smackdown of a martial arts flick has picked up three World Film Carnival Singapore awards, and now has a theme song to its name. (Its music video is also directed by Samuel.)
Local rapper FRGN (aka Wonderwall.sg's very own Farhan Shafie) and hip-hop artist Charles ENERO provide the throwdown, and engage in a knockout rap battle that begs repeated listens, and addresses the the nebulous grey areas when it comes to justice as well as the inextricable link between action and consequence:
Nobody lives in a world of black and white
We are slaves to the system,
Shades of grey on every side
While I'm fighting for my freedom
I got demons on my mind
Coz the end of one choice is the start of my decline
We talk to FRGN (who dropped the single today, his birthday!) about exchanging blows with "creative deadlocks" and wrestling with this pandemic.
We love a great collab story. How did this number happen?
It was great to get back together with Charles on this project after our previous single "Blue Tick". Charles, especially, is a cinephile. So when the chance came to write a song for the short film "Deadlock", he was the number one person I wanted to collaborate with.
“Deadlock” addresses betrayal, rivalry and the loneliness that comes with it. Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation – and did it touch a raw nerve writing this song?
Oh definitely. I think everyone has experienced betrayal in some shape or form at least once in their lives. So for me, it was very easy to tap into that emotion and try to empathise with the lead character. I think the sense of injustice and unbridled anger that comes from betrayal really propelled the aggression in this track.
Sometimes, songwriters hit a writer’s block and get caught in a “creative deadlock” with themselves. As a musical creative, how do you deal with this?
That's exactly the reason why I am so excited about this song as it forced me to experiment with a very different creative process.
Usually, the songs I write have more of an anecdotal perspective, but in this case, I had to put myself in the shoes of the lead protagonist. By delving into the character motivations of a hitman who is at odds with a his best friend turned rival gang boss, it really pushed me into a more challenging headspace.
You can say that I break that "creative deadlock" when I try to switch up my songwriting process once in a while. Definitely very proud of the end product that we managed to put out.
Speaking of a creative deadlock, this pandemic has been particularly hard for artists. How have you dealt with it?
I can't speak for Charles but it was definitely very challenging for me, personally. Music is such a creative form of expression and when you're stuck in a routine working from home, you don't really get a chance to get inspiration as often.
The motivation to write definitely got eroded for a good chunk of the time. That's why I'm very thankful for my chance meeting with the team behind "Deadlock" (Jonathan and Sam). The opportunity to write a song for film was different and reinvigorating.
What was the collaboration process like? (Did you get into any deadlocks hur hur)
So Jonathan (lead actor) approached me looking for someone to compose the score for his martial arts action film. I connected him with a super talented producer friend, Jaz Mendoza, who would eventually arrange the music score for "Deadlock".
During this process, the idea came about to remix one of the instrumental tracks that is used in the final version of the film into something with a more hip-hop flavour so that we could rap over it.
I think the most fun part about this collaboration was getting to hang out at Sam's house to watch an early rough cut of "Deadlock" with the instrumental music to get a vibe of the film, and then write lyrics to the action on camera. That was pretty cool!
Did Jonathan have any part in your musical process?
I think how Jonathan helped was by explaining the type of films that inspire him. He's a big fan of Donnie Yen and Hong Kong action movies which influenced the tone of this short film.
So I kind of took his cue and listened to a bit of Mandarin rap and Jay Chou (weirdly enough) and that kind of rapping style. Not sure how it has translated. But I think from films like "Shang Chi" and "Black Panther", you can see how well hip-hop and action films go together.
You’re a big fan of pro-wrestling and also host the Kick To The Gut! Wrestling Podcast. What was it like working on the soundtrack for such a physical film, seeing that you’re at the confluence of two of your greatest passions (combat sport and music)?
Overall, the experience of writing this song has been amazing and, like you mentioned, it married both of my passions in an interesting way. If you listen closely, I threw in a couple of wrestling references in the lyrics as well.
I would definitely love the chance to write songs for different mediums in the future, be it film or heck, even writing rap theme songs for pro wrestlers. Who knows?
One line in the chorus goes “every action has a consequence” – it’s something so obvious and commonsensical, yet so few of us observe it. What action-consequence in your own life has been the biggest life lesson for you?
I think the biggest lesson for me has been to trust my gut instinct. Sometimes you need to know when to power through to accomplish something but also when to walk away when situations no longer serve a good purpose or become detrimental to your mental health.
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