Freddy Lim of Chthonic has no fears in expressing his feelings on human rights issues.

Freddy Lim of Chthonic has no fears in expressing his feelings on human rights issues.

If you saw Freddy Lim at the local 7-11 in Taipei, you may not know he was one of the most famous heavy metal performers in the world. If you were caught in the mosh pit of a Chthonic concert, you may not realize that the bare-chested vocalist who was whipping the crowd into a frenzy, was in fact a leading human rights advocate in Taiwan.

Kaohsiung, Taiwan, the site of the 2011 MegaPort Music Festival.

Kaohsiung, Taiwan, the site of the 2011 MegaPort Music Festival.

On Saturday, March 5th, Chthonic performed in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, a cosmopolitan seaport of 1.5 million people. He was one of the headliners at the 2011 MegaPort Music Festival, which took place in an area of the city that was an old seaport area converted into an arts and culture center. There were two outdoor music stages as well as an indoor music venue. I attended the concert to explore firsthand why Freddy and Chthonic are adored by young people all over Asia, Europe and the USA.

The indoor concert venue for the 2011 MegaPort Music Festival.

The indoor concert venue for the 2011 MegaPort Music Festival.

I interviewed a few fans who were waiting in line for the 6:30 pm performance. What was evident immediately was their loyalty and passion for the music.

Chia-hui Lin

Chia-hui Lin

“I’ve been a fan for two years. I travelled here from Pingtung, and always go when they are in Southern Taiwan. I love Chthonic because their music is very emotional, and their lyrics reflect Taiwanese history.”

Hao-wei Lung

Hao-wei Lung

“I’ve been a fan for a year, and I learned about them from KKBox. I live in Kaohsiung. I love their music because they are energetic and explosive, and their lyrics are meaningful. They aren’t more popular in Taiwan only because they sing about politically-sensitive topics.”

Mio

Mio

“I’ve been a fan for 4 years, and I learned about them through a friend. I live in Kaohsiung. I like Chthonic because they are creative, and they work hard on their dream. I am in a hip hop band, and Freddy is inspiring to me.”

During the concert, I was escorted to the press area in front of the stage, a perfect vantage point for the “Chthonic experience.” The music was loud, powerful, and emotional. At times, Freddy highlighted sorrowful messages with his bright red erhu, which is a traditional 2-stringed Taiwanese instrument. Song after song rocked the crowd into rhythmic convulsions and defiant chants. The lyrics were derived from Taiwanese Han and indigenous mythology, and expressed great injustices and sorrow. Chthonic consists of 5 talented musicians, but the leader is clearly Freddy.

Freddy Lim playing the traditional Taiwanese stringed instrument, erhu.

Freddy Lim playing the traditional Taiwanese stringed instrument, erhu.

During the breaks, Freddy Lim addressed the crowd, getting them charged up about current social and political injustices. On this night, he addressed Taiwan’s controversial reinstatement of the death penalty, and the recent killing of 5 Taiwanese inmates by the government. When he travels, Freddy frequently promotes Taiwan to his audience as well as the importance of human rights.

The crowd thrives on the energy of Chthonic's music.

The crowd thrives on the energy of Chthonic's music.

When the concert was over, and after Freddy had time to change and remove his makeup, I caught up with the man to get to know him better. Besides having an impressive resume’ as a musician on the international music scene, I learned that he is one of Taiwan’s most vocal advocates for human rights. He is also the chairman of Amnesty International in Taiwan.

INTERVIEW WITH FREDDY LIM

FanAccess: What were you like before you became a rock star?
Freddy: As a kid, I was always the one who was never afraid to speak up. I always spoke out against things I didn’t think was fair. In junior high, when the class had to write an essay about our dreams, I wrote about my dreams to be a rock star. The teacher gave me an “F” for the essay, saying I was being unrealistic. It’s funny, but I think I am probably the only person from my class who has actually achieved their dream.

FanAccess: What influenced you to start your band?
Freddy: In high school, I enjoyed reading Nietsche and the Japanese comic series, Phoenix. This gave me a different way to think about life. I was also influenced by music, including Slayer, Anthrax and Nine Inch Nails. After I graduated from high school, I realized that 18 years, or perhaps a quarter of my life, had passed by, and I hadn’t accomplished anything. I cried very hard. At that point I decided to do what I really wanted to do with my life. I started the band.

FanAccess: How did that affect your parents?
Freddy: They didn’t like it at first. I think they finally accepted my career choice in 2003, after we won the Best Band Award at the Taiwan Golden Melodies Awards. They finally had a way to describe to their friends what I did for a living without getting embarrassed.

FanAccess: You have become a well-known advocate for human rights and indigenous rights in Taiwan. You also promote the human rights efforts in other countries. You are respected for bring a musician not afraid to take a stand. How did that come about?
Freddy: I just felt that life was too short, so there is no time to deny myself from making a difference.

FanAccess: What was it like meeting his Holiness, the Dalai Lama?
Freddy: Being with him was like being around a very amazing grandpa. What I learned the most from him was not what he said, but it was his presence and attitude.

FanAccess: You are an inspiration for many young people in Taiwan and the world to keep going after their dreams. What would you tell people about that?
Freddy: My parents used to tell me I should wait until I had a career and built up my financial security before I pursued my dreams in music. I thought that it would be crazy to try to start a career in a band after I was over 40 years old. I asked my parents, “You have your career and money. Did you pursue your dream? Do you even remember what your dreams were?” That was all that was needed to be said.

Doris, the bass guitarist for Chthonic.

Doris, the bass guitarist for Chthonic.

Jesse Liu, the guitarist of Chthonic.

Jesse Liu, the guitarist of Chthonic.

At least in this case, the world is better off that someone didn’t heed their parent’s advice. As a result, the world has a young, energetic Taiwanese leader named Freddy Lim who is willing to stand up for justice and human rights, and inspire young people not be afraid to express themselves. His music contains the type of message that certain governments don’t like to hear, and even though he is banned in these countries, he has growing legions of fans there who find a way to listen to and share his musical message.

I thanked Freddy Lim for his time, as he rushed off for his 4 hour drive back to Taipei. He had a very busy schedule preparing for a trip to London to participate in a well-known heavy metal music festival.