The band's history: when did Damnkidz start, who were the original members, and who are the band members now?
Damnkidz started out after the breakup of my first band Rpdx (aka. Reproduction). I asked our drummer Suyeh to come play guitar in this new band, and got the drummer Xio-Hung from Silly What, a ska-punk band also from Taichung, to play drums. Suyeh introduced us to a Canadian guy named Cameron Blake who became our bassist. After Blake left Taiwan, ex-Oi singer How Die replaced him on bass. I was the guitar player. Afterwards, Suyeh went overseas, so Island Of Chaos guitarist Ah-Long joined. This all happened from 2005-2008. In 2009, Crappy Hobo guitarist Larda joined, Xio-Hung quit, and Hand Knife drummer Ah-Guang joined. Since then, it's been the same lineup.
Can you describe what the Taichung indie scene was like when you first started playing in a band? Were there a lot of punk bands, were there a lot of places to play, were there any bands that you thought were special?
When I was playing in Rpdx in 1999, Taichung only had one indie music event, called "Stock Rock". It was a free event that didn't follow any kind of regular scheduling pattern. These events often had non-local bands performing. Later on, the place that burned down last year, ALa Pub, became the regular host for this event, and people had to buy tickets. How we sold tickets was to first spread the word to our friends through the internet, BBcall or by telephone. We'd arrange a time, usually on the weekends, and a place for people to buy tickets. There was a record shop near Feng Jia University, we'd set up a single chair on the sidewalk near that shop, and we'd take turns selling tickets to people who would come find us. Wintertime was the worst; that metal chair really hurt your ass. I'm speaking from personal experience. "Stock Rock" was the impetus for the "Fei Group", and this group would later on hold "Fei Parties", which employed the same modus operandi as Stock Rock, and these parties became the next wave of popular indie-rock events. The Fei Group was lead by the band Anarchy, and these events would have bands like Rpdx, Salesman, Island Of Chaos, Oi, Silly What, Pole Dancers. All of these bands were of the punk/grunge variety. You could say that at that time, Taichung was the punk epicenter of Taiwan. At all of these events, there would always be moshing and crowd-surfing going on. These parties were the only ones of its kind in all of Taiwan. Usually there would be 400-500 people in the audience, sometimes more! It was a fun, crazy atmosphere. Fei Group later on became Fei Records. As time went on, many of these bands one by one broke up.
All of these memories seem like it was some wonderful dream.
How is the music scene different in Taichung now (after the ALa fire)?
After the ALa fire, the Taichung Government suddenly began emphasizing safety at live music venues, which lead to the closure of some places, while others had restrictions placed on their business hours. But I don't think that this had that big of an effect on Taichung's indie music scene. Even before the ALa fire, the scene here was already not as good as it was before. It's been a steady decline, because audience numbers now are never as big as those Stock Rock/Fei Party events. For example, even if 89K were not shut down, a show there now could never draw as many people as Stock Rock. At the same time I still regret that all these venues are disappearing, because now places for bands to play, and places for fans to see a band, are now few and far between.
You spent some time overseas, and in the short time since you came back, have recorded and released a new album, 'No Cross, No Crown'.
The new album "No Cross No Crown" was about 80% finished before I went to Australia. All of the songs we've played live before a few times. There are a couple of acoustic versions of songs we've never released before. After I went to Australia, I would often confer with my bandmates via email or phone to discuss the plan for this record. This is perhaps why we were able to complete the album in such a short time after I returned home. This is the follow-up to our 2008 EP, "Show Hand" where we really literally had to show our hand. From recording to mixing to pressing CDs and making a music video, all the expenses were from band member's pockets. We had a lot of help from our friends through the whole production process. We resigned ourselves to work hard doing shows and trying to push the CD, but we've still got a lot left over. They're all stashed in a corner of my house, like a little mountain, stacks and stacks of CDs. This indicates to us that we didn't work hard enough, so the new album "No Cross No Crown" is a way to encourage ourselves more, and other people too. The song "Life" from this album sums up exactly what the album is all about.
Did your experiences living abroad inspire you to write songs?
Actually most of my time in Australia was spent working. When I got off work, I would fix dinner and the next day's lunch. On the weekends, I'd go drinking or fishing with friends. I really enjoyed a tranquil, simple, slow-paced country life. My time spent there was not very productive creativity-wise, but all of my experiences, thoughts and feelings from there are all still inside me. Give me some time to digest it all, and then I'll spit it all out for you to consume.
If you could tour the world with two bands, which two would you choose?
NOFX and Hi-Standard.
Do you have any advice for young Taiwanese kids who are thinking about learning guitar or starting a band?
Guitar skill is very important. You have to learn it well, and then develop your playing style and sound. I think this is the only way. For me, having a true interest in it is the most important thing; skill will come slowly. As long as you're having fun playing in a band, that's good enough. But if possible, don't place any limits on your creativity.
What are your thoughts about the future of Taiwanese indie? Do you think that some day indie will break through to the mainstream?
Will it? I don't know about that. All I'm concerned about now is doing the things I wanna do the best that I can. However, if Jay Chou starts singing one of the songs from our new album, that day may arrive sooner than later!