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Taiwanese Democracy: Why Chthonic's frontman is running for office

Chthonic's Freddy Lim on his New Power Party 2016 election hopes

Freddy Lim is an unlikely politician. With his long hair, tattoos, and penchant for Dani Filth-inspired aesthetics, he’s the polar opposite of the usual strait-laced suit you’d imagine in a governmental office. But the Chthonic frontman is a force to be reckoned with in Taiwanese politics.

As well as being one of the country’s biggest metal bands, Chthonic also has a history of being vocal about Taiwanese independence and human rights; Freddy has previously donated over a million Taiwan dollars to disaster relief, and bassist Doris Yeh is a known advocate of women’s rights. Freddy’s latest political venture is heading up the recently-formed New Power Party, and he’ll be representing them in the country’s elections in January 2016.

Until now, the two most influential political parties in Taiwan have been the KMT and the DPP. The New Power Party came to be after last year’s Sunflower Movement, a student protest against the ruling KMT’s attempt to pass a trade agreement without a suitable review. Freddy’s own interest in politics, coupled with the fact that a large proportion of the demonstrators were Chthonic fans, led him to take the reins of the New Power Party, which he hopes will increase democracy in Taiwan.

He isn’t stepping back from the band to head out leafleting, though. His campaign trail will culminate on a Boxing Day gig in Taipei, which coincides with the band’s 20-year anniversary. We caught up with Freddy about his manifesto, and how he’ll fit his metal career around being a congressman if he’s elected.

What inspired you to go into politics?
Freddy:
 “The band has always been really concerned with politics, and through the music, we’ve affected a lot of the fans. They’ve gone out and actualised a lot of these beliefs. During the Sunflower Movement last year students took over the Legislative Building for two or three weeks. It was in protest to a lot of current events that were happening in Taiwan. A lot of the fans wear Chthonic t-shirts when they go and do these things because they were so inspired by the band, and we were inspired by the fans to go out and do more things. Because we’re older than a lot of the fans - I’m 39, and our main fan base is 18-20 - we don’t have the energy required to do things like take over the Legislative Building. But we can do other things that will help with the political landscape. For example, when the New Power Party was formed, we were able to help with that. We’re all members of this new political party. And when the NPP asked me to come and be a candidate for the election, I agreed."

What are the main issues you want to tackle?
“The major issue in the current political landscape is our referendum. We’ve discovered that outside of election day where you have your ballot and you can vote for who to represent you, you have no say. You can’t decide on any laws that are being passed or anything. So this is something we’re hoping to change. We want more of a say in how the government works.”

Tell us a bit more about the New Power Party.
“It’s an independent party, it was formed in January of this year, and our colour is yellow. The two major political parties are the Kuomintang (KMT), who are blue, and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who are green. In my current district, we elect one legislator, and for a long time it’s always been the KMT. I’m hoping I can defeat them in the next election on January 16.”

Are there any other international political issues you’re interested in?
“I’ve always been a huge fan of environmentalism. I’ve previously supported the Green Party who are pushing for environmental measures. I believe more in fair trade than free trade - not to completely open it up, but to have a fair trade agreement. I used to be a chair of Amnesty International in Taiwan, so I’ve also been involved in a lot of humanitarian issues, like Free Tibet.”

Are any of the band’s songs inspired by any of these issues or beliefs?
“In terms of music, we want to write really good metal music. There’s nothing specifically political about it, but we’re involved in a lot of political activities so you’ll see us in the media expressing our opinions. We don’t really encourage the fans to take any particular action.”

And finally, how’s your political career going to fit with the band?
“There are a lot of fans worried that if I get elected I won’t be able to tour as much, so I just want to say to them that I will definitely continue to tour, probably not as extensively as before, but we’ll hit up London and we’re still coming out with a new album next year. I’m hoping it’ll be out by the end of the year, as I have to get elected first and then we’ll rush to record it.”

For more information on Chthonic, visit their official website.

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