Interview with the Taiwanese band Seraphim - The fate of music brought them together
“Seraphim” (or “六翼天使” in Mandarin Chinese) is a Power Metal band from Taipei, Republic of China. Right now, the band is composed by main songwriter and guitarist Kessier Hsu who has also been involved in one of the country’s very first Heavy Metal bands that is “Assassin” (called “刺客” in Mandarin Chinese), female singer Quinn Weng, bassist Mars Liu, drummer Van Shaw and finally the Brazilian guitar player Thiago Trinsi.
The band has gone through many line-up changes since its beginnings in the year 2001 and featured among others guitar player Dan Chang who is now involved in the Groove Metal and Metalcore formation “Silent Hill” (known as “獄無聲” in Taiwan) as well as the first singer Pay Lee who passed away due to complications following a minor heart surgery in 2011.
In its career, the band has released four studio records: “The Soul That Never Dies” (“不死魂”) in 2001, “The Equal Spirit” (“平等精靈”) in 2002, “Ai” (“愛”) in 2004 and finally “Rising” (“日出東方”) in 2007. Each album has been released in an international English version as well as in Mandarin. In addition to this, the band has released a live album called “Live in Beijing” (“北京演唱會”) back in 2006.
To get more information about this inspiring band and its diversified career, don’t hesitate to take a look on their website as well as on their official Facebook page:
A recent press photo of the band
In order to spread the name of this exotic band and to know what they are doing right now over five years after the release of their last album, I decided to contact lead singer Quinn Weng by e-mail to ask her a few questions for the Metal Observer.
Singer Quinn Weng in action!
SEBASTIAN KLUTH: “Hello from Chicoutimi, Canada and thank you for taking your precious time and doing this interview with me! First of all, I would like you to introduce yourself as well as the other band members if you don’t mind.”
QUINN WENG: “Hi Metal Observer! Greetings from Taiwan, Canada and Iceland. Chicoutimi is not too far from my new home in Vancouver :) I am SERAPHIM's lead vocalist and since my 'instrument' is my voice I have the lightest instrument to carry on tour (apologies to my band-mates, but I do always help to carry their stuff ;)) We've been around for 12 years and we just celebrated our 12 year anniversary on January 18. Kessier, our guitarist/song writer/producer founded the band in 2001; Van, our drummer joined us in 2005; Mars our bassist joined in 2007, and Thiago, our second guitarist, joined in 2010. I've been in the band since 2004 and we've had amazing times together creating music, sharing lives, fighting with differences of opinion, etc, and I believe it is going to keep going on in the future.”
Song writer, guitar player and founding member Kessier Hsu
SEBASTIAN: “That sounds great! Tell me a little bit more about your band history. What does your band name mean in both languages you use? You’ve been through quite a lot of line-up changes in your career. How did that come? Is your actual line-up stable?”
QUINN: “As you know, SERAPHIM formed in 2001 in Taipei, Taiwan. We are all into Heavy Metal, which is what brought us together. The original idea of the band name was given by our former vocalist, Pay Lee who was a devout Christian as well as the other original band members. They chose the name from the Bible as SERAPHIM is the highest ranking angel in the Bible, whose purpose is to sing for God -- but we sing for people! We strive to play our best music, no matter who is listening. Although I am not one of the founding members, I totally agree with this spirit. We receive questions all the time asking, 'Are you a Christian band?' and although we are not, we feel we've given our band name a soul - because we'd feel dead inside if we weren't making the best music we can. The name of the band in Mandarin is the same meaning though! We've changed our line-up several times and each change came with its own reasons. Besides the band, we all have our own careers in order to get by. Some of former members have had to concentrate on their own jobs and then chose to leave the band; I believe that most musicians face this problem when they don't earn enough money for their life expenses - it's brutal, but it's a reality. We started as nobodies and as most artists, have poured all our money, passion and enthusiasm into making our craft. For our previous albums, we recorded in our own studio and then rented another studio for analog drum recordings. After that, we flew to Sweden and Finland for mastering. We like to produce a good quality work and not a rushed or rough work which is a great common ground, but it's not easy at all. We just keep carrying on. I believe the most important thing for artists is to never give up. We appreciate all of our former members for their great job they've done in the past 12 years and for getting us to where we are today.”
