INTERVIEW: CD #4 Feature with Band Interviews

cd4reviewpics_0003.jpgCome with us on a rocket ship ride straight to Planet Pleasure Groove! ~ Drift sublime across a woozy purple-velvet orbit floating head over heels amidst a haze of acoustic harmonies and rapt rhythms ~ Hey! Hey! Then blast on past Comet Garage Rock’s fiery tail hurtling head on into the Feedback Quadrant of post-punk and alternative rock ~ Collide with a trance-pop Supernova and implode inwards in ecstasy through a deep space wormhole of funk, jazz and blues, only to emerge stoked on the other side in a glowing-hot asteroid shower of indie spirit! What a rush!

The fourth CD in the series of Underground Hong Kong CD compilations features 11 bands of diverse music genres and creative sensibilities. The CD reflects Hong Kong itself, a locale that is culturally-diverse and constantly changing. This is the music born out of different experiences of Chinese cultures and international cultures, artists all making music their own way in a city that has many faces and perspectives. It is an intriguing collection of indie recordings that, not only brings eclectic viewpoints to the fore, but also a spectrum of quality musicianship offering alternative rock, breakbeat electronica, subterranean pop, acoustic folk-rock, jazz funk, blues rock and post-punk rock fusions. It is a special document, as all the other CD collections in the series have been, and one that captures a small piece of the Underground live music vibrancy that bands and music fans have long celebrated at every gig. This is alternative Hong Kong at its best – unadulterated, free and authentic.

Chris B, the Underground’s director comments on the latest release:cd4reviewpics.jpg

CD4 is our “lightest” yet – I’ve had people who think the word “underground” means you’re just going to hear bands that screech and have hardcore backings! I mean, we have not one but two all-girl bands playing folk on this CD. The word “underground” just means the music is not playing on TVB. However, it doesn’t mean it’s not the same standard or even better! It was great launching the CD at both Backstage and Hard Rock Café and I love Angus Leung’s art work on the sleeve and liner notes.

The bands on ‘Come on…Blaze Ahead’ are Six Pack of Wolves, Helter Skelter, Shotgun Politics, Maps 9, SUSHi Robot, Brothers of Roadkill, Corey Tam, Fad, Senseless, Purple Eye and Dark Himaya and each showcase two tracks from their repertoires.

Hokkaido-born Hisakazu Koya, resident of the city since 1998, has produced all of the Cds in the Underground series to date and he again worked in collaboration with all the bands to record and largely mix the fourth compilation at his Mark 1 Studios.

cd4reviewpics_0004.jpgThe Underground CD compilations are good motivation for independent bands in Hong Kong because the better bands end up on the CD. They are their own producers and their music is what’s happening in the Underground music scene right now!

The studio process was to record the bands playing live and then add vocal overdubs, which Koya says makes for a ‘wild, low-fi rock sound’. Not that he hates technology – he loves it and will add as many effects as artists want, but for his tastes he prefers to use less EQ and compressor FX and just focus on the music first.

Asking each band about their contributions, they had the following to say: –

1. Senseless: The 2 songs we recorded for The Underground Compilation CD #4 are 六合彩 Mark Six and 我要加人工 Pay Rise. With rising inflation rates, long working hours and record-breaking property prices in Hong Kong, raising a family is not easy unless you win the Mark Six lottery or get reasonable pay rises. We have to deal with these things. We want to sing about the hard political and social issues and the constant dilemmas Hong Kong people have to face every day.

2. Purple Eye: Snapshot is about a person who captures on camera every single moment they love, freezing it, if you will. That’s my way to love you is a request to a lover to express their love better. Our songs are literally a journal of what we have seen, felt and experienced in life.cd4reviewpics_0005.jpg

3. Helter Skelter: Rocketship is about the type of person (in this case, a girl) who just saps all the life out of any decent relationship you can have with her because she’s up her own ass about how she goes about her own life. We all know someone who knows they’re gorgeous and therefore, thinks that gives them the license to do whatever the hell they want. Rocketship is cool ‘coz it’s a full-ahead, heavier rock song. At the time I (Vince Lam) wrote it, I just needed to let off some ‘musical steam’ and the energy this song has let me do that. (Use It For) What It’s For is about doing your best all the time because you never know when you’re going to need the skills that you learned throughout, however long that you’ve already lived or survived. We just like the groove.

4. SUSHi Robot: Both tracks were created during a live session we did. We never play the same format, as everything is done on the fly and dependent on the crowd. Push Me represents the groove breakbeat side of SUSHi. It’s a commercial track and was created around the idea of commercialism, propaganda by the media and fashion brands, and how people listen to others instead of thinking for themselves. Living In The Face Of Danger is the darker side of SUSHi. It was created around the idea of mass market public control. The basic idea I have for the video is the people being fed a continuous drivel of advertising and throwaway pop culture. You see the public being led in line into a factory which turns them into zombies. A sole figure manages to escape and this turns the whole system upside down, forcing change.

