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when FhLY meets Metallica.

I’ve been a consistent recipient of strange dreams. And last night, I had one of the most bizarre dreams ever; it happened with such lifelike detail that I better write about it before I forget!

Now, the dream took place at Tom Lee Music (a music megastore in Hong Kong). I can’t remember who I was with but I know I was with a band buddy – I’m guessing he was either Ricky, Jeremy, Jenn Hui, Liang Zhi or Daniel. And the two of us were browsing the store, looking for the latest music records and a new guitar (don’t ask why).

Halfway through our shopping trip, we learnt that there was a special store feature for that day – Metallica was in town and its founding members Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield were going to perform an acoustic set in 10 minutes! (Now get this – I’ve NEVER heard a single Metallica song in my life and I don’t even fancy heavy metal and death metal music so I have no idea how they even got into my dreams!)

So together with the larger-than-life crowd, we were standing in the atrium on the ground floor of the store. After a little fanfare led by the emcee, Metallica made their entrance from the stage up a flight of stairs that came down from the second floor. (THE MEMORY IS STILL VIVID!) They opened the set with their most famous number, and although I can remember how it sounds like, I obviously have no clue what the song was called… They ended that song to rapturous applause from the leather-glad and heavily-bearded crowd.

Then they played their second song…

And it sounded so much like the introduction of Roller Coaster, except it’s done acoustically with an injection of heavy metal. My curiosity was instantly piqued – that definitely got my attention! They did several bars of the introduction (like any hardcore metal band would) and then the scarily-tattooed James started to sing, with gusto and aplomb…

“I SOAR UP… AND SLIDE BACK DOWN…”

!!!

Imagine my stunned face!

“I FEEL GREAT! NOTHING CAN STAND IN MY WAY…”

I was truly in shock!

And when they finished the second chorus, the both of them put their backs against each other and played Ricky’s guitar solo NOTE-FOR-NOTE. (This obviously, is the glaring discrepancy in my dream; only rock bands, not heavy metal bands, do this back-to-back action.) World-renowned musicians singing and playing Ricky’s and my song – COME ON, HOW COOL IS THAT!?

The next thing I know, I found myself at the counter – requesting an audience with their manager and agent, who unfortunately wasn’t around. So instead to speaking to him, I was referred to three Chinese old ladies (!), none of whom spoke a word of English but only Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien. I practically died there trying to communicate “Roller Coaster”, “Heavy Metal” and “Rock Music” with those old dames, whose faces I can still remember – wavy hair, wrinkled skin, chained glasses, gold bangles and jade rings no less to complete the look!

It was impossible to discuss royalties, fees and copyright issues with them – no chance at all.

By this time, Metallica finished playing Roller Coaster and moved on to their final song of the set. In yet another bizarre twist of events, Metallica shared their testimony of how they came to know the Lord (!!) and started to play “Leaving Ninety-Nine” by Audio Adrenaline – they were right about ready to evangelise (!!!) to the Harley-Davidson-esqe entourage! Impossibly unimaginable!

“I’d leave ninety-nine, leave them all behind, to find you…”

That, incidentally, is my iPhone’s ringtone… So you know what happened next…

BUT WHAT A BIZARRELY COOL DREAM!

I shall conclude in the words of the song made famous by Aerosmith… “Dream on, dream on, dream on, dream until your dream comes true…” This dream quite possibly fused together parts of my personality and aspirations! It’s amazing how creative we can get when we are dreaming. I love dreaming (and making my dreams come true)!

FhLY's first public performance @ Orchard Cineleisure in 2002. For now, my gigging days are behind me, but man, were those good days or what! Photo by Liang Zhi. From left to right: Douglas, Ricky, Jeremy and Joey.

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keep the main thing, the main thing.

