The backbone of Singapore’s local music, Leonard Soosay is highly regarded in the scene as “Towkay”. CATCH catches up with him in his studio together with his 3 cats.
Written By: Kendra Tan
Photos By: Brendon Tan & Leonard Soosay
Arguably the most respected indie music producer
in Singapore, Leonard Soosay is definitely a force to be reckoned with in the local music scene. With over 500 recordings under his belt, he has worked with big names in the scene such as Ronin, Electrico, Cashew Chemist and Pleasantry.
“We did not start out as a recording studio in the be- ginning. In fact, it was just a bedroom record label. We only wanted to sign artistes, produce their albums and release them under the Snakeweed label,” says Leon- ard.
A few years later, Snakeweed Studios successfully grew and Leonard decided that he wanted to build his own recording studio instead of going elsewhere to record. “We did just that, and Snakeweed was born in 2000.”
When Leonard was in primary school, like any other cheeky kid, he would steal his parents’ record player to listen to music. “I would even lie on the floor and listen, wondering how people turned music into a vinyl disc. I wondered how this was done, how music was recorded
and relayed to a radio station. This piqued my curiosity so I went on to learn about tape recording,” he says.
Although Leonard majored in Economics in a Canadian University, music continued to follow him. It remained his passion. Hence, he decided to use the school fees to enroll in a music school without his parents’ knowl- edge.
“They never knew until I forgot to pay my school fees and the school called my mum to remind her. Obvious- ly, they were not very happy.” Smirks Leonard.
When asked about the band which gave him the most memories, he says, “There’s this band called Ronin, and they are real funny people. The lead singer is albino and he had long blonde hair. He was wearing sunglass- es at night, which I thought was a bit weird. The first thing he did when we met was to take out a business card, and asked if I could make him a rock star in a very low voice. It’s funny stories like these which I will remember for the rest of my life.”
Being a local music producer, Leonard is not short on comments on the current local music scene. He raved that the scene is at its best, compared to the past 20 years. Nowadays, Singaporean musicians are producing quality work. In fact, it is so good that some tracks have gone interna- tional.
“We also have a lot of support from the government now, and music schools are springing up,” he says.
“We also have a lot of bands buying equipment and record- ing themselves at home. This is actually good because Singapore is catching up with the rest of the world.”
He talks about how The Sam Wil- lows recently reached one million streams on Spotify for their song, “Take Heart”.
“You’ll never imagine this happen- ing 2-3 years back. SG50 has also helped give a lot of exposure for our local musicians,” he adds
Leonard mentions previously how people can just buy equipment and record themselves at home. So what is it that make musicians still flock to Snakeweed Studios?
“Some of the bands come here to record things they cannot do at home, for example, drums.
No doubt they can record themselves at home, but they will still come here to record vocals and mix the sounds in a proper studio,” he explains.
Behind every successful man is someone that inspires him. For Leonard, the man behind his motivation is no other than the late Apple founder, Steve Jobs.
“He was the reason why I decided to actually do this. He approached the Vice President of Pepsi, and asked, “Do you want to spend your life bottling carbonated water? Or are you going to join me and change the world?”
That line struck me. I was thinking to myself: “Why am I here watching TV? I have all these skills, and maybe if I apply them, I might be able to contribute to society somewhere.” Coming back to Singapore, I decided to produce music so that I could help make a difference to society.”
A veteran in the local music industry, Leonard has no lack of advice for budding musicians.
“Always challenge yourselves, never think you are the best. You must think that everyone is better than you so that you will always strive to improve, and that you’ll always be learning. There’s no end to this. For everything you do, there’s always room for improvement.”