Jungle

Wang Chung

Wang Chung
SHAKEFIRE (SF): So clear it up once and for all.  Is "Wang Chung" or "Huang Chung" the sound your guitar makes, does it mean "Perfect Pitch" or do you want to add a third meaning into the mix?
WANG CHUNG (WC): If a tree falls down in the forest but no one is around to hear it, then did it make a sound? If Wang Chung is the sound the guitar makes, does that mean it's achieved 'wang chung' or perfect pitch if the sound of that guitar wasn't heard? Does a third meaning to Wang Chung exist if it isn't explained? Is this the most annoying answer to an interview question ever given and is it still annoying if it hasn't been read?
 
SF: Did Wang Chung ever really break up or announce a hiatus or did your lives just take you in different directions for a while?
WC: yes we broke up around 1989/90 and had a break from each other for a year or so. Like many partnerships or marriages, things can get a bit claustrophobic after a while which doesnt mean that the partnership/marriage isnt good. It is a matter of managing the relationship in a optimal way. Our break as Wang Chung, which in effect became a  hiatus (albeit one that lasted about 20 years for the most part!!), didnt mean we didnt work together on other projects over that time. In '96, I went into A&R for both Warner Bros and then Sony Music for 12 years or so, and often got Jack to write with or produce some of the artists I was handling.  

Before that, in 1990 I worked with Jon Moss of Culture Club and we made some club tracks that became dance anthems in the UK, being signed by Pete Tong. This project developed into an album project that was signed by Epic in the US.  I guess that almost happened by chance rather than design and then developed naturally. Jack also recorded a solo album around that time. 
 

After I had been in AandR at Warners for a few years, in '98 Jack and I got together as Wang Chung just for a few days and wrote and produced Space Junk as an additional track for our then about to be released Greatest Hits album on Geffen. We also did a very short one off tour of the States around that time, a kind of acoustic set using backing tracks on some songs but just the two of us onstage. The two highlights of that tour were playing on the same stage the Beatles and Elvis had famously performed on on the Ed Sullivan Show. The other highlight was appearing in front of 200,000 people in Indianapolis town centre for Independence Day . . . we had not been warned that the crowd would be so big and we felt extremeley exposed given it was just the two of us with our acoustic guitars. We just got everyone to sing along with the hits and we went down a storm!!! 
 
After that, we both got on with our seperate lives outside of Wang Chung, Jack with his University lecturing and producing and his jazz band, and me with my Aand R work for Warners and then Sony and more recently being audtions judge on the Voice Uk tv show.. 
 
In 2004 it was when we agreed to do a  one off appearance on the hit ABC network TV show Hit Me Baby One More Time in 2005 that the seed was sown in our minds for an album of new material and to think about ending our long hiatus as Wang Chung. It took another 2 years before we started to record the new material and a further 2 before we went on the road live!!! We dont hang around!! haha!!    
 
SF: What is your biggest regret in relation to the band?
WC: Generally speaking I dont believe in regret unless completely unavoidable. It is hard to see what can be achieved by regret, except protracted unhappiness. If your question was . . . Did we make mistakes? Then yes of course we did, but if you dont make mistakes then you don't learn and grow. Maybe our most significant mistake paradoxically could have been wrapped up in our biggest success . . . our reputation after our first album Huang Chung, and then Points on The Curve and To Live and Die in LA  had built in a fairly cool way. But perhaps our biggest hit Everybody Have Fun Tonight undid some of the good rep we had built up, even though it was so huge.....it was perceived by some of the hipsters as a bit of a  gimmicky sell out (which it wasn't). Having said that, most people dug it and we like the track and it has some hidden depths. It certainly put our name firmly into the culture and that is something we are proud of to this day (not forgetting that it has earnt well financially for us and continues to do so).
 
SF: You had what some viewed as unexpected exposure from The Walking Dead and Mark Wahlberg's 'The Fighter'.  Did that help cement your comeback?
WC: If you look at all the synchs and placements of our music in flms, tv shows, video games and in commercials that we have had over the years, you'll see that it has always been consistent since the 80s through to now. So with that in mind, The Fighter and The Walking Dead weren't bolts out of the blue particularly, even though we are always delighted to get our music used. What was particularly pleasing was the use of the track Space Junk for the Walking Dead and in such a high profile position in the show and by such a well respected director, Frank Darabont. Space Junk was a track we had spontaneously recorded specially for our Greatest Hits album in '98 even though we had effectively split up 8 years previously and didnt get back together properly for another 7 years after recording it. It is gratifying because it is one of our more subtle, atmospheric and less well known tracks and one that we are very fond of.  
 
SF: Nick and Jack have consistently been a part of Wang Chung except for a brief period in which Jack was going alone. Is it safe to say that this is the true Wang Chung or do you see any former members coming back?
WC: Jack was never alone in Wang Chung. Not sure where you got that from. The only time he did anything as Wang Chung was with my blessing in 2000 when he did a US tour. I couldn't do it as i was extremely busy in my Aand R job for Warner Bros and couldn't take enough time off. With our short tour of '98 i had managed to do that in my vacation time from my job at Warners but this was not possible in 2000. Wang Chung is (and since 1984 has always been) essentially Wang and Chung, Nick and Jack and will always be so. Having said that we always enjoy collaboration so we wouldnt rule out working with whoever in the future. We are thinking about a London show later this year where we may very well invite some former  members of the band plus other friends to take part in that show.
 
SF: What is the biggest news you can tell us about Wang Chung's future?
WC: Wang chung is going to run for President of the US in the next election. The fact that there are two of us, we are not American and have no experience of politics doesn't put us off at all!! What do you mean, we are delusional?!!
 
In the meantime we will putting more material out over the next year, new tracks, remixes, interesting vid clips and some home made live camp fire type performances. Also, we have been collating some older stuff never released, plus rarities, which we plan to package into anthology type collections. We're not sure when that will come but it is in our thinking. 
Also, we hope to be touring this year too.  
 
Is it possible to Wang Chung alone or does everyone have to do it?

To Wang Chung is an excellent communal activity but what's so great about it is its adaptability. You can Wang Chung anywhere too. So if you can't Wang Chung with others then doing it alone is pretty damn good too. It can be as clean or dirty, intellectual or primitive as you want. It can even be as legal or illegal as you want but if it's in public then be careful you dont get caught otherwise you wont have much Fun Tonight.

What is your favorite Ghostbuster?

Dr Peter Venkman (Bill Murray). My favourite character though is the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man

So my father-in-law, Phil Johnson, JUST brought you guys up a few weeks ago and then I hear you got back together. What's up with that?

Do you mean whats up with the fact that we got back together in 2009 but you only just heard about it? Or that your father in law and yourself are in some kind of collective unconscious time synch? i guess it means we should've put an album out a few years ago to get your attention. i guess it also means you and your father in law have such a cool subconscious connection that you might put yourselves forward for scientific research!!

Favorite year in the 80s?

'87. We had a number 1 single, and some other big hits too and a big album and lots of touring and a general sense of making a lot of forward momentum.

Glee or Smash?

I dont watch either but the fact that....'it's Wang Chung week on Glee' . .. is mentioned by Alan Harper to Charlie Harper in 2 and a Half Men, then i guess it's gotta be Glee

Do you have a favorite former Disney Mouseketeer?

No

If you could play in one country you never have before, what would it be?

With a name like Wang Chung, it's gotta be China. We are hoping that will be this year!!

How often do you write a new song?

its completely variable. i go though periods of doing other things and dont do any music composition and then like buses coming at once, I'll do a bunch together. I always make notes though of good lyrical lines or ideas when they occur to me or when i read something that catches my eye and imagination.

If Wang Chung were stranded on a desert island, which member would you eat first?

Given that we are a duo, it would be pretty difficult to self cannibalise, so I'd be forced to eat Jack, preferably with a nice red wine sauce, assorted local veg and salad. Hopefully the desert island is rich in vegetation.

What is the best Wang Chung song you ever made?

Everybody Have Fun Tonight ,but then again Dancehall Days or perhaps er um. . . . my indecision is final!!!

Peter Oberth
Interview by Peter Oberth
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