black/dark ambient - Beijing, China
Could you introduce yourself? In few words, what is Enemite and how would you define this project?
Li Chao: Hello, I'm Li Chao. I used to be a sound designer for TV programs and movies, but now I make dark electronic music with my wife. Enemite is an earlier project that I made it when I was a student. I call Enemite "Chinese ghost music". This is a dead scene from an unknown ancient civilization.
Does the name Enemite have a particular meaning?
Li Chao: Enemite's Chinese name is "Yuan". It has to do with hate and sadness after death. For example, some didn't deserve death, some didn't want death, some died with regrets and sorrows deep in their souls and some didn't resign to the living reality.
What was your motivation to create this project?
Li Chao: I want to use sound and melody to make a scene. An archaic fear, something that has existed from long ago, since the age before memory, about facts that we will never figure out. It is difficult to explain with words. This evil and fear is not as simple as the mirror in your bathroom, or freaky television, or the tapping on the door in the dark bleak midnight. It is dilapidated and illegible. I'd say it's like one day, strange brainstorming penetrates your mind, reminding you of some unknown memories, somewhere, some time, some people, you gathered together in a circle, singing in an unknown language and burnt a baby on the bonfire. You can sense it is real, it is something that happened, but you just can't remember why, or how it makes sense to your present self.
What are your artistic and non-artistic influences?
Li Chao: Dream is a big thing for me. In fact I don't like nightmares. I suffer from those. And when I've been suffering from sleep paralysis, many many many nightmares come to me. They are extremely horrific and damn real...
What can you say about the album Wuyuan? What does this record mean to you?
Li Chao: Yuan is my real first project. It was conclusive and all about me. To do Yuan, I learnt a lot about Midi, recording and mixing sounds. I dare say, this project changed my life. I used to be a student majoring in German, but now I am a music producer and film sound designer.
In which conditions did you compose and record it?
Li Chao: I accomplished the project Yuan in my bedroom. At that time all I had was a simple PC, a simple sound model and a headphone. Pretty damn shabby studio, right? (laughs) I knew little about recording and mixing skills, but it took me merely 7 days to finish composing and recording of all the songs. It was a hard time, and I spent my whole National Day's holiday, in October, doing it.
What did you do in your early life before making music?
Li Chao: Before everything started, I had been an ordinary normal student. I fell in love with extreme metal and industrial music at the age of 15. When I was a young boy wearing headphones all the time, I wished that one day I could see some black metal bands in China. But I was disappointed for many years, so I decided to work on it myself. I posted on a domestic BBS about metal music, saying that I would like to do the most wicked music in China. One year later, Evilthorn emerged, by the year 2001. My friends and I were doing shit on music during that time, I have to say, but still, it was the first and only black metal band expressing malicious content in China.
Could you speak about your others projects, Zaliva-D, Harrfluss and Evilthorn? Do you consider Enemite as an extension of them?
Li Chao: Zaliva-D is my most important project, and I spend most of my time on it. Its style is flexible, I don't have a clue how to define it. In its early time, it was about hard electronic sound, and the themes focused on S&M sexuality. Now Zaliva-D is a dark TBM and minimal project. It will be sort of dance music, but different from the general stuff, and it will be everything about me, a special genre of mine. I have made many songs and clips for Zaliva-D, far more than other projects, like Evilthorn or Yuan. In 2011, I will present to the world a totally brand new Zaliva-D album. Evilthorn is an old band that's been through 9 years now. Unfortunately, only 5 or 6 of its formal songs are known. Evilthorn is too old for me to change its features in a reasonable way. So I disbanded it in 2009. The black metal I long for is a modern type, more evil and chaotic, exactly like what Dodheimsgard, Displin and Thorn did. Plus I have already started this new project. Though Evilthorn was reassembled by others at the end of 2010, it is no longer the Evilthorn I know. It has nothing to do with me, despite the fact that they play old songs. Harrfluss was more like an experiment before Yuan. I figured it'd be better without guitar sounds. It could be utterly pure, so I switched the name, and called this new simple music Yuan.
How did black metal arrive in China? And personally, what was your first contact with this scene?
Li Chao: In the early years, it was hard to get black metal, only a few contraband cassettes. And we did not have the word black metal then. To us, it was a kind of death metal, but more dark and evil. My first encounter with black metal was a tape of Darkthrone, Ablaze In The Northern Sky. The album gave me a black heart and even today with this darkened heart, I make black sounds.
What do you think about the actual Chinese black metal scene? What can you say about it compared to the international scene?
