Chthonic hail from Taiwan, bringing with them a distinct influence to their instrumentation that can be heard throughout their impressive, decade spanning catalog. Their use of traditional Taiwanese instruments set them apart from most of their contemporaries, even among their pagan metal peers. Their most recent tour outing in North America was on the Pagan Fest tour which brought together metal bands from all over the world to assault audiences across the continent with folk infused metal. We had the opportunity to speak with Doris Yeh, pre-show about the tour so far, horror movies and their political activism.
Robin: So what’s your name and Where you from?
Doris Yeh – I’m Doris Yeh from Taiwan
So, how’s Pagan Fest been going?
So far it’s been pretty cool. We feel very comfortable about the conditions and the lineup.
Do you like the other bands that you’re playing with?
Yeah, they are all very nice bands.
Do you have any highlights from Paganfest that you want to share? Any highlights from your tour?
Actually, we are very nerdy and typically stay on the bus. Haha. So, for highlights… nothing really stands out for us so far; although, for this tour, the most special thing for us is that it’s the most comfortable tour we’ve ever had. We share the crews and we share the backline so we don’t need to help to do a lot of pre-show things. We are simply on the road as artists.
In other tours, we have had to help load stuff and the rehearsals really take a lot of time and they were frequently cut into small pieces so we couldn’t focus on arranging things. This tour, on the other hand, is very easy.
So what can we expect from your live act tonight?
Tonight I think… uh, last time we played here was in 2011 and I think that the fans that come to the show today will find that we are more aggressive on the stage, Of course, we have different outfits… and I think over the years we’ve leveled up our energy and spirits on the stage so I think the we’re going to have a very good performance tonight
So how does your use of traditional instruments tie into your music and your message?
Actually, we’ve used these traditional instruments since 1995 when the band formed, and at that time…The original member, Freddie…He wanted to put some sad melodies into the music because our music is talking about historical stories of Taiwan or eastern Asia or some mythologies and we wanted to use a very conflicting aspects that [convey fear] and also add a very… soft feeling in the songs… There is also some tragedy in the stories so we need to use a sound to express this kind of feeling but we couldn’t find a western instrument that we could play to to express this kind of feeling. Freddie’s mother sings in a traditional oriental orchestra and in her band there’s people playing 2 string violins (the erhu) so that’s why he brought it into the band. Afterwards, we started to use more and more.
We became very eager to use more and more tradition instruments in our music so we are not only using erhu but also the japanese koto, aboriginal flute, or Tibetan traditional instruments, so now it’s like a combination. In our latest album, Butik, we put over 10 traditional instruments from different eastern asian countries.
So tying in with Tibet, we know you are politically active and you have a very strong political message…What’s a message that you’d like to impart to your listeners regarding your political activism? What do you stand for?
Actually, we want people to be thinking independently and we hope that all the people in the world can be equal… we don’t like class and we hope that if democracy and freedom is not working toward the goal of equality, or to the fairness of every human being, then it will become very good place for giving birth to the dictatorship and the greed. The goal should be fairness and equality.
So you’re playing tonight with Korpiklaani and Turisas… did those band have an effect on your music? Did they influence you?
Umm, since the band formed very early, I’m not the original member, but I’m the second bass player from 2000 and then the band started in 1995 so I heard that is the same year as Korpiklaani so I think the band was inspired by the old taiwanese folk music very pop because you will find that there are very taiwanese asian melodies in our music and for the metal part, the band was inspired from bands like Mayhem, some various black and death metal bands and when the guitarist, Jesse, came to the band he brought some thrash metal elements in so I think that in different years we’ve had different inspirations from other band, but Korpiklaani and Turisas, not really.. but we like their music a lot
So your latest album, Butik, is very successful, do you have more new music on the way?
I think after this tour we’ll start to write new songs; although, writing new songs and making a new album is a very big task for us because every member of this band have their own jobs. Even though the jobs are related to music, getting everyone together to make an album really takes time and our songwriters, Freddie and Jesse, need a lot of time to be creative.
We started this tour for the release of our album last June. It’s been 1 year since then so we really haven’t had time to concentrate on writing new songs.
Our blog is based on horror movies and music and heavy metal. So, for our last question, what are some of your favourite horror movies?
Jessie (in the background) – Evil dead.
Yeah, he’s [Jesse’s] the fan of horror. I’m too scared. Haha. Yeah. Sorry… I’m a chicken. I think after I saw the Japanese horror movie, The Ring…. My tolerance level is really low. I think it’s the second one I’m thinking of and not the first one. The first one almost takes me to my limit, but the second one is… haha… after that, I swear to God, I would never ever… because, you know.. Japan… the scenes… the scenery is similar to Taiwan and you would always reflect on these things, like the mirror and the door and the rooms and the people what they look like.
Sorry, I’m not that metal… haha