Interview – ChthoniC
Note: This interview was conducted over email. Because of the language barrier, you will notice a few errors in the grammar of the answers. In order to maintain the integrity of the interview, nothing has been edited. The way you see it is precisely the way Doris and Freddy answered it.
I am speaking right now with Doris Yeh and Freddy Lim, of Taiwan-based Black Metallers, ChthoniC. I would like to extend a special thanks to Shawn Hitchcock of Spinefarm Records / Tsunami Entertainment for setting this interview up for me.
Crucible – Thank you so much for this opportunity! It is an honor for me to be able to interview you. Here you are in 2010, with a new album under your belts (“Mirror of Retribution”, released August, 2009 in the US), a new label (Spinefarm / Universal), and an entirely fresh fanbase as a result of these factors. How are you all feeling at this point?
Doris – We feel happy there’re many people around the world love our new stuff and we think we still have some spaces need to be expanded.
Crucible – I know that some of the current attention and success is due to your Ozzfest stint in 2007, and a short appearance in the Global Metal biopic. But I would like to go a bit further back. I first heard of you when I picked up your “9th Empyrean” album on Nightfall / Terrorizer Records in 2000. How did you come to be seen in the US at that point?
Doris – We sent our demo to many record companies all over the world at that time, and Nightfall Records loves our album and start to license and release it. After that we were invited by a festival called “Metal Meltdown” in 2002, then we met our first manager in the US. That is how the things start.
Crucible – It didn’t seem at that point that the US was completely catching on to you. Why do you think this was?
Doris – I think the record company doesn’t have a strong distribution at that time, and we’re not that positive to develop our market in the US in our first 2 albums.
Crucible – How does the US differ from Asia, when you compare Metal scenes?
Doris – The Metal scene in the US has a completed system, from record company, management, booking agent to band, fans, promoters….. and the market is bigger. In East Asia, the market is still developing, which is a good thing, but there’re still some segments needed to be hook up tighter.
Crucible – In the same sense, how does Taiwan differ from other parts of Asia, musically?
Doris – Musically some of the bands will be inspired by politics, history or the element of Orient. And the point of view will be very different because of every bands’ historical education is different.
Crucible – Doris, you were a fan of Pop music when you were younger. What brought you over to the world of an extreme genre such as Black Metal?
Doris – My Dad is a bass player works for TV station, so I am very familiar with this instrument and pick/amp/cable…since I was a child (Sometimes picks are my toys because I could find it on the floor of my house). When I was senior high school student, I was eager to have a band to play pop rock music like Bon Jovi, and my school mate who is also my first guitar player in the band gave me some cassettes like G’N’R, Metallica, Slayer…., I was hard to accept this kind of music but gradually start to love this kind of music and become very into it! Then, I listen to more and more heavy music..
Crucible – Early photos of the band seem to show a strong reference to Visual Kei, on a much darker scale. Has Visual Kei played much of a part in ChthoniC at any point?
Doris – No, we never ever take any reference of Visual Kei. Visual Kei is a very specific genre of Japanese rock music. Because the “Phenomenon of Visual Kei” is very obvious over Asia and easy to figure out, so some people will think we’re part of them. But Jesus Christ! Our music and the lyric as well as the concept are totally different from those kind of Japanese music. If our band formed just one year ago, maybe some people will think our face paint was inspired by Lady Gaga.
Crucible – Freddy, you wrote the concept and lyrics to the new album, “Mirror of Retribution”. Where is the line drawn between your religious beliefs, myth and factual events in relation to this concept?
Freddy – I’m without religion. But I love myth, fantasy, and ghost stories. That’s why I love my kind of music!
The concept of Mirror of Retribution is to reveal the outlines of Taiwanese hells which include 18 big levels of hells, hundreds of small levels of hells, and 10 courts of hells. Through a story that a young psychic, a character created by us, who went to hell to steal the Book of Life and Death to change 228 incident, a massacre happened in 1947 in Taiwan, the scenes of Hells have been revealed song by song.
Crucible – I know I have referred to you as Black Metal in this interview (for lack of a better term), and I also know that you don’t care for the label for yourselves. How would you label the music of ChthoniC?
Doris – I think the easiest way to label us is just “Extreme Metal from Oriental Myth”
Crucible – Likewise, your makeup cannot be called corpsepaint. You truly have solidified your own look, and it’s incredible, holding deep meaning for you. Can you elaborate on this?
Doris – The design of our face paint is base on our tradition and the concept of the album story. There’re some Taoist cursed words with red color on our face because the main character in the story was been cursed by the ghosts from Hell. And there’re some lines we took for references from Taiwanese traditional Ghost Kings in the folks called “Eight Generals”. Basically, we’ll change our face paint depends on different album concept and story.
Crucible – Why the change in your logo style?
Doris – Very simple reason, we hope when people saw the logo then knowing how to say it.
Crucible – What does the immediate future hold for ChthoniC? I know I would love to see you on a headlining tour of the US. Is there any possibility of this?
Doris – We hope we can go back to the US and Canada in this year! But everything is under arrangement, we’ll let everybody know if we confirms any tours in North America.
Crucible – ChthoniC is celebrating 15 years as a band this year. Do you feel the fifteen years, or do you feel like you are just getting started, now that you have acheived international status?
Doris – Yes, it’s a weird feeling sometimes. Because we’re an old band in Taiwan, but it seems like we’re a new comer outside of East Asia! But it’s a good thing for me, I enjoy the feeling to be treated as a young band, that means there’re still a lot of achievements need us to touch down!
Crucible – What are other bands from your region would you recommend to your US fans to seek out?
Doris – Anthelion(Symphonic Black Metal), Crescent Lament(Gothic Metal), Infernal Chaos(Metal core), Solemn(Death/Metal core), Alien Avenge(Melodic Death Metal), Hekate(Metal/hardcore/thrash).
Crucible – “Mirrors of Retribution” is still fresh. But do you have any concepts already for new material?
Freddy – We have some new ideas, but not organized yet….
Crucible – What is the one thing that no one knows about the band?
Doris – We have to take showers EVERYDAY when we on tour, or we will die. Even though sometimes the water in the shower room is freezing, but we still need to take it.
Crucible – Any final words?
Doris – We’ll definitely go back to the US this year
Can’t wait to see all of you guys and gals!Crucible – Doris and Freddy, I would like to thank you again so much for taking the time to interview with me. It has truly been an honor, as I have been a fan since 2000. You have definitely made your mark on the extreme Metal genre, and I wish you nothing less than the best as a band.
Doris – Thank you too!