Speak Into My Good Eye has joined the Wonder Bar’s Christine Feola, as well as our good friends at Little Dickman Records and BandsOnABudget, in presenting the annual free music event we’ve come to know, and adore, as Happy Mondays.
SIMGE will act as the primary media partner of the forthcoming Happy Mondays events, bringing to you in depth interviews with those upcoming bill-toppers, while helping to construct future Monday-night lineups.
The first installments of our “Monday Conversation” series saw SIMGE catch up with Red Bank, NJ based Indie-Rock outfit Eastern Anchors, as well as Toms River’s own Poet Laureate and Indie-Rock auteur Chris Rockwell, and Trans Charger Metropolis‘ Justin Normandy.
In this Monday Conversation we tit with The Hsu-Nami’s Brent Bergholm (The Battery Electric) about standing alone atop the Chinese-Fusion-Progressive–Metal (Chi-Fu-Prog-Met) mountain, the health of this genera’s underground, the accessibility of Metal music, and more.
Check out the interview and stream The Hsu-Nami’s latest single, “The Black Tortoise”, below:
Chris Rotolo: For those who may not be aware of the sound The Hsu-Nami produces. Would you mind explaining what will be heard on Monday night at The Wonder Bar?
Brent Bergholm: They’ll be hearing crazy progressive rock with Chinese goodness.
CR: Where did the interest in the Chinese Violin grow from?
BB: Jack Hsu is Taiwanese. His family came to America around the time he was 9 years old. His family wanted him to learn the violin so he had crazy hours of practice and lessons. Eventually his parents wanted him to learn an instrument that close to his culture. His dad sent him to an Er-hu (Chinese Violin) camp in Nanjing China. It was extensive. He would wake up and take lessons from an old teacher. Go to erhu camp that had group lessons and after would have lessons from a young guy. It was like 18 hours of erhu for a month. Anyways, flash forward a few years to Ramapo College. I met Jack at a performance class. I had a metal band with Derril (bass) and John (drums). Jack had band with a guy who was going to Berklee. Once both bands broke up we decided to start jamming and the rest is history.
CR: How did the idea to mesh Chinese musical culture with the brutality of Metal form?
BB: I have always been a fan of Chinese Culture. Me and Jack are also big fans of Japanese Rock. So we just naturally combined the two sounds.
CR: I listen to a lot of music…it’s my job, and I’ve never come across a Chinese Fusion Prog-Rock collective before. Are you the only living member of this scarce species? If so, how does it feel to create something new in a musical era where parody is the norm? (If not, what is being in the league of extraordinary Chinese Fusion Prog-Metal bands like?)
BB: There are some bands in Japan that combine traditional instruments with rock but they don’t have the tenacity that we have. I have seen bands when we toured Taiwan that had erhus but they weren’t progressive rock and had vocals. I would have to say there is only one Hsu-nami. We are one of a kind.
CR: Whether there is a scene of Chi-Fu-Prog-Metal surging in the underground, the musical style is anything but ordinary…what’s the greatest compliment and the most hilarious/cruelest insult a member of the observing audience has given you?
BB: There is definitely no scene of Chinese rock fusion. So we always play to different crowds and bands. The greatest compliment we got is that a few people told us that we were their favorite band. I can’t think of a heckler but Hsu-nami exposes lots of people’s racism. One time we played a show in Virginia and a guy came up to me after the show and said “I really like what the China Man was playing”. That was definitely an awkward situation.
CR: What is it about Metal that allows, and even encourages, experimentation more so than other genres? I mean, Lou Reed and Metallica hooked for christ’s sake.
BB: I think metal is very accessible. It’s very aggressive and primal. It taps into that instinctual desire to go crazy. We all have it. Just go to any metal, punk, or hardcore show and people are beating the shit out of each other… For fun. People like it loud what more can I say?
CR: Your latest instrumental piece, “The Black Tortoise”, is pure Metallic emotion that doesn’t need lyrics to evoke a certain emotion. What message were trying to convey or feeling were you trying to induce with this composition?
BB: Our new album is concept album about the Chinese Constellations. The characters are gods and represent different seasons. The Black Tortoise is the god for winter. So it’s a very cold song. So imagine you’re trying to survive a harsh winter. A snowpacalypse if you will.
CR: What’s next for The Hsu-Nami in terms of new music, shows, world domination, or what have you?
BB: We are currently finishing up our 3rd album. We are hoping to get it out in the Spring. We are also in talks with a Management Company that deals with booking tours in Europe and Asia. So I expect that we are gonna have a new album and do lots of touring in Asia.