THE ALL SEEING HAND
China Tour 2017
With Kaishandao & E/N/T
“这个音乐不是为小清新或者容易伤感的人准备的。” “This is not music for the light-hearted or easily distressed.” – Soundly Sounds
Kiwese is proud to present The All Seeing Hand x Kaishandao x E/N/T China Tour 2017. For fans of the heavy, strange and transcendental. For adventurous sonic explorers…
The first time I saw The All Seeing Hand was on a darkened high ropes course. It was the last night of Camp A Low Hum 2012 and the remaining punters were floating around in that special state of mutual derangement so often reserved for the last night of music festivals.
Whether it was the three silhouetted figures thrashing beneath an enormous eye, the breakneck, body-pummeling drum rolls, bass-heavy synth screams, or the likelihood that the entire crowd was tripping on acid, there was immediately a sense of the occult about this band.
“Oh my god, what is this?!” yelled someone in the crowd.
“This is mind control!” shouted another.
Was this mind expansion or mind control? Inspired performance art, or visions of the possessed? Whatever it was, that night in the forest, we looked into the eye of The All Seeing Hand and everything changed.
What kind of music is this?
“This isn’t head-bang metalcore, but more an inventive electro-prog which values minimalism as much as collision,” writes Elsewhere, “it’s as likely to come from the writings of Philip K. Dick as it is the music of Bauhaus,” writes Off the Tracks.
From the depths of the Wellington underground, I am ecstatic to present The All Seeing Hand to Chinese audiences for the first time in the most ambitious Kiwese tour yet, spanning over three weeks and ten cities from Inner Mongolia to Fujian.
New Zealand artist Nathan Taare will join the journey as E/N/T, while I will also play support with my new techno noise project Kaishandao. This far out journey will also be documented by none other than filmmaker Illojgali a.k.a Dan Harris!
We’ll see you there… tell your friends!!
THE ALL SEEING HAND are a 3-piece from Wellington, New Zealand. Their musical world touches many soundscapes, while being complete in its own language. It is a gateway, opening ears to the sonic environment of machine and emotion, a “menacing clash of electronics, smashing drums and throat-singing, a sound akin to Tibetan monks on speed.”
Throat singing, frenzied drumming and thundering turntable tones… a pulverizing amalgam of electronic doom, “industrial khoomei,” clash metal and mind-bending sensory sorcery.
Alphabethead is known around New Zealand from many festival and club shows. An innovative turntablist and producer who cut his teeth in the hip-hop battle scene, delving into a diversity of sounds like orchestral gamelan, Inuit folk music, post-punk and electronica. His bass heavy approach in The All Seeing Hand makes for a full body response to the music.
Ben Knight is a pulverising drummer with rhythmic dexterity steeped in relentless energy. Having emerged from the Dunedin DIY punk and hardcore scene in the late 1990s, Ben pushes himself to the verge of vomiting in his commitment to the beat.
Jonny Marks uses his voice as a vehicle to explore timbre and the parts of our brains that language does not inhabit. Having trekked to Inner Mongolia to study khoomei for years, he incorporates techniques of throat-singing with voice box stretching explorations to create an animal human other.
“各种混乱的怪事。” “Seven levels of fucked up weirdness.” – Sonic Masala
The All Seeing Hand are worshipped across Australasia for their intense, immersive ritual performances that leave observers in an ecstatic state of wonder and confusion. They are constantly collaborating with artists to create unforgettable displays of costume and projection mapping.
The All Seeing Hand have toured extensively around NZ & Australia, and been described by Flying Nun as “a highly vaunted live act.” They have inspired, conquered and pulverized audiences at festivals including Camp A Low Hum (Wellington), Lines of Flight (Dunedin), Newtown Festival, St Jerome’s Laneway Festival (Auckland) and Now Fest.
They have released the albums《The All Seeing Hand》(2011)，《Mechatronics》(2013)，《Fog and Debris》(2014) and《Sand to Glass》 (2016)。The All Seeing Hand are signed to UK-based label Muzai Records.
The All Seeing Hand recognises progress
The All Seeing Hand facilitates progress.
The All Seeing Hand is progress.
Extraction is progress.
Conversion is progress.
The All Seeing Hand converts.
You are already part of The All Seeing Hand.
Transplanted from New Zealand, Chengdu-based Kaishandao has been slashing the divide between the club and live music scenes in Chengdu, playing everywhere from darkened dancefloors to pool parties and dive bars. Coming from a background of garage rock and bedroom cassette recordings, Kaishandao uses an electric guitar, effects, synthesizers and radio noise to create a kind of “dystopian techno drone,” influenced by krautrock, experimental music, Beyoncé and the Poly Centre (R.I.P.)
Disorientating lo-hifi dance music for the lonely hearts and high-wired souls.
E/N/T (Otolaryngology) is the musical pseudonym of New Zealand born artist Nathan Taare. E/N/T is sonic art that takes ideas and motivations from noise-rock, post-punk and sound installation to create an intriguing and wonderful collage of moods and movements.
Back in May, I got a message from my friend Yixiao about coming to play in Chengdu and Chongqing with XI’ER, the predecessor punk band to electronic witch-synth trio South Acid MiMi.
When I first met Yixiao, Shishi and Weilin in 2015, I’d already been indoctrinated into the cult of South Acid Mimi, having experienced their intoxicated psychedelic dance masquerade at Kunming dive bar earlier that year. As one of the weirdest shows I’d seen so far in China, I was ecstatic when they agreed to play support for the mothership of acid freakery, Orchestra of Spheres during their China Tour.
我在2015年认识一笑、施施和魏琳，那年1月在昆明如痴如醉地体验了一次她们的迷幻化妆舞会，可以说已经成为了南方酸性咪咪的狂热追捧分子。那是我在中国看过最怪异的演出之一，当她们表示乐意为星迹乐团(Orchestra of Spheres)的中国巡演昆明站做嘉宾的时候，我简直欣喜若狂。
Upon meeting them in Kunming, it was immediately clear they were super badass. Arms covered with tattoos, they led us to their hangout in downtown Kunming – a bright yellow studio full of retro furniture, glitter, toy figurines and kooky decorations. Bowie and Sonic Youth adorned the walls. Paper umbrellas hung upside down from the ceiling. A MicroBrute synth sat next to a vintage telephone.
Meizijiu, cigarettes and conversation flowed freely. Incredibly lovely, generous and talented, everything about them was so different to the world outside – a bizarre amalgam of kitsch and kawaii, hard-edge and soft core, addiction and adolescence, juxtaposition and excess…
XI’ER is where it all started. Flashback ten years ago to an open mic night in Kunming: 16-year-old guitarist Shishi met Weilin, a girl who could sink liquor and scream like Karen O and Yang Yang, a long haired hottie who played the drums in high heels. They rented a practice space and kitted it out with pink lights, plastic beads, plush toys and homemade microphone racks, soon scoring gigs at local bars and music festivals. Shishi and Yixiao eventually dropped out of high school, Yang Yang moved to Dali, Weilin went back to Nujiang, and Xi’er was disbanded.
Later, they went on to form South Acid Mimi, a psychedelic electronic dance trio who have since been covered by VICE and i-D. Using a reverb soaked vocal harmonies, a laptop and keyboards, the band uploaded a bunch of tracks to Douban and have since performed in most major cities across the country, including large music festivals and underground parties. South Acid Mimi are in the mixing stage of releasing their highly anticipated debut record with Beijing based label Ruby Eyes.
Back in 2015, with nothing else better to do, they reformed the band XI’ER. With the original bassist in Shanghai, Xiaohei has joined as the only male band member, despite not knowing how to play bass. Since Weilin moved to Beijing, Yixiao took up lead vocals.
XI’ER aren’t interested in punk clichés or traditional understandings of the genre. Their music sounds as likely to take queues from The Stooges as it is from rockabilly or synth pop. Much like South Acid Mimi, XI’ER experiment by fusing influences from punk and electronica – synth noise emerges alongside oddball guitar riffs and pounding drum lines, while the vocals are full of grit and attitude, equal parts aggression and sensuality.
Always moving to their own beat, XI’ER tear down conventions and mix them into a highly potent cocktail – the kind your friend makes for you that has waaaay too much rum in it. Always down to party, XI’ER have been busy touring the southern provinces and are set to bring the ruckus to Chengdu and Chongqing this weekend.
Not usually one to broadcast the weather, but the torrential storm that struck Chengdu this afternoon is one for the record books.
The rain came down with an intensity I’ve never experienced in Chengdu. The force of it was so incredible I could only gape and shriek. The city transformed into a swimming pool in a blender. The entire sky went grey – thunder, lightning, the whole bit. There was so much water you could hardly keep your eyes open. Waves formed across the street and the rain was lashed up in huge gusts of wind. Waterfalls cascaded from the rooftops. The city flooded.
As I was riding home through the storm, I had this kind of joyful feeling wash over me that everybody was having this collective experience. Rich or poor, young or old, local or laowai, the force of nature strikes you just the same. All completely shocked and soaked – people were all smiling, shrieking, grimacing and swearing. Traffic wardens, people at the bus stop, delivery guys, all of us caught in the rain and totally drenched, everyone in it together.
And like the rain, the WeChat posts came flooding in. No app does sharing of unsubstantiated video content faster than WeChat. I’ve compiled some of the most impressive ones here for you to see how nuts it really was.
When the rain subsided, a huge rainbow appeared in the sky and everybody went back to what they were doing before. There will be a huge clean up for some, days even. But for that brief period, as the skies opened and let loose, everybody from the shops to the streets put down their phones, looked around to catch someone’s eye and say, “哇靠.”
Back in April, Lady Lazer Light and her mind-melting projections found their way back to Chengdu on the back of her second residency at Red Gate in Beijing, so Kiwese and friends put on a show at Jah Bar, one of the most legendary dive bars in town – as irie as the name suggests.
百鬼夜行 100 Spirits was a show for the ages. And in case you weren’t there, or only have hazy impressions of the night, here is a recap video to get the memory glands pumping. We managed to squash over 100 people into Jah Bar, a sweltering pit of ghoulish bands, frenzied fans, broken air conditioning and awesomeness.
Huge thanks to all the friends who came and helped out, and to our stellar line up of Chengdu’s finest: Hiperson, The Hormones, Su and Splortch Selector, it was a pleasure to play alongside you all as Kaishandao, and I look forward to the next.
100 SPIRITS draws near. In the dark night of Tuesday 4 April, this beastly display of souls will be unleashed!! For one night only, the ancient tomb of Jah Bar will mutate into a crazed crypt crawling with ghosts, as the stage alter is graced by five of Chengdu’s most forward-thinking and innovative live acts.
Behold, the princely masters of SPLORTCH SELECTOR will kick the night into gear with a psychedelic mash-up of robot synthcore and chunky prog basslines, enslaving you into either your greatest dream or worst nightmare.
I dare you to Google the word ‘splortch.’ I double dare you to see what that word means when it is turned into a electro-prog-rock-synth-fused musical project.
I first met Michael, the band’s mastermind at Aus-atmen last year. He was one of the last people to leave and partied right through till the soggy rain drenched mud fest of Sunday afternoon, just before the cops came. From then on, I knew he was one of the good ones. He also played guitar and was making beats on his laptop. Since those humble beginnings and a killer set at Blah Blah #003, this bedroom music project has evolved into the three-piece live monstrosity SPLORTCH SELECTOR, which will explode on Jah Bar this Tuesday. What can we expect from this band? Word on the street is their singer is going to throw up on the audience. Get in.
