Thailand’s disco king re-emerges with an international band and his own ‘Spotlight’
Burin Boonvisut, who long reigned as Thailand’s “king of disco”, slipped back into the media “spotlight” after a seven-year absence last week with a surprise comeback – featuring new single, a new sound, a new label and plans for a world tour.
“Spotlight” is the title of the single just released on Muzik Move Records and it packs a fresh sound for Burin, which he calls “electro-soul”.
“I was always associated with the sound of synthesisers, which became popular in the 1980s,” he says. “It made my music at the time sound weird and modern.
“My favourite band was Zapp & Roger with their funk and boogie in the ’80s, and their frontman, Roger Troutman, popularised the talkbox, which directs an instrument’s sound into the singer’s mouth through a plastic tube attached to the microphone. I love that sound!
“I have an album nearly finished – just waiting for the mixing and mastering – but in the meantime this single shows what it will be like.
“We went about the recording process completely differently. I used to have all sorts of instruments, including brass and strings, but now that I’m getting older, I think ‘less is more’ is better suited to me. I need to simplify.
“So I’ve come up with the scent of music of the ’80s. I call this sound ‘electro-soul’. That was a transition time, when people were into disco with electronics, but the computer still hadn’t been born, so the music was still all analogue.
“I actually searched for the right kind of synthesiser to use on the album, one that sounded like that era. And I’ve used a reel-to-reel recorder, which lends softness and sounds more real.”
Burin played “Spotlight” for the press at Route 66 on RCA and had some snippets from the accompanying video. I was surprised to see foreign musicians playing along with Thais Chanagun “Atom” Ratanaudom and electro-pop specialist Cyndi Seui. Nathan East, Eric Ferguson and Bernie Grundman are all in the mix.
“Cyndi and I are musically similar – soul, funk, boogie and lounge – and I’ve known Atom for years, going back to before he made his own album. I wanted his tender voice in my band and we toured together. He’s also the songwriter.
“My bassist, Nathan East, has played with Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Daft Punk. He and I were both Yamaha brand ambassadors and we met when he was doing a workshop in Thailand. He’d never heard Thais play soul, funk and disco and found it really interesting.”
Burin says he was pleased to have four black musicians in the studio with him “because soul music came from black musicians and I really needed to find the heart of soul.
“So I have a wizard at mixing and mastering, Eric Ferguson, who’s done three albums with me and has worked with Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen and Jack Johnson and on the ‘La La Land’ film soundtrack.
“Then there’s Bernie Grundman, who worked on my favourite album – Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’, the best-selling album in history. I saw the list of musicians on that album and contacted him to help me. Bernie was the master engineer on Michael Jackson’s albums. He’s over 70 now and leaves the mixing and mastering to his team. I sent a clip to Bernie and he agreed to do it.”
The album, due out next year, will have 10 tracks, both with and without vocals, Burin says.
“I love instrumentals – it’s like telling a story, like in a film. My previous albums featured instrumental intros and outros, and listening to the whole album was like watching a movie full of changing emotions.”
Burin says he’s not bothering with English on the album. He’s counting on the new sound to make it a hit.
“Thais are quick at picking up new things and appreciating them, so I think electro-soul is an interesting alternative.
“Frank Mitty shot the music video, He’s worked on fashion commercials for Gucci, Adidas and Nike. His work is so strange! Fortunately, he was working in Hong Kong when I got in touch and he flew to Bangkok to make the video.”
Burin and his band, the Soulsmith, are planning a US tour at the end of September that will take them to New York, Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco. They’ll then head to Australia (Melbourne and Sydney) and finally to Britain.
“I’ve performed overseas before, but this time it will be a stronger show, with my production in terms of lighting and visuals, as well as my music. I’ve never seen really big visual shows, but I loved James Brown’s concerts in the late 1960s and early ’70s, as well as Stevie Wonder and Jamiroquai.”