What do your kids love to do? Pay attention, because their hobbies might become their future career. For That Papa Kelvin Avon, music has always been a passion. Today, he is one of the worlds most successful music producers and songwriters. Returning to his Asia roots with his family, music continues to be a big influence in their house. The father of two talks to us about defining moments as a parent, meeting his idol, and East meeting West in the music world.
The age of 12 proved to be a big year in the life of Kelvin Avon. Little did he know it then, but a chance meeting at a Repulse Bay beach party would introduce him to his future wife. It was also the year that he made the decision to focus his thoughts on becoming “Kelvin the hopeful Music Producer”, a turning point that would define his future career.
Fast forward to the present day and Kelvin is a multi-platinum selling music producer, songwriter and music engineer. In 2011 he founded Mo Fo Music Ltd in Hong Kong, which focuses on music production, artist management and music publishing. Having grown up between the 852 and London, Kelvin has an ear for East and West sounds, and has worked with some of the biggest artists across the globe.
But his greatest achievement came when his two children were born, for in that moment his whole world shifted on its axis. We’re lucky to meet the man himself and get tips on parenting teenagers, how to make it in the tough music industry, plus, we find out who is really in charge of the stereo in his house!
Tell us a bit about yourself. How old were you when you realised that you loved music? Who or what inspired you?
Music was always a part of my life. Although my parents were not musicians, my dad was and still is an avid music lover and collector. Through his massive catalogue of music I was introduced to a vast array of music from a young age. I started learning the trumpet at age 6 but ultimately gave it up as I wanted to make music not perform it. So I guess around age 12, Kelvin the hopeful Music Producer was born.
At what point growing up did you realise that you wanted to focus your career on music? How did that unfold and how did your family support that dream?
It did take some time for me to start to take it seriously, I went to school in Hong Kong and the school in question, diplomatically put, was not supportive of the creative arts. So after what I will call an “interesting time” at high school,
“I ended up doing a Business and Finance Degree in London. Within the first month I knew I had made a mistake and had soon dropped out – much to my parent’s horror!”
Both my parents were accountants and had assumed I would follow a similar career path as them. Initially they were upset that I had dropped out but they soon became my biggest supporters once they realised how serious I was about music.
What words of advice do you have for youngsters who share the same musical passions?
The word I use the most is “Perseverance”. A career in music, especially in the creative side, is very tough and, no matter what the TV tells you, there is no such thing as overnight success.
The second word I use is “Resilience”. The music business is brutal to creatives, so if you cannot take criticism well then I guarantee this is not the career path for you. Other than that I’d tell them to get a good lawyer and a good accountant, buckle up and hustle, hustle, hustle.
You work between London and Hong Kong. What brought you and your family to the 852? What are the benefits of raising kids in both cities?
I was actually raised in Hong Kong so I have a long history with this city. My wife was also raised here and all her family are based in Hong Kong. After 13 years in London together our first daughter was born and my wife, Jen, wanted to raise her near her grandparents. My parents already had 7 grandkids by then so I couldn’t really argue with her logic.
Let’s talk more about your family! How did you meet your wife, Jen? Was it love at first sight?
I have known my wife since I was 12 years old when I went to a beach party at Repulse Bay and met her there. Let’s just say, we didn’t like each other much so no it was not love at first sight! We were also at the same high school although in different circles of friends. But after school, and after I had dropped out of college, I came back to Hong Kong to visit my parents and we were ‘set up’ by 2 good friends…that was 27 years ago and we are still going strong.
How do you and your wife share parenting roles? Do you both adapt skills from work to your parenting style?
I would say my wife and I’s parenting style is fairly relaxed, we are both creatives and don’t work normal 9 to 5 hours. I think our key thing is to treat each other as you would like to be treated i.e. respect, honesty, and integrity. My work persona and home persona are a little different, I am much tougher in work than at home, and I think my wife is the opposite to me.
You have two awesome daughters. Are they into music? Or are they moving to their own beat?
They both love music and I think that is because my wife and I would always play music around the house or in the car.
“When they were young I had a rule that in the car it is mum and dad’s music only. I did this to try and give them a musical education outside what their friends are listening to.”
My kids love soul, 80’s and 90’s music, as well as modern music as well. However, I do not think either of them are looking to follow in the footsteps of their Dad and go into music.
The music industry is known for being challenging at times and difficult to break into. Would you encourage your kids to work in the same field if they want to?