Li Chao: Here in China we have many black metal fans. When I think about black metal, there are no racial or national boundaries. This land needs dark music. Today more and more young people are interested in extreme music, thanks to the Internet. We can obtain more music and information than we could in the old days. I know a lot about the Chinese black metal scene. I know some black metal bands here in China. The cruel fact is, hardly anyone survives by living on unemployment insurance in China. Although many people are crazy about extreme metal, and they play awesome instruments, they lack the vitality and faith to build up, to run a non-mainstream or non-profits band. In the end, you can count the Chinese black metal bands on two hands. Always the same ones. They may disband today, and reassemble another day. Uncertainty. There may be one day that we will not be under such severe pressure in terms of the economy and our livelihood, one day that more black metal fans will be able to afford gigs rather than staying with their PCs, listening to free-downloaded mp3s and visualizing their own little word of darkness. Then everything would be better.
We know you did many tours with Evilthorn. Did you already do some lives with Enemite? How would a live performance be with such an ambient project?
Li Chao: Sorry to say, but I have to admit that I don't plan to do lives with Yuan. Because I know very well what kind of music is required for live performances, and what kind of music people should appreciate all on their own. For Yuan, it belongs to the latter. Yuan is something that if you want to do a live performance, and you want it to be perfect, the investment will be huge, because it should be more like a splendid drama. Without enough preparation and stage setting, the live would be a disaster. It would ruin every fantastic feeling people got from the album. At present, I attach more importance to the live shows of Zaliva-D. For a long time now I've been thinking about how to present it. A DJ in clubs? Or as an industrial band in bars? In China, people who love dancing in clubs have no clue about dark music, they are ignorant on this issue. They prefer hollow cheesy music with bright rhythms. That music is more suited for drinking and hitting on girls. On the other hand, we have less dark electronic music bands, compared to black metal bands, which means if Zaliva-D performs as a band, we'll share the same situation, it will be some alien music no one understands or recognizes. It'll take time, but I still believe I can find my position eventually.
What do you think about the distribution of Wuyuan in other countries?
Li Chao: I am flattered and damn happy about this. What I think about is not the number of albums selling, but what I can offer to people. I am not flattered about who paid for it or how much they paid. You listen to it, you feel it, you drown yourself in the dark sensations I created, and you get the vivid high through my sounds of evil and darkness. That is quite enough, more than I can ask for. Distribution overseas brings more opportunities for people all over the world to hear. It can be a special gift for the chosen ones. Pretty cool.
Do you plan to record a new CD soon with Enemite?
Li Chao: I am done with Yuan. It is a work of 2003, very old stuff. I don't have the energy to continue it anymore. But similar sounds and melodies close to Yuan will never vanish from my future works. They may be metal, they may be electronic. I'm bound, obsessed with such sounds, the beautiful melodies that have made me tremble and given me goose bumps for years. I can't abide those sunny, bright musical pieces. I suppose I am darkened inside. My mind is a jaded black hole, as black as the lung of a person whose life is devoted to nicotine.
Do you have some aims as an artist?
Li Chao: Half of my 2010 had been spent on my new studio setting. There's hell of work to come in 2011. First of all, I have to finish a new Zaliva-D album. If time permits, I will collaborate with Zhai, the key figure of another black metal band, Wrath Of Despot, to make a new black metal project. We plan to record several songs and start doing live shows. Of course after the release, Zaliva-D will do gigs as well.
Finally, do you have any other message for the European listeners?
Li Chao: The Chinese black metal band Evilthorn and the dark electronic music of Zaliva-D, the music I have made, has its origins in Europe. That music has developed better and more professionally in your own area. I am grateful to your great musicians who taught me so much and impressed me deeply, from the bottom of my heart. I owe my experiences and enlightenment to you. However, I have to clarify that Yuan is 100% absolute Chinese dark melody. Including the weeping of ghosts, screams, rhythms and so on. It tells of an illegible barren vision, ancient mysterious dark times, a river unknown. The fountainhead of the river remains in another space, not in the world we live in. It is not a river of water, but only hairs of the dead flow in it. Where only hate and enmity grows. The river craves for survivors' lives. It originates from the place ancient enlightened sorcerers inhabit, it brings a song, but more than a song; it brings a moan of a creature beyond sexuality. Along the fountainhead stand the dead, all of them bending down, facing the surface of the river, plucking out their hairs, throwing these black threads of misery into the river! Sorcerers killed their sons, killed their blood relations, hundreds of carcasses. The sorcerers standing still like statues in the fountainhead kill. Each family burns a bowl of blood, the fire never dying. Someone washes the hairs in the river with this boiled blood to gain more enmities, only for this and nothing more. More enmities to kill more. They are ridiculously delighted by it and never fed up. Here comes the dark scene and evil voices from China. Hope Yuan fulfills your deserted hearts beating for darkness. Special thanks to my friend Mallory Zou who finished translating this interview for me.