We've already come to the second part of our [What's on my playlist] blog series with SEKAI NO OWARI! Have you seen our last post on what's in Nakajin's playlist? (If not, do so here). But nevertheless, we now have SEKAI NO OWARI's DJ LOVE sharing with us five of his favourite songs. Enjoy!
A must for summer playlists!
2. Red Hot Chilli Peppers-The Getaway
I listened to this song while visiting LA. It’s perfect for late afternoons and evenings, while watching the sun set on Los Angeles.
3. Michael Jackson-Beat It
We would play Michael Jackson’s concert DVD back stage during our tour. It got me into Michael Jackson all over again!
Toe-The World According To
It’s beautiful, and makes me feel good. I listen to it a lot.
I just have to play this song when I’m in California!
Listen to DJ LOVE's full playlist and a bonus SNO pick here:
Follow DJ LOVE on his Instagram and Twitter for more musical updates! SEKAI NO OWARI will be touring US this August, performing in Los Angeles at The Roxy Theatre (17 August) and in New York at The Bowery Ballroom (23 August). See you there!
Also don't forget to stay tuned for Saori's "What's on my playlist" post coming soon!
SEKAI NO OWARI is a name that is mostly unheard of in the Western world. However, step foot into Japan, and what one will soon realise is that they are a J-Pop phenomenon and household name; much like Taylor Swift in the sphere of Western music. Coming together in 2007 and initially playing to no more than 15 people in an abandoned warehouse, the band which consists of Nakajin, Fukase, Saori and DJ Love officially debuted in 2010 and solidly accumulated in success before rising to meteoric fame with their hit single “RPG” in 2012, which has over 96 million hits on YouTube to date. Playing to sold-out venues such as the legendary Nippon Budokan and Nissan Stadium, and with more than a couple chart-topping singles and awards under their belt, the band is well-equipped for their upcoming debut into the US music industry. However, the funky and eclectic indie-pop band didn’t exactly breeze their way out of obscurity to become one of the most popular bands in Japan. Theirs is a story of tumultuous times, new beginnings and self discovery, showing us that their happiness and success was anything but easy.
In speaking with us, the band were open about what went on behind the scenes in their personal lives. Lead vocalist and songwriter Fukase especially spoke candidly of his experiences with mental illness which ended his budding career in medicine, initiating what was to be the darkest period of his life. Yet it was this exact feeling of the world collapsing around him that inspired the band’s name SEKAI NO OWARI, meaning ‘End of the World’ which kick-started a musical journey fuelled by the desire to share a message of love and positivity. When asked why he dared to share so boldly his painful journey of internal struggle, Fukase had this to say: “I want to help guide the way for those young minds who are under similar circumstances as mine; so they don’t lose their way, or lose confidence in themselves.”
Furthermore, the youthful vocalist also had some immensely meaningful words of wisdom for those who are currently struggling with a low point in their lives: “Dreaming about tomorrow won’t make any difference for the present moment. Relying on someone else won’t help but we can only change ourselves. I know you all know that very well. Be strong, my comrades.”
Evidently, it has been Fukase’s optimism as well as the love and support that he felt from his band members during this tough period which has shaped the messages that their happy and powerful lyrics bring. However, their music itself is known for being a unique fusion of classical, video game, rock and hip hop genres. Nakajin, SEKAI NO OWARI’s band leader lets us in on the difficulties that led them to their nonreplicable sound:
“It was just two of us in the beginning, Fukase as a lead vocal and I played guitar. We were looking for a drummer and bassist but couldn’t find people we clicked with. We knew we needed more members to form the group, so we talked to our friend Saori who plays piano and Love the DJ, and asked them to join us. This is how we started unintentionally with these members. It is an odd and unusual combination, but we created something outside the box because of it.”
SEKAI NO OWARI-RPG
Furthermore, it is not just the fact that the band was composed of different instruments that made them stand out from the crowd, but also their inimitable chemistry which seems to be the glue piecing their varied interests into one cohesive sound.
“We all have different taste in music; Fukase likes hiphop, Saori likes classical music, LOVE likes rock, and I like video game music. But we understand each other really well because we are childhood friends and currently living together in the shared house. When there’s a conflict between us, we overcome the issues by talking it out with respect for each other“, Nakajin says.
Indeed, the group’s mutual respect and love for one another is what helps them through various conflicts, with every member regarding each other as family. Saori is seen to be the selfish older sister, Nakajin the reliable older brother, Fukase the carefree dad, and DJ Love…the pet elephant? In clarification of DJ Love’s interesting role in the SEKAI NO OWARI family, Saori kept her explanation short, sweet and simple: “Because he is gentle, big, and he likes to eat.”
The band are so close, that even when I posed to them the usual ‘stranded on a desert island with one person’ hypothetical, they all replied that they couldn’t pick just one! When asked what their motivation for entering the US Market and sharing their music with the world was, Fukase’s answer was quite very adorable: “Our motivation was for us to travel the world together”.
And it seems that SEKAI NO OWARI’s dream will be coming true soon enough. The band has already taken the first step by initiating cross-cultural collaborations with electro-pop great Owl City. Nakajin, who is a big fan of the former shares with us how it all went down: “My manager knew that I was a fan of Owl City since his debut, so he made an initial contact to get in touch, and that’s how we started to work on our collaboration. Mr.Heartache was produced by Owl City, and we featured in his song ‘TOKYO’. He also joined us at our show in Japan in 2014”.
SEKAI NO OWARI-MR HEARTACHE
So with the backing of an established Western talent like Owl City, all that’s left is for SEKAI NO OWARI to publish some new works to showcase to Western audiences before they can begin touring and sharing their music with an entirely different audience. Nakajin shares how he feels about such foreign experiences, especially in terms of writing and composing in English:
“When working on songs in English, I try to think of myself as someone from an English speaking country. It’s a totally a different feeling than working on Japanese songs. It’s really refreshing and exciting at the same time. It’s like we are in a different band.”
