Fri, Jan 22, 2016 - Page 11 News List

Live Wire: A metalhead in the legislature

By David Frazier  /  Contributing reporter

From heavy metal rocker to lawmaker.

Photos courtesy of Freddy Lim

After the massive political victory of Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in last Saturday’s elections, one of the other most reported stories in the international media was race for the legislature in Taipei’s Wanhua (萬華) and Zhongzheng (中正) districts. That’s because one of the candidates, Freddy Lim (林昶佐), is also lead singer of the band Chthonic, a face-painted extreme metal group that has played top heavy metal festivals, including Ozzfest and Wacken, and toured extensively in the West and Japan. Chthonic has produced eight albums, won a Golden Melody Award and has fans around the world.

For the last 15 years, Lim has worn studded black leather and corpse paint on stage. In the last half year, he has been wearing business suits and running for office as part of the New Power Party (NPP), which sprang up out of the 2014 Sunflower movement, in which student protesters’ occupied the Legislative Yuan’s main chamber for almost 23 days in protest against the government’s handling of a cross-strait service trade agreement.

A heavy metal legislator makes for good click-bait, and Lim’s story has been carried by major outlets like the BBC, The Guardian, Germany’s Suddeutsche Zeitung, general interest magazines like GQ and, of course, the entire constellation of heavy metal magazines and Web sites. Fearing that Lim’s victory would mean an end to the band Chthonic, one rock site, Team Rock, ran the headline, “‘Black Sabbath of Asia’ Risk Future For Democracy.”

“Producing new music will be slower,” Lim said in a phone interview with the Taipei Times earlier this week. “But I will definitely keep making music. It will also affect our performing. There’s no way we can leave the country for a two or three-month tour, though we should still be able to play international festivals or one-off shows in Asia.”

Lim won a close race, beating out Lin Yu-fang (林郁方), a 64-year-old incumbent legislator from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

“We ended up winning by four points,” Lim said. “A week before the election, we were leading by eight points, but during the last week he was running a lot of attack ads, and we didn’t have time to respond to the mud-slinging.”

“He used banners, flyers and all sorts of means to tell the electorate that I’m a really horrible person, that I support drug use and sex offenders and mass murderers. That influenced some people, especially those in their 40s or 50s, who might think since I’m a rock star, I am always going to do strange stuff. And of course I’m in an extreme metal band, so….”

Lim paused, so I mentioned an attack ad that featured Lim in stage makeup that backfired on his opponent, causing Lin Yu-fang to become an item of ridicule on Facebook.

“Of course,” Lim said. “But that was among young voters, and there I was leading all along, so it wasn’t really a problem ... We knew we were going to lose some ground, so we just hoped we wouldn’t lose the lead entirely. And in the end, we didn’t.”

If you’ve known Lim for any length of time, you would not be surprised at this political turn. I first met him in the late 90s, when Chthonic was still a new band. He was also running a small live house called Zeitgeist and developing the Formoz Festival into Taiwan’s top music festival — this happened when he borrowed a huge chunk of money through a traditional credit union to invite Megadeth, Biohazard and other top bands, making Formoz Taiwan’s first truly international rock fest. In 2008, he was a founder of The Wall, which is still Taiwan’s top international rock club.

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