It is always inspiring when people take charge of what they want. When you see someone never give up, it makes you feel like you can do the same. That is exactly what Malaysian born musician Stewart Sellan did.
Sellan was not did not have an opportunity to study music formally. He continued his education as an engineer, but never lost his passion for music. He took lessons at church. He spent hours watching videos, teaching himself, and perfecting his craft. He took the initiative to form a band knowing that he was destined to play music for a living.
Sellan is the founding member of the successful Malaysian rock ground Beat The System. The band has gone on to have over 130,000 views on YouTube. In 2010, Beat the System was certified with Tipped to Be the Next Big Thing by the Asian Voice Independent Awards committee, and in 2012 they were awarded Song of The Year in Asian Voice Independent Music Awards for the single ‘Shine’.
“Beat The System was formed because of my strong passion in music and I always believed in what I’m writing and playing,” said Sellan.
Sellan and the band have relocated from Malaysia to New York City. The move has opened up opportunities that Sellan thought were not possible at home.
“Music scenes in Malaysia are very limited for upcoming or new bands unless they are signed under a label or well connected. Being a newly formed band, Beat The System had a tough time to get performance slots in any major gigs as most organizers would prefer established bands due to the tickets sales revenue. This situation had forced Beat the System to perform in many Battle of the Bands talent shows in order to gain recognition among the Event Organizers and to establish a name for the band itself,” he described. “This helped us to see the existing standards of other bands and helped us to improve and be competitive, subsequently always being among the top three finalist in any Battle of the Bands.”
Sellan says this experience opened doors to perform in most college events, public events and music festivals held throughout Malaysia. However, not all events were paying gigs, so the sole goal was to something gain a fan base which could help in future album sales. Throughout the years, Sellan the band was able to establish a decent amount of fan base and being recognize as top performing band in the local scene.
“I always compared us with bands for US, UK and Europe and believed our music is on par with their standards,” said Sellan.” I wanted us to venture out from Malaysia to be known among the international artists. After performances in Malaysia, a lot of people would give good reviews about the songs and live performances both by local and foreign crowds. We also had encouragement from friends, family and music related personnel to venture out from Malaysia music scene.”
One of these connections was Diana Meltzer, an American music industry executive, owner of Monster Hits. Being recognized by Meltzer is attributed to success in the industry, as she is known as the “Woman with the Golden Ears,” and she heard something from the Malaysian rock band that she knew was something special.
“Stewart’s a serious guitar player being that he gets right down to work whenever it is asked of him. Working with him is simple and straightforward, he understands his role very well and is always open to suggestions when it comes to his guitar playing,” said Meltzer.
Sellan says Meltzer guides the band to write songs that are up to industry standard, teaches the business in music industry and constantly advises on the band’s journey. He also works with the band’s producer Andy Anderson, who is known for his work with Shinedown and many more, and helped Sellan understand how to get a good guitar sound for recording. The band’s mixing engineer Damien Page Lewis, who is known for his work with Mariah Carey, Selena Gomez, Katy Perry and more, helped Sellan understand how to find a balanced sound for a good recording.
Sellan has also been influenced by bands like Nirvana, Deep Purple, Mr.Big, Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera, Stryper.
“Seeing them on live performances on TV always wanted me to do something similar,” he said.
Now, Beat The System consists of lead vocalist May Leigh, drummer and composer Gerald Sellan and composer Adrian Puan. The band has both a professional and personal relationship.
“Stewart’s idea on the guitar and bass guitar arrangements certainly makes the song unique and makes it one of a kind, it enhances the melody structure of a song. This is very important and that is why he is a big asset to Beat The System,” said Gerald Sellan.
Beat The System has released two singles this year, and is set to release their album Journey.
Check out their single Be Your Own here.