Taiwan Punk 2006 by Andy Deported
Taiwan Punk Scene Report
taken from: The Deported’s MySpace Blog
Last year I spent a long time writing a Taiwan punk scene report for Maximum RocknRoll. I attempted to document the short history of punk-ish music in Taiwan, the past and present bands, as well as the various self-styled promoters and labels.
After Joe Kidd, one of the big kahunas of the Malaysian scene saw one of my half-ass reports on Ricecooker he said something like “reminds of the early days of the Malaysian scene in the early 90’s. Heady times indeed.”
Well, thinking back, 2005 wasn’t exactly heady, but it was kind of exciting to have bigger crowds at local clubs and bills featuring all punk-influenced bands. But then that fall four Taipei bands broke up and like a small musical village hit by a corporate plague of mainstream small pox, the underground was wiped out. The kids went back to popping ecstacy and raving till dawn to Mando-candy techno at the monstrous downtown night clubs.
To put it simply, Taiwan is a lot more of a conformist society than some of us were willing to admit (particulary us foreign devils). Keep in mind, this report is very much written from a foreigner’s point of view – albeit a foreigner who has lived in Taiwan for five years and played in a band. NEVERTHELESS…
First off, I’d like to dispel a few myths about “Taiwan punk” that have been perpetuated by people like myself.
1.) Taiwan has a punk scene.
OK. Not intentionally perpetuated (titter titter) I’ll break it down. Taiwan doesn’t have a scene in the sense that if your band comes to town there’s going to be hordes of local punks showing up setting up distros and zine stands and moshing for hours on end.
There’s a difference between a country with a punk scene and a country with punk bands. Basically we’re talking fifty people of mixed persuasion (Taiwanese and foreigner) standing around drinking beers with ten people in the front jumping up and down shoving each other into tables with pissed off patrons.
What Taiwanese have learned about punk has been from watching videos of concerts, so moshing is something to do because “that’s what you do at punk shows.” It’s not the surge of adrenalin you get from letting the raw power of punk rock seep into your ear hole. Nope. But after going to small little intimate punk shows for the past few years, I know some of the kids get it and they enjoy it in their own way.
When Die Young and RAMBO came here, I know many were totally blown away, but they didn’t know what to make of this raging, unadulterated aggressive music. That kind of free expression is just not accepted in this society. (Now, the exception of course is LTK Commune, but we’ll get to that later)
So to sum it up, bands of all genres should come here, if only to educate and know that they are loved by some, but it’s not going to be the same as their hometown scenes. You can book Taiwan as a stop-over on your way through Asia.
The many big festivals are also a good way to reach people if you can stomach the corporate sponsorship.
A local promoter has booked NOFX for April and we’ll be psyched if 300 people show up (far below the 500 capacity), so that may give you some idea.
Taiwan has a scene in the sense that three bands may happen to be friends and do shows together, but that’s about it.
2.)There are distros and zines in Taiwan.
Horseshit. I did a zine with a friend which lasted one issue, but all of the copies got stolen.*
Many have tried and failed to do distros over the years. Some have started elaborate storefronts and some have done mailorder or merch tables at shows. All are defunct because no matter how hard you try to stimulate the kids’ interest in exotic forms of music, you’re just going to end up throwing away assloads of hard earned cash.
The problem all of these distros faced, is that they only stocked the music that suited their personal tastes. In a country without a homegrown punk rock or metal scene, there just isn’t much of a market for certain genres like pop-punk, psychobilly, crust punk, grindcore, hardcore, or porn metal power violence screamo pig grind.
I know some local kids will write to foreign bands or DIY labels and say they have a zine or distro to get free CDs – well, sorry to piss on your parade kids, but it’s a scam. I haven’t seen these distros and zines, no one I know has seen them, and I’m sure no one reading this has seen them. It’s a good way to get free merch though.
3.)There’s a DIY scene in Taiwan
Follow these simple steps:
A) Go to a bar
B) Ask the owner nicely if they’ll host a show (they don’t usually know what punk is, so don’t explain. It might scare them)
C) Assure them all of your alcoholic friends will come and drink a lot
D) Make sure you have a lot of alcoholic friends and have their word that they’ll come
E) Rock out and get free drinks
Renting venues and equipment is a pain in the ass and the money you throw down won’t cover the costs anyway.
You can also take advantage of the fact people still don’t know what the fuck punk is by booking your band at weddings, battered women’s shelters, mental institutions or whatever other groups that are looking for bands to play events.
That’s Taiwan DIY.
At some later point I’ll post the Maximum RocknRoll scene report which gets a little into the history of Taiwan and the Taiwan music scene, but for now we’ll just go through the bands.