5. Six Pack of Wolves: We chose Buckshot as one of our older songs that we still love, play and haven’t yet recorded. Buckshot is about getting sick of playing music that no one else gets. We liked the way the song turned out at the end of the session, the vocals interplay and the harmonica at the end. We wrote Punk Rock Story especially for the comp. It makes light of older punk rockers – or rather, a humorous genre called Orgcore, but it’s all meant in good heart. We wrote it together, asking ourselves what the chord progressions and rhythms would be like for a ‘typical’ punk song. Then we thought about how the song would break down for the bridge. We wrote the chorus without words so that the audience can join in. Putting a song together especially for the comp was great, because it was for a special occasion and we had the studio waiting, we had to nail it!

6. Dark Himaya: Both these songs were conceived when Dark Himaya started jamming together two years ago. Papercut in Your Eye is an anti love song, depicting anger, frustration and how love is not all sunshine all the time. Despite the dark lyrics, it is not as melancholic as our other songs and it evenly showcases both Ivy and Aileen’s vocals. My Personal Demon is energetic, quite punchy. The demon is anger. If you suppress anger, you risk imploding. Yet if you explode uncontrollably, the resulting emotional violence could be painful. Ouch!

cd4reviewpics_0006.jpg7. FAD: People seem to like Salamander when we play it at gigs so we picked it for CD4. It’s about a boy who can’t get a girl to fall for him because she much prefers her pet salamanders instead! So Tired explains how we feel about people who are always making excuses. Salamander feels like a 90’s Brit rock song whereas So Tired has been influenced by more recent indie pop genres. The two songs are indicative of our development and are about finding our unique sound.

8. Brothers of Roadkill: Hanging Around The Clouds is about people who are all talk but no action; people who are aloof in realising that having grand plans and dreams mean nothing if you don’t do anything about it. It has a pretty funky riff that I (Adrian Fu) always like to play with… and I love performing songs that complain about other people’s shortcomings and not mine! I don’t know what Questions and Doubts means anymore! I’ve been changing the lyrics for fun over the past 3-4 months. Started off as a straight up love ballad, and now it’s gradually becoming a song to bitch about ex-s! I like it because it’s an evolving animal? Maybe an ugly one…parties too much and eats too much bacon…don’t we all like to imagine our ex-s like that?

9. 9 Maps: Ropes describes a situation that can be summarized by the song’s opening lines:

We’ve built these tracks so our trains would not stop to think

of directional flaws that would lead us to the brink,

while we clasp our hands tighter and tighter

Harder Times is simply about getting back on your feet after a fall and how that journey is just as much a struggle as the fall itself. Because we’re highly picky about which songs we let develop into full songs that the whole band practices with and performs, many of them become mutual favourites; while others fall into neglect and stop evolving. These songs were part of the latter category, and as such, we wanted to give them a bit more TLC. That they’ve made it, past all our daily concerns and distractions, into a song that communicates feelings and ideas which we personally and deeply stand for.

10. Shotgun Politics: The song 852 is an ode to Hong Kong (hence, the country code) where the best description comes from the line, Please don’t take me from this place, I can’t stop feeling alive. That is how we feel about HK. It is such an exciting place with its upcoming scene and great friends in and around bands. We wanted to challenge ourselves and make a song that was less punk-pop and more California rock. We hope this song comes across as liberating, or at least like a fun tune. Pill is an older song. It is one of the first pieces that we actually all jammed out instead of Timmy bringing a full song to the band. I still very much like it, the thumping swing-like drums, the breakdowns, the screaming parts. Fun stuff. The song is all about betrayal, about lost love, and the dream of revenge.cd4reviewpics_0007.jpg

11. Corey Tam: We have been playing Your Eyes live for some time now. It starts off: your eyes they tell me i done wrong, but later the lyrics are more about waiting for something to happen in life, for an opportunity. I guess with both life and relationships, at some point, you have to make a decision whether you want to wait it out or make a change and take a gamble on something new. Honey is about losing faith in the things we used to believe in, things that used to be at the core of our being, like love or religion. I wanted to focus more on the feeling of apathy that comes with the loss of faith, regardless of what the subject is. Both songs are quite high-energy, which is a good thing because we usually play in bars that are quite loud. I still prefer the intricacies of acoustic music but it’s not as common that we get to play in venues that allow for a sound that’s more delicate.

Isobel S. Saunders

To get more info about CD #4, including purchase details, go here!

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