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【REAL Asian Music Report】第2回 〈台北月見ル君想フ〉店主・寺尾ブッタに訊く、台湾インディー・シーンのいま

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SERIES
【REAL Asian Music Report】
The Now of the Indie Scene in Taiwan :
An Interview with Budha Terao, Manager of [Moon Romantic Taiwan] -
The Forefront of Asian Music Told by Hajime Oishi

Interviewed and written by: Hajime Oishi


Being involved in numerous music-related writings and known as the radio personality actively sending out Asian information, Hajime Oishi (writer/editor/DJ) who’s been delving deeply into music and cultures around the globe, takes charge of this serial –{REAL Asian Music Report}- that gets right to the bottom of the present progressive state of each of the local scenes in the bustling and unique neighborhoods across Asia. This time, he decides to take a look at the indie scene in Taiwan.
Here’s the interview by Oishi with Budha Terao, the manager of [MOON ROMANTIC TAIWAN] (music venue & restaurant /café bar) and leader of the band Taizan ni Asobu, who is keeping his close eye on the current status of the local scene that is gaining attention even here in Japan, from the live venue he runs on-scene.  *Mikiki staff 

 

 

November 2015, Japanese singer song-writer Ichiko Aoba set out for her first tour across Asia, closing the whole event in a huge success. The shows were ran in venues across 5 cities and nations, -Taipei (Taiwan), Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Singapore and Bangkok (Thailand), and the mastermind behind the whole tour, who acted as the coordinator of the indies acts in the local area of each city, and who ran the whole gamut from planning, producing to attending, was Budha Terao, the very main figure of this story.

Terao can be regarded precisely as one of the key persons of the Asian indie music scene. Originally working as a member staff at [MOON ROMANTIC] -the music venue in Aoyama of Tokyo-, once promoted to the seat of the Manager of the club, he started actively booking artists from all over Asia, -the acts that he had always been strongly interested in. He then takes up the post as a management executive by delinking the club from its parent company in 2013, and in December 2014, he sets his foot in the Taiwanese scene by opening [MOON ROMANTIC TAIWAN] in Taipei.

Terao spends a good two thirds of the month in Taipei, and while he busily shuttles himself between Taiwan and Tokyo, his mind is constantly in seek of a new dimension of the Asian indie scene. We had a chance to sit down and talk with Terao to hear about various topics ranging from the latest trends of the Taiwanese indie scene to the Asian tour of Ichiko Aoba he was recently involved in.

Budha Terao

 

―You opened the Taipei branch of [MOON ROMANTIC] in December 2014. Tell us the ‘how’s and ‘why’s of opening a branch in Taiwan.

“As we had more and more bands from Taiwan booked at [MOON ROMANTIC] in Tokyo, I gradually became immersed in everything about Taiwan. I started frequenting Taipei too, and in October of 2013, we threw the first [MOON ROMANTIC]-hosted event there. We had on the lineup, clammbon from Tokyo (for whom it was the first time to perform in Taiwan) and The Girl and The Robots and Staycool from Taiwan, and the venue was [The Wall] (live music venue) in Taipei. It was our first time to host an event overseas, and though we felt a whole lot of potential, there were things we could have done a lot better too. We strongly felt the need to have a place that allows us to do what we wanted to, and we thought that if we could secure such a place in Taipei, we should be able to do exciting things in the two locations, -Tokyo and Taipei.”

―Were there any precedents of a Japanese music venue setting up a branch in Taipei?

“No, I don’t think so. So it must have come as a bit of a shock for relevant players in the local area, like “What are these guys planning to do??” But the capacity is only about 150 people standing, and 100 seated, and since it’s more geared towards acoustic play, I don’t think it was that much of an extravaganza opening.”

―I’d assume there would have been various difficulties up till the actual opening.

“For some detailed matters, like the interior or even the waterworks, -it was hard to keep the communications going with the local traders. They’re so different from what you’d expect in Japan. Basically, they seem to take everything their own stride (laugh). Each party gave their own tweaks in their own way, so it was hard to keep track of how the original state was at the beginning. I’ve asked other Japanese people running their own store or shop here, and they usually say the same thing. We even say it would end up being cheaper if we brought in vendors from Japan.”

―What kind of area is the venue located in?

