1. First of all, thank you for giving us the chance to interview you. Could you please introduce yourselves to our readers?
Hi, we are Crescent Lament, a gothic metal band of the island country of Taiwan in East Asia.In the dark but beautiful atmosphere of gothic music, we present to listeners a unique “oriental” taste by blending in folk instruments and Taiwan’s history and culture. Since foundation in 2007, we’ve released two EPs and two full-length albums, including 「Crescent Lament」（EP, 2008）,「The Forgotten Winter」（EP, 2008）,「Behind the Lethal Deceit」（album, 2011）,and 「Elegy for the Blossoms」（album, 2015）. We’ve been actively taking part in shows around Taiwan, and gained opportunities to perform in many world-class music festivals, such as Formoz, Megaport, and HohaiyanGongliao Rock Festival. When internationally well-known bands like Lacrimosa, Chthonic, Epica, and Xandria have their concerts in Taipei, we were also fortunate enough to perform as the opening band. In 2012, we were invited to take part in the metal music festival Extreme Camp in South Korea, and this October, we will be performing at Metal Female Voices Fest（MFVF ⅩⅢ） in Belgium.
2. From the very first beginning, I ‘d like to say your musical style and concept are amazing. When and how did you decide on founding Crescent Lament?
Crescent Lament was founded in 2007 by lead vocalist Muer and drummer Komet. The objective of the band is to make Taiwan-oriented music to pass on the tragedies that occurred in Taiwan, so that the historical events would not disappear as time goes by. Whether it’s then or now, a band that aims to preserve local history and culture is not easy to find in Taiwan. Therefore, responding to the call from Muer and Komet, a group of outstanding musicians who share the same vision together formed the Crescent Lament.
3. As it can be noticed your inspiration basically comes from history. The combination of the history with the sounds of erhu, followed by the piano sounds it is impressive and unique. Why did you choose the history? Is it by chance a way of expressing what the name of the band itself means?
In 2015, we released the 2nd album「Elegy for the Blossoms」, which recounts the sorrowful story of a Taiwanese geisha, A-hiong, that happened in the late Japanese period and early Chinese Nationalist Party period in Taiwan’s history.In order to better explain the story, please allow us to introduce Taiwan’s modern history first.
Taiwan’s modern history could be divided into the Qing period from 1683 to 1895, the Japanese period from 1895 to 1945, and the post-1945 Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) period. Among the three regimes, the Taiwanese commonly hold a positive image on the Japanese period. For the Taiwanese, it was the 50-year governance of the Japanese that helped Taiwan out of poverty and backwardness of the 19th century, and brought advanced and prosperous living conditions, hygienic habits, fair education system, and social order to the island. As the first colony of Japan, the Japanese government put in a lot of efforts into governing Taiwan, with the intention to prove that they were as capable of having colonies as their western competitors.
On the contrary, although officials in the Qing Empire and the KMT regime may have shared the same ethnicity as the majority in Taiwan, their attitudes were very disappointing. For the Qing Empire, the purpose of occupying Taiwan was only to take over a potential domain for the anti-Qing forces (such as Koxinga and his regime). It believed that, the lesser Taiwan is developed and the more economically disadvantaged the Taiwanese are, the easier it is to keep it under control. For the KMT regime, officials regarded themselves as conquerors—soldiers robbed and killed civilians, officials seized private properties while illegally taking over government assets. Moreover, in the Chinese Civil War from 1946 to 1949, the KMT government disregarded the basic needs of the Taiwanese people and shipped crops, food, and necessities to China to support its losing war. Famine, inflation, cholera—all these problems that never occurred during the Japanese period or even World War II broke out in Taiwan since 1946.
Taiwanese use a proverb to describe the political change from the Japanese era to the KMT rule. We say: “Dogs left (Japanese left), pigs come (Chinese come). Dogs will at least guard the house for you, but the only thing pigs can do is to eat.” As an inevitable consequence, the 228 Incidence broke out in 1947. However, the KMT government carried out a brutal, extensive military massacre to respond to people’s request. Within 2 months, the KMT army executed about 30,000 Taiwanese citizens. To prevent further organized resistance of Taiwanese people, elites such as doctors and lawyers had been intentionally eliminated. Later, during the prolonged martial law rule from 1949-1987 (called “White Terror” in Taiwan’s history), there were additional 140,000 innocent citizens got imprisoned or executed.
