Fri, Jul 25, 2014 - Page 11 News List

Live Wire: Time to wake up

By Joe Henley  /  Contributing reporter

Tokyo heavy rock band Head Phones President promises to be one of the highlights of this year’s Wake Up Festival in Chiayi.

Photo courtesy of Shiwomi

“I am a sick man. I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man.” Dostoevsky said that in Notes from Underground. Even the most die-hard of music fans would be forgiven for applying the same kind of thinking to their own underground scene from time to time. It’s not easy being part of the up-swelling of a nascent movement when the great surge is beset at all turns by infighting, backbiting, undercutting and petty frivolities from within and without. But there are forces of good at work against the great brackish tide threatening to swallow everything up. One of those forces is the Wake Up Festival (Wake Up 音樂祭), set to kick off in Chiayi this weekend.

This year’s edition of the three-day weekend fest will see the return of a band that has made a point of coming to Taiwan on a regular basis in recent years. Tokyo’s Head Phones President, a heavy rock/alternative four-piece, has been making the trip over almost yearly since headlining the Rock Stage of 2007’s Formoz Festival (野台開唱) in Taipei. Frontwoman Anza Ohyama says she is just as comfortable with expressing earnest vulnerability in saccharine tones as she is whirling like some demonic dervish in her trademark black lace skirt whilst conjuring throat-tearing screams of anguish. Her band hails from Japan’s capital, but Taiwan has become like a second home for her and her bandmates.

“Taiwan is an important country for me,” she says. “I have a lot of friends and so many Head Phones President fans there. I feel like I’m back home again.”

Coming to Taiwan for the first time seven years ago, the band was surprised to find that rather than having to earn a fan base slowly over many return performances, that fan base was already waiting for them here. Chalk it up to a steady work ethic since the band’s formation in the year 2000. Bassist Ryuichiro Narumi says it’s the memory of that first appearance that keeps them coming back, and has helped cement Taiwan as their favorite place to play.

“The first show at Formoz is one of my best memories … It was the first time we had a show in Taiwan, but so many fans were waiting for us.”

This time around Head Phones President is returning just ahead of the release of its fourth full-length album, Disillusion, due out early next month. Expect a track or two from the release during the band’s highly anticipated set on the opening evening.

The following day at the fest will see another foreign act with a penchant for playing Taiwan, South Korean brutal death metal band Seed. The band got its start in 1996, and at the time was the only group playing death metal in their homeland. Seed released its debut full-length album, Terror Struck, two years after forming, and gutted it out until 2002 when a scenario that has also been the downfall of many a Taiwanese band befell them — the dreaded compulsory military service. The five-piece was forced to go on hiatus for four years, but their passion for extreme music never left. By 2006, they were back.

“The world had changed,” says bassist Yong-Geun Ko of their time in musical purgatory. “Our lifestyle had changed also. But the only thing we were passionate about, and never stopped keeping in mind, was the death metal mentality.”

In 2010 Seed released its second album, Origin of Seed. The disc galvanized the band’s reputation as one of the most technically precise acts on the Asian continent, and won them an invite to Gothenburg Deathfest in Sweden the following year. That same year, Seed traveled to Taiwan for the first time, and later made its second appearance in Taiwan at the 2012 edition of Beastie Rock (巨獸搖滾) in Tamsui. There, before a pre-sunset crowd, on a stage overlooking the Tamsui River, Seed proceeded to unleash a blistering set that at first seemed to attract people based on novelty, but soon had all in attendance enraptured by the band’s on-point ferocity. Even those who, judging by appearances, didn’t seem to be into extreme music, marveled at the skills on display. It’s that kind of connection that keeps the band going, Ko says.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top