Hiya folks thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.

Introduce yourself to us and your musical history.

Hi, I’m Alternate Jane, a doctor-musician from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I was on hiatus for some time due to my work duties as a field medical officer during the Covid-19 pandemic, but I’m back now with a new song called “Higher Ground” which will be out on 17th February 2023. I’m a singer-songwriter with a background in choral singing, as well as some experience as a vocalist and rhythm guitarist in a rock band setting. I have minor qualifications in piano but not nearly enough to be enrolled into music school. I’m currently learning to play the bass guitar via YouTube and play it for a newly formed band. I’m terrible at drums though, but can get away with a bit of hand percussion. I bang on chords on the piano and sing sometimes on social media.

What made you decide that music is a thing for you?

I’ve always felt a connection to music that never left me despite progressing in the medical profession. With music, some things came naturally to me like being able to come up with melodies and fit the right lyrics for them, knowing what instruments to arrange for each song etc. So I knew I had to give music a shot and help my dream reach its full potential.

Name me your 3 favorite Albums.

Nirvana – Nevermind: Dave Grohl described Kurt Cobain as someone with a gift for melody, and he certainly combined this with a lot soul and raw energy in the songs written for this album. Nevermind is elevated to a whole new level courtesy of the brilliant production by Butch Vig, which Kurt thought sounded too commercial but it’s something I miss compared to the slightly low-fi and inconsistent production and mixing in their next album In Utero. Maybe it’s the grunge ethos that defines what sounds acceptable or not in grunge music production, but I suppose a listener’s taste is subjective.

Garbage – Version 2.0: While their debut album brought the spotlight on this super group formed by Butch Vig, his producer friends and the indomitable Shirley Manson, Version 2.0 is when you hear the full creativity and skillset of the group with an electro-pop-rock shine.

Elliott Smith – XO: I like his album “Either/Or” a lot too, but I’d have to go with this album for its fuller production work and having really nice songs for a morning drive like “Independence Day” and “Tomorrow, Tomorrow”. I have always been inspired by Elliott Smith to combine soulful lyrics and melodies with production mastery and try to play my own instruments. This album is made at the peak of his career when he started to have a bigger production budget, and you can hear his confidence and brilliance with expanded song arrangements.

What was the first song you heard that steered you into a music path?

When I was 12, I heard “Bring Me To Life” by Evanescence on the radio. It inspired me to get up and try to imitate her vocals, as I was so fascinated by this genre of music having previously been fed a 90s pop diet of Westlife, Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears by the local radio. Michelle Branch, being a part of the singer-songwriter wave in the early 2000s also inspired me to take up the guitar and take my music a step further.

The music industry is the hardest industry in the world to progress in, How do you feel you are doing?

The neutral answer would be chill, as there’s no pressure on me to achieve a large sales number or stream count as I’m a DIY artist doing this in my own time. But there’s also the risk of stagnation.

Indeed, the music industry has been harder to achieve success in than the medical profession.

The honest answer would be, I love the creative freedom of doing this on my own but I would love to have more guidance and resources to support my journey as an artist too. I wish I could achieve more traction with my music to get signed onto a record label and make bigger inroads in the pop genre of music. Because I would love to someday collaborate and share ideas with the most talented artists and producers in the world and have our music played to a global audience, and it’s hard to achieve this on my own.

I’m seeing a lot of debate about women not feeling safe at music gigs, any thoughts on what we need to do to help?

For safety precautions, it is advisable for women to attend music gigs as a group, or at least as a duo and never alone if possible. It might also be a good idea to create larger divided segments for standing (instead of a free-standing mosh pit style area) or have all seated halls to reduce the chance of physical contact during the show. The sale of alcohol should also be limited to during intermission or after the show only, with the security team barring entry to those who appear visibly intoxicated. And not to leave one’s drinks unattended or drink past one’s own limit at these gigs. We may never be able to completely eliminate crime, but these measures could be a good start in helping women have a safer experience during music gigs.

As you develop as an artist and develop using socials what ways do you get new ears on your music? Any tips?

I used to be too shy to make videos showing myself and that led to the audience not knowing my personality well. I’m trying to improve this with making more videos on social media. TikTok is definitely an interesting new social media site with good growth in the past 5 years. Short-form videos with entertaining visuals and succinct caption help capture the audience quickly and can help promote the song in the background as well. The hard part that I’m figuring out is how to make interesting enough content regularly to lead to organic follower growth and improve the chances of them checking out my music.

Tell us Two truths and a lie about you.

I have a Blue Belt in the martial arts of Taekwondo, come from Royalty and only did my first pedicure in the year 2022.

What’s your thought on Spotify’s monopoly on the music industry?

In any field, monopoly is never good as it reduces competitiveness and benefits the masses. While I’m a subscriber to Spotify and have been satisfied so far as an end user, I think Apple Music, Deezer, and YouTube Music can play a role to provide healthy competition too if they can come up with better subscription benefits and more services for the listeners. However, from the perspective of an artist, it would be beneficial if song-streaming providers can try to improve their rates for revenue for artists in order to improve their competitiveness in this field. 

