Taiwan is not known for being very “metal” country. The only internationally well-known band from the island are Chthonic, a melodic black/death band that has toured internationally and performed at big festivals in the West. But this band has a massive presence on the scene which very few other bands even come close to. The island offers “hidden gems” like the brutal death/slam legend Larry Wang (who will be mentioned in the following interview), the melodic black band Bloody Tyrant who have been on tour in Europe and plan a return, the metalcore act Flesh Juicer, or the esoteric, one-man, black metal project Inferno Requiem. Recently the band Dharma gained attraction in the international press for its death metal arrangements of Buddhist sutras. But overall Taiwan stands somewhat on the outskirts of the heavy metal world. For a person for whom Taiwan has become a second home it is great to see when some fresh talent appears on the scene and receives the deserved attention abroad. The subject of this interview, Mjatt Lee (yes, Matt with and extra J), is part of a circle of young musicians from the deep South of Taiwan who work on different musical projects together. One of them being Abyss of Gehenna (AoG for short), which has signed with the Ukrainian label Reality Fade for the release of their debut album. Another of these projects is a slam band Emasculated Vituperation which has signed with the Indonesian label Brutal Mind and is making a splash in the extreme world with their debut album. We chatted to Mjatt about the many exciting things that he’s involved in now.
Hi Mjatt. You recently played your first live show with Emasculated Vituperation. How did you enjoy it? Have you performed with other bands before that?
Yeah, That was the first ever Emasculated Vituperation show. It was fun! It went a little better than I thought it would, but I was also exhausted from driving all the way to Taipei from Kaohsiung. I also broke my knee and fingers prior to that so yeah, it was still pretty fun but also exhausting. As for the second question. Yes, I’ve performed a few times with this band called Rehab, it was more of a metalcore or post-hardcore bend at the time.
How did you get into music? Do you have a musical background or did you get into it because of the music you like?
Definitely did not have a musical background. I didn’t even care much and wouldn’t bother to really listen to anything when I was a kid, but I remember finding an Alice Cooper CD in my dad’s room and that’s how everything started for me. I remember it was second grade and I was like eight years old or something, discovering his album “Classick”, thinking it was the coolest shit ever. Been listening and discovering new music ever since.
What got you into heavy music? What were the popular “gateway” bands when you were growing up? Was metal/HC popular among youngsters in Taiwan back then, or were you more of an outsider and loner, when it comes to your music taste?
Well, I’d say i’m definitely a loner, especially here in Taiwan. I didn’t know what and who people were talking about, and they had no idea what I’m talking about either.
I’m not entirely sure who were the popular gateway bands at the time but the first “heavier” band that I loved was System Of A Down. I would listen to their discography non-stop and I listen to them everyday when I was in middle school, especially “Toxicity’’, and that leads me to discovering way more heavier bands, things escalated from there pretty fast. “Hate” by Thy Art Is Murder definitely played a big role getting me dragged in that endless spiral of deathcore, so I guess they’re kinda a “gateway” band for deathcore haha. At the time (when Abyss of Gehenna first started) that album along with music from Reflections, early Enterprise Earth, Depths, Black Tongue, Martyr Defiled, I Exalt and Aeons Of Corruption (just to point a few with no particular order) really inspired me to write my own music. I would also like to point out that a lot of smaller deathcore bands out there deserve to be recognized, if you really love this genre you should dig deeper instead just listening to whatever is the most popular among the genre, there are a lot of hidden gems.
Well, I’d say i’m definitely a loner, especially here in Taiwan.
I know you are involved in a number of projects. What was the first one that you’ve been involved in? Did you play in a school band or something like that? What was the first “serious” project or band that you’ve been in?
The first one was Abyss of Gehenna actually. I did not know what the heck I was doing when the project first started, it took quite some time to really kick things off. And I did not participate in a school band or anything like that, but it would be cool if I’ve done so I guess…? And yeah, the first serious one was definitely Abyss of Gehenna. After I figured out what I am trying to accomplish and what I can do with it, it became a little bit more serious.
Kicking Things Off
Can you tell us more about how Abyss of Gehenna started? Who’s the songwriter for that band? I did some digging but couldn’t find who the members are.
Back when I was a sophomore in uni, the vocalist, Bill, hit me up and told me he wanted to form a deathcore band and that he wanted me to join as their guitarist. I was flattered but I wasn’t entirely sold. I went ahead and joined them but at the time I couldn’t write anything that’s not utter crap, so it was a lot of hit or miss when we first started out. This was the start of AoG. After that he told me he had a friend who could play bass and he invited him into the band. Me and the drummer Murray were friends since we played in the band Rehab for a while. I asked him to join and that’s how we formed the current lineup.
I am the main writer for both Ectoplasm, and AoG, about the writing process, I’ll come up with whole songs written and recorded, then I send it to Murray and see what he wants to do with the drums. After that I’ll do a little bit of mixing and polish the song a bit, then I send the song to Bill to record on it. After he’s finished, he’ll send it back to me so I can edit them and decide if I’m happy with it. The process is pretty much the same in Ectoplasm.
It was a lot of hit or miss when we first started out.
