Meet Carson Cheng, a.k.a. KICCC, an actor-turned-musician who currently calls Vancouver home. With his debut EP coming out, we caught up with Carson to investigate the odd reports that a stay in what he describes as a “weird Airbnb” inspired his musical identity. We also got him to spill on on his just-released single "Here," his future projects and his fave haunts in the 604. —Vita Daily
Hi Carson! We know you had a firm footing in acting before, but how did your music career start? Did you find you were able to express yourself differently ... or perhaps even better ... via singing/songwriting than acting?
My music career started when my friend from South Korea asked me to help with writing a Chinese version of a demo that she was working on. I was inspired right away by the track and even though I had never written lyrics before, I found that I could relate well to the subject of the song, which happened to be birds. At that time, I was working as an actor in Hong Kong and there was a lot happening behind the scenes with management and whatnot that had me feeling a bit caged, so to speak, so when this song about birds came about I decided to switch the narrative and write about a bird breaking free and flying toward a better possibility. When I finished the lyrics I recorded a demo of my own and sent it back to my friend and her producer and they ended up inviting me to feature on the track. The rest is history. Now, as the self-managed singer-songwriter KICCC, I feel empowered and at the same time more vulnerable as an artist. I can definitely say that I am able to express myself better than when I was working for others as an actor simply because I am the one making the choices. Within my career as a musician, I am still finding opportunities to use my acting (such as in my latest music video for the song “Here”) and also the training I received during my undergrad at UBC as an interdisciplinary performance artist, so I find that everything has a renewed meaning for me. I think now more than ever I’m happy to show everyone a more multidimensional and holistic version of myself through my music and everything that comes with it.
Tell us about the infamous "weird Airbnb" that sparked a major revelation in you! Also, what was the revelation and what did it lead to?
For my first recording trip in Seoul, my producer friend arranged accommodations for me. He saw a rental apartment online and I guess he thought it was a good deal so he booked it pretty quickly. It was really helpful since I wasn’t too familiar with the city but when my party and I arrived on site after a 12-hour flight, we got a bit worried. The taxi stopped in an alley and told us we had arrived but the whole area was pretty dark. We got our luggage out of the car and stepped into the garage of what looked like an industrial building. I was a bit confused so I double-checked the confirmation and instructions that my friend sent me. There wasn’t a mistake, it was the right place. I found the elevator and when the door opened there was finally some light (the garage had NO LIGHTS). It was in that elevator, up in one of the corners (how did anyone even get up there ...) where I saw the most cryptic message that has probably ever been scrawled. I asked my friend who could read Korean what was written and she had a problem understanding it because the syntax was totally off according to her. Roughly, she made out the words: water and knows/understands. My imagination went into overdrive as I imagined some street thug nicknamed Water who knew too much and that was a warning to all others or that this building was the last place they were seen. We ended up only staying there that one night instead of the original seven. Fast-forward and one afternoon I had some free time and my friend convinced me to check out a famous fortune teller popular with South Korean entertainers since we were already in the area. I’m not usually a fan of this type of thing but curiosity got the best of me. During the consultation, the fortune teller said a bunch of things like that I wouldn’t be making good money until I was in my 40s (what the heck) and that I would live until I was old. She also said that I was Water. Then it was like everything clicked for me. I don’t recall what she meant when she said that but for me it made sense of the elevator message. If “water knows” and I was water then I must know something already. For me that revelation allowed me to trust my own intuition more. It has really become a driving force for me and it speaks to each and every area of my life. I think at the end of the day, everyone knows deep down what they like, what they want, what they need—and sometimes more importantly, what they don’t. It takes a bit of courage to really own up and admit it though and I think that creepy elevator message really helped me take that leap and now I feel a lot more assured and confident about my decisions.
What would you say inspires your music? What is most of your music currently about?
When I work on a song I always like to set a visual landscape. The image of water in all its different forms has consistently appeared in these visions. When I write, water shows itself through thunderstorms, glistening beach waves, sweat, tears and sometimes whirlpools that can drown. All this is what inspires my lyrics and the storytelling I’m trying to do with my music. It may seem that I’m sort of obsessed with this metaphor and that’s a totally correct assumption. I really see myself reflected in these forms for better or for worse and I think that my music is my way of affirming that I am all those things and that is okay so for me it’s about self-love and acceptance.
Tell us about your amazing new single, "Here".
My single “Here” was one of the first songs I wrote when I started this project. I wanted to work on a song with a house beat that I could see my friends dancing to so ENAN, the producer of the song, and I started listening to some loops and started building on that. The first words I wrote for the song was “Come closer, let’s wander” as featured in the chorus and from that point I started imaging a story of intimacy between two subjects and what feelings and possibilities that can bring. When I approached director Riun Garner to do the music video we talked about our mutual journeys in the past couple of years and how I was in a transitional phase of my life and career. I was and still am learning a lot about myself and it was like I was meeting KICCC for the first time as well in many ways. With that in mind, we created a video where I literally meet different versions of myself. Each version is a different character with their own quirks and issues but at the end of the day they all represent a part me. it really gave my song “Here" a new interpretation and proposes that intimacy is something we should strive to have with ourselves as well.
What are you working on now/next and what can we look forward to hearing from you in the future?
I’m actually readying my next release already! It will be a follow-up track to “Here” so everyone can expect that it will also make them want to move. “Here” was just the warm up and the next release is when things get hot, haha! Please be on the look out for “Control,” which will be available to stream across all platforms on September 23rd, 2019!
Finally, please tell us about your ties to Vancouver: how often are you here, what are some of your fave local spots to hit and does the city ever get your creative juices flowing?!
Vancouver is home! I moved here from Macau, China, when I was just under a year old and spent my childhood terrorizing each and every climbable tree in Kerrisdale. I was so in love with nature and playing outside after school but we’ve grown apart over the years because of my allergies! After moving on from working in Hong Kong as an actor, I’ve decided to really base myself out of the city I know best and get involved in the local creative industry. It’s such a vibrant and busy city when you look hard enough and Vancouver is overflowing with talent so it has been really inspirational just to be back. My favourite spots are usually food establishments with good pasta (Osteria Savio Volpe on Kingsway) or super-spicy hotpot (Xiaolongkan Hotpot in Richmond). Last year I moved to the Marpole area and I found the best café ever called Gigi Blin—their breakfast sandwiches and lattes always pick me up! I don’t know if all this food gets my creative juices flowing per se, but definitely my digestive juices! I think I’m hungry. Maybe a song about my intimacy with food is in order!