"A Word" With Kaiser Kuo !

Kaiser Kuo is one of China's greatest Metal Veterans,
back in the late 80's along with his band Tang Dynasty they popularized the heavy metal genre and introduced their combined elements of traditional Chinese music with British heavy metal to create their sound,

Lately, Kaiser is rocking out with his new band Chunqiu (Spring & Autumn)
they are currently working on new material and "getting ready for a 10-city tour"

Between performing with his band and his work as Director of Digital Strategy,
He blogs about his interests and his activities...

Kaiser is also a proud Father of two young headbangers !

"I've got a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son -- both of them Metalheads in the making"

Kaiser is also featured in the new heavy metal documentary "Global Metal" directed by Sam Dunn, where he talks about the rise of heavy metal in China, his role in developing the scene and alot more.

Got the chance to catch up with Kaiser and ask him about today's metal scene, whats going on with his band Chunqiu, his musical background, and alot more !
Heres how it went :

AB: Whats going on lately with Kaiser ?

Kaiser: Trying to keep a lot of balls in the air. By day I'm director of digital strategy at a big ad agency. I also serve on quite a number of advisory boards for Internet-related start-ups. I'm trying to find time to write regularly, and of course there's my band, Chunqiu, which has been really active of late: We're working on new material and getting ready for a 10-city tour. Meanwhile of course there's my very top priority, my family: I've got a four-year-old daughter and a two-year-old son -- both of them Metalheads in the making. They love watching YouTube videos with Cookie Monster headbanging to Cannibal Corpse or some other Metal band.

AB: Which bands are you currently listening to ?

Kaiser: I've been listening to pretty much the whole Evergrey catalog a lot recently. They're one of my absolute favorites recently. I'm still into lots of classic Metal like old Priest and Maiden. The last few days I've also been listening lot to a band called Sleepytime Gorilla Museum from Oakland, California. That band's guitarist and bassist were school mates of mine from U.C. Berkeley together. They're absolutely amazing.

AB: Can you tell us about your musical background ?

Kaiser: Sure. I grew up playing piano and violin like every other Chinese-American kid and started playing guitar when I was 15. I was awful, but at least I was listening to the right stuff to inspire better musicianship -- stuff like Rush, and lots of Prog Rock and fusion. I started getting fairly serious in college, where my freshman roommate was a kick-ass drummer and multi-instrumentalist. We played together all through college in a Prog band called Freefall. I came to China right after college in 1988 and soon afterward met the guys with whom I co-founded Tang Dynasty, which is widely credited as being the first Metal band in China. I had to leave China in 1989, but in the early 90s, when I was in grad school, I came back to China whenever I could and helped write material, rehearsed, and toured with them. They really got big in my absence, in 1990 and 1991 -- I really shouldn't take much credit for the band's take-off period. Then in 1995, after our bassist, Zhang Ju, died in a motorcycle accident, the lead singer and lead guitarist could't get along, and the singer asked me to come back to the band on guitar. So from 1996 to 1999 I rejoined the band full time. We put out a CD in early 99, which was prog-influenced Metal though nothing on the chops level of Dream Theater or Symphony X, and though I'm proud of a lot of the composition, the recording kinda sucked. I fell out with the singer and I left in June of '99. I started Chunqiu in early 2001 and that's been going strong ever since, but I've had to develop a non-music career to keep it alive. Tough to make a living in Metal in China.

AB: Hows everything going lately with Chunqiu ?

We're doing great. We've been through periods of low productivity and inactivity, but in the last six months things have really changed, due in part to new management. We signed with a company called Pilot in Beijing and they work really hard to promote us. Our rehearsal schedule has been stepped up considerable. We've been gigging a lot. In September we played a solo concert in Beijing at a popular live house and completely packed the place. We played at one of China's biggest music festivals, called Midi, and we just played an unplugged set the other night at the 8th year anniversary party for China's premiere Metal magazine, Painkiller. We're hitting the road on November 13 to do a three-week, 10-stop tour that will take us mostly across Southern and Northwest China. And we're finishing up a bunch of new material that we hope to record early in 2009.

AB: Can you tell us a bit about your new band's sound ?

Kaiser: Compared to Tang Dynasty, it's less Progressive influenced and much harder. There aren't the long episodic song formats, not the abrupt time signature changes, and a lot more traditional Chinese folk influence in the writing. It's a three-guitar band, and we really try to arrange around that. The new material we're writing keeps to the basic ideas that have guided us from the beginning: a lot of pentatonic melodies, a focus on guitar arrangements, a good contrast of ass-kicking metal and (hopefully) pretty cerebral acoustic and clean parts.

AB: What do you think of today's Metal scene with all the sub genres emerging like (Deathcore and Metalcore for example) ?

Kaiser: Yeah, there are so many new subgenres that I can't even keep up. Chinese Metalheads who are much younger than me can keep it all straight, but I'm still pretty old school. I'm still partial to singers over growlers, but not to the point where I won't listen to the latter. Actually I end up listening to a lot of Cookie Monster-fronted Metal acts. While I love brutal shit as much as the next guy, I like it in smaller doses, mixed in with more melodic elements. Still, I'd much rather listen to anything Metal than the syrupy pop crap that fills the airwaves in China most of the time.

I'd like to thank Kaiser Kuo for taking the time out of his very busy schedule to answer my questions,

Check out Kaiser Kuo's:

Also check out this video of Kaiser performing live with his band Chinqiu the song "Spring Waters Flow East"

Leave a comment