Five Times We’ve Failed – The Unpublished Dot Interviews That Almost Happened

Things fall apart. And you have to let go. There’s an idea for an article. Then, at some stage – the Q&A, the shoot, pressing publish – it doesn’t happen. Like Michael Jordan said: “I can accept failure. Everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying again.” In that spirit, we’re bringing back some of The Dot Magazine’s interviews from the vaults

Đọc bài viết bằng Tiếng Việt

Maybe the photoshoot concept was too outré, or there were some communication issues, or the pandemic got in the way, or we simply all just got sidetracked. We never were ones for pithy interviews where guests trotted out press-release formalities. So then us (or more often them) gave it a pass.

It’s a shame though. Because lots of the lost interviews turned in some insights into the lives of artists, chefs, content creators and designers that are too salient to keep to ourselves. As the Cranberries asked, “Do you have to let it linger?” No, we don’t. It is time to let go. So here, to clean the slate, we’re sharing excerpts from five of them. All in one go.

Thang From Ngot 

Thang operates on another plane. The prodigiously talented singer songwriter has some emo tendencies too. Combined, he doesn’t always care for interviews – preferring the music to speak for itself. And it does. So, when it came to shoot time, he kept delaying to the point where we stopped trying. But that couldn’t dim our love for his music, or the brilliance of lots of his answers to our occasionally odd questions.

Thang Ngot
Ngot’s Thang in lounge singer mode.

What was your first meaningful experience of music? 

I teared up at a good song, ‘Ngày Đầu Tiên Đi Học by Bé Trúc Tiên’, when I was four years old. My kindergarten teacher sang it to me. All kids have songs that really move them. I believe that musicians are just the kids who invested in finding out why and how the music moved them.

What’s the most underrated genre of music? And the most overrated?

I’m terrible at genres. They all seem to be a bit of a blur. Genres seem to be borne out of the effort to categorize artists. Honestly, this doesn’t bode well with a lot of artists. I feel artists would rather not be categorized. Some actively cheat this system of categorization as a source of inspiration. 

This results in the formation of subgenres, making the borderlines of genres wonderfully smudgy. I also know that there are a lot of artists and communities of which I am completely unaware. There must exist, unbeknownst to me, a club or even a cult for every genre, no matter how underrated. If I have to give a concrete answer, I suppose prog pop deserves more recognition. And I don’t deem any genre overrated. They’ve each earned their audiences one way or another.

What do you listen to secretly when no one’s around?

My own music. To see which songs I can honestly enjoy. And to boost my self-confidence! But I feel a little bit embarrassed if caught listening to my own stuff. I guess I’m afraid people will find out how much of a narcissist I can be. 

Ngot's Thang
“There must exist, unbeknownst to me, a club or even a cult for every genre, no matter how underrated.”

You have one track to make someone love music. Which track do you play them? 

This is a weird question. Like, how is it possible that someone who has listened to music doesn’t like music? If ever I find such a peculiar person, I would play him or her ‘Yesterday’ by the Beatles. This works really well. I feel its melody has high emotional value. 

And which of your own tracks would you play someone so they understand you?

‘CHUÔNG BÁO THỨC’. It’s a pretty long and random song. There is no rhyme or reason behind the lyrics. I simply wrote what came into my brain. If someone likes this, then that person must like me. 

Which song would you like played at your funeral?

I hope they play Queen’s ‘Another One Bites the Dust’ at my funeral. That’d be rad. 

Thang Ngot Band
The arty Thang from Ngot.


Let’s put this down to the pandemic. Paradise4Saigon represents the edgy street soul of the city. And 20-year-old Ping Chao is the brand’s blinking, brilliant ringleader. They’ve always had an old-school rap iconoclasm to their work too, so we asked Ping Chao about the interplay of design and music. 

