Out of sight is not out of mind! GigGuide.tw misses her and we know we’re not alone! Floaty recently caught up with Yu Ching as she returned to Taiwan over the new year, and they arranged this exclusive interview. Read on, dear friends!
How is Berlin? From what I’ve heard, it sounds quite Utopian: vibrant and creative, affordable, friendly. Is that true?
All my friends who’ve been to Berlin praised the city. The reasons are simple, because almost all the young people in the city love the space that the city provides for parties and arts, the bars allow smoking, and you can often see people smoking weed on the street. (I went to an old school bar, where I’ve heard Nick Cave frequents - it has a sign saying that marijuana is not allowed in there.)
I’ve hear many frustrated artists come to Berlin to find their own place. When I first got here I met a lot of young people, just like me, who want to do something, but lack of self confidence, and we hope this city will inspire us. The biggest reason why I like this city is that it isn’t over-developed or commercialized (no Apple stores and Uniqlo only just recently opened their first store). To be honest, for a Taiwanese who lived in a convenient environment with plenty of resources, it takes time to adjust and get used to it, but compared to the other big cities in Europe, it smells a lot less like money. Especially the small livehouses, where the entry fee is usually 2-5Euro.
I also remembered I met many foreigners with positive point of view (there are a lot of foreigners in Berlin). Almost everyone is energetic. Of course, they will also tell you how cool Berlin is (after two months it gets a bit annoying). One of the reasons why Berlin makes people feel so free and comfortable is that it doesn’t matter if you dress up or not when you go out. I identify with this , although I still see a lot of pretty girls here.
Your current project, posted on soundcloud.com, is called All Shit Deeds Girl. Do you hope to turn this into a band, or do you have a different objective? Do you see these songs as a continuation of OCD Girl, or are you aiming for something else? (Btw, Take No is a great, crazy song. I’d love to hear that live!)
I couldn’t think of a name for that project in the beginning, so I thought that giving it a corresponding name would be quite meaningful, so I gave this project a homophonic name (OCD girl). This project is actually just for me to have a chance to spread my music, even though I was unfamiliar with how to record by myself. But I am motivated to keep going. I’m not sure if I will turn it into a band or not, because I think if I was in a band with other band members, I would want to write songs with them that belong to our band, if it’s with the right people.
Do you intend to play music - your own or with others - in Berlin? After being a band leader for several projects, could you see yourself stepping back and just being a member of someone’s else’s band?
I thought about playing music with other people, but for now I can only play by myself. I have to figure myself out first so I can communicate with others!
I actually have experienced just being a member in a band, but always for a short period of time, usually just for fun. I don’t mind being in other bands, but I think most of people are more looking for a real musician! It’s always more convenient that way. I think only those people who understand my logic will have an interest in asking me to join their band!
Can you compare the German and Taiwanese music scenes for us? What’s good, what’s bad, what’s interesting about what you have seen?
I don’t have a band in Germany. The young people I met here are more into dancing to electronic music than rock ‘n’ roll. So it would be a bit unreasonable to compare! Listening to indie bands from North America is popular in Taiwan but is not so cool here… ha.
It’s rare to hear people playing indie band songs at a show or between bands (and it is often only done by Americans), but European/American rock concerts are always packed. It’s a different crowd at the night clubs, though, and I’m almost sick of the Techno that’s playing everywhere. I will often hear a good hip-hop set that makes me dance, though. Berlin’s music environment is quite diverse, one time I walked into a club that was playing Ricky Martin. Hmmmm.
You’re certainly learning new things about Berlin every day, but, from such distance, what have you also learned about Taiwan?
The most important thing is approval of being Taiwanese! To a lot of foreigners - those who are unfamiliar with East Asia - every time when they recognize where the other Asian people are from, after Japan and Korea, they always say that I’m from China but then quickly change that to Taiwan, it gets me thinking: What kind of national identity does Taiwan have? Sometimes I even think I would rather to have them mess up (and confuse Taiwan) with Thailand but not China. Of course, it is really passive to think like that, but I also realized that Taiwan is not a very confident country. But I believe Taiwan has the best service in the world.
What advice would you give other artists who are considering a move across the planet like you did?
I’m not quite sure if I’m qualified to give the others advice…. Of course both strength and social skills are the key points. Well, duh…. But unfortunately those two are what I lack, and after living there it made me realize it even more. I don’t know, I feel that the foreigners over there interact with each other a little bit differently compared to how foreigners interact in Taiwan. Sometimes even just thinking about working so hard on socializing with others feels stupid, but I think it’s a necessary process to go through.
Looking back, you’ve enjoyed leading two cool bands with loyal fan bases. How do you consider those bands personally?
I don’t really listen to the old stuff, especially Space Cake. It was too horrific. Even though the band was quite popular in the indie music community, it’s embarrassing to admit that I didn’t know what I was doing. Let’s just say that I was young and I had a lot of time to write songs in a chaotic way! It proved that childish enthusiasm brings quite a bit of power.
With OCD girl I was hoping to get closer to the core, to stop using computers and software that I don’t even know how to use, and stop writing English words that I wasn’t so sure about. Then the whole style became almost different compared to Space Cake. Actually, I didn’t plan to have a style of music, I just wanted to have more interaction with the band members, and sing songs that were worth singing. Overall this band somehow made me the leader for no reason and it made me grow a lot.
I’m always interested in the creative process. How do you write songs? Is it always similar for you, or do you experiment with different approaches? What works best for you?
When I’m with a band I usually write a melody and then during band practice everyone arranges the song together. After jam sessions I go back and fix the bits. When I was in Berlin I used many different ways, but mainly I just jammed by myself. I just kept messing around with computer beats and a bass line. Most of the time I think of the theme while composing the song. A few times I started writing the songs after I had a theme. Recently I’ve been trying to write songs with guitar. It’s actually quite difficult and a lot of times I wanted to use the computer to write a bass line first, but I want to try this way and see what kind of songs I’m able to produce.
What is interesting about creating music? Is it different now than when you started playing?
I grew up having quite a different musical experience compared to a majority of people. Even though I was exposed to rock music when I was 13~14, I never really learned any music instruments, and later I accidentally formed a band and even became the leader. I realized it’s not that bad, even if I don’t know how to play anything, and I just went on with band practices and shows. It sounds quite punk rock, but at that time I barely listened to that kind of music. Now when I recall the past, I think this process was kind of fun. It was purely the enthusiasm of my youth. Recently I actually started learning my instrument and a little bit of musical theory - those things I should’ve learned and practiced, those really basic, unfashionable things (I practice at home so nobody can hear me). After such training, when I write songs again, it seems quite interesting, probably because I’m not skillful enough. Unlike many other people with a strong basic foundation who can write a song easily, during this process I still can’t avoid messing up a little bit.
Finally, it may seem like an obvious question, but what do you love about music?
This may sound quite shallow, but I fell in love with music because it made me feel very cool when I was a teenager. Then it influenced my values and my direction in life. It has led me on a path that I would never have expected. How can I not love music?