Gavin Wong Talks Online Radio, Hong Kong Music and Driving Scenes Forward

By Bryan Grogan, February 10, 2020

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The rise of a number of online radio stations over the past few years in Greater China has given new and original platforms for underground musicians to ply their trade. One of the first to get off the ground was Hong Kong Community Radio (HKCR), which has been a vital stronghold for underground music in the Fragrant Harbor since 2016. Founded by Gavin Wong, the mind behind essential Hong Kong label Absurd Trax, and Davy Law, who runs another excellent Hong Kong-based label, Neoncity Records, HKCR has become one of the most important music outlets in the Asia Pacific region. We spoke to Gavin Wong about the station. 

When and why did you start HKCR?
We started out in late 2016. I found radio culture so amazing when I was studying in the UK. Even though pirate radio isn’t something new here, I don’t think there was an online radio that was solely dedicated to music sharing. 

I wanted to create a platform that is dedicated to people in music primarily because we really need this kind of tool in using this as a vehicle to convene broader ideas and connect with other people locally and globally.

Image courtesy of Hong Kong Community Radio

How did you get funding to get the station of the ground? There’s quite a bit of equipment and other stuff to take care of. Are you guys self-funded or do you receive funding from an organization?
We don’t receive any funding at the moment. 

Davy Law and I bought everything. We started out with a webcam and a borrowed CDJ in a corner of a friend’s leather jacket shop (Shout out to Oldies Leather Jacket). We kept the setup mobile so we could stream in different spaces (we streamed at a bookshop, a clothing shop, my friend’s cha chaan teng and so on).

Eventually we invested in a CDJ and found all the other pieces by scavenging through secondhand recording gears and leftover furniture. Of course from time to time we receive help from the community as well.

We moved in to Foo Tak Building two years ago, the rent is at a remarkably discounted rate which is amazing considering the location. We’re very appreciative to ACO who show us massive support in our project. 

“It’s an interesting time in music now because it’s very visual too”

Obviously the station gives a platform for creatives in Hong Kong to express themselves through music. Could you talk about the usual feedback you get from musicians and producers?
To be honest you can’t really be sure of how feedback is most of the time. I hope we don’t have haters haha. 

I hope to show people a timeline of something in the making, a community of some sort that is naturally coming together. I don’t want to micro-manage or cultivate an image of mine, but I think maybe in a way there’s still a lot to be desired in terms of the production quality. It’s an interesting time in music now because it’s very visual too, so we need to constantly take care of the visual department. 

That being said, I think people appreciate it’s an amateur project that is something also to be treasured. We are always reflecting on this aspect and how to get the best of both worlds. 

Image courtesy of Hong Kong Community Radio

You guys have been recognized at Mixcloud awards for online radio stations. Have these awards helped you guys to grow the awareness of your platform?
I think so, but that kind of awareness is still within the circle. I think our job is to get more people outside the circle to be aware of us. 

Can you talk a bit about the underground community in Hong Kong?
I think the underground community is very insulated from everywhere else in a way. Just talking about music releases, they are so infrequently put out. Everything is very decentralized so there are many small circles but there’s no way for them to intersect with each other, and that makes the scene into an echo chamber of sorts, with evolution often stalled. 

It’s pretty disappointing in 2019 that many people still have the general consensus that independent music means bands playing guitars, or electronic music means people pushing buttons and twisting knobs. People need to radicalize their way of thinking about music before any changes happen, such as how to rethink about how we should relate to music, we can’t just think of it as someone who produces a consumable product for another person to buy.

Image courtesy of Hong Kong Community Radio

HKCR is connected to Absurd Trax, both of which you help manage. Is there any crossover between the two entities?
To be honest, I try to segregate both as much as possible. But I always welcome my labelmates to go on HKCR if they wanna use the platform. I don’t want HKCR to reflect my own tastes, I want it to be anything, with me just as a person facilitating that to happen. Of course in real terms it’s very hard to completely avoid my influences in the station programming.

I spoke to Shanghai Community Radio and they talked about how the two stations have co-operated before. Is that something that you are interested in doing more of?
We definitely want to do more stuff together, I proposed to all the community radios to work on a compilation together, there is a limitless amount of things we can all work on. Hopefully in 2020 we can cross paths a bit more. 

To tune in to Hong Kong Community Radio, click here

[Cover image courtesy of Hong Kong Community Radio]

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