I assume Ectoplasm came after AoG? Is it more like an internet band since Kai Ian is from the US? But I’ve noticed you have live drums, so maybe you guys will perform some day? 🙂
Yeah, it started after I wrapped up instrumentals for the AoG’s EP, I started writing again right away. I sent a song to Kai Ian and discussed the project with him. At that point we were already talking about starting a project for a while.
And we don’t have live drums, it’s superior drummer installed on my laptop. Hahaha. I will humanize it better for next release tho, people love to complain about that. About live shows, it’s almost impossible, but if we ever came across an opportunity like this, we won’t pass on that.
Getting it Done
The concept for the upcoming Ectoplasm album is certainly interesting. Can you talk about it a bit? Is it some kind of alternative history where Native Americans win over the colonists? I assume that Kai Ian is more involved with the lyrics since it’s a very American topic. You guys like these historical topics? Maybe you’ll do an album about Taiwan history next?
Yah, it was definitely a cool topic. Kai also tries to incorporate elements from this video game “Turok” as well. It was an idea that was brewing in Kai’s mind for a while now, he wrote all the lyrics for the project. He told me about it immediately after I sent him the jams, he was really stoked. It’s an alternative telling of the story that we know, but I will not reveal too much about the story before the album drops.
Taiwan history? Sounds cool, but it might be a bit more difficult to pull off I think.
After I wrapped up instrumentals for the AoG’s EP, I started writing again right away.
You’ve got signed with both AoG and Ectoplasm before even releasing a debut I believe… how did you get picked up by Reality Fade?
With Reality Fade, it was right after we released “Treachery” on the Youtube promo channel Beheading The Traitor. Dimitri [Dimitri Sagaidak, the owner of the label] hit me up to discuss signing the band and releasing the EP for us, it was amazing and kinda hard to believe till this day. It will always feel special to me. I will be forever grateful that he picked us up.
And the debut EP is finally coming out, we’re currently designing the CD layout, I also got a few good friends to do guest vocals on it so I’m super stoked about that.
As for Ectoplasm, I was actually planning on finishing the album before I graduate from university, so I sent songs that I’ve already written to labels, and Amputated Vein was the only one that showed more interest at that time so we struck a deal with them. But the COVID-19 situation kinda messed up my whole schedule. I went back home from uni to spend a weekend and then it was the Covid outburst. It turned out we will do online classes instead, and I’ve left all my equipment at uni. After I graduated, I started working full time and broke some bones due to a motorcycle accident so the album release has been pushed back a little. Also older songs I wrote for Ectoplasm were stored in my old laptop, and it just recently died on me. The whole situation is pretty messy, but I’m still working on it! Hopefully I can have it done by the end of the year. And after that I might be doing a new project with Noah from Planet Killer and Dragon Corpse, along with the new Ectoplasm release. That’s my plan at least.
Obviously we have to talk about Emasculated Vituperation. I believe that all of the members except Larry Wang are from the south of Taiwan and you basically got him on board after you were already rehearsing some songs. Can you tell us how it came together?
Yes, most of us aren’t from Taipei but Yuru [guitarist and main songwriter] and Murray are still studying in uni and Murray’s school is in Taipei. And Emasculated Vituperation was originally Yuru’s project, he’s the main songwriter of that particular band. So basically, from my understanding, Yuru went to Larry to discuss the band, later on Larry decided to work with him. After that he invited Murray and me to join, I was the latest addition to the band.
Who came up with that crazy name? I didn’t even know the word Vituperation before haha. I suspect Larry had a hand in it, he’s a master of bizarre titles, haha.
Definitely Larry’s idea if I remember correctly, when it comes to bomb ass names, he’s definitely the mastermind behind it, bomb ass name, bomb ass slamz.
Larry Wang has been like a mentor since we’ve met!
Do you plan shows with any Abyss of Gehenna or Emasculated Vituperation? Do you think international shows are in the cards? I know it’s difficult right now for more than one reason, but where there is a will there’s a way.
Yes, with Emasculated Vituperation we’ll have an album release mini tour in the summer , but there will be AoG shows soon enough in the near future as our EP is dropping pretty damn soon. Regarding international shows we’ll have to ask Larry haha.
How is it to work with Larry? Were you really into Maggot Colony and his other bands? Do you wanna tell us what your favorite band or project of his his – other than EV of course? 😉
To be honest, it’s been amazing, he is a down-to-earth guy with unique perspectives, he’s also determined and has a lot of experience regarding music as a whole. He’s been like a mentor since we’ve met! He also did the mixing for AoG! It is impossible to find people with similar mindsets towards music like him here in Taiwan. As for liking his bands, I didn’t listen to them until I met him. I wasn’t properly introduced to slam until that hahaha. I came to really enjoy and appreciate his bands and I think Murray is the same, the first time we went to him we didn’t know too much about his music. As for my favorite project I’ll probably have to go with either Gorepot or Coprocephalic, also the latest Fatuous Rump record is fire.
Thanks mate and best wishes for your future projects.!
Follow Mjatt’s bands Abyss of Gehenna, Ectoplasm, and Emasculated Vituperation on Facebook