“Put it simply, it’s somewhere right between the business district near Taipei Station and the students’ neighbourhood where they have National Taipei University and the National Taiwan Normal University. There’s a bustling street called Yongkang Street, and we’re one lane off that road. It’s an area where they still have a fairly good number of old Japanese establishments remaining from the days of Japanese sovereignty, and some of them have been renovated to cafes. I did look around many areas extensively when I was searching for the place to open our branch, but the area around Yongkang Street was the place close to the universities and had many live music venues. It’s a pretty good environment.”

Exterior view of [MOON ROMANTIC TAIWAN]

 

―Do you have a lot of students as your customers?

“That depends on the event. We’re on a lease contract for the basement and ground floor of the building, and are using the ground floor as the restaurant, and the basement for live performances, but because we’re one street away from the main street, we do also have customers from the older age group. Of course, we also have many young people who have strong interest in Japanese culture and music.”

―Do you have events on a daily basis?

“Currently we only do weekends. There isn’t this culture of casually turning up at a live venue to watch a show or performance on weekdays, here in Taipei. But the performers are pretty wide-ranged, and we do have a good number of artists from Japan too. Latest acts includes Ichiko Aoba, Alfred Beach Sandal, and the zitherist Daikichi Yoshida. We also had a time that Marleys co-performed with Skaraoke from Taipei. We aren’t allowed to play loud sounds at our club, so in the case of Yogee New Waves or never young beach who came to play in Taiwan, we welcomed them to our place to do their after-parties unplugged.” 

Yogee New Waves’ performance at [MOON ROMANTIC TAIWAN]

 

―How’s the landscape of the live venues (live-music) business in Taipei?

“There was a time about 5 or 6 years ago in Taipei when bands were kind of the in-thing, just about the time local groups like透明雜誌 (TOUMING MAGAZINE) or Skip Skip Ben Ben suddenly hit the scene. Around that time, people in Japan were also talking about how exciting the Taiwan scene was getting, but now, the bands who used to be at the core of the center of the heat have entered their thirties, and the surge of band movements seems to have cooled down. Also, we’re not seeing any upcoming bands from the generation subsequent to TOUMING MAGAZINE or Skip Skip Ben Ben. I don’t think this applies only to bands here in Taiwan, but usually it’s hard to scrape a living off being in an indie band. In the meantime, your parents demand that you get a job, so it’s a really rare case in Taiwan that anyone would continue their musical activities as an indie musician even in your thirties. And for anyone in their forties, I think they hardly exist.” 

透明雜誌 (Touming Magazine)  “TOUMING MAGAZINE FOREVER”
from the EP “TOUMING MAGAZINE FOREVER” (2012)

 

Skip Skip Ben Ben “Illusion Of Love” from the split EP with Hot & Cold
Hot & Cold / skip skip ben ben Split
 

―Are there less live venues that indie bands can perform in, compared to 5,6 years ago?”

“There’s a lot to do with the closing down of [地下社會 (Underground)], that was like the landmark of the area, in 2013. There seemed to have been strong complaints from even before, that there were so many people hanging out in front of the club. So one day they got accused for violation of the Fire Defense Law, which was why they were forced to close. The place, however, was a really important place for many of the indie musicians, and a good number of artists who’ve already gone major, are actually ‘graduates’ of [Underworld]. There’s a new joint in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) called [Livefact] for indie bands to hang out in, but the owner of the place told me that he built the venue, wanting to make a place like [Underworld].”

―That’s a sweet story.

“Yeah, it is. It demonstrates how much [Underworld] had impact on the indie music people of Malaysia.”

The documentary film “地下社會 (Underworld) Forever”. Footages show the interior of the venue
as well as scenes that represent the heartfelt attachment of the audience.

 

―What about younger bands nowadays?

“There’s this one band that became a tremendous craze in 2015, whose members are all students at Taipei National University of the Arts. The name of the band is 草東没有派對 which literally means {No Party For Cao Dong}. They are so popular they can easily make a 600 people-capacity music venue like the [WALL] fully fully-packed, and that, in the indie scene of Taipei, is absolutely extraordinary.” 

草東沒有派對 (No Party for Cao Dong)’s performance in 2015

 

―Are there any other bands you are personally keeping an eye out for?

“In the 30s age group, older than 草東没有派對 (No Party for Cao Dong), I quite like the 3-piece band called 森林合唱樂團 (Forests).”

