INTERVIEW: Hong Kong death metal band Cadaver share some wisdom with us

Death Metal
Hong Kong

There has been a plethora of political issues plaguing Hong Kong as of late whose impact has been filtering all the way down to the streets of our city causing a lot of tension and unease. All this upheaval has been traumatizing on so many levels due to the fact that the further we continue down this road the clearer it is that we are not the captains of our own ship as was the condition laid out in Hong Kong’s mini-constitution known as the Basic Law. When this was first fathomed, drafted and signed between signatories Britain and China, there was supposed to be an immensely high degree of autonomy that would allow Hong Kong to become a model for which democracy could begin to be nurtured and perhaps many moons down the road, could maybe-perhaps be modeled for other cities across the country.

Currently though, we seem to be moving further away from the initial design of the city’s return to China. We are reeling from various forms of meddling in current affairs, sometimes directly in clear sight, but most often, in much sinister ways, by the true master of puppets – the CCP. By doing so they are continuing to make it abundantly clear that from here on out Hong Kong should become accustomed to being just like any other city in China. With it we continue to erode the characters of this world renown city…its international image with strong Cantonese characteristics may one day become something that you only experience in history books.

All of this is great fodder for Hong Kong’s aggressive music as the one place we can go to vent our frustrations and hopelessness.

Today we sat down with guitarist, JJ Wan, of an insane Hong Kong death metal band called Cadaver who back in 2013 released the phenomenal EP The Doppler Effect. The band was kind enough to allow us to premiere for the first time the entire EP online (you’re welcome!). So while reading this interview and the great insight JJ has to share, blast those tunes and allow the aggression in the music provide you some solace in whatever challenges life is throwing at you.

Yo JJ! Since a lot of people outside Hong Kong may have not be familiar with the insanity that Cadaver produces through song, could you give us a brief introduction?
Thanks man! We are Cadaver, a five piece band from Hong Kong. The band started in around 2003, and we released our first EP in 2013. Our music style revolves around extreme and death metal. You know: blast beats, death growls, riffs, solos!

Hong Kong has always had a strong metal underground – lots of people seem to really connect with metal here. What do you think it is about metal that gives it such a strong following here?
I think it is the freedom to express. Bands can write about all sorts of topics which would otherwise be unacceptable in the mainstream. The audience can mentally and physically release any aggression built up. It is the aggression in the music that makes this type of music “metal”. In my opinion, metal will always fail to become mainstream because it is a way of releasing aggression, in a society that deems aggression unacceptable. Like minds attract and connect and that’s what makes the scene strong.

“…metal will always fail to become mainstream because it is a way of releasing aggression, in a society that deems aggression unacceptable.”

For sure! When you were growing up what were the metal bands that really grabbed your attention? And how’d you get into metal?
I grew up in New Zealand. I really got into metal when a friend of mine played me the album A Great Southern Trendkill by Pantera.

Also there were two metal bands that were quite successful in New Zealand: 8 Foot Sativa and Ulcerate.

I am not a very expressive person but metal is able to take my mind to a place that other forms of music cannot. It is a great type of brain stimulant for me, hahaha! When I came back to Hong Kong in 2006, there were a few bands that got my attention. Shepherds the Weak was the first metal band I saw in Hong Kong at the Warehouse.

I also discovered Evocation, Hyponic, Elysium and Adversary. I had always wanted to play in a metal band growing up, so after knowing that the metal scene here was pretty strong, I was in search of a metal band to join. And in 2009, I joined Cadaver as a guitarist.

Wow! So Cadaver was your first ever band? Man – you killed it on your first band! Hahaha…
I was in a few other bands but Cadaver is the heaviest out of them hahaha!

That’s awesome – tell us about Casaver’s EP The Doppler Effect. What was the process like and where was it recorded?
About 2 years before we released the album we had a bit of a line up change. We revisited some old songs, and wrote some new ones. We thought, hey, we have enough songs for an EP, why not? It made sense because in a life time of a band, recording an album sets a milestone and sets a standard to improve upon. It was a somewhat lengthy process because we were all working full time during the day, and, everyone who has really tried recording will know, good takes are not easy!

