Hip-hop legend Dr. Dre has just swung by Hong Kong to promote his Beats By Dr. Dre headphones line. Just before his much-hyped dragon-i gig with Snoop Dogg and Jazzy Jeff, Andrea Yu sits down with the rapper extraordinaire, as well as Jimmy Iovine (head of Interscope Records) and Luke Wood (president of Beats) to find out more about these illustrious headphones – and the rap star’s long-awaited new album. We certainly didn’t forget about Dre…
So, it’s your first time in Hong Kong… how come it took you guys so long to get here?
Luke: Well I’ve been here four times this year.
Jimmy: When you work as much as we do, you don’t get much time off. To come here, you need at least a week. And that’s hard to work out.
Dr. Dre, I must admit that your fans here in Hong Kong are really eager to hear when the new album is coming out.
Dr. Dre: [pause] Well, right now I’m just taking a small break to come out and do some promotion with Beats but actually I’m getting back on it when I get home.
Can you give us any word on when we might see it?
Jimmy: Well, you know, the thing is with Dre – we were talking about it today and [hesitates], he’s not gonna put it out until it’s right for the fans. It’s fan-driven. He’s a real perfectionist.
Dr. Dre: It has to feel good.
Do you think that it’s possible to achieve perfection in the studio?
Jimmy: We don’t want to live on the album for this interview. This is more for Beats.
Okay, I understand. But Dr. Dre, do you have any response to that before we move on? If, especially with the work that you’re doing now – do you think you can achieve perfection?
Dr. Dre: Occasionally [laughs].
So, moving on to Beats, because I know that’s why you’re all here right now. Do you think the Asian market has different needs for the way we listen to music?
Jimmy: It’s all about authentic feel. There’s a feel that happens in the studio, and a sound. The sound is a combination of capturing what actually was mixed in the studio. Most producers mix on similar curves. A lot of studios in the world are all to a similar curve and that produces a certain playback. So the producer mixes to that playback. And these headphones are made to service that – to get the authentic feel out of the music.
Jimmy: Now, you can’t get that feel out of a $1 headphone. So when you buy a $400 mp3 player and $1 headphones, it gets clogged. So, I don’t care where you are. I don’t care if you’re on the moon. You want the feel of the record to be authentic. And we’ve lost it − almost two generations – to bad sounds. Because everyone thought the iPod must have had a good headphone when it didn’t. People said: “Oh I have to have the white headphone.” Well, that white headphone didn’t sound great. The mp3 player sounded great but the headphone is there to see if the thing works. Then you go and get a pair of decent headphones. Yes, everyone in the world, you want good-feeling headphones. Beats is good for anyone.
Did you have much of a chance to listen to the music coming out of the Asian market before you came here?
Jimmy: We haven’t before… there’re a lot of people that really care about music here. This is Hong Kong, not Seoul. I haven’t met the people in Hong Kong yet but the people in Singapore and Seoul are very, very passionate. And I’m sure they are here as well about growing and understanding… so anything is possible.
Have you had a chance to listen to Cantopop?
Jimmy: I haven’t. Luke?
Luke: No, I haven’t. But we spent a lot of time on K-Pop.
What are your opinions on K-pop, then?
Luke: I think it’s great, personally. Only because I think it’s authentic and it’s emotional. It’s exciting. It’s vibrant. It travels.
Jimmy: You could feel the dreams on the records. You can feel everybody’s hopes and dreams and the musicians’ hopes and dreams. You can feel it on the record. When you have that, anything is possible.
Dr. Dre: They pay real close attention to detail.
Dr. Dre: Right. That’s the thing about them.
You’re pretty much in the home country of piracy and fake goods. You see a lot of people in the markets here selling fake Beats items here. Does it make you feel a bit chuffed or flattered that people are trying to reproduce your products?
Jimmy: It’s like buying a fake carrot.
Buying a fake… carrot?
Jimmy: Yes. The quality is so horrible on those headphones, the bootlegs. Why are you buying Beats? You’re buying Beats so you can have great feel and great sound. Those bootlegs sound terrible. So all you’re buying there is to wear a shiny thing around your neck.
Luke: We truly think it’s tragic. You’re not getting any of the sound experience that you deserve as a fan.
Jimmy: It’s unfair to the consumer. It’s really unfair – they think they’re getting the real thing and they’re getting something so inferior.
Do you think it’s a sign that the Beats products have become a status symbol?
Luke: It’s a great club to be a member of.
Jimmy: I want to make something clear. When Dre said ‘I’m taking a break’, he meant one week. He’s here one week. That’s the break. He goes back to the studio on Monday.
Well, that’s very good to know. Thanks so much for your time.
All: Thank you