As the frontwoman of pioneering alt-rock band White Noiz, Ha Nguyen has been blazing a trail for women in the Vietnamese music scene. She sat with Brett Davis to discuss what it is like to be a female in the male-dominated music business, changes to the band’s line up over the years and balancing being a rocker and a part-time dentist. Photo by Vinh Dao.
How would you describe the style of music White Noiz play?
We play alternative rock. I think the thing people like most about us is our energy. Every time we are on stage we just burn. And we are different from many bands here because we play our original songs. We play some covers but also original songs. We also have songs that are very popular, like hit songs. It’s still not very mainstream, but they are very popular.
I don’t really like to compare our sound to being like another band. I think it is better if the audience tells you about that because they can feel it more. To us, we just play our songs. For example, each member of the band creates something and you make an original song. So it sounds like the mixture of all of us.
How long has the band been together? There have also been some changes in personnel over time, haven’t there?
There have been a lot of changes in the members of the band. At first, several years ago, we were an all-girl band, and we were very popular at that time because we were the only all-girl rock band in Vietnam. Then two of the girls got married and settled down and another went to study abroad. So now we only have two girls in the band and two boys.
The music business, and bands in general are quite male dominated. What is it like being a woman in the music business and fronting a rock band?
It’s awesome. It feels awesome because we are so different. For example, in a rock show, and with bands, there are so many boys, and when we come on stage the stage gets brighter. There is more beauty, you know.
Going back to the beginning, when did you first take up music?
When I was about 18, I started practicing the guitar. I never really meant to be in a band but somehow, because all the girls who play instruments know each other, we decided to make an all-girl band. Now I’m 31.
Where did the name White Noiz come from?
The name comes from one of the songs I wrote. I actually wrote it when my dogs died. I’m talking about the white noise, you know on the radio. So that is where the name comes from.
Tell me about the first public gig you did and what that was like?
Yeah, I was kind of nervous. At our first gig, we actually had about 3,000 people in the audience. I played guitar and I sang, and I was kind of nervous but the audience really loved us. It was in Nguyen Du Stadium, a big stadium and a big stage.
What about when you are not rehearsing or playing gigs, do you have a day job? How does that fit in with your music career?
I actually have another job, I’m a dentist. I work close to here [in Phu My Hung, D7]. It’s very easy to manage the two because I just work part-time as a dentist. I work three days a week, and the other days I have all my time to work on my music, practice with the band…go to interviews (laughs).
What about music heroes. Is there anyone else you particularly look up to?
Probably Joan Jett. There are women that can play instruments and play live music these days, but it is not really rock, it is other kinds of music. But you ask me about a rock ’n’ roll star, a female star, I just think about Joan Jett.
So what is in store for the future of White Noiz?
I think at the end of this year we will have a new single released and we will make a new music video. I think it is going to be big for the band. And maybe we will also be doing a tour of different cities in Vietnam.