Through 228 Incidence and White Terror, the KMT government completely restricted people’s freedom of thoughts. Under the dark repressive regime, citizens could become a political prisoner for talking about their lives in the past, or remembering their history. People could even be punished for speaking their own native language, which was Taiwanese. Under such social atmosphere, the early history and culture of Taiwan were intentionally erased by the government.
Let’s go back to the main character in the album, Taiwanese geishas. They had been quite popular around the country from mid-19th century to mid-20th century. However, in the 21st century when we made the album “Elegy for the Blossoms”, we were surprised to find that it was almost impossible to find complete documentations about these Taiwanese geishas. We could only try to understand how they lived and worked through a few research papers in the national library. It’s really saddening that, traces of Taiwanese geishas, once popular for nearly one century in Taiwan, were almost completely wiped out by the KMT regime through decades of mind control, blocking of historical facts, and brainwashing.
Beginning this year, the issue of transitional justice and the handling of the government’s wrong doings since 1945 has been formally discussed. In addition, preserving historical objects and saving cultural heritage that were once wiped out by the government have also been brought under the spotlight. But there are still long ways to go for both objectives. For a country like us that has been through a prolonged dark history, we could only look forward for the eventual victory of justice. The album 「Elegy for the Blossoms」 is our attempt to preserve the history of Taiwanese geishas through whatever we can do. This attempt may be a lonely journey, yet, it fits fairly well with the name of the band: “Crescent Lament”—in a dark night full with negative emotions, the weak light from the crescent has become the last bit of hope for the people to grasp.
4. If you‘d have to describe in three words your musical style, what words would you use?
If we should describe our music in three words, they would be “oriental”, “folk” and “metal”, because this is our unique musical style at the moment, and also something we would insist on in our future.
5. The titles “Crescent Lament”, “The Forgotten Winter”, “Behind the Lethal Deceit” and “Elegy for the Blossoms”, all of it seems somehow to be connected. This is it what you in fact intended?To narrate a whole story seen through different angles?
「Crescent Lament」 and 「The Forgotten Winter」 are both EPs released in 2008 with antiwar as the main them for both. Later, we extended the theme and wrote a movie-like complete story. Three of the five songs in the EPs were re-recorded into the 2011 conceptual album 「Behind the Lethal Deceit」. Therefore, the three pieces of works—「Crescent Lament」, 「The Forgotten Winter」 and 「Behind the Lethal Deceit」—are connected in theme and in songs, and that’s why we intentionally make the album titles relevant.
But the 2015 album 「Elegy for the Blossoms」 has another theme on Taiwanese geishas. Though the story is different, it’s also about tragedies that once occurred in Taiwan’s history, so the album title also hints a sorrowful atmosphere.
6. The story behind the “Elegy for the Blossoms” took my attention. However, what intrigues me is the term “Taiwanese geisha”, since “geisha” is mostly a term coming from Japanese. What is it you wanted to express through this? Which is the equivalent of “geisha” in Mandarin?
Although Taiwanese geisha—written as 藝旦 and pronounced as “ge-tuànn”in Taiwanese—and Japanese geisha—written as 藝妓 and pronounced as ge-ki” in Taiwanese—both developed under similar oriental context, the two developed in a parallel manner, with none being the “origin”. However, because the word “geisha” is used in translating both trades, it may be confusing sometimes.
Taiwanese geisha existed in Taiwan since mid-19th century, decades before the Japanese rule. As the Japanese government gave tacit consent to it, the trade reached its peak during the Japanese era. Taiwanese geishas “sold” their artistic skills but not their bodies, and were good at poetry, music and were able to give cultured talks. In the Taiwanese society at the time, especially the local intellectuals, admired the geishas. However, the culture that existed around the country for nearly onecentury disappeared as the new ruler—KMT government—arrived in 1945.
The same scenario is also hinted in the story of 「Elegy for the Blossoms」. After all, A-hiong and Bîng-hong, though survived World War II, their happiness ironically was destroyed in 1946 after the war.
7. Your 2nd album got ranked as no. 5 in the in the iNDIEVOX chart. How do you feel about it? Did you expect happen?
It was of course very exciting news that our album could be on iNDIEVOX ranking chart. We were also a little bit surprised at the same time, because in Taiwan, metal—especially Gothic metal—is far away from being mainstream, and iNDIEVOX is an online music platform that covers all kinds of music genres, it was therefore a very encouraging and a big compliment for us to be among the mainstream popular music.
