Wang Lei, A Pioneer of Chinese Music.

Wang Lei at School Bar. The picture hangs on the wall of School bar’s second floor.

Today let’s talk about one of the legends of underground rock music in China, Wang Lei 王磊

While I was in Yunnan in February, I passed by Dali and met Wang Lei, a musician often mentioned as the “Cui Jian” of the south, but who was more importantly one of the pioneers of electronic music in China. We jammed together two nights in a row at one of the local bars and that’s when I decided I would actually write something about the guy.

I first encountered the music of Wang Lei in 2006 while I was back for the summer in Bordeaux and came across his electronic album “Xin”, this was the first time a Chinese electronic music album made it to stores in France, I was surprised to find that out, and I liked that album so much that I later sampled it as a DJ.

After meeting Wang Lei and jamming with him, happy about that encounter, I decided to listen to every one of his 9 albums since the 90’s and write something about it, so here we go !

Cui Jian 崔健 (left), Wang Lei 王磊 (right).

Before we start know you I did this review listening to the albums on Chinese website QQ Music, except for “Wangtone” which is not available in China but available on Spotify and Youtube. 
QQ music is only usable in China, if you are not in China it might work if you have a VPN that helps you use Chinese websites. Some of Wang Lei’s album are available on Spotify but most of them aren’t.

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Wang Lei emerged at the same time as artists such as Dou Wei 窦唯, Zhang Chu 张楚 and He Yong 何勇, but made music different than these other artists in the way that his sound is sometimes more rough. He has an artistic quality that I would sometimes compare to a sort of Chinese Syd Barrett or Chinese Tom Waits, especially with what was recorded in the 90’s, as we will see later. After completely embracing electronic music, Wang Lei will go on to create one of the most important albums in Chinese electronic music “Xin” 馨 If you don’t know the artists I just mentioned, please research them, they are at the basis of modern Chinese rock.

His first album, from 1994, “Chu Men Ren” 出门人 (Out of the door), is a rock album, sometimes taking inspiration from Pink Floyd, sometimes going into to pop, with a little bit of experimental music here and there. It has also moments of weird reggae and there even a bit of hip hop in there.

His second album “Ye” 夜 (meaning “Night”) starts with the song of the same name, a song that feels like a drunken melancholic lonely night in the heart of the Chinese 80’s. Though the song is characterized by its 80’s sound, one can’t escape the madness inhabiting Wang Lei’s voice and the experimental part of it that seems to be mandatory in these early albums and in his own personal style.

This album is very folky in parts and retains clearly an influence from western rock of the time and a dimension that is purely personal to Wang Lei. I would also recommend you to have a listen to songs such as “Zhu ren” 猪人 (Pig Man). In the song “Lang Lai Le” 狼来了 (The wolf has arrived” I can clearly hear sounds that will later influence bands such as “Mu Tui Gua” 木推瓜 (Wood Pushing Melon) and “ZIYUE” 子曰 (Confucius Says).

The next song is a dialogue between two rats in Guangzhou, I don’t know if you have been to Guangzhou, but the rats there are as big as cats, it’s pretty funny to hear such a weird conversation.

The Next album “Lai Hui” 来回 (Back and Forth) is even more experimental and seems to be driving deliberately the listener a step forward into madness and audio hallucinations.

The song “Hui” 回, a 20 minute track, is probably one of the first electronic song produced by Wang Lei and clearly plunges the listener in a unique experience that seems to never last.

The Next Album “Chun Tian Lai Le” 春天来了 (Spring has arrived) published in 1998, made of drum beats and voices, is a bit more into the vibe of the time. While the first tracks are easier to understand for the common listener the album also has its experimental moments with tracks such as “Bu Xiao De” 不晓得 (I’m not familiar with this), “Wenhua” 文化 (culture) or “Mei You Le” 没有了 (there isn’t anymore of it).

“Yi Qie Dou Cong Aiqing Kaishi” 一切都从爱情开始 (Everything starts from love) is a more acoustic album that keeps the experimental edge heard in former albums but takes the acoustic form to another dimension. The songs are often slow, and feel like a drone at times that digs into your brain to scratch your ears from the inside.

It feels in all like a reflection on nostalgia, lost, and a bit of anger and regrets here and there.

Wang Lei and Pump Band “王磊与泵乐队“.

This album relies more on drum samples and is one more step towards into electronic music, with heavy drums and distorted voices, songs such as “Hey Dog” 哎狗 or “Live” 现场 announce partly the sound of the future albums of wang Lei.

“Meili Cheng” 美丽城 (Belleville).

