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.