Sun, Jul 15, 2001 - Page 17 News List

A star born anew

Lin Chung went from pop stardom at the end of the 1980s to being the mainstream's black sheep. Now he's back with a soon-to-be-released electronica album, but this time around, fame is the least of his ambitions

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

It takes strength and resolution to destroy oneself and begin again from scratch. But Lin Chung (林強) has done just that. Once a teen idol rock singer and spokesperson for new Taiwanese music in the late 1980s, Lin has refashioned himself as DJ Lin Chung, or simply as the electronic musician Lin Chung.

"I used to write songs with my guitar. Now I use this," Lin said, pointing to a digital synthesizer and sequencer in his Shinlin studio.

"The future of music is less about song, less about melody. The feeling, the atmosphere will be more important. Sometimes people just need a wave of sound," Lin said.

Now 38 but still baby-faced, Lin lives in his small studio, as he prepares to release his new album, the first Taiwanese-language electronic music album.

Right beginnings

Ten years ago Lin was a household name, with his music videos seeing constant rotation on TV and his 1989 song Marching Forward (向前走) breaking barriers as the first Taiwanese-language pop song.

In the video Lin sings "Ohh' Go ahead!/Oh' I fear nothing/in such a big city like Taipei/I'm gonna make something to return home with pride" while moving to its disco beat along with his corps of dancers.

Singing rock 'n' roll in Taiwanese without any trace of self-consciousness was rare at a time when the only Taiwanese-language pop songs one heard were by Nakashi-influenced crooners singing pained love songs. Lin's rock was refreshing and exciting both for the pop music scene and for society as a whole, which had just been freed from martial law, during which the Taiwanese language was marginalized. Marching Forward was practically a theme song for the political movements occurring at the time.

Politicians, hoping to boost their street credibility during the nascent so-called political "localization" drive, appropriated the song as an embodiment of the Taiwanese spirit. Lin Chung then went from being a pop star to a symbol for an entire social transformation.

"Three years ago, some KMT politician even offered me NT$400,000 to sing Marching Forward for an election campaign rally," Lin said. He rejected the offer, refusing to be drawn back to that part of his past.

After the success of Marching Forward, Lin released a hot-selling album titled Spring Young Fellow (春風少年兄) in 1991 and completed the soundtrack to Dust of Angels (少年也安啦) in 1992 with then up-and-coming musician Wu Bai (伍佰).

It was about this time that fame began to wear on Lin and he began searching for an exit from the media's incessant gaze. Then he became close friends with the acclaimed Taiwanese film director Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢).

"Director Hou by chance went to see Lin at a recording studio. And he was truly impressed by Lin's strength and devotion to singing. He thinks Lin has a quality of typical Taiwanese men -- truly sincere and focused on what they like to do. And that was the kind of person Hou was looking for to play the protagonist in the movie Puppet Master (戲夢人生), the story of Lee Tien-lu (李天祿)," said Angelika Wang (王耿瑜), the deputy secretary general of the Golden Horse Film Festival who worked with Lin and Hou on Dust of Angels and a number of later projects.

"Director Hou had a great deal of influence on Lin Chung, good and bad. The bad part was Lin later walked away from the mainstream pop music scene and his idol image to become the media's favorite bad boy. The good was that Lin became quieter, like director Hou, who tries to focus on his own art," said Jessie Huang (黃修) a close friend of Lin and Hou's.

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