19.10.2009 Hong Kong
Nachgefragt: Interview with King Ly Chee/ Hardcore from Hong Kong
King Ly Chee
1. Who is in the band and what do you do in your normal lives?
We’ve gone through a million members in our 10 years existence…
Our current members are: Riz – I am the only original member left. I sing in the band. Outside of the band I am a first grade teacher teaching amazing 6 year old children
Brian – Guitar – he works for his dad’s company which does stuff with the environment
Ho – Bass player – he is a freelance graphic designer
Kent – Guitar – Likes to hang out and is trying to find a job…
Egas – Drums – Is a part-time student and works with the Macau government
2. When I saw you and listened to your songs on CD I had the idea that you have a unique sound, with lots of technical ideas and knowledge. What is the idea and concept of your sound?
I don’t know which CD you were talking about because we’ve released 2 albums, one split CD, and one free downloadable EP. Each release has been with a totally different line-up so the sound has changed from each album. Even though I’m the one constant in the band, I never want to force what I want to play on to the other dudes. So in our 10 years we’ve gone through a very metal period, but I think our current period is the best so far. It’s just straight forward and we’re more into just having fun now then being ambitious about the band…because there’s no real hope for any band in Hong Kong (especially heavy bands) to become full-time bands. There just is no such possibility that would ever happen here…
3. On your myspace you say, that you deal with social topics. What social topics are in your eyes important for Hongkong/ Asia?
For us – all our songs are based on personal experiences growing up in Hong Kong. I am a Pakistani that has grown up in a Chinese society yet attended on an international American school in Hong Kong. So my entire life I feel like I’ve been looking for my identity. Not until did I find hardcore, punk and metal did I finally realize that all that confusion I feel in my heart about who I am, is actually who I am. I think I am quite a confused individual who has way too many thoughts in his head but I get to write music and use all these questions or unique thoughts to write lyrics and hopefully people can relate.
The past few years King Ly Chee has really gone from being a band from Hong Kong to really being a China or Asian band. It’s amazing that so many people in this area know who we are because Asia is a HUGE place, and so for people to know who we are is just an awesome feeling.
4. How hard or easy is it to find an audience in Hongkong/ Asia for your music?
It’s impossible especially since our music now is less technical and metal-friendly. We’re a hardcore band so it’s hard in Hong Kong to find an audience for it. If we were a metal band it’d be much better. But we’ve been around in Hong Kong for 10 years now so we have a pretty large following. But this is a trendy city, so you might be “cool” one day and not “cool” the next day. So the true believers of our band do stick around but it turns out it was only a handful.
It’s a small scene we have in HK. Even when bands like Terror or Misery Signals came through Hong Kong we were only able to get about 160 people at the show. When Have Heart, a much less metal-tinged, band came, we only got 43 people at the show.
So… it’s not the best situation we have here… but we get what we get.
5. I was surprised when I saw at your site, that you keep contacts to all over asia alive and that you are not just concentrated on Hongkong. Also your last EP is named „Unite Asia“. Where does this idea start and is there something like a united Asian HC-scene? How is the Asian HC-Scene organized?
Yeah, why would we play only in Hong Kong? Hardcore is a global community and in Asia we don’t get a lot of bands touring around. Like big name bands from the West. So we tour around and get to meet all these super passionate and serious hardcore kids from Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, China, etc…there are lots of incredible scenes going on throughout Asia. Some of these scenes are almost as old as the ones in the US where it all began.
We wrote that song because we know the struggles that Asian scenes go through to keep their scene alive and going. It’s not easy…we all have hugely deep issues that are alive in our cities and countries that can restrict scenes from continuing to grow etc. So that song was more of a rally cry to get everyone together and at least let them know that we in this band know and understand the issues they’re facing because we face them to.
6. What is in your eyes the difference between Asian and Western European/ US-Hardcore?
I think the biggest difference is attitude. Asian bands and scenes are much more humble because it’s newer and less money-oriented. I don’t mean “money-oriented” as in everything is more commercial in the West, I mean less money-oriented because our bands aren’t living off of their band. I cannot think of one hardcore band in Asia (outside of Japan) that is actually living off of their band. So our shows are a lot more humble in sound, equipment, etc., but definitely NOT in passion or emotion.
