The Chairman

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The Chairman, rock band from Taiwan

The Chairman were formed in 1997 by a group of five friends, but two of them, lead singer Wu Yung-ji (吳永吉), or A-chi, and bass player Du Wen-Xiang (杜文祥), or Xiao-bai, had started their first band years earlier in 1989. Xiao-bai grew up in Keelong and A-chi was from not too far away in Rui-fang, a mountain valley village where his father worked as a miner. His parents still live there and technically so does A-chi, but these days, "if I've been drinking, I'll stay in Taipei." Taiwan Indie Rock Band the Chairman Beijing Debut!

GUEST BANDS:N.C. , Billow's Fairy Tale TIME: Dec 28,2005. Wed, 9:30 pm VENUE: New Get Lucky, Beijing ADD: Oriental Qicai World, Near Nurenjie, ChaoYang District TICKET: 30 RMB, Student 20 RMB

Hosting & Promotion: CCYH www.ccyh.net Supporting: Newbees Music(Beijing) www.newbeesmusic.com Click Music(Taiwan) www.clickmusic.com.tw IndieBlog: www.indieblog.cn TEL: 010-84895587(CCYH),010-84483335(New Get Lucky)

The Chairman: rockers to the core Jun 24, 2005 Pots By DAVID FRAZIER

WHEN MEGADETH played at Formoz 2000, I couldn't help but think to myself, "How random is this?" Hundreds of kids were sitting around in a dilapidated warehouse and waiting for hours until the band finally went on sometime after 3am. What I didn't know then, and finally got a sense of last week when talking to The Chairman (董事長) about their new album, Looking For A Brave New World (找一個新世界), was what the 1980's represented to Taiwanese (and in many ways I can't get into here, Chinese) rock.

The Chairman were formed in 1997 by a group of five friends, but two of them, lead singer Wu Yung-ji (吳永吉), or A-chi, and bass player Du Wen-Xiang (杜文祥), or Xiao-bai, had started their first band years earlier in 1989. Xiao-bai grew up in Keelong and A-chi was from not too far away in Rui-fang, a mountain valley village where his father worked as a miner. His parents still live there and technically so does A-chi, but these days, "if I've been drinking, I'll stay in Taipei."

As teens, the pair would ride a 50cc scooter more than an hour to Taipei. "In Keelung there was nothing going on," said A-chi. But in Taipei, there were two, count 'em two, rock pubs in the Taida area. Fun House, which they say was Taiwan's earliest, put most mostly pop cover bands on stage and closed "in 1989 or 1990. I don't really remember," said Lin Da-jun (林大鈞), another founding member. "At the time, there weren't even ten bands in the scene." The other place was Wooden Top, Taipei's first "underground" joint for live music. There, Ach-i remembers, "All the bands were covering Megadeth or Metallica."

In the years surrounding the removal of Taiwan's martial law in 1988, liberalization was increasing its pace both economically and socially, and that included growing quantities of imported western rock CDs. So they were listening to Guns 'n Roses, Skid Row, Motley Crue, Metallica, and Da-jun makes no bones about it, "we still love Metallica."

The hard rock and heavy metal of the 80's became a sort of template for Taiwanese rock's second (or possibly third) generation (it depends on whether you make a break between Wu Bai's early 90's stuff and mid- to late-90's bands like The Chairman and Assassin). Power chords, the screaming Axl Rose vocals, flames and skulls, black t-shirts, long hair. The information kids had to go on was scant. "When we were buying CDs, we'd just pick the one with the most wicked cover," said A-chi.

Social attitudes were still conservative. "If you had long hair and a cop saw you driving around, he'd pull you over just for that," said Da-jun.

"In 1995," he continued, "there was no underground culture, so we wanted to create underground culture. Other bands were only playing covers, and we were playing originals. At first, only a few people listened. It went from there."

They chose their band's name, because "it was our own product and we were the bosses," said Da-jun.

Early on, lyrics were all about typical rock stuff - girls, being a frustrated teen, good times - and all in Hoklo (Taiwanese). "Wu Bai was a little before us and he'd put out albums in Taiwanese, so we knew we could do it too," said A-chi, who writes the lyrics. Since then, they have bounced back and forth between Hoklo and mandarin, and on the new album, the ratio is 7:3 in favor of the latter. But in A-chi's view, "the important thing is not language but that the melody sounds good."