Afterwards, we planned to shoot Tyler Mitchell-style in the river in District 7, with Ping Chao emerging baptized by the waters. He’s half-Taiwanese and he and the team twist and play with Vietnamese culture and iconography, so it made sense that he’d been reborn here in the rippling waters of D7. Then the pandemic hit, and it seemed dicey diving into the river in a cordoned off area of Phu My Hung, even though we contemplated it a few times.

Paradise4Saigon. And not pictured is Ping Chao…because we never did the shoot.

Who inspires you in the local creative community?

VietMax is someone I look up to very much in Vietnam. He’s just someone very respected in the art and street community. I really think he’s pushing the culture in Vietnam even further. Then there’s my homey, Saddy, who is also someone who’s super impressive. The guy’s mad. And Liar Ben’s art is also very, very interesting.

What type of music enhances your creative process? 

It’s old-school hip hop all the way. I feel like there’s always a story being told in old-school hip hop tracks. I listen when I’m painting or designing; it really helps me with my ideas and my mood. The lyrics push my creativity while I’m working. It’s all storytelling in a way, right?

You have one track to make someone love music. What do you play them? Why?

‘Time moves slow’ by BADBADNOTGOOD ft. Sam Herring. The track really seems to slow down time. It’s very different and very nice. 

What song would you like played at your funeral?

At my funeral, please just play ‘20min’ by Lil Uzi Vert. And I want people to rave to it. Suck them tears back and celebrate my life!

Is there a song or album that greatly impacted you or changed the way you experienced music after you heard it?

Easy. ‘The World Is Yours’ by Nas – perfectly articulated ambition. 

The Chillies 

This was definitely our fault. The Chillies were on the brink of indie stardom…and we asked if we could set fire to them for a photoshoot. To be clear, the shoot concept was partly a tribute to Spike Jonze’s music video for Wax’s ‘Southern California’ and also to The Red Hot Chilli Peppers famous stage show when they wore burning helmets. But it was just before Tet, and some of the band feared they’d have missing eyebrows with the family around – tough one to explain. We even offered to set fire to ourselves first to test it out. But, no. So, after completing the interview, they dipped on the shoot. Understandable. 

Who are you, what do you do, and what does music mean to you?

I’m Phuoc, and I’m the bass player for the Chillies. Besides that, I still teach music. To describe my relationship with music, I’d borrow some lines from Đen Vâu: “Âm nhạc mở lối cuộc đời anh, như là ngọn hải đăng ở trên biển.” It means music gives direction to our lives like a lighthouse.

How would your mom introduce you?

She’d say, “My son plays music very well,” I hope. 

What song would you like played at your wedding…and at your funeral?

For my wedding, our Chillies song, ‘Có em đời bỗng vui.’ And for my funeral, ‘Ưng Hoàng Phúc by’ Phan Mạnh Quỳnh which translates as something like ‘Stepping Through The World.’

Koutarou From Kiyota Sushi Sake Restaurant

This one was pre-pandemic, when restaurants and their chefs tended to keep to themselves. That’s especially true of places that were packed out without much publicity, like Kiyota Sushi Sake Restaurant. 

Plus, we’ve discovered over the years that Japanese can be hard to interview – there’s the insularity of their overseas community, their natural predilection for modesty, and also the language barrier. So, we headed over to Kiyota Sushi Sake with a translator. 

Kiyota Sushi Sake
Two chefs from Miyazaki. Half an interview.

Around the same time, Koutarou was expanding Kiyota across the street. We did the shoot with both chefs (who hail from Miyazaki). And we wanted to expand the story too,  to be about the two venues. Sometime around then, things fell apart. But the photos alone made this article a worthy endeavor. 

How do you present omakase for a predominantly Vietnamese audience?

We started out with mostly Japanese guests, then lots of Vietnamese heard about us, and our location in Pham Viet Chanh. Interestingly, Japanese people were fine eating Vietnamese fish. 

