'Iron Man' hitmaker Eric Kwok is looking forward to his Coliseum shows
Looking at his thick eyebrows and toned skin, it's easy to understand why Canto-pop hitmaker Eric Kwok Wai-leung has been dubbed Hong Kong's own Iron Man. The Robert Downey Jnr lookalike even served as poster boy for a local restaurant chain in which he was depicted as Iron Man in a series of TV commercials.
"I wasn't sure if I wanted to do it when the chain approached me. I thought I may look stupid if it wasn't executed well," Kwok says with a slightly embarrassed grin. "But it turned out to be fun." It's not just that Kwok bears a physical resemblance to Downey and the American comic hero he plays. Like Tony Stark, Kwok himself is something of a man-child, or a "kidult".
In his collaborations with long-time friend Eason Chan Yik-shun and with his own pop duo, Swing, Kwok has always searched for fun ¡X as well as a groove ¡X in the local Canto-pop scene.
His latest single, a plug for his upcoming retrospective concerts at the Hong Kong Coliseum, has the straightforward title Iron Man. The electronic rock/nu metal tune depicts the ups and downs of being an "iron man".
The music video, of course, features Kwok wearing Tony Stark's famous suits and sunglasses. "The best part was casting female models for the club scene," Kwok jokes. "I haven't had the chance to look at so many girls at the same time in a long while."
While he usually lives a low-profile and quiet life, Kwok made headlines on local entertainment pages in 2011 when he proposed ¡X and married on the spot ¡X his long-time girlfriend, singer Grace Ip Pui-man, at a Swing concert, turning the gig into one big wedding party.
"She didn't believe it had really happened, even days after the concert," he says. Still, the young-at-heart 40-year-old has no plans to have children. "Kids are the end to your own private time," he says. "I prefer dogs. We have three."
This has allowed Kwok to continue focusing on his music. He used the pen-name Moz to launch his songwriting in 1997 with If You Are at My Home Tonight. In 1999, Kwok had his first taste of chart success with hits for Jacky Cheung Hok-yau, Eason Chan and Cass Phang Ling, consolidating his position as one of the city's most prolific composers and producers. His most popular hit is Kay Tse On-kei's Wedding Invitation Street.
So far in 2014 he has produced hits for Kary Ng Yu-fei, Hacken Lee and newcomer Fred Cheng, the winner of TVB reality show The Voice of the Stars. He is also one half of the duo Swing along with Jerald Chan, and they have produced eight releases focusing on their signature funky, groovy sound.
When discussing his views on the current music scene, he confesses that he isn't really concerned with what others are doing, and only discovers new music by listening to Spotify while driving. Then the conversation inevitably turns to the music videos released by Hong Kong's "MK Pop" groups, which recently went viral due to the poor imitation of K-pop styling and dance moves.
Kwok says his wife had shown him the videos and he pointed out that internet allowed every aspiring musician to publicise themselves.
"At least everyone will remember their names now. Some musicians put lots of effort into making good music, but nobody remembers them. Later on, if these groups put out better music, people forget what a big embarrassment they were in the beginning."
Retrospective concerts have been something of a trend in Canto-pop during recent years, and other behind-the-scenes figures such as songsmiths Ronald Ng Lok-shing and Mark Lui Chung-tak, as well as lyricists Wyman Wong Wai-man and Lin Xi, have staged their own concerts, playing their back catalogues with star-studded line-ups.
Now that Kwok is doing the same, does that mean he's playing catch-up? He admits he is. "It's late for sure. I didn't plan to do it at all, actually," he says.
Not being a nostalgic person, it wasn't until close friend, DJ and pop singer Jan Lam Hoi-fung came up with some "fun" ideas about the scheduling of the concerts that Kwok agreed to do it. There will be a couple of releases around the time of the shows, as a follow-up to the 2009 album Eric Kwok's Leet Collection.
Kwok was unwilling to reveal any secrets before the shows open, although we know the line-up includes Eason Chan, Gigi Leung Wing-kei, Edmund Leung Hon-man and Miriam Yeung Chin-wah. All Kwok will say is: "It's going to be very different from what everyone else has done. It will be fun, and no one will do a show like this again. It will make you laugh and cry."