When Legacy Taipei opened in late 2009, the city and the music scene had been crying out for a larger, music-only venue to host bigger name artists from both Taiwan and abroad. And that's exactly what we got. With impeccable sound and experienced leadership, Legacy has quickly made itself the premier destination for musicians and their fans. GigGuide.tw recently had a chance to enjoy some generous insights from Legacy Taipei's Director Arthur Chen.
GigGuide: Congrats on your second year. How has it been? What are you most proud of?
Arthur: Legacy Taipei has been open for about two years and three months. We have emphasized having the most professional sound equipment. At first we were the biggest live house in Taiwan, but of course this advantage could be surpassed anytime. We were the biggest live house with a capacity of 1200 before, but now there's ATT4FUN and Neo19. They're not real live houses, but they're still bigger than us. We’re proud of providing more and more professional concerts. No matter if indie or mainstream artists come, we hope we could make the sound and stage the best. To this end, most of our investment is in the equipment. You can also see that we don't have much upholstery. We hope to satisfy both the artists and the audience, to make them feel that this is a professional venue.
In my opinion, I think something good I could see is the potential, or the power, of indie bands. We assumed The Wall was the live house where indie bands played most frequently, and if it was, for example, Tizzy Bac or 1976, it would be a full house. In our imagination, a full house is 600 tickets, but we had no idea how much more it could be. If they played at Legacy and they could sell out as well, then we can imagine more. And actually, their strength is not just 500 or 600 tickets, they could sell more than 1000 tickets. Probably, after playing at Legacy, they can regard it as a springboard, then maybe hold a bigger concert in a bigger venue, like TICC, or even Taipei Arena.
You can find that indie bands and mainstream artists coexist here; half of our shows are mainstream, half of our shows are indie. But compared to indie bands, a mainstream show is much easier to sell out because of the size of the audience. But to really see the gradual growth of a band, let's talk about MATZKA. We held many Wednesday night MATZKA shows for three months running, starting in March 2010, At the beginning, maybe 20 tickets sold per show; then it became about 100 tickets after a month; and 200 tickets after one more month. When they came back to play after releasing their album, the show was a full house. Of course it could result from the record company contract or the publishing of their album. We don't think this (holding concerts regularly to let more people know a band) is the only way but we're heading in this direction. It's been successful.
For instance, we've had similar success (with other bands). Because we think their musicality is nice, they can play here regularly to let more people know about them. There's no doubt that everybody starts as an unknown. Paige Su is an indie band we've started to promote. I'm not sure if you've heard of them or not. They play free jazz and are great musicians - their live show’s good as well. We've done it a couple of times with about 100 tickets sold. We hope that they could play here bi-monthly, have different themes, add various elements, and invite some special guests to jam and play together to let more people know there are actually good bands in Taiwan. Our advantage is bands won't have any pressure to worry about the box office, since I know that if you're not so famous you'll need to 包票* when you play at some live houses. At the moment, we don't have a limit like that.
*包票: when some bands which are not yet popular play at certain venues, they are required to pre-sell a minimum number of discounted tickets themselves.
GigGuide: I've been impressed with your diverse line-ups. I've seen you hosting sold-out shows for Taiwanese folk singers like Kimbo as well as popular artists like A-Lin or WonFu, not to mention international acts like Lamb of God or Yo La Tengo. When Legacy opened, you mentioned wanting the live music experience to become a more normal social activity, to be available to and enjoyed by everyone. Do feel like you're succeeding?
Arthur: We're so-called rockers. We like to go to The Wall to see shows because it is all rock 'n' roll bands, and we also wanna go to Underworld to listen music as we know they have all kinds of rock 'n' roll music. But the purpose of Legacy Taipei is sort of different from them. It is not just to serve people who like rock 'n' roll. Turning “seeing live shows” into a lifestyle is our original goal. Actually, the culture of seeing live concerts in Taiwan has been slowly rising these years from when it used to be just free concerts (before, many mainstream singers would do this when they released an album); it has become a habit recently, just like seeing a movie on Friday night or going to karaoke on Saturday. We hope to turn this into a lifestyle to lower the threshold, not only for people who have been listening to rock 'n' roll for a long time or regularly attending music festivals, also for people who like Jay Chou or Jolin Tsai. We also host these kinds of artists to play live shows (not lip synch), and fans come to realize more diverse ways enjoy music . That's why people might think we're not so underground. We want more folks to appreciate live performances.
GigGuide: And do you see these habits changing?
