The Chinese Metal scene can be traced all the way back to the days of Tang Dynasty, which set the ball rolling for the metal scene to flourish. From the first wave of Chinese Heavy Metal spawned even darker and more extreme bands... the Black Metal sector for example is perhaps the darkest in the global metal community.
But China plays host to all metal variations and it's bands like Explosicum who keep the Thrash Metal alive in China... having signed to Italian label Punishment 18 Records this year, this could well be the dawn of China finally being accepted as a major player in the global metal scene. Qiu Jian Hua spoke to GMA about the band's history, the Chinese Metal scene and what it's like in the band's home city of Nanchang.
"The biggest challenge is how can we make music... without sounding like pure copying of classic bands."
For those who do not know Explosicum, can you give us a brief history behind the band and the name?
"We were founded in 2005 and in the same year, signed with Area Death Productions. The Chinese name "爆浆“ is from the Hong Kong movie "The God Of Cookery" which was directed by Stephen Chow, Our friend Guo Ya Fei helped us to translate it into English; he created the word "Explosicum" based on its meaning. In 2008, we released our debut album "Conflict" and released the second album "Raging Living" in 2014, we then released our third album "Living's Deal" in 2017.
How does it feel to be signing with Punishment 18 Records? This surely has to be one of the best moments of the band's career?
"Yes, we never thought we could sign with a European label. We know that Punishment 18 Records is a very famous label, and we feel excited and proud to achieve this. It was definitely one of the highlights of our band's career."
Talk us through your latest album "Living's Deal', what is the theme of the album and how was it received in China?
"Most of our songs are about our social environment, our feelings in life, our anger and helplessness, including the dark side of human nature, someone who knows China's history in recent decades can relate to this.
I don't know how to describe the word "received", after all, Thrash Metal is not a popular style now. But I think there are many people who like our album, they have their own views on society, and like speed and aggressiveness as much as we do."
What is the Chinese Metal scene like right now? What challenges as musicians do you have to overcome or have overcome?
"From what I've seen, there are many metal bands that are active in China, some for a long time, some for a short time. In China, metal music still has a large audience. It just can't become the mainstream of society.
We all have jobs, don't need to make money by playing metal music, so we don't need to do music just to please others. To us, the biggest challenge is how can we make music that we love and that thrashers love, without sounding like pure copying of classic bands and music."
Do you feel that more labels and media should pay attention to bands from that part of the world? Not just China but the Far East in general?
"Yes of course. We have been to other countries and regions in Asia, where there are a lot of good metal bands, I hope they will have more opportunities to let more people know."
For metalheads visiting your city of Nanchang, what sights / attractions could you recommend? What is the local metal scene like? Any bars, clubs?
"In Nanchang, rock and metal music has a big audience. Most metal shows don't have more than 500 people. The only place where rock music is regularly performed is the Blackiron Livehouse, which is run by our lead singer Tan Chong. Any metalhead visiting Nanchang should be there. It's one of most famous live houses in China, touring bands and artists perform every week, metal bands included of course."
What plans do you have for the rest of the year and leading into 2020?
"We don't have a specific timetable, we just take it step by step. We're working on the next album, we rehearse every week, the songs will be modified and improved during rehearsal. Unfortunately, we're very slow, so we don't know when the next album will come out. If we are invited by the organizer to perform, we are all happy to attend."
Are there any hello's, greetings, etc that you wish to send out to friends, family,
"Thank you to all our friends and family, including the directors of the various labels and all the organizers who invited us to the show. Without you, we might not have been able to make it this far."
Interview Interrogation: Iris Goessens & Steven 'Gaze' Sanders from Spoil Engine (Belgium / Netherlands)
Spoil Engine have been rampaging in the Belgian Metal scene for 15 years and yet it's only in the recent years that they caught the attention of the more well-known labels, Arising Empire (owned by Nuclear Blast) in this case.
Their unique slant on the Melodic Death Metal / Metalcore crossover has made them distinguished guests in the world of metal and yet despite their original vocalist leaving in 2014, they've maintained their brutality through Dutch vocalist Iris Goessens. Word of warning, don't let the fact being the new vocalist is a female overthrow you or undermine this new instalment of Spoil Engine, because her vocals and charisma is ferocious enough to leave you spit-roasted inside and out.
