His first interview as a young journalist was with Sammy Davis Jr and which ended in him partying with the legendary entertainer and his dancers until the next day. “I really grew up that one night”, says Sri Lankan-born Hans Ebert, Chairman and CEO of We-Enhance Inc. We-Enhance has quickly built up a strong portfolio of various music-based online properties and has also focused on the world of horse racing and has under its wing one of the mostpopular if not THE most well-read racing-themed site known as Racing b*tch and recently launched social networking site Racingbook which he describes as a “work in progress.”

As a journalist, he interviewed everyone from Music Producer Quincy Jones to film directors Roman Polanski and Martin Scorsese to musicians John Lennon and Billy Joel. “Polanski was fascinating and showed me this incredible book where the fastest gunslingers were actually black slaves and he wanted to make a very surreal Western. We had a great time, until he saw a very good looking woman at a party given in his honour and he tried to pick her up. It was my then-wife.”

From journalism and with a gift for words he became a copywriter and was then promoted to Executive Creative Director of DDBN, won his fair share of awards, and was involved in the launch of McDonald’s in Hong Kong and China plus the launch of STARTV.

Tiring of advertising and what he calls “useless clients and loads of bullshit”, he was asked to join Universal Music in Asia before leaving to take up the position of Executive Director of EMI Music Asia and what he calls “even more bullshit and eventually creatively unchallenging.”

Seeing that EMI and other music companies were lagging behind consumers and that the “tail was wagging the dog without the dog knowing,” he formed music marketing company We-Enhance Inc.

“Actually, the idea was to create a different EMI Enhance office as a separate profit centre in every region, ” he explains, “but the then co-Chairmen were struggling to keep their jobs and weren’t ready for anything that bold. They just said that I should start it in Asia and see what happens which meant they totally didn’t get the idea of this global exchange of ideas and inter-action between the Creatives- and there were very few- in the company.”

The word “Enhance” had been drummed into Ebert by Tim Clark, Manager of singer Robbie Williams.

“Tim was feared by EMI but we got along and he kept telling me how the music company could not ‘enhance’ Robbie’s career, how it could not ‘enhance’ any of the sponsorship deals, how it didn’t have the people to ‘enhance’ anything. And so, ‘enhance’ became my mantra for the day and which, I guess, it still is today.”

“Actually, the idea was to create a different EMI Enhance office as a separate profit centre in every region, ” he explains, “but the then co-Chairmen were struggling to keep their jobs and weren’t ready for anything that bold. They just said that I should start it in Asia and see what happens which meant they totally didn’t get the idea of this global exchange of ideas and inter-action between the Creatives- and there were very few- in the company.”

The word “Enhance” had been drummed into Ebert by Tim Clark, Manager of singer Robbie Williams.

“Tim was feared by EMI but we got along and he kept telling me how the music company could not ‘enhance’ Robbie’s career, how it could not ‘enhance’ any of the sponsorship deals, how it didn’t have the people to ‘enhance’ anything. And so, ‘enhance’ became my mantra for the day and which, I guess, it still is today.”

 

SH: You seem more driven these days. Are you?

HE: Am I? And I don’t even have a car! Guess after one too many years of trying to make someone else happy and listening to her daft ideas, I am now focusing on myself and my ideas and living the life I want to live. I feel that a very dark cloud has been lifted and I am not surrounded by a half-filled glass that keeps tipping over me all the time. The glass is now half-full and that long, dark journey into hell is over. I jumped off the moving train, but should have jumped off a year earlier. Still, better late than hanging about ‘cos of a warped idea of a comfort zone.

SH: What are your plans for Fast Track?

HE: First of all, I am extremely proud of what is now only a website as it is less than a year old and our “views” and traffic have been great. It might seem like we have an army of people working for us, but it’s a small, productive team. Yes, I have plans for it and which hopefully takes the site to other areas of social media and new technology and have had a number of proposals from people who want to work with us. I just need to see who can really walk the talk and those who trip over their empty words. It’s like anything in life- finding the right people or person to be around- and enjoy being around.

SH: When did you get so interested in the marketing of horse racing?

HE: Around ten years ago and when with EMI Music and seeing music companies going nowhere and technology over-taking it. I remember talking to our then worldwide Chairman about global partnerships with racing clubs and he thought I was nuts. He didn’t or refused to see that racing clubs have the infrastructure in place, they have the venues and they, too, are after the same consumer demographic. Of course, many who run jockey clubs are not the brightest light bulbs in the building either, but I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Winfried Engelbrecht-Bresges who is the CEO of the Hong Kong Jockey Club, (pictured below). He totally gets The Big Picture and a holistic way of working. I’m not kidding when I say that if Guy Hands (the head of private equity company Terra Firm which purchased EMI at the “wrong” price) hired Winfried and made him Chairman, EMI would not have gone bankrupt.

