Underground Metal Blog since 2013

2020. október 13., kedd

Johnson Wang (ex-RISE)

 Interview with Johnson Wang 


Hail brother Johnson, I’m so thankful to ask you here, in my own hell. I hope you are doing fine and let’s start from the beginnings: how and when did you get introduced to underground music? What was your very first metal stuff? (vinyl, cassette) Which band did you see live for the very first time?

- Hails, brother! My first introduction to metal music, or what I perceived the term “metal” stuff was when I was about 10 years old when a classmate of mine showed me MÖTLEY CRE’s Dr. Feelgood, and I thought the first riffs for the title track were so heavy! (haha) 

Like most natural progression for metal fans, I found my way to METALLICA, MEGADETH, SLAYER, SEPULTURA, and was drawn to the memorable riffs, the speed, the drumming, and the artwork of their albums. Like a curious nerd, I loved reading the thanks lists and looked at the shirts the bands were wearing and proceeded to check out those bands.  Another classmate of mine brought CANNIBAL CORPSE’s Butchered at Birth CD to school one day and I was blown away by the cover obviously, but when I listened to it, I was shocked that music could sound like that.  Not too long after, I found some used CDs at a local shop and remember picking up NAPALM DEATH, MORBID ANGEL, CARCASS, and ENTOMBED albums simply because the artwork and the names were so repulsive and cool.  Back then there was no YouTube to preview anything, and I blindly purchased them with my allowance money, but luckily all those albums are classics!

I was a little bit late going to live shows as I was a teenager, didn’t have transportation, and didn’t know others in my area who listened to metal, but the first live show I attended was METALLICA in 1994 – and they did not disappoint. 

When did you start to play the keyboards? Who inspired you back in the day? Do you play the other musical instrument beside the keyboards?

I think most Asian parents, especially Chinese parents have their children play piano, violin, or both.  I assume that the parents want their kids to learn piano to expand their brain and mindset, and not so much as to have their kids actually enjoy the music they’re playing.  Naturally, I was taught classical music and the more I learned, the more I began to enjoy it.  I would say that Mozart and Chopin are my favorites to play and listen to, but I also enjoy Beethoven and Liszt. Those classical geniuses would be the biggest influences in my playing. I do like to “play” the guitar and drums, but I can’t say I am very good at either! (haha)

How did you join RISE? Before RISE did you play in any other horde(s)?

A few years before joining RISE, I formed a grind band in High School with my friend called HYALOPHAGIA.  I use the term “band” very loosely as it was just the two of us, and we were terrible.  I played the guitars, bass, and we both recorded some vocals.  I manually played “drums” using the drum sounds on an old keyboard I had, and we recorded a four song demo (the entire demo playing time was around 4 minutes) on a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder.  The final result was definitely laughable and primitive, but we had a lot of fun and it was a cool outlet for us as teenagers.

Around the time RISE just recorded Slaves of Illusion, original drummer, Rob Alaniz showed me some of the songs and mentioned that the band was looking for a darker sound and possibly incorporating some keyboards into the band.  Since the band didn’t have any keyboards in any of the songs, I came up with some parts in which I felt would possibly fit with the songs.  I believe some of the tracks I played when auditioning for the band were “Weakness Spread by Fear” “The Bitter End” and the title track.  I remember playing a lot of wrong notes, but tried to capture the feel of the songs with some keyboard elements added to them.  They had me come on board and the first show I played with the band I only played about 3 songs from the entire set, as I wasn’t familiar with many of the other songs yet!

What are your favourite RISE-tracks and why?

For the RISE albums that I did not play on, I have a few that I enjoy a lot. From the demo, I like the title track, “Life Into Ever Black” as it has a total old-school death metal feel and a really catchy main riff and hook.  I love István’s vocals as well! Shadow of Ruins had a lot of amazing lead trade-offs from Albert Gonzalez and Rik Hansen, and I really like “The Vicious Icon” and the title track – both tracks showing the diversity of the band as “Vicious” is a faster no-nonsense track, and the title track with that catchy main riff, mid-paced start, and of course amazing lead work.  As far as Slaves of Illusion is concerned, I thought this album was a great transition into the “newer” sound the band was looking for, fusing the old-school death metal sound with some great musicianship.  My favorites from Slaves are the title track (total amazing BOLT THROWER feel), “Weakness Spread by Fear” and “The Bitter End”.

Divine Aeternum has a special place in my heart not because it was my first performance with a professional band, but because of the entire experience of recording in Hungary. Meeting all the amazing people during that time, and the overall “sound” of the album was unique and can’t be replicated.  To this day, “Resurrection” “Deceiver” and “Hadak Ura” are my absolute favorite RISE tracks of all time.  “Resurrection” just starts with that buildup and the melodies in that track are so catchy.  What can be said about “Deceiver” as listening to it still gives me goosebumps.  What a simple, yet effective beginning that Rik wrote for the beginning keyboard part, and the stop-start section was so fun to play live.  Of course “Hadak Ura” had those epic moments, especially the breakdown towards the end with Rik’s solo, the keyboard solo, and then the monumental solo from István.  I never get tired of Jaime’s parts throughout the album as well, especially on “Release”.

I would say that “Anthem of Darkness” “Martyrdom - Forever Dead” and “Opus Requiem” are my favorites from Pentagramnation.  I think “Anthem” is a great opening track, and of course James Murphy’s (ex-DEATH, ex-OBITUARY, etc.) solo on it was icing on the cake.  I enjoyed “Forever Dead” quite a bit live because it was one of the faster punchy, to-the-point songs on that album. I loved to headbang to that one! Last, but not least, “Opus Requiem” is one of my favorites because this song has it all, blast beats, sweet riffs, Angela Gossow’s (ex-ARCH ENEMY) vocal trade-offs, another instance of James Murphy’s guitar wizardry, and Istvan’s memorable solo that leads into the final solo at the end by the great Dave Suzuki (CHURCHBURN, ex-VITAL REMAINS) - just so epic and moving!

