In the fourth interview of the 'Towards Asia' series I talked with Ben Pakarinen from bands like Coprolith, Antagonist Zero and Cavus about his touring experiences in China and Taiwan to try to discover why Finnish metal is so popular in these countries.
The Metal Phenomenon: Could you introduce yourself and the bands that you toured Asia with?
Ben Pakarinen: I´m the guitarist and vocalist in Coprolith (Blackened Death Metal) and Antagonist Zero (Doom/Death Metal). Coprolith was formed in 2001 here in my home town Porvoo, Southern Finland.
After the ruins of my former black metal band Furia I wanted to combine both black and death metal together
Antagonist Zero started out in 2010 as a side project for me and Juho Suokas. We wanted to do something different from the heavily death and thrash dominated metal scene around Finland at the time.
TMP: Where in Asia did you play and when?
BP: With Coprolith the first China tour was in 2013. We played 16 shows all across the country with the 'Hate Infected China' tour. I think it was the longest tour that any western band has done in China at that time. With Antagonist Zero it was the 'Doomed China Tour" in 2013 with 13 dates and the 'Death March in China Tour' in 2014 with 16 dates.
TMP: How did that come about?
BP: Our Chinese friend Yang Wang who lived in Helsinki at that time saw our shows in Finland. He got interested and contact us and offered a China tour.
TMP: How did you prepare for it?
BP: We got good preparation and info from Yang. But we also used the grand master Google.
TMP: Can you tell me about the experience? From logistics, to the show, the countries, the people?
BP: 8 hours on a plane from Helsinki to Beijing. That was the easiest part, the travelling inside China is pretty rough. We mostly travelled with trains from one city to another. So many people everywhere etc. the hassle, sometimes it felt like devastating. But when you get use to it, you'll manage. Few inner country flights for the longest distances. But otherwise trains which is the easiest way of transportation in China.
TMP: How did you experience the metal scene there?
BP: It was quite a shock from the first show when you noticed there are people from babies to grannies. The response was awesome and the shows were mostly packed venues with normal office guys/girls to hardcore metalheads. I loved it.
TMP: How does the scene and playing a show there differ from Finland/Europe?
BP: The whole cultural difference is so huge that the scene also felt so different. Eventhough the metal scene is the same , the love for metal music. But the crowd was so insane at the shows which really made an influence to go back there again and again.
TMP: As you've played with several bands in Asia, was the experience differed e.g. depending on the style of metal? If so, how?
BP: Black/Death metal was the thing when we first time toured there. But nowadays they prefer more easy going, athmospheric music. Antagonist Zero shows were awesome when you see people crying in the front row etc. the dedication to the music is overwhelming there.
TMP: What was your best experience there?
BP: Everything! :) All and all. The open air festivals, hospitality, crazy crowds, so on.
We played a showcase in Shanghai with AZ at the NAM festival, it was something that you never forget too.
TMP: What was the most difficult thing to deal with?
BP: The hurry to wait for nothing. Asian mentality I think. But ok, it´s good to be on time everywhere, which I`m not use to ;) And also some night trains without a sleeping place in packed train with chickens and monkeys.
TMP: What was the most surprising thing?
BP: Definately the crowd and hospitality were awesome! But also the (fucking) humidity, especially in the southern parts I was dying without AC. Too much for this kind of Northern person.
TMP: Why do you think Finnish metal bands are liked so much in Asia?
BP: Quality metal and blond people :P
TMP: What is the craziest story you still tell today about these trips?
BP: 48hour train ride, security with a machnine guns at the entrance of the venues, toilet as an aquarium, snakes, dogs, lamb penis etc. on the menu, laughing beer bottles, Henukka and so on.
In Taiwan, the open air festival was held high up in the mountain but because of the typhoon our show was cancelled just before the showtime. It was literally floating there. Mud was everywhere and on the stage you would have need rubber boots. So many good memories and stories...;)
TMP: What does the future hold (new material, shows etc)?
BP: Coprolith is on ice after Aleksi's death. AZ is working on the new material and we will do some shows in December with Hate from Poland with a new line-up. Cavus will invade Asia 2019.
TTMP: Anything to add?
BP: Thanks for this interview!
Diao baula, niu bii!
You can find the bands online on the usual channels: Coprolith, Atagonist Zero, Cavus.
If you haven't read it yet, check out the interviews of this series with Bob Malmström, Torchia and Whispered.