After a long hiatus from performance, the celestial sisters of cellular synthesis THE HORMONES are back for their highly anticipated return to the mortal world! Blasting their infectious brand of electro dance rock, prepare to have these synthesized hormones secreted directly into your blood.
It must’ve been September of 2015. This super badass chick walked into the old Morning Bar 早上好 with a bunch of fliers. “这是我的乐队，” she said, handing me a flier and sitting down to light a cigarette. THE HORMONES – CHINA TOUR 2015. This is how I met Ming Ming – and I immediately liked her.
The Hormones are a collective of likewise badass chicks who rock seriously uplifting dance music and quite simply do not give a fuck what you think. Wisps of Karen O, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Foals, delivered with pure power and precision. They are such an important band and I am so excited to see them play on Tuesday night, their first Chengdu show in over a year!
KAISHANDAO will take us deeper into the night with bass heavy drum machine smashing and techno-flavoured frequency modulations, wielding an electric guitar and a mystic mixture of brain-warping effects pedals.
Kaishandao got it’s name from a 成语 that Xiaoxin a.k.a LittleNew, the illustrator behind the 百鬼夜行 100 Spirits poster, messaged to me several months ago. She’s fond of a good 成语，but I often have to look them up in Pleco. A not-so-long story short, I came across the word 开山刀 and it just clicked. I love it’s simplicity paired with brutality, the symmetry within the characters and the unified first tone throughout.
“Do you think Kaishandao would be a good name for my music?” I asked.
“Yeah it’s cool! But you’re music will have to be really cutting edge to use it,” she replied.
I’ve been organising shows in China for two years now, but I’ve played guitar since I was 10. I’m not sure Kaishandao is anywhere near as cutting edge as the friends I will perform with on Tuesday night, but for the first time in many years, I am now proud to perform my own original music for an audience, and in what better place than right here in this crazy city that has brought us together from all corners of the world – Chengdu. Bringing together my dual loves of rock and techno, this is Kaishandao.
As the clock nears midnight, the patron saints of post-punk HIPERSON will materialize for a rare and glorious performance. Known for their fierce vocals, ear-thrashing guitar assaults and thundering rhythmic prowess, Hiperson’s presence will ensure the spirits are well and truly awakened!
When I was a student living in Beijing, I came across a band from Chengdu who had put some demos on Douban. Just several seconds into 《他打定主意做一个游客》and I was completely hooked, put the demos on my iPod and biked around the city listening to them on repeat at full volume for what seemed like days.
That band? HIPERSON. And they are basically the reason I moved to Chengdu.
It was outside the little Little Bar after The Hormones EP release show when I first met Chen Sijiang.
“Uhh ni hao, ni shi Hiperson de Chen Sijiang ma?!”
OH MY GOD.
Since then, they have signed to a big indie label, released their first record, toured the country in a van and even toured Europe. Sijiang shaved off all her hair along the way. Through it all, they have remained 100% humble and dedicated to their music, with a DIY attitude that their heroes Fugazi would admire.
I am honoured to call them my friends, and I am in disbelief that I will play on the same bill as them at Jah Bar this Tuesday. They are the greatest and I can’t believe this is even happening.
Finally, elevating us to the spiritual homeland of techno, SU will provide a digital nerve massage of hard-hitting, Berlin-inspired beats, taking the DJ decks for a rhythmic full body cleanse right through till the early hours.
I can’t remember the first time I met Gogo, but I am almost certain it was over a doob at the old Morning Bar 早上好 several years ago. She asked what star sign I was.
“Sagitarrius,” I said.
“Cool, what date”
We are bound in an inexplicable bond by the astrological power of the number 12. Techno is what she lives and breathes, and each time she returns from Germany, she brings with her a wave of new energy that washes over those who hear her play.
The first time I collaborated with her was for the NUART Festival after party at 早上好 in 2015, where I brought Orchestra of Spheres and Lady Lazer Light for a renegade show and trippy visual installation. She’d just formed atmen with Xiang and had returned from a long trip to Germany. The night culminated with Riki Gooch (Cave Circles) jamming the drum kit to Su’s DJ set with a bunch of greasy shaokao sticks. It was beautiful. Since then, along with Xiang, we’ve played together at clubs and festivals in an improvised manner.
In a way, this Tuesday night is a coming of things full circle with the return of Lady Lazer Light to Chengdu and Su taking the decks for the closing set of the night. She is the spirit that floats the dance floor, let the frequencies set you free.
Overseeing this ghostly procession is the high priestess of visual overstimulation Lady Lazer Light, who has been summoned all the way from New Zealand. Known for hypnotising her audiences in China with Orchestra of Spheres in 2015, she will be floating through Jah Bar and spraying her kaleidoscopic rays throughout the night!
The first time I experienced a Lady Lazer Light show, I can say with utmost certainty that everyone was tripping on acid. It was the closing set of Camp A Low Hum 2012 and Thought Creature were playing on a stage that had materialized out of nowhere. Hypnotic mirroring of hot pink gorillas and dancing Indian women scattered across the screen, amplifying the psychedelic drone of guitars and synths, and sending the remaining punters into that special state of mutual derangement which is so often reserved for the last night of music festivals.
“Woahhh, this is buzzy,” I uttered to no one in particular.
The first time I actually met her was on the Orchestra of Spheres China tour, while she was on an art residency in Beijing. This month she returns to Chengdu, on the back of her second residency at Red Gate in Feijiacun, Beijing, and we are so excited!! Sklenars is our distinguished guest, a total party animal, the queen of buzzy visuals, and we are beyond privileged to have her grace Jah Bar on Tuesday for an all out audio-visual assault of the senses.
Kindred spirits, the time is nigh to sweep the tomb of your wardrobe and unearth your most GHOULISH garb for an unforgettable night of genre-bending audio-visual madness not seen before in these lands. Abide by the ghosty dress-code and be part of the movement! We beseech you, this is a night not to be missed.