DJ Love also chimed in with his thoughts on cultural obstacles, addressing the importance of spoken language to a listener’s acceptance of the music.
“I believe language is very important for a song to be loved for many years. There are rare cases when people feel connected to a song regardless of the language too. But I think there is barrier when reaching out to more people, it’s more difficult to have them engaged with music if they don’t understand the words.”
Nearing the end of the interview, Saori also had some thoughts about the band’s ultimate aim in making music which we felt represented what the band stood for without contention: “I would be happy if our music inspired people to share special moments. That’s why we want families to come to our concert. It’s the idea of people listening to our songs with their loved ones, and people making new friends. “
Encompassing a feeling of warmth and happiness that one feels when with friends or family, the overpowering, naive happiness that SEKAI NO OWARI’s music’s promotes is not one that was decided upon flippantly. It comes from a potent mix of troubled times, the healing support of loved ones, a unique amalgation of creative energies and a hell of a lot of fighting spirit. Whether it was fate or coincidence that brought the four of them together, SEKAI NO OWARI has now made it their mission to share their brand of hard-fought happiness with anyone who is willing to listen; even if it feels like the world’s about to collapse tomorrow. So in lieu of their upcoming debut into the US music industry, my advice is to give these guys a listen-chances are, you’ll be hooked on their addictive brand of happiness 30 seconds into the first song. I promise.
SEKAI NO OWARI are currently in the process of planning a North American tour and debut into the US music industry. Keep in the loop by following their Facebook page here.
A couple of years ago, I chanced upon aspiring DJ and Producer Eugene Luu, who was just starting to make a name for himself by fusing Chinese Pop with EDM music. After reconnecting with him, it's nice to see that he's done well for himself, rising up the ranks to become an international DJ who has played events all over the world including his native San Jose, as well as music festivals in China and Malaysia. It is even more heartening to see that he has continued to fuse EDM with Chinese Pop in ways that others rarely attempt, creating sleek remixes that are relatable and showcase his Chinese heritage. We chatted with the DJ/Producer to find out a little more about his music, and about what he's been up to these past few years.
1.Since we last talked, you've become an international DJ/Producer! Can you tell us about some of the opportunities you've had which allowed you to come this far?
Its all about the connections and what makes you stand out. I made my international debut in June at one of Malaysia’s top nightclub and was invited by Asia’s No. 1 DJ Jamaster A to perform at the 2015 Bougainvillea Music Festival.
2. Your music seems to consist of a fusion of EDM and Chinese pop music. What initially led you to focus on Chinese music as a starting point?
I grew up listening to Chinese music and I hold a strong appreciation for it. From the most traditional to pop, I have always had a strong background. I’ve failed numerous times when I began making music domestically and from there, I realized that by infusing what I loved with what is appealing can greatly innovate and revolutionize Chinese music.
3. What kinds of responses have you had from listeners of your style?
I would say mixed, primarily more positive reactions outweighing the negatives. My fan base grew consistently, something that never happened before I focused on Chinese EDM.
4.It's great to see you attempting to bridge cultural gaps with your music.You mainly perform around Asia at the moment, do you have any plans to bring your Chinese pop-infused EDM style to Western settings?
I perform here in San Francisco and sometimes my hometown San Jose. I am affiliated with Soul Krush Entertainment, a nightlife organizer catering to Asian-Americans in the Bay Area. In my sets here, depending on the crowd, I only play one or two tracks that are Chinese-infused EDM.
5. You've travelled to many places and collaborated with quite a few known DJs and artists, such as Taiwanese rapper Dwagie. How did you get to meet him, and what was it like working with him?
Haha, for the record I actually did not collaborate with him however, we did have some talks regarding that matter. He made his Bay Area debut at Pure Lounge, a reputable club in Sunnyvale and I was invited by the organizer to perform with him. I personally did not hang out with him enough to determine how he is but from what I have observed when talking to him, he was a very chill person.
The sisters of Meimeiwawa Multimedia
“The Taiwanese music and film industries are very competitive. You have a large number of artists competing for very little income on a small island. Resources are scarce and the population of Taiwan is not large enough for niche markets. If you want to be successful, you need the entire country to know who you are. Add up all those factors and you have an extremely tough and competitive environment.”
Setting the seemingly bleak scene for us is Esther Veronin, CEO of multimedia company Meimeiwawa Multimedia which she set up with sister/pop Lara Veronin in 2013. With extensive experience in the music and entertainment industry, both sisters aim to create a label that according to Lara is “Cosmopolitan, feminine, & artistic on the outside and creative, evocative, & interactive on the inside”.
As a company that wears many hats including film production, entertainment management, lifestyle content and music production, they are intimately tapped into the ongoings of an industry caught in the constant dilemma of balancing commercialisation and creativity.
Meimeiwawa co-creator and singer-songwriter Lara Veronin
However, the two sisters have nevertheless strived to differentiate themselves and have their voice heard in Taiwan’s competitive creative industries by taking a feminine and bilingual approach to their content; with Lara referring to themselves as a “matchmaker of sorts whose goal is to seamlessly blend the best of both worlds”. One such way they’ve achieved this is by creating content with an international focus:
“I think our international/global perspective and bilingualism definitely stands out among most Taiwanese entertainment companies here. Despite the fact that Taiwan has made many large advancements in the last 2 decades, it’s still rather Mandarin-centric in terms of ideas and language” says Esther.
The point which Esther puts forth is indeed an important one. Seeing as the creative industries have been one of the Taiwanese government’s main priorities, more needs to be done to push Taiwan’s creative output more resolutely onto a global platform, potentially through the breaking of language barriers.
From observation, Esther states that governmental efforts have made little impact on the creative scene. “Despite the money being poured into the creative industries, I don’t see a shift towards globalization/ internationalization for music and film here in Taiwan (at least in terms of mainstream stuff.)”
