Defying Boundaries: The Year that Defined Gaston Pong

Every artist experiences a breakthrough in their career – a moment that shapes the path for what lies ahead. This is the year that defined Gaston Pong. 

Gaston Pong: Harper's BAZAARMan Malaysia
Sleeveless knit top with Astero Dior motif and grey trousers from DIOR MEN.

Stepping into the studio, it was clear that Gaston Pong was not any ordinary musician. Much like the seasoned performer he is, his connection with the camera was undeniable, portraying him as a true virtuoso of self-expression. As we changed between looks and shifted hairstyles, we sat down with the star as he shared his musical journey from the very start.

Where it all began.

Gaston Pong: Harper's BAZAARMan Malaysia
Poncho by FENDI.

Gaston’s journey began when he was two years old after a visit to a bustling mall. It was here where he had a life-changing experience after being drawn to the music playing. “I remember walking around One Utama with my mum and being really attracted to the melodies… I kept pulling her to take a closer look,” he reminisces. A door of opportunity swung open, and the adorable toddler found himself stepping onto a stage that would become a defining facet of his formative years. Childhood for Gaston was anything but ordinary. He signed onto a children’s record label and became fully immersed in the world of music. Nursery rhymes and festive harmonies became his constant melodic companions. But as with many childhood stars, the curtain fell as Gaston grew older, leaving the stage of his young stardom behind.

As the young Gaston focused more on the practices of school, music, like a loyal muse, found him once again. At the age of fifteen, his fingers found themselves on the keys of a piano, re-igniting his love for the arts. There was something exceptional about Gaston’s relationship with music, a natural talent that flourished. With a talent for playing by ear, he has the ability to put together melodies that instinctively flowed from his soul and exploration into the realm of sound with his imagination.

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Gaston’s entry into the entertainment world surprisingly did not begin with music. Instead, after studying mass communications in college, he kickstarted his journey as a marketing intern at a record label. After spending six months working behind the scenes, it gave him a unique perspective on the industry. Then, it hit him. Why not team up with his sister JE Pong? Who was already an established artist.

“Why are we chasing dreams on different paths when we could be comrades and help each other out?” he said. With curiosity guiding him, Gaston proposed the idea of working together, pooling their talents instead of pursuing separate paths. And just like that, a powerful partnership in Pong2 was born.

Covid-19 and Going Solo.

Gaston Pong: Harper's BAZAARMan Malaysia
Medusa Biggie Overshirt from VERSACE paired with the Meta goggle-style frame sunglasses from Gentle Monster.

After crafting a handful of songs, Gaston’s musical talent caught the right eye, leading to an exciting opportunity in Beijing, China. He dedicated himself to practice and preparation while nailing every audition and clinching a promising contract. However, just when he was about to spread his wings, Covid-19 threw a curveball. Putting his plans on hold, Gaston was left feeling stuck and discouraged. Yet, like a silver lining in the storm, came the astonishing news – his track “Ring Ring Ring” struck a chord with listeners, amassing a staggering 1.9 billion streams in China. Despite achieving success, Gaston faced criticism and hurtful comments, accusing him of pretending to be someone he’s not.“At the peak of my moment, I had the craziest backlash. People accused me of not wanting to be Malaysian because I was signed in China. People would tell me to cut my IC.” Amid the joy of his achievement, these negative voices highlighted the challenges he faced on his creative journey, showing the very real and relatable struggle of pursuing one’s dreams in the face of doubters.

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White puffer jacket, black trousers and loafers from the PRADA.

As the saying goes, every downhill has an uphill. Following the conclusion of his contract, Gaston felt a strong urge to craft something that would resonate with people back home. Turning to TikTok, he discovered a platform that allows him to express himself by singing in various languages and engaging in activities that held personal significance. Through this creative journey, he not only forged connections but also embarked on a voyage of self-discovery, unravelling the essence of his identity as an artist. “I realised I like authentic things. I like real emotions, whether it be anger or sadness. I feel like previously I couldn’t express myself fully.” 

What’s Next?

Looking ahead, Gaston envisions the evolution of Pong Entertainment. Drawing from his own early experiences and remembering times of uncertainty, he contemplates moments when he was unsure of his direction. “I aspire to share the wisdom I’ve acquired with fellow enthusiasts who hold the same passion,” he stresses. For emerging artists, striking the right balance can be tough – it’s about embracing trends without losing your authentic self.

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Gaston Pong: Harper's BAZAARMan Malaysia
Blouson with contrasting piping jacket, trousers and shoes from FERRAGAMO paired with the black and red Paso 01 from Gentle Monster.

As our cover shoot came to an end, Gaston hinted at an upcoming album to be released at the end of the year. We later asked the singer and songwriter whether he had any advice for any emerging artists in Malaysia’s music scene. “If you really want to be independent, you really need to know your game. My advice for new artists is to try to do what the market wants but always put your own twist. This allows people to see you first. Because without that, you don’t have the essence of who you are, and that’s the most important thing”.

To find out What’s In Store, check out Ten Fun Facts about Gaston Pong –  What’s Next and More.

Creative Director: Abdul Aziz Draim

Creative Director, Digital & Special Project: Nisa Halid

Artistic Director: Khai Ramli

Digital Director: Amalina Anuar

Concept, Creative Direction & Styling: Hazim Ashraf

Cover Story: Hazim Ashraf

Stylist’s Assistant: Ashley Marie Lazaroo

Hair: V V Chan

Make-up: Japhet Bong

Photographer: Wicky Wong of New Storyboards Production

Photographer’s Assistant: Ziv of New Storyboards Production