Published on September 20th, 2015 | by LiYang0
Jon Du [Forests]
Forests is one of the best things that’s happened in the Taipei music scene for years.
After two albums and few EP/splits, Forests made a dramatic change in musical direction, which was very brave as a band, letting go of the past and starting everything new, evolving from noisy garage rock to krautrockish experimental beats. They’re more badass than ever, the most badass youths in Taipei.
I recently got a chance to talk with percussion/synth/vocalist Jon Du about the band’s new record Dead Species, which is will be released November 11 on vinyl, cassette, and digital download.
BNU: From BOYZ&GIRL [Jon’s previous band including all the members of Forests and Skip Skip Ben Ben’s Ben Ben] to Forests, it’s been a while since you moved to Taiwan. From your point of view, how has the scene changed throughout the years? And what is it like for you to be in a band in Taipei? Before Forests, what did BOYZ&GIRL play?
I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt a part of any particular scene, barring this past year. We used to not say “Thank you” after a song on purpose, because that was the only time anyone ever clapped. I’m sure that we were the only ones in the room who enjoyed that awkward silence.
I think the scene has gotten more mature. The way I’d put it is that people are finally bored, perhaps. They want to see something different, hear something fresher, not expired. Also, there is way more clapping. BOYZ&GIRL was shoegaze, noise, pop, equally informed by My Bloody Valentine and Joy Division-ish post-punk. We put out one record and broke up almost immediately.
When and how did Forests form? Did the three of you have common music tastes? And can you list a few albums that influenced you the most?
We started about a year and half after BOYZ&GIRL broke up. I wasn’t doing anything during that in-between period, and Kevin from Sunset Rollercoaster (which Guo and ZL were also involved in) got me off my ass. So we started writing material with a drum machine, guitar, and bass, and ZL & Guo naturally phased into the project. The idea was to channel the Beach Boys through a nightmare, but Kevin left to go do film soon after. There were a lot of songs back then, we only had one show together with Kevin.
I wouldn’t say we have so much common music tastes, but there were always crossovers. It’s integral to Forests that we’re three different beings, coming from different places, but still managing to stand next to each other. I remember playing Can for 尊龍, and 尊龍 playing me some Django Reinhardt and constantly listening to Portishead’s Third with 國國.
I’d say Ike Yard, Samuel Kerridge, Bourbonese Qualk and especially the Necromonicon tapes influenced this era of me the most. The vaguely techno, industrial, experimental.
Forests has changed a lot, from surf rock and old-school rock n’ roll to the futuristic sound of synthesizers. Can you talk about your coming album? It’s more rhythmic and “krautrock” compared to your previous few releases. How did you three come up with the idea of going through such a dramatic change? Does the new record have a concept like most of the krautrock albums did? The tape Horde still has guitar in it, at which point did you completely give up on guitar?
The new record is called Dead Species.
We’ve always loved krautrock. Perhaps it is more apparent aesthetically now, although the fundamental concept of the band hasn’t changed.
We’ve always written songs in an improvisational way, then cut and trimmed until it somewhat reminds us of a song. I suppose there was a concept, like how way back then we wanted to limit ourselves to just guitar, bass, drums and the sounds we could make with our mouths.
But the concept now is more like we can be whatever the fuck we want. The polar opposite of limitation. Respecting the unknown. It’s all about how comfortable we are in channeling whatever it is that we are channeling.
I think that there is a concept in every record we make, and sometimes we don’t even know it at the time. But I’d rather leave that open for anyone else to decide.
I don’t think I’ve given up on guitar, just that our time together has been long and arduous. Time to take a step back from each other.
Participating in the recording project noWhere was really cool experience for me [author plays in Taiwan band Scattered Purgatory], because there are not many chances in Taipei to record stuff with a vintage 8-track tape recorder. Can you tell us about what motivated you to hold noWhere and organize the compilation?
But the concept now is more like we can be whatever the fuck we want.
Whenever a band wants to release a record, it’s always this huge undertaking. You’ve got to save money to go into a studio, you’ve got to print 1,000 copies and try to sell 1,000 copies, the rest become coasters.
The idea comes from the fact that maybe it doesn’t have to be like that. So we decided to record ourselves.
We started with 4-track cassette recorders. I got into analog recording because there was something tactile about having a knob that you could turn and hear its immediate effect on whatever you were fucking with, instead of looking at numbers and using a mouse to figure out what was happening.
That graduated to reel-to-reel recording when Guo and I went to LA for our friends’ wedding. We decided to bring a Tascam 388 back and just having this thing, we started to think about what we could do with it. The compilation of our favorite Taiwanese bands was the start and noWhere was the inevitable evolution of that.
What’s next for both Forests and noWhere?
We’re releasing that record Dead Species in a couple of months. We’ll be doing a Taiwan tour with members of 破地獄, Scattered Purgatory, and 落差草原 WWWW in November, starting November 11th at The Wall.
We’ll also be starting a label (still unnamed). Well, not exactly a label, more like a collective, with the same bands. The next noWhere will likely be in December. Proof of our existence under the guise of a party. Then we might be doing a Japan tour early next year.
It’s not over yet!