Composed after his first encounter with the electronic music scene in Paris, “Belleville”, also the name of the largest asian district in Paris, seems to be a departure from the other Wang Lei albums as it is the beginning of Wang Lei the electronic musician, and the beginning of an international career. A lot of the tracks of the album present sample of all kinds, including sample of voices of people talking, but also samples of Chinese instruments, cool beats, drums, and crazy sounds.

“Xin” 馨 (Strong and pervasive fragrance).

Maybe the best album has done so far, “Xin” mixes the experimental abilities of Wang Lei with the idea of the electronic sounds created on the album “Belleville”. It is a masterpiece and an underrated album in many ways. If you only listen to one of Wang Lei’s album, that’s the one.

 

In 2005 Wang Lei and the band High Tone released “Wang Tone”, a collaborative albums mixing the High Tone vibe and the Wang Lei vision.

A cool album, allowing a different kind of idea on music and maybe showing the way to something new and different in the field of music at the time.

This one is available on youtube.

But also on Bil Bili (Chinese internet).

A pretty cool live set, that shows the evolution of Wang Lei from the 80’s to now.

We hope to see very soon a new album of the artist who now lives in Dali.

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“Macondo” an album review/interview

The First Macondo album is out, and it’s called “Macondo”.

So here we are now and Macondo is about to release there album on the night of the 27 of January 2018 at Yue Space in Beijing and I got the pleasure to receive the album and listen to it before most people will.

So what is Macondo you ask me ?

Well Macondo is a band formed by 5 musicians living in Beijing and coming from countries as diverse as China, England, South Africa, and America.

It was Scott, the guitar player in the band who sent me the 5/6 tracks, then later while listening to the music it’s Matt, the drummer in the band who gave me some explanations about the album.

Here’s what he said:

“The album drums were recorded at Kun studios and everything else has been recorded and mixed either in Gerald’s or Scott’s bedroom – The process has been painstaking to try and convert drums recorded in a day into a professional sounding album and the band, especially Gerald, has really achieved that and learned a lot from it. The album itself consists of 6 songs of length ranging from 4 – 10 minutes and consists of the band’s earlier material – an evolution from a more conventional instrumental band sound to an increasingly electronic and progressive sound.”

We went on having a small conversation:

Matt: Gerald’s laptop where most of the magic happened. (Gerald is the keyboard player).

Matt: One of the speakers:

DS: cool pictures that’s nice.

Matt: His blind dog Lucy – his main companion throughout the mixing period.

DS: Blind ?

Matt: Yeah his dog is blind.

DS: Is there a concept behind the albums or the songs ?

Matt: It’s a journey – kind of interstellar but loose ended – we wanted a sci-fi feel – it’s difficult to give the album a quick narrative because there are no lyrics so we’ve kept it open ended.

DS: What’s the meaning of title of the first and last songs ?

Matt: The first song means “The Beginning” in Afrikaans.

DS: Yeah I thought it was a title in German.

Matt: The last track name is taken from a line given by Paul Atreides in the Dune film – we wanted an open ended message of resistance – pretty much against meaningless or general existential crisis.

DS: To me it feels almost like one very long track, it feels each track is responding to the one before.

Matt: Yes it was definitely important that each track responded to the next.

That was a big consideration during music and mixing to give it a journey feel.

DS: Yes it feels like a Journey, this album should be called “Journey”, not Macondo !

Matt: Haha Shit ! It’s too late now :-).

DS: Can you tell me the meaning of the title of each other track ?

Matt: 

Seek – searching for meaning

Nebula – a title reflecting the spacey / interstellar journey feel of the song.

City of mirrors – we thought it reflected the song in a cool way and referenced the novel.

New home – new beginnings.

Long live the fighters – Carrying on regardless of anything.

DS: What Novel ?

Matt: 100 years of solitude. the name Macondo came from a fictional town in that book.

DS: You mean “1000 thousand years of solitude” ?

Matt: Oh Christ yes, I always make that mistake.

DS: But what’s the link between the music and the city of Macondo ?

Matt: No profound link – our precious bassist Sebastian is Colombian and it was his idea. For me it gives a conveniently mysterious and open ended name to a post-rock band (no lyrics :D).

DS: Precious ?

Matt: Haha *previous – not precious.

Although, he is of course precious.

DS: There are a few bands called Macondo does it bother you ?

Matt: Doesn’t bother us

DS: Alright.


So what do I think about it ?

In order to really get into the music I listened to the album about ten times in the last few days and tried to concentrate on each track.

There’s a lot of Pink Floyd in there, I can’t deny it, especially from the Dark Side of the moon/The Wall period. I love Pink Floyd, it was always one of my favorite bands, so in this album I find a bit of this psychedelic and progressive rock I’ve always loved.

But there is something else, something from post rock bands like Mogwai and what adds to this music is the possibility to dance to it or dive into the feeling of positive melancholic nostalgia it gives you.

