Pon is the front woman of the seasoned Indie Pop band ‘The Shine & Shine & Shine & Shine’ that has already been well established as the Taiwan underground titan ever since 10 years ago when they first started out as an university band.
But under the current, she is also an experimental artist focusing in a way more different sound than just Pop. Taken in ‘Meuko! Meuko’ as her stage name, Pon focuses in using modified toys for live improvisation as well as sampling from old cassette tapes to make beats. As if it isn’t diverse enough, Pon has also recently ventured into the genre of footwork and juke. We reached out to Pon through the internet, to discuss her recent change of artistic direction, her views on the recent global attention to Taiwanese underground music, as well as her collaborations with Japanese footwork artist Foodman.
(For the original interview in Chinese please click here )
First of all, congratulations to your recent tour in Japan, how do you feel about it now?
Meuko: This is my first time doing an oversea tour under my alias “Meuko! Meuko!", during which I felt I’ve been rewarded so much.
From as early as 10 years ago I have been in contact with Japanese musicians, this time, the opportunity came by when I was playing my Beat & Sampling set at’KUMA TRIBE festival’. It was well received by some Japanese audiences who later invited me to perfrom in Japan. It was really encouraging and finally in February, I was determined to give it a shoot.
I really wasn’t confident with performaing live, after this tour however (from which I received a lot of positive feedbacks even some future bookings), I only realised that they (the audience) actually quite enjoyed what Meuko! Meuko! had offered. In particular, sampling cassettes is still a niche even in Japan, and stylistically the “hard to pin down" nature of Meuko! Meuko! does appears to be unique to them.
I found that the Japanese artists and I are quite compatible in terms of personality and musicality. They are also always very generous in sharing their ways of working with their music. Hence after finishing with this tour, I shall start making new tracks in different styles.
Generally speaking, ASUNA, Foodman and I are all fans of original and quirky objects, so throughout the collaborations we were very much in synch.
In Japan, competitions are very fierce, so during the tour I was very lucky to get in touch with musicians from many different disciplines, I even had a chance to pay a visit to the famous J WAVE RADIO. All in all I am very grateful for all the helps from different people during my time in Japan.So comparing to your local scene in Taiwan, how’s the venues and the crowd in Japan different from yours?
I really didn’t find much difference in between, Taiwanese or Japanese, they are equally friendly and kind. Perhaps because it was my first time peforming there, if I had stayed longer I might had found out some differences.
Moreover I’ve already had quite a lot of friends in Japan who came to my performances, so it doesn’t feel any different compare to when I was performing in Taiwan.
Besides ASUNA whom you toured with in Taiwan, you also collaborated live with Japanese footwork producer Foodman, speaking of whom, you just recently did a collaboration with him for the track ‘Wan wan wan wan‘ which is (unsurprisingly) refreshing, how did it happen? Could you share some details of the process?
The first time Meuko! Meuko! was using toys for experimental performance dates back to 2007, and because of that I met Sonic Deadhorse, a veteran in the Taiwan music circle , since then we started working together.
I met ASUNA when I was in Kyoto’s 感染LIVE, that was the first time I found another artist
who is also focusing in utilising toy as live music instruments. Having been very impressed, I invited him to come to Taiwan to do a few performances, and I was so glad that that tour turned out very well received.
After discovering Foodman I started exploring genres such as juke and footwork. In Augest 2015 I went to Aristophanes’s show with Foodman in Japan, since I speak a little bit Japanese, I got to verbally exchange ideas with foodman and realised that we actually have quite a similar taste in our likings, we kept contacting each other since then, and eventually I even came up with an idea to make an album together. Meanwhile he had a listen to my band ‘Shine & Shine & Shine & Shine’, which I would had never thought that he quite enjoyed (laugh).
‘Wan Wan Wan Wan’ is going to be released in the collaboration album with foodman. At first I was only throwing out some old cassette samples to him, and he came back with some beat editings. At that point Foodman thought the track (the non vocal version) was completed, but on the very next day I quickly added in my own editing, rythem and a vocal part, and he really seems to like the newly arranged version too, hence the two different versions.