However, Vietnamese people expect to be able to try Japanese fish, especially tuna. And so we started to import that. At omakase, Japanese people are used to eating their way through sushi after sushi. But for our customers – again who are mostly Vietnamese –  we like to break up the sushi with different dishes in between. A warm dish then a cold dish, warm dish then cold dish.

Sushi Kappo Kiyota
Sushi Kappo Kiyota, across the street from the original, and highly-regarded Kiyota Sushi Sake.

What kitchen secrets do you employ to make Kiyota so beloved without much marketing?

My teacher’s name was Mr. Miyake. And he taught me everything. He recommended that I focus on Japanese cuisine because he’d always wanted to travel and work overseas, and I had the chance to vicariously live his dream. 

And there were other important teachers too, from whom I’d learned techniques like the use of salt and vinegar to improve the flavor of fish, especially for cuts of white fish like mackerel. In fact, I always order mackerel when I go to other sushi restaurants to understand the technique of the chef. 

Koutarou Kiyota
Koutarou Kiyota at Kiyota Sushi Sake.

Sonny Side From Best Ever Food Review Show

OK. Another one we should put down to the pandemic. Sonny Side, the global-gourmand, had been landlocked in Vietnam. And we’re fans of the show – who isn’t? So, with a suffocating lockdown looming, he was facing down a claustrophobic dearth of places to eat in and shoot at. The BEFRS team was keen for an interview. Then Sunny got an escape route to the US, and the shoot never happened. Fail.

Can you curate a three-course menu of the most ridiculous things you have eaten?

We’ll begin with an appetizer of raw pig’s blood in Northern Thailand’s Chiang Mai. This will be followed with a truly unique salad. A live fish salad. Actually, it’s just live fish with a piece of lettuce on top, eaten in Vietnam’s Northwest. Our main course, stingray liver. It can be steamed or it can be boiled. Honestly, it doesn’t matter ‘cause either way it’s going to be awful.  A three-course dining experience that will not soon be forgotten. 

How do you balance more extreme content getting views with producing content that’s more journalistic?

Nobody wants to be continuously lectured, so something we really value is balancing education and entertainment. It’s important that we don’t go too heavy all the time, but when we do, those tend to be the stories that can’t be ignored and need to be told. They’re the stories that we’re pulled toward. 

Sonny Side from Best Ever Food Review Show
Sonny Side the global gourmand behind the Best Ever Food Review Show.

COVID has created very strange conditions here in Vietnam. How would you describe the country today? And how has it changed the way you work?

In general, Vietnam has done a great job of coming together under one mission, which is to do whatever is needed to defeat COVID and get back to normal. 

As it relates specifically to our show, the limitation of only filming in Vietnam for more than a year has forced us to be more creative and to look deeper in our own backyard for adventures. It’s also been really rewarding for our channel that our audience is still excited about the content we’re creating. They still look forward to new episodes, even though we faced such a drastic shift from traveling to a new country every two weeks to only creating content in one country for so long. Our team knows how lucky we are that that country is Vietnam, because there truly is no limit to the interesting, unique stories to be shared here. 

What’s in your refrigerator at home?

Primarily meat, eggs, sweet potatoes, butter…and whipped cream in a can. 

You might also like

Thinh Doan Has Been Searching Saigon’s Secret Rooftops For The Perfect Shot

Thinh Doan Has Been Searching Saigon’s Secret Rooftops For The Perfect Shot

Khoa Chim Is Shining A Light On Vietnam’s Traditions For A New Generation

Khoa Chim Is Shining A Light On Vietnam’s Traditions For A New Generation

The Freckles Studios’ Securely Insecure Founder Jasmine Quyen Tran Opens Up At Wink

The Freckles Studios’ Securely Insecure Founder Jasmine Quyen Tran Opens Up At Wink

Documentary Photographer Duck Tran Picks His Three Favourite Shots

Documentary Photographer Duck Tran Picks His Three Favourite Shots


More stories

subscribe us