The Used promise a hit-filled set in Hong Kong
American alt-rockers bring their loud and rebellious sound to city for first time, and say they'll give a 'perfect first taste' of their 14-year musical output
It's 2012 in Santiago, Chile. With five hours before the doors open at Club Chocolate, a popular venue for live rock in the city, thousands of Chilean teenagers are swarming on the pavements. Advancing on the venue's perimeters in a parade of black, they scream over and over: "The Used! The Used! The Used!" as the evening settles in.
It's a moment The Used's bassist, Jeph Howard, has never forgotten. "We had to open the venue early so the kids could come inside," he recalls. "And when we started playing, they were pouring down from the rafters, down levels, like a flood of people. It was the loudest show we've ever played, by far."
Howard's statement should not be treated lightly — after all, The Used are a veteran rock band with a reputation for amplifying decibels to almost-deafening levels.
WATCH The Used perform Cry, from their album Imaginary Enemy
They formed in a small town, Orem, in the US state of Utah, in 2001, with lead singer Bert McCracken, guitarist Quinn Allman, bassist Howard and drummer Branden Steineckert. (In 2006, Steineckert was replaced by Dan Whitesides.) Now, with 14 years of recording and performing behind them, the four-piece outfit are still raising roofs and firing up mosh pits from Chile to Germany and, if not for Canadian immigration's scrutiny of McCracken's minor criminal record, Canada too. On August 10, they add Hong Kong to the list.
This image of hellraising musicians helps more than hinders the agenda of the band, who are tunnelling towards a jaded, political angle. In 2001 it was all about visceral angst, but their last album, released in 2014, is titled Imaginary Enemy and hints at perhaps a maturation, featuring tracks such as A Song to Stifle Imperial Progression (A Work in Progress) and Force Without Violence. The album artwork is a collage of political, religious and pop figures, their eyes blocked out by red bars. Album opener Revolution plays up to its name: "So from now on I pledge allegiance/To a world that's so much different/Where no one suffers, everyone is free/Revolution starts with me."
This sentiment is not merely a musical gimmick (a tactic tried by many a rock band before them), but a cynical acknowledgement that is shared by all members of the band. "Everywhere, there's just like, too much corporate greed," says Howard. "Money should have nothing to do with anything; it just creates evil and corporations. Take Spotify and iTunes, for example. Their services are great, but then I read that the most-played artists only get a tiny amount of royalties even though Spotify probably made a billion dollars. It's just money going to the wrong places. I personally hate money and I wish it did not exist."
WATCH The Used perform Revolution
With Imaginary Enemies, even the recording process went staunchly against the grain. After writing all of the songs, the band members erased everything and just laid down guitar lines, recording the vocals on top. It's a move that's indicative not only of The Used sticking two fingers up to the man, and to global institutions, but also one that reflects their vision of evolution, and change.
"It's weird to think that when you're writing a song you'll be playing that song forever, you know?" says Howard. "We still play songs from our first record and that was in 2002, but every time we play it's like we're playing it for the first time. Sometimes we splice it up, add different parts. Change is good."
Crunching over a decade of material (six albums and two EPs) into one set is "pretty complicated as we have so many records and we want to plug in as much as possible", says Howard, adding that they worked hard in crafting a set piece just for Hong Kong. "Since it's our first time in Hong Kong, we want to set up the perfect first taste."
Hong Kong is the last stop of their Asian tour, which has included gigs in Japan, Thailand and Taiwan. Though they're old hands at the touring game, they were every bit as excited at these shows as their Asian fans.
The Used, August 10, 8pm, Kitec, 1 Trademart Drive, Kowloon Bay, HK$550 (advance), HK$650 (door). Inquiries: 9088 8950