Today, I commemorate my first year in Singapore since I returned from Shanghai for good. I fondly remember how I made my comeback at the No One Else album launch concert. I will never forget the microphone stand, the spotlight, the explosive Roller Coaster introduction, and those 10 memorable steps (wished it was 100!) I took to superstardom the centre of the stage. It was my moment of conceited indulgence (so bear with me) and it’s not very often I get to feel like a rock star. Yes, it’s a terribly vain thing to say, but I’ve never denied my appetite for the limelight. (Fronting a band gives me a completely different rush from leading worship or preaching and I’ve really missed that! RL, CK, JT… It’s time to revive…)

Anyway, I’m sure it’s not the first time you’ve read the above-mentioned expression. “Keep the main thing, the main thing” is synonymous with “Do not major on the minor” or “Know the difference between urgent and important”. Over the past nine months, something that I’ve honestly struggled with is to discern between my dreams and God’s dreams (for I certainly don’t want to mess this up!), as well as to think about how all these dreams are translated into ministry execution. I honestly find the marriage of the two dreams extremely challenging at times.

When I felt the call to enter full-time ministry, there were only three ministries that God deposited into my heart – Lead, Preach and Mentor – and these governed the way I operated; you could say that these are the three pillars of my personal calling. I’ve tried to center all my decisions around these pillars. Of course, I’ve made a couple of wrong decisions along the way, like getting involved in the Grace 60th Anniversary and being involved with the original YAYP transition team; I try never to live in regret, but to learn from retrospect for it is pointless if to lament about spilled milk.

As my portfolio increases and as my tent enlarges, so will my influence and competencies too. I’ve learnt that I must learn not to get involved with everything even though I want to and may foolishly deem myself suitable for it, and especially when it is logical to do so. (Sigh, logic – Man’s feeble attempt at second-guessing God’s sovereign will…) That’s the reason why I believe that a personal vision statement is important. If you have a motto to preside over the way you function, you more or less know what to say yes to and what to turn down; it helps you to live a principled life. What’s yours? Mine is:

“I am a bible-believing Christian who desires to know God
by working excellently, learning earnestly while having a balanced lifestyle,
for the glory of God.”

At our mid-year appraisal this morning, RY told me that “marrying your dreams into God’s will is a constant struggle”, and I concur. That’s why I think it’s always a step of faith to act on what God has impressed upon my heart. With RY, I always learn something new or am reminded of previously-learnt lesson – that’s why he’s my mentor and that’s why I look up to him so much. And in true hero-fashion, he balanced the above-mentioned statement with this: “But remember, it is God who planted these dreams into you”. That took a huge load off my shoulders; I couldn’t believe that I missed something as obvious as that!

I have been wired to lead with my heart on my sleeves and somehow this quality has become my signature. Perhaps it explains why Passion is one of the three flagships of my personality, besides Authenticity and Believing in Young People. These are the core values I think my life represents most dominantly and consistently. Again I quote my boss, “Passion is like a tap; once you turn it on, water gushes out” – I’d like to believe that my passion for youth ministry doesn’t just trickle out, but that it surges out.

However, I know that one day my passion will run out. RY encouraged me today and told me that I have tenacity; it was the first time this word was used to describe me. He deliberately chose tenacity over perseverance for (I think) the latter represents an indefatigability to endure present situations while the former indicates a determination to push oneself through to overcome challenges. I liked that distinction and I believe that tenacity should rightly be the best friend of passion for they are perfect complements.

So anyway, back to keeping the main thing, the main thing, I think it’s a good opportunity for me to take a step back and reflect, and to ask God to give me grace so that I can differentiate what I want to do from what I need to do, as well as to determine what He wants me to do. (God doesn’t need me to do anything. He doesn’t need anybody to do anything for Him. In fact, according to Psalm 50:12, if He was hungry He wouldn’t even tell you or me.) In our lifetime, we’d go through seasons after seasons and so it remains a wise thing to focus, always on the main thing. If I were to strip everything down to its core, the main tasks in life (in fact, the only two tasks), is to love God more and to love His people more everyday (Mark 12:30-31).

the original handwritten roller coaster lyrics.