Meimeiwawa CEO Esther Veronin
Government resources are one thing, but where those resources are allocated is yet another issue to be considered. Lara adds:
“I feel like yes, there is more government money being put into entertainment (possibly following South Korea's lead), but the people that are receiving financial grants are not necessarily the ones with the most innovative ideas or even need the money most, they just have the right kinds of proposals that will get approved.”
Focusing on Taiwan’s pop music industry which back in its heyday used to be the Hollywood of Asian music, it has sadly seen audiences trickling away fast due to the booming K-pop music scene. So what exactly is causing audiences to lose interest? Well as they say, content is king. Esther speaks to us about how large record companies tend to affect the content of Taiwanese music.
“I think that music that is put out by a large company tends to be much “safer” because they are very careful about their investments. As with most “safe” bets, creativity and novelty suffer. Technically speaking the music is of superior recording quality—better recording, better mastering, etc., but as for whether it’s superior artistically? I would think not. Add the collectivist and conservative Taiwanese culture on top of that and you get music that is very conformist.”
However, it’s not all bad news. Although the large conglomerates still hold stead in the industry, independent companies such as Meimeiwawa are slowly gathering speed with the help of rapid advancements in technology.
“Technology has actually drastically empowered smaller independent companies. Viral potential achieved through savvy marketing evens the playing ground and enables the best ideas to be seen. I myself was once signed to a major label and am now happily building my own startup with Esther” asserts Lara.
Lara－Dida滴答 (Produced by Meimeiwawa)
Lara is also optimistic about the impact of technology on the music scene. “I think music in Taipei is diversifying more than ever because Internet sensations have made it possible for obscure artists to gain followings and thus influence major labels to invest in less "typically mainstream" artists. On that same sentiment, music on a global whole has become more cohesive than before due to easy access to music from other countries.”
In other words, the coalescing of creative energy (independent artists and musicians) with the right amount of resources (government funding and the support of large record companies) is exactly what is needed to elevate the industry to a more global standard. Add to this an understanding of how to promote their creative offerings to an international market, and Taiwan might just be set to take on the big leagues in terms of creative success.
As Lara and Esther have shown, there’s still a long way to go before all the factors of the equation add up. However by persisting with their unique brand of creative energy and catering to an international market, the girls of Meimeiwawa are certainly doing their bit to advance the artistic success of Taiwan’s creative industries, taking it to much greater heights than many have ever imagined.
Find out more about the girls on their Website, Facebook or Instagram!
Having won “Best live performance” at the Golden Indie awards this year, indie Rock band Gigantic Roar has already internalised this success and powered forward with their Winter performance tour. The amazing part is, debuting less than four years the boys have already set their musical sights on the entirety of Asia. This time around, they haven’t only toured Taiwan performing, but also have plans to bring their infectious passion and music to Southeast Asia’s big and small cities including Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and of course Singapore. In just a few days the four boys hailing from Kaohsiung, Taiwan will be touching down in Singapore for their concert which brings them temporary respite from their busy touring schedules. Even taking the time to conduct an email interview with them has turned into just a quick Q n A due to their back-to-back performances! But nevertheless, these short twelve questions have served well in reflecting Gigantic Roar’s persistence in their music, their views on society, and their exciting stories and experiences that they’ve accumulated on their musical journey.
1.It’s the first time you guys are performing in Singapore, how do you feel?
Wang (lead singer): I haven’t been, I need to visit before I’ll know!
Huang (drummer): I feel like Singapore will be very hot… (editor’s note: You’re not wrong Tang Xuan!)
2. I know you are all passionate about music. When was it that you first discovered your interest in music?
Huang (drummer): When I was three I went with my sister to music class, at that time I really liked singing together with the big brothers and sisters, at this young age I realised that I was more able than others to remember melodies and rhythm.
Wei (Guitar): When I was in primary school that was the first time my father played Woodstock’s documentary for me to see.
Hou (Bass): When I was in primary six I heard Christine Hsu’s “Rose Life”
Wang (Vocals): When my computer first downloaded Jay Chou’s album “Common Jasmine Orange”
3. How did you come up with the band’s name?
It came from a set of lyrics by Chinese band PK14.
4.Last year you released an EP, can you tell readers a bit about the EP’s concept?
Wang (Vocals): A story about coming to Taipei from Kaohsiung, the psychological changes that occur when you first reach the city, changes in mood. People will always give up something they originally had in order to chase their different aims.
5. A few months ago you won “Best live performance” at the Golden Indie Awards. Were you nervous on the day, or were you more relaxed?
Hou (Bass)& Wang(Vocalist): Very nervous, very nervous, really very nervous.
Wei (Guitar): The Ma-Xi meet was happening on that day (Taiwan president Ma Ying-Jeou and Chinese president Xi Jinping), I honestly was very angry, the Taiwanese all really dislike his behaviour.
6. What kind of feelings do you have about winning at the Golden Indie Awards?
Hou (Bass): Pretty happy!
Wei (Guitar): Although I’m happy, I still feel that I have a lot of space for improvement.
Wang (Vocalist): It urges me to become better and better!
Huang (Drums): I feel that the most important part about winning is being able to see those around you be happy, and at the same time thank a lot of those who have been silently supporting us.
7. Most recently we hear you’ve been working on your new album, can you reveal a little bit about what’s been going on in production lately?
Hou (Bass): In order to record one song I am going to learn slap (note: Slap-bass is a kind of playing technique)
Wang (Vocalist): I’m very excited about my works
Wei (Guitar): It’s a really awesome album! Everyone must come and have a listen!
8. What kind of influence or emotions do you wish your music to evoke in audiences?
Hou (Bass): Hope audiences can recognise the ingenuity of our music!
Wei (Guitar): Everyone should be more happy! Indulge in the music!