The electronic element in the music is there, but to me it doesn’t define it, it is just there to support the melodies and rhythms while the guitar still seems to be one of the most important element in the album and drives most melodies.

It’s a good album, it’s a journey, you can go to sleep or work while listening to it, or you can listen to it on the bus, in the subway, anywhere really, it accompanies you while you’re trying to escape from your daily life.

It also shows you don’t need too much production or money to make something sound good these days (see pictures at the beginning), you need dedication, passion, creativity, and a lot of work.

The last track is definitively my favorite one.

On a less positive note, I wish the album was called something else, I’d say it deserves an identity on its own, and I wish there was a story built around it, because it feels like a story is being told but you’re not sure which one.

In brief Macondo is band that deserves to be supported, so you should go to Yue Space on the 27 of January 2018 and enjoy the music while you close your eyes and dance to the rythm.

Article by Djang San.

 

 

 

Ko

N: So, Ko.

Ko: It’s so funny that you are interviewing me. It’s so weird.

N: You’ve been in Beijing for how long?

Ko: Like a year and five months.

N: What brought you here to Beijing and what were you doing while here?

Ko: Well, so I was living in Chicago before I got here and my friend who I was in this cult with back in 2005-2009, he opened up a performing arts school in Yizhuang and he wanted me to, kinda, oversee the performing arts so I came out here to help him. I was only gonna stay for about 6 months but I ended up staying longer.

N: Why did you stay longer?

Ko: I really liked Beijing and China is very interesting because it’s like a weird sitcom everyday. Weird stuff happens.

N: What were some of you favorite spots and interests in Beijing?

Ko: All the different people. Everyone acts very different here than they do in America so that in itself is super entertaining. And then obviously going out to shows in the Guloudajie area is always fun. The nightlife here is completely different that in the States.

N: Any favorite spots?

Ko: Obviously like Temple Bar has always been great. School Bar is really cool, and Modernista, DDC, and Yue Space.

N: Have you been playing shows the whole time you’ve been here?

Ko: When I first moved out here I was really excited to play shows. I did my Yes Mistress project two weeks from moving to Beijing. It’s my weirdo electronic project and I did that at Temple Bar. That was my first show here. I think it was a Wednesday night or something like that. The first show I saw was at School Bar, Round Eye, and some old punk rock band from the 80’s and a couple other local Chinese bands. It was all original music and it was such a high energy show. And then I saw Chui Wan, who I had never heard a sound like that.

N: And so what have you been doing since your Yes Mistress electronic project?

Ko: So I’ve been playing solo, as Ko, for months, doing loop pedal stuff. I have a Boss RC-30 and a couple of effect pedals for my vocals and stuff. It was hard for me to find people to play with as a band. It had never taken me that long to find people to play with as a band. Like, if I move to a new city I find people to play with in a couple weeks and in Beijing took me a year. Now I’m playing with you, Daniel from Boss Cuts and Frankie on drums, who’s mostly in the Wudaokou scene. It’s nice to have a full band and I feel really bad leaving as soon as we are starting to get things going, but, I gotta do what I gotta do.

N: You gotta do what you gotta do. Can you tell us some reasons why you are going back to the states?

Ko: I came from a very very lush music scene where you can go to 50 million music shows a night and there is a huge D.I.Y. scene. You can go see a band in a basement and then go see a band in a really amazing venue right after it. The scene for female artists is such a booming thing right now, and really inspiring. So I think it’s best for me to go and be a part of that and be part of the ever-growing music scene. I miss it a lot.

N: What were some bands and stuff you did over there?

Ko: I had two bands and was touring and played SXSW. I was doing a lot and my bands back home were really good at kicking my butt and getting me to do shows and I’m always glad after playing the shows. And another thing why I’m excited to move back was recording other artists. I have a couple 7-inch recordings on Joyful Noise Recordings and those were all done in my apartment, mixed and recorded by me.

N: Who have you recorded?

Ko: I discovered enjoying recording in Beijing so I recorded my friend, Jordan Darling. And I had the best time ever and realized this is what I wanna do, so I got a music residency back home so I’m going to be curating shows and also saving money to go to school for audio engineering. Honestly, there is not a lot of women out there, and if there are I never really see them out there, I always see males running sound and doing shows and recording. I think it would be really good to be aggressive in getting my foot in the door to be a female audio engineer. Who cares if I have a vagina? I am good at what I do and passionate. That’s all anyone needs anyway.

N: So you are planning to ultimately go back to school?

Ko: Yeah, go back to school, but might be a thing where I do an internship in a studio and might fall into a job that way. But I really don’t know other than the residency, everything is up in the air. But that’s the fun in it, trying to find what I’m gonna do next. I’m not really scared anymore, now I’m just excited to see the next step.

N: So do you have a last show before you leave?

Ko: Yeah, the last show is January 20th with a full band playing at Yue Space (Beijing Underground’s Sweet Winter Music Days and Loreli has a market before and we are the first band, starting at 8pm. It’s early for most people, but it’s a Saturday so I think people will come early. My last show in Beijing.

Check out
Joyful Noise : https://www.joyfulnoiserecordings.com/Ko
White Moms : https://whitemoms.bandcamp.com/

Beijing Underground : https://www.facebook.com/groups/beijingunderground/
Loreli : https://www.facebook.com/Lorelichina/

 

Russian Roulette, punk from Beijing.

Hello Russian Roulette, can you introduce your band  ?

Hello we are Russian Roulette from Beijing

Can you describe your music style  ?

Our music is a mix of old school punk music and new school punk music. At the beginning we played old school punk music and some hardcore, but our vocalist has a bad throat and no singing techniques for screaming. Time passed and we changed our music style to an easier type.

Where did you get your band name from  ? What is the idea behind it  ?

I got our band name from a TV series names “Huo Lan Dao Feng” which is a story about the army. In the TV series they play a game of Russian roulette. It’s a killing game. In your round you need to use the revolver with just one weapon shooting on to your head. If you don’t die, you are the one winner and survivor. Our performance style is kind of suicidal so I think the name is very suitable for our gambling time. And I have been stoned on the stage many times:)

What are you trying to express with your music ?

Our music’s goal is about trying to tell about our contemporary life. We are students mostly who are in a gap between being mature and immature, suffering the pain of love and stress of life. We use our music to display our life and show our positive attitudes toward it. Sometimes we are defined as ‘fake punk’, nevertheless my point of view to define a punk is ‘do what you like and like what you do.’

What do you think of the Chinese music scene, what are your favorite Chinese bands/Foreign bands/artists ?

Chinese music scene is sometimes bad but I think it is rising now. Many key words such as ‘healthy punk’, ‘punk suddenly’ start to appear in our life on the internet and our life.

However just like overseas punk music is a minor aspect in the field. But an admirable thing is that more and more teens start to go to live houses to enjoy a show. Especially because of a big tv show, hip hop music becomes mainstream above all kind of business music. My favorite bands are Greenday, Sum41, Simple plan, some pure punk music bands. And some J-rock bands like 04limitedsazabys, good4nothing and Off Spring, 10feets. As to Chinese bands we all like Summer Sunshine, Recycle, Reflector, SMZB and Brain failure, some mainstream of Chinese punk rock band.

Do you already have an album out  ? It is in preparation  ? What can you tell us about your plans in 2018  ?

We had a single last year. And our new EP is under preparation and we started to record recently. It will have 3 of our latest songs, that is what we want to display and express through last year. And we will have a tour in May, including 12 provinces, you can focus on our Sina Weibo account @RussianRoulette俄罗斯轮盘赌

 

Is there anything you want to add  ?

We wanna show our special thank to Beijing Underground for inviting us to perform. It’s a very professional and earnest host and website. Support your local first and enjoy your show.

Hangnail: Street Punk.

Can you describe your music style ?

Hi! This is Shaofei from hangnail. Our music style is more like street punk and old school punk.

Where did you get your band name from  ? What is the idea behind it  ?

We all agreed that we want it to be kind of scary when we named our band. Not only for showing the rebel spirit also for the real situation of punk music, so we name it hangnail. if you want to know the meaning, just look at your hangnails from your fingers.

What are you trying to express with your music ?

Our music reflects our belief. We think that things that shouldn’t be forgotten have been forgotten, such as punk music, the situation of punk music is getting worse and worse. Our songs are more likely expressing the attitudes than describing the real life.

What do you think of the Chinese music scene, what are your favorite Chinese bands/Foreign bands/artists.

I’ve heard that the rock music in China is developing well but in my mind it is getting more and more difficult: seem like most of players just want to copy the foreign culture without analyzing the situation that we are in. Deliberately imitating is a shame, so if you ask me, I don’t have a favorite band or artist, I mean, I would listen to their music but they won’t touch me deeply, and I wouldn’t imitate any of them. I would have my own stuff. It is about values.

Do you already have an album out  ? It is in preparation  ? What can you tell us about your plans in 2018  ?

We’ve already finished eight songs including street punk, old school and ska. Our first EP is being prepared and we are still saving money for it. Now our demos can be found online but they are not completed. Our plan of 2018 is finishing five new songs and maybe a little tour in China. I guess we will just let it be.

The Peppercorns, psychedelic corn.

Dear Eric of Peppercorns, how are you today  ?