SEBASTIAN: “How would you actually describe your band sound? Do you have any major inspirations or are there any similar bands to yours?”
QUINN: “Hmm, it's really hard to explain as we know our music sounds different from other bands in our genre. Perhaps because we are from Asia, our musical style is influenced by our Eastern culture. For singing, I sing in a opera-style because our former lead vocalist was a soprano, and because I sing old SERAPHIM songs in our concerts. I am not a professional soprano, but I love to challenge myself. I studied opera 8 years ago in a self-taught way and I sang for bands before joining SERAPHIM (more than 15 years ago, including my college years). I used to sing a lot for competitions with classmates from the guitar club at my school. Anyways, back to SERAPHIM, we have been trying to train ourselves better, even though Thiago, our guitarist who is a music instructor in Iceland, still does. We also have a death vocalist which is Kessier's second job in the band. In the past some music friends mentioned that SERAPHIM sounded like NIGHTWISH but I believe we are totally different because of our music style. They are definitely a fantastic band, who no one can replace. Regarding our music genre, we tend to be speedy and progressive, more than power metal as well. We all love speed and heavy punch tracks and some of our songs have over 200 drum beats. Guitarists are also running speedy solo compositions which I find lovely! Most of us listen to all kinds of music, we have inspirations from everywhere. For example, we like DREAM THEATER - it is not just that we like their unique and excellent skills in instruments, but also how mature the music is which blends creative elements and that the works were completely done by its consideration of recording. We will always change ourselves in different moments of our career. I personally like AVENGED SEVENFOLD, KORN and SLIPKNOT a lot. There's also a great band from Saskatchewan called INTO ETERNITY and we love their progressive style. We force our drummer to play harder and faster as well… lol. Thanks Van - a big hug!”
Drummer Van Shaw kills it on stage
SEBASTIAN: “Tell me about the different languages you use in your songs. In fact, many of your records are available as Chinese or English versions. Which language do you prefer? How do you translate your songs? Do you change some parts of the lyrics from time to time instead of translating the lyrics word by word?”
QUINN: “We sing in English and Mandarin only. We create Mandarin lyrics first and translate them into English language after. The reason why is that we would like to keep our mother language as we think it is very beautiful that way. Kessier, our songwriter, always writes the songs as poetry in Mandarin. We face difficulties translating songs to English as we try so hard to keep the same meaning. We have been trying to improve this element of the song writing process and hope one day it will become as accurate as we want it to be. We will do our best, because we love both versions. It's very important to us and each of you.”
SEBASTIAN: “What are your lyrics about? As far as I know, some of your records are concept albums. What are the stories and inspirations behind your works?”
QUINN: “So far, we have 4 albums and all cover different topics. Every time we choose a topic, it depends on what's going on in our lives and what just hits us. For example, I am tune person - tunes are more impressive to me than lyrics, so I care about the musical spirit of the whole song. I care about how guitar/bass/drums are sounding and creating a certain degree of harmony together. I focus on how all these instruments perform during each song. This may sound strange because I’m the lead vocalist and I am rather supposed to care about the lyrics because it's my job! LOL. Back to the question, I use our fourth album "Rising" as an example. We were planning a big move in this album, so we named it that way. The story behind it is "Rising from the Eastern world". This is the album where we tried out some different elements and varied my vocals and included a different piano guest player. We are an Asian band, so the whole concept is kind of a big move to the world stage from an Eastern one.”
SEBASTIAN: “How can people around the world purchase your records or some of your merchandise? I’ve heard that you had signed with the Spanish label Arise Records but it seems to have closed. Is that true? Are there any plans to sign with a new label in Europe or North America or to promote your records internationally with your regular label?”
QUINN: “Please find our records on amazon.com or on our different label websites. Our latest label is King Records of Japan, we cooperated for 2 albums. Besides Arise Records, we signed with CD-Maximum of Russia in the past year as well. We may need to start working on the North/South American market which we never did and on a European label again for a further development after new work comes out. For the merchandise, we are still building it on our own official website - sorry about that. :)”
SEBASTIAN: “In 2006, you’ve put out a live DVD entitled “Live in Beijing”. Do you have many fans in mainland China and what’s your relation to that country and its peoples?”