Getting back to jockey clubs, though many are ringing bells of doom for the industry, I am very sure that there will always be a market for racing, but the perception of racing must change and all these newbies to the sport need to actually understand how to play the game to win, forget tipsters and create their own betting systems with all the new technology at their disposal. Even with this, the HKJC is way ahead of other racing clubs and they will very soon understand what and how this will happen. Some might say, “Yeah, I thought of that before”. Yeah, but you did nothing about it, you dolt! Like I said, it all comes back to those who can walk the talk.

SH: Do you bet and do you have many friends in horse racing?

HE: Sure, I like to have a bet, but not in the reckless way I once did. Friends in horse racing- especially jockeys and trainers- is something of an oxymoron. My only real jockey friend is someone I have known for over 18 years. He’s not a well-known jockey, but “Painey”- Neil Paine- is the best judge of horses I know and even though he now lives in Sydney, we talk to each other at least once a day. I trust him with my life and I’m sure he knows I’ll be there for him whenever and wherever he needs me. Jeez, that sounded pretty gay- not that there’s anything wrong with it. He’s a 100%, has a great family and is quite mad.

SH: Under We-Enhance, you own Fast Track and also Racingb*tch and the newly-launched Racingbook. What are your plans for them?

HE: They’re all part of the whole and each inter-acts with each other. Racingb*tch started off as a labour of love with a few mates from Oz and Hong Kong and has now grown to be the most read racing blog or site or whatever the hell it has become. We’ve taken our time with it as it’s all about timing and the time is now right to turn things up a notch. We’ve had people who want to buy it, but it’s not for sale. Hell, we haven’t even started to do what we planned to do with it.

SH: What are your plans?

HE: Those are kept under wraps. Ideas are your future and ideas which are soon to become reality are what drives someone to look at things differently and not over-think something to death, but to just do it when all the pieces come together and you truly believe everything fits. Talking about something that hasn’t happened is like premature ejaculation. It can get very messy.

SH: Speaking of messy, didn’t Simon Cowell threaten to sue you for something you wrote about him?

HE: Ahhhh, yes, he did. I received a call on my phone on New Year’s Day this year and it was an UK number which I didn’t recognize. I was going to just let it ring of, but answered it and a voice came on and said, “Is that Hans?” I said, “Yeah”, and the voice on the other end said, “This is Simon Cowell” and to which I said, “Yeah” as I figured it was someone playing a joke on me.

The more I listened, the more I realized it was Simon Cowell who was talking about some blog I had written about him and where I had mentioned he uses SEOs to jack up “Views” etc. I seriously could not remember what blog he was talking about but he mentioned having a “dossier” of my articles- I was chuffed- and was extremely charming for someone who was saying he had “no option” but to sue me and how “it was going to get ugly.”

For some reason, he kept asking me who “put me up” to writing whatever I had written and how he “knew” and that “the dots connected.”

I assumed he was talking about my friendship with his arch nemesis Simon Fuller, the creator of the “Idol” franchise. I kept insisting that no one “put me up” to anything and we then chatted more and he called me the next day to say that “things had got more serious” than he had first thought and was, again, very charming about the lawsuit.

That was January 2 and I haven’t heard from Simon Cowell since. He probably has bigger fish to fry and sue though I must say that he was a real gentleman and very charming for someone who wanted to sue my arse.

SH: Having been in music for so long, where do you think music companies are heading?

HE: If focusing only on music and music “sales”, they’re heading straight down the toilet. Those days of “sales” are gone along with Madonna and her new record which was so hyped and so ordinary that even her fans don’t want it- even for free.

Music companies need to re-invent themselves and one of the key things is to lose the term “music company” and also all the old fart thinking which permeates throughout a music company. Even the young hires are trying to second-guess and appease their old fart bosses who wouldn’t know a club from a disco and yet sit there in their ivory towers talking about consumers and “giving them what they want, when they want it and how they want it.” It was nice little sound bite in 2005 or so and which was never executed as the consumer was always ahead of the curve.

SH: You worked on a number of Remixes, which ones are your favorites?

HE: I came up with the ideas for them, but most were done with Morton Wilson from Schtung Studios. I think he and I did some great work on a few Bowie Bollywood Remixes and three Remixes/Duets featuring Robbie Williams and India’s Asha Bhosle. We also did a beauty for Placebo which the band still loves and one for Gorillaz. But my real favourites were the one I did for Nelly Furtado- a Bollywood Remix for her “I’m Like A Bird” and which was way ahead of its time.

The one I’m most proud of is getting Yoko Ono’s permission to Remix her and John’s “Give Peace A Chance” and which featured artists from all across this region. Terry Lee, a kid from Singapore, produced that and did a damn good job of making all the parts fit.