First I give you the godfathers of the underground rock scene here, LTK:
Instead of listing the bands by region this time, I’ve decided to break it down by genre. So if you’re not into “happy punk” (the vast majority of local punk in Taiwan), then skip by this next section.
Most of the band links are myspace pages or other music pages that feature the bands tracks, so you can hear them and I don’t have to describe them in my own words, which is always annoying to the reader, in my opinion.
Punk is the ideal form of music for me because it fits my spastic tastes in music and it can incorporate such a broad range of musical styles and ideas. Happy punk is one of those genres of punk that stretches the boundaries of punk’s definition for some “purists” (whatever the fuck pure punk is)
However, for the Taiwan Happy Punx (T.H.P.) the melodic brand of pop punk made popular by such US bands as Green Day and Blink 182 and Japanese bands like Hi-Standard, perfectly fits the strongest emotions they want to express. And that emotion happens to be HAPPINESS! (and sometime sadness).
Most T.H.P. songs concern boy-girl relationships, friendships, being young and rocking out in their bands forever. When they run out of lyrics to write about those topics they usually fill in the gaps with whoa, whoa, whoas, hey hey heys, la la las, and oi oi ois.
Imagine that campy Japanese “Yatta” song fused with speedy distorted sing-songy Hi-Standard riffs.
If you haven’t seen Yatta, here it is:
It’s important to note that “Yatta” was actually a parody of silly Japanese pop songs, though it has been taken literally by many non-Japanese who thought it was just Japanese being wacky Japanese.
The term Yatta means “it’s done!”, “ready!” or “all right!” For more info about Yatta check out the Yatta wiki
This was a band that broke up sometime in 2002, but they were an important influence on many bands playing today. They were very much influenced by Hi-Standard. All that is left of the band are a few songs on compilation and this video:
Semi-Con is a happy punk band that started out in Central Taiwan and relocated to Taipei after the boys finished Uni.
Unlike many local “punk” bands who usually get into playing speedy four-four distorted music, Semi-Con has always been consistent. They’ll play for a festival of hundreds, or to ten people in a pub. They do it for the love of rocknroll ‚Äì even though they have a song that states the opposite.
Named after a Hi-Standard song, Stay Gold is another T.H.P. band that continues to play around Taipei after relocating from Taichung. Check ’em out to hear more.
I think I’ve seen Punkhoo before and they seemed happy. I dunno, judge for yourself:
BB Bomb is one of the most international bands around.
They’ve released an album on a Japanese label as well as a local label. They’ve made tours to Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Japan and they will soon be embarking on a tour to Singapore and Malaysia.
Here’s the review of BB Bomb I wrote for POTS Magazine and here’s BB Bomb’s profile on Island of Sound.
According to their site:
“If you guys are expecting some really cute and sweet punk rock songs from these girls, then you should better just fuck off and go back watch your asian porn video and feel yourself up.
BB Bomb is a Taiwanese girl band formed by FuFu(Shu Pei), Guo Zhi Gi and never last guest drummers. They play a hurry up beat oi/street punk, with songs that make you want lift up your bottles and sing alone, or sometimes they make you want to go mosh and knock down the big man next to you.
You get this power while these girls blasting into your ear in an aline bar, before you noticed, your beer is spreading all over your skirt, and your hair is all messy up.”
I’ve also heard they’ll rip your dick off, but check out the video and see what you think. I dunno about the whole oi/street punk label, but their sound is super tight and infectious even.
Taiwan SM Super Happy Punk Band
I believe that’s the name they go by these days anyway. SM is one of the first bands in Tainan and they have been very active in putting on shows with other young happy punk and emo bands down in the southern city.
They have a little club called The Taiwan Punk Solidarity Union or something like that.
They released an album on Saucebox Records earlier this year, but they’re still in the army so they don’t play very often these days.
Jump Jump Egg
When we went on our South East Asian tour, I brought along a whole compilation of Taiwan punk that I had put together so the Thai and Malaysian kids could hear what the island’s music was all about.
One night as we all sat around drinking with a group of Thai punk and hardcore kids, someone said “let’s put on that CD and hear some Taiwan punk!” Unfortunately Jump Jump Egg was the only track that was in mp3 format and could play on their CD player, so suddenly the upbeat happy music came over the speakers and the lyrics: “I’m a gaaaay gaaaaay gaaaa-ay-ay! I like a maaan!”
Liu Wei, our drummer, turned beet red and begged them to turn it off.
Jump Jump Egg had potential in the beginning, but then they just got poppier and poppier and their vocalist, well, he just got gayer. Here’s my POTS Magazine article about Jump Jump Egg and here’s Island of Sound’s profile of JJE.