森林合唱樂團 (Forests)

 

“They had been a band of significance in the indie scene of Taipei from the beginning, but lately there seems to be a new scene arising around them. Forests play noise-ish sound-effecty sounds, and listeners who are particularly fans of sounds with an edge in the Taipei indie music scene are usually checking out the works of Forests. They just released a free-download compilation they produced by themselves called “noWhere”, and it features about 15 indie bands from Taiwan. It’s a great piece to listen to if you want to keep tabs on the underground bands of Taiwan indie.”

Compilation album “noWhere” (2015). Tracks include a Nancy Sinatra cover
by Skip Skip Ben Ben and a piece by the unit, Applex Twin etc. 

 

Forests (森林合唱樂團) “Dead Species” (2015)

 

―Seems like a great way to gain insight to the whole picture of the current indie scene in Taiwan.

“Absolutely. Two members from Forests also belong to a band called Sunset Rollercoaster who play this psychedelic, jammy sound, and they are absolutely superb. They were on hiatus for about 2 years, but they’ve resumed playing this year.” 

Sunset Rollercoaster’s live performance in 2011.
The band appeared in [Summer Sonic] (music festival in Japan) the same year.

 

Sunset Rollercoaster’s album “Bossa Nova” (2011)

 

―Many Japanese artists are frequently playing gigs in Taipei. Who do you think is the Japanese artist winning favor the most in the Taipei local indie scene?

“Mukai-san (Shutoku Mukai, main singer and guitarist of rock band, ZAZEN BOYS. Also, former singer and guitarist of disbanded rock band, NUMBER GIRL) is a favorite to many of the musicians here. He was already popular in Taiwan from when he was playing in NUMBER GIRL, and probably many indie musicians in their 30s would agree that NUMBER GIRL was part of their youth.” 

―透明雜誌 (TOUMING MAGAZINE) clearly follows that pattern, don’t they?

“Sure thing. When NUMBER GIRL was still around, there were shops specializing on Japanese music, and I think people used to get their hands on CDs at places like those. Oh, and Sheena Ringo is also huge here. I guess in Taipei especially, there’s a slight sense of rawness, perhaps, that makes people develop a taste for lyrical sounds. Like, fly-high happy being something not that preferred. Post-rock or shoegaze seems to be the thing in Taipei, while in the midland like Taichung city, that would be metal. In the case of the southern districts where they have an almost autochthonous culture, it seems like reggae is popular.” 

―So basically, it seems like the type of music preferred differs depending on the area. But what is it, at the first place, that got you interested in China zone cultures?

“I used to be a back-packer, and I always had interest in Asian cultures. When I was a college student, I found a month-long overseas study program at Peking University for language studies, which I simply applied for. Once there, I found myself in a total state of cultural shock… We’re talking about around the year 2001.”

―And what was it that you found culturally shocking?

“I experienced cultural shocks in India too, but in the case of India, we know we live in different culture zones, and it was easy for me to swallow things being totally different from where I come from. But with China, it was like having so much in common, but yet also so many things are different. It was like experiencing a parallel world. Also, it was such a powerhouse. It made me feel like the town was swelling and about to burst with all the energy. Since there was a time in university that I travelled to Taiwan by myself, I made a quick trip around Taiwan too, but because the impression I got at Beijing was so strong, I don’t remember anything from that trip to Taiwan (laughs).”

―But you still got deeply absorbed in Taiwan to the extent of opening your own shop? How did that come about?

“I think learning that there was an indie scene here in Taiwan too, played a significant role. Furthermore, it was something very similar to the indie scene in Japan. China was very exciting, but I couldn’t see that there was a scene there. I gradually got into thinking that “I may be able to try many things in Taipei”.”

―You also belong to the Chinese dub band, Taizan ni Asobu. When did you form this band?

“Around 2004, I think. I was wondering if I could do anything fun combining Chinese elements with reggae/dub, which is why I started the band. We’ve played numerous times in Taiwan, and we’ve also played live in China. Things were so easy from the very beginning in Taiwan.”

―What was the reaction like in China?

“Absolutely fantastic. Though, it was more like an event held in Shanghai aiming to introduce Japanese culture, so I guess the majority of the audience was pro-Japan anyway.  There’s an established band in Beijing called 二手玫瑰 (Second Hand Rose) who adopts traditional Chinese culture in their music, -I would love to meet them some day. Yes, I would definitely like to play more in China.”

Taizan ni Asobu “rinia banpaku fesu” from album “上海旅遊 (Shanghai Luyou)” (2010)

 

―You recently organized the Asian tour for Ichiko Aoba. How did that come about?

“Aoba-san has played live in Taipei twice in the past. The first time was to fulfill the desire of the main singer of 透明雑誌 (TOUMING MAGAZINE), Hom (Hom Shenhao, vocals/guitar) to invite Aoba-san to perform at their event, and I was there to help out with the attending and contract signings. Her second time in Taipei was when [MOON ROMANTIC] organized her one-man show, and the show enjoyed a good number of audience and the reaction was fairly favorable. With possible language barriers, singing performances overseas tends to be deemed something hard to pull off, and usually instrumental acts are more likely to take the title, but Aoba-san’s ways of expression seems to try and deliver something beyond language, which is probably why even non-Japanese speaking Taiwanese people showed favorable responses. I always felt something solid about her that I thought may have the potential of being successful in other countries in Asia too.”

―And how were the responses in the other cities?

“As what I expected. The audience was fully drawn in. Thanks to the hardworking of each organizer, all the shows were close to packed. And the after-show heat was good too, so the quick sale of goods went well too. Though, I must say that Aoba-san is quite a special case. I don’t think there are many Japanese singer song-writers who can engage the listeners beyond language differences as much as she does. Of course it would be great if I can create this flow for Japanese singer song-writers that enables them to make a tour around Asian cities, but if I were asked who could be next, to be honest, I’ll have to struggle to get a name out. I mean, it’s a place that is totally different from Japan, so just simply being Japanese won’t do the trick.”

A duet performance between Ichiko Aoba and Wisut Ponnimit (manga and animation artist)
in Bangkok, Thailand

 

Ichiko Aoba co-performing with the boy-girl unit, Aspidistrafly in Singapore

 

―What did you find the most painstaking about the tour?

“That would have to be budget controlling. Compared to Japan, prices are low in every city apart from Singapore, so you can’t expect to charge admission like in Japan. But then, practically, you can’t rely solely on appearance fees paid to the artists, so that’s where the sale of goods come in. With that, we managed to cover the overall budget.”

―But considering the prices in those places, CDs must be far from being cheap.

“Exactly. So that shows how well-received Aoba-san’s performance was, -that it even made people want to purchase CDs, knowing that they aren’t cheap. Also, there is the aspect of the Taiwan scene having more or less an impact on the overall indie scene of East Asia. What causes a buzz in Taiwan seems to make its information easily spread to other cities. In the case of Aoba-san, her two shows held in Taiwan earned good reputation, which then was talked about in Chinese, resulting in the story spreading to the Chinese-speaking demographic in each other city. In fact, with the latest tour, apart from Bangkok, each show was taken care of by Chinese-speaking organizers, and the agreements were all written in Chinese too.”

―I see. So I guess there’s a Chinese network within the Asian indie scenes?

“I would say so. And among those in particular, Taiwan has a high number of bands and the indie scene there grew faster than anywhere else, so it’s fair to say that the Taiwanese scene has always carried weight in Asia. Many of the Taiwanese bands are doing shows in Malaysia, and they also have influence on the scene in China. If you sell in Taiwan, you can rest assured that you’d be able to enjoy a certain amount of sales in other countries too.”

―In that sense too, the opening of [MOON ROMANTIC TAIWAN] can be regarded as something of great significance. 。

“Pretty much so. I hope we’d be able to deliver the appeal of Japanese artists to the Chinese market too.”

―And of course, it would be wonderful to have Japanese tourists coming to Taipei to visit [MOON ROMANTIC TAIWAN], right? (laugh)

“Yes, please! That would be great (laughs). We’re currently working on expanding our product-sales section, and we are carrying CDs of both Japanese and Taiwanese artists. I hope this also serves as a means of sending out interesting information to people out there.”
 



Taiwanese bands Forests and Sunset Rollercoaster coming to Tokyo!
OGRE YOU ASSHOLE (Japan) shares the stage at this Taiwan-meets-Japan act!

CITY JIVE in TOKYO
Date:    Friday, February 19th, 2016
Venue:  MOON ROMANTIC (月見ル君想フ) in Aoyama
Bands:  OGRE YOU ASSHOLE, Forests, Sunset Rollercoaster
Door Open/Starts : 18:30/19:00
Tickets: [Advance] \3,000, [Door] \3,500円
          (Minimum one drink purchase also required.)
http://www.moonromantic.com/?p=28374
 



Also, check out the latest events at the Taiwan branch of MOON ROMANTIC!

MOON ROMANTIC TAIWAN

http://www.moonromantic.tw/