9. If you could pick any musician to work with, who would you pick?
Wang (Vocalist): Michael Jackson
Wei (Guitarist): Zeng Guo Hong (band Sunset Rollercoaster’s vocalist and guitarist)
10. Singapore is most famous for its eats such as Chilli Crab, Hainanese Chicken Rice, so on and so forth. Do you have any places you’d like to go or things you’d like to eat while you’re here?
Wang(Vocalist) & Hou (Bass): Anything good to eat!!!
11. Singapore’s audiences are actually pretty ‘cool’. Do you have confidence in bringing them a ‘high’ performance?
12. Lastly, being an independent musician is not an easy task. If you could give a few tips to those who want to get into the business, what would you say to them?
Wang (Vocalist): Focus on doing what you love!
Hou (Bass): Don’t think too much, good luck!
Want to get to know the four boys a little better? Singaporean fans have a chance to catch them up close and personal on the 14th of December at Timbre by Switch (Bras Basah MRT). Their performance will be from 7pm to 8.30pm, featuring special guests Felix Felicis. Entrance is free.
Borrowing a line from singer Yen-J’s lyrics, it can be said that one of the quirkiest bands of this year , Felix Felicis are like fireworks, temporary yet vibrant. Calling themselves a ‘limited edition’ side project, the four members are from tour different well-known bands on the Taiwanese indie music scene; Come on! Bay bay!, Gigantic Roar, Elephant Gym and Chocolate Tiger. Each having their own distinct musical style, they have now come together to create a diverse yet fresh set of chemistry. Allowing each other to challenge personal musical limits is one of the reasons Felix Felicis has started their band, but they also represent a temporary, yet exciting musical experiment. Being formed less than a year ago, the group has decided to part ways soon due to all of them having other musical commitments. So like I said, Fireworks! It has certainly been my honour to record down their unique musical advancements and chemistry before the four of them part ways, while understanding their thoughts in regards to their upcoming performance as special guest for Gigantic Roar at their upcoming concert in Singapore.
1.It’s your first time performing in Singapore as a band, what are your thoughts?
Really excited! When we first started this band, we’d never thought we would have the chance to go to Hong Kong, Malaysia let alone Singapore. Aside from each of our separate experiences playing in our own bands, our time together as Felix Felicis has been very short. We worked hard to write a new album of songs, so being able to take these works overseas and give them to listeners is something that is really fulfilling, we really hope everyone enjoys it!
2.Your band members come from a few very well-known independent bands in Taiwan such as Elephant Gym, Gigantic Roar, Come on! Bay Bay! and Chocolate Tiger. Why did you wish to create this band?
The journey to creating this band was full of coincidences and luck, and the end of last year Elephant Gym took a break due to one member going off to serve National Service. Bass players Tiffany Cheng and Enno Cheng took this time during band practice to write a few songs. One day, Gigantic Roar’s Birdy Hou (Bassist)happened to be passing by, and just asked casually if he could play with us. After a period of time we met Orange Grass band (now Come on! Bay Bay!)’s drummer Birdman, and tried asking him if he wanted to join our band. (The funny part is, Kaiting and Pai Di weren’t very acquainted with BirdMan). After practicing together a few times and producing many works, this side project got off to a very good start!
3.Where did the name of your band come from?
Tiffany Cheng: During the Winter time in Taiwan, they sell a kind of pillow that can be used to warm your hands (you can stuff your hands inside), I always call it Xiao Fu Qi (Little Luck). Because our band was created in the Winter so we called it Xiao Fu Qi (Little Luck). As for the English name, it comes from a kind of magic solution found in Harry Potter. In Chinese its called Fu Lai Fu Xi, once you drink it you will have a whole day of good luck!
4.Last year you guys released an album, would you be able to explain its concept to your audience?
This album including intro has nine songs, its name was “A bunch of assholes”, because at the beginning every song was imagined to be a human, which is how names were chosen. And these people, some of them were pessimistic, others cynical, others cocky, and so when you put them altogether it would make a bunch of assholes! Every song of ours is extremely different, with fresh images, just like every person having different personalities.
5.I know you are all people who are passionate about music. When was it that you realized your interest in music?
Born to love music!
6.What kind of influence or emotions do you wish your music presents to its audiences?
On the whole we hope that it is a new and fresh listening experience, because we challenged ourselves to do things that are less familiar to us (such as Tiffany playing the synthesisers, Enno being in charge of the guitar, Birdy plucking strings etc.), hoping listeners can feel the adventurousness and quirkiness of our music. We also hope that some songs can allow everyone to have space to think, and ponder on their life values.
7.Being an independent musician is not an easy task. If you were to give some suggestions to those who wish to get into the scene, what would you tell them?
Build up your own core values for creating music, and think about exactly why you want to create music? Try your best to not be affected by trivialities and to be influenced by them. (But this is really hard).
8.If you an choose one musician to work with, who would you choose?
This is so hard! K.flay! (Just going ahead and naming an impossible choice)
9.Singapore is most well-know for its eats, like Chilli Crab, Hainanese Chicken Rice and so on. While you’re here is there anywhere you’d like to go or anything you’d like to eat?
Whatever it is, we wish to immerse ourselves into consumption behavior (what we will consume has no limits).
10.Singapore’s audiences are actually pretty ‘cold’. Do you have faith in allowing them to have a rocking time at your performance?
We will try! Come on! We will fight to the death to allow you guys to feel like you’ve got your money’s worth!
11.We hear that you are unsure when is the next time you can work together. Is Felix Felicis disbanding?
Yes we are! Although it is a pity, because of large amounts of performances and recordings, band members continue to increase in chemistry and get along more smoothly, but because next year Tiffany will be going to Japan, everyone else also has their own plans (busying themselves with albums or solo projects), so in the near future we won’t be performing. But we still hope that we can get back together at some special events, and occasionally have band practice together to try and write more cool new songs!
Friends in Singapore, if you don’t want to miss out on this chance to appreciate some good music, come down to Timbre by Switch on the 14th of December; Felix Felicis will be Gigantic Roar’s opening act that night. The performance runs from 7 to 8.30pm, entrance is free.
Interview by: Jamie Lee
Feature and interview material translation by: Jocelle Koh
Author's note: Once again, its been my absolute pleasure to collaborate with Jamie Lee, the writer behind prolific Taiwanese music blog Jamie Deer music. Here we've used a translation of excerpts of his most recent interview with singer Yen-J, pieced together into a feature article about the all-rounder's personal growth. Enjoy!
Yen-J has come a long way since he entered the music industry as a fresh-faced newbie at the tender age of 19. Now 27, it seems that the two-year break he had from the industry has done him a world of good, leaving him wiser, and more in touch with himself as a person.
“Before we turn 18, you can say we are in the protection phase. We don’t really have the ability so we are always relying on our elders to watch over us. Then when we reach 18, its like “yes! We’re adults” …But actually we are not that strong. I feel like we are in a ‘Supported’ stage. The person supporting you may be a lover, or a boss or friends, just people you trust. And so these people’s ideas will accumulate on your person and you will become a jigsaw puzzle of many people’s parts. Once you finally overcome this stage you can go into the “Infinite phase” where you don’t have anything that can influence you anymore... Once you get to this stage, you finally become a unique individual in this universe. Just like how no one star is identical in the universe, you are like that star. So I feel like I’m moving towards that point.”
But taking time off from the bustling music scene doesn’t mean that the creative singer-songwriter has been slacking off in the least. Between 2013 and 2015, he has written over 220 songs out of which 21 made the cut to his two latest albums, “Thanksgiving” and “Why?Art?”. He spoke fervently of his songwriting process as more emotional healing than anything else.
“When you are free of stress-I feel like the process didn’t even feel like songwriting anymore, it’s more like a journal. If you only write in it once a month, sometimes you may forget to write in it. But if you write in it everyday, after that you would feel like there was something amiss, and have to go back and write in it.”
In fact, these 220 songs were inspired in part from Yen-J’s questioning of his dreams and measurement of success over the last two years, which forged the concept for his “Thanksgiving” album.
“A child’s blood-relations with you can never be broken. Money and all these material things when compared to it have no value, because such things last for a lifetime. All these other things are like clouds; with a gust of wind, they’ve blown away. So with this concept in mind, I wrote a lot of the songs in the “Thanksgiving” album, such as “Little Angel” and “You are my everything”, so on and so forth.”
When asked which of his two latest albums “Thanksgiving” and “Why?Art?” he liked better, his answer was fair, yet honest:
“Each of them is made of my own flesh, blood and tears. But I feel that Y6 is like the black sheep in a family. So my six albums are like my six children. Y6 represents the most strange one that needs the most care. So I feel that being able to let everyone hear Y6’s music makes me very happy. Because he is a part of me that I rarely take out and show everyone. I believe that everyone has a hidden side to them, and won’t show that off at every opportunity of performance or with first impressions bring it out. But since I’ve already been in the business for six years, bringing this side of me out for audiences is a good thing.”
I’ve been a huge fan of Yen-J since the start of his career, and creative as he may be, I’ve always wanted to see him push his limits as a creative type, producing fusions of sounds that were hard-hitting and critical, rather than his usual light-hearted and relaxing stuff. So in my opinion, this two-year break has done a world of good for the talented guy, allowing him to create music that was risky yet honest; supplying him with courage and the mental capacity to take on even greater challenges in his musical career. I for one, certainly look forward to what he’s going to do next.
Yen-J's 5th and 6th albums "Thanksgiving" and "Why?Art?" are out now on iTunes and in stores.
Interview: Sophia/Organisation: Yu Wen/Translator: Jocelle Koh
Sitting in front of us is Jiang Zhuo-Jia, otherwise known as GJ. With a full head of curly hair and a relaxing Japanese-inspired sunny appearance, his innocent looks portray him as a university student and have fooled many. But once we start talking about music, one is able to sense a kind of passion within him that is different from many. The year he turned 15, he saved up enough money to buy his first ever electric guitar, beginning his intimate musical life with his guitar.
A fairytale musical journey
“Now looking back my interest in music started when I was in primary school, when I had music classes although I didn’t know how to play any instrument, but every time the teacher played the piano I would always put my hands on the desk and play along.” Pretty much all musicians have this kind of ‘loving music since young’ genes, this kind of beginning was like the beginning of a fairytale, classic, yet always drawing people in. GJ recalls that because at the beginning of his adolescence he was rebellious, so at 14 he was forced by his father to stay at home and practice guitar, and was not allowed out of the house. “Everytime I heard the key in the door, I would very fearfully pick up my guitar, no matter what I must let my dad think I’m practising.” It seems that ‘liking music’ and ‘practising’ to GJ is two different things altogether.
Along with the passing of time, after playing for a while. His hands grew calluses and the chords were more fluent. Practising and practising, it seems that his practice turned into fruition. “Afterwards I found out that when my teacher was on stage giving speeches all the chords he were teaching I already knew how to play!”. This is GJ’s year eight’s first music lesson, at that time he had already fallen for the magic of the guitar.
But who would have thought, that practice without rest of the guitar would cause his father who had completely supported him from the beginning to disagree. In order to become a better student his father forbade him from practising guitar in the house, hoping that he would spend more time on his studies. “I was indignant, so skipped class to practice guitar, during free study time I would always go to the toilet and not come back”. “I didn’t have a choice, I was too familiar with the music building, I knew which classrooms didn’t have people at which times!” GJ, like a little kid who had done something wrong laughed complacently.