This show is possible due to a culmination of great friends, an incredible local music scene and the desire to create an unforgettable moment in Chengdu music history – a night of barely contained mayhem in one of the most legendary and long-standing venues in town. It exists beyond the confines of genre, background, label, or any of the noise that can get in the way of what is truly important – the music.
Though the word “expat” kind of makes me cringe. It brings to mind rich white people who live in private compounds, send their children to expensive international schools and only socialise with other “expats,” doing the “expat” stuff they read about in their “expat” magazines. People my colour are usually called immigrants. Lol. Anyway.
Here’s the photo with Jung Chang, author of Wild Swans at Writers Week in Wellington.
Owing to the wondrous power of the innernette, I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Ricky Maymi for a few years now. Known to many as guitarist of the notoriously volatile Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Imajinary Friends, Maymi is also synonymous with the promotion of Chinese indie rock abroad, specifically the Beijing bands that emerged in the late-2000s and have since taken off in a cloud of cigarette smoke on Maybe Mars.
I first came across him when I was living as a student in Beijing, astray in the #wednesdayfreeshotsforladies, all you can drink KTV, shopping mall wasteland of Wudaokou, which post-D22 had become a cultural black hole. Beyond the Katy Perry club remixes, I was ecstatic to discover some of the city’s most cherished acts such as Hedgehog, P.K.14 and Carsick Cars on websites such as Josh Feola’s pangbianr, Tenzenmen, and of course Ricky’s blog Far Out Distant Sounds. Even better, all these bands were just hanging out downtown. Salvation.
Years on, in collaboration with Genjing Records all round GC Nevin Domer (who I met at Carb on Carb and God Bows to Math’s Beijing show in 2013), Far Out Distant Sounds has developed into a distribution, promotion and touring agency for some of Beijing’s finest acts.
We’re comrades as such, music nerds that geek out about Chinese indie rock on the internet all day. As such, it was only a matter of time he was featured here on Kiwese. There just had to be something… remotely… relevant… to New Zeal… oh, yes, here it is!!
Birdstrikingfrom Beijing are in New Zealand this week playing two shows in Auckland on Friday 17 February and Wellington on Saturday 18 February.
The jewel of the Maybe Mars crown, this triple guitar, noise-punk five-piece have gone from strength to strength over the past few years, releasing their banned in China album Birdstriking (2012) on Anton Newcombe’s label A Recordings and heading abroad to tour the U.S. and UK alongside the Brian Jonestown Massacre.
As remote as you can get, New Zealand seems to be the optimal next stop for Far Out Distant Sounds, meaning things finally seem to be heading south for Chinese indie rock – and I mean that in a purely geographic sense.
We caught up with Ricky to find out more about Birdstriking’s Australian / NZ tour, how he got involved with the Chinese music scene and whether he likes pies or not.
Spoiler: Ricky Maymi loves pies. Thank god.
KIWESE: Where are you right now?
RICKY MAYMI: I’m in South Fremantle, Western Australia. Visiting with my son, Otis and producing an album for a guy named Michael Savage. I’m pretty sure if he was from NZ, Flying Nun would be all over him! He’s got elements of Shayne Carter and Andrew Brough (Straitjacket Fits), David Pine and Matthew Bannister (Sneaky Feelings), James Milne (Lawrence Arabia) and a touch of maybe Alasdair Maclean (The Clientele)… This is our second time making an album of his together. The first one is called Used To Write. Look it up!
Maymi is an interesting surname, where is it from, can you talk a bit about your heritage?
It’s a Corsican name, though my Father was from Nicaragua. He was the kind of guy that shouldn’t be talked about too much, if you know what I mean…?
They made a movie about one of his old business partners, George Jung, entitled Blow. The one with Johnny Depp. Anyhow… I’ve heard there are also Maymi’s in Russia.
You are from San Fran. What was it like growing up there, how did you first “get into music”?
It was always a diverse environment, in every way, in the 20th century. I was raised to be an open minded, accepting person and in SF it would completely work against you to be any other way.
My uncle, Vince Welnick was in a legendary SF band called The Tubes (famous for “White Punks On Dope” and “Don’t Touch Me There.”) He would always be coming back from places like Japan or Europe after touring with someone like David Bowie or The Stranglers and him and my aunt Laurie would always have exotic toys and gifts and cassettes like Hunky Dory (Bowie) or Country Life (Roxy Music) for me and the family – and this obviously made a lasting impression. Vince later joined Todd Rundgren’s band, and The Grateful Dead after that.
My other uncle, Ed Dorn was also a working musician who had played in some fantastic bands like Zolar X and The Aurora Pushups (later The Pushups) and he went on to work on studio projects for bands like True West and many other Bay Area greats. Ed had me listening to things like Bill Nelson and The Human League back in the very early 80’s.
“I consider myself very fortunate to have grown up in SF through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s
I believe I caught the tail end of a great cultural renaissance of the 20th century.”
My mother was a huge Beatles fan so there was also no avoiding the British Invasion bands for me as a young child. Her partner after my father is a real folk music lover and exposed me to Bob Dylan, Tom Rush, Paul Simon and all the rest. He also has a huge appreciation for classical music, so I had a fairly well rounded musical upbringing.
I also played Clarinet, Saxophone and Double Bass in school from an early age.
Prior to getting hooked on Chinese indie music, what kind of awareness and exposure to Chinese culture did you have? I know there is a deep-rooted Chinese community in San Fran and a huge Chinatown.
Looking back, I had very little knowledge before getting involved with the music scene in China and visiting there, which I have now done several times. All of my life in SF I’d always been drawn to Chinatown – for the food, the art, the people and the culture. Some of the most beautiful people on Earth. A glimpse in to another, older world.
In college in SF I was exposed to more of the history of Chinese American culture through either my theatre classes or my writing classes.
How did Far Out Distant Sounds come about and what was your inspiration for starting it? Does it basically operate as a booking agency/distro for Maybe Mars?
It started as a scrapbook style blog (www.faroutdistantsounds.com), with links to hear the music – just somewhere one could go online and get a sense of what was happening. Not a comprehensive list of Chinese indie bands but a good selection of the stuff that interested me enough to investigate further… Like a gateway drug.
I had hoped the blog would inspire people to do the same, and to some degree, it appears to have done that.
What do you look for as a US-based promoter of Chinese talent and how do you go searching for it, with the firewall and all, and various language barriers?
I am not exactly US-based. I’m Earth-based. Also, there is no real scouting going on from my end. I work closely with Maybe Mars in Beijing and when they have a new release to promote and a band they want to tour outside of China, I become involved through a more organic process as this is all done out of love, admiration and respect.
“Everyone involved understands that this movement is distinctly, extraordinarily significant.”
How often do you come to China? Had you visited China prior to being exposed to bands like Skip Skip Ben Ben, Birdstriking and P.K.14 in 2012?
I had never been to China before 2015. I have been there four times now. Can’t wait to go back! I would absolutely live there if I could – I am in love with Beijing!
Beijing is political centre of China and the undisputed mecca for indie music. How do you view this relationship between politics and alternative music?
It definitely plays a hand in informing the artist’s way forward. Gives them something to rail against, but they don’t do that in obvious, trite ways. They are more clever than that…
What’s your personal connection with NZ?
My first trip to NZ was in February, 2008. I was visiting Shayne Carter, who I had become good friends with after his band Dimmer toured with my band in the US. He arranged for us to go to Dunedin as he knew how much the music from there had meant to me. I got to see Martin Phillipps play a solo set in the park at midday by surprise. I got to know Robbie Yeats and stayed with Graeme Downes for a few days. Caught up with some folks I had already come to know in America, David Kilgour and Bob Scott. I got to see Bachelorette, Die! Die! Die! and Ned Collette all for the first time. Also heard Lawrence Arabia for the first time. It was an epic visit! I had an amazing time and every moment was like walking through a dream.
I’ve been back several times since, mostly to tour with BJM, but once with Steve Kilbey from The Church. Him and I went to Napier as well as Dunedin to perform in addition to Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland.
I’ve had the odd relationship with women from NZ as well. Unfortunately, it’s always been just that… Odd! Small country… 😉
Do you like pies?
I, of course, love pies!
In an interview with Slinkrat in 2013, you said “Unlike the rest of the world, [Chinese indie rock] isn’t preoccupied with fitting in to something pre-existing in the entertainment world, which is why it reminds me of Flying Nun in the 80’s.” How do you respond when critics say Chinese indie bands are just imitating Western rock standards, something that could never be directed at Flying Nun bands?
Well, they clearly aren’t listening closely enough and they are judging through the context/filter of Western standards which simply do not apply here.
It’s a bit of passive-aggressive, xenophobic elitism playing in to that perspective as well. Alan McGee said himself that there is no such thing as Chinese rock. So did the NOFX dude. They clearly do not know what the hell they are talking about, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. They see it the way they want/need to see it to suit whatever agenda they have – that’s fine because enough people know otherwise.
“Even The Beatles had to start somewhere, the most innovative pop band on Earth were covering Chet Atkins and Motown hits of the day when they started.”
The bands from China I work with have obvious Western influences such as Sonic Youth, Velvet Underground, modern composers and experimental music.
None of these kids had the luxury of “growing up” with the Beatles or Bowie the way I did, for example. Or the critics, for that matter and that’s what they need to understand when critiquing this stuff.
Context. It’s from another world. You could hand the same influences to a Western band and they will never come up with the melodies Chui Wan or Birdstriking come up with.
Or have the sonic, aesthetic sensibility of Zhang Shouwang (Carsick Cars, White+), because they are a product of a different world who’s culture is largely unknown to the Western masses.
They aren’t really thinking about it enough or taking these prime factors in to consideration, so I believe their criticisms are lazy and uninformed.
I guess an extension of the above question, and I may be projecting here, but in the past, Chinese acts that get chosen to play internationally are ones that possess some kind of quintessential Chinese characteristics recognizable by international audiences or purveyors of “world” music. Those who do not fill this oriental role are labelled imitators of Western music. Comment.
Again, lazy journalism. The safer stuff that is a truer representation of pure, traditional Chinese culture is always going to be prioritized and given the green light for grants funding or government approval. There is nothing subversive about it. Overtly, if at all. It will be more easily accepted in the West because it doesn’t compete with Western art in any way. Its it’s own thing.
Again, the views of these so-called critiques on Chinese rock stem from a Western Capitalist (capitalism=racism) perspective. The white man lives in fear of China, period. Think about it…. That is one reason I love doing this. Challenge what it is people believe they know about an entire culture that they actually are too afraid and pre-programmed to ever learn anything about. Everyone is mad at China for buying everything up but no one is getting mad at the people pushing the product.
God forbid those evil Chinese would take a Western folk-art (rock music) and serve it back in a fresh, not jaded, more intriguing way. It’s just impossible, right? Wrong! 😉
Tell us about your relationship with Birdstriking. Do you remember the first time you heard them, or saw them live?
I first heard them in Melbourne in August 2012 with my friends Julian Wu and Shayne Carter. Julian is a Chinese Australian and he had just returned from China with a suitcase full of CDs of all these great Chinese bands. Shayne and I happened to be both staying at Julian’s at the time. It really struck us how much Birdstriking had this 3D’s/Die! Die! Die! thing going on!
I first started to communicate with Wang Xinjiu from Birdstriking around this time. He was on Facebook and was studying in Cardiff, so no firewall. After being in touch with Maybe Mars and helping them to sell a bit of stock in SF, they asked me to help set up shows for Carsick Cars, White+ and The Gar in SF and LA. We did this and it went over pretty well.
