Profile: Leonard Soosay

Published on 29 March 2016

Fine-tuning the artistic vision of local bands is what music producer Leonard Soosay does best.

BY DAPHNE ONG

It all started with a vinyl record at a night market. The school-age Leonard Soosay made his parents buy ‘Disco Duck’ by American entertainer Rick Dees, then played it repeatedly, analysing the different sounds. He went on to experiment with multi-track recording using cassette tape recorders, which piqued his interest in music production and recording. In junior college, he joined a band called Breaking Glass to impress girls, but later decided that being a music producer would be “way cooler”.

Soosay went to Toronto to study Economics, but dropped out to pursue music production at the Harris Institute for the Arts. Encountering an economic slump in Canada after graduating, Soosay found himself aimless and broke for a year, until one day, he heard Steve Jobs in a documentary saying to Pepsi Vice-President John Sculley, “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come join me and change the world?” Jolted from his inertia by Jobs’ words, Soosay realised he could use his skills to make a difference to people’s lives, and came straight back to Singapore.

That decision led him to record and produce for more than 500 Singapore artists, including Electrico, Ronin, The Great Spy Experiment and Parking Lot Pimp. In 1997, Soosay and fellow ex-member of Breaking Glass Michael B started Snakeweed Studios as a bedroom recording label. Soosay and Snakeweed’s pioneering efforts vaulted local music into mainstream ears.

“At the time, bands in Singapore were only recording demos and releasing them on cassette tapes,” recalls Soosay. “We were among the first to record bands professionally and also to release albums on compact discs.” He went knocking on the doors of HMV, Tower Records, local disc jockeys and Singapore media, convincing them all to give local musicians the attention they needed and deserved.

Soosay’s next major initiative was to co-found Thunder Rock School, opened in honour of his close friend, the late Wayne ‘Thunder’ Seah. “I feel that education is important to keep the scene progressing. The teachers at Thunder Rock are all music professionals; the wisdom they’ve gained working in the music industry is passed on to
the younger musicians.”

The exponential growth of the local music scene over the past 20 years gives Soosay great satisfaction. “The foundations have been laid. It is now up to the musicians, managers and producers to push the scene forward. I would like to see more of our acts venture beyond our shores to play in different countries. The knowledge gained is then passed on to other musicians who can then follow the same path. This keeps the scene vibrant.”

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