Here Iris and Steve spoke to GMA about their crushing new album 'Renaissance Noire', it's meaning and origins. How they come to meet at their rendez-vous point of Antwerp (as Iris and Matthijs both live in The Netherlands), the Dutch and Belgian Metal scenes respectively and why the single 'Riot' has arguably come at the right time for the band...
"I think music is a beautiful way to make people aware of important topics."
You must be stoked to release your fifth album 'Renaissance Noire', could you tell us about the meaning behind the album title and give us an overview of the album topics?
"Yes we are! We’re very proud of what the album has become. The title translates as “Dark Rebirth”. After our last “Stormsleeper” shows Bart had to make the decision to leave the band (work & family were too difficult to combine with SE). We decided that we would move on as a 4 piece band and started writing. This whole process was a “rebirth” for the band. Also we felt inspired by the “Renaissance” age, which you can see in the artwork. We think this album is darker than the previous one so that’s why we added the “Noire” in the title. The song topics are very diverse but they are all about evolving (as humans and/or as a society) so it basically became the overall topic though the album."
Iris, having come from Maastricht would it be OK to assume you moved to Belgium instead of travelling to and from The Netherlands?
"No. I still live in The Netherlands. Our drummer Matt is also from The Netherlands. For rehearsals we meet in the city of Antwerp which is in the middle of where all the band members live. Before we do this we arrange as much as possible online & everyone rehearses and writes songs at their home studio’s."
Steven do you feel the Belgian Metal scene is often overlooked by the music industry as a whole? Iris the same for the Dutch Metal scene?
"I think there are many Dutch bands and musicians who made it big in the international metal scene. So I don’t think we’re overlooked… It just takes lots of time to build a brand."
"Well, I guess the scene wouldn't be overlooked if we had bands who really get all the promotion. We have some great Belgian bands (Aborted, AmenRa, Evil Invaders, Carnation,...) but these boys must work very hard to get something done in the global scene. If you compare with our Dutch friends (Epica, Within Temptation,..) they get much more support and credit from the bottom-up, meaning from their own country and their promo channels like BUMA. Dutch bands tend to help each other more where Belgian bands are more lone warriors. But it's good to see the Belgian scene is rising!"
Do you feel your single 'R!ot' has come at the right time when climate change protests, social unrest across the European Union and hatred towards the Trump administration is rife? Is the single a political statement?
"Yes, it just came together like that. We wrote this song at the beginning of 2019. I think music is a beautiful way to make people aware of important topics."
With that in mind, do you feel metal music offers itself as a way of venting fury, anger and discontent in a constructive way?
"For sure. Metal has a great energy to spread messages. I think most metal fans are conscious people who think for themselves. So it’s nice to spread messages through our music for a better world. "
For metalheads visiting Maastricht, what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any good bars, clubs?
"We got some nice pubs here in Maastricht. Most of them are overflowed with students though. Same for the “clubs”. I’d rather recommend Maastricht for day visiting than overnight partying. We have many nice restaurants and a beautiful city centre."
What plans have you got for the rest of 2019 (along side the album launch) and into 2020? Do you have any greetings or thank you's that you wish to send out to friends, fans, etc?
"We’ve launched the album and we’re ready to hit the road! Thanks for the interview. And to all the fans who read this: We hope to CU soon on tour!"
Pop Metal? Melodic Heavy Metal? Finnish Metal? However you want to describe Segmentia is down to you, but the truth remains that they are one of the fresh products coming off of the Finnish Metal conveyor belt. Only having formed this year, devised and unleashed their debut EP 'Shanghai' and signed a deal with renowned Finnish label Inverse Records, things certainly are going well for this quarter. But as Jere explains, their humble beginnings have provided some guidance for this new beast to follow by...
"Rumours say that Alvar (Aalto) wanted to paint the coffin shaped church black!"
Give us a brief background of Segmentia, were you in previous bands? What does 'Segmentia' mean?
"We started playing together with Arttu in 2012. During that time we were playing only covers and the line-up changed a lot during the years. I had already composed a few songs of my own but before that I proposed that we started to create own music, with the band I wanted to have line up that works. I think it was around 2015 or so when we recorded our first demos with that line-up. After that the line-up still changed a lot but we still decided to start recording the songs for our EP.