Which was, in your opinion the most successful show/tour with RISE?

I have to say that during the time I was in RISE, the two most successful shows that come to mind are the festival shows we were a part of: 1) November to Dismember (2000) and 2) Milwaukee Metalfest XV (2001). 

For November to Dismember, the band had such a great response as we blasted through our songs in the 20 minutes or so that we had.  A lot of the crowd was probably more familiar with the band as the venue was not too far from the general Los Angeles area.  Milwaukee on the other hand, was far from our home base, and was another amazing experience as I know we made new fans that day – I remember we received a lot of positive feedback from people all over the U.S. who were able to catch our set there.

My absolute personal favorite shows I enjoyed playing were: 1) DISSECTION (2005) in Tijuana, Mexico and 2) headlining show in István’s hometown of Győr in Hungary.  

The DISSECTION show was full of crazed metalheads in Mexico, but I know a lot of people from Los Angeles, San Diego, and even further came down to see the show.  I just remember the show being in a tiny club, with lots of cheap beer flowing everywhere. DISSECTION played a flawless set ranging from the first two albums, and the Maha Kali EP just came out and of course I picked that up at the show. 

That headlining show in Győr was absolutely insane. A lot of István’s friends were there and were extremely excited to watch us.  Hordes were headbanging maniacally, even to the Divine songs – which we were still recording the album during that same time, so no one knew the songs but they got a taste of it!

It was truly an amazing experience, and to top it all off, Attila Csihar (MAYHEM) came on stage to sing “Weakness Spread by Fear” – it was haunting and hilarious at the same time as he was just singing whatever he wanted and we just went with it.  I also really enjoyed watching TESTIMONY open for us, and love all their stuff – Inhale the Sadness still gets lots of play from me!

You composed and performed “Gates of Bloodshed” intro in excellent Sinister album called “The Carnage Ending” (2012). What should we know about that hellish alliance? Did you compose other intros to another band as well?

As some may or may not know, Bart from SINISTER wore a RISE shirt on the CD sleeve of their Hate album.  This was actually the first time I heard of RISE, when I bought the SINISTER album and saw that picture.

Aad from SINISTER wrote to the band asking for some RISE stuff as it was hard to find in Netherlands, and we kept in touch.  Before the band went in to record The Carnage Ending, he asked me if I wanted to compose and perform an intro for the album and of course I agreed, as I have been a huge SINISTER fan, my favorite being Cross the Styx I’d also like to thank Rik Hansen for assisting me with recording the intro.

I have not composed any other intros for other bands, but a few have inquired about my interest.  If there are bands interested in an intro, let me know.

Perhaps you know that Archangel’s Lantern is dedicated, among others to the memory of Jon Andreas Nödtveidt (R.I.C.) Would you be so kind to share your memories about Him? What are your favourite ones from His heritage?

As I mentioned earlier, the show we opened for DISSECTION in Mexico was absolutely phenomenal.  The performance of DISSECTION was top-notch, with immense energy.  It’s none of my business, nor did I care about Jon’s personal life or his beliefs, but I was able to chat with him for a few minutes and he was extremely gracious about everything.  DISSECTION is definitely one of my favorite bands, and I still remember when I received Storm of the Light’s Bane from the Nuclear Blast mail order catalog and I was so excited to put it in my CD player right away.  

Do you play the keyboards nowadays? What are your eternal preferred keyboardists?

I have not played much these days as most of my time is spent running around after my kids, but I do expose them to music all the time.  My favorite classical composers I mentioned already, but a pianist I really enjoy (especially the older stuff) is the great Tori Amos!

What are your current favourite bands and albums nowadays?

- I don’t want to sound outdated or boring, but I pretty much listen to the same bands and albums that I have been listening to since the 90’s.  I do like some of the newer bands, but to me, they’re just rehashing old riffs from the classic death metal bands, so I’ll just stick to the original.  I would say these albums get eternal listens and are my “go-to” albums whenever I want to hear some great music (in no particular order):

·        DISSECTION – Storm of the Light’s Bane/The Somberlain

·        AT THE GATES – Slaughter of the Soul

·        CARCASS – Necroticism/Heartwork

·        DEATH – Human

·        SUFFOCATION – Pierced From Within

·        MORBID ANGEL - Covenant

·        IMMOLATION –Here In After

Do you have any special hobbies? Which books/movies you’ve read/watched last time?

- I lead a pretty simple life these days, listening to music, buying more music, playing video games, spending time with the kids.  The books I read are all music related, and lately I’ve been reading Dave Mustaine’s Rust in Peace book; it’s my favorite MEGADETH album, so naturally I want to know all the crazy stories surrounding the band during that era. As far as movies, the answer is same as music; my favorites are still the classics that I enjoyed years ago such as Goodfellas, Se7en, Casino, Full Metal Jacket, etc.

I have been watching quite a bit of live shows from bands, as this has been especially true during these strange times of COVID-19.  A few of my favorite live DVDs that I re-watch often are DISSECTION Rebirth of Dissection, EMPEROR - Live Inferno, DEATHLive in L.A., OPETHLamentations, and a few more.

Thank you very much brother, wish you all the best! Send your message to the readers please…

Just want to send eternal thanks to everyone who enjoyed RISE’s music and performances; hopefully István will record some stuff sooner than later, as I know he has tons of amazing music written!  Hails to the Hungarian horde, as I hope to be back there again one day!  Many thanks to you Georgius, for this interview!



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