That’s a hard question. I want my kids to pursue a career that they are passionate about. If that ends up being in music then so be it. However, I will admit I would prefer that they didn’t. As I mentioned before, the music industry is quite brutal and cut-throat. The upside if they did pursue a career in music is that they would have a Dad that is very knowledgeable and connected within the industry to help them out.
You’ve managed to break down musical barriers between the East and West with your production company MoFo Music Ltd. What is the secret to your success?
I think the two words I mentioned before (perseverance and resilience) have a lot to do with. When I came back to Hong Kong in 2009,
“The industry here was adamant that I didn’t know Chinese music therefore I couldn’t make it. But I am very stubborn and nothing fires my coals more then someone telling me I can’t do something.”
Fast forward to 2011 and I was writing and producing for some of the biggest Chinese artists in the world. I just don’t give up I guess. Plus, I grew up with the Chinese language, culture and music playing on every radio station around.
Did becoming a parent change your view on the world and your work? If so, how?
Hugely, I was so selfish before I had kids, the world revolved around me. That idea was booted out the door as soon as I held my first daughter, Talia, after what was quite a traumatic birth for Jen and Talia. From that day forward, I went to the bottom of my list and everything I do now is for my family. I don’t think I would have agreed to move back to Hong Kong if we hadn’t had kids.
You’re a multi-platinum selling producer, songwriter, music engineer and artist manager. Which moments in your career stand out to you most and why?
There are quite a few, I have been fortunate to meet a few of my music idols.
“I think the one that stands out the most was being invited to have dinner and drinks with one of my icons and inspirations, Dr Dre, in 2014.”
His music production is integral to what Hip Hop has become today and I grew up listening to his music and idolising him. In my job you meet a lot of famous people and I have grown used to it and do not get starstruck, but meeting him I became a starstruck 14 year old again.
Which moments as a parent stand out to you most and why?
The birth of both my kids. I’m not ashamed to say I blubbed like a baby myself when they were born! The typical first words, first steps are all moments. But watching my daughters grow and mature is amazing as well. As much as COVID was tough on my work I spent more time with my kids then ever, and I loved it.
We’re guessing that music plays a big role in your household! Who is in charge of the stereo at home and what do you all listen to?
Not me for sure! There is a diverse array of music tastes in my house, but I would say at home it is my youngest, Myla, who rules the stereo and I’m happy to hand it off – I do music all day. But nowadays with devices and headphones, the house is sometimes full of people just walking around listening to their own music.
Your girls are heading into the tween and teenage years. How are you adapting to that? Any words of advice for fellow parents?
I’m not! My advice would be buckle up hahaha!
Listen. Not to what they are saying but sometimes what they are not saying or saying inbetween the lines.
You don’t need to always do things with the kids. People in Hong Kong are constantly out and on the go but sometimes the most bonding times with your kids are simply just in the car or in the supermarket.
Be the role model you want your kids to be. Kids, especially teenagers, don’t listen but they watch and imitate you all the time so don’t just talk the talk but walk the walk.
What’s coming up for Kelvin Avon and MoFo Music? We saw your virtual music artist Buster Sylvester! Tell us more about him?
Yes!! Buster Sylvester my iDNA (Interactive Digitally Native Artist), I just finished the pilot to his reality TV show. But he will be in the Metaverse, holograms, social media, as well as releasing music on Spotify. I’m very excited about him as this is a kind of entertainment that has not really been done before.
The buzz word people are using now is “Metatainment”. You can check him out at his website for now. It’s still early but stay tuned as he will be launching towards the end of the year.
You’ve worked with some great artists over the years, Erykah Badu, P. Diddy, Shola Ama and Jamelia to name just a few. Were there any divas in the mix?
Haha…that would be telling! Everyone was great. However there was one very famous artist that ended up walking out of the session. No names though!
Which names in the music industry here in Hong Kong or Asia should we be listening out for?
A lot of the very interesting artists in Asia are coming out of Mainland China, however with current restrictions it has been hard to find out more or see them live. I like 9m88 from Taiwan, she is very interesting and I was keen to sign her. I also worked with a rapper called Blow Fever from China last year and he was very talented.
What’s the best piece of advice your parents gave to you?
Never go to bed angry. That is gold. I’ve been married 24 years this year and we’re still going strong and I think that was a key piece of advice.
The other one is count to five before you speak, that one has been a lifesaver in business, especially.