A pop icon of the 1980s returns to the music scene with a solo album

Published on February 28, 2008

He spent a few years in the spotlight then opted out, choosing to spend slightly more than two decades behind the scenes. Now Chatree "Ohm" Kongsuwan, guitarist with 1980s pop-rock outfit the Innocent, is back, with a debut solo album distributed by True Music he's aptly called "Into the Light".

"It satisfies my needs," says Ohm, who last year quit a 20-year career with music giant GMM Grammy to start his own company, Mister Music.

"It's difficult to explain but I really needed to play guitar again after quitting smoking five years ago. I bought books and videos to help me hone my skills and practised like mad. Then I added other guitars to my repertoire," he says.

The result is an 11-track album, including the bonus number "Friends", rich in strings and featuring the kind of overlapping, over-dubbed vocals that were synonymous with the 1970s. Most of the songs are rock-based but there are hints of other genres, such as classical on "Rak Kan Talod Pai", Motown on "Look Phuchai Mai Wan Wai", blues ("Ja Arai Nak Na") and neo-classic and hip-hop ("Brave & Crazy").

"You can hear subtle changes in the guitar sounds in each number too and, of course, the lyrics are completely different," says the 45-year-old. "The lyrics speak about the philosophies of city folk."

The album reads like a chronology of his musical journey through different eras. Was it difficult to create new material that will appeal to a younger audience?

"Not really. I've been working with new-generation artists like Peter Corp Dyrendal and Palmy so that's kept me up-to-date. I think that the younger people know who I am - as a musician, that is, not as a pop singer. However, I have to keep introducing myself to them," he says.

The album is the first product of his own music production and publishing company.

"I set up Mister Music after looking at the kind of systems established by professional foreign songwriters such as David Foster and Babyface. They don't have contracts with a major record company but work with them as a partner. Of course, the major label takes responsibility for copyright management and payment. It's very important for professional songwriters, who have more than 100 songs to their credit, to ensure their publishing rights.

"I've worked in the music circle for more than 20 years and expect to carry on for at least 10, probably 20 more years. So, I must be responsible for my own copyright management," he says.

"And I'd like to carry on playing. Look at Eric Clapton. He's 63 but he still dons blue jeans and goes out on the road!"

Then, of course, there's the production company to run. Upcoming projects at Mister Music include a guitar instrumental album, "although some singers might contribute", says Ohm."

Kitchana Lersakvanitchakul
The Nation