It’s been a pretty long Saturday and it’s gonna be an even longer Sunday so I shall keep it simple tonight. I became thankful for the journey I’ve taken as a song-writer when I found handwritten lyrics to Roller Coaster in one of my notebooks. This song-writing event took place at a FhLY jam session in L3 Hall. When RL first played the signature electric guitar introduction, I asked him what image came to his mind. He said, “Like I’m taking a roller coaster”. That was it – and after countless revisions, here’s the version that we recorded for the No One Else album. I’m pretty proud of this track! (Too bad I can’t upload the MP3 unless I purchase a Space Upgrade…)

ROLLER COASTER

I soar up and slide back down
Life is like the weather, never really in my control
Unstoppable, inescapable
Time is like an earthquake, happening without warning

This is a crazy roller coaster ride
But tonight

I feel great; nothing can stand in my way
The world’s at my feet, it’s like I’m delirious on God
Invincible, I’ll try the impossible
Spinning round and round, falling up and down
So watch me, I’ll rise again

Walk with me through barren lands
Now and then I feel dry, wishing You would rain down again
Am I an act of real pretence?
Thriving on the high, I just broke down from my breakthrough

Words: Joey Asher
Music: Joey Asher & Ricky Liang
Written on: 26th January 2003
Revised on: 4th October 2008

© FhLY

第一首亲手写的中文歌曲:不能没有祢

With some fine-tuning from KM (and FR)thank you! – I proudly present to you my maiden attempt at writing a Chinese song! This composition is another demonstration of the grace of God in my life; writing a Chinese song is almost as miraculous as working in Shanghai, considering my substandard grasp of the language. I’ve also passed it to WL and to MR for further improvement and enhancement. I’ve also passed it to RL, who’s currently working on the music. I wrote this song within an hour, during staff devotion a few Tuesdays ago. I pray that this song would be used mightily for God’s glory alone.

不能没有祢

Verse 1:
主,我今天想跟祢说
我多么爱祢,多么需要祢
祢深知我的一生 生命的每个细节
祢与我同在 我生命的主

Verse 2:
主,我决不能没有祢
快乐和恩典,生命和意义
在祢的怀抱里我 找到生存的理由
祢赐我恩惠 陪伴我一生

Pre-chorus 1:
别忘了我,别离开我
我知道祢不会 离我而去

Chorus:
我生命时刻的转变 都想立刻告诉祢
每时每刻我的心愿 是想爱祢多一点
祢是我生命中 至贵的珍宝
祢是我人生中 唯一的向导

我不知不觉不了解 求你指引我方向
像不离身旁的影子 求你时刻贴紧我
我在祢手掌里 紧紧握住我
我在祢拥抱中 时刻亲近你

Verse 3:
主,祢没转动的影儿
过去与未来,现在与过往
紧握在祢掌心中 生命稳固的磐石
祢是我的指引 信实不变

Pre-chorus 2:
全心全意,真诚爱祢
我生命的目标 是要寻您

Bridge:
我的荣耀盼望 我愿一生跟随您
在一千个世纪,千万生死中
祢是我生存的理由 祢是我寻找的唯一

词曲:阿舍
© Joey Asher | 4th May 2010

the best way to write song lyrics.

My first-ever self-composed song is called “Neighbour” and I wrote it when I was 18, when I barely knew how to play the guitar and with the only four chords that my fingers could press – G, C, D, Em. This simple song was about the Good Samaritan. A couple of years later, I formed a band with present it to my band, and performed it soon after.

I’m not a prolific or an accomplished song writer like DH or SL but I’ve written a number of songs along the way. I’m a lot better with writing words than music and so I always pay greater attention to the lyrics than the melody. In my journey as composer, I’ve written songs themed on falling in and out of love, worship, about my history, current affairs, popular topics and of course, those inspired by scriptures. Over a decade, I realised that songs based on scripture always stand the test of time; these songs are timeless because they’re based on the everlasting Word of God! Hence, I’m inclined to write more spiritual and scriptural songs these days simply because I want my songs to last.