Anyway, here they are on Taiwan ROC, a program that (was) Taiwan’s answer to American Bandstand:
This video pretty much sums up Silly What?!
I had to put the following bands in this category because these cats just aren’t as happy as the aforementioned bands. Some of them are a kind of rough, some are a little melancholy and some of them are just downright sad.
Children Sucker is one of the truly unique bands in Taiwan because they take elements of local folk genres of music, classic Taiwan love ballads and combine it with Weezer/Green Day inspired music to create something pretty catchy and innovative.
Most of the songs incorporate images of working class Taiwanese – the farmer, the working man, betel nut, blue and green flip flops, Long Life cigarettes and energy drinks.
They are very “tai-ke,” a slur originally used by post WWII Mainland immigrants to describe the local Hoklo hicks. Recently the tai-ke image has come into fashion and so has Children Sucker. I dig them, except when they start doing their “hey-o hey-o lalalalalalala” choruses.
I’ve heard they just got signed to a major label, which is well deserved given their popularity and the sheer catchiness of their songs (even though I don’t speak a word of Taiwanese).
They’ve got lots of videos you can check out here
Here’s my Children Sucker review for POTS and here’s the Island of Sound Children Sucker profile
Hotpink has been around for years and they play cute poppy girl punky music and participate in little music fests called “Let’s Girl Parties” where girls get a discount at the door. Girl power. ZAP!
Fire EX is a melodic punk band from Kaoshiung, Taiwan’s second largest city. They’re one of the most popular bands in Taiwan, but like most local bands, they only come out for the festivals.
They’ve played in Hong Kong, Korea, and China and they’ve released an EP and a number of tracks on various compilations. They haven’t released anything in a few years, but recently I heard their new material at a show and it seemed to be a lot of power love ballads.
Here’s one of my POTS Magazine articles about Fire EX and here’s Island of Sound’s Fire EX profile
FIRE EX music video:
Heavy Smoker doesn’t promote themselves that much, which is why I don’t have much stuff by them for this profile, but you can hear some of their old rough tracks on Island of Sound.
Kind of poppy street punk. They’re all under 21 and better than most bands around here. They have a full length album that is ten times more polished…
NEW ADDITION (added on Jan 20th 07 by Andy-O)
Hey everyone, one band that I didn’t mention, and really should have, is Maho.
Maho is one of the oldest bands in Taiwan and the reason why I didn’t mention (earlier) them is it’s been about a year since I’ve heard anything from them and they’re way down in the Southern city of Kaoshiung.
It’s really hard to pin down their sound, so I guess I’d just have to say they’re kinda Taiwanese-y. Very LTK influenced. I’m a fan.
Check out their songs on: myspace.com/mahoband
Island of Sound page: Maho
ricecooker note: there’s an article published last month on Maho here: “CARRYING THE PUNK TORCH: MAHO”
If you’re reading this on The Deported blog, you known who we are so I don’t need to go any further with that.
There are a few more foreigner bands that have started up since I last wrote a report. Ex-pat bands and T.H.P. bands are unfortunately worlds apart, both culturally and musically. That may be why the latter scene’s shows are usually polite, orderly affairs, while the former usually ends with projectile vomiting, property damage, and binge drinking until the following morning. I guess there’s a reason we all fled to here.
Consider the Meek singing “Taiwan Good, Chinese Missiles Bad”
Consider the Meek have been at it for at least five years and have seen about 36 line-up changes, but they’re still going stronger than ever.
CTM is very much into activist related activities and every tune is a political tirade (not a love song in the bunch – except maybe their love of Taiwan and hatred of Chinese missiles)
Kev, CTM’s frontman, also founded Leek Records, a politically-oriented punk label which releases CTM CDs as well as distributes the Hong Kong band King Lychee. Recently CTM completed their “Anti-Sushi” tour of Japan and another is planned for Spring.
They will also be opening for NOFX at the Wall when they come in April.
CTM – “Careful What You Vote For
Selling Us Everything
Selling Us Everything started out as one man playing every instrument and recording a track for Leek Records’ local comp “Serious Leekage,” and earlier this year they became an actual band.
The frontman Matt played in a Canadian punk band which I forgot the name and bassman Camillo was a member of Jonny All-Stars, a melodic punk band from Columbia. Ryan is just a Kiwi from the Shire. Their music is very melodic and the lyrics are intelligent and political. Most of the whoa whoas and heys heys are usually scratched out and replaced with mind-meltingly profound words.
Divebomb is a brand new melodic punk band from Tainan. Most of their members are from Canada, I believe. With SM doing their military service, they’re holding down the fort.
