Saigon Metalhood (2020) - full transcript

Saigon Metalhood follows three generations of Vietnamese metalheads through the turbulent origins of heavy metal in Vietnam to the current struggles of today's scene. Grizzled Saigonese rock legend Trung Thanh Sago got his start as a teen shredding for US soldiers in the old South Vietnam, and represents the "past". He tells his life story, walking us through the origins of rock and metal in Vietnam, and the significant obstacles himself and the scene have faced. Now in the later stages of his life, he speaks about losing his friends to emigration and death, ongoing health problems, and the scene today. Characterising the "present" is former vanguard of Vietnamese extreme music, the luminary Trung Loki, recently back on the scene after a habitual absence. Initially cautious and brooding, he puffs on cigarettes while opening up about lost love, methamphetamine addiction, harrowing rehab experiences and the derailment of the scene he was so instrumental in both building and destroying. Now in his thirties and ostracized by many of his old friends, he travels 500km to his hometown to stage a sequel for a legendary gig that happened over a decade before. The "future" is told through the upstart agency Legacy CO, formed by a young group of friends with the lofty goal of making the Vietnamese metal scene internationally relevant. The boys attempt to make it financially viable to be a metal musician, pushing against an indifferent and sometimes hostile society while balancing their university coursework. They battle against flaky promoters, power cuts and missing instruments in their struggle to promote the genre they love.

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[guitar feedback, cheering]

["The Final Countdown" guitar riff]

[cheering]

[wrong notes]

Tonight is the 20th anniversary of
Sagometal,

a Vietnamese band fronted by the veteran
Trung Thanh Sago.

Twenty years makes Sagometal the oldest
band in town,

but despite the anniversary, this show
is being played in a tiny coffee shop,

in front of just a few dozen fans.

[piercing feedback noise]

[moody piano riff]



[heavy metal riff]

Metal music never caught in Vietnam the
same way it did

in nearby countries like Thailand or
Indonesia.

[growled vocals]

The country's violent past should suit
the anger of metal perfectly,

but most locals haven't even heard of
the genre.

The question is, why not?

When we asked around, without fail,

we were told to go speak with Trung
Thanh Sago.

[screamed vocals]

[distant traffic]

We met Trung Thanh at his home,

which could easily be mistaken for a
local restaurant,

except for the electric guitar coming
from upstairs.



[electric guitar riff]

[guitar solo]

[playing Metallica - Enter Sandman]

[fuzzy guitar riff]

[classic rock style song]

[Star-Spangled Banner riff]

[guitar solo]

[karaoke style music]

[fast-paced rock music]

[guitar solo]

[cheering]

[hard rock guitar solo]

[singing in Vietnamese]

[hard rock guitar solo]

[hard rock music]

[The Sound of Silence riff]

[Sagometal - Giac Mo Tuyet Voi]

[pensive Vietnamese rock music]

[climactic growled Vietnamese vocals]

[heavy metal riff]

Trung Thanh had the cards stacked
against him.

Rock music was prohibited for years,

his old bandmates fled or died,

but bad hands and a shoddy venue still
couldn't stop him

from putting on a damn good show.

[heavy metal music]

Vietnamese heavy metal started with
Sago's generation,

but as they grew older, they must have
passed the torch to someone.

Who was brave enough to march against
the tide of society?

(Alright, good to continue when you
are.)

(You ready?)

[intense grindcore music]

As it turns out, there was a time not
too long before

when extreme metal made real headway in
Vietnam.

And this man played a big part.

Trung Loki: CEO of Bloody Chunks
Records,

and founding member of three grindcore
bands that toured Southeast Asia,

an unprecedented level of success for
the scene.

[grindcore music]

[brutal metal music]

(Do people ever judge you or think badly
of you)

(because you listen to this type of
music?)

[growled vocals]

(We were talking to other metal
musicians and they told us about)

(a time in the past when the government
just banned metal completely.)

[sinister laughter]

[brutal death metal]

[brutal death metal]

[brutal metal riff]

(A long time ago...)

[traffic]

A proper local scene had begun to form
around Loki's bands,

and extreme metal was closer than ever
to the Vietnamese mainstream.

Another man who saw it all was Wừu
bassist Siêu Dê Cụ.

He told us about his time in Wừu, and
how it all started.

[intense grindcore music]

[brutal metal, rapping]

[heavy grindcore music]

[heavy grindcore music]

[heavy grindcore music]

As well as Wừu did, they weren't
around anymore.

On our next trip to meet Trung, we came

with a case of Saigon beer, ready to
dive deep,

and learn the rest of the story.

(My one weakness!)

(Here's to that.)

[Vietnamese banter]

[brutal metal riff]

[unintelligible growling]

[brutal death metal riff]

[intense grindcore music]

[traffic]

(He's talked about his problems with
going to rehab...)

(...was that the reason why he
disappeared, yeah?)

[traffic]

(The scene in Saigon, do you feel close
to it?)

(Or do you feel far away from the... the
scene?)

[brutal metal riff]

First impressions of Pleiku?

Yeah... I mean... it looks like a
Vietnamese town, like.

It does. It does look like a Vietnamese
town.

I'd... say that's an accurate
assessment.

Pleiku is a sleepy highlands town,

and the home of Trung Loki and Bok
Wừu.

Twelve years earlier, metalheads had
brought a concert here,

and now Loki made a comeback for the
sequel: Pleiku Metalhood II.

[intense grindcore music]

[intense grindcore music]

[drunken chatter]

[heavy metal music]

[unintelligible Vietnamese]

[brutal metal music]

Are you ready?

[brutal metal music]

Thank you and goodbye!

(Ahh... that was quality.)

(Yeah, was it a good show?)

Yeah we're, we're making a film about
the...

...about, about heavy metal.

So, how was the show!?

How was the show boys, was it good?

[chatter]

[traffic noise]

[restaurant chatter]

[birds chirping]

Loki's generation never realized its
full potential,

and the metalheads of Vietnam were
isolated from the international scene

again.

Mainstream Vietnam continued to happily
ignore their music

in favor of EDM and K-pop.

But, as Trung told us:

You can never kill metal. Metal never
dies.

We found Legacy, an agency of young
musicians

hellbent on taking the scene to new
heights.

Oh shit...

Uh, so...

(Ah, let's have a look here...)

[unintelligible Vietnamese]

(Do you ever practice with the guitar
man, or just play bass?)

(Does anyone need another beer?)

(Only just started mine.)

(Got a nice stack of cigarettes here.)

(What's your job at Legacy?)

(You boys, do you mosh?)

(Any stage diving?)

(Three times? Not bad!)

[heavy metal music]

[traffic noise]

[brutal death metal riff]

The agency's next bold move came out:

on short notice, they were going to host
German band Defeated Sanity.

by far their biggest name to date.

A technical brutal death metal gig
sounds dark to start with,

but we weren't expecting the darkness to
be so... literal.

[chatter]

[guitar being tuned]

(So what happens if there’s no
electricity, will you play acoustic?)

(They said they would.)

[imitates heavy metal guitar]

(Have you had any updates from the power
people?)

(They told you five o’clock, and then
silence?)

I mean, if we get to sound check we’ll
be able to figure it out.

Does this have a tap tempo on it?

Okay, perfect.

[brutal death metal music]

Vietnam! We're Defeated Sanity!

[cheering]

You won't play shows like this anywhere
else.

You know, you go through some bullshit
on a daily basis,

and like, the playing conditions
sometimes...

The circumstances are harder,

but it's more rewarding once you play on
stage.

It's very different. The vibe is totally
different.

I feel more appreciated here because
we're, like,

coming from far away I guess, maybe
people have not expected

to see us, and they appreciate it more.

You know, in the United States and in
Europe, you know,

it's "a show," it's whatever. But you
guys made like a spectacle of it!

And we hope we can come back, we can
just spread the word

to any other band to come here, cause
it's fucking awesome.

We played in Vietnam, that's crazy!

[street sounds]

[brutal death metal]

(And you have a big band coming in May,
right?)

(Who's that?)

[laughter]

Whitechapel: highly successful American
deathcore band.

Four chart-topping albums.

Millions of followers.

And Legacy booked them to Saigon.

Just like that, they moved from small
local gigs,

to hosting what could be Vietnam's
biggest extreme metal show yet.

(This isn't gonna be out before then.)

(Nah don't worry, it's cool.)

Legacy went big for the Whitechapel
venue,

booking a location with a capacity of
over one thousand people.

Attendances for Saigon metal shows
rarely exceeded one or two hundred,

so Legacy were banking on Whitechapel
drawing a big crowd.

[crowd chattering]

[heavy metal music]

[intense heavy metal music]

[applause]

[heavy metal music reverberating]

[applause]

(Are you disappointed?)

[drunken banter]

After the disappointing Whitechapel
show,

Legacy didn't host any more
international bands,

and the agency called it quits.

Hysterical Buffalo have since disbanded.

Trung Loki planned to headline Pleiku
Metalhood III with his band ROT,

but he "disappeared" before the show,
forcing his band

to find a last-minute replacement.

As of this film's completion, his
whereabouts were unknown.

But...

...for all that chaos, tragedy and
struggle...

there's still one rocker out there in
Saigon, keeping the classics alive.

[playing The Final Countdown]

[tapped guitar riff]