The artwork, album layout and reproduction were all done locally in Hong Kong. So, on and off, the whole process took about a year. We tracked all the guitars, bass and vocals in our rehearsal space, drums in a studio, and mixed and mastered by our drummer back then.

I’m sure there are some gear nerds out there so for those of you who are interested, here you go:

The guitars were tracked with Kemper loaded with a Diezel Herbert profile, the guitar was an ESP Eclipse II with EMG’s tuned to B standard. Bass was a 4 string Warwick Corvette, also tracked using the Kemper. The Kemper was connected to the DAW using SPDIF. Vocals were done using Shure SM7B into a Focusrite interface. The drums were recorded in Battlestage Studio.

What’s the significance of the album title?
In physics, The Doppler Effect relates to frequency, velocity and distance. It describes how frequent something happens to an observer when something is approaching and receding. For example, when an ambulance approaches you, you hear the siren increasing in pitch. Same occurs when a fast car drives pass you, the sound you hear is the effect of Doppler.

We are using this phenomena metaphorically to describe the approach of apocalypse. The chaotic effects occur more frequently the closer we are to the end. Our lyrical approach is generally metaphoric, using graphical descriptions to bring out the primal ideas of the songs. The first song Breaking Pupa, describes a person who is sentenced to the “Mercury Torture”, which is a form of death punishment where the victim is buried to the neck, his head is cut open, and hot mercury is poured into the orifice. The weight of the mercury separates the flesh and the body is loose from the skin. Graphically it is like a pupa breaking out of its shell and turning into a butterfly. What we are trying to say is, someone who is helpless in their life must go through great pain to achieve success.

“What we are trying to say is, someone who is helpless in their life must go through great pain to achieve success.”

Goddamn…that’s some intricate detail behind the record’s title! Hahaha…as this came out a few years back – what is the band’s future plans?
We have been slowly, but surely, writing for the next full length. We are more than half way through the writing process. We play some of the new material at our shows so people who know our older material may be able to know what to expect. The new songs still have a lot of the elements that the older songs have. They are basically our older material on steroids.

You’re also behind Hong Kong Metal Alliance which has been one of the more consistent promoters for extreme metal in Hong Kong. Can you tell us something about this organization?
We started HKMA back in 2012. The idea of this organisation is to promote metal music in Hong Kong. We are just a couple of guys who love metal, and as metal musicians ourselves, we know the struggle we have here in Hong Kong. Hong Kong is definitely a unique city for music. Over the years we have organised and co-organised many genres of metal shows both local acts and overseas acts.

Hong Kong Metal Alliance most recently organized the HK stop for Defeated Sanity

With all the issues with work permits and venues lately, has that impacted the amount/frequency of shows you put on? I know that as a promoter of hardcore it has certainly impacted my willingness to put on shows here for the music I cater to.
Definitely! As a promoter, it increases costs and risks. The reality is that each show requires quite a large sum of money, as well as human resources. What has been happening lately really has affected the way we make decisions. Obstacles like these really test how strong the scene is, and how much we are willing to give and sacrifice to do what we love to do.

Exactly – in terms of hardcore where the audience size is significantly smaller then the local metal crowd, it makes organizing shows almost completely unrealistic. We’ve always lost money putting on hardcore shows for touring bands anyway, but now with the increased cost/time of applying for work permits AND that the venue the show is being held in as to be an actual venue and no longer a DIY type of venue that we’ve used hundreds of times in the past, makes it even less likely to put shows on. The good thing out of all this though is that there seems to be an increased attention being given to local bands. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

Alright man – any last words for metalheads in Hong Kong and especially for those outside who may want to get know more about Hong Kong’s metal scene?
Just enjoy the music! Chug it like beer, taste it like red wine, whatever the genre, whatever the style of metal, just relax and enjoy it. Respect the scene, respect the people who have put even the smallest effort into the scene. Hong Kong’s underground music scene is built by passionate people, we should all work together to help this grow!

Cadaver will be performing at our joint show with Hong Kong Metal Alliance entitled Where’s Your Anger | Where’s Your Fucking Rage to be held on July 29. You can get ALL the info regarding that show here: is an underground Asian music news website created for the sole purpose of supporting our own world. We support all bands and genres HOWEVER we do not support nor have any sympathy for homophobic, racist, sexist rhetoric in lyrical content or band material. UNITE ASIA!