Pongchuk Pissathaporn has been musically visible for three decades, but his real dream lies just ahead
Pongchuk “Aeh” Pissathaporn would love to be a singing superstar onstage and in the charts, duplicating the global “Gangnam Style” success of South Korea’s Psy.
Until recently, though, he was stuck in his day job – as singing-dancing-cheeriness coach for BNK48, by far the most popular idol-girl group that Thailand has ever produced.
Aeh is happy, confident and full of drive and self-esteem and sees no reason he can’t be the next Psy or perhaps Pikotaro, the Japanese comedian-turned-singer who had his own smash hit with “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen”.
“I’ve been struggling to make it as a singer since I was a teenager and I’m 45 now,” he says. “But everybody has the chance to make the impossible possible. Psy and Pikotaro are my role models – they inspire and motivate me and put me in the right mindset. I believe in myself as a singer-songwriter and I believe I’ll be able to go international.”
Aeh is hugely grateful for the support of Pichai “Teng” Chirathivat, founder of the Spicy Disc record label, who told him to come up with a new look and musical style to convince listeners he’s “the Thai Apple Pen” or “the Thai Gangnam”. “Because Thailand doesn’t yet have the artist like them,” Aeh says.
“If Thai people believe in me, I could tour Asia and overseas like Psy and Pikotaro – I can speak English, Japanese and Chinese – and neither of those guys is young either. It will have been worth waiting more than 30 years.”
Phase 1 is already on the airwaves. Aeh’s debut solo album, “Aeh Syndrome”, features a dance-pop lead single called “Chukachu”. He’s pitching the music as “Aeh Syndrome-esque style”.
“The word ‘syndrome’ refers to a group of symptoms, and I’m a relatively optimistic guy, even if I’ve lived a dull, boring life,” he laughs. “So to say someone has Aeh Syndrome, it’s means he’s happy. I’m bringing everyone happiness and I’m going to be an inspiration for everyone.
“‘Chukachu’ is about how men like looking at good-looking women even if they’re married or otherwise attached, but whatever they’re thinking, it’s only thoughts. They’re adulterers only in their mind.”
Aeh unveiled the song in a live performance at the Melody of Life music festival at Bangkok’s CentralWorld last month.
“I want everybody to see that this 45-year-old can do everything – sing, dance and energise. If you’re original, you have to go beyond whatever other people are doing – do more than just sing and dance.”
It shouldn’t come as too much of surprise that all 26 members of BNK48 appear in the official “Chukachu” video. Aeh says it was the first time they’d collaborated with an artist from a different label.
“We have a strong teacher-student bond because I’ve been involved with BNK48 right from the beginning, right up to their massive popularity today,” says Aeh. “For the video, I changed my look and arranged a heavy schedule of dance rehearsals with the girls. So I’ve become a role model for them!”
The following year, fortunately, Aeh got an audition for a band signed to GMM Grammy. Unfortunately, they wanted him to play the bassist, not sing. That band was La Ong Fong and the singer was Chompoo, but its first album, “Volume I”, was a commercial flop, and the band split up soon after.
In 2004, Ae and Tanupop “Man” Notayanont, the guitarist from La Ong Fong, put the pieces back together, but with a new singer, Kornkamol “On” Chaiwattanamethin. Their four-track EP, “Volume 2”, drew a good response, and Spicy Disc signed them up. The subsequent albums “Cozy Collection” and “Windup City” generated the smash hits “Aeb Chob”, “Arai” and “Rak Perd Poei”.
Aeh says he specifically asked to sing “Aeb Chob” when “Windup City” was being recorded.
“I was so happy – my dream had come true! But once we reached the pinnacle in 2012, including doing songs for movies like ‘Crazy Crying Lady’, we had one last concert and I decided to retire the band.”
Since the (second) demise of La Ong Fong, Aeh has been working behind the scenes with BNK48. He’s also starred in Rergchai “Yacht” Poungpetch’s film “Fudjanto” and in Worrawech “Dan” Danuwong’s “Kyushu The Movie by SanQ Band”.
“I was always telling the girls in BNK48, ‘If you have a dream, go ahead and climb to the top of your pyramid.’ Then I looked in the mirror and asked myself when I was going to start following my dream again.
“Dan gave me the inspiration to break through the wall. While we were filming ‘Kyushu’ in Japan, Dan said he still hadn’t reached his peak in life. And he said he thought it was my time. If I can do it, I’ll be able to stand at the top myself.
“I said, ‘I’m getting old and I’m not as handsome as other artists. Dan said, ‘Trust me – everyone has the right to have a dream. Like me, I had to fight my life, all the time. But if I didn’t fight, I wouldn’t be here today.’
“By the time I got home,” says Aeh, “I was determined to dedicate myself to this solo project.”
He went to see Sethasit “Pom” Bulased, the creative director at Spicy Disc, and “asked him for something impossible – to make me a solo artist at the age of 45”.
“I said, “After 30 years in the music business, I’d like to finally make a solo album. It’s the last bend in my music career.’” Pom looked at him, says Aeh, and said, “No, it’s your first bend.”
On the tube, in your face
- Check out the single “Chukachu” on Butter’s YouTube Channel.
- Keep up to date with Aeh Syndrome at www.Facebook.com/AehSyndrome.