One of the best things about the internet for me is the ability to discover bands from around the world. The Asian music scene is a trove of metal and hardcore bands. I was recently listening to a split between Hong Kong hardcore act Dagger and Singapore sludge act HRVST. Dagger is a relatively new band, members have previously been a part of bands like King Ly Chee, Yau Dong and FightxClub. I spoke to the band about the split, the music scene in Hong Kong and Asia and also their upcoming shows.
Hi guys, your tracks on the split with HRVST sounds great. How does it feel now the release will be out on Vinyl soon?
Riz: Glad you like it man! And how cool is the world right now that a band from out here in Hong Kong can release something and you can be chillin in India checking out the music the DAY it’s released!
It feels great to finally have the tracks out. We actually recorded, mixed/mastered them back in March so they’ve kinda been sitting around waiting to be unleashed to the world! Our homie behind Dangerous Goods, Paulo, has believed in Dagger since day ONE (literally – he’s been ready to release Dagger stuff back in January of 2017 when all we had were rough demos without vocals!) so having him release this split 7″ was a no brainer.
To: As Riz mentioned we recorded the tracks earlier this year so we’ve waited for this moment for months. Can’t wait to have the actual vinyl in our hands!
How did the split come about?
Riz: December of 2017 I flew to Singapore to go watch one of my favorite Asian hardcore bands Straight Forward play their last show ever. The show was packed with incredible Singapore hardcore bands from Fuse, Fuel, onwards…and they all killed it but when HRVST came on – HOLY FUCK. I was blown away…the three came on and the first thing they did was set up tube lights on stage, then plugged into their shit, and proceeded to rip through a 20 or so minute set of droney, doom-y, sludge, and everything else in between. Dude…they were AWESOME. Shortly after I talked to their bassist/vocalist Melvin about doing something together. And that’s how it all started – I told Paulo later that night that I had spoken to Melvin about doing a split and Paulo offered his services immediately.
To: My first HRVST experience was their insane set at this year’s Dangerous Fest (Singapore). My mind was fucking blown with their songs, their performance and what they did with bringing out their own DIY lighting rig (a whole bunch of tube lights).
Members have been a part of bands like King Ly Chee, Yau Dong and FightxClub. How did you get together to form Dagger?
Riz: I actually don’t really know how it all started to be honest…I just know that around December of 2016 I was suddenly inspired to write music that was VERY different from King Ly Chee. I’ve always loved 90’s metallic hardcore bands like Turmoil, Snapcase, Refused, Strife, etc., and more contemporary bands like Foundation, Incendiary, AXIS…bands who were hardcore bands at heart but their music was more riff based and certainly veer more towards the out-of-the-box type of songs. So I had a slew of demos that I had written and sent it to Ivan who played drums in King Ly Chee who is a dude that is like a little brother to me. He was like “YES! Let’s do this!” James was someone who had just moved to Hong Kong a few months prior to when Dagger began. He was flown out to Hong Kong as a brewer for Moonzen brewers. Right off the bat we were on the same wavelength because he also loved that 90’s sound. When it come to getting someone on bass, and having 18 years of experience in King Ly Chee, I knew it had to be someone that we would actually get along with. The drummer of then hardcore band Yau Dong came to mind right away because HE’S THE NICEST GUY ON THE PLANET! If you’ve ever met him you’ll know what I mean.
Once the band lineup was secure we were off running and haven’t stopped since.
To: I’ve been playing drums in 2 hardcore/metalcore bands (Yau Dong, Fightxclub) for years, I always wondered what it’d be like to be in front instead of beind a kit. Right around that time is when Riz contacted me. The timing was great because I was super into Foundation, Incendiary, SECT (How could I not love them! They’re XVX – Vegan and Straight Edge – just like myself AND their music is cool AF)…not to mention that in the early 2000’s bands like Norma Jean and Poison The Well were my favorite.
Actually, Riz never “asked” me to join Dagger but told me “Hey dude, I’m going to form a band you’re going to play bass whether you like it or not”.
Riz: Yeah, that sounds like me! Hahahaha….
James: I decided to take a chance and take a brewing job in Hong Kong. Tom Sheehan from the NYHC band Indecision had moved into my neighbourhood a couple months prior and and one day in passing I told him I was moving and if he knew anything about hardcore punk in Hong Kong. He said to hit up Riz and check out Unite Asia so I did. I caught the last two King Ly Chee shows and we already talked about jamming but I was a drummer and so is everyone else in the band. So I took a stab at singing and I’m still here.
In under 2 years, you have put out 2 releases. What is your writing and recording process?
Riz: The writing process has been smooth! We have 4 individuals who all have the same goal in mind, to create forward thinking music that’s interesting (at least to us) and not your traditional sounding hardcore. There’s NOTHING wrong with that of course! We just wanted to see what else we could create with our instruments and try to write music that stood out from the billions of bands who release music every day. So the writing process often is seriously just jamming in a practice room and taking it from there, then revising it until we feel like we have something that we can work with. Then it’s off to writing lyrics.
