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Interview with Meg Lee Chin
By Holly Day
(more articles from this author)
2001-08-01
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Standing 5'2" and sporting a pair of pink pigtails, Meg Lee Chin doesn't look dangerous. But put on a copy of her solo debut, Piece and Love (Invisible), and you might think twice before pissing her off. From the first angry seconds of the opening track to the final chords that grind the album to a halt, Meg screams and snarls her way through songs about the end of the world, the end of love, and an updated version of Alan Ginsberg's Howl. Recorded and produced in Megís own living room on a PC she built herself, Meg Lee Chin is practically the definition of DIY.

[Holly Day] I know you moved around a lot, both growing up and as an adultówhat effect do you think living the nomadic life has had on you and you work?

Meg Lee Chin Itís more a matter of the opposition of cultures. When I was younger, it was very difficult, because I was always the outsider looking to fit in. Thereís some saying ,I think it might be from the Bible or something, "This crown of thorns is my crown of jewels," meaning sometimes the bad things in life that happen to you are actually good. I think itís helped me be very objective, and I can stand outside of cultures and I thinkóand I hope I donít seem too arrogant saying thisóI think I can see things about cultures that the people inside donít notice, simply because Iíve always been in the middle of various conflicting cultures, and Iíve never taken sides.

It was always very difficult for me for me when I was a kid. When I was 7 years old and living in Taiwan, I saw little kids my age dying of starvation, literally in the streets, begging my parents to bring them homeóbut there were so many of them, we couldnít. I used to beg my mother, "Canít we take them home?" and sheíd say, "Yes, we can bring this one home, and then tomorrow thereíll be two more at the door, and the next day, thereíll be four, and then eight, and then the next thing you know, youíll have to take care of the whole village." That was really, really hard for me to deal with. And then moving to the United States, and people not understanding certain things about the world, that things like the place Iíd just left really existed. Anyway, when I moved to EnglandóEnglandís kind of like halfway in between, and I like that.

[Holly Day] Where did the idea for the Soapbox Beatbox tour come about?

Meg Lee Chin I like the idea of going around and communicating a little bit more through words than just music, and talking about our music to audiences rather than just getting up there and playing it. Weíre getting to meet people on a more personal level this way. Weíve been crashing on floors, crashing peopleís parties; weíre getting to meet people in the towns we perform in instead of just passing through. Sometimes, when youíre on tour with a band, every single town starts to look exactly the same, and having this type of tour, just me and Jared, is our way of not feeling like that. Especially when youíre traveling in a big tour bus, youíre also traveling with a big group of people, and when you go into a local coffeehouse with the band, people wonít talk to us because they think, "Oh, this is a bandótheyíll just treat us like weíre their fans." Itís different when you travel in a smaller group, or aloneóI like to kind of sneak about on my own, scout out new towns. Itís the best way to observe people, because if youíre not drawing attention to yourself, people wonít change the way theyíre acting just because you happen to be there.

[Holly Day] What kind of gear do you use when youíre recording?

Meg Lee Chin Itís a PC, and I built it myself. I didnít have the money to buy a Mac. I basically started this project about 5 years ago, and it was basically, like--okay, I donít want to give in to the whole slagging-off men-thing, but in the studio, I really do not get taken seriously, ever. And it doesnít matter how many thing Iíve done. I could get an award tomorrow saying Iím the greatest producer in the universe, and Iíll still walk into a studio and theyíll ignore me. Thatís all there is to it. So I figured the only way Iíd ever get any say in production would be to do it all myself. My dadís an electronic engineer, and I hung out with him when I was a kid, and I can pick up on technical things, no problem. You could carry on fighting over it, but itís just sort of likeóyou get to the point where you really just have to measure yourself against yourself. I like to compare most of these big studio heads to the Wizard of Oz, who used all this fire and technology to make himself look all powerful, and itís bullshit. Itís just a little guy behind a curtain, a little skinny, wimpy little guy, and all the trappings of success are just things heíd collected to keep himself from looking like a total idiot.

[Holly Day] What effect do you think the effect that anyone can record and release an album from home will have on the music industry?

Meg Lee Chin The thing is, itíll remove the politics from the music. The way the world is now, youíve got to be good with politics to be able to get your place, because most art now is done by teamsórecord companies are teams, youíve got to be a team player to make it in the music industry. Well, Iím really against being team player because teams are the things that fuckingóteams get together to kill each other. Thatís what teams do. Thatís what good team players do. Iím not a good team player. Iím just a troublemaker.

[Holly Day] What do you think is the worst thing about the world today?

Meg Lee Chin The cult of celebrity. I really do think so. Itís a funny business that Iím in, and Iím kind of in it as a bit of an imposter, because I think that itís shit. I thinkóespecially in Americaóthis whole thing where people are famous for being famous now. People arenít even trying to be famous for having done a brilliant work of art, or music, or whateverósome people just want to be famous, and they donít care how they get that way. They go on Jerry Springer and make a fucking fool of themselves, just because they want to be famous. All this emphasis on celebrityóI just donít get it.


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