Interview: Ljubov Dzuzhynska
Photo: Yanagi Ko
Mong Tong is a sample-based psychedelic two brother band [Hom Yu and Jiun Chi] from Taipei, Taiwan.
What have you learned about yourselves through your project?
Running a band with only 2 members is way easier, especially when you’re blood brothers and share the same aesthetics. We’ve been playing in different bands for years, and Mong Tong is the first time we released some songs together. Actually we put what we’ve learned more into this project.
What does music mean to you?
It’s like a world map; a language beyond all languages. I mean, it’s how we know the world.
We’ve been searching for musicians from Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, and they’ve amazed us! You can feel a sort of exotic vibe through music from different areas. Some of our favorites are Rollfast from Indonesia, Nihiloxica from Uganda, and Kalbata from Israel.
When did you know that music is your true calling? Do you think it’s possible that you will move on to something else?
Actually we don’t see music as our true calling. We do a lot of work by ourselves, including album covers, music videos, even books, and we are planning to create costumes before touring. Maybe in the future, we’ll have our video games and movies?
Why did you start making music?
We’ve been listening to different genres of music since kids. Before Mong Tong, we played in different bands from Thrash metal, psych rock, to experimental music. When we got older, it became harder for us to find interesting music. That’s when we decided to work together and make our own stuff for satisfaction.
Do you have a goal or an ambition of becoming famous?
Yes! We want to make people around the world remember the sound from Taiwan.
We’d love to make friends with different artists from different fields, and most importantly, collaborate with them!
What was your mindset when working on this release?
We wondered what would happen if we replaced all the drum kit sound with various percussions. For example, replacing the hi-hat with a shaker, the snare with a wooden block… etc. We decided to use Ableton Live to make all this possible: lots of percussion samplings and sound effects. But we are still a psychedelic band so we also focused much on our guitar, keyboard and bass. But that was not enough! We sampled movie quotes, video game sounds… lots of stuff, and the result is fun.
What personal changes did you experience while creating this album?
Yu: I think it’s my creativity. This is the first band in which I can literally do whatever I want! Every band I’ve joined before I played only bass, guitar or synth. But in Mong Tong I’m a bassist and a producer simultaneously.
Chi: I’m more friendly now.
Sometimes too many characteristics, or unique ideas make you a bad communicator. Don’t try too hard, just follow your life experience and do it. Finally, all things will come together; it is a magical and mystic power.
Do you always know what you want to say through your art?
We did pick up a certain topic or feeling at first, but we don’t always know what we want to say. In fact, most of the time people tell us how they feel about our pieces, and sometimes we are inspired by their feedback and make more music.
What have you learned from one another?
Yu: I’m very lucky to have such a partner, a friend and also my brother! We are very close to each other, and make art together!
Chi: How to run a band, how to produce music on DAWs, and how to promote ourselves. I gain work experience from this team.
Does your perception of beauty differ over time?
Yu: Definitely. I think beauty is relative. I always love old-fashioned stuff, but as time goes by, the new trend will always become old, too.
Chi: It won’t change a lot in general, but of course I like different genres in different times. I’m really picky.
If you were a musical instrument, which one would you be and how would it reflect your personality?
Yu: Electronic Bass, a powerful instrument. Keep a low profile but you cannot unsee me.
Chi: Theremin [ed.note: an electronic musical instrument controlled without physical contact by the thereminist, named after its inventor, Léon Theremin], its timbre is very simple, but you can play elegant music from it!
How important is your national identity to the nature of your art?
Every nation and its culture and people are very unique. So we try to make music with Taiwanese influence and want to make it as close to our real life as possible. I think this explains how important our national identity is.
How did your journey with Guruguru Brain start?
Li-yang from Scattered Purgatory first introduced us to Guruguru Brain. Later we had a couple of conversations with Go and Zeze; we talked a lot about video game music and space-age pop, and they decided to put our album into vinyl. Thanks to them!
How would you like your work to echo in the culture?
Honesty we just simply put elements we love into our work, so we don’t really think about how it would echo in the culture. But it may play an important role in history.
What factors form your personal identity the most?
Yu: I think it’s my family. Since I was a kid, I listened to many cassettes and CDs my mom bought. It’s like a bond that cannot be broken.
Chi: It’s my brother! He always found something fun or weird and we would discuss it and had a lot of fun.
Your art is complex and deep and nowadays people are more into things that are overall simple. Does it concern you on some level?
Not at all. Now everyone has a smartphone to Google what they are interested in instantly, so we don’t have enough time to digest what we’ve acknowledged. However, this actually motivates us to create our art, to think deeper, and to make something truly different.
Do you think it’s necessary for everything to have a deeper meaning in art?
As long as the artist has his/her own philosophy we think that’s enough.
What’s inside your brain matters the most.
With the necessary self-isolation state of the world right now, do you think it’s beneficial for people to experience the feeling of loneliness without being distracted by external means of escapism? Why so?
We wouldn’t say totally beneficial but somehow it does help people in some way. This disaster forces people to face what is happening around the world. Also, people nowadays have less time to understand themselves, and probably it is a good chance to understand ourselves more during quarantine.
Did you reach your personal definition of happiness? What does happiness consist of for you?
We think happiness is freedom, without any restriction from the inside and outside, mentally and physically. We are still trying to be happy.
What do you think is missing in today’s reality?
It’s hard to say. Everything is relative, so nothing is really missing or enough in reality. What we believe is more like the Buddhist philosophy.
What was the wisest thing you’ve ever heard?
“The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything.” – Oscar Wilde
What do you think the next stage of your life will be like?
Yu: I am not sure, I just want to release more music and hope more people will enjoy our music in the future.
Chi: To be a uber delivery man
What question would you like to be asked in an interview and what would your answer be?
Name five of your favourite albums.
- Sun Araw – On Patrol
- Oscar & His Orchestra – The Sound Of Taiwan’s Tribesmen
- Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra – World Of Funk
- Master Musicians of Bukkake – Far West
- Naofumi Hataya – Golden Axe II