Interview: Son of James
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I’ve always loved music since I was kid. I grew up singing in a choir in the second and third grade but never learned how to play the guitar till my early 20’s. My first introduction into the spirit of music that I now embody was when I was 8 years old, walking down the stairs into my grandmother’s dark creepy basement. After I pulled the chain to turn on a ceiling light, I turned around and a picture of this man hanging on the wall scared the hell out of me. I shut off the light and ran right back up the stairs. I’m not sure what scared me about the picture but it just looked paranormal and sorceress. Years later when I was about 15 years old, I heard the most beautiful song on the radio called “Little Wing”. This song instantly dug its claws into my soul and right there and then I knew I wanted to play the guitar. Having never heard of this song or the performer before, I looked the performer up. Lo and behold, the singer of this song and the picture that scared me in my grandmother’s creepy basement was Jimi Hendrix. Jimi Hendrix had put a spell on me. That was the initial musical seed that was planted inside of me.
The events however that made me jump off a cliff with music and pull the parachute was the passing of my father in 2020 and the passing of my gf in 2013. These two events served two different purposes. The passing of my father made me pick up the guitar so I could learn to pour my emotions onto the guitar with my fingers. But it wasn’t until the passing of my gf in 2013 that gave me permission to use my voice so I could pour my emotions onto paper with words. That’s when I turned into Son of James.
If I didn’t get into music I would be a Personal Trainer. Which is what I do as a full-time job today. I’ve been a Personal Trainer for 20 years and pretty much started personal training around the same time my father passed away. Music and Personal Training go hand in hand for me. To be great at both you have to have a great understanding of rhythm and timing.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
When I am not playing music I am busy with my full time job as a Personal Trainer. Personal Training is a very creative job as you are sculpting bodies and making humans operate at a highly efficient level. Much like taking a run down car and bringing it back to life so it can race around a track without any problems. Having a hot body on that car doesn’t hurt either. Lol
How long has your band been around?
Son of James officially has been around since 2013.
Where are you based and how did that influence your mus
Son of James is based out of Vancouver, BC. Since Vancouver has a high asian population and a deep history of Chinese immigrants, as a Second Generation Chinese Canadian, our music reflects that as we integrate Asian instruments into our sound at times. It’s a sound we call “Chynatruckerfunk”.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
I named my band after my dad “James Wong”. My grandfather came over to BC in the late 1800’s to work on the railroads. My father James was born in Cranbrook, BC in 1913, being a first generation Canadian. James grew up in those early days of Canadian Racism towards the Chinese and endured a lot. James was a success story himself. Having my brother late in life (in his 60’s), he would tell us stories about his struggles. So I am the son of those struggles. I am the son of a man who earned his keep to be in Canada. I am the “Son of James”.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
My most memorable show was performing at Rogers Arena during a Vancouver Canucks Game. The Vancouver Canucks put on a Lunar New Year Celebration and Son of James was the first ever Asian rock band to rock the arena during a lunar new year celebration. It was a milestone for not only Son of James but for Asian people given all the recent anti asian hate.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Well, Rogers Arena was definitely my most favourite venue to play at but I guess its not something that happens everyday so if we’re being realistic, I’d say The Roxy.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Michael Jackson, Elvis, James Brown, Temptations, Bobby Womack, Whiskey Myers
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Get out there and hit every open mic in town. Learn how to bomb. Learn how to fall on your face and get back up. Learn what sucking feels like. Learn what getting no applause feels like. Learn what it takes to get “one clap”.
Go through all that and see if you still love it. If the answers yes, then you’re in it for the right reasons and you’ll learn from all those mistakes and master the craft of being a performer.
The advice I would give my younger self: Practice with a metronome. Lol
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Study the music that you like more intently. Breakdown why you like these songs. Breakdown what instruments are in the song and where they’re placed in the songs. Breakdown the structure of the lyrics and what makes you sing a long. I wish I was more introspective and had the ability I had now to deconstruct a song. Before I was just going off of feel and learned structure the hard way. Pretty much consistently doing it wrong before I finally got it right. I was blessed with blind faith and a perseverance. Otherwise, I’m not that bright. Lol
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Mama Never Told Me means the most to me. I wrote it for my mom for all the sacrifices she made for my brother and I.
“Mama never told me that she gave up on her dreams. Mama always told me she wouldn’t change a thing.”
I even convinced my mom to be in the music video with me so I could sing it to her.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
I really love playing our song “Come On”. It’s the epitome of our sound “Chynatruckerfunk”. It’s rock and funk mixed with the Chinese Harp.
I would say “I Need You” gets requested the most. That song hits a nerve with people.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
The creative process usually starts with me obsessively humming a melody and a phrase for weeks. That usually materializes into me building somewhat of an idea for a song. That’s when I call my bandmate Adam Richards and obsessively hum the song to him until he helps me write and structure it. Lol
What inspires me to write is talking about real feelings and emotions. No BS. Just everyday human emotions that we all go through. That we all can relate to. The art of conveying simple messages into a beautiful song inspires me. I get up for it.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Be human. Embody everything that comes with being human. The good, the bad and the ugly. That’s life.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
Luckily our band is very chill and we never have disagreements. Everyone is really good at going with the flow. No egos is the key. We all serve the song and the music.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
We are getting ready to record our next EP starting with our anthem song “Chynatruckerfunk”.
We are also planning our own show called “Chinatown Nights”. Featuring Son of James, A Chinese Elvis Tribute Artist, Kung Fu, Lion Dancing and Dim Sum. We’re going down the rabbit hole.