As the sun sets on the beloved indie band False Alarm, frontman Tsang Hing-ling relives his fondest FA memories. By Mark Tjhung
Irreverent, shambolic, brilliant, maniacal, uncontrollable. Anyone who’s ever seen False Alarm live would know that the local indie band swings through all of these descriptors almost every time they take the stage. Since forming in 1999, False Alarm have been the markers for Hong Kong’s raw, distortion-worshipping, guitar-smashing indie rockers, bringing a local flavour to a grimy lo-fi rock aesthetic. But this fortnight, after 12 years, the False Alarm story comes to an end. “It’s better to burn out than to fade away, so we think the time is coming,” says founding member, guitarist and vocalist Tsang Hing-ling, drawing on some Neil Young and adding that one of the central reasons for the group’s disbanding is the departure of bassist Fox Tam.
Indeed, False Alarm plan to burn out in style, with the release of their third album, Theworldissofuckingunited, in a searing farewell mélange of fuzzy, turned-up-to-11 rock. The album is still very ‘False Alarm-sound rock’ says Ah Ling, but they have thrown in a curveball for posterity – their first ever Cantonese song. “We think we have made a radio-friendly song and hoped to get closer to the audience. We dreamed of having the first radio hit of False Alarm!”
With the end nigh, we heard memory lane a-calling and asked Ah Ling to take us through the most memorable and defining moments of the band. In consultation with band members past and present, here’s what he came up with...
First Show, Dec 1999, Work Station, Oil Street Government Warehouse Complex
‘After we formed, we sought every opportunity to perform. We came across a call for participants for a goodbye show to the Oil Street Complex. This was our very first show and we are all very nervous. Our set was far from satisfactory but it was fun. In the photo, the dog of Work Station ran out in the middle of our set – and that’s the best description to our music from the very start – it scares even the dogs away.’
Tribute to AMK Show, June 2002, Fringe Club
‘AMK is one of our favourite local indie bands. When we knew there was a ‘Tribute to AMK’ show, we were so excited, but when we sent our demo to the committee of the show, we got no reply. Later, one of the committee members, Por of 22cats, witnessed our craziness during a CityU show and he invited us. After a few years, when we were good friends, he told us that we really sucked on the demo. We got many new friends in the show like 22cats, Joy Trendy Sound and PixelToy. This is where the people of Harbour Records first met, and formed the label two years later.’
Unknown Festival 1 and Unknown Festival 2, Jun and Dec 2003, Bandroom at 1303
‘We held two private shows, Unknown Festival 1 and 2 in 2003 (‘Unknown Festival’ is the name of a song in our debut album) at our old bandroom in Ngau Tau Kok after the debut album release. We had the best local indie lineup of that era: my little airport, Joy Trendy Sound, PixelToy, Mazer, Hard Candy, Superday, Elf Fatima, Cafeinn Park, 22cats, Dylan Art, The Cock and Tai Tau Fat. We also resurrected our idol – the 90s local indie star Kind People – for a one-night-reunion.’
Rockit Festival, October 2003, Victoria Park
‘False Alarm played at the first Rockit festival, one of the largest international music events ever in Hong Kong. A huge stage stood on the grass of Victoria Park and we dreamed of being the coolest stadium rockers. False Alarm rocked the side stage with crazy dance and endless noisy guitar feedbacks. We actually had a picture with our teenage idol Mark Gardener, had all of our Ride albums signed and shook his hand!’
The Live is Coming, July 2005, Ngau Chi Wan Civic Centre
‘We had two release shows for our second album The Time is Coming. It turned out to be two sold-out nights (150 audience each night) and some people couldn’t get in. We had the best support acts including The Darlings, Atomic Bubbles, Band Band and The Pullover. On the first night with our anthem Biological, all our members fell down on the floor after banging our heads and dancing manically for six or seven minutes. The next night, Billy Wong got a fractured toe when he kicked on his Gibson Les Paul at the end of the same song. The Les Paul didn’t have a tiny crack, ding or hurt a little.’
False Alarm launch Theworldissofuckingunited on Saturday December 17. Tickets: firstname.lastname@example.org