Hong Kong – WOW!!! Didn’t expect that to happen…

1989 I started the trend, being the first in the Rock Machine contingent to tie the knot. My wife lived and worked in Hong Kong, being a Flight attendant with Cathay Pacific Airways and was based there.
After the wedding and a brief honeymoon, the wife went back to HK and I stayed on in Mumbai. This was also the peak for RM, with 2 albums out and a lot of touring around the Country and trips overseas. MTV was airing the band’s videos, so things were looking on the up and up! Looked like I was married to the band. Time flew by and it was getting quite difficult to manage both the band in
Mumbai and trying to keep the wife happy and a marriage going, living separate lives. In 1991, I told the boys, that I would have to call it quits and make the move to HK. They didn’t quite believe me.

My last gig with RM was in Bangalore (circa early 1992) and after we finished, we were chatting back
at the hotel and I said that on returning to Mumbai, my bags were packed and I was off to HK the following day, to start my new life! It hadn’t sunk in for the boys; no attempts were made to find a replacement drummer. The RM “preferred expletive” kept coming to the fore and, that I was going to regret it…the band was on a roll, I was the “renegade” about to rock the boat, however…the ultimatum was sent from HK! And I had made my vows…

Hong Kong blew me away, when I got there and enjoyed some time, taking in this amazing city. 3 months in and I started to get restless. No work and I couldn’t just sit around and watch TV. Life was so full on in Mumbai…that the itch was there to get playing again. I knew no one. And neither did my wife…at least in the music business.

I made frequent trips back to Mumbai, just to keep my sanity and stay in touch with the Mumbai music Circuit and did a few recordings on these visits. The band kept requesting I jump back in, as they hadn’t done much either! But that was not to be.

Over the next few months in HK, I went to live music venues, pubs and bars that hosted jam nights but realized due to me being a “leftie”, I could not jump in and jam. The pubs or bands weren’t keen
to let me switch the kit around. Quite frustrating. It was getting to me. Then a friend told me there was work in a travel agency and as I had the relevant
15 years expertise with this, I should apply. I did and got the job. This was after 9 months of sitting around doing nothing.
As luck would have it, soon after taking the travel job, I finally got a lead to meet a Blues Musician at the HK Jazz Club. I loved the Blues. His drummer couldn’t make it and asked if I could fill in for the one
gig. I took the opportunity. The band was a local band called “Blue Wail” led by harmonica player, William Tang. It was an amazing fun gig and got to play the Blues after quite a while. The last time I
played some blues was with Crosswinds in 1982-1985 in Mumbai.

William was impressed I guess and made me the permanent drummer in the band…and I was off to doing regular pub gigs. While with Blue Wail and getting around the circuit, I met another drummer,
Dave McKirdy. What a lovely bloke…we got on well and he took me around to gigs he was playing at. Through the grapevine, he found out that somebody was looking for a drummer for a Christmas Pantomime. He gave me the name and I went to meet the Musical Director, Gethyn Clothier. I had
never done any Musical Theatre as such, other than the one Elvis Production in Mumbai, so we chatted and he explained the nature of Christmas Pantomime. It was hilarious filled with kids and adults, singing and dancing and spoofing local HK stuff, with a British take on it. LOVED it!! I ended up doing this for the next 13 years in HK, every Christmas…became the PANTO drummer. Gethyn and I became good mates and when I decided to start a band, he came onboard as keyboard player a few
years later! Through Gethyn, I was introduced to the Musical Theatre of HK and played for a number of productions, including productions for the HY Youth Arts and the HK Academy of Performing Arts.

One day while watching TV, a local “Soul” Band was showcased – a big band with a horn section, 3 singers and looked impressive. I spoke to Dave McKirdy and enquired if he knew them. He said he did
and that he jammed quite often with the guitarist/vocalist and that I should come for the next jam. I did, and Dave was kind enough to introduce me to this guitar player, Davey Colquhoun. Davey asked if I’d like to jam…and I said yes and very kindly Dave McKirdy switched the kit around to let me play a few songs. Had never played Soul or Motown before but had a vague idea of a groove to lay down. Jam was over and went home that night.

The next day I got a call from the bass player asking if I’d be keen to join the band. I said yes and that was it…I had joined HK’s Motown band for the next few years. They were called Soul Commotion. They played the corporate scene, as well as a lot of pub gigs, featuring songs from the film “The Commitments”. The band managed to secure some cool gigs around Asia, playing for the Johnny Walker Classic Golf Tournament Celebrations alongside The Pointer Sisters in Phuket. The band also shared the stage with The Three Degrees and was featured on a local Music TV Channel, showcasing their brand of Soul & Motown and had the honour of playing for the Handover Ceremony, when HK went back to China in 1997.

The band also had the privilege to play for a Private Function for the last Governor of HK – Rt. Hon. Chris Patten, the only band ever to get this honour. Certainly a highlight for my time in Hong Kong.

While entrenched with Soul Commotion, and still working in the Travel Agency, an old Rock Machine stage crew member, arrived in HK and made contact. Mandar Thakur. Along with him was his buddy, Suraj Jagan. Suraj used to sing in a Rock Band in Mumbai and apparently, we did a gig together for a festival. I had forgotten. He had recently moved to HK, his wife was also in Cathay Pacific and he wanted to do music and keen to join a band. Asked if we could start up one, doing Rock and Heavy Metal. I said there wasn’t a market for it, especially in the pub circuit, especially if he wanted to make a living. He asked if we could do some other style.

