“So for the uninitiated, here’s the X who still marks the spot.”
in 2019, (the artist formerly known as) Chris Ho was the worthy, long-overdue subject of historian Lim Cheng Tju’s deep dive into X’ Ho—X’ with an X—the radio and club DJ, musician, writer, filmmaker, cultural fighter, and my friend of the last decade. Cheng Tju’s profile and interview in Mynah Magazine, issue 3, contained the above pull quote that came to mind when X’ died of stomach cancer on 27 sep, when he was forever 27 years old (because his real age is really no one’s business).
since then, X’ himself has kept returning to my mind—not that he ever left it, really. he returns to me in dreams—i wake up with wet eyes—in waking life—when i watch a China movie he loved/loathed—in $ingapore, as he used to spell it, when i pass by eateries and toilets we had bumped into each other in, when i listen to homegrown music he sparked off, directly or through a long line of influence, when i remember his voice. that voice. his voice that i grew up on, staying up late at night to hear his shows on Perfect 10 987FM and later Lush 99.5FM; echoing in his columns for BigO and ST; ringing out clearly in his multidecade-long discography; his voice that spoke to me once we were introduced by Vivian Wang, which came through on WhatsApp, over email, through FB, IG, and most memorably in person when we hung out, like when he came over to my parents’ place and greeted my mom (a dedicated Gold 90.5FM listener, who X’ accompanied over the airwaves in recent years) so sweetly that she, a retired teacher, could naturally look past his skinhead and tattoos.
this minor memorial comes belatedly because i don’t have much to add, and it’s not really my place. X’ had many closer friends and collaborators, many of whom remember him in this surprisingly fitting and recommended tribute by CNA, "Chris Ho: No Ordinary Punk" [Also check out this podcast tribute by Ujikaji, "Outsiders"—Ed.]. most touchingly and true, in it actress and voice teacher Nora Samosir shares between tears, “he was a very gentle person…with Chris, I don’t know, I always wanted to manja him.”
i simply would like to add to the array of voices, all touched and manja-ed by X’ over the years, and say thank you X’. thank you for being our Lou Reed (heh, X’s last FB post was on the new VU docu), our John Peel (first spotlighting humpback oak, Force Vomit, and so many others), for sparking off independent thought, music, writing, and culture during an era when even long hair was verboten, in a country where to this day we are executing the mentally disabled. thank you for being a personal bastion of freedom. for your sacrifices, especially in your last decade on earth, when you showed me, without words, how you so freely gave up your lifelong dream to migrate to stay and look after your mother, how during one of my breakdowns you told me that we have to learn to accept ourselves completely despite our flaws, how it is fundamentally and ultimately worth it—to someone, somewhere, to yourself—to keep making art even if it doesn’t sustain a living, even if it brings governmental and public opprobrium, for like your music and writing and voice, it’s bigger than life, it’s longer than existence, it keeps ringing out and it keeps echoing in my and many others’ minds. one day, i hope to be as brave as you always were at forever 27.
thank you for the last playlist you played at your wake—you really never stop working, eh? thank you for the nick drake, the joni mitchell, the rickie lee jones, the hardcore punk, the electroclash, the blackest of black metal, for your classic album with ARCNTEMPL, for Zircon Lounge and Transformer, for “Deeper”, for Zircon Gov. Pawn Starz, for your “DJ Mentor's Beijing Fireworks”, Alfian Sa'at-sampling remix of one of my fave The Observatory song “Anger & Futility”, for your movies (i’m sorry i didn’t do your porn film) and documentary portraits, for your zines and books and social media, for daring to be a loner, for always being open to love, for being a true friend, first and foremost.
we will cry together at the movies, again, some other time. until then, i keep the red thread from your funeral, return it to you there. love you, miss you, manja you, always, thank you, X’.
guide these hands xxx