The Chinese extreme metal scene remains, in the middle of 2021, a great unknown for a large part of the western public. Among the few bands that manage to cross the tight borders of their country, BLISS-ILLUSION stand out for their excellent fusion of classic atmospheric black with Chinese instrumentation, all wrapped in a Buddhist-themed lyrics and concept. Dryad, main singer of the ensemble, answers some questions about that band and, specially, about TASSI, his one-man project that has released its very first album this year.
Subterráneo Webzine: Hi Dryad! I’m Francesc, from Subterráneo Webzine. I recently enjoyed reviewing your freshly released album, Northland I & II, from your solo project TASSI. First of all, congratulations on the release and the excellent job done. I already knew your work as the frontman of BLISS-ILLUSION, and I think that one of the main accomplishments you can be proud of is to have created a wholly new sound and concept with TASSI. How did this new project come into life?
Dryad: Hello! I’m glad to accept your interview, thank you. Northland I & II was created in the spring of 2020, and the inspiration comes from the BLISS-ILLUSION single “Leave abhassara Deva”. Only Uni [Tassi’s lover and Deva’s incarnation in the mythology of the album] will know about my weird inspiration (laughs).
Subterráneo Webzine: One of the main things that struck me when listening to Northland I & II was that you moved apart from the Chinese and Buddhist musical influences that can often be found in BLISS-ILLUSION. Is this separation intentional? Which are the main influences that had an impact on TASSI? I’m curious also about extra-musical influences that may have had a certain significance on your work, as Northland I·II is undoubtedly a gorgeous album filled with poetry.
Dryad: Yes, I wanted to make this album sound romantic and divine, including hope, because everyone hasn’t had a good time in the past two years. Although the world outlook of this album is still dominated by Buddhism, its theme and story have nothing to do with Buddhism. It has to be said that some works of Borges and Márquez have affected these two albums. Of course, suspense films and some magic games have also affected these two albums (laughs).
Subterráneo Webzine: From what I’ve read, I understand that Northland I & II deals with the journey of a poet through time and space to find his lover. All the lyrics, however, are written in a fictional language. How did you come up with that idea?
Dryad: I am particularly sensitive to unknown languages. The inspiration of my own language on the album comes from Latin and Sanskrit. These self-created languages come from the world of my previous life, and I firmly believe them. And I also know what world my previous life was in.
Subterráneo Webzine: Just as a curiosity: when I listened to Northland I & II, I noticed that in some songs you include samples from what I assume are movies. Can you tell us something about these samples?
Dryad: I like watching some suspense and magic realism movies very much. I like the lines and the plot. My favorite movies are: Seven Pounds (Gabriele Muccino, 2008), The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde Inseglet, Ingmar Bergman, 1957), The Brand New Testament (Le tout nouveau testament, Jaco Van Dormael, 2015), Happy as Lazzaro (Lazzaro felice, Alice Rohrwacher, 2018), Mr. Nobody (Jaco Van Dormael, 2009), The Green Mile (Frank Darabont, 1999), The Voice of the Moon (La voce della luna, Federico Fellini, 1990), Solaris (Solyaris, Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972), I Origins (Mike Cahill, 2014), among others.
Subterráneo Webzine: Moving onto a more personal level, and speaking myself also as an amateur musician, what drove you to become a musician, and what kind of music do you often listen to? Can you give us any recommendations?
Dryad: I like painting since childhood. Although my mother is a Chinese teacher, she draws very well! In fact, when I was very young, I always wanted to be a painter, but I like singing very much. I am really contradictory (laughs). Although my family conditions are not very good, these two dreams have finally come true, so I am really grateful. When I was 17 years old in 2005, when I first heard the black metal band SUMMONING, I told myself that I was really lucky; that also happened when I first heard SIGUR RÓS. Of course, I have to say that there are many great bands and musicians affecting me, including: SIGUR RÓS, Jónsi (SIGUR RÓS lead singer), LIFELOVER, SILENCER, GORGOROTH, BETHLEHEM, NOCTURNAL DEPRESSION, CULT OF FIRE, SUN DEVOURED EARTH, ANADOPIN (China), HYPOMANIE, COLDWORLD, COLD BODY RADIATION, SOPOR AETERNUS and RADIOHEAD.
Subterráneo Webzine: From what I’ve read in other media, I assume that creating and distributing music in China can be difficult to some extent. What can you tell us about the challenges that you face as a musician in your country/region? How do you manage to make your music available to other countries?
Dryad: My agent and good friend William took care of the overseas issue for me. He did a great job! Including BLISS-ILLUSION’s album release, he also helped take care of it. In short, he really helped us a lot. I love him very much (laughs).
Subterráneo Webzine: Following the previous question, I’m sure that many of our readers would like to know more about the Chinese musical scene, especially in what concerns to metal and punk music. Can you give us some insight about that topic?
Dryad: I never listen to domestic metal music and punk, so I can’t provide you with more meaningful information. I’m sorry…
Subterráneo Webzine: Returning to your projects, what can we expect in the future, both from TASSI and from BLISS-ILLUSION? Do you have any plans yet for the future of both bands? By the way, great job with your latest single Mukti. It sounds awesome, and I think that represents a great step forward for the band. I personally loved the extended length of the track, which allows the music to unfold itself more serenely and majestically.
Dryad: At present, I am busy recording my third album (Northland III) and preparing some performances of BLISS-ILLUSION. We will participate in a shoegaze themed performance in Beijing in November. You know, I really want to perform with some shoegaze, indie rock, or post rock bands. BLISS-ILLUSION has two sets of song line-ups: one set of song catalogue is prepared for metal music scene, and the other set of song catalogue is prepared for rock music. Thank you very much for liking the song “Mukti”.
Subterráneo Webzine: That would be all. Thanks a lot for giving us the opportunity to do this interview, I hope we will be having news from TASSI and BLISS-ILLUSION soon. Are there any final thoughts you would like to share with us?
Dryad: I’m really happy to accept your interview. I hope all of you can take care of yourself and everything will be all right. May our troubles and worries come to naught! Thank you, my friend.