Now, eight years since The Chairman were formed, there are three remaining founding members - A-chi, Da-jun, and Xiao-bai - and they're all 35. A-chi is married and a new father. A former drummer has gone over to another 2nd/3rd generation rock band, Back Quarter (四分衛), and another former member died of leukemia in 2000. So they've picked up two new members, Guo Ren-hao (郭人豪), or How, and Lin Jun-min (林俊民), or Micky.

The Chairman's style has changed somewhat with the times, but it's also had a certain consistency. Even though they've brought in some loops and electronic effects and collaborate with a DJ from time to time, the core is still rock powered by two guitars, primary and secondary vocals, bass and drums.

Their mark on the local scene is also beginning to manifest. Their first CD of 2000, Ni Bu Liao Gai (你不了解 - You Don't Understand), sold around 50,000 copies. Now that power-rock influence is coming through in younger bands that are not so directly influenced by the west, including some that might not admit it like Hi Her (亥兒) and at least one in Pingdong County that does, says Da-jun. "They imitate a lot of what we do, especially the vocal style, even the name - we are 'The Chairmen,' they are just 'The Man.'"

The Chairmen have released five CDs to date, all on different labels. But as Taiwan's music industry has more or less plunged into chaos, their first CD represents their peak, which is to say that sales of subsequent CDs have steadily dropped. For the Looking For A Brave New World, which is put out by Click Music, they say they're only pressing 4,000 copies initially.

They're still together as a band for a very simple reason. "It's what we do," said Xiao-bai. "We need to do this. We're not trying to get anything out of this."

As for the new CD, Looking For a New World may be The Chairman's best so far. But like Da-jun says, from this one you can tell, "we're not just a band that makes loud music."

By gnashing it a little bit less, the band manages to show a range they haven't exhibited before. The CD's first two tracks, "New World" and "Just Give Me a Chance," are pure radio rock, sort of like the local version 90's Tom Petty, and they've made it onto pop stations like Wave Radio and UFO. "Wind Guage200" opens with an electro funk intro, then goes into revving guitars and a melody that's easy and on the pace. Then "Lounge Bar" is sparser and more synth influenced (if not synth performed), recalling the Culture Club/Soft Cell era (or Franz Ferdinand) with I'm-seducing-you vocals and a slower but insistent rhythm. One of the best tracks is "Tatoo"; with an acoustic guitar intro, it's a raspy ballad, Pearl Jamish, and comfortably progressing into hard guitar parts. I also liked the 8-minute plus "Heart Sutra," where powerful chant-like vocals take a momentum of their own over a backdrop of sparse acoustic guitar strums, electric picking, chirping crickets, and rock rhythm. In a lot of ways, I get the sense that The Chairman are clearly modulating what they're about. The good news is, it's working.

Looking for a New World (找一個新世界) The Chairman (董事長樂團)

Taipei Times - CD Reviews By Gavin Phipps STAFF REPORTER Thursday, Apr 21, 2005,Page 15

It's been almost three years since Teh Chairman has graced record store shelves with a new batch of tunes, but the wait has been well worth it as the long serving rock combo is not only back with a new lineup, but, more importantly, with a new sound as well. In a break from tradition, the group has veered away from the tried and tested punk/rock-based buzz-saw guitar and snarling vocals-driven format and instead opted to explore a more sophisticated post-rock oriented style of vibes.

Looking for a New World is a well produced, tight and, in keeping with all Chairman albums, an expertly executed piece of work. The combo successfully blends aspects of electronica, downbeat modern folk and post-rock to create what is by far its most expressive album to date.

Those familiar with The Chairman of yesteryear might be a bit put off by the opening track, New World (找一個新世界), as it borders on snotty and is rather anthem-like. It's worth bearing with, however, as the material that follows certainly makes up for this rather irksome opener.

Tunes like the high-octane, post-rock Just Give Me a Chance; the unhurried, hypnotic and stylized Tsunami (無以狀); the grinding and heavily synthesized Wind Gauge 200 (風速200米); and the very, and some might say all too, Wu Bai-like The Heart Sutra (般若波羅密多心經) are all great numbers and prove that The Chairman is still Taiwan's leading rock band.