Hey Djangsan I’m doing okay thank you!

This is your second time at a «  Beijing Underground  » event, what can you tell us about the evolutions of the band since the last time you played for us in June 2017  ?

Well since the last time we played with you guys our band have grown, we have added Andrew on Violin/synth, and Yahtzee on Backing vocal, for a more symphonic live sound. I think that is pretty exciting for us, also we are preparing an album which will be released this year.

I heard your song «  Sirens  », listened to it a few times and read the words, I really like it. Still, I’m not sure what the song is about, at some point you talk about Neptune, Jupiter, can you tell us more about the idea behind the song  ?

That song to me is about the anxiety of being alive, trying to pursuit after something at the same time haunted by something, such as fate and love. I think we are constantly trying to understand ourselves and the universe, trying to find happiness and peace, but sometimes things can get out of control.

I see you have several videos on the internet using some of your live recordings (I think), videos such as Dorian Gray. That video caught my attention in particular because the music is played on top of videos of the ocean in a part of the world I’m not too sure about, where is that footage from  ? Also the song Dorian Gray is very long and Melancholic, do you have a fascination for Dorian Gray  ? Can you tell us about it  ?

The song Dorian grey was (obviously) inspired by Oscar Wilde. I assume you are familiar with the story. Rather than talking about the character I want to try to capture the night in which Sybil Vane begged Dorian Grey to stay and not abandon her, she killed herself after Dorian left, to me that was the moment in which Dorian was doomed forever, so I guess in this song I wanted to talk about desperation of love and fate. A rather tragic approach I guess.

Are you recording your album these days and will it come out in 2018  ? What can you tell us about it  ?

It’s going to be a concept album, all the songs will flow into each other, like a journey. We are still working very hard on it, It’s a rather challenging project as the songs are untraditional in structure. Hopefully we will do it justice as it’s our first album!

On stage you play keyboard, but you also sometimes play the theremin, one of the oldest electronic instrument (created in 1919 by a Russian musician) used in the 60’s for the Star Trek main theme but still not too well known by most people.
How did you find out about that instrument  ? What do you like about it  ?

It’s a Moog Theremini, a digital theremin. I saw it on EBay when it first came out and bought it instinctively, without knowing I would use it in Peppercorns. It’s the oldest synth invented, I like the rawness of it, quite hard to control but I like the chaotic aspect of it too. Actually I have two theremins, I have another analogue one I use for recording at home.

Anything planned for 2018  ?

Our first album will be released, also the MV of Sirens will be released. Also planning to release a few more singles and potentially an EP. A tour is also planned, exciting year for us!

Anything you want to add  ?

A big thank you to Beijing underground for organizing this event and providing a platform for artists and musicians!

Backspace, opposite sides of sounds.

Hello Backspace, can you introduce your band  ?

Backspace is a young band. All of us are from a small town in the south of China. We selectively abandoned our previous ideas and feelings and came to Beijing for find other possibilities in music and compose something new.

Where did you get your band name from  ? What is the idea behind it  ?

Our front man is a designer. Backspace is the most commonly used key in his work So he chose it as band name and translated it as 反面空间。 In Chinese it means reverse side of space. It is a reflection of what we hope,find distinctive sounds in an opposite direction to our old life.

What are your inspirations  ? Listenning to one of your videos I thought of New Wave, Punk, Joy Division and also Chinese bands such as PK14.

As for inspiration, We don’t have any fixed patterns. All ideas are form our spontaneous improvisations. We like New Wave, Post-punk, and the bands you mentioned. So, it’s inevitable that we got some imperceptible influence from them. But compared with that, we prefer to break the existing form, so that people can hear different shades in our tracks.

What are you trying to express with your music ?

I think now Chinese music scene is in development,a lot of new changes are going on. My favorite Chinese band is Tat Ming Pair , and foreign is Fujiya & Miyagi.

Do you already have an album out  ? It is in preparation  ? What can you tell us about your plans in 2018  ?

Our debut album now is in preparation, and will be released by Maybe Mars this year. After that, Backspace will make a national tour. And for the rest time, we probably try to do some new songs and recording.

 

Boss Cuts: The awesome cuts interview.  

Ahead of the performance of the band at the “Beijing Underground Sweet Winter Music Days” Part 1 at School Bar on the 18 of January 2018, here is an interview with Boss Cuts, surf’s up.

Hello Boss Cuts, can you introduce yourselves to our readers?

We are a surf rock band based in Beijing. In May 2017 we had our first performance and since then we have had more than 30 shows. We were surprised by the response as Beijing tends to focus on what I consider to be modern styles of music like punk, metal, indie, and post-rock. Music from the 1950s and early 1960s like r&b, rockabilly and surf is underrepresented. My aim is for Boss Cuts to help fill that void.