I just think the Asian scene is where I want to be because it’s still very much holding true to what the original ideas were behind hardcore: the passion, the fire, the perseverance through whatever life throws at you. And our scenes haven’t exploded so when we see each other there is a kindred spirit that automatically makes us want to hug each other when we get to Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur or Laguna…
I hope we can always stay that way… humble. I’ve dealt with lots of hardcore bands that have come through Hong Kong, and I feel like the Western bands always come here with something to prove or need to talk themselves up. I don’t understand why anyone needs to do that – it feels very corporate. When we tour we just expect to go and have a good time, no agenda. Just go and meet our hardcore brothers in the Philippines and continue to build friendships and support each other…
7. I saw you in Berlin, playing for 5 kids or so. I‘m not sure, but maybe you are the band most far away living from me I ever saw in my life. How did you get this tour organized and on what do you remember?
We had a punk band from Slovakia who helped us organize that tour. It was the biggest loss for us ever imaginable because we each paid 1,000USD to get over there. We have 5 members so between all of us we paid 5,000USD to get over there to tour. When we arrived in Slovakia that show was great and that was the only good show on the whole tour because that was the only one that was promoted. Once we left Slovakia we noticed there weren’t any tour posters or flyers made, we arrived at venues and there were no signs up that would help promote shows, nothing. It was very disappointing and disheartening. When we played Berlin to 5 people that was absolutely the last straw for us. We put on shows in Hong Kong and have been doing that for many many years. If we put on a show and don’t promote it we would feel absolutely irresponsible to the touring band – it is our duty as a show organizer or tour promoter to do all we can to promote the show.
The same thing should’ve happened on that Eastern European tour. If the Berlin show had actually been promoted, and still only 5 people came, we would totally have been okay about it. After all, we’re just a band from Hong Kong, who the hell knows who we are? We’re totally okay about that. But when we arrived at the venue, there were no posters or DIY flyers, and when we went to go check out some record stores there were no flyers up, I talked to the hardcore dudes that were working there and they were like “What? You guys are from Hong Kong and playing tonight?” I was so disappointed…
The best shows were definitely the Slovakia one and the last one in Prague. Those were the only ones that seemed like they were promoted and a good amount of people at the shows…
8. Do you like more to tour with a famous band like NoFX or do you like more to be the famous band? How important is it, that US-/ Westerneuropean bands tour in Asia? Is it important?
I don’t think it’s important that Western bands tour Asia. Most bands that come through Asia don’t even announce it on their myspaces or websites that they’re coming through Asia. So who knows that they’re coming here? No one in the West knows so nothing changes in the West in terms of their perception of Asia. People in the West continue to think "Oh? There's a scene in Asia?"
Of course it is nice to see some great hardcore bands that were very influential to me come through Asia and actually be really cool people. To me the best band to have come through were Comeback Kid… I have always LOVED this band and have been listening to them for years promoting them through Hong Kong, China etc. I was worried when they came through because I didn’t know if they were cool guys or were they going to be kind of rockstarish. But when they got here every single member of that band were the coolest people… they were just so kind and grateful that we would go out of our way to put on a show for them. Of course we were also grateful that they would choose to come through Asia and do something here.
Other bands I feel like don’t really make it a big deal that they’re touring Asia. There’s no announcement on their websites and their labels don’t make any sort of big announcement. It’s disappointing – because when we put on shows for these bands, most of us lose a lot of money! We pay for their plane tickets and transportation and sometimes some sort of guarantee, and we usually lose money with all of these things and they don’t even make any sort of announcement that they’re coming here. It’s very disappointing…
Touring with NOFX was great…they were such nice people and very friendly to us. I thought they were going to hate us because we’re a screamy band…but they were so friendly to us and sometimes their roadies would even help us. They didn’t need to do that but they were so friendly that sometimes they did that…
9. When you remember on the time, when you started with King Ly Chee 10 years ago... how changed your mind and the ideas with whose you started the band?
Lots of things have changed. I think the biggest thing that has changed is my perspective of Hong Kong. I’ve been quite scarred with everything that has happened. I don’t think my heart is in Hong Kong anymore in terms of hardcore. I will always love this city because this is my home, I can’t imagine living anywhere else in the world. But I don’t honestly feel any sort of “hardcore” scene can exist in Hong Kong anymore. It’s just too trendy of a city… hardcore is not a trend and so it’s hard to have people who will stick with this culture for longer then 3 or 4 years.
10. What future do you see, for you and your band?
Growing and growing and growing…we are in a good position right now and I can only see it getting bigger and bigger and that is the coolest feeling.
Questions by Gunter