One of my personal favourite scriptural song is “Tears in a Bottle”, which is inspired by Psalm 56. I remember writing it at my place together with RL and we completed it in about an hour. Upon finalisation, we just knew this would be a good song. He was confident of the melody and I, of the lyrics; I had a listen to one of our live recordings recently and it’s strange to say this, but my own song inspired me to draw closer to God! I’d like to attribute it to the combination of these two components – its lyrics speak to your spirit and its melody speaks to your soul. Simply put, it’s a song that ministers!

There are many ways to write a song but in my humble opinion, there’s nothing better than to write a song based on scripture. If the Word of God has lasted all the ages and still continues to speak to people, then I’m confident that a song based on the Word will last for a long time and continue to speak to people after a long time!

TEARS IN A BOTTLE
Psalm 56

V1: Your love is a shelter over my head / In times of fear / The world can destroy my faith today / But I’m not afraid / Many tear me down to see me hurt / They stab me from the back / The ones who wage war against my soul / Oh Lord, please take them away from me

PC1: In Your love, a voice sheds light on me / In Your hope, I hang my portraits of faith on the walls of / My shattered hopes and broken dreams

C: I look at the stars, I gaze at the moon / And marvel at the wonderful You / When I am afraid, I won’t hide my head / I know it’s because You’ve carried me through / Sometimes I’m attacked, sometimes I get scared / But what can mere men do to me? / You watch my footsteps, You carve me a way / Tears in a bottle, You’ll save it for me

V2: My Lord has rescued me from death / When He died on that cross / My shame He bore so willingly / And now I am cured / Countless things I’ve done, I’ve hurt the One / Who sacrificed His Son / And now I realise, I recognise / What a true Friend He really is

PC2: In His love, I’m washed as white as snow / In His hope, I fight the fear of the endless battles / That fiercely rage within my soul

Guitar Solo / Repeat Chorus / Fin.

Words: Joey / Music: Ricky & Joey / 1st Feb 02 / © 2002 FhLY

P/S – I’m silently hoping that this song would make its debut in R-AGE sometime this year and also be featured in the next No One Else album, if we’re gonna produce another.

top ten favourite songs to perform.

All right, I’ll be honest here if you don’t mind (not that you can stop me anyway). As a performer, I absolutely love the stage and to perform on it; I’m even honest enough to admit that I thrive under the limelight. The stage is my little paradise and the older I get, the more I enjoy (and miss) performing, maybe because I’ve found my niche and forte as an artist. Due to this love for performing, I’ve always regretted that I’ve only been able to be involved in a musical just once in my entire 13 years with Grace Assembly – when I was 14 years old! I hope I will have the opportunity to be involved in another major production one day. (Actually, I told VY that I’ve already set my eyes on only that one role should we actually decide to make a musical out of it.)

On a side note, I believe that there’s a gulf of difference between a singer and a lead singer – and it’s one reason why I’ve always enjoyed being a lead singer more than a worship leader despite the many similarities in both roles. I long for the day that I get to perform regularly with a rock band again – to belt out original compositions, express the emotions of a ballad through convincing performances, and to bring these songs all over the region through gigs, tours and music CDs. I firmly believe that there’s a part of the human soul that only music can reach.

I’m about to go offtrack again; I had actually written two other paragraphs before I decided to save that for another time; this entry would be too long if I were to throw in my band history (which makes for good reading on separate entry anyway). Tonight, I’ll take a stroll down memory lane and recall the first ten songs (that come to my mind) that I’ve enjoyed performing over the decade as a wannabe rock star.

I present this list of my top ten favourite songs to perform (over the years) in no order of preference or chronology:

1. Tears in a Bottle – FhLY. There were two performances which I fondly remember about this signature FhLY song. One was when the song debuted and received DL’s friends’ affirmation of its lyrical ministry. The other at the outdoor Cineleisure gig was more memorable – I had completely forgotten the lyrics to the second verse and being a rather inexperienced performer then, I downright froze on stage and stopped singing altogether; this resulted in a minus one track for 30 seconds until I regained my composure and picked it up again at the chorus.