There are two rockabilly bands in Taiwan, Chicken Rice and Full House. Both bands are cute and zany and do their own thing.
Chicken Rice has been around for ages and last year they finally put out their first album which got some radio air play. The songs are catchy and with themes ranging from “cute old trains” to little doggies saying “wong wong” and cute little kitties saying “mi ao mi ao!” they were certainly radio friendly.
Fun stuff, actually. I miss them since they went on hiatus. Here’s my interview with Chicken Rice for POTS and the Island of Sound profile
Chicken Rice performing “Cute Old Train”:
Full House is a rockabilly band hailing from Tainan. They’re fun to dance to when you’re drunk. The guitarist wears a big elvis wig and Elvis glasses. That’s about all I can say.
Here’s their Island of Sound profile.
Emo has been around in Taiwan for a few years, but few bands have really been able to pull off that uniquely gloomy sound until now. Before bands like Hindsight 20/20 played nu metal, calling it “screamo.”
These days, there’s a handful of bands playing to all the brooding young sadsacks out there. I’m not really into that stuff, so I’ll keep it short:
First up is The Hindsight, an instrumental emo band rising from the ashes of Hindsight 20/20. They dropped the 20/20 and the vocals…and the product? Pure emo-magic.
Then there’s Fakery
And finally Mimosa
HARDCORE?! GRINDCORE?! CRUST?! SLUDGE PIG-GRIND POWER VIOLENCE PORN METAL?!
When I was writing this, I was astonished to find a grindcore band on myspace located in Taiwan. A lot of people ask me about crust and grindcore in Taiwan and I’m sad to say there most certainly is not a scene for that kind of music.
There was a guy selling crust punk imports in Semen Ding, but I’m pretty sure the store went under. A few years ago there was a crusty, hardcore kind of band here called Life of Morass. They looked pretty hip with their big mohawks and leather jackets, but when asked what their lyrics were about they said, “lyrics? Oh we don’t write lyrics. We just scream!”
Anyway, I’m pretty sure this next band is a little more with it than those guys, but it’s also just one guy. Must save him from having to deal with musical differences in the band I suppose.
Rampancy! Check ’em out.
The grind label:
A new ZMN Record release
123! THP GO!
ZMN Record is a new label/collective formed by the THP bands Semi-Con, Stay Gold, Duct Tape, and Heavy Smoker (who have adopted a more upbeat sound since the demo tapes that were posted on Island of Sound).
Each of the four bands feature one or two members of the other three ZMN acts, so they usually perform exclusively at ZMN sponsored shows. ZMN recently released a live compilation DVD curiously named “He Got Our Suck!” (see sleeve above).
Filmed at a 2006 ZMN showcase at the legendary THP hotspot Lounge 808 in Semen Ding, the The list includes some of the most jubilant, ecstatic happy punk tracks ever laid down by any THP band EVER.
With such instant-classic THP anthems as “Make a Wish (Mosh Under the Rainbow)” by Semi-Con, “Punk Rock Dream” by Heavy Smoker, and “Never Give Up” by Duct Tape, who needs happy pills? These young happy punks are the beating heart of the THP scene. And it’s all a flutter, I assure you.
Leek Records is a label founded by Consider the Meek frontman Kevin Lee. Leek has been active in a number of activist projects including the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Rock Against Landmines.
The label released albums and EPs by CTM, King Lychee (HK), The Deported, Da Gi Shion, The Queers and The Vickers. Most recently Leek has been instrumental in bringing NOFX to Taiwan.
Although not strictly a punk label, Pacifiction Records is a distribution label started by Marty of Island of Sound.
After living in Taiwan and a stint at the punk/oi! label Radical Records in New York City, Marty moved to Japan and launched Pacifiction Records which sells American, Taiwanese, and Japanese indie music.
You can also check it out at their Pacification @ MySpace.
Bloodstone Magazine is a bizarre collection of comics about mongoloids running multi-national corporations and bizarre little gnomes who have poo for hats.
Drawn and compiled by the enigmatic recluse “Leon,” Bloodstone was so named because finding contributors to work on the zine was like squeezing blood from a stone.
However, recently Bloodstone and my own punk zine PKSM have merged to form a bilingual zine/comic book. We welcome all contributors. Check out the funny pages here
Instead of tediously going through all of the venues where a touring band could possibly play, I’d just suggest that if your band is thinking of coming here to play, check out the bands I’ve listed here, find out the ones you dig and email them.
Getting the shows is not difficult at all, but promotion is the key. Try to get a diverse mix of bands on the bill. This place needs some unity.
Special thanks to Marty of Island of Sound and the bands for letting me steal their shit.