“But the night roads when walked for too long will also cause you to meet ghosts, once I accidentally was caught by the music teacher.” Don’t forget, every fairytale story in midst of turmoil will always have a 180 degree change. In order to spend time practising guitar in school, GJ skipped class to practice and the teacher actually was moved by his motivation, and allowed him to get a signature during free study time to go and practice guitar. That’s right, its just that magical, when you truly want to do something, the whole world will come together to help you.
“Chinese parents all wish that their kids can become lawyers, doctors, all these kinds of stable jobs; although music is not stable, but there is definitely a need for people to make music so that everyone can listen to it. This is also a job.” There is not doubt that music was the pathway for GJ, that was a fact 15-year ofl GJ was confident in.
As a person I have principles, and that is to be cool
His debut album ’10 faces’ which featured his long-haired rock appearance is completely changed in his latest ‘See you again’ album with his refreshing warm appearance, does his feelings have any contrasts? We assumed that he would have a long emotional talk, but GJ’s logical answer was “I told my company, as a person I have a principle, which is to be cool!” causing us to burst into laughter. Ten difference faces, his first album was named ‘ten faces’ to give GJ the best positioning, “perhaps there are even more, I don’t know, but every kind is all me.” He didn’t forget to add that all these ten kinds of him have one similarity which is ‘cool’. To GJ, other than his most-loved guitar, ‘cool’ is his principle.
Perhaps during high school GJ had already created his principle of ‘coolness’, but in a different way. “The craziest thing I have ever done was being attracted by a visual rock in high school, taking my sister’s eyeliner and putting on nail polish.” His school days of course would not be complete without the hair, after he graduated from high school he dyed his hair white blonde, got a eyebrow piercing; so hard for us to imagine.
“At that time I was very rebellious, even almost went to get tattooed, wanting to prove that after graduating no one could care about what I did.” But, after a bit of life experience GJ then realized that liking rock was a kind of attitude “of course you can use visuals to tell other people you are a rocker, but I think attitude is more important.” Actually, this type of GJ is even more cool!
The guitar will always exist
“No matter what genre I play in, I will always be a guitarist.” In terms of appearance, GJ’s similarity point is always coolness. In music, his signature element will likewise always be the guitar.
His parents are both passionate about music, and from when GJ was young loved listening to Michael Jackson’s music, and it was under his father’s influence that he began to interact with the acoustic guitar. During his school years he saw seniors playing electric guitar and then realized that other than acoustic guitar there is also rock, mixers and electric guitars’ presence in that moment opened his eyes to a new world and stimulated his rock spirit. “At that time hearing that kind of thrashing, rock rhythm, suddenly there was no way for me not to fall in love with music!” GJ was unable to hold his excitement in.
And when he had just arrived in Taiwan, GJ’s songs were all pure and balladic with the acoustic guitar as its main instrument. You possibly haven’t noticed that he has already written songs for many singers such as Richie Jen, Eason Chan, Freya Lin, Hua Xia and Ella Chen. His works such as Freya Lin’s ‘This way of loving you is so frightening’, Hua Xia’s ‘Forced’, Cheryl Yang’s ‘Awake’ all didn’t have band or electric guitar; a simple acoustic guitar instead can be a very simple way of expressing emotions.
Acoustic guitar or electric guitar, GJ just cannot be separated from his guitars. “Of course every single album will have different directions and changes, but every song’s arrangement, every performance, the guitar will always be in the music, of course when songwriting I am even more so attached to it.”, presenting the persistence of a musician.
Wanting to sing ‘There isn’t only one’ to ‘her’
Does GJ who is loved by countless fans also have a dream lover? Of course, and it is the lead actress of “16 summer days” Ruby Lin who shot to fame after that. Have you seen the drama? “of course, I watched it until I cried, wanting to say that I was Fang Wei De!” Seeing the usually stone faced GJ confessing his love is quite humourous, his honest answers also evidenced he wasn’t just shoving us any name to stopper our mouths.
If there was a chance, what song would you want to sing to her? This is possibly the hardest question asked today, GJ also thought about it for a long time. “I will probably sing…If I understand her well enough…oh~ so hard!” GJ pondered this for a long time, even using a supposedly deep understanding of Lin to analyse. “I think based on her forwardness, probably will like to hear a song with faster rhythms, I want to sing “There isn’t only one” to her.” As a guitarist, if she appears in one of the city’s streets, Ruby Lin will be GJ’s only one; so GJ’s deep love does not just extend to songwriting.
Link to original post: http://taiwanbeats.punchline.asia/en/archives/8521
Interview with Gigantic Roar/Life is music-quoting Soft Lipa: “As long as you’re alive you won’t be without inspiration”
Interview: Sophia/Organising article: Yu Wen/Translation: Jocelle Koh
In the spring of 2012 a couple of big guys hailing from Gaohsiung came to Taipei to study, bringing with them a passion for music and so “Gigantic Roar”, a band of a couple of 20-something year olds came together. Not even having been together for four years, and even taking a half-year break in the middle, they have already caused gigantic roars with their appearances at the “Gigantic devil rock”, “Wild stage performance” and “Big Street performance” festivals. This year, along with ChtoniC, Trash, Wang Yu Jun and the time band, Fire Ex and Eiji Kadota, they have once again been nominated at the golden indie music awards for the “Best live performance award”.
Their first composition “Climbing up the Birdy Tower”’s release grabbed many eyeballs, with a song title and half of the song lyrics using the poetic works of Tang dynasty poet Wang Zhi Huan. In the later half of the song, it sings of completely opposite emotions; “Don’t enlighten me, let me be an idiot”. Not only did it cause waves at the 30th Golden Melody, but it even successfully used crowdfunding platform FlyingV to gain the chance to release their own album. This time we used the opportunity of the upcoming Golden Indie Music Awards to interview three of Gigantic Roar’s big boys. Guitarist Jing Han was unable to attend, but specially asked the band to pass on a few of his answers.
Once you knew that you were nominated for this year’s Golden Indie Music Awards under ‘Best live performance’, what were your feelings?