What Does Boss Cuts mean? How did you get the idea of the band name?

I was digging through some zines from the 1960s and on the cover of one (I can’t remember the name) was a girl with a guitar surrounded by BOSS CUTS!!! BOSS CUTS!!! BOSS CUTS!!! BOSS CUTS!!! BOSS CUTS!!! In the 1950s and early 60s “Boss” was a popular slang term for awesome or great. But unlike “cool” it didn’t stick. I’ve tried using “Boss” a few times but people thought I was referring to Bruce Springsteen. “Cuts” means songs. It comes from when bands recorded onto tape and each song or edit would be cut with a razor blade. Splicing songs together is easy but edits during the songs or on individual tracks is tricky. For instance, Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys. This is a complex song with numerous sections comprised of different combinations of instruments and environments. Brian Wilson used almost 100 hours of tape on what would end up being a three-and-a-half-minute song. If you listen closely the transitions from the verses to the chorus are out of time. What’s more the room sound during the verses is completely different to the chorus; the verses are spacious whereas the chorus is confined. It’s hard to know whether the splices are mistakes or not –– maybe they are like Godard’s jump cuts –– as Wilson was experimenting with all kinds of recording and production techniques. The Beach Boys’ Smile/Smiley Smile is a much more experimental record than Sgt Pepper’s –– everything from the songwriting, arrangements, recording techniques to the production. Wilson was writing, singing, recording, producing, and going mad all at the same time. He was Lennon/McCartney/Martin/Barrett all in one. So getting back to the name Boss Cuts means awesome songs. 

What brought you to China?

After finishing my PhD I needed a break. After travelling for a few months in India the idea was to spend a year or two in China and then move to the UK. One to two years turned into five years. I never planned on living in China. For my generation China was off the radar. Although I would still be playing surf music if I was back home in Australia it’s breaking new ground here as people are not as familiar with the genre or don’t play this style.

Why do you play surf music? Is there any interest for surf music in China? Are there any other surf bands in China?

I am lousy at surfing and sport in general. I tried surfing once as a lanky teenager and fell right off the board. But very few surf bands actually surfed. The first few Beach Boys records were all about surfing, cars, and shagging on the beach but then they grew up and made Pet Sounds. By 1964 the surf craze had well and truly exhausted itself and young people’s tastes and experiences were becoming more sophisticated. Surf died a sudden and necessary death. It was not until electronic music emerged that instrumental music would be popular again. What I like about surf is the raw, fat, wet timbres of the guitar, bass, drums, and sax. The first wave of surf music (1960-64) emerged before the invention of fuzz, distortion, and wah pedals so surf guitarists had to experiment with their amplifiers and guitars. This meant turning everything up and playing hard and fast. But surf also did something that hadn’t been done before in the history of music; it used electronic instruments and effects to recreate real-world sounds. It was Dick Dale who developed the surf sound and tremolo picking technique. Dale’s fast picking style derived from the sound of running his fingers along the barrel of a wave while surfing. The various sounds produced from the spring reverb tank from the drip to the crash are like being under water or being dumped by a wave. So surf music was pioneering in many respects. For live performances I use a reverb pedal that emulates the old reverb tanks as I can’t be assed carrying my Fender Reverb amp up six flights of stairs while drunk. In China, the main point of reference for surf music is Pulp Fiction. When surf emerged in California in the early 1960s, China was recovering from a famine so there’s a tremendous historical and cultural gap. The only Chinese surf band I am familiar with is The Psyders from Shanghai. I’ve seen some of the performances on YouTube and they are great. I’m not sure if they are playing anymore. Finding other Chinese who can play surf is difficult as it is not well known.

What do you think of the Beijing/China music scene?

I mainly go out when Boss Cuts performs so I have a skewed perspective. It seems that Beijing is mostly made up of punk, metal, and indie bands but that might also be because I divide my time between Temple and School. One problem about Beijing is that it is a transient city. It seems that the expats spread themselves among a lot of bands and/or don’t stay long so it’s hard to keep a band together or build a scene. Unfortunately there is a gap between the locals and expats. Our drummer is Beijing ren but we are the exception not the norm. I’d like to see more bands doing rockabilly, garage, and surf. Beijing doesn’t need another shoegaze band.

What bands do you like in the Chinese music scene?

When I arrived Beijing SUBS really impressed me. WHAI and Chui Wan are also great. I’m not into much of the music around town. Punk and metal are entertaining to watch but I rarely listen to those genres at home. I’ve spent most of my life digging into rockabilly, surf, garage, psych, soul, and funk and I’m still discovering new songs, musicians, and bands. Unfortunately in Beijing there aren’t many original bands that do those styles. I have no time for cover bands except for Peking Floyd. Recently I have started DJing with ADDJ to get more music of the 1950s and 60s out there. Rockabilly and soul are the foundations of pop music.

