Check-Hook: Everything you need to know about Charlie Lim's new album
Could you share a little bit about the title of the album?
The term, "check-hook", is a boxing move where you're pivoting out of the way when someone is charging towards you. The last album, Time/Space, took a lot out of me. I was burnt out. I was trying to pick myself up from the whole experience: from the writing to the releasing and the tours. After the high, there was a crash and I had to figure out what to do next. This album is my way of pivoting and trying something different. As a songwriter, I basically sleep where I work and don't see daylight for weeks. At the end of it, when there's nothing to show for it, there are times when I thought I should be doing something a bit more productive. I had to take some time off, go back to my roots and find my centre again. This short album is an ode to that. It was actually five songs but it's now officially a Kanye-length album.
Two of the tracks, 'Welcome Home' and 'Zero Sum', are far more electronic than what you did on Time/Space.
At the end of the day, I'm a singer-songwriter. I always write songs on piano and guitar. The process of producing and arranging it is the fun part, experimenting with different styles depending on the mood. Both these new songs take on a new form. I'm quite tired of the whole down-tempo, R&B thing. I could not take that on yet, but maybe next time I will. I needed to try something that not many people are doing right now. The UK garage sound was something that worked with my music because the frantic beat reflected the headspace that I was in.
You are quite involved in the production process of your music as well. How was this experience?
I tend to micromanage a lot, which is not great. I did work with two co-producers who are friends from Melbourne. The first three tracks are produced with Yeo, and the last four with Simon Lam who is part of a band called Clove. I'm big fans of their work and have been friends with them for a long time. The collaborative process helped me get across the finish line. I would play a bunch of things and hand it over to them so they can sample and manipulate them. I played all the instruments, except the drums, which were by Yeo.
Could you tell us a bit more about two songs: 'Better Dead than a Damsel' and 'Least of You'?
'Better Dead than a Damsel' features Yung Raja and Faris Jabba. I'm sure people know of them already. They are amazing rappers who are doing extremely well, especially in Malaysia. They are really hardworking and humble. I quickly got them in before they were unreachable. When I was working on 'Least of You' with my producer, the image that kept coming back was a really late night drive at 4am towards the sunrise. It's really sad and melancholic but you're driving in one of those small, electric smart cars. I don't know if listeners will have that same imagery.
What about 'Premonition' and 'Unconditional'?
I just wanted to make dance music for people who don't go to clubs. It's just about having a good time. I thought let's just have fun making music without any expectation or worry about making the next best thing when no one knows what that is. When I adopted that mentality, I was in a state of play and flow. Obviously, a lot of things were thrown out during the curation and editing process. Weish from .gif is on 'Premonition'. She's amazing.
You mentioned you were burnt out after Time/Space. What did you do to cope during that period?
For freelancers, creatives or people who run their own businesses, it's really hard to separate what you do from your sense of self-worth. For me, I started music because I really romanticised the idea of playing my own songs at a cafe and having an audience that enjoys it. I needed to forget about the stats or what's relevant and popular and just do my own thing. Another thing I picked up was boxing. It gave me perspective together with the physical aspect of it. The exercise alone got me out of that funk. Obviously, having good people around makes a huge difference. It was a combination of factors that got me out of that spiral.
I would like to go back to one of the lines of the National Day song: "If all that we are is what we believe, then I know I've got to be the change I want to see". What change do you want to see?
Personally, I would like to see less shitty comments on social media. Everything is so polarised and everyone reacts with so much outrage these days. We can afford a more moderate response and reaction to anything. It's getting a bit overboard and we've lost perspective. I would like to see a bit more of a measured response, along with a bit more accountability to what they say. From a more systemic point of view, I would like to see more change in our local education system. We've heard news recently that the exams will be removed for certain ages. We could do a lot more.
Let's do a series of rapid-fire questions. They are all themed under "The Greatest". Your greatest extravagance?
When you're in Japan and the toilet washes your bum.
Sky-diving or bungee-jumping.
'Hallelujah' by Leonard Cohen.
Finishing this album.
Proposing to my fiancé in a zoo in Japan because all the other places I wanted to propose at were washed out by the typhoon.
Greatest of all time.
Floyd Mayweather Jr.