Dale Edward Chung
1. What is your name and your profession(s)? Dale Edward Chung aka D. Edward (singer), Musician, Producer, Singer, Songwriter, Actor, Production Sound Mixer, Filmmaker
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? Chinese American. Born and Raised in Oakland and Berkeley California
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? My parents Mother, Father, Stepfather and brothers were all music appreciators. My stepfather played a little harmonica but that was something he kept as a more private thing. I do have his chromatic Hohner harmonica that I need to get restored.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies. I grew up in Oakland and Berkeley in the 70s, 80s and 90s. My schools were multicultural as were my friends. I grew up very “American” as I am fifth generation in this country. I would say we blended our Chinese culture with “American” culture. I never gave it a second thought that my family’s blend wasn’t “American” culture. My mother would sometimes cook Chinese food but also spaghetti and hamburgers, if you know what I mean. My mom was a foodie. She used to watch Julia Child, Martin Yan and Jacques Pepin on PBS. To me growing up American meant were we part of the cultural melting pot of what this country is supposed to be. I grew up very multicultural. We shopped and ate in Chinatown and as well as places that weren’t Chinese.
I was aware of racism and feeling like as a Chinese American, I wasn’t sure sometimes how I fit into popular culture because the images and influences that looked like me were almost never included or were in roles that I knew I didn’t want to aspire to with one big exception, Bruce Lee.
There was a time when I didn’t look to Asians as being the standard of beauty. It was my own self-discovery that lead me to flip that perspective in my mind. I remember thinking “OMG! What have I been missing?!”
We didn’t speak Chinese at home. My mom didn’t speak it. My stepfather did, but not at home because there was no one to speak it to.
I’ve been asked the question “Where are you from?” so many times over my lifetime. I really dislike that question. I never grew up feeling like an “other” but that question usually implies that. I always answer with Oakland but that is rarely what they mean. I also know that some people ask that as a way of trying to connect but because I’m American 100%, I’m always taken aback initially when I get that question. It’s the follow up questions that help me determine the intent of the person asking.
My family members were some firsts for Chinese in America. My ancestors were one of the founding Chinese families in the Monterey Bay area in the 1860s. We didn’t work the railroads. We didn’t come through Angel Island because it didn’t exist as the immigration prison, I mean “facility” back then. My ancestor, Jung San Choy, was a fisherman and he polished abalone shells. They had the first souvenir stand on 17 Mile Drive in Carmel called Pescadero back then. He came here with his mother and wife. My aunt was one of only two female pilots to fly for the US military in WWII. My oldest uncle is said to have been the first Chinese CPA in California. My grandmother was a welder in WWII in Richmond Ca collectively those women were known as “Rosie the Riveters”. She was also a single mother of six very young children during the Depression because my grandfather died young. My grandmother passed when I was very young but we had the pride of being these notable Chinese Americans. I also grew up around strong women with my aunts and mother. I think I carry my family’s warrior spirit within me.
The first time I remember a racist encounter was when I was about 10 years old, a white man asked me a question by saying “Hey Chang…” and because I was so young, I thought “How does he know my last name?” I thought he just mispronounced Chung. It wasn’t until I was much other that I realized he was a racist. I have been called all the anti-Chinese names there are, since that time. I have been looked at as the timid emasculated Asian man more times than I care to acknowledge and it’s probably the reason why I got into so many fights on the street and in school growing up.
In the end, I grew up happy, loved, with friends and always felt lucky to be where I was at any given moment but I am a fighter.
