Interview: King Ly Chee- Hong Kong’s Hardcore Heavyweights

Screenshot from 2016-07-05 16:52:44
The intersection of the hardcore music scene and the scene in Hong Kong is one that is ever-changing and ever-challenging to stay active and relevant within.  Hong Kong-based King Ly Chee, however, is doing just that, plus beginning an international tour this month with U.S. based band, Sick of It All, for their 30 year anniversary tour. We talked to Riz Farooqi of King Ly Chee about making a name for themselves in the hardcore scene, staying relevant in the ever-changing music scene of Hong Kong, and what it’s like to grow for 20 years with your band.
How would you personally describe King Ly Chee’s sound and general vibe?
King Ly Chee is hardcore band from Hong Kong steeped in the hardcore-punk rock ethos of music with a message. Since we’re so far removed from a lot of hardcore scenes, our music tends to be mix of straight up fast in your face hardcore, to more melodic punk rock. We wear our influences pretty proudly on our sleeves and that can be from bands like Sick of it All/CIV to Rancid or Slayer.
How did King Ly Chee start as a project?
In 1999 I moved back to Hong Kong after graduating from University of Massachusetts (Amherst) and trying to start life in NYC where I lived from May ’98 to about Jan ’99. I came back to Hong Kong and wanted to take all that I learned and experienced and embraced from the American punk rock world to Hong Kong and that’s how King Ly Chee got started. At the same time I also started a bilingual zine called Start From Scratch with the idea of being able to present a deeper understanding of punk rock and hardcore in Hong Kong then just the music.
What story/stories do you want your music to tell to listeners?
That’s a great question. I think all we want people to feel is what we felt growing up listening to bands who saved our lives…I can’t EVER imagine that we could have that similar impact on others, but our goal is to always provide thought-provoking lyrics with interesting music that is true to who we are as a band. We have luckily in the 17 years that we’ve been around heard some great stories from people who have been touched by our lyrics and that’s an amazing feeling.
What is the best part about being a member of your band?
Well…I started the band when I was 22 and I’ll be 40 this year…for me the best part of this band is that it basically watched me grow up from a fresh university graduate with nothing but a lot of anger and crazy passion, to a grown ass man who is now a husband and father. The fact that we are about to play shows in USA opening for our heroes and the reason we got into hardcore – Sick of it All – as they celebrate their 30 year anniversary is INSANE.
What is one of your favorite albums so far that you’ve released and why?
Our last album CNHC was one of my favorites because the recording is pretty close to what I’ve always imagined our band could one day song – less of a metal tinge and more of a hardcore punk rock vibe. It still isn’t perfect and so we’re getting closer and closer to being able to sound the way we should sound on a recording. Which just gets me stoked on our NEXT record.
What is your favorite part about playing shows/being on tour?
Friendship…going to different places and establishing relationships with local people who we will then see again repeatedly when/if we go back. I am lucky to say I have good friends that I’ve met through the band in almost all of East Asia’s major cities…
What do you want everyone to know about King Ly Chee?
That we have consistently fought a very uphill battle in Hong Kong. This is a very commercial and trend-conscious city and so if you don’t play by the rules of the city, you get tossed aside regardless if you are actually good at your art or not. Of course the quality of art doesn’t matter in Hong Kong or else idiots like Twins would never have EVER become as popular as they were here! (Look them up and prepare to vomit). This city certainly runs on who you know and playing the game.
Tell me a little bit about the members of King Ly Chee.
My name is Riz and I am a Pakistani Muslim who has lived in HK my whole life and speak Cantonese, Mandarin, English and Urdu – I’m also a first grade teacher by profession. Ho Chan works in finance and is about to become a dad! WOOHOO! Joe Wu used to live in Canada (Toronto) before coming back to HK in 2003 – he is a tattoo artist now up in Guangzhou. Ivan Wing has a frickin’ 15 year age gap between him and myself – he’s 26 and is a full time drum instructor. Brian Wong works for a company in Hong Kong that handles ocean pollution and waste – he has also recorded/engineered all of King Ly Chee’s recorded music since 2007.
Be sure to check out King Ly Chee’s music here and catch them on tour.