Tang Xuan: Because we are usually busy, so when I saw it I just thought to myself ‘Oh really! Good! Ok!’. But if we are talking not about the feeling I had in that moment, I felt that being nominated was a very happy feeling for us and those who worked with us, receiving an award and being nominated is the biggest repayment for those who have been supporting and waiting for you, we just wish to be the best at what we do.
Jing Han: Being able to be nominated for best film editing allowed me to show my respect for “Tang Xuan’s band”. (Laughs)
From the first work until your newest album what kinds of changes were there in the musical compositions?
Zhi You: Previously the stuff we wrote was more simple, shorter, but for this new album the composition process came from a prototype that we came up with during band practice and recorded it down on our phones. Afterwards, I’ll go home and slowly write it/ Of course what we mostly write about is life, just more and deeper.
Let’s discuss the theme and concept of your new album!
Jing Han: This is going to be a very eclectic album, actually it shows the ability of each of us to imitate different genres through a bottleneck.
Zhi You: But for real this time, this album is a very honest record of life, noting down everything that we have faced this year.
Tang Xuan: It is a work that uses a very strong first person perspective, some people use the third person, but we really use the first person perspective a lot, using this view allows everyone to more quickly and more easily tap into the emotions. Although some of the song lyrics may seem dumb to others, but after you listen a few times, just like the movie “The Assassin’ you need to listen more than a few times before you will start to change your thinking.
(Pai Di: But the ast time I went to see “Jurassic World” for the second time, my feelings on it were still the same. Ha~)
When you have no inspiration for composition what do you do?
Pai Di: Probably listen to music. Actually I will still force myself to write it down even if I’m stuck, pushing my boundaries to find it, never just wait for inspiration to come before you begin creating. Even if I only finished a little bit today, one, or two melody lines even, but these could possibly be very important elements in a future song.
Zhi You: Using the words of Softlipa: “As long as you’re alive you won’t be without inspiration”. Being without inspiration these two days is probably just what you feel.
What small habits do you have before going on stage?
Pai Di: Start planning when is the last time I can go toilet…
Tang Xuan: Before I go on stage I will do five minutes of deep breathing exercises, in the five minutes it allows me to regain a very focused mental state. Relaxing muscles and adjusting breathing, this allows me to be less nervous, and at the same time allows me to pull myself back from all the things I am doing to just focusing on performing.
If you meet audiences which are very impatient while performing what will you do?
Pai Di: No matter about the fans or anything else, when on stage the things we try and express to them usually don’t change much, so we actually don’t really try to pump the fans up.
Zhi You: I don’t feel that interacting with the audience is part of my job, I feel that my responsibility is just to increase the standard of performance.
Tang Xuan: Of course if the audience are happy, the performance atmosphere will also be infected, but we still try our best to not be influenced too much by the audience, this seems to be the best method.
What do you parents think of you forming a band?
Pai Di: My parents support me, I think this is pretty good. My mother really loves music, other than coming to watch our performances, she will even actively go and watch other bands’ performances too.
Zhi You: My mother’s idea is just this, hoping that I will finish university, but I feel that this conflicts with me wanting to play music. Of course we do communicate, and at the beginning she was very sad, but afterwards she slowly got used to it. At the same time, I am also communicating with myself, should I keep studying, should I keep going to university, how should I choose? Although my mother didn’t specially choose to support me or not, but will still take my bank book to tuition, ask me if I have money for food…(Editor: When he said this, Zhi You choked a little, and accidentally saw tears swimming in his eyes.)
What are the future aims and direction of the band?
Tang Xuan: We hope that our output value grows, so that everyone’s life won’t be so terrible, I don’t want to be a millionaire, but I hope that at least I can survive. Of course wanting to start your own band has a scope, don’t be signing a labour declaration at the very last minute!
Pai Di: If we can solve these economic issues, then we wouldn’t need to compose songs halfway and then go to the public payphone at convenience stores to make phone calls. (Tang Xuan explains that it’s not that Pai Di’s phone can’t call out, it’s that it can’t be picked up, it’s a empty number. Laughs~)
Zhi You: Composing needs time, but if time is taken up doing other things, if I still need to waste time worrying about life, then I will be unable to 100% focus on creating music.
Pai Di: Actually the most important thing is that everything starts out from the music, don’t need to talk about the scope of bands, how many people come to see your performance, before all this, what you need to think about is: “What is the next musical challenge?”.
Some people say that their live performances are shocking and manic, some people say that their live performances are always crazily sung and played to break through the clouds. Every person in Gigantic roar has their own place, Lead singer Zhi You chose to temporarily stop school in order to put everything into creating music; Bass player Pai Di also was unable to pay his phone bills for many months; Drummer Tang Xuan who is in charge of managing the band and administrative services, just wishes that as an independent band they will not need to worry about food or clothing.
Being an independent and student band is especially hard, but just listening and watching their live performances your passions will more or less be ignited by their music. If you too wish to experience their brand of hot performance, then don’t forget that Gigantic Roar will be holding a nine-stop winter tour, and on the 7th of November will be at NTU gym attending the 6th Golden Indie Music Awards. The ceremony is free and tickets can be bought on their official page or on KKTIX.
Originally published on Taiwan Beats.
Translator: Jocelle Koh
PiA band is a new face that was nominated for this years’ Golden melody Awards in the ‘Best Performance Group’ category. They are composed to lead singer PiA（Bei ya Wu吳蓓雅）, Base player Hsiao Bo（Chen Bo Cheng陳柏誠） and Ukelele and drums musician Hsiao Yi（Yuxin Lan俞心嵐）. Through light and fast melodies they create imagery of life’s sad, happy and unexpected moments and have moved many a fan with their music.
However to PiA band, the critical acclaim that has come from the mainstream music world has come a little too late. After releasing their album “Isn’t this life生活不就是這樣”, two of the band members left, leaving behind PiA by herself. PiA herself mentions regretfully “Now there’s no PiA band anymore, just PiA.”
◎In five years the band has reformed four times, isn’t this life?This band that was started in 2010, in five years experienced four reformations with band members coming and going. The band was united and split, with the only remaining member PiA shouldering her way through it all.
At the beginning, the band was a two-person act by PiA and Kuo Yi-Hao（郭一豪）, before adding Hsiao Song on the backing vocals and drummer Lin Bi-Da（林弼達）, making it a four0person act. In 2011 it once again became a two-person group with PiA and Hsiao Song, but regretfully, at the end of 2012, Hsiao Song also left the group.
This was with no doubt a difficult time for PiA. Within the space of half a year she had no income from performances at all, and could only rely on teaching guitar to make a living. The song ‘Isn’t this life’ was written about this time. To the ear, it has a clean and happy melody but underneath all of it is hidden PiA’s feelings towards society. No matter what, we still have to continue. PiA said it this way, “I tried using a light and breezy attitude to look at a lot of burdens of life.”
In 2013, PiA band came together once again. Hsiao Song（小松）, Hsiao Yi（小翼） joined, letting three individuals of similar ages and of a similar passion for music to come together. Other than focusing on songwriting, they began trying different things.
Through a coincidental opportunity, PiA met a manager from Beijing, and was given a chance to release a Japanese album and to tour. Performing far away in Japan, the biggest problem especially for struggling independent musicians was money. “At that time it was trendy to crowdfund, it was just that there weren’t many who were doing it, so we just thought we’d give it a try.” So PiA band joined together with Cheshire Cat（柴郡貓） to start an internet crowdfunder in preparation for their trip to Japan. Thinking back to that experience, PiA’s voice hints at laughter. “I didn’t expect it to be that successful, because wanting everyone to take out money and fund you to do something you want to do is a hard feat.”
While crowdfunding, PiA band also prepared their internet-based show “Ah look at PiA”（阿你看 Pia）. Talking about doing an internet program, at the start PiA was extremely honest. “That year we had no works to put out, so we wished to do something a little different.” For them, doing an internet program nationally or internationally, in the future everyone wll still be able to see them.
Of course, the band’s main vocation was music and so after trying many different things, in July 2014 they released an entirely new album “Isn’t this life”. Pia describes the theme of this album as “a little bit feeling like we’ve started anew, for this album I also wrote a lot symbolising three people starting their journey anew.”
But something that causes regret is, not long after the album was released, the other two band members once again left. On the band’s disbanding once again, PiA was a little hurt. “I do feel a bit taunted, it’s already like we’ve started anew, yet at the end everyone’s left again.” Of course she can also understand that in the music industry wanting to keep going is not an easy thing to do; “Isn’t this life” sang out PiA band’s innermost thoughts and feelings, perhaps she herself is a metaphor for bands disbanding.
PiA band was nominated for this years’ Golden melody Awards in the ‘Best Performance Group’ category.
◎Was the Golden melody awards a one night as a celebrity feeling for you?But at the same time is was this album that sent PiA to the Golden Melody Awards ceremony. This critical acclaim from the mainstream music world left PiA a little helpless, she describes it as her “one night as a star” experience.
“It was really hard for me to acclimatise to that atmosphere, songwriting usually consists of staying at home and writing things, the most dramatic part of this job is wearing a pretty dress on stage and interacting with audiences. Coming to such a large ceremony and in front of so many photographers and journalists showing myself off I really feel very uneasy. This one night as a celebrity experience was very painful. When you are standing in a mainstream environment, everyone has to immediately see your uniqueness, in this area I really need to learn more.”
As hard as PiA finds it to get used to the extravagance of being under the spotlight, the success that she’s received in the indie music scene comes from the acclaim given by the Golden Melody awards. Such acclaim has an underlying realistic purpose; to let those who support her feel that she has always been moving forward, and at the same time to let her mother who constantly worries about her to feel comforted.
◎Finding Bobby Chen（陳昇）& starting againTaiwanese famous singer–Bobby Chen（陳昇）
When asked about what she has yet to do but wishes to conquer after five years in the industry, PiA laughs and says “At my performance in September at last year at Legacy I was finally able to get Bobby Chen (Chen Shen) to be my special guest. This allowed me to feel like nothing would ever be impossible anymore.”
In order to understand how she met Bobby Chen, perhaps we must understand PiA’s persistence and passion for music. To request that he be her special guest, Pia vigorously contacted his manager, record label, sent hand-written letters, performance plans and CDs. A reply was only sent back two months later; Bobby Chen gave her the huge task of being the opening act for his New Formosa band concert, and her performance did not let him down. And so in proceeding concerts such as the Simple Life festival and Countdown concerts, PiA and Bobby collaborated time and time again.
Asking him to be her mentor also happened during their collaborations. Talking about the journey to Chen becoming her mentor, PiA herself was not entirely sure, “After we went to Taitung’s Iron flower village to perform, everyone was drinking and chatting. big brother Chen suddenly told his drummer Ah-wen ‘Tell PiA don’t let her think we are begging her.’ I didn’t understand, and brother Ah-wen then told me ‘PiA, big brother Chen is asking you to call him your mentor.’ So I picked up a drink to salute him, and that was that, a rather blurry situation.”
Music is always the reason and meaning that PiA has worked towards, “I’ve always thought that this thing called music has to be done till the very end, I don’t wish to earn a lot of money from it. I feel that being able to support myself and workers and to continue doing so in the long term is good enough.” And her fate with mentor Bobby Chen allows PiA even more confidence towards the future. When deciding to learn under Chen, PiA’s heart calmed down a lot as no matter what happens, at least there will be that one person to give you advice.
Starting over, PiA who is starting her journey alone hopes that in the coming time, she can devote herself to creation, playing with new elements in her music and “again going to do those things that I’ve only seen done, yet was afraid of doing”.
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