QUINN: “Back in the days, SERAPHIM had amazing opportunities by Magnum music and Rock Empire Music of Taiwan to tour in mainland China. I am not sure how many fans we have over there, however it's great news for us to hear that people in China love us :) People from mainland China are fantastic; we've received lots of encouraging mails from them over the years. We'd love to go back for performances if we get the chance as it's a great experience. Here's an interesting thing I would like to share - when I watch our DVD or video online, it always looks weird to me. My members are actually pretty quiet, me a little bit as well. We do not speak very much during the performance; however, it's funny that way we all know how to play together when we stand on the stage - it just feels so right. I'm guessing that it is music that brought us to be together.”
Seraphim on stage
SEBASTIAN: “Did you also play in other countries and which ones would you still like to tour or to visit? Do you choose your English or your Chinese versions of your songs during your concerts?”
QUINN: “We toured in some European countries such as Germany, Russia, Belgium, Spain, France, Holland etc.; some Asian countries such as Japan, Hong Kong, mainland China and Taiwan. I would love to go back to each of them and to discover more countries where we have never been. We actually chose English versions of our music during the tour as we take into consideration the origins of our audience. We though sang Chinese versions sometimes in order to surprise our audiences and to give them an exotic cultural experience. Sometimes I tried to greet them in their own language during the concerts and showed off what I had learned from each back stage crew (usually it turned out I confused people more than anything else haha.. sorry! : p).”
SEBASTIAN: “Your old singer Pay Lee died in 2011 due to complications following a heart surgery as far as I know. How did you react when you heard of her death? Did you still stay in close contact during the years after her involvement in the band?”
QUINN: “I personally didn't know her as I joined SERAPHIM after she left the band for her studies. She was an excellent soprano and successful in her career as well; we admire her contribution to the band during its early years, from 2001 to 2003. I was very sad to hear about her death even though I never got to meet her. Kessier is the only of the original members who is still in the band, and he found out about her passing when Pay's husband announced it on Facebook. She passed away during the surgery in 2011; it was a difficult time for the entire band as you can imagine.”
SEBASTIAN: “Your last record “日出東方 / Rising” is already more than five years old. Do you have already written material for a possible fifth full length record? What will your metal year 2013 look like?”
QUINN: “We are kind of working on it actually. We did some demos in 2011, however we stopped for awhile because Kessier was busy planning his wedding. It's a good thing, as we don't believe in rushing -- we are thinking about doing something different, and that takes time. I feel guilty when music friends are asking about our new work - thank you guys, no worries we are still here for you! In 2013, I guess we will have more meetings for the new work. We are all living in different places - Thiago lives in Iceland, Kessier, Van and Mars live in Taiwan, and I live in Canada. It will be fun when we all get together. Does that sound exciting? It really is!”
SEBASTIAN: “In the end, would you tell us a little bit more about the metal scene in the Republic of China? Do you have many fans in Taiwan? Is it easy to sign with a label or to get a good record studio? Which are the most successful bands, which are your personal favourites? Are there any pioneer bands that should get more praise and attention internationally?”
QUINN: “As many years went by, I am not sure how many people know about us to be honest since we haven't performed for awhile. We are familiar with Taiwan's music industry. It's not difficult to find a good record studio over there. 10 years ago, there was only a small market for Heavy Metal music in Taiwan. We have lots of good bands nowadays - It's fantastic, we love to see that! I return to my hometown once a year for a few weeks but I am actually more and more kind of lacking of information about Taiwan's Heavy metal bands. But I definitely would like to know more for sure. There's a great band, CHTHONIC who is doing a good job and touring the world. One of my friends' bands, FROST TEARS is pretty cool, too. It would be great to see more and more Taiwanese bands all over the world! :)”
SEBASTIAN: “Thank you a lot for this interview. Do you have any final words to say to the metal fans around the world?”
QUINN: “You are very welcome, it has been my pleasure. Thanks for the interview as well! Our final words here are very simple - we wish that our music inspires and cures you, if you feel the need for it. Stay metal, follow our website and Facebook - we will see you on the road!”« The fate of music brought them together45. Seraphim - Le destin spirituel de la musique les a réunis »
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