Culture, Interviews, Metal / Hard Rock — July 25, 2013 at 3:58 pm

Getting To Know Chthonic

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Amongst a certain circle of intense heavy metal fans, Chthonic is the business. The Taipei based group formed in 1995 and since then, have had a dizzying rotation of members. But some things have stayed the same. They always sing in Taiwanese (though they have branched into Mandarin from time to time), always introduce native instruments into the crushing mix (which sets them well apart from other acts in the genre), always sing for Taiwanese independence (and against political injustices) and always wear distinct corpse makeup onstage.

Since its inception, singer Freddie Lim has been the anchor of the group and over the course of the group’s seven albums, they’ve attracted a growing following around the world via magazines and the festival circuit. Aside from a formidable sound, part of the group’s growing success has been due to bassist Doris Yeh’s model-like looks.

Ahead of the group’s upcoming show in Hong Kong, she took time out to answer queries about all things Chthonic.

Doris Yeh

Doris Yeh

Scott Murphy: What have your experiences been in the past with Hong Kong fans? And what can Hong Kong based fans expect from your show in August?

Doris Yeh: Hong Kong has always been our favorite city. Since forming our new group, this will be our fifth performance in Hong Kong. It’s been three years since we were last here. The fans in Hong Kong are so cute. They aren’t as crazy as the expats, but because our language is similar, there is a huge amount of our songs that they can sing. So we feel very close and intimate with them. During our song “Takao”, we’re trying to sing it in Cantonese for them. We’re also taking suggestions from the audience and hope they submit them.

Following the release of your album Bù-Tik, what do you want to say about it (whether its recording in Sweden or otherwise) and what was the group trying to achieve artistically through it? 

First, we need to give our thanks to the media for their recognition of Bù-Tik. After the album Takasago Am, we already received a lot of praise. This time we’ve outdone ourselves, so we feel humbled. On this album we wanted to fuse oriental folk music and heavy metal harmoniously. We are very satisfied with our results.

Chthonic_Bu Tik

New album Bù Tik

Does the group have to have a sense of rage in order to create your brand of black metal? Is it more of a “release” when you are all in the studio or playing live? 

Truthfully in metal music, everyone has a sense of rage and because of this rage, it’s hard for us to establish our brand. Naturally, we’ve infused our own Taiwanese style into it, so we don’t really think we are black metal. Since black metal has anti-Christian characteristics, the style is different from our own. We like to define ourselves as “Orient Metal”.

With regards to your second question, of course when we perform live there is a real sense of “release”.

Is there a collective technique that the group uses to make music? Does the group feel confined by the metal genre, or are you constantly experimenting?

To create music naturally one must achieve a sense of balance from within the heart. Every band member loves metal, so this is the reason we play together. It is also a force of motivation. So there is no limit!

How do you all feel that traditional instruments are adding to your sound?

Within our lyrics and melody, there is a deep relation with Taiwanese affairs. Many of Taiwan’s current affairs and sad stories which feature in our music are not easily expressed via heavy instrumentals. So we decided to incorporate different Chinese instruments. Later, we started adding more and more traditional instruments, as well as a Taiwanese Moon Piano. We use these instruments to express Taiwanese style and taste. That way we make our music more grounded and full of local emotions.

Since you tour everywhere….and sing in different languages…which one do you all feel most comfortable singing?

Of course singing in Taiwanese is the most comfortable for us. And that’s how we’ll be singing in Hong Kong too!

What has been the group’s best international experience to date? And greatest honor or achievement?
Are you all proud/surprised about your international attention? Or is there another emotion?

We have been on the cover of many magazines and have had pretty good results on music charts. Many music journalists have started to recognize us. Internationally, we have had many unforgettable performances. A lot of acts don’t get to experience what we have. Personally, the most memorable one for me was playing at Ozzfest in 2007. During that summer, I met many American friends and bands who love heavy metal. Together we went through months of metal camp.

Personally, I don’t feel proud or surprised. I just treasure the feelings after meeting so many new friends and visiting so many countries.

Chthonic live at Download 2013, UK

Chthonic live at Download 2013, UK

It’s well known that you are all champions of human rights. Talk about what you’ve all been doing in support of–say, Amnesty, lately. And how do you promote human rights at your shows and via your lyrics? Do you feel your approach has been effective with listeners?

We have an Amnesty group that sends us calls for help. We also join human rights protest marches. Our main singer Freddy is also Amnesty Taiwan section’s “Chai”. So he has to spend a lot of time in meetings and perform tasks within that section. Sometimes we invite Amnesty to represent us at our concerts – including shows in America, Europe, and Taiwan.

When we write we don’t forcefully push society morals. Instead, we want to create and write with a pure, innocent, child-like mentality. We want to convey a great story and lyrics.

On the other hand, we don’t try to influence our fans on purpose. That’s because we believe everyone is independent and has their own identity. If they have the same thoughts, beliefs and mentality as us that’s great.

Of course, a lot of fans are just listening to the music or tune, which is also fine.

Doris, you are the group’s business manager. Do you enjoy this role…and what does it entail?

Truthfully, I don’t enjoy being the business manager. It just takes so much time. Across many countries, we have many contracts with different partners. The other band members have contributed in helping to lessen the workload. I focus mainly on the things that have to do with the big direction of the band. For example – which countries will we release our album in? And which other bands would we like to collaborate with, or make joint appearances with…

How does the group feel about social media? In your opinion, can your music now be heard by more people than ever? Are there any fan stories that have surprised you?

With the emergence of the internet, the music industry went into a downslide, but due to social media our music can reach far internationally. I can’t say if social media is a good or a bad thing because that’s difficult. But nevertheless, we also like using social media as a platform to interact with our fans. A lot of fans have done things that are out of this world and outrageous. There are even fans that have put my face as a tattoo on their body.

Recently there was a British fan who tattooed my signature on his abdomen. I was so shocked and impressed.

How do you feel about being perceived as a sex symbol? Do you play it up to enjoy it? Or does it frustrate you at times?

It’s a lot of pressure, but at the same time it has given me the chance to try a lot of different things. So, I’ve had conflicted thoughts about this.

What’s the current stage makeup and motif these days?

Our current makeup is inspired by both Taiwanese Eight-General and aboriginal makeup. In terms of our customized clothes and costumes, we are trying to convey a mechanized-feel to accompany the different martial art costumes on our album.

Chthonic

Chthonic

What’s on the Chthonic playlist at the moment? What are you all listening to and thrilled by?

Ennio Morricone, Hans Zimmer and Damien Rice.

Final words for Hong Kong?

We see that a lot of Hong Kong people are fighting for their dreams and ideals. We will work hard with you too. Come and join us on August 17th to fight fiercely together!

 

Chthonic will be playing in Hong Kong as part of their Next Republic Tour. See them at KITEC’s Music Zone in Kowloon Bay on August 17th, at 8pm. Tickets are $400/420 and can be purchased at music outlets across the city. Visit the group’s Facebook page for more details.

 

By Scott Murphy
With translation by Kevin Chuen and Joey Wong

 

LINKS

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