Towards Asia with Torchia

While birds are migrating back to the Northern lands every spring after wintering in the South, Finnish metal bands are known to migrate East throughout the year to tour and connect with their enthusiastic and steadily growing fan bases in Asia. A special experience for most bands, I tried to coax some of those bands into telling me some of their craziest travel stories and tried to find out just why Finnish metal is so popular there. First up are the melodic death metallers from Torchia, who embarked on the 'A Curse Upon Taiwan Tour 2017 ' in October of last year.

Taking the time to answer my questions is vocalist Edward Torchia.

The Metal Phenomenon: Who is Torchia?

Edward: Torchia is the music of guitarist Ville Riitamaa, brought to life by our collective spirit. The band has been around for quite many years now, but we feel that 2017 marked the year zero for us, having released our first full-length [Ed. 'Of Curses and Grief'] and fully embracing the dark aesthetic we always craved for.

TMP: Where in Asia did you play and when?

E: We played four shows in Taiwan: two festival gigs, Beastie Rock and Unlimited Freedom Festival, and two club shows in Taipei and Taichung. This took place in early October 2017.

TMP: How did that come about?

E: Our guitar player/band leader Ville had been to Taiwan with another band a few years back, so he knew many of the local metal people. Those people showed interest in having Torchia over there and since Ville knew they had a good music scene, it was a really natural thing to make that tour. In a way it still sounds like a crazy idea to travel around the globe to play for people who have never heard of you. But that’s how you conquer the world - go out there and knock their teeth out.

Torchia in Taiwan (Photo by Alston Dearizam)

TMP: How did you prepare for it?

E: The tour actually took place a few weeks before the official release of our debut album ‘Of Curses and Grief’, so we had a lot going on before the tour. We had some delays with the ‘Fury’ music video and the album artwork, and all that needed to come together before leaving to Taiwan, so it was a pretty hectic period. Most of our time was spent on preparing for the album release, but obviously the album promotions worked in favor of the tour and vice versa.

TMP: Can you tell me about the experience?

E: Having never been outside Europe, like most of us, I was really expecting a culture shock. But I quickly realized that life over there ain’t that much different from ours. Everything was just a lot bigger, hotter and more colorful than what we have here in the barren wastelands of the north. It was an eye-opener - I encourage travel! Luckily we had some days off between the shows so we could just go around marveling at the beauty of the island.

What’s best about doing these tours is meeting the locals. We were blown away be the devotions of the metal fans over there. Most of these people had never heard of us a month ago, but now they were there, really getting into it at our show! The response from the audience was amazing and we had a great time with the folks after the gigs. I’ve noticed that anywhere you go, when you meet metal fans, you have an instant connection, no matter what the cultural differences. Thanks for making us feel like home, guys!

TMP: How did you experience the metal scene in Taiwan?

E: Like I mentioned, people were really devoted to the music and they were very eager to see the bands play. In Finland we have so fucking many metal bands that the scene has become a bit saturated, so it’s hard to grab people’s interest. That wasn’t the case in Taiwan, since they have fewer bands, and the ones they do have, really hold to high standards. We didn’t get to see them live, but one of the most interesting ones was this band called Bloody Tyrant, since they incorporate traditional Taiwanese instruments to their music. Folk metal bands in Europe have been doing that for ages, so I think it would about time we heard some more of that Asian folk metal!

TMP: How does the scene and playing a show there differ from Finland/Europe?

E: The actual process of doing a gig is actually surprisingly similar wherever we’re playing. The biggest difference comes from the audiences. Finnish metal really seems to have a good reputation abroad, so you’re able to notice how people have high expectations for us, just from knowing we’re from Finland. So when playing outside Finland, you also feel obliged to maintain that good reputations. It’s like we’re representing all the Finnish metal bands out there. I hope we did a good job in Taiwan.

TMP: What was your best experience there?

E: It has to be the show we did at Club Revolver in Taipei. It was on the night of the traditional Taiwanese moon festival and I felt like the crowd was truly possessed by the moon. After the show we had a great time with our new fans and met people from all around the world. Hell, there were even three Finnish guys living in Taipei who just happened to be there by coincidence! Small world.

Torchia in Taiwan (Photo by Alston Dearizam)

TMP: What was the most difficult thing to deal with?

E: For me it was finding food that didn’t have dead animals in it. Obviously knowing the language would have helped with that matter, but I was taught a good trick for ordering food: just tell the waiter you’re a buddhist and they’ll bring you only vegetarian food.

TMP: What was the most surprising thing?

E: The tropical environment was something that took us by surprise. Our first show was on an outdoor stage at Beastie Rock, and the + 30 degrees heat almost knocked us out while we were doing our routine of raging and headbanging on stage. It was a cool show, since our slot was in the late afternoon and darkness fell right during our set. After that we learned to hydrate after each song at the following festival.

TMP: Why do you think Finnish metal bands are liked so much in Asia?

E: Well, obviously bands like Korpiklaani come off as very exotic from the perspective of an Asian metal fan. But even with the bands that don’t go for the folklore thing, like Children of Bodom, I think there is something in the way they approach melody. It might have something to do with traditional music being so melancholic over here. Even the song school students sing at the end of the semester before leaving for summer vacation, is in a dreary minor key.

Torchia in Taiwan (Photo by Alston Dearizam)

TMP: What is the craziest story you still tell today about this trip?

E: Hah, well the craziest stories don’t end up in interviews, but I guess the night after our last gig would be the winner here. We took the after party to a karaoke bar in Taichung and showed the local bands how Finns misuse alcohol. At some point I decided to take a walk around the blocks nearby, and when I came back I found our drummer passed out on the sidewalk in front of the bar. The dumbass had been there for almost an hour, and no one has any idea why he had decided to take his nap on the street. Thank you to the Taiwanese people for you sincerity and not robbing or abusing him.

TMP: What does the future hold ?

E: Right now we’re not having that much gigs, so Ville has been able to concentrate on writing new songs. He is pretty secretive about the unfinished stuff, so even we have heard only a few riffs from here and there, except for a one finished song. It’s killer, you’re gonna love it.

Thank you for the interview, thank you for reading. Remember to destroy all masters and love every single day since ONLY DEATH REAL.

You can find Torchia online on the usual channels: Website, Facebook, Instagram, Bandcamp, Spotify.

Read also the other interviews of this series with Coprolith/Antagonist Zero, Whispered, Bob Malmström.

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