We are both fascinated by cute but quirky animal sounds. It sounds like a bit of a joke but, in actual fact animal sounds can really serve as a very practical and extraordinary musical instrument.After my performances in Japan, I stayed for an extra week in Tokyo. During the time I practised in a studio, recorded and did a lot of funny stuffs like messing on the drums, doing different weird voicings and etc.
Foodman is a very forward thinking minded person, we kept exchanging ideas and he seems to be quite acceptive to the ideas I pushed forward too during the recording, as a result the live performance of the track ‘Wan Wan Wan Wan’ and also the improvisation session were very successful.
We are both fascinated by cute but quirky animal sounds. It sounds like a bit of a joke but, in actual fact animal sounds can really serve as a very practical and even extraordinary music instrument.
Since the ‘Juke bloom’ in Japan around 2011, foodman has now been established as one of the icon of Japanese footwork and experimental musician, your fellow country-woman Aristophanes, who collaborated with him earlier, has now attracted global attentions from the international music scene (partly thanks to Grimes). I imagine it must have sent a very encouraging signal to Taiwan underground artists like you. Would you agree that this sort of international spotlight provides the turning point for non-mainstream music to finally blossom in Taiwan?
I think no matter where you are from, musicians from any countries should promote their own music a lot more pro-actively, even though I have been surviving in the local music scene for quite some time now (starting from 2005 with Shine Shine Shine & Shine), I only got to realise this until very lately. By mailing out to the musicians I admire, I wish to exchange ideas and introduce my own music to them.
The most important of all is to be polite and be respectful at all time. Only through this practice I came to realise that I have grew so much, not just technically, but also conceptually. I’ve found myself in way different shape than before.
Actually a lot of Taiwanese musicians have already been collaborating with musicians overseas, usually beat makers and producers. There are quite a few bands who have been able to develop their careers in overseas too, which is also a very positive thing. I hope that in the future there would be even more collaborations taken in even more diverse forms.
Who are the other Taiwanese musicians we should pay attention to?
There are too many (if I didn’t mention please forgive me)
Luviia / Yellatee / 何灝 Cosimoz / 落差草原WWWW / Sonic deadhorse / Conehead 錐頭 / 黑狼黃大旺 / 謝明諺 / 柯志豪 / 白目½ / 心電樂 / 海星星 / Ruby Fatale / Skip Skip Ben Ben / 陳潁 / Simon & Sowut / Sonia Calico / Slamer / 洪申伸豪 / 世外桃源 / Varo / Space meow / 夏生阿亮 / Haniboi / Take This! / PEAR … and etc, in fact all Taiwanese musicians are very very good, it’s just that I don’t have enough time to mention every single one of them.
Your recent live performances are mostly improvisation and sampling music, which is quite a contrast to your ‘Shine & shine & shine & shine’ background, as an indie pop veteran in Taiwan, what is the reason of the change of direction to a more abstract, improvised or even somewhat ‘internet’ sound design?
Actually I was doing improvisation since 2007 with Lai of Goodbye! Nao, in the first place it was about modding toys for performance of experimental music. Since then I picked up the skills of how to make beats and started pursuing my personal music project from 2011 henceforth.
At the end of 2014 I started working with COSiMOZ (of Angry Young Man) for some live jamming shows, In additions I have been working on different collaborations with Sonic Deadhorse too .
【 2/13 Live recording w/ ASUNA】
Meuko: During the tour, I also used my very own live set , which will then be followed by the live collaboration with my touring artists. Except the one I did with ASUNA, in which we got to play back to back, one person had to add his own music sources into the mix while the other one was controlling the main mix and vice versa.
【 2/14 Complete improvisation session w/ foodman 】
Meuko: We did practise for the 2/12 session so it wasn’t a complete improvisation, only the one on 2/14 was (completely improvisated).
Either the one with Foodman’s or the one with ASUNA’s, I equally enjoyed them, (I think) improvisation is interesting because there are lots of twists and turns, which brings together an adventurous feeling, at the same time while improvising, I feel like I am having a natural and cozy conversation. I really like this feeling.
On the one hand, Shine & Shine & Shine & Shine feels like a large family, or a commune. On the other, I can have more freedom when I’m being as ‘Meuko! Meuko!’. The alias is also more representable to my own true personality too I feel. However, there’s no tendency of liking towards either of them, to me, both of them are very good and important practices for my musical learning.
(I think) improvisation is interesting because there are lots of twists and turns, which brings together an adventurous feeling, at the same time while improvising, I feel like I am having a natural and cozy conversation. I really like this feeling.
When you’re composing, do you attempt to re-contract the sound image that’s already in place in your mind, or do you first let the mechanical components of your music gears to run on it’s own and start your composition from there?
From 2007 when I start making my own music until the end of 2014, I’ve grew a lot more experienced. Not only my skills in playing live, but also I am psychologically different than before. Let’s take my current mode of performance as an example, usually I make music before sleeping, or sometimes in midnight, or in weekend’s afternoon, just anytime anywhere really, melodies would usually just come through my head, so making music for me feels like dreaming, or journeying into another country even.
Because I am not familiar with music theories, there are some difficulties when it comes to operating with music instruments, as a result I chose sampling as my main way to write music, I’ve been sampling old cassette since the very beginning, the sound of cassette gives me a feeling of warmth, so I would make the beat first, then edit it with sampler, image and story usually comes together in the end, usually I don’t really think that much, I almost completely enter into a separate persona from a different world.
Making music without framework feels relatively free, if I am given a task to make a certain type of music today, I may not be able to accomplish it and even feel very unnatural.
Let’s take my current mode of performance as an example, usually I make music before sleeping, or sometimes in midnight, or in weekend’s afternoon, just anytime anywhere really, melodies would usually just come through my head, so making music for me feels like dreaming, or even journeying into another country.
Your collaboration with Sonic Deadhorse featured in Ordinal Records’ Casiotone Compilation Six, are you a vintage gear-head? I’m curious if you did any mods such as circuit bending to your SA-1 or etc?
I’m not particularly keen on vintage music gear, nor any new gadgets, personality-wise I’m kind of old school, I want to push it to the limit every time I buy a new piece of gear.
The first piece of gear I bought was an Alesis Micron, I’ve been using it from ‘Shine & Shine & Shine & Shine’ for 10 years already.
The Korg SMK II was bought from Sonic Deadhorse in a coincidence for an extremely cheap price, now I primarily use it for making music, but the Korg has limited memories, so I bought myself an second handed Roland Sp-555, I like using second-handed stuffs, it feels like an inheritance (that I completely project my imaginations on).
The CASIO SA-1 was actually borrowed form a very good friend of mine, I like CASIO because of it’s sound texture, it has a lo-fi but cute tone. I only realised that when I was recording, as the CASIO has a very lousy noise, the dirty noise floor feels a lot more concrete than anything digitally sourced.
I like the vanilla SA-1, I don’t know how to make much modifications, I have only been modifying the cheap toys I bought from flea markets, and by modifications I meant only to increases it’s volume, but I would like to start learning modifying it’s sound in the future.
I perfer using physical instruments, it feels more assuring, but in live I sometimes use iPad to make beat, it’s convenient and it sounds pretty decent, I’m considering using other methods to make beat too. I think that’s that for now.
Do you have a fixed live set/ set-up? For example the gears you usually use in live?
I do have my fixed set, they are the ones you can hear from my soundcloud. As for my gears:
Mixer : Mackie Pro fx12
Sampler : Korg SMK II
Sampler : Roland SP-555
Background : iPad
Also my mic and some toys!
When you’re not making music, what do you like to do?
Just like everyone else, working, eating, sleeping, and procrastinating, plus I like watching Japanese drama as a way to improve my Japanese.
But usually I stay at home to make music and listen to different tapes.
I would only go out if there’s a performance that I particularly wanted to see.
Can you tease a bit of your future plan and schedule?
- To make a Meuko! Meuko! Album and release it on tape;
- An album with Foodman, around 10 tracks;
- To do an Asia tour, Japan, Hong Kong, China and Korea;
- Doing collabs with various musicians I admire; and
- Meuko Meuko a.k.a. MC 觀光客 (MC Tourist), rapping without a flow for the most part.
Interviewed by ODM
Translated by ODM