Following the news that Hidden Agenda will be holding their last ever show in July, Young Post caught up with Cecilia Tsang and Kenny Chan of Ancient Spirit, to talk about how the music scene has changed since their inception in the 90’s, and what the future may hold for local acts.
Ancient Spirit originally started out as a grunge band, before their sound evolved into gothic and symphonic metal in the early 2000’s. Looking back at the music scene when they first started, guitarist Chan revealed, “The Ko Shan Theatre and Sheung Wan Civic Centre stopped holding rock gigs in the late 90’s, so the local scene turned to smaller venues such as the MU [in Tsim Sha Tsui] or Livehouse in Kwun Tong. Even though the number of bands playing actually increased, when compared to the 80’s and 90’s, there simply wasn’t enough of an audience out there.”
And how does that compare to the scene more recently? “Well, thanks to the internet, it’s now easier to get your music out there, but a lack of decent indie music media makes it very challenging for new acts to develop. We held a female-fronted gothic rock and metal gig in Hidden Agenda earlier this year – an unprecedented move locally speaking – but it didn’t get covered by any music media. Back in the 90’s, a band could find themselves being featured in a music magazine just for playing cover songs at an indie gig”.
When asked about how they felt about the recent raids at Hidden Agenda, singer Tsang said, “It’s very frustrating. They did everything they could to work things out, but the government seems determined to get rid of it. Hidden Agenda represents the real local scene – it’s all about spontaneous and organic grassroots music, and it’s not like the large music festivals that get organised by the government or by an entertainment company.”
Chan agreed, and simply added, “The government is killing the local music culture.”
The duo don’t see that changing any time soon either. They feel the future of music in Hong Kong is bleak, stating that the city’s social and political instability will add to the difficulties so many local musicians face at the moment.
Being quite a niche act, the band have endured struggles of their own. Chan admitted that, between 2006-2009, the band didn’t have very many opportunities to perform, and they lost the motivation to record anything. However, he said, despite that, the band has still been going for more than 20 years.
“We make whatever music we like. We all love what we’re doing, and decide everything together.”
Their collective resilience saw them through that rough period, with Tsang proudly announcing, “It marked a new beginning for us. We’re actually going to record our second album now. There’ll be more tribal sounds and an ambient vibe to it, and it’ll be very different to our debut [album].”
Chan signed off the interview with a little advice for aspiring musicians out there, saying that they need to put their own spin on the music they like. “Don’t copy what others have previously done,” he said, before Tsang offered some broader musical wisdom.
“Don’t impose limits on yourself,” she said. “Inspiration can be found in the most unexpected of places.”