Fri, Nov 23, 2007 - Page 15 News List

Their amp goes up to eleven

By Ron Brownlow  /  STAFF REPORTER

To a God Unknown, from left, Leon LaPointe, Joe Witt, Rafe Walters and Mikey Newsham, play Taichung's 89K tomorrow night.


On To a God Unknown's MySpace page there's a note that reads, "The songs are long. You should listen to them very loud." But some people don't get it. Earlier this year at party in Nantou County, its set was cut short because an organizer possessed more limited tastes. The band members had spent a lot of time and money traveling from Taipei, and they were angry. So after the other acts had finished, they plugged in their instruments and started playing again. Screaming for them to stop, the bar's manager grabbed vocalist Leon LaPointe's microphone and wouldn't let go. Incensed, LaPointe knocked over a speaker and punched out a Heineken light. Someone called the police.

"They ignored us when we asked if we could play again, so we just took over the stage," LaPointe says. "I got up and the boss of the bar was hanging off my mic yelling, 'Stop! Stop!' And, 'Aaaah! Aaaah! You can't do this!' And I was like, 'Fuck off.'" "They said, 'You're too loud.' What kind of music are you supposed to play? It's live music. What do you want?"

Finding a suitable venue isn't always easy when you're a post-rock band in Taiwan. The genre has plenty of fans here and skilled practitioners like Sugar Plum Ferry (甜梅號), but not much of a live scene. To a God Unknown has earned a loyal following and often plays before large crowds at places like The Wall (這牆). But sometimes the band ends up with just a few people in the audience. They don't care much either way, as long as they get to play.

"We play for ourselves," says bassist Mikey Newsham. "Because we very much play for ourselves, we're very likely to alienate our audience." "It's the love of it," says guitarist Rafe Walters. "Playing on some little riff and making it into an epic. It's obviously really gratifying when people like it. But it doesn't bother us when people don't."

Performance notes

To a God Unknown's upcoming performances:

Tomorrow, 10pm, at 89K Music Bar, 21 Daguan Rd, Taichung City (台中市大觀路21號). Tickets are NT$250. Call (04) 2320-7010 for more information

Dec. 14, 9pm, at Bliss, 148, Xinyi Rd Sec 4, Taipei City (台北市信義路四段148號). Tickets are NT$200. Call (02) 2702-1855 or visit

Dec. 19, 9pm, at Underworld, B1, 45 Shida Rd, Taipei (台北市師大路45號B1). Tickets are NT$300. Call (02) 2369-0103 or visit for more information

Jan. 4, Jan. 5 and Jan. 6, at 7pm, as part of Antipop! 2 with Japanese punk band The Vickers. Jan. 4 at Groovecity, inside Tiger City (台中老虎城旁停車場) at 120, Henan Rd Sec 3, Taichung City (台中市河南路三段120號老虎城).

Jan. 5 and Jan. 6 at APA Lounge 808 in Ximending (西門町), 6F, 152, Zhonghua Rd Sec 1, Taipei City (台北市中華路一段152號6樓). Advance tickets are NT$350 or NT$450 at the door. Send an e-mail or call 0986-867-774 for more information

To a God Unknown layers brooding textures, the drone of a Korg Wavestation, and epic guitar that's reminiscent of Japanese hard-core band Envy. The group's songs tend to start slowly, creep pensively, and then erupt into a dramatic, full-frontal wall of sound. Though their music is evolving and they don't want to be pigeonholed as a post-rock band - drummer Joe Witt prefers the term "drone rock" - they avoid traditional song structures and cite Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor as influences. Most of To a God Unkown's tracks last around seven to eight minutes, and live performances seem like one long song because the Korg drones throughout the set and band members don't engage the audience.

Witt, Walters and Newsham, who are from England, formed To a God Unknown two years ago. LaPointe, a Canadian who also sings for psychedelic punk band Rocketgrrl, recently joined them. (Darin Rock Starkey, also of Rocketgrrl, fills in for Witt when the band plays outside of Taipei.) LaPointe routes his mic through a digital delay pedal that makes him sound like Gibby Haynes of the Butthole Surfers. He isn't so much a singer as another instrument mixed in with the band's stunningly executed arrangements.

In an interview Tuesday night in Shida park, the band members explain that their songs have no meaning, and neither do the lyrics. "Our music is emotionally effecting," Walters says. "The point is to get some reaction." LaPointe says he comes up with a theme when he sings. "It's either historical or prehistorical, or vaguely crypto-zoology. Usually when I'm with them I do prehistorical - prehistory way back like zygotes."

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