23 October 2018
Electronic musician Shane Aspegren sets up his studio in Chai Wan. Photo: HKEJ
Electronic musician Shane Aspegren sets up his studio in Chai Wan. Photo: HKEJ

American e-musician moves to Hong Kong for his kids

In Hong Kong, there are only a handful of people who seek a career in electronic music, and among them is Shane Aspegren from the United States.

Aspegren made his debut and established his reputation in Europe, but eventually settled down in Hong Kong in 2012. The reason is his kids.

He says it is hard to make a living in Hong Kong solely by composing music, so he also has to work part-time as a CD album producer, cameraman as well as acoustic designer for fashion and advertising in order to make ends meet.

He says independent musicians like him are struggling to make a living anywhere in the world, and Hong Kong is no exception, simply because people are downloading music from the internet rather than buying CDs.

Even though he has already teamed up with several local musicians and worked on different projects together, his income remains unstable.

“Seeking a musical career is tough even in the US. I know some people who have to go on tour for eight to 10 months a year just to support themselves financially,” he says.

Before coming to Hong Kong, Aspegren and his wife spent seven years living in Paris, where their two daughters were born.

Initially, they wanted to move back to the US, but since the couple love to explore new frontiers, they finally decided to move to Hong Kong.

Why Hong Kong? “We would like our kids to experience more about Asia. I am not the kind of people who can settle down in one particular place for a very long time, nor are my kids. So perhaps they might want to go somewhere else when they grow up. But for now, I would like them to spend their childhood in a place with unique culture and freedom.”

He says the diversity and mixture of Hong Kong can help his kids understand and enjoy the world more. “We live in Shek O, just next to the hills and the beach, and we often go hiking and surfing, but it just takes us 30 minutes to get to downtown, and that’s what I love Hong Kong most.” 

Recently, Hong Kong has undergone a lot of turmoil, and as a foreigner and a newcomer, Aspegren is fascinated by what has been happening in the territory.

He took a lot of photos during the Umbrella Movement and exchanged ideas with pro-democracy activists in order to find out more about their cause. He maintains that he’s been in the city only for a while, and it will take him more time to truly understand the place.

“I think what has happened in front of us is very complicated and must be seen in its historical context. So far I only know things by their appearance, and I am not as emotionally attached to the recent events as many local people are, because this city is where they were born and brought up.

“As a newcomer, I guess I am not in a position to get too deeply involved in these political movements. I think I need to understand more before I can form my own judgement. But I do hope that things in Hong Kong won’t take a turn for the worse in the future,” he says.

Having lived in various places, Aspegren doesn’t think the prospect of Hong Kong is gloomy, nor does he believe leaving the city is a good choice.

“I am trying to be hopeful about the future of Hong Kong. In fact, no matter where you live, there are always all sorts of problems, and even the US is no exception. Even though it is a democratic and free country, many things remain controlled by large corporations and business tycoons. At the end of the day, I am not sure whether people in the US are really enjoying true democracy.

“In Hong Kong, what concerns me most are the feelings of the young people. I also feel that this city has a lot of potential, and people here are getting more and more vocal. Perhaps over the next few years, some more interesting things might happen.”

Today Aspegren still sticks to his US passport, and he returns to the States with his wife and daughters every year to get reunited with relatives.

Although he isn’t sure how much longer he is going to stay in Hong Kong, he eagerly admits that his love for the city just increases day by day.

“Sometimes life is tough here, especially when there isn’t any job for me, that gives me a lot of stress. But like anywhere else, there are always ups and downs, and the most important thing is, there are still a lot of things that I love about this place.”

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on March 13.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Shane Aspegren says it’s hard to make a living in Hong Kong solely by composing music, so he has to take on other part-time jobs. Photo: HKEJ

Aspegren (right), shown here with a European musician, made his debut and established his reputation in Europe. Photo: Camille Cooken

Aspegren plays the drums in an event. Photo: Angelika Li

Aspegren (right) jams with American guitarist Arto Lindsay. Photo: Vic Shing

Aspegren (center) was a member of the band The Berg Sans Nipple when he stayed in France. Photo: HKEJ

Writer of the Hong Kong Economic Journal

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