8. In the year 2015 you took part to the Megaport Festival. How was it as experience?
Megaport Festival is currently one of the biggest international music festivals in Taiwan. We were very honored to be invited to take part last year, and the experience was wonderful and precious. First of all, it’s a top-quality stage, no matter the staff or the hardware are of top quality; moreover, the audience are not only music lovers but also experienced connoisseurs, hence, we’re under pressure to perform only to the perfection. In Megaport Festival, we showcased the charm of oriental Gothic metal. We were very moved that many of the audience even came all the way from cities that are hundreds of kilometers away. Overall, participating in MegaportFestival was a glorious and happy moment for all of us.
9.It was confirmed your band will play this year at “Metal Female Voices Fest”. It will be the first time for you playing outside Taiwan, right?
In 2012, we have been invited to take part in the metal music festival Extreme Camp in Seoul, South Korea. We met many metal musicians and fans there, and experienced the differences in musical culture between different countries. It was quite an enjoyable memory. We are truly happy to have the opportunity to attend Metal Female Voices Fest in this October, and are looking forward to feeling the glamour of European musical culture.
10. Where in Europe would you like to perform? If you‘d get the chance, would you perform in Romania?
As loyal fans of metal music, we quite enjoy music from everywhere in Europe. We would even say that, European music has inspired us to work on metal music. For us, all the European countries are very attractive, including Romania. Romania has a long history, beautiful landscape, and mysteriousvampire stories. Of course, there are also well known metal bands and metal music festivals, which make it a very sexy destination for us.
11. In your music are present quite a lot of instruments. In the future, could we expect to a new musical combination of sounds?
The storyline for 「Elegy for the Blossoms」 evolved around a Taiwanese geisha, A-hiong, who lived in the Twatiutia area in Taiwan from the 1930s to the 1950s. In order to recreate the historical atmosphere, we used many traditional instruments, such as Taiwan’s erhu, pipa, flute, and Japan’s shakuhachi, shamisen, koto, and tsuzumi.
In the future, we will continue to use Taiwan’s history and culture as the basis for our musical creation, so you may expect us to use more folk instruments as important symbols of our music.
12.How was so far the year 2016 for you?
So far, 2016 has been busy and purpose-driven for us. As for performance, we’ve been invited to MFVF, and are in talks for performances both domestically and abroad. Also, we’re working on visualizing the life of the Taiwanese geisha A-hiong whose story was told in the album 「Elegy for the Blossoms」. The visualization would be part of our live performance in the future, so that the audience may be more involved in our show. Recently, in addition, we’ve released our official 2016 T-shirt, which not only looks very good but is also very popular.
13. Which are the words, the creed that motivates the entire band?
Although being a sovereign and independent country, Taiwan is still rejected by the United Nations due to many historical reasons. In addition, because of China’s diplomatic blockage and military threats, Taiwan is often forced to be muted in the international community. Therefore, “letting the world hear the voice of Taiwan” has become the creed motivating us in music creation. Through our creations, we wish to promote Taiwanese music and culture to the world. As a small island nation under military threat of China, it would be our biggest wish to attract more people to understand Taiwan, and to support Taiwan’s freedom and democracy with us.
14. Aside from being musicians, what another professions do you think would suit to you? And why?
As in many other countries, band members in Taiwan often need another job to financially support their expenses in music. Each member of our band also has their own jobs unrelated to music—such as doctor, psychological consultant, and engineer. But taken into consideration our musical ideas, if we could choose, perhaps documentarian is a more suitable job for us, since we’re always working hard to explore the history that has long been buried, search for the sad stories that have already been forgotten, and turn them into songs to be passed on. Isn’t this also what a documentary filmmaker does?
15. In the end, what would you like to transmit to our readers?
Thanks to Ajia no Tengoku for offering us an opportunity to introduce our band “Crescent Lament” and our nation “Taiwan”.Maybe it’s the first time that people hear about us, and know nothing about Crescent Lament, about Taiwan, or the local folk metal music that we want to show, but please listen to our music, and maybe you would fall in love with Taiwan, which you’re just getting to know.
*Thank you to Crescent Lament for the cooperation and for allowing us interview them*