Do you sign up for any conspiracy theories?

I’ve heard a conspiracy theory that the late Princess Diana (from the British Royal Family) was actually assassinated, but I don’t know enough to comment on it.

Did you buy anything you don’t need during the pandemic?

Yes, lots of instant noodles for “cooped up at home” survival mode, which I kinda regret now.

What was the worst experience on stage?

The microphone and guitar amplifier not functioning the whole time during a show I did with my band in college, so only the bass guitar and drums were heard throughout the 2 songs we played. Surprisingly, no one said anything to us during the performance!

Tell us something about you that you think people would be surprised about.

I come from the same country as Michelle Yeoh (a Malaysian actress who recently won a Golden Globes Award for Best Actress), whom I discovered years ago is my distant relative by marriage. Having previously listened to mostly English music, I also recently got into Korean Pop music when I was quarantined for Covid-19 in December 2022 thanks to YouTube recommendations. My favourite girl group is Mamamoo and favorite member is Hwasa (who was featured on Dua Lipa’s remix for “Physical”). I think the reason why I like this group is that the girls are unlike the usual sweet-voiced and well-packaged pop idols, they are funny, and candid and emphasize more on powerful vocals rather than appearance.

What makes you stand out as an artist?

I’m not afraid to blur genre lines or cross them whenever the song requires me to. And I’m vocal when there’s a story i need to tell, like having lived through Covid-19 as a field medical officer and surviving workplace bullying. I’m just glad to still be alive and sane to release the songs I’ve recorded during that period of difficulty and hiatus. Additionally, the fact that I’m just as involved in the composition and production of my songs, as I am with the music video directing and storyboard planning. The musician Elliott Smith (who plays his own instruments) and Hayley Kiyoko (who directs and acts in her own music videos too) inspired me to do a lot of things on my own and to enjoy the experience of growing your song from a seed into a flower.

I hear you have new music, what can you tell us about it.

Yeah, my upcoming music single is called “Higher Ground“. I recorded 3 new songs in between 2021-2022 with Melvin Rijlaarsdam (Optoproductions) from Netherlands, whom I was lucky to find on music creator’s platform SoundBetter when my previous producers couldn’t continue working with me. The first song I decided to release is “Higher Ground”, which was inspired by James Bond Movies and the YouTube series Project Inferno. This song may be a little darker melodically than my previous work, but it has a strong concept and a confident sound.

Talk me through the thought process of the new tune.

I’m a big fan of the band Garbage and the eponymous song they recorded for the James Bond movie “The World is Not Enough”. So I was really trying to capture the noir theme with a romantic element to it, with a hybrid production of modern instruments and classical strings and brass section as inspired by Garbage in their song.  I had to figure out how to make the music arrangement more varied and grander to balance out the inherently dark noir vibe of the melody too. As a result, Melvin and I came up with our own take on an epic OST-style song and he added some oriental instruments too which ended up capturing my Asian heritage well.

What was the recording process like?

SoundBetter is a music platform that really changed the game during the Covid-19 pandemic. Remote production is something new to me, so having the platform to ensure things went fairly and smoothly helped a lot. It also involves carefully screening through producers who liked similar genres, has a sound that I like and most importantly, is passionate about his work. Melvin is a talented multi-instrumentalist producer, and he shares your enthusiasm for your song. It was like an all you can eat buffet where you can order anything on the menu and we’d try different instruments. Melvin would send me new backing tracks with any instrument he added, while I recorded the vocals in my bedroom with the help of sound insulation from wardrobe clothing. I would send the vocal stem files back to him to combine with the instrumental track. When we’re good with those, the track was then mixed and mastered. It was a really fun experience overall.

What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tune?

Having to come up with lyrics first and melody later. I had to cut out a lot of words and rearrange or combine some sentences to fit them into the music. This was also the first song I’ve written after completing my medical Housemanship (akin to an internship), so it was darker sounding due to the tough experiences faced in those working years. Like how to cope with the fact that I’ve grown a lot, see things differently now, and no longer just write music that is youthful and sweet sounding. Also, finding the right producer to work on this song with, was a journey that resulted in several different versions of the song being recorded. For “Higher Ground”, it was also a new challenge to try to assimilate modern beats and synthesizer into the song arrangement, compared to my usual pop rock band arrangement. 

Would you change anything now it’s finished?

I’m curious to try increasing the main vocal track volume in the mix a little or to try an alternate vocal style. But I guess this gives us the opportunity to come up with remixes!

Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?

My advice to anyone reading this today is not to give up on your dreams and not to set life goals based on what others expect of us. We don’t necessarily have to follow a certain life script just because of peer pressure and what society thinks. Meanwhile, having babies don’t solve preexisting relationship problems and credit card is the root of spending temptation.