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? As far as, Chinese or Asian, I feel 100% connected because I am. Although, there is so much I don’t know about being Chinese from China but I know my family’s history in this country and some of my family’s history in China. My goal now is to represent as a Chinese, or Asian, American in the entertainment business so that others will know that you can be Asian and be fully accepted as someone to aspire to and to break that preconceived “other” notion about us. This also means being the shot caller. We must be in front representing and the only way to make that happen properly is to also be in control of creating that image. So in this way it’s a 100% connection.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)? I grew up in a family of music appreciators. When I was in elementary school there was music in schools. As a kid, I used to write the lyrics of R&B Soul songs I heard on the radio in a notebook and pretend I wrote them (I know, weird). I started taking piano lessons at 14 and then I had a dream I was on stage playing congas so I convinced my mom to buy/rent a set of congas and bongos and then I started taking conga lessons at 15 or 16. I became the conga drummer at Berkeley High School for the Afro Haitian dance classes and Jazz band while also playing in bands with friends. I originally started as a music major in community college, then a classmate, who was a touring musician with a big artist suggested taking business classes because I needed to know how to read contracts and account for my money. What he said made sense to me. I eventually transferred to Cal State Hayward as a Marketing major because that’s what colleges do. They direct you to completing a goal of getting a degree in something, but the business major was always about applying it to the music business.
6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now? I decided in high school that music was what I wanted to do for a living but I think that dream existed in me long before. It took a long time for me to make it happen full time. My mother fully supported that goal. She used to tell me, “Whatever you do be the best at it and don’t expect me to visit you in jail” lol.
2002 was when I decided to quit my regular job take a leap into music fulltime. I remember I sat on the porch with my mom and told her that I wanted to quit my (good paying) job and pursue music as a fulltime career. I knew she was the only person that would be honest with me about it. Her response was “If you feel that strongly about it you should go for it and if you need financial help, before you touch your own money, I have a little money saved I might be able to help you with.” I quit my job a month later. It was struggle because I had no real plan as to how I was going to do it but I put it in the Universe. She passed away in 2003 and that really became my make it or break it moment. I still feel her spirit supporting me now.
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? At this moment, being a 2019 Latin Grammy winner as a producer and artist, probably tops the list, that was with a band called The Lucky Band. I’ve won some other awards in music but not on that level...yet. I was nominated with them again in 2020. So that was great thing that happened during quarantine.
Before that, I was a member (percussionist) of the legendary band, Con Funk Shun, from 2003 – 2016 touring the world and playing at venues like the Greek Theater, Chicago Theater and at up to 20,000 seat venues. I was also on their 2015 release More Than Love which made it to #23 on Billboard.
I’m also proud of my solo career as a singer songwriter producer even though the success hasn’t been huge I’ve had a music video premiere on Magic Johnson’s TV Network Aspire TV. That video/song was “Love Is” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zp6UyjnjCfw and another called “Show Me” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SjrSeGPxVgM was added to MTV and VH1’s online format. We toured a bit too.
I’m also the house percussionist at the Whisky A Go Go for the Ultimate Jam Nights which has been a huge blessing since I moved to LA in 2017. It’s been on hold because of the pandemic of course.
On a non-music related note, I also starred in a SAG Award winning film many years ago, so I’m technically a SAG Award winner. It’s called Unspoken, which was about Korean American and African American social issues in the late 90s. It also won an NAACP Award.
Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse. Bandleader, Vocals, Percussion, Keyboards, Composer, Producer: D. Edward: “Little Red Box”, “Love Is”, “There She Goes”
Producer and Percussionist: Latin Grammy winning The Lucky Band/ Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band: “Made in LA”, “Adelante”, “Buenos Diaz”, “Hold Tight, Shine Bright”
Percussion: Taylor Swift - “Me featuring Brendon Urie (Robert Eibach remix)”; Con Funk Shun - More Than Love; Katja Rieckermann - “Daniel”; Coconut Creek & Lonnie Park - “Time to Change”; David Longoria - “A Better Place”; Terry Bradford, Live at the Napa Valley Opera House; Liz Kennedy; “Hike Up Your Socks”
Composer: Cherry Picking (film); Baby on the Way (film)
8. Describe to me your dream project. I would love to put together a band of badass mostly AAPI musicians to create, record and tour. Another would be working with Quincy Jones in any capacity. And continuing my own, D. Edward Band which has been on hold since I moved to LA 4.5 years ago because I’ve been blessed to have been busy but stay tuned.
9. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry? I’ve always been one to try and “break through” the barriers and be like water in that, if there’s a crack I’ll figure out a way in. I have been considered “other” more times than I care to count. I don’t know if that was an obstacle however. I’ve faced my share of prejudice but I don’t know if that really kept me from progressing. I am aware that the music and entertainment world can be very narrow minded when it comes to AAPI representation. I created the “D. Edward” moniker and didn’t put my picture on my first R&B vocal album because I wanted people to hear the music without any preconceived notions based on being an Asian American.
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? First and foremost, I would have to say, Raul Rekow. He was Santana band’s conga player for almost 50 years until he had to leave the band because of his health. As a conga player myself, I grew up very intently listening to him on records. Sadly, he passed a few years ago. He was Filipino American.
R&B/Pop singer from the 80s named Gerry Woo. I remember him because he was literally the first AAPI singer in that genre that had a Billboard charting hit song. He just seemed to disappear, so I did a little research recently and he changed his name to Harlem Lee and tried to restart his music career even won a major TV show contest and then pretty much got cheated out of his new identity and career. Very disturbing but not surprising given the biz.
Another would be a keyboard player named Philip Woo. I remember reading his name on the backs of album covers. He was the keyboard player with Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Roy Ayers and he’s on hundreds of other recordings. I finally met him at a Con Funk Shun show in Tokyo, where he now lives, a few years ago.
And also David Lee Spradley, (born Lee Seung Chang), who is Korean American and has worked in R&B, Funk and Jazz for over 30 years. He is one of the composers of the song Atomic Dog by George Clinton.
Also Multi-instrumentalist/Singer/Producer Walter Ino, Viola/Composer Jayna Chou, Bassist Al Kim, Guitarist/Producer Joe Cruz, Vocalist/Filmmaker Larissa Lam
10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? My hopes for the AAPI community in music is that we continue make inroads into popular music as writers, producers, artists and executives. In general, I hope that we continue to realize that we are all in this world together and that we treat everyone equally and are treated equally. That’s not just for the AAPI community but everyone. There are untruths about all ethnicities that infects us all and we need to know this and educate ourselves and stand together to create a better world. I want us to be about inclusion not exclusion.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? I would tell him to not waste his 20s on things that don’t matter, stay focused and go get that career in the arts. It won’t just happen, you have to go get it. Also take more pictures and be a better son to your mother.
12. Do you have any upcoming projects for which you are excited and about which you are allowed to share? Is there anything non-music-related on the horizon about which you would like to share? Yes! I am working on releasing my own new music soon after a 6 year hiatus. I’ve been working on a lot of other artists’ music. I’m currently developing the music videos into a short film format that we will be submitted the film festival circuit. The film/music videos will focus on AAPI contributions, struggles and triumphs in the entertainment/music business. I’m really excited about this because it encompasses my musical side along with my filmmaking side.
I am also in the development stages of producing a feature film as part of a production team of AAPI women that features Filipino lead characters. The script it great and we are looking for funding now.
I have a few other musical “irons in the fire” as well as acting projects coming, plus I’m always creating so stay tuned…
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate. I come from a family with an activist/political background. My aunt was in local and national politics so I am passionate about fighting for equality and justice for all people of color and the disenfranchised. I’m also an actor and filmmaker so I am very passionate about that and I try to circle it back to my activism through AAPI and POC representation.
14. Any final thoughts? (non-self-promotional). Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community? Thank you so much for asking me to be a part of this very important discussion. I’m looking forward to discovering more stories and expanding my AAPI music and creative community.
When are we writing a song together, Summer?
Spotify: D. Edward
YouTube: Dale Edward Chung
Photos provided by Dale Edward Chung