Do you have an album out? Do you consider recording in 2018?

We are a long way off from putting out a full album. After Spring Festival we will do a some recording and take it from there. Maybe we will release a 45. At this stage we are a live band and I’ve written the songs for that setting. Songs that make drunk people dance are generally not interesting to listen to.

Is there any bands you want to recommend to our readers?

My favourite surf band is The Centurians. They had a dark, growly, creepy sound, especially on songs like Bullwinkle Pt II, Intoxica, and Comanche. They cut one record and then faded into obscurity until Tarantino used a couple of their songs in Pulp Fiction. From the first wave of surf I recommend The Lively Ones, the Surfaris, Eddie and the Showmen, the Pyramids, and The Atlantics. An anomalous yet pioneering surf band is Jon and the Nightriders. These guys came out in the late 70s/early 80s when surf music was deep in the grave. They didn’t revive the genre but they gave many of the classic first-wave surf songs real punch. The Cramps, the greatest rock and roll band there ever was, had a strong surf influence. Following Pulp Fiction a whole bunch of surf bands emerged, many of which reinvented the genre. Since then surf has become a very loose term as it has appropriated other concepts. For example, Messer Chups do horror surf, Man or Astro-Man? do space surf. Perhaps it best to think of surf as a sound and vibe. Some contemporary surf bands I dig are La Luz, Satan’s Pilgrims, The Bomboras, The Volcanos, and The Bambi Molesters. Japan also has some amazing surf bands like the Surf Coasters, the WHYs, and the 5.6.7.8’s.

 

Are there any links you want to share?

For surf musicians the go-to site is surfguitar101.com

Also there is an annual surf music festival in Italy called Surfer Joe: surferjoemusic.com

Spotify playlists worth checking out:

https://open.spotify.com/user/zthfr/playlist/3gQzFKWBiRbhC3C05LQJFN

https://open.spotify.com/user/sbp4583/playlist/1Chqfz1zWvLDzjoYZN4Fng

https://open.spotify.com/user/dvuillermin/playlist/4GGEnO4cYLZwEf5Hbul4jz

https://open.spotify.com/user/dvuillermin/playlist/6Y1P5FDPfB3UF5dzdHP9tF

Scare The Children – The interview.

Hi Scare the Children, can you introduce yourselves  ?

We are a 4-piece metal band from Beijing, China, formed in 2014. Our performances lean towards the theatrical, with costumes and stage decor borrowing from horror themes. We try as best as we can to set a certain mood not only through the music, but also through visuals and ambiance.

All of your concerts have you dressed as monsters, what is the meaning of each monster if there is one  ?

The costumes are actually supposed to be of haunted dolls. We each chose the individual concepts, but they all drew inspiration from either urban legends or horror films.

Why did you want to start such a band dressed as monsters  ?

The idea of dressing up came very naturally once we agreed on what the themes of the songs would be. It was decided early on that the song lyrics would revolve around horror stories, and we figured haunted dolls could be an interesting concept for the first album. However, the idea of four grown men singing about dolls and trying to be scary seemed a little silly, but if we went all the way and really pushed the concept on multiple levels, it could work. Hence the costumes and decor.

You recently went to Japan and toured also with ögenix, another metal band from Beijing, how did it feel to play there  ? How was the audience  ?

Japan and China are two opposites in many ways. In regard to gigs, well, Japan runs at 150% efficiency at all times. For example, soundchecks are quickly done and the sound is always perfection, every show also starts on time and ends on time. In China things are usually a little messier and less organized. However, being less organized is not always a bad thing, especially when it comes to crowds. In Japan people are very respectful and seem to enjoy the show in a more reserved way, while here crowds tend to be more animated and wild, which helps us gauge our performance and react accordingly during the show.

Another thing we noticed very quickly over there was that we would have our work cut-out for us, since Japanese bands are just as professional as the sound engineers – they take their craft very seriously and everything they do, from their sound to their visuals, is always on point…these guys don’t mess around and the level of talent is through the roof.

All that being said, the tour was great and people responded very positively to what we were doing. We also made some good friends, with whom we hope to, perhaps, co-operate on future projects down the road.

I heard you have released a demo album this year, where can we listen to it/buy it  ?
Will you release an album in 2018, what are your plans regarding the new release  ?

We have some of our demo songs online, which you can listen to for free. You can check it out at: http://music.163.com/#/artist?id=12386628. We also have a CD out, which we unofficially released in order to have it ready before our Japan tour. But we are currently tweaking a bit on some of the songs as well as the art work for a proper release, which should happen pretty soon. The CD that is currently available is not for wide-distribution, but if you come to the shows, we’ll probably have a few copies there.

What are your thoughts about the Chinese metal bands and do you think there is a place for more foreign metal bands in China  ?

As with all music genres in China (and elsewhere, for that matter), you have to dig a bit before you find that one band that really stands out, but they are certainly there. There’s a lot of talent and creativity in the scene, and more and more bands are starting to think outside the box, blending different styles to try to come up with something new.

As for foreign metal bands, it’s hard to tell. Being a foreigner in a band in China can open some doors, but also close others. Some promoters may want to book you just because your band has foreign members, but when it comes down to true recognition, the local scene tends to prioritize local musicians, which is understandable and even commendable, but can be frustrating for some of us who’ve worked just as hard as our local counterparts. Anyway, making music (especially in the field of Rock) was never supposed to be easy. What it boils down to, is that if you work hard and do your homework there is room to make your own action happen, regardless of where you come from.

What was the best show you did and why was it the best show  ?

That’s a pretty impossible question to answer. In all honesty, it would be easier to talk about a “worst” show, since there are so few gigs that we would qualify as bad. On the other hand, a show can be great for so many different reasons, and there’s always something awesome to draw from each and everyone of them. We’ve enjoyed playing big festival stages in front of thousands – there’s something incredibly thrilling about having a huge amount of people go completely mental and respond in unison to every move you make on stage. But we also love playing smaller venues where we are face-to-face with the crowd. The intensity of the close interaction with the audience on smaller stages can make a show so much fun and wild. Other factors that affect how we feel about shows include whether or not there were technical difficulties, if we managed to play through the whole gig without anyone fucking up once (which probably has yet to happen…), and even just the overall vibe between all people involved.

Basically, there are so many separate factors that can make a show great, that is really hard to pick ONE best show. I’m not sure there’s ever been a gig we played where everything was flawless, but that’s what makes this whole thing so exciting, that’s what makes every show different and unique. Rock ‘n’ Roll has always been about the danger in not knowing what you’re gonna get each night.

Having said all that, we can probably tell you about some of our favorite venues and festivals we’ve played. Temple Livehouse in Beijing has always been home for us and every show we’ve played there was excellent. It’s counterpart in Shanghai, the Inferno, is another great venue (which unfortunately is closing its stage now and seems will no longer be a live music venue). As for festivals, we’ve played Midi several times and those were amazing – awesome organization, great team, huge crowds; and we’ve also just done playing our second Rootfest, which is run by Modern Sky and has some of China’s biggest names in metal as its line-up, and that’s always a big honor for us. Also worth mentioning is Vigor, as a stellar promoter of straight-up killer Rock shows throughout Beijing. We’ve definitely had some unforgettable gigs organized by these guys.

Is there any music you want to share  ? (not necessarily yours).

Sure. We got some local bands we all really enjoy, not only in the metal scene.

Los Crasher is an old school Hard Rock band from Beijing that we like a lot. They’ve just come back from a 3-month tour of China, and they are as tight as ever. They finished this tour by playing a gig in Beijing at Yugongyishan for over 2 hours. In fact, Antoine (our keyboard player) was an invited guest on stage that night. Was great.

We also go way back with Never Before, which is a Stoner Metal band who’s been around for a while and got a real gritty, bad-ass sound with some awesome grooves and hell of catchy riffs.

Gotta mention Silent Elegy as well, a Metal band we’ve played a few gigs with, who has the most incredible female singer with an Opera soprano type of voice, pretty damn impressive.

More recently we’ve really been into Alpaca, a stoner band from Shanghai. Amazing musicians all, and their singer’s got a voice that is both melodic and rough as a rusty nail, real unique and fucking beautiful.

We’ve also been digging Struggle Session (Hard Core) who has, arguably, the most intense, no holds-barred show in town. Watching these guys play is always fascinating and an incredibly interactive experience, to say the least.

Of course, we must mention Ogenix too, which is an Industrial Metal quintet that have close affiliations with our own band, since some of our guys also play in that band. But, regardless of that, we can still say with honesty that they put on a 100% energy-fueled show definitely worth checking out. Gabriel, the singer, does a great job as a frontman, always engaging the crowd like a master.

And then there are the more obvious ones, those bands that have been in the scene forever, but are still on top of their game, such as Yaksa (metal), WHAI (alternative/experimental rock), Nine Treasures (Metal) and so on. They are real pros and always put on one helluva show wherever they play.

Anything you want to add  ?

Come check out Scare the Children and Ogenix play Temple this 19th of January. It’s going to be our first show since we came back from our Japan tour and should be an amazing show !