James: Lyrically we are a socio-political band and I’m from the United States so I kind of just see myself as the megaphone for the rest of the guy’s viewpoints lyrically, so I leave that to them but we all jam on ideas musically. I do have a useless degree in audio engineering so I like to help out as much as I can when we do pre production and recording.
What’s currently on your playlist?
Riz: Now, Now (My daughter LOVES the Threads record and we listen to it almost every day on the way to school)
Evocation (HK band – their new album Libation came out this year and it’s SO good!)
Karmacipher (HK band – this is probably the only Hong Kong band in many MANY years that has inspired me to pick up my guitar and write riffs. Their debut album Necroacle is crazy.)
True Enemy (new Singapore band)
To: Baptists, Cult Leader, US:WE (Awesome Taiwanese band), Birds in Row, Cursed Earth, and some jazzy/chill hip hop like Soft Lipa (Taiwan), Nujabes, Specifics.
James: I mostly listen to stoner metal. Always listening to EyeHateGod, Sleep etc. I love Marijannah from Singapore. But there’s always love for Jersey pride E-Town Concrete.
What are bands from Hong Kong and Asia that the readers should check out?
Riz: There are WAY too many…I’ve mentioned a couple above but here are some more: Straight Forward (SG), Wanderlust (Indonesia), Ugoslabier (Thailand), Seasons for Change (HK), Daiei Spray (Japan), What a Beautiful Day (China), Alpaca (China), Godless (India), Choke Cocoi (Philippines), the list is endless.
To: Check out US:WE (Taiwan), Wellsaid (Hong Kong), Chinese Football (China), Stuggle Session (China), Spill Your Guts (China), Defeat The Giant (Taiwan), Disanxian (China) too.
James: Already said Marijannah but also The Tracy Lords (HK) Two Finger Salute (HK) and can always have a chill Sunday listening to The Red Stripes (HK)
Riz, you run Unite Asia. How do you manage being in a band and running the website?
Riz: Hahahahaha…it’s not too bad – I just don’t sleep. Just kidding…I think it’s because I’m still passionate about all this stuff that had a huge impact on me and I just want to make sure I’m giving back to the community that gave me so much. Metal, hardcore, punk, indie/emo, all of these different types of music have been part of my psyche for decades. So to be able to come across bands around Asia who are making AMAZING music – I just want to do what I can to make sure that people are able to check out these phenomenal bands who write stuff, release it, tour, and then end up only being known amongst their friends or their own scene. Let’s face it, people’s attention is always pretty much focused on what’s going on in the US. For example, people here will be like “Check out this new band from Boston” and get super excited and share the shit out of it, before they would ever say, “Check out this new band from Guangzhou!” It’s a bummer…so instead of complaining about it I’m out here trying to change this status quo somehow.
Are the other members of the band involved in any other creative projects?
To: I play drums in FightxClub too. We are recording stuff as well but the process is very slow since all of us are fucking busy with our own lives and all of us in that band actually play in more than one band. I also played drums in Yau Dong but the band ended last year.
James: I’m old. If I’m not at work or with the band I’m at home.
Do you have any advice for bands that are starting out?
Riz: Make sure you’re actually friends with the people you’re playing in a band with. It makes all the trials and tribulations of band life so much more bearable.
To: Enjoy every single moment with your friends and support your local scene.
James: Don’t be a dick!!! For fucks sake compromise is the easiest thing to have and handle.
You have gigs coming up in the next couple months in Beijing, Hong Kong and Bangkok. What are you looking forward to at the shows?
Riz: Just giving people an opportunity to hear a different take on “hardcore” and hope to expand some minds. A lot of these places we actually have decades of history through King Ly Chee, but Dagger is VERY different in terms of sound, so it is always interesting to see what the reaction is when Dagger gets on stage and it’s a totally different vibe.
To: Observing people completely surprised when we play because what they’re seeing/hearing on stage is so unexpected, is priceless. Having said that, most of the time I’m fucking concentrating on my playing so I don’t fuck up!
James: Get drunk an annoy Ivan. Then watch weird late night television with him.
Riz: They’re really into watching makeover shows really REALLY late at night.
Thanks for answering all our questions. Do you have any final words?
Riz: It always means the world that people around Asia, like you, really try to do their part to support other Asian bands. I hope more people out there could put a lot more heart and energy in promoting bands from out here because our own bands are the ones who need the support.
James: I feel grateful that I was able to start a new life in Hong Kong (I love it!!), have a career I love, and now get to travel with some dudes I love to countries I’ve never been to and play on stage and just have fun.
Note: Trendcrusher is a contributor to Unite Asia