When William Scorpion walks into a room, all eyes gravitate towards him. But this is a man who could just as easily fly under the radar. Not flashy in the slightest and if you are expecting showbiz bravado to go with the career choice in Cantopop and Mandopop, you would be (gladly) mistaken.
He strides in with a gait and confidence, yes. He has the bearing of an athlete, and seeing as how he is an equestrian coach here and even owns his own riding school in Thailand, this is not surprising. It is also clear that commanding an audience of thousands at the drop of a hat would come naturally to him.
But jeans, t-shirt and a baseball cap comprise the overall look for the interview – and this is quite a ways from his ensemble when on stage, singing. More importantly, it is more akin with who he seems to be, up close. In person, Scorpion is low-key and mellow. He has a quieter, introspective arc to his mettle, and a depth to his character that is vividly front and centre once he starts talking.
Lest the name did not cue you to begin with, a little knowledge could be a timely thing here – know that you are dealing with a pop star. A legend who has outlasted and outshone many who have come and gone – but whose essence reaches beyond his persona and talent. The sum of all parts is greater than the whole, let us just say that.
We sit down and begin an in-depth conversation about life and traversing all its unexpected pathways almost immediately. It is a running head start that rapidly evolves into a revelatory conversation about the human condition. And this is where the real ineffable quality of Scorpion reveals itself: as a raconteur whose ability to command an audience is neither overt nor forced. Rather, it is something that happens all on its own and takes over, before you quite know it.
While the entertainer himself comes across as quiet and centred, there is an intensity to his words and cast that make it difficult for you to tear yourself away from the conversation. You are drawn to listening to the stories he shares with you over the course of a few hours. He is a young 52, and has a sage-like quality that reveals still waters run deep.
Artistic flair, any way you look at it
This is almost at odds with his showbiz career. But then, nothing about Scorpion is expected, to say the least. He built a career over the course of over twenty years, and even with his segue from singing full-time, he is respected in the industry as one of the original guards.
Scorpion, born Thanakorn Scorpion (unexpectedly, it is the last name which is not a showbiz moniker) is of Thai-Singaporean descent. Scorpion, who goes by Thanakorn Scorpion off-stage, started off as a model. His foray into singing was almost an accidental happenstance. Having established his singing ability during karaoke sessions with friends in Hong Kong and Singapore, he was asked to sing on stage at the opening of a local club. The rest, as they say, is history – and the trajectory of the lauded singer began. This was the gateway into a career that grew by leaps and bounds, to where it is today, making him a standout in the industry.
He most recently made the news for resigning as executive director of Shanghai Dolly. Scorpion explains the reason for the move on his part.
“I actually wanted to stop the nightly club act about three years ago. I was thinking of only performing on an ad hoc basis or for gigs. The nightly thing is not for me. The offer to become a director came, and that cut down on the performing side. I’ve done this for so long, and as far as performing was concerned, I didn’t sing that much because there’s about 15 artistes there. So, I didn’t get to do a set by myself. I really love to perform, but I want to do it like a show – a set by myself, so there is rapport. I can build it up, then bring it down. Not go up and do two songs or three songs, and then wait my turn. So, it became a bit meaningless, as far as performing is concerned you know?” he says.
However, although Scorpion enjoyed grooming talent and sharing his wisdom with upcoming talent, the foray into the management role was ultimately not for him in the long run.
“When it came to the managing side, I had to spend a lot of time entertaining the clients. And that involves a lot of drinking – and I’m 52. I did not want to kill my liver. So I think it was about time. I spoke to my partners and said I really want to go. And they were also moving in different directions. I think it was just time to pass the baton to someone else. So I think the timing was right," he notes.
The tale of a life less ordinary
For Scorpion, the time is also ripe to tell his tale. His biography is a timely move. The media launch was last month. The book is written by Ivan Lim and is a joint-project with Cara Van Miriah; they are a husband-and-wife writing team and have released books of their own.
The journey of Scorpion’s life is set out on paper, and was pieced together in a two-week long road trip he took with Lim to his home in Phayao, Thailand. The travel led to a sacrosanct experience that paralled the trajectory of his story as well – you see a homecoming, and a revisiting of beginnings, both old and new, in the biography.
It is a poetic and intimate look into the life of a superstar. At times up close and personal, at times deliberately removed so that you feel as if you are a voyeur into the life of a man who is complex in character, this delving into his psyche is worth the read. You get to know a talent, yes – but more than that, a human being with foibles and strengths that meld in an interplay that is fascinating to observe.
To Lim, taking on the role of biographer and voyeur was almost a balance that had to be carefully maintained, in order to do Scorpion’s story justice.
“From the point of view of the biographer, it is me traveling with him and him telling me his life story as we move along. And there are things along the way that we pick up. The issues play back to what he is about, his home in Phayao and to the early days of his career. You need a lot of empathy. With William, I had set out to tell his story. So, in a way, it’s like I was going to be his sounding board, so to speak. So whatever he said, whatever he felt, I felt I needed to feel him, in order to write him," he says.
For Van Miriah, the project was a logistical one as well, so that the actual execution and documentation would be a seamless one, in order to serve the process of crafting the biography. She says telling Scorpion’s story is important, as it provides an insight into how to make it to the top – and stay there.
“If people in the industry read the book as well, they will also know how difficult it is to survive in the entertainment industry. It has so many different kinds of characters. You have the good, the bad, the ugly, the double-headed snakes. So, it’s not just a matter of talent. At the end of the day, people will realise you need to be a very tough character as well, on top of having the talent, to survive all these external circumstances," she says.
If survival is the name of the game, then to the victor go the spoils. Scorpion has a legacy that will go down in history, without a doubt. The ebb and flow of the singer’s career is a noteworthy one, rife with all the highs and lows you would expect in the life of a star. And where he is today is a result of his clear dedication to his craft – and a testament to who he is as a human being. For those who would make a career of their talent as he has done, he says it is important to know who you are.
“Go into the profession with an open mind. And you have to be very hardworking. Don’t expect things to happen for you. You make it happen for yourself. It will be in my book, how I actually had to make certain things happen. If you produce mediocre, shoddy work, nobody will notice you. So you have to stand out. You have to stand out and stand up for yourself. And never let people push you around. If you are right, you are right. Be firm about it," he urges.
Scorpion will be launching his biography at music-haven Zouk at the end of May, and will hold a concert in tandem with the launch, in order to celebrate 30 years in the business and to say thank you to fans. Brace yourself as the legend himself will take the stage, accompanied by Queen Inc and daughter Zsa Zsa Scorpion, all to bring the house down.
For the man to whom the word "retirement" seems to be pejorative, he is on to the next one, with his signature dedication – the same that saw him honing his craft throughout the course of his career. From model to singer to noted equestrian coach and businessman, William Scorpion has done it all, it seems – and he has only just begun his next show on life’s stage. But don’t call it a comeback, because he’s been here for years.