My first ever interview for Head of Metal is with an extreme metal act from Taiwan called Chthonic. The five-piece has been a rising force in the Far East heavy metal scene for years, and they have generously taken the time to answer some of my questions about the unique challenges and opportunities of creating heavy metal in their part of the world. Regular HOM readers know that I’ve appreciated their work, especially the albums “Takasago Army” and “Bu-Tik” (and you can read my reviews of those records here and here).
Special thanks to them, and long may they rock!
After WWII, Taiwan has been ruled by the autocrat government’s martial law for almost 40 years, which is one of the longest martial-law-periods in the world. Under the martial law, literature, music, movies…etc..everything was controlled by the government, and Taiwanese didn’t have too many chances to learn or create new music. But since the martial law’s lifted in late 80’s, Taiwanese have more and more freedom, and nowadays, we have lot’s of new stuff happening in Taiwan including the most updated genres of metal!
2. A lot of Chthonic fans identify with Doris Yeh. How and when did she first join the band, and what made you decide she was a great fit for Chthonic?
Doris joined the band in 1999. She was one of very few bassists who listened to metal back in late 90’s and also she was willing to play more extreme stuff, so it’s just natural having her in the band.
3. Besides your native Taiwan, what is your favorite place to tour? Has there been a place where your popularity surprised you?
Our favorite place to tour might be Japan. We love the foods and life style there. And regarding the place that our popularity surprised us would be Saigon, Vietnam! We played there last month, and hundreds of fans have shown up! We never thought that we have fans there! Vietnam has been a mystery for us, but now we know her much better!
4. When Chthonic toured North America in 2011, you received a threatening letter. What was your reaction; were you afraid? Who were those people, and why do they want to hurt you?
We weren’t afraid, we’ve just tried our best to warn everybody who worked with us. Those people said they were Chinese students and they hated our attitude against the autocratic regimes.
5. Your fanbase has grown tremendously around the world over the past couple of years. Have any Chthonic fans done anything especially crazy to get your attention or to demonstrate what a passionate fan they are?
We have so many sweet and passionate fans around the world. For example, some European fans flew to Taiwan to join our special concerts here, some American fans learned Hiana Violin (Erhu) for covering our songs, and some Japanese fans made our figures! Oh, and there is a British fan tattooed our Taiwanese lyrics on his arms!
6. Your last couple of albums, “Takasago Army” and “Bu-Tik,” have received generally positive reviews (including my own). Do you think you’d like to try anything different musically on your next record? After an album was released, did you ever ask yourselves, “Why didn’t we try X, Y, or Z?”
We definitely will want to do something different for each album, but we don’t exactly know what we will do for the next one. And yes, we always can find some thing to improve for our latest album!
7. Chthonic was invited to play on Opening Day for Taiwan’s 2013 baseball season. What was that like?
To play some music there wasn’t really something for us, but to throw the first pitch really made us nervous! We have practiced very hard to make sure that we didn’t embarrass ourselves!