Live Wire: Back to the underground

By Joe Henley  /  Contributing Reporter

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 - Page 11

The focus of late in the Taiwanese music scene has been on large-scale events like the upcoming Twinkle Rock Festival (有象音樂季) and mega-concerts featuring the likes of superstars such as Linkin Park, who will appear at the Taipei Arena (臺北小巨蛋) tomorrow. But let’s swing things back in the other direction, shall we? All the way back towards the lowest-reaching roots of the vibrant, seething underground.

Back in the eighties in North America, underground hardcore and thrash bands didn’t have much interest in playing large clubs, and the clubs wanted little to do with them and their sometimes violent ilk as well. The clubs would put crowd barriers between the audience and the elevated stage. There was nothing punk rock or united about it. It was an elevation of the band, and a demotion of the fan. So, these bands started putting on shows anywhere and everywhere that they could. Veterans halls, skate parks, parking lots and even rehearsal studios suddenly became perfectly viable and egalitarian places to get a crowd of friends together and raise a collective middle finger towards the mainstream.

Tomorrow night, the local punk and metal scene will be getting back to those early days of the underground with a show at Jack’s Studio (杰克音樂) in Taipei. This rehearsal studio in Ximending (西門町) is run by the renowned godfather of extreme metal drumming in Taiwan, Jack Tung (董燿中). One of Tung’s larger rehearsal rooms will host three local bands of the loud, fast and angry variety, punk veterans No Order (無秩序), grinders Stench of Lust and thrash punks Bazooka. One of the show’s co-organizers, Bazooka vocalist Andrew Hsieh (謝宏安), says he and his co-conspirators are ready to get back to the old values of the underground.

“We’d all seen these videos from the eighties, with bands playing in these small venues or studios, and were amazed at how raw and powerful these small shows were,” Hsieh says.

“I’ve participated, as part of the audience, in the few studio shows that Taipei has had over the past few years, and this has always been something that I wanted to do with my own band,” he says

Bazooka, No Order and Stench of Lust play tomorrow night at 7pm at Jack’s Studio (杰克音樂), B1, 76 Kunming St, Taipei City (台北市萬華區昆明街76號 B1). Tickets are NT$100 at the door.

■ On the same night, and just down the road in Ximending, industrial act Roughhausen will be hosting an album release party/video shoot at Xanadu. The video, for a song whose title is not quite fit for print in true Roughhausen fashion, will be released in support of the group’s latest record, The Medicated Generation, which came out just a few weeks ago on Labtoy Music. This CD has remixes of previously released Roughhausen tracks undertaken by producers hand-picked from around the world.

The producers were chosen by the man behind Roughhausen, Canadian expat J.S. Stoddard, a former member of seminal industrial band Front Line Assembly. Stoddard played guitar on Front Line Assembly’s breakthrough album Caustic Grip. He would later go on to join acts such as Will and Decree before relocating to Taiwan nearly a decade ago and dusting off his solo act, Roughhausen. Stoddard runs his own studio, Sanctuary Sound Labs, in the bucolic surroundings of Xinbeitou (新北投), where he twiddles the knobs doing mixing and mastering work for a list of international clients that run the gamut from industrial to punk, metal and pop. It’s also where he hunkers down to write all the material that winds up on each Roughhausen release, incorporating thick layers of dark electronics, disturbing samples, hooky guitar riffs and hard beats into his own brand of EBM he dubs electro-industrial punk rock.

Although Stoddard is the man who writes all the music, Roughhausen is no one-man show. For the live setting he has enlisted the considerable talents of bassist Peggy Lin (林沛吟), who cut her teeth in the now defunct metal act Power Overwhelming, and drummer extraordinaire Billy Su (蘇柏勳), who also pounds the skins for Taipei-based death metal band Revilement. With a stable lineup finally in place after a run of drummer issues, Stoddard is ready to get on the road again, with plans to hit the US, Europe, and select parts of Asia in the coming months.

As for the shoot tomorrow, best leave the description to Stoddard himself. In the course of touring Europe and North America multiple times during his career, there’s little he hasn’t seen or done, and shock is his stock-in-trade lyrically, visually and musically.

“Two midgets, free donkey rides and a night in jail,” Stoddard says of what he has in store, perhaps only slightly in jest before getting serious.

“We are fortunate to have a great place with a killer location lent to us by the lovely people at Xanadu for the evening, and we are just going to fill it up with freaks, fashionistas, fools and fabulous people. Our plan is to just let the evening go where it will and film the mayhem.”

Roughhausen’s The Medicated Generation album release party and video shoot takes place tomorrow at 7pm at Xanadu, 3, 2F, Ln 10, Chengdu Road, Taipei City (台北市萬華區成都路10巷3號2F). There is no cover charge, but punters are warned that they will be filmed.