Chthonic Interview

Ciong Zo

In the five years since the release of Chthonic‘s last album, frontman Freddy Lim has formed a new political party and elected to Taiwan’s parliament. Lim fills us in on Battlefields Of Asura, his political career and other topics.

Chad Bowar: Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for Battlefields Of Asura compared to previous albums?
Freddy Lim: After the 2013 album Bu-Tik, we’ve been accumulating inspirations and stories, but the song-writing was momentarily paused when I was involved in organizing a new political party in 2015 and was elected to the Parliament the following year. During the Lunar New Year holidays in 2017 I started looking at what I’d accumulated so far and I was pleasantly surprised to find that what I’ve been through in these past few years had given me a lot of emotions: joy, anger, sorrow, and happiness; and those accumulated emotions made writing songs smoother than ever before. After the holidays last year I finished the basics and the framework of the songs.

How did Denise Ho’s guest appearance come about, and what did it add to the album?
We met Denise when she came to Taiwan to play Megaport Festival in 2015. Since she’s quite outspoken about social issues, we’ve had the chance to exchange some ideas once in a while. When we were preparing our new album, the idea of having her guesting on one of our songs just naturally came up. The song “Millinnia’s Faith Undone” is filled with the emotion of righteousness with her voice! We love her very much!

What’s the lyrical concept of this one?
There are very fruitful concepts in the new album. Every single song in the album represents a deity in Taiwanese folk belief, and the spirit. But just like some of our past albums, the entire album itself is a conceptual story. It’s the prequel of a series of stories told in our albums which started with Seediq Bale in 2005. It tells listeners from which deities did the main character of the series of stories get his divine power, and his birth.

At the same time, in the past five years, there have been a lot of changes in my life. On one hand, my political career requires me to improve my abilities in different areas, and learn to face more difficult situations. On the other hand, the birth of my daughter gave me incredible amount of joy and hope, but the sudden death of my father gave me incurable helplessness and feeling of being lost. So, I think a lot of my feelings and emotions during this period of time are reflected in the songs.

How has the band’s sound evolved from Bu-Tik?
The songs in the new album are more symphonic and the Taiwanese styles of melodies have been blended more into guitars and orchestra.

What are your goals and expectations for the album?
Since I have been elected as MP, the band has been less active and the new album has been postponed many times. The album is finally coming out so I think all we want is for the fans to enjoy it!

How much attention do you pay to reviews?
We never really paid too much attention to reviews, and now since I’m busier than ever, I might pay even less attention to them.

What are your upcoming show/tour plans?
Although everyone has their hands full with different plans for their lives and work, we hope that even though we could not have as many shows as we did before, we would try our best to take part in music festivals, as well as short-time tours.

What led you to help found the New Power Party instead of attaching to one of the existing parties?
In recent years a lot of the social movements in Taiwan have been led by the youth, this is a valuable source of new power. I feel that instead of forcing them to compromise within the pre-existing political parties, it would be even more helpful to establish a new party to push for the changes that they want to see. This new power would be able to open up a new space of dialogue within the pre-existing political arena. The continual success of the youth these past couple of years has invited people of many different backgrounds to participate in social movements.

Is being a well-known musician a positive or negative in your political life?
It’s hard to say, it could be good or bad. It’s something that people would talk about, but during the campaign, my rival attacked me on my hairdo, my tattoo, my music, and the way I perform on stage.

As a smaller party, how difficult is it to get your platform implemented?
It’s quite difficult. But to make changes is always not easy.

What have been your most significant accomplishments as a MP so far?
In the past two to three years, there have been many reforms in Taiwan, and I was one of many who pushed for them. For example, in reforming the democratic system, we amended the Referendum Act to better protect civil rights. In LGBTQ rights, we’ve been pushing for marriage equality, and we may become the first nation in Asia to allow same-sex marriage early next year. We’ve pushed for the law on transitional justice, so that victims of the authoritarian government could be restored of their names and be compensated. Of course, since I am a member of the Foreign and Defense Committee, I’ve always demanded that Taiwan’s foreign policies to be more “normal” and effective. If I run into any opportunity to speak for Taiwan, I would do my best.

Do you anticipate running for another term in 2020?
Not sure yet, but its quite possible.

What’s your opinion on the current state of US politics and Donald Trump, especially in terms of relations with Taiwan?
Some people might think that the Taiwan-US relations have become closer since Trump took office. In fact, the US had the strategy to return to Asia under the Obama Administration. Many of the Taiwan-friendly bills that have been passed in the US Congress recently, including the Taiwan Travel Act, have been supported by both Republicans and Democrats. So, though Trump is still an unpredictable politician, I do believe that strengthening Taiwan-US relations is in line with both countries’ national interests. Encouraging more positive relations with more important international partners is part of my responsibility as a member of the Foreign and Defense Committee.

Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Come visit Taiwan! You can check out our temples of different gods and goddesses while listening to our new songs about them! I’m sure it will be quite a unique journey for all the metalheads!

(interview published October 11, 2018)

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