At the time, Birdstriking’s vocalist, He Fan was also playing bass for Carsick Cars. He was the first one I met in person. In 2014, Carsick Cars were booked to open for Brian Jonestown Massacre in the UK. Shouwang was ill at the time and couldn’t make it, so we had Birdstriking take their place. This was advantageous as Birdstriking’s album, which was banned from release in China for it’s lyrical content was licensed by BJM’s label and his since been properly released worldwide (excluding China) on A Recordings on CD and vinyl.
Since then, I’ve booked and tour managed an extensive North American tour for Birdstriking in 2015. I went back to Beijing in ’15 and ’16 and produced Birdstriking’s new, upcoming album to be released this year.
It is very exciting, a Chinese band playing in NZ without representing the Embassy or playing at a Chinese cultural festival covered in bank branding! How did this Australia/NZ tour come about? Can we consider it a recon mission for future tours?
Talk to Andrew from Die! Die! Die! – they’ve just recently toured in China with Birdstriking. When I was in Auckland in December having lunch with him and Mikey telling them about the AU dates, they offered to help with NZ. Now it’s all happening. Bless ’em! They are solid guys and kindred spirits. BJM were lucky enough to play some gigs with them in Europe in mid 2008.
Hoping to send Chui Wan, Gate To Otherside, Bedstars, Hiperson, Future Orients and Dream Can to the Southern Hemisphere over the next 18 months or so.
What advice would you give to bands (Chinese or otherwise) wanting to look outward, and/or tour internationally in future?
Create a demand for, and culture around your music and make friends with people in the places you want to play in ahead of time. People who can actually help you set up worthwhile shows. Your hometown is bottom priority.
Thanks and happy new year!
Same to you!
BIRDSTRIKING were one of the most important bands to emerge from the Chinese DIY scene based around the legendary D22 venue. The Noise Punk band have been likened to a Chinese Surf City, highlighted by their unflinching obsession with Sonic Youth and the Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Birdstriking will play only two shows in New Zealand before their Australian tour with label mates Carsick Cars.
2.17 BIRDSTRIKING W/ CARB ON CARB, DAILY KENO @ GOLDEN DAWN, AUCKLAND
The other day, while sunbathing on the lawn of a Melrose flat, my friend and I began thinking about the diminishing human element involved in post-internet music consumption.
When I was at high school, I basically lived at Slow Boat Records and Real Groovy – music havens where I’d browse for hours, listen to CD posts, purchase records, get recommendations from staff, find out about new releases from posters in the window, pick up gig guides and buy tickets to upcoming shows.
I remember getting up at dawn to bus into town and be amongst the first to hear Stadium Arcadium the day it was released in New Zealand. I remember staying overnight outside the ticket booth, flanked by fans draped in sleeping bags, eagerly waiting for sales to open for their first Auckland show. This was about ten years ago now.
Nowadays, you can be a fan without ever leaving your front door. With the exception of buying The All Seeing Hand’s Sand to Glass on vinyl at the door of their album release show, I bought all this year’s featured albums online, without even talking to a single person.
The internet means accessibility has grown but human contact has reduced. But the creation, sharing and consumption of music is still an immensely personal thing. These albums create the soundtrack to so many aspects of our lives, they speak to our own experiences or the experiences of others and make us feel things more deeply. Let’s continue to feel, express ourselves and connect with others.
I’m so thankful to all these artists for producing these works and sharing them into the world, where they can be shared and distributed in an instant across the globe.
In no particular order, here are Kiwese’s favourite releases from New Zealand and China in the Year of the Monkey 2016.
The All Seeing Hand finally gave birth to Sand to Glass in December and oh yesyesyes, it has been worth the wait.
In their first album to feature predominantly English lyrics, Sand to Glass showcases Marks’ politically pertinent wordsmithing, encased in industrial metal clanking by drummer Ben Knight (Rogernomix, Unsanitary Napkin) and those trademark, turbo charged electronic power ups from scratch master Alphabethead.
It is perhaps their most ‘pop’ record to date, if The All Seeing Hand could ever be considered so, with tracks like Lizard Brain and Swarm standing out aspreviouslyreleased singles and indicating a shift away from the more abstract compositions of Mechatronics (2013) and Fog and Debris (2014) and towards a tighter sense of songwriting.
Listened to this on repeat while biking through the smog of Chengdu, the soundtrack to this environmental apocalypse.
Favourite track: Dog Eat Dog
Hu Yang // Xu Huai Ruo Gu
(Be Sure) Beijing, CN
My friend Liu Xing introduced me to Xu Huai Ruo Gu earlier this year and I was immediately hooked. Released digitally on the Berlin/Shanghai techno label Be Sure, which is home to brilliant offerings of mixtapes from artists such as Art’s Difficult (ELVIS.T) and Shanghai techno queen MIIIA.
Formerly known as NiChiFanLeMei, this Mt. Emei born Beijing-based producer creates a kind of brutalist, no nonsense techno – all muscle, no fat.
Possibly my most listened album of the year, suitable for furiously bike riding to a destination or scrubbing the kitchen and getting that shit clean as hell.
Favourite track: Restricted
Orchestra of Spheres // Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon
(Fire Records) Wellington, NZ
Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon is a psychedelic serving of tunes, many which have been part of the Spheres mind-melting live set for the past few years.
Their knack for combining the everyday with the otherworldly is evident throughout the album: Let Us Not Forget, an eerie prayer of reminders before leaving the house, the intensely danceable South East Asian inspired jam Anklung Song and their fast-paced Zombie Zombie cover Rocket #9.
Bubbling with sounds both organic and electronic, voices both chanted and spoken, influences both local and extraterrestrial, Brothers and Sisters of the Black Lagoon is a tasty, special brew from my favourite band of Wellington weirdos.
Favourite track: Anklung Song
Duck Fight Goose // CLVB ZVKVNFT 押打饿《未来俱乐部》
(D-Force Records 大福唱) Shanghai, CN
Duck Fight Goose have teamed up with producer Lv for this smashing record on D-Force, their first release in four years, the soundtrack to interplanetary cyborg dancefloors.
