Fender’s illustrious history in the US and the UK is ingrained within their guitar-obsessed music cultures, and just as we know that rock’n’roll is forever, so too will the Fender legacy endure in the years and decades to come. Fender’s goal is simple – “To ensure the spirit of rock and roll for future generations,” – and that ethos extends far beyond their home base into every single country it has ever expanded to. The brand is about more than selling instruments, they are just as concerned about nurturing the musicians who’ll be using them. To find out more about how Fender has been supporting the Southeast Asia scene and its artists, we grabbed a quick chat with their Director of Market Development (Asia) and lifelong Fender devotee – Graham Perkins.
I grew up in the ‘70s being inspired by many Fender guitarists that I saw on TV. Whether it was David Bowie, Marc Bolan, or Dave Gilmour, playing guitar was synonymous with sex, drugs, and rock’n’roll. I wasn’t particularly interested in the drugs part, but the other two areas appealed to me! I then noticed that many of the guitarists during that era were playing Fender. It was the sound, it was the look and the thought of standing majestically onstage that was central to my upbringing. This was all I wanted, all I knew, and all I could focus on. Fender was that pinnacle brand at the heart of the music scene in the ‘70s and I just had to have one!
It is truly about the artist and Fender exudes that mantra in the territories it is present in. It is a two-way street and artists worldwide also love and revere the Fender brand and products. That is no different here where at every meeting I have with artists, they have nothing but great things to say about the brand and wish it could see more.
There is talent in Southeast Asia that’s for sure and I have been keenly following many artists where I see so much promise in what they do. There is a core technical expertise for sure but there is a need for further exploration in musicality, deeper emotive qualities, and the need for a focus on the resplendence that an artist should portray. However, one of the major setbacks that hinder local talent is the music listening public. Generally, there isn’t a culture towards finding new music especially music genres that don’t receive radio airplay support. The infrastructure has developed with mainstream in mind and is driven accordingly. This does create despondency in artists, which is clearly a by-product from such a state of affairs. This has to change if there is to be growth of a Southeast Asia-made music industry.
As Fender was iconic to me when I was starting out, I would like to enable that same experience for local artists who are considering music stardom. Today, there is greater availability to entry-level Fender products such as Squier, which means a greater opportunity for the artist starting out. The talent here should be the icons for the youth starting out to look up to, and amongst them there is a vast opportunity to grow fanbase. This can only be done through specific artist relationships to help build confidence, drive a passion and energy in the artist, and support the path of dreams for those starting out.
That Fender guitars made overseas, are lesser in quality to those made in the US or Japan. Fender has invested in production pipeline quality and the development of luthier expertise in countries such as Mexico, China, India, and Indonesia. There is a lack of knowledge to the increasing quality of these guitars and they provide a fantastic chance for young artists to begin their Fender relationship much younger than I had ever had. Squier itself is steeped in history and the continued manufacturing overseas enables greater accessibility for a younger audience to be a part of the Fender story and the current music revolution in Asia.
That’s the present, but what about the future? What are Fender’s long- term plans towards cultivating not only the Malaysia market, but also Malaysian musicians?
As my territory is Asia, a connection to collaborative projects especially regional will be another way to develop awareness of local talent. The image of Malaysia outside of Malaysia is not the image that these foreign cities see and in the last two months I have been to Bangkok, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Singapore and Seoul, with artists in these cities showing a great interest in Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur could be a global music city and for this to happen, it has to embrace and support collaborative opportunities with other artists, producers, etc., from overseas. Local artists would gain a truly beneficial opportunity to grow whether it is in an Asian city or right here in Malaysia.