Arthur: Everybody knows that all throughout the music industry sales have been declining. It would be very good if mainstream discs could sell ten or twenty thousand, but live concerts are the only area which has been rising these years. So I think the phenomenon of people buying tickets to see concerts is getting better in Taiwan, that is, since the earliest festivals, like Spring Scream, more people are getting used to spending their money on live concerts and many other events have since appeared. People can get another kind of enjoyment from seeing concerts/music. People used to enjoy the Walkman, but that experience was just listening. Now that there are live performances (to consider), people may feel music is not just music, but that there is another element to attract them. We hold many mainstream concerts, and those artists are also willing to present their pop music live - I think that’s a good thing. Taiwan is really different from foreign countries. When it comes to mainstream artists in Taiwan, they do radio or television appearances, and hold autograph signing sessions for promotion. But for the hit artists in foreign countries, their main promotion for the new album is still going on tour. I think their biggest way of promotion is holding concerts. In that case, even idol singers are expected to be able to do live performances. I've seen couple of idols who people think of as very pop that can pull off a band sound. I think that's not bad.
GigGuide: This has been a big year so far. One of the concert series you've sponsored is bringing back favorite indie bands for a reunion show. You've had We Save Strawberries, Tolaku, Backquarter... How has that been? Is it difficult getting bands back together? Who are you excited to see perform?
Arthur: Now we have a series called One Night Only. Our original idea is that we consider 90s Taiwan very important to indie bands. It was such a significant generation because there were lots of live houses, like Scum, Vibe, B-Side, Wooden Top, and 人狗螞蟻. Strictly speaking, bands from the 90s have greatly influenced some present, famous bands. Some of them might have disbanded, some of them may still be active. No matter their sales, famous or not, they did affect many new young bands. For this reason, we just want to do a series to bring some bands back, to bring the audience back to that era of Vibe or Scum, and let everybody realize the 90s' atmosphere. After this idea came to our mind, we started finding bands which formed at least 10 years ago, and who often played at the old live houses in Taipei. Of course, you know some have already disbanded, like Tolaku and Sticky Rice, or like BackQuarter - although they’ve not disbanded, their vocalist has changed - we managed to bring the old members back and help them to reunite and reproduce the scene of the 90s.
And because rock 'n' roll bands come and go, they have lots of their own rules and different things they care about. I think… that's how a rock 'n' roll band should be. Who could be just like The Smiths, never changing band members for 20 years? It's hard, and also rare. And this job is rather difficult. We've spent a lot of energy to win them over, like if the vocalist and guitarist fought, we hope they could be friends again. There are problems about the relationships.
So far we've arranged eleven shows, and there are still some bands to be announced. Actually we consulted more than these eleven bands, about twenty bands or so. Some of them have their own difficulties, but we'll help them to solve it as much as possible. Ladybug is one band I'm really looking forward to. It has been confirmed that they'll have a reunion in October.
Though I'm not sure if this series is meaningful to the young, I just hope to host many shows to show their influence and power; to let everybody know the history, that they actually existed. That is, to let everyone feel that there have always been big name rock 'n' roll bands playing, to make them want to buy tickets and see these shows; or to make them feel that rock 'n' roll is everywhere in life.
Because of the Tolaku, BackQuarter, and Chairman reunions, this series has so far has been quite successful. Especially in the case of Chairman - we might know that their show at The Wall wouldn't sell out in the past, maybe 500 tickets. But this time we've spent much time to market and advertise for this series, in order to make people feel shows in this series are more meaningful and different than what is being held at any other places.
To be honest, I question whether it’s a good idea to do this series. You know, many of these bands are still active, like 1976 and We Save Strawberries. We hope that they could mainly play the old songs to fit the idea of this series - to bring audience back to the 90s. Some artists may say, "our old songs were very stupid so we don't want to play those songs again; it’s the REAL ME at the moment." I've met many people like this. They're not willing to play old songs and just let it go. But we're kind of forcing them to play at least 2/3 old songs in the concert. In fact, I feel sort of uncomfortable doing that. I might also not want to do that if I were those artists. We only want to do it with this (Back to 90s theme), or something less serious. We can't say there are more fans listening to your old songs than to the new songs. We can't convince those bands with this reasoning. Instead, we use the theme “Back to 90s” to make them promise to play old songs.
There are lots of troubles but we've been solving them. Like LTK, now there's nobody who wants to go back to LTK and play with Xiao Ke again, since some of them might be in America, and some of them haven't played bass for a long time. Different bands, different problems. We have to overcome them one by one.
Arthur Chen interview Part 2