They have been called "The
Black Sabbath of Asia" by the Taiwanese newspaper Taipei Times and
are practically seen as legends in Eastern Asia. During their eleven years
as a band they have managed to become Taiwan's best-selling hard rock-act
ever, both in their home country and abroad. But when I meet the five
guys and one girl that form ChthoniC at Triada Promotions' office in central
Stockholm on a cold and frosty morning, they turn out to be very much
down to earth. They make jokes and kid around about the fact that the
bass player Doris is not the only one in the band that gets looks from
male interviewers - the Er-hu player Su-Nung is apparently rather popular
as well. They are also eager to point out on their poster exactly what
each and every corpse paint-motif stands for.
The band consists of Freddy
(vocals), Jesse (guitar), Doris
(bass), CJ (keyboard), Dani
(drums) and finally Su-Nung (Er-hu). With
their fourth album Seediq Bale being the first that is released in Europe,
they are here to convince us that it's time to start taking notice of
this constellation, that are so successful on their home-turf, but practically
unheard of here.
Niklas: Welcome to Stockholm. Do you like
it here so far?
You have made three albums before Seediq Bale, but this is the first album
that is released in Europe, which means that you're pretty much unknown
in these parts of the world. How would you like to present ChthoniC?
ChthoniC: (Freddy): We believe that we have
a sound of our own, but we have certainly been influenced by many
bands, particularly Scandinavian bands like Emperor, Dark Funeral
and Dimmu Borgir, but also Cradle of Filth, of course. I guess we
sound like many European black metal bands, but more sorrowful. We
bring our own elements into the sound as well, and the traditional
Taiwanese folk music definitely has a large place in ChthoniC. For
example, or friend Su-Nung here plays an instrument called Er-hu,
which can be described as a kind of violin but with only two strings.
This instrument helps us convey the sorrow, which is necessary because
of the important and tragic themes of our albums.
Niklas: There is a certain Taiwanese tribe
that inspired the lyrics to Seediq Bale. Why did you dedicate the album's
theme to them?
ChthoniC: (Freddy): The Seediq-tribe has such
an interesting story to tell, simply. When Taiwan was ruled by the
colonial power of Japan in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth
century, this tribe lived in the mountains of northern Taiwan with
many people in it. This was probably the most violent tribe of them
all, they beheaded their enemies and drank their blood from the neck,
among other things. We basically tell the story of how they lived
and how they fought the Japanese. The tribe still exists, but today
there are no more than about 200 people in it.
Niklas: Is this the reason you started the
band, to make the modern world aware of ancient stories and atrocities
like this one?
ChthoniC: (Freddy): We never intended to form
the band just because of this; it was rather the love for metal that
made us start ChthoniC and then the rest just followed. We do believe
that we have a story that is important to us at least, but the music
definitely comes first in ChthoniC - then the message.
Niklas: There are three ChthoniC-albums prior to this one: Where
The Ancestors' Souls Gathered (1999), 9th Empyrean (2000) and Relentless
Recurrence (2002). Will there be re-issues of these albums to be released
here for the fans that are interested?
ChthoniC: (Freddy): I don't think there will
be any re-issues, because we are not very pleased with either the
first or the second album. Especially Where The Ancestors' Souls Gathered
we're not happy with at all. 9th Empyrean was a little better, but
still not good enough. But if the fans are curious about our earlier
sound, they should definitely import the albums from online stores.
Niklas: I would like to ask you, Freddy,
about the music scene in Taiwan. From what I've gathered, you were the
one who practically built the whole music scene in Taiwan? How would you
like to describe the scene there today?
ChthoniC: (Freddy): The music scene in Taiwan
has grown a lot in later years, but it didn't really exist in the
same way before. The older musicians of Taiwan used to play in front
of the American soldiers when they came here several years ago, and
they rarely played any other songs than for example Hotel California
by The Eagles. That's why the music life of Taiwan never really got
as stimulated as should have been. The thing with most Taiwanese bands
today is that they are happy as long as they get to play. Whether
it's in a department store or a festival, they just want to play.
But they don't record any albums or songs. I would say that there
are about five or six bands, including ourselves, that really try
to do something more and reach out with our music. The scene now is
much richer, but still not good enough. There are young musicians
that are educated by the older ones, but it's difficult for them to
learn everything they teach, because most metal-bands refuse to play
Hotel California today. (laughs)
Niklas: What can you tell us about the legendary
Formoz Festival that you created?
ChthoniC: (Freddy): Doris and I have worked
really hard over the years with the Formoz Festival, which has resulted
in many great things.
(Doris): When we started the festival in 1995, there weren't more
than maybe ten active bands in Taiwan. But this festival became very
popular and many people from countries like Hong Kong, Singapore,
Korea and Japan attended. This must have done something good for the
music scene in our country, because now there are about one thousand
bands in Taiwan! (Freddy): I guess you could say that ChthoniC is
full of people who come from different parts of Taiwan but all fight
for the same thing, to develop Taiwanese music and make it more heard
Niklas: You won the category "Best
Rock Band" in the Golden Melody Awards (the Asian Grammies) in the
year 2003 and were handed the award by none other than Taiwan's president,
Shui-Bian Chen. Is metal much recognized by the government and does it
get much coverage in the media?
ChthoniC: (Freddy): I don't think that they
are really interested about what we are doing, but since we sell so
many records and more and more people start to get into us, they have
to write about us in the newspapers even if they don't want to! But
there is of course a big difference between Western and Taiwanese
reporters. When we were at Midem in France earlier, all the reporters
obviously know pretty much everything about the metal scene, but the
Taiwanese reporters are still trying to learn and use the right words
and terms. For example, there was a funny incident the other day,
when a Taiwanese newspaper wrote an article about us, and described
ChthoniC as a black metal techno-band. Our fans were like: "Techno?
What the fuck?!" (laughs)
You wear corpse paint as make-up on the stage, but this is not just inspired
by the Scandinavian black metal-bands, but also from something called
"The Eight Generals". Can you explain more about this?
ChthoniC: (Freddy): Actually, at first I just
wanted to look like the guys in Immortal! Have you seen them? (laughs)
Anyway, so I painted myself like them and started running around our
house, when my mum asked me what the hell I was doing. "Why are
you trying to look like 'The Eight Generals'?" she asked. I wasn't
aware of them at the time, so I decided to try and learn more about
them. It turned out that "The Eight Generals" is actually
something that can be seen in religious parades that are based on
ancient Taiwanese folklore. It was just really cool to discover that
we had something that connected ourselves in the band with our ancestors,
it made sense in many ways.
Niklas: I've heard that ChthoniC are banned
in certain parts of China. Why is that?
ChthoniC: (Freddy): That is true. I mean, people
can listen to our music if they really want to, on the Internet and
through pirate copies. But we are not allowed to play there, unfortunately.
There was once when we were booked to play on a certain festival,
but they stopped us by shutting the power down. We are not welcomed
there because we are a political band with strong opinions, and that
don't go well together with the Chinese government.
Niklas: I heard the song Indigenous Laceration
not long ago and was stunned by how great it was. Is this your favourite
ChthoniC-song as well, or are there other songs you like even better?
ChthoniC: (Freddy): We all have different favourites,
but I believe that Jesse likes Indigenous Laceration the best, just
like you. (Jesse): That's because I wrote it! (laughs) (Freddy): Personally
I would choose something else, like maybe Quasi Putrefaction. (Doris):
My choice would be Bloody Gaya Fulfilled.
It was recently announced that ChthoniC is going to play at Wacken Open
Air, the world's biggest metal festival, this summer. How do you feel
ChthoniC: (Freddy): Well, it's an honour to
us because it's not that usual for Asian bands to come and play there.
Hopefully there are many fans that will attend Wacken Open Air that
has waited for an opportunity to see us perform, and perhaps we will
get quite a few new fans as well. We also want to tour in the rest
of Europe, so hopefully we will be able to do that sometime in the
Niklas: Any last words to your fans here
- ChthoniC: (Freddy): Yeah, I believe that our
music has been much inspired by Swedish metal bands, and they play an
important role in our music. There was a reviewer who said that he heard
both Swedish and Asian elements in our music, and I think that is true.
One of my all-time favourite bands is At The Gates, for example. I hope
the fans over here will enjoy the Swedish metal elements that we have,
as well as the things we offer with our music that is new to them.
See also: review
of the album Seediq Bale