CLVB ZVKVNFT is bursting with imagination and inspiration, combining elements of breakbeat, acid house, synth pop and techno into a cohesive string of 12-tracks. Busy yet uncluttered, frantic yet disciplined. A triumph.
Favourite track: 《马》
Unsanitary Napkin // Patriotic Grooves
(Zero Style, Always Never Fun, Limbless Records) Wellington, NZ
FASCIST VOLCANO SPEWING MOLTEN SHIT
Patriotic Grooves is a fast and furious fuck you from Wellington punk trio Unsanitary Napkin, formed in 2015 and fronted by guitarist/vocalist Hannah Salmon a.k.a. artist Daily Secretion, who is well known for her zines, gig posters and album art in collaboration with other Wellington-based bands.
The 12-tracks of the album are punctuated with broadcast radio beeps and sound grabs from white, male New Zealand politicians and media identities. Incredible, machine-gun-like drumming from Ben, who forms a blistering rhythm section with Rupert on bass.
As the album’s defining image of Donald Trump being annihilated by a rainbow beam from a winged vagina (the sticker version shaped like a sanitary pad) would suggest, Patriotic Grooves is comprised of vaginal blasts of anarcho feminist anger directed towards the chauvinistic and conservative peaks of society.
Brief and intense.
Favourite track: Feminine Odour
iimmune // Abnormal
(D-Force Records 大福唱片) Beijing, CN
Melodic, dramatic and emotional. Thoughtful compositions reminiscent of Four Tet and Aphex Twin, Abnormal is the beginning of Bobo’s metamorphosis from film scores to dancefloor ready techno.
Keep an eye on his electronic label Prajnasonic and stay tuned for next year, when the bass will drop.
Favourite track: 鲸鱼-
So Laid Back Country China // Sin Cristales
(Self-released) Wellington, NZ
“I’m too busy drinking / all of the time”
In September, I found myself sitting in the bath tub of a five star hotel in Auckland, up to my tits in hot water and drowning in anxiety. Like my mind was smashing itself into the ground, stuck in a violent wash cycle of negativity, trapped underwater in a swimming pool covered by an immovable tarpaulin. I felt like I was going to rip my own face off.
Sin Cristales brought me back to earth, having articulated such emotions to great effect. Grateful. xx
Favourite Track: Ballad of Calm Arms
Yue Xuan // Entrance & Exports 岳璇《Entrance & Exports》
(Mo Records) Beijing, CN
Entrance & Exports is a remix of Yue Xuan’s beautiful piano album In & Outfrom 2015. Bringing together producers from around China such as MHP, Broken Thoughts, Hong Qile, iimmune and Cvalda onto one impeccably well-crafted compilation (which was initially available as a free download on Douban), the remixes span Minimalist, Post-Rock, Drum & Bass, Techno, Glitch, Drone, Hiphop, Experimental, Ambient and IDM, bringing a whole new electronic take on the original.
Entrance & Exports and accompanying national Remix Tour is a fine example of how this young composer is utilising the resources and connections around her to produce something new and exciting.
Favourite Track: Nine of Swords (Cvalda Remix)
Mermaidens // Undergrowth
(Flying Out) Wellington, NZ
Mermaidens have come a long way since those first acoustic demos four or five years ago, with Undergrowth released in March establishing them as a staple of the Wellington indie scene.
Enchanting mermaids conjuring “dark witch rock” from the dense scrubland is as psychedelic as it sounds – lurking with hidden dangers, the title-track Undergrowth gradually flows from a slow and dreamy creek into a thrashing, rocky river, a structure many of the songs take on the album. There’s certainly something of the occult about these mermaids, whose reverb drenched vocals often take form in first or second person: “I’m a corpse on the beach / I’m a thing / send me out to sea,” pulling the listener deeper into their imagined natural world.
The undergrowth is a mysterious place barbed with the grit and sharpness of gorse, as well as the strength and unruliness of deep roots. Look forward to new material in 2017.
Favourite track: Under the Mountain II
DOC (Dalian Obscure Club) // Northern Electric Shadow DOC 《北方电影》
(D-Force Records 大福唱片) Dalian, CN
There’s something in the water up in Dalian…
I hadn’t even heard of the Dalian Obscure Club until copies of Northern Electric Shadow turned up on CD and vinyl at NU SPACE.
The power of crashing waves, the fluidity of rising tides, the delicacy of swirling rockpools – this is understated, beautiful ocean-inspired math-rock. A fresh breeze of sea air!
Favourite track: 加百利布吉 Gabey’s Boogie
Males // None the Wiser
(Fishrider Records) Dunedin, NZ
A burst of sunny South Island power-pop. The long-anticipated follow up to their debut MalesMalesMales in 2012, None the Wiser is full of so many bright, catchy riffs and uplifting falsetto parts that wearing sunglasses should be listed as a prerequisite for listening. A set of wonderfully crafted guitar songs.
Favourite track: Chartreuse
The Fuzz // The Root of Innocence 法兹乐队《童心之源》
(Maybe Mars 兵马司) Xi’an, CN
This upbeat, chorus-soaked indie rock record is possibly the most Maybe Mars-y Maybe Mars release to date – you just know Yang Haisong has been here.
The audience were quietly bopping along when The Fuzz came to Chengdu on their enormous album release tour in early 2016. Then when Sijiang from Hiperson came out to help them sing《控制》, the crowd exploded with cheers and turned into a sea of moshing bodies, it was beautiful.
Favourite Track: 《控制》
Peach Milk // Finally EP
(Self-released) Auckland, NZ
Peaches and cream are my favourite kind of lollies. So perhaps it is inevitable that I would be into this new young Auckland producer, who dropped her first EP earlier this year. Peach Milk’s music sounds like her name would suggest – sweet and smooth.
Look forward to her sound evolving in the new year.
