Ironfiner Ho is a friend of mine. She plays the guitar in a Chinese underground death/thrash band 毒蛊 (DUGU, translated as “poison”). I really appreciate her music skill and attitude. Here is the talk with her.
The first question. How did you come across extreme metal, especially those high-speed, old school thrash and death metal?
It can be traced back to when I was 14. I was influenced by my guitar teacher and started to listen to Violator, Sepultura, Razor etc. Brutal thrash is my favourite genre so far. Then influenced by my bandmates, I tried some death metal which is quite good to me.
When did you start playing guitar then become a thrash/ death-thrash musician? Have you been inspired by some certain bands/ musicians/ artists, especially those led by women? And, why do you call yourself Ironfinger Ho？ Any concepts within this name? haha
I played in a crossover band when I was in college. It was the moment when I started to practice my skill seriously. Then I joined DUGU.
For those female-lead bands, Vixen can be considered as my enlightenment. Nervosa and Yellow Machinegun are also my favourites. 何铁手 “Iron Finger Ho” is the name of the Five Poisons Cult’s leader who is from Jin Yong’s novel Sword Stained with Royal Blood. She is good at envenoming. I am gravitated by her toughness, so personally, I think this name is quite matched with DUGU I’ve joined.
How did you join in DUGU? Do you have any other project except for DUGU?
I am the girlfriend of SpeedScumDog (drummer of DUGU). So guitarist TormentoRx found me to join. DUGU has some gig plans so far and we gonna attack Yinchuan in this October! If everything goes well, we could have a chance to play in Japan next year. Also, our new LP which recorded with actual drumkit will come out earlier next year. Stay tuned!
I really appreciate your music skill! Could you tell me how did the song be created in your current project(s)? Did you write any parts of them?
So far in the songs we have, the instrument parts are composed by guitarist TormentoRx and drummer SpeedScumDog. I haven’t taken part in it yet, but I do give some ideas and suggestions. I have some new ideas for writing music, which are currently in practice.
A stupid but funny question: Have you got a certain persona/ image/ identity when you are performing (for example, beast, spicy girl, witch etc.)? Also, it seems that you pretty like Chun-Li, why?
I don’t have any personas on stage. I just play in the way I love to. You mentioned Chun Li. Because she is an awesome fighter of Street Fighter, the strongest fictional Chinese female character. I do admire every woman with a powerful aura. She is excellent, outstanding and skillful in a specific area. She is tough, gritty but has no loss of female charisma. Chun Li is such a woman with truly powerful female beauty. So I want to become such person as well – a woman who radiates feminine charm but without losing power and self.
It cannot be denied that extreme metal is the genre dominated by men, which can be seen from the significant quantitative gap between male and female musicians. As an experienced female musician in the scene, what is the biggest difficulty for you so far? How do you deal with that?
I have to admit that male musicians have stronger strength in extreme metal expression. Therefore, the biggest difficulty for me is strength expression. Whether the strength of my wrist while playing the guitar or the physical power while performing, they are relatively weak. However, I have been doing some physical training recently. Hope it helps. This is just my weakness and cannot represent all women. Other than that, I don’t think there should be any differences between men and women!
I am pretty sure you are much into hardcore punk. Regard to handling gender issues, do you have ideas about the differences between underground hardcore punk scene and extreme metal?
I rarely participate in the discussion and social interaction within the scene, so I am not sure about the difference between the two. At least, by my side, everyone treats each other equally and my friends take more care of me. There are occasionally a few sceptical voices saying that why DUGU has a female guitarist? For this, I can only say that it is because of you, a sissy guy, is not good as me, haha.
Since the underground extreme metal is masculine in general, female musicians normally find themselves in these two positions: Utilizing the feminine traits to stand out from the ocean (but this should base on the excellent music talent, rather than tokenism), or abandoning the feminine traits to pretend to be a boy. For your representation in band photos and on stage, which one, do you think is your positioning? Or neither? Why?
I would consider myself in the neutral point. There is no need to identify the personal styles of female musicians. Personality and the dressing way vary from one to one. If I have to choose, I would love to express my femininity. What is the point to hide it? I love my gender and my body. If anyone loses his/her self only because of other’s judgement, that was pathetic.
Except for those polarized options mentioned above, for female musicians, what do you think the future possibilities are?
There come more and more excellent bands in China such as Ancestor and Explosicum, which brings more women in the creative activities of extreme metal. With the improvement of music skills and aesthetic, in general, there are infinite possibilities in the future. I am looking forward to the emergence of all-female thrash band and I hope to collaborate with other female musicians to play brutal thrash with brutal style!
Thank you for being interviewed! Finally, do you have any words for readers?
I wish everyone could treat every extreme metalhead with more tolerance, and don’t put too much limitation or constraint on one’s gender. As long as extreme metal sounds right on the way, the only thing you need to do is just to be cool! Also, I look forward to knowing more female musicians and learning from each other!
Listen to DUGU: