Elijah Ferrian hangs with the head of one of the biggest event sound providers in Ho Chi Minh City, Managing Director of Medusa Sound Colin Miranda. Photo by Vinh Dao.
So what brought you to Ho Chi Minh City?
I used to work as a DJ here from 1992 to 1996. That was the best time of my life, I was 23. My club was in District 10. Those days they didn’t allow any clubs in D1. There was only one club beside ours. We had a live band, 11 karaoke rooms, could pack about one-thousand people, but it was way out of the city. I was so young. I had just finished my national service. I came here for a one month trial, and ended up staying for over three years. I was just carefree.
After three months we found this pub, Apocalypse Now, a very small pub at the time in 1993. I left Vietnam in 1996, and by the time I had come back, they had really expanded into their current location. When I came back in 2006, I was trying to convince them to buy my products. Everyone was using JBL products at the time. I was persistent, and once they heard the level of quality in my equipment, they ended up buying a complete sound system from me. That was the beginning of Medusa.
Tell us what Medusa Sound Systems is all about. How did this get started?
It’s a rental, sales, and installation company that specialises in audio, video, and lighting for all kinds of events. We do a ton of different events in Saigon and outside of the city.
The Vietnam international car show. The German Ball. A lot of live shows. Nguyen Le just performed using our systems in a recent event with IDECAF (Institute of Cultural Exchange with France). We have to bring in our own system, no matter what. We don’t work with other people’s brands, strictly because we want to make the products we work with, specifically FBT, an Italian brand and PSL, an American brand, sound great!
What exactly is your role? What does a Managing Director do?
Basically I do everything. I’m in sales. I’ve been a sound tech. Now I tend to do more production-based stuff like how to set up, how to do lights. But the biggest role of all is making sure we’re in the black, and not in the red.
What’s your background in music?
Before I first came here I was a sound tech. My friend’s mother owned a club in Vietnam. They brought over my friend and I to help do sound for the club. Back then during a club that was really rolling, all I had to do was scream stuff in Vietnamese and English and everyone would throw their hands up and scream.
What was most popular at that time?
Back in 1992 you had to play the cha cha dance. No matter what. You could play three or four rock n’ roll songs, but you had to come back to the cha cha. Other than that, Joan Jett, and whatever that song is where everyone screams “Do you wanna party?!” Young guys were crazy for that song. UB40’s Red Red Wine. We even had slow dances back then. Man, things have changed.
So Medusa Sound Systems officially started when? How has the industry changed since then?
We officially started in 2006. Back when we first started you could get away with lesser-quality products, but now people want high-end sound. No matter what.
People want more professionalism now, as well. For example: our wires are always hidden, our sound console is always very clean and orderly. There’s become an expectation for order and “out of sight, out of mind.” This has actually helped our company grow up in a lot of ways. We get contracts with hotels now that have done work with other companies, and they are impressed by the cleanliness of our operation. It’s really nice to see this.
Your staff seems to be pretty large, and quite diverse in age. What’s the story with your guys? Do they love doing this kind of work? Is it just another job to them?
Most of my staff has been with me for 7 or 8 years. Most of them started with me at around age 21 or so, and now they are going on 30. About sixty-percent of these kids I employed years ago are still with me. I think a lot of my staff are impressed by our change and growth. It makes me proud. They work hard, and I really appreciate them. On an average week we have fourteen to eighteen shows. We do big or small, it doesn’t have to be concert size always. We keep our business diverse, but we are always busy. I have to be able to rely on my staff, and I can. That’s so huge when running any business.
Ever had anything go horribly wrong during an event?
There was this show we did awhile back on Cham island. One of my friends gave the job to me. We asked them whether we had boats to get out there and everything, because obviously we had the gigantic speakers and all of this equipment. We show up and there’s the tiniest motorboats you’ve ever seen waiting for us. So we had these gigantic speakers to take across the ocean to get to this island. Which sucked, but surprisingly went fine.
We finally got everything set up after hours of this back and forth to the coast and back to the island with more equipment. I’m on this windy beach screaming louder and louder, trying to do the sound check. At the last moment I realize much too late that multiple stacks weren’t tied down, and of course three stacks of huge, expensive speakers collapsed into this pool. That’s when I found out speakers float.
I thought we were ruined. The speaker wires were disconnected. There was water sloshing around in the speakers. We reconnected everything, crossed our fingers, and it was a miracle that for whatever reason everything still worked. That’s how I learned my lesson: always check, then double check that equipment is tied down.
What are future plans for Medusa?
I would like us to be involved in more installation projects. Rental is doing fine, and I hope to improve that, but I would love to get bigger clubs and contracts interested in having high-end audio systems installed by a company that not only has the know-how, but actually cares to maintain and educate their clients on why this is such an important investment. We are reliable. We are on time. Which is something hard to find here. Our installs, and most of our projects we give a warranty for three years. That’s a pretty long warranty. We are just confident in our systems, because we know that they are nearly impossible to break down. We put a lot of time and thought into our projects. I get positive feedback about my guys on a weekly basis, and I make sure to share that with them. We are proud of what we do.