Yuchen Lin makes up half of the Brooklyn based duo Trabajo with Tj Richards. Despite having existed for only a year and a half, Trabajo has generated a lot of buzz with their complex, ricocheting polyrhythmic sample collages featuring a distinctly world influenced sound delivered with killer, straightforward rock energy. Thermos Unigarde created Snaykhunt, a sample based, teeth rattling electronic noise project using field recordings, layered vocal samples and rearranged drum corps beats.
Thermos to Yuchen
Thermos Unigarde – When did you start playing? What bands were you in before Trabajo?
Yuchen Lin – I think I started to play music around 2003 in Taiwan. First band I was a drummer, kind of indie/emo. Also I was in someone’s experimental electronic rock project where I played synth & bass. Then I recorded a 7″ with an Australia blues punk band. It was all not bad, had some good press from Wire & Vice, but I really started feeling I want to have changes, so I formed a band XOXOXO, only last few months because I had to move to NY, but in XOXOXO that’s where I start to put world music elements in it.
Thermos – Tell me how Trabajo started?
Yuchen – One month after I moved to NY I met TJ at the Rubulad party. Things went well, we became multi-instrumental players, we tried to find a drummer but very luckily nothing worked out, and in 6 months we developed bunch of material, including an EP, and got our first set ready.
Thermos – You grew up in Taiwan, what kinds of music were you exposed to as a kid/teenager?
Yuchen – I started to listen to indie music really late, it’s after my 20’s. Also I was exposed to tons of pop music as a kid/teenager, was kind of funny and awkward that I used to be a singing champion, you know that kind of pop singer, in school. I mention it because now I actually give up all that technique because that makes me feel there is no soul in the performance. But yeah also listened to a little bit jazz, classic, rock, and world music when I was a kid.
Thermos – What gear are you using right now? Why did you guys decide to do more electronic drums rather than acoustic?
Yuchen – Now I am using a synth drum pad, a keyboard synth, a small mbira, and looping pedal. We had some songs where I play a full drum kit and Chinese flute and guitar, but we don’t include those in our set anymore.
Thermos – You and Tj seem to be really intuitive working together and writing, it seems like you’ve written so much in a really short time!
Yuchen – Yeah, Tj Richards is a really an ideal partner for me, we have similar music taste, we spent lots time to play together, and are open to trying different ideas, and yes we have a bucket of material to finish. We became even more prolific after TJ also started using a looping pedal and synth.
Thermos – Your music has a lot of ‘world’ influence and interesting rhythms woven together between you and Tj. What influenced you?
Yuchen – Yes, and I have been playing a lot more Chinese scales in songs now. One of Trabajo’s songs, “Black Practice,” was deeply influenced by Iraqi folk pop songs released by Sublime Frequencies. Mostly what I listen now is just some random stuff I found on YouTube, the video title might be “Turkish Drum Master,” or “Amazing Mouth Harp Guy,” that kind of stuff. There is one group is called Amadinda Percussion Group, they had one Indonesian gamelan medley from Java, Sunda and Bali, that was one favorite song recently. Geinoh Yamashirogumi, the group who made the soundtrack of Akira, and the album “Dr. No’s Oxperiment” by Oh No.
Yuchen to Thermos
Yuchen -Talk about why you went from being a kit drummer to becoming Snaykhunt – an experimental musician without a live drum kit; what gear are you using now, how do you make beats, and how do you feel about the difference from using the real kit?
Thermos – I was tired of being trapped behind the kit, even though I really love drumming. When I decided to do Snaykhunt I knew I would have to get comfortable with electronics. It was kind of terrifying. I never wanted to be out front on stage, or deal with being plugged in, sound issues, etc. Had to get over all that. When I started Snaykhunt, I thought I would still have a full kit on stage and trigger from a sampler, but I never made it work. I decided I didn’t want to be onstage looking like I was trying to put together an Ikea desk. So for the last year I’ve just used a 404 sampler, a Crittar, Guitari slide synth, Boss RC20 loop pedal, and more recently I’ve been incorporating a Magic Echo Gem Theremin. I was using a kid’s drum machine to sample beats, then I started sampling my own beats, voice, and other vocal samples – I especially love samples of women ululating. In the last few months I’ve been way into drum corps beats. I’ll take a section from a live performance, then cut it up digitally, rearrange parts or reverse them and sample it.
Yuchen – What is your concept of your music?
Thermos – When I made my first EP, Guarantee Damage Muscle Sack, I wanted people to have a feeling of their senses being consumed, of forward motion, kind of how you feel when you are on a plane taking off, a feeling of momentum and ferociousness. And percussion is always my starting point.
Yuchen – Who or what are the major influences on your music? Why?
Thermos – Before I started playing in bands, I loved bands with off kilter noise and vox, like Pere Ubu, Unwound, Dead C., Sonic Youth, and later on bands like Boredoms, Arab on Radar, Erase Errata, Ooioo, Black Dice, too many to name. I grew up in Louisville and was really influenced by bands like Rodan, experimental electronic music in the 90s like Autechre and Aphex Twin. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to sound exactly like that, but there was a feeling of essential wildness and pure energy in that music.
Yuchen – Whom have you worked with so far? Any releases, or future releases?
Thermos – Before Snaykhunt I was drumming for SQuamous Os and Glass Lamborghini, and now I have two ongoing collaborations. The first with Lazurite (Megan Moncrief) called K0Ks, and a new one with Camilla Ha (Magic is Kuntmaster, Vinka Varna) called NUD. I have a Snaykhunt EP coming out in the fall called Ghost in the Jeans. And my partner Champagne Sequins is also working with me to create beat sensitive LED light pieces for shows.
Yuchen – You formed the LOXM (Ladies of Experimental Music NYC) group on Facebook, could you talk about what motivated you to do that? What has this accomplished and can you talk about any recent or future LOXM projects?
Thermos – I was looking for other women to start a new project with about a year and a half ago. At the time I’d been playing with the same people for several years and had become pretty insular, so I put it out there online and had zero response from women, despite lots of ads, forums I posted on, which shocked me. Before LOXM I thought it wasn’t really necessary to spotlight female artists anymore, I was naïve to how marginalized female artists in many spheres still are. I started LOXM NYC as a Facebook group, thinking it would be kind of a message board or forum. I unknowingly hit a nerve, it started growing really fast and I was getting messages from tons of strangers, some of them established artists, saying how they were so glad someone did this because they felt they were still dealing with a lot of sexism from promoters, venues, magazines, and festivals. So from there I began to put together LOXM shows, and started a monthly series.
Yuchen – What music have you been enjoying recently?
Thermos – I love bounce. Katey Red and Big Freedia are on heavy rotation. Googoosh and Penelope Edmund too, and we’re big fans of Omar Souleyman at our house. Those beats make you feel like you’re heart is going to explode.