Yoko also helped me put together a Lennon compilation which I called “Peace, Love And Truth”and which was an honour to work on. Wiki got their credits all wrong with this one.

CD UNIVERSE

The problem was EMI did bugger all in marketing any of this work as it was such an UK-centric company and also only focused on its “Priority acts”- Norah, Robbie and Coldplay. I doubt many even “got” Gorillaz. There were all these very good artists signed up and for which they did squat. What was the point of it all?

If, let’s say, someone like myself got behind a band in Norway or wherever, I was told to stop wasting time and focus on the latest record by a “Priority act.” It doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out where and why music companies are in the state they’re in today and why even their artists don’t give a rat’s arse about them.

It’s now all about touring and there’s going to be another problem in that area as there are just too many tours. Again, you don’t have to be an Einstein to see that coming.

SH: You also got a Danish band- Michael Learns To Rock to record a Chinese song in English. How did that happen?

HE: I had just joined EMI and my friend Calvin Wong, who is now with Warner, had done a great job of breaking the act in Asia. I had never heard of them as their music wasn’t my cuppa tea. They handed us their new album, I listened to it and didn’t hear any hits. It was warmed over Eagles- at least to me.

My friend Norman Cheng who had also joined EMI from Universal Music would have to attend a number of karaoke sessions with sponsors, artists etc and where we would always sing what was a a huge hit in Mandarin for Jacky Cheung. Norman sang the Mandarin part and I sung some gibberish in English and with the chorus always being “Take Me To The River.”

When I finally me MLTR, I told them straight that if they recorded this song in English, it would be huge for them. And it was.

I also wrote the English lyrics for a Faye Wong song about two years ago for the band and which should have been a huge hit but the guys in China insisted on staying loyal to the arrangement of the original recording and which killed the song. Plus it didn’t have a music video.

There was an English version of Taiwan singer-songwriter’s “I Love You” which I wrote and had a guy from the UK named Stewart Mac record. We were both royally screwed on that one by the music company and which now makes me realize that China will never ever be a music market.

SH: You also wrote “Corazon De Melao” for Jacky Cheung which is still a karaoke hit.

HE: It’s also absolute crap. I think I wrote that in ten minutes and have no idea what I was writing. It just “Busta Rhymed”!

SH: Miss the music business?

HE: There is no business to miss! Sitting down with music company guys and get them talking about the ‘business’ and I start to nod off. Nothing’s changed: It’s all about China Mobile, Tencent, Singtel, who’s still there, who’s taking back-handers, who screwed over who. There are few guys really in love with the music and getting behind artists. Then again, I guess, there’s just no money in any of that and it’s almost become a hobby. I seriously don’t know what an executive in a music company does anymore other than whinge.

SH: Would you go back to music?

HE: Music is in me all the time, but I just want to explore new avenues for it. I am not interested in management, signing up acts etc. Been there, done that and it was all too hard and with no ROI for my time and effort. There are some ungrateful twats when it comes to artists who simply don’t understand that they are absolute crap and should find a new gig instead of blaming the world for not being famous.

SH: What do you think is over-rated?

HE: Sex, drugs and alcohol. Anything that can be so easily available to so many cannot be worth much.

SH: What do you think is over-rated?

HE: Sex, drugs and alcohol. Anything that can be so easily available to so many cannot be worth much.

SH: What do you think is underrated?

HE: The Art Of Romance. All this “sexting” and Skype calls with camcorders etc and the ease in which p o r n is available, really makes one appreciate actually romancing a lady with class. Tarts who have been around the block so many times that they have calluses on their feet are easy to come by as “damaged goods”. Real ladies with real careers and who are financially independent are a bloody rarity. So when one comes along, romance her, fight for her and never let her go. Guess one arrives at this point through experiences- good, bad and indifferent- and knowing you fucked up and lost the best person who ever entered your life by being a dickhead.

And I was a real dickhead and which is why I am divorced.
.

SH: What makes you happy?

HE: Listening to music- all types- but, especially, the music of the Beatles as a group and solo artists, seeing my Grand Daughter laughing, family, being with real friends, watching “Seinfeld” and happy that I’m not “George Castanza”, being with The Right One and having the “luxury” to walk around the apartment scratching my nuts and farting when I want to. For better and for worse, baby! Oh, and staring at pictures of Florence Colgate, apparently, the most perfect face in Britain, and wondering if they’ve got it right- not that they’ve got it wrong, of course.

SH: What makes you unhappy?

HE: When friends let you down, when people you have trusted turn out to be shysters and when I feel a day has gone by and I have accomplished bugger all. But those days are now part of the past. I feel re-born, re-vitalized and reformed after being bewitched, be-bothered and bewildered for too long.

SH: Why do you wear so many bracelets on your wrists?

HE: It’s easier than wearing them on my dick.