2. Put Your Arms Around Me – All Star United. DH and I began performing this anthem when we were in secondary school and it followed us through our polytechnic days. Practising and performing this song as Castor & Pollux brings back an influx of fantastic memories. I believe this to be one of the songs that really demonstrate the musical and performance chemistry I have with DH. The one at the Salvation Army auditorium really stood out as our first performance outside the school compounds.

3. Safe and Sound – Castor & Pollux. I’ve said it to DH a million times – that this composition remains my favourite of the hundreds of songs he’s written (no exaggeration). It debuted at the Singapore Street Festival gig at Heeren and has remained a crowd favourite as well as a mainstay in every single Castor & Pollux gig ever since. I’ve always told DH that if I were to ever audition for any talent show, I’d most certainly use this soulful and stirring piece as my song choice because of how it coincidentally brings out my vocal (and emotive) range rather perfectly.

4. What a Difference a Day Made – Jamie Callum. JT and I made our debut as a duo at the R-AGE 10th Anniversary gala dinner. I can’t remember if we had volunteered for it or if the organisers asked us, but I was glad we performed it anyway! It was the first time I attempted a slow jazz number with a piano and I absolutely enjoyed singing with a non-rock voice. I’d like to believe that it was a pretty classy and classic performance. Allow me to indulge – if there was a word to describe how I felt after that performance, it’d be “charming”.

5. I Love to See You Smile – Homer Simpson & Marge Simpson. I think this song made its debut at one either my 18th or 21st birthday party and it received such a positive response that DH and I kept resurrecting it gig after gig. It remains one of the best songs to open a set because of how cute and innocent it is.

6. Hands Down – Dashboard Confessional. As Castor & Pollux, this was the first and only time we’ve performed Hands Down, and we didn’t even plan to. We had planted a couple of encore items at the Ben & Jerry’s gig but Hands Down wasn’t in our original lyrics set. At a time when Hands Down was at the tip of the mouth of every emotionally-charged young male, it was performed by popular demand; besides, we had already jammed it so many times and had the lyrics engraved into our hearts, we just spontaneously pulled it off. And it absolutely rocked the house!

7. Coastline – Rust. It never fails to amaze me how a simple four-chord song has stood the test of time and emerges to be the all-time favourite song of all the (other more accomplished) songs that DH has ever written. I remember struggling to sing this song when my falsetto was a lot weaker as a raw vocalist. Without a doubt, I’ve enjoyed performing this song most at X&C’s wedding dinner.

8. The Day – FhLY. Every performer simply has to have a melodramatic moment and it couldn’t come as dramatic as this one. Written to describe the scene and emotion of saying goodbye to a person at the airport, I performed this song at the Cineleisure gig, at the time when it was drizzling heavily. The relentless beating rain pounding against the beating heart of a man with reeling emotions… I remember AC tearing as I performed it because she felt the full force of my emotions!

9. I Liked You – Castor & Pollux. While the original remains one of my favourite compositions so far as well as one of Castor & Pollux flagship songs, I was cheeky enough to tweak the lyrics and I performed the spoofed version at the Blackmarket gig. I think the audience enjoyed the mischief in the updated lyrics and JT even felt it was my way of getting back at the girl whom I wrote this song for. Well, I haven’t quite confirmed it to this day and I don’t intend to. Read between the lines!

10. Roller Coaster – No One Else Band. There was no way I’d leave out this high-energy song. Due to some miscommunication, RL and I only submitted one song from our days together in FhLY. Should a sequel album be produced, we will definitely submit more songs. As for its performance, I will never forget the moment I walked out from the backstage of the G2 Sanctuary to centre stage during the No One Else album launch concert. To date, it’s the closest I’ve ever felt as a rock star.

I reckon the ones who would enjoy this entry most are those whom I’ve mentioned. As for me, I’ve enjoyed every single moment of my journey as a performer! Have you found your niche in life? Have you discovered your forte? When you do, you’ll be able to come up with your own top ten list and I’d love to read it.

A gentle reminder for the bible-giveaway competition. The response so far has been OH-SO-ENCOURAGING. -_- Do remember that the competition ends in 10 days on 14th May. I really want to hear from you! So go on, write to me and win a brand new bible!

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