Meet Ginette Chittick, the Singapore Can-Do Indie Heroine

The DJ-bassist-artist-lecturer on why it’s important not to overthink, and just do it!

By: Yeow Kai Chai

The first thing you notice about Ginette Chittick is how open she is, and how that wonderful open-ness draws great qi and explains her catholic taste.

In less than 20 minutes, you find out:

  • she was quite sporty, being a cross-country runner and a school swimmer during secondary school;
  • she’s now into Miami Horror, a nu-disco band from Melbourne;
  • her favourite gig is the epic Cure concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in 2007;
  • and her favourite book is At Home: A Short History of Private Life, a book on the history of domestic life by Bill Bryson.

She laughs easily and puts people naturally at ease. If she is contemplating adding another feather in her cap, she may want to consider being a lifestyle guru. Asked how she manages to do it all – doing music, deejaying, visual arts, teaching, and being a mum to a four-year-old girl – she proclaims, and then unleashes that infectious laugh: “The main thing is not to overthink, and just get on with it. And while you’re in the process, just enjoy it, and then it’s done!”

Indie music fans know her first as the bassist and vocalist of Singaporean shoegaze band Astreal back in the early 1990s. Fast forward to 2019, and without making a song and dance about it, she’s quietly accrued a rather impressive and unique resume: She is a full-time lecturer and the programme leader of fashion at LASALLE College of the Arts; a DJ who spins at the Intermission Bar at the Projector; and a tapestry artist who has staged several art exhibitions.

Her next gig is to DJ at The Alex Blake Charlie Sessions come 7 Dec, and she says she will be “spinning indie, alt-rock, leftfield (but no so left)” stuff from the late 1990s till the mid-2000s and 2010s, so that it’s for everybody.

Here are 10 more things you may or may not know about Chittick, in her own words:

 

1. She has already formed a three-girl band called Zombie Kangaroos – sort of.

I’ve just returned from western Australia on an eco-tourism trip with my girls, Aarika Lee and Tracy Phillips, swimming alongside wild dolphins who were super curious! The other thing I enjoyed was The Hutt Lagoon, a salt lake which is really beautiful. There is some sort of algae in the water, that makes it pink. At different times of the day, the water will refract the light, and the colour will change from lilac to almost blue.

We took some pictures, and one can be the cover photo for the release for this new band. Tracy is our mood maker – she said she cannot sing and that she can only rile up good sentiments and good vibes. I play the bass, and do some samples. And Aarika can be the keyboardist and singer. We’re called the Zombie Kangaroos because there were so many kangaroo road-kills. It was really a road trip. We spent hours in the car, singing 1990s songs by Black Box, KLF and Neneh Cherry! 

2. The advice she would give to her daughter, Luella, is that “no really means no.”

I hope my husband and I have helped to foster independence and a confidence in her in asserting her voice, so that she could stand her ground in saying no to things she is not comfortable with.

Actually, she’s already doing that, saying, “No, I don’t want to.” And when she says no, we respect her lah. So that she knows no really means no. No is not yes, or maybe okay. Hopefully, this will help her project her voice in creative ways too.

3. Ginette is super-deprecating. In fact, her whole family is. 

We don’t openly say, “Oh yah, I’ve done this or that.” It just makes us feel uncomfortable. I don’t know, maybe it’s because we’re Asians. Or are Asians like this in general? Perhaps. I just feel like I don’t have to “big up” my stuff, it’s just annoying. (Laughs) When you do things you enjoy and people take notice, it’s because people can see how much you love it and it’s infectious energy, I guess.

4. Her advice to anyone starting out in his or her own career: “New doors open if you’re open to opportunities.”

I tell all the students and parents of potential candidates who want to join my fashion programme: “You or your child may not be working in fashion in the future, and that’s the truth, and that’s okay.”

A lot of the parents understand, and they’d go, yah, that’s true. That’s just a fact of life. If you don’t want to work in retail, you can take your transferable skill and do something else with it. It’s not like you’re a failure. I also didn’t plan my life to be that way. Things don’t usually go the way you plan, and sometimes, they open doors to something else that is very, very exciting. You open yourself to opportunities more.

5. She got into the indie scene because of doing battles in the corridor.

Sometimes, I like to sit and think about how I got here, and the people who helped me get here. I got into the indie music scene because I hung out with this friend of mine in school and we were always doing battles in the corridor. We were like, “Name indie songs worth listening to.” And the answer would be, say, “[The] Charlatans!” And he said, “Why don’t you come and hang out with my friends at TNT music studio?” I said, “What’s that?” And then we hung out and that’s how I made friends, and suddenly I’ve been in the scene for 25 years. It’s still unbelievable, just cos I said, “Let’s go hang out!” From the music scene, I met so many different people, and then I started my own fashion label. I just think I’ve been really lucky, that I have been in the right place at the right time. It’s fun to do these things. 

6. Tapestry is a different experience from her other pursuits.

Being in Astreal and having my fashion label, these are all collaborative, and never really siloed. But when I was doing my tapestry, I realised that I was alone, like being in a cocoon. You can’t bounce ideas off everybody else – which is a really big difference for me in terms of creativity, and I thought that was really, really interesting.

Because musically, I have perhaps only written one or two songs. The other songs have been collaborative efforts, and that’s what I enjoy as well. But over the years, as a lecturer and as a mother, I’ve always shared, taught and listened, and sometimes, I just want to say – shut the f*** up. I just want to be alone for a while, and quiet as well. And as a practice, tapestry is very repetitive and meditative.

7. She loves the energy of pulling people together.

I’m looking forward to playing alongside Ladies of LCD Soundsystem at The Alex Blake Charlie Sessions. Nancy Whang is like the jam, I love her! And also, my friends Vandetta and A/K/A Sounds, they’re all so inspiring and awesome. Yeah, I cannot wait!

I used to organise all-girl gigs, and was also involved in the early editions of Baybeats. Festivals like this are very exciting. I love the energy, pulling people together and generally having a good time. And the people at 24OWLS (who are organising The Alex Blake Charlie Sessions), they are the people who did the last five editions of Laneway. They have always been so nice to me, and we had such a good time there. We were so impressed that at that time, as local artists against international artists, we didn’t feel like we were treated any differently, and that was awesome.

8. Her go-to movie is Marie Antoinette by Sofa Coppola.

The female protagonist is always alone, or lonely, or has a spirit of yearning for something that she doesn’t really know, and I like that storyline. It’s always beautifully shot, and the film always accurately portrays that solitude, even though she may be surrounded by people. I like that. Only Sofia could portray it that well.

9.If she were to die and come back one day… she’d return as Kathleen Hanna from Bikini Kill.

I’d come back as Kathleen Hanna (from Bikini Kill), except for the time she kena bitten by a tick and got a very bad disease. That’s how she faded into obscurity for a while. I think she’s amazing because she’s one of the main players for the Riot Grrrl movement.

10. Guess what, she’s formed another band. It’s called COVER CHARGE!!!

It was formed a year ago, but it’s just that we’ve never jammed! It’s me and A/K/A Sounds, Robin Chua of EATMEPOPTART and DJ Kim Wong. We wanted to perform covers, but in the end, we just go to karaoke and sing!

Ginette Chittick performs at The Alex Blake Charlie Sessions on Saturday, 7 Dec, at the Pasir Panjang Power Station. Get tickets here: http://bit.ly/ABCapactix