All the recordings were ready at the end of 2017 but we were still struggling with our bassist and vocalist. Finally in the end of 2018 when Sami joined the band I was sure that the 3rd member was found and soon after that Laura joined to complete the line-up. I personally have played in many bands, but before Segmentia my main band has been a Power Metal band called Celesty. Actually when we decided to end Celesty it took like a couple of years when I started to look for a new group.
Segmentia doesn’t mean anything. Our first name was Seventh Segment, but we wanted to have a band name with only one word so I came up with the idea of Segmentia.
You play Pop Metal, would you liken yourselves to Dead By April or how would you describe your sound?
"When I start to compose a song I never think about the genre or any other band. I just create what’s in my mind and basically clear my head from melodies to my computer. Then I start to write vocal lines and add rhythms etc. then I go to my rehearsal room’s studio and start to produce the song. I know Dead By April and I listened to their first album a lot when it came out, but they might be like one of the 100 influences I have when I create music."
Shanghai' is your debut EP and so what was the response like? Will you tour in support of the EP? Any shows outside Finland?
"The response has been great. I only have heard good things and when we play live, people really seem to enjoy our performance and music, even if they don’t know our songs well. We have done some shows in Finland and yeah we are planning to play worldwide. This is only the beginning of Segmentia and we have lots of plans for the future, so we’ll see what is going to happen. Anyway I’m very excited about the future."
Talk us through 'Shanghai', what do the tracks mean and why is the EP title borrowed from a city in China?
"Shanghai reflects the light that comes when there is someone whom shares the joys and sorrows of this life. We are quite alone here on Earth called "The Dark Sea" in the song, and when there is someone whom you can share that life, the shores of the dark sea shimmer. Geographically, Shanghai is an island in the middle of a dark sea, and thinking of that actual island maybe can help to see this idea.
I almost ended my entire musical career after Celesty about 7 years ago. Then my current wife told me to stop those crazy talks. This gave me the courage and the spark to try and start a new band. Shanghai's lyrics are not only a tribute to love, but also a tribute to my wife. The song also tells us how each of us should have that bright person in our lives. We called the EP Shanghai also because every song tells a story in its own way from different parts, from the trip to a band and family. We have to be able to share joys and sorrows because that sense of security really has a lot to do with how our band holds together."
How does it feel to be a part of the Inverse Records family? Surely this is a dream start for the band?
"Well this was very natural choice for us. I have studied their work a lot and I know the guys who work there. Also we decided to try to do a lot of ourselves for the release and that we didn’t try to get any labels behind us or anything like that. We just started this by ourselves and so that we can do a lot of ourselves we choose Concorde Music Company and Inverse to help us out."
For metalheads visiting Seinäjoki, what sights / attractions could you recommend? Any pubs, venues?
"Actually Seinäjoki is like other cities in Finland as well, it's at it's greatest in the summer. Here in Seinäjoki is quite little sight so see but one of our sights is the church in the down town who has designed by famous Finnish Architect Alvar Aalto. Rumours say that Alvar wanted to paint the coffin shaped church black!
We also have many quite big festivals here in summertime. Provinssirock is one of the coolest and biggest festivals in Finland and the venue called Törnävän Saari is also wonderful sight to see. Also we have Tango music festival here, which also brings a lot of people to our city. Then there is also Vauhtiajot rock and race festival which is music and rally on the same weekend. Then we have the famous club called Rytmikorjaamo and a legendary pub called “Warttibaari” Bar 15, where also Segmentia played their first gig on 6th April 2019."
With 2019 coming near to a close, what plans have you got for the rest of the year leading into 2020?
"We have planned a lot. Priority one is to finalize our own website http://www.segmentia.net. Also this end of the year we are planning to play at least one gig and also we shoot our second music video from one of the EP songs but I won’t tell you yet which one. Also I have started to record demos from new songs I have composed and I believe that we start the pre-production of Segmentia debut album in year 2020.
Also, we are going to be active in many ways to keep the name Segmentia familiar in people’s ears. Play lot of gigs in Finland but hopefully also in approach, maybe support some bigger bands."
Are there any greetings, or thank you's that you wish to send out to friends, family, etc?
"Hello all Global Metal Apocalypse readers! Greetings from beautiful Finland, the land of the thousand lakes! I hope that you enjoyed our interview. Go and check Segmentia music, follow us on social media, tell us to your friends and families and most important, remember to say kind words to your loved ones!"
Order the CD: https://www.recordshopx.com/single/segmentia/shanghai/#654877