Over the 3 years in HK, I noticed the local Chinese Community, as well as a lot of expats, enjoyed oldies – 60’s and 70’s stuff. Beatles was always requested but no one was doing it. I asked Suraj if he could sing any Beatles stuff. He said he’d never heard their music…I was stunned!! So, I gave him some Beatles music and told him to learn some songs…he did and he roped in another Mumbai buddy, Ryan Mendonca who used to jam with him in a band in Mumbai. They worked out harmony parts too and sounded amazing. So, we decided to do a small quartet doing oldies. Since I was already with Soul Commotion doing regular pub gigs, they were kind enough to let this new band (called Matchbox) to play on nights they took some time off. The band was a hit.

Between 1993 and 1996, things really picked up for me in the music circuit, I got to know quite a few musicians and played quite a bit too, long days working a 9 to 5 job and playing gigs at night. I eventually met another local drummer, a “deshi” drummer from Calcutta, who was amazing. He was part of the house band at the HK Jazz Club. Again he reminded me that we had crossed paths in Mumbai…but I had forgotten. Anthony Fernandes. What an incredible drummer and so humble…he could play anything, read anything; I was blown away. He was also the drummer for many Canto Pop stars and played the major Concerts at the HK Coliseum. One day, Anthony was kind enough to offer me a stint at the HK Jazz Club for 10 nights playing with the house band supporting the Legendary Blues/Country Guitar Legend from the US of A – Elvin Bishop. I was tripping!! Really? I had heard a few albums of Elvin Bishop back in the day…but who would’ve thought I’d be playing drums for him. A solitary rehearsal, the afternoon of the gig and then boom…we were on stage later that night and for 10 nights thereafter! I don’t recall getting a picture with him…but my wife did. He found out that she was in the audience and went down and brought her on stage, to strum his guitar in the middle of a song…I was in hysterics, so was she (embarrassed too!!) but what a laugh. Picture attached. He was a true gentleman and so down to earth. Thanks to Anthony again and the then Manager of the HK Jazz Club, I eventually got to play for two other visiting Blues Legends from the US – Carey Bell (Harmonica Player with Muddy Waters) and Duke Robillard. 10 nights for each stint! Such an amazing experience and what a tremendous learning curve! The professionalism on stage! Brilliant…

With such a hectic schedule, a fulltime day job and playing gigs late into the night, sleep was minimal and I started to gorge myself with junk food, on the run between work and gigs…as I loved it! KFC, Mackers and Pizza Hut, was my staple diet + 3 Mars bars to round it off. There was no exercise whatsoever and a complete lack of sleep, I was struck with a massive heart attack in 1997 at the age of 37. That was scary shit!! My dear mum, also passed away young, from a heart attack and I was terrified. 10 days in ICU, another 15 days in a General ward with elderly patients, moaning and groaning and passing away every night around me…I felt lucky to be alive.

I was grounded for a year at home, doing nothing…trying to make a recovery…but I got “special” time to spend with my son, Matthew who was just a year old. I had lost my job in the travel agency and down to no income. Stressed times in the Menezes household. However on the positive side, this forced “time out” allowed me to enjoy precious moments with Matt.

Once again, seeing my situation, my dear friend, Gethyn Clothier, came to my aid and offered me work as a drum teacher at his Primary school. The established ESF (English Schools Foundation). I said no, as I had no experience with teaching…not for me!! He persisted and so to get him off my back, after an entire year of persuasion, I went to the school to meet the kids. They were amazing and so enthusiastic, 5 kids aged between 7-10 years old. They wanted to start immediately. I said no. I had only come to take a look. Gethyn scolded me (ha ha ha), said I couldn’t say no to those eager faces. So I went home and gave it a thought. Next week, I was back at the school to do a lesson, I gave in. But I had no clue where to start with them. They were my guinea pigs. I tried a few combinations, using lessons from my time at Music School in Hollywood; things didn’t quite work. The material was meant for professional drummers and not for kids at this age. Trial and error, I eventually found a method (which I still use till today) and in 5 months they were playing songs. I had now become a drumkit teacher. By the end of that year, Gethyn was impressed with my accomplishments, (I was too) and so were the parents of these 5 kids. My name was passed around the ESF schools circuit as a drum teacher. 5 years down the line, I was teaching close to 70+ students in 6 ESF and International
schools, all private lessons. I feel blessed that so many of these students have stayed in touch with me. Some of them were 7 years old when they started…and now in their late 20’s, early 30’s. Amazing…to see them grow and start their own lives and families too!

On recovering from the heart attack, Soul Commotion had broken up, members had left HK and Matchbox also took a back seat. I decided to put the remaining members of the 2 bands together and “Aquarius” was formed. We did everything under the sun from Soul & Motown, Rock n Roll and even some Country and once again, the band grew in popularity, playing corporate events in HK. Amazingly, Aquarius also ended up at Government House, playing for a private Party for some HK Dignitaries.

In 1999, the family put in papers for migration to NZ. The visa came through in 2001…but we stalled, as we realized we weren’t ready to make the move. Things were too busy in HK and my wife said…you’re crazy…why do you want to go to NZ? You’ve never been there!! (She had however, on flight) She told me…NOTHING happens in NZ…it’s a dead city…it shuts down at 5PM!! You are so busy in HK, you are doing so well financially…we have a life here, friends…what will you do in NZ?

I said “Teach?!!!” So, in 2005, I was sent on my way…ALONE!! Forever grateful, I have to acknowledge 4 people who gave me the opportunity and took a chance on me in HK. When you come to a New Country not knowing anyone…it’s terrifying. My thanks and gratitude to William Tang, David McKirdy, Gethyn Clothier and Davey Colquhoun for their belief in me and being amazing friends till this day…