Six-tracks of candy-coated indie-pop from our Cantonese speaking friends yourboyfriendsucks! Opening with a tribute to Just Like Honey by the Jesus and Mary Chain, how can I not love this? Surprisingly clean production for QiiiSnacks Records (formerly Full Label), known for their DIY lo-fi recordings.
Perhaps the biggest travesty of 2016 is the dissolution of ybfs!, as the lead singer Zoey has moved to Europe to study. Episode 1 is in fact the final episode. Boo!
Perhaps I’ve included Higher Brothers Mixtape here more for their impact rather than my own personal taste, but their skyrocket to fame and influence on the local scene this year is certainly noteworthy. If Fat Shady put Chengdu hip-hop on the map, Higher Brothers CDC rappers Masiwei (马思唯), Dz, Psy.P and Melo, have dabbed themselves to the top and become one of Chengdu’s, if not China’s most iconic hip-hop acts.
This 19-track offering is a searing blast of arrogance and attitude delivered in a mix of lightening fast Chengduhua and American slang. Whether or not elongated trap beats are your thing, or that each track repeats the chorus about five times, tracks like 《野猪儿》 and 《尴尬》 have attained anthem-like status and established hip-hop as the biggest sound in Chengdu.
Now managed by Asian hip-hop agency 88 Rising, Higher Brothers have taken Chengdu hip-hop to an international level of “worldwide shit.” As collaborations with international artists such as Harikiri, Charlie Heat, Bohan Phoenix and J.Mag roll in, I look forward to their sound maturing more in future.
Debut record from Chengdu indie babes The Hormones, the sophomore album from South Island songstress Nadia Reid, something trippy from Beijing no-wave masters Chui Wan, minimal techno stylings from atmen, the debut record from Kunming electro-punk wastrels South Acid MiMi Dance Team, potentially music from new Maybe Mars signees Lonely Leary and Dream Can perhaps even something from those mysterious Dunedin-based creatures Elan Vital and Kolya…
Anyone involved in the Chengdu music scene over the past decade will be familiar with Joshua C. Love (爱书华), the enigmatic frontman of prolific psychedelic rock group Proximity Butterfly and current electronic pop trio Dizzy Love, identified by his long brown dreadlocks, smoky eyeliner, armfuls of tattoos and free-spirited children. Known as much for his music as he is for his views on collaboration, inclusivity and spirituality, Love is a person who exudes a vitality and confidence paired with a quiet contemplation both on and off stage.
Joshua lives in Chengdu with his wife, bassist, vocalist and fellow teacher Heather Christine Love and their three Canadian-born children all of whom have grown up in China from infancy.
“My mother and father were both in the air force and my stepfather was in the army, so I spent a lot of time moving around down the East Coast and in El Paso, New Mexico,” he says of his own upbringing, “if I went back today I would feel a lot of culture shock with the way things are, things on TV, what people are talking about…” Like their parents, the Love children are all bilingual, with the twins only recently picking up on the difference between English and Chinese.
Josh and Heather, Zebra Festival, 2009.
Photo courtesy of Dan Sandoval.
Love first moved to Chengdu in 2002 and met Heather soon after. “It was like Apocalypse Now,” he says of the area around Ligong University at the time, “banana trees, rice paddy hats, ox pulling carts, old ladies washing their clothes in the river – to me it had an enormous spirituality to it.” This was the environment in which Proximity Butterfly was born. Starting from humble beginnings in the Love’s living room back in 2003, Proximity Butterfly set the bar for what was possible for a DIY rock band in Chengdu. “Our drummer Chen Duxi had never touched a drum set before, Heather had never played a bass in her life,” Josh reflects on the band’s first rehearsal, “we literally just wanted to tell stories.” The band performed ceaselessly around town, pouring what little money they made back into gear, touring and studio recordings.
Photo by Kristen Ng.
在2000年中后期成都经历很多变化，道路被建设得更加宽阔，有了二环和三环路。城市以惊人的速度开始发展，而当地音乐和艺术场景也变了。“我觉得从那时候起，成都有一种从根本上让人感到自豪的转变。”爱书华说，“人们开始结合资源把艺术和音乐的梦想变成现实。“ 开始有很多将音乐场景聚集在一起的合作活动，比如斑马节和Cookin’ Chengdu。When the roads were broken down, ring roads built and the city began to develop at breakneck speed around the mid-late 2000s, too came vast changes in the music and arts scene. “There was a shift in attitude that allowed you to be proud to be from Chengdu,” Josh reflects, “ideas to do festivals and art things became possible with the resources that became available.” Collaborative events that brought the music community together such as Zebra Festival and Cookin’ Chengdu came soon after.
Everybody that’s doing something today was at some point engaged with the Hemp House.”
麻糖 Hemp House, 2011.
Photo courtesy of Dan Sandoval.
“At that time the Hemp House was a beehive for creative people,” he says, “it didn’t matter if it was a hip-hop night, heavy metal or painting event, everybody would go there to hang out, everyone knew each others names, it was a golden period, it felt like an Atlantis.”
Over thirteen years, Proximity Butterfly released seven full-length records, toured both nationally and internationally and enjoyed a degree of success that many would aspire to, elevating themselves from café gigs to one of Chengdu’s most well-loved and iconic rock bands. But it certainly wasn’t easy.
“A lot people think being in a band is just about getting wasted and making new songs,” says Josh, the band’s manager and agent over the years. “You have to be that boring guys that wakes up at 5am and sorts the logistics, you have to be the crazy guy that keeps it real in the live shows – it just got too much.” Following the release of their latest album Medusae on Maybe Mars last year, Proximity Butterfly is now on hiatus.
“Love has now turned his musical focus towards a new project called Dizzy Love, a trio comprised of Beijing-based Danish producer Jelly Soendberg and Italian drummer Cecche. Despite just forming earlier this year, Dizzy Love have already been invited to play at festