“Would you like anything to drink? Coffee or tea?” Dennis Lau asks, pouring himself some whisky.
“No, thank you,” I reply, sinking into the comfortable leather chair across him.
The electric violinist, spotting a trendy undercut, looked charming in his checkered beige blazer and dark-brown pants. He fit perfectly in the bespoke bar Eight Gourmet Gala, of which he is a co-owner.
I, on the other hand, could not have dressed any simpler. Trying to be oblivious to what I was wearing, I launched into my first question: “How has the musical journey been for you since you started playing the piano at the age of three?”
“The journey has been great,” Lau answers, without a moment of hesitation. “I have been blessed with the right people to work with.”
The charismatic musician takes a sip of his whisky, crosses his legs and after a pregnant pause, continues, “there’re a lot of hardships I had to go through before reaching this stage. But because of that, I am able to play the violin as fluently as I do now.”
Currently preparing for his first ever major concert titled Dennis Lau & Friends: The Phoenix Rising, on Oct 22 in Kuala Lumpur, Lau has been bewitching audiences for nearly a decade with his mastery of the violin, knack for showmanship, as well as shows featuring studded leather jackets, fiery LED backgrounds and high-octane energy.
He has shared the limelight with some of Asia’s top singers such as Ning Baizura, David Tao, Syafinaz Selamat and Francissca Peter to name a few. He has also collaborated with James Boyle and The Ragged Tigers in the annual Penang Jazz Festival in 2006 and 2007. Lau also had the enviable privilege to open for Adam Lambert during his Glam Nation Tour in KL in 2010. I happened to be at that concert and Lau was simply electrifying to watch, captivating the concertgoers with his dexterity and commanding the stage effortlessly.
Perhaps one of Lau’s greatest moments as a musician came when he charmed Prince William and his wife, Kate Middleton, with his musical wizardy during their Malaysia visit in 2012. They are not the only royalty he has played for either – he performed twice in the presence of the late Sultan Azlan Shah, and even dedicated a song for the sultan’s mother on her birthday in 2008.
They say behind the success of a man, there is always a woman and for Lau, that was his mother.
“She forced me everyday to play the piano and violin,” Lau fondly recalls, feigning a childish disdain.
He adds, “I was very bad in my academics. Music was the only thing that I could pass. So my mother said I had to practice my music and not waste her money.”
When it came to choosing between the piano and the violin as his performance partner, Lau chose the latter. For him, the instrument is the closest to the voice of a human being.
“As much as I hope to be a singer, I can’t sing and the violin is my voice,” he tells.
But the rise to the top has not been easy. Lau, who founded Mosaic, a local talent and events agency, has had his fair share of failures and worse, naysayers. People have called him stupid, and dismissed his efforts as an utter waste of time. Many would have crumbled under such criticism but Lau chose to strive forward.
“You must be able to take criticism objectively, change it, capitalise on it and make it something positive,” Lau shares.
It is no wonder then that he chose the phoenix as a symbol to mark his next step forward. This man is all about perseverance, beating the odds and rising to the challenge.
“The phoenix symbolises resurrection, aggressiveness, fury, respect and rebirth. I have been doing this for 13 years and I want to take it to greater heights, which is why I chose the phoenix as a symbol for my new violin,” Lau describes.
The Phoenix Violin, a customised violin handcrafted by renowned Irish instrument maker Alistair Hay, will make its stage debut at Lau’s upcoming concert, which will also feature some of the powerhouse artistes he has collaborated with over the years, including Ning Baizura, Syafinaz, Atilia Haron, Soo Wincci and more.
Interestingly, the Phoenix Violin is Hay’s first ever violin project. His instrument of choice are guitars, one of the famous ones being The Dragon Guitar which he made for Wang Lee Hom.
The Dennis Lau & Friends: The Phoenix Rising concert will be held at the Mega Star Arena in KL on Oct 22. Tickets are priced from RM99 to RM499, and can be purchased at www.ticketcharge.com.my.