While Gaijin Kanpai was covering Sakura-con we had the opportunity to speak with Brent Bergholm of "Hsu-Nami," an asian fusion prog-rock band that utilizes the traditional chinese erhu. Listen to the interview below or hit the jump for transcript and band info!
Interview conducted on April 3rd, 2010.
Jaylee: So could you tell me a little bit about Hsu-Nami?
Brent: Hsu-Nami is an asian fusion progressive rock group. What we do is we have a two string Chinese fiddle with the proper name of an erhu front the band and basically what we do is kind of combine Chinese traditional melodies and chord progression with more western style music like progressive rock, heavy metal. We also have experimented with bossa nova jazz, and country rock and stuff like that. So basically our whole point is to bring the both cultures east and west through, I guess, music, in the easiest way possible.
Jaylee: How long have you been a band together?
Brent: We’ve been a band for five years.
Jaylee: Who are your influences?
Brent: That’s an interesting question. I would say as a collective, a lot of Japanese rock bands are definitely our main inspiration; bands like X Japan, B’z, but then there’s also you know more, you know western bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, but then you have bands like The Exploited, stuff like that. And then even like progressive rockers from the ‘70s like early Genesis with Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, Yes. I mean, I could go on forever.
Jaylee: So I noticed you don’t have any vocals, could you explain that a little bit?
Brent: Well you know man; my whole thing with vocals is that you kind of confine yourself when you have a vocalist. Especially just the way music is marketed these days they try to put you in almost like a stable. This is your pop-rock band, this is your prog-rock band, this is your metal band, this is your hardcore band; and I don’t like that, for me personally, I mean I love vocals, obviously. But For us, I kind of like that we’re instrumental because I feel like, since there’s no vocals you can try to just immerse yourself in the music and just go with the sounds and the melodies, but I just feel like we’re free without vocals; we can do whatever we want, any kind of song we want, and it still sounds like us. And I also want to challenge the listener, I feel like: by not having vocals you’re challenging the listener to I guess, open up their mind to something new.
LoKi: How did the traditional Chinese instrument come into play as a band dynamic?
Brent: We all met in college. Freshman year of college we were all music majors at Ramapo college of New Jersey. We’re from the east coast, by the way. And I met Jack-
LoKi: I’m from Jersey, too.
Brent: Oh shit, we’re from Jersey too. I’m from Redbank.
LoKi: Oh shit, Jay and Silent Bob.
Brent: Dude, It was weird, I was walking down – oh wait I’m in this interview, anyway, I’ll talk about that later.
Jaylee: No no no, it’s fine; it’s fine.
Brent: I was going down an escalator – we go on tour and there’s always shit about Jersey, like Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi. And like, I used to go to the quick stop, I’m going down the escalator and Jay and Silent Bob cosplayers are coming up. I’m like “Jesus Christ I can’t get away from this; my fucking town!”
LoKi and Jaylee laugh.
Brent: But anyway, we all met at Ramapo college of New Jersey our freshman year. I was in a performance ensemble with Jack Hsu, the erhu player, and we just kind of met and had a mutual interest in Japanese rock. The drummer was my roommate in college. We just kind of made a band out of an appreciation for Asian music and western music.
Brent: Oh yeah, for sure. We were hanging out them last night at a private party.
Jaylee: Why weren’t we invited?
Brent and LoKi laugh.
Brent: Yeah, we were hanging out with them and they’re great. This is my first time hearing about them, because I’m not too up on current J-rock. I like B’z and X Japan and Malice Mizer, those are like older groups; you know what I mean? Like from the ‘80s. So I haven’t updated – I need to update myself.
Jaylee: Thank you very much. What are your thoughts on digital distribution as opposed to physical CDs?
Brent: This is kind of interesting, because for us, we’ve done the CDs obviously. But I feel like honestly that CDs are going to the wayside, just kind of like how Myspace is going to the wayside as well. I feel like nowadays, as an independent band – I mean people still like CDs, but you have to be more creative about the medium that you’re playing with. Vinyl is back, which I think is awesome because I love vinyl. You have to be creative. For our next album we might do Dropcards, we also might do a vinyl, and we also might do a USB. They also have a thing where you can buy a T-shirt, it’s the same concept as a Dropcard. You basically have the album art on the front, track listing on the back, and there’s a code on the tag.
Jaylee: Oh, wow!
Brent: Yeah, it’s brilliant, right? And I feel like, as an independent band you have to be creative with the type of mediums that you’re using to sell your music. I love albums, I love CD artwork; I mean, that’s my generation. But you have to go with the times sometimes, and thankfully the jewel case will be gone, because that thing looked like shit.
Once again thank you to Brent and all the guys at Hsu-Nami giving us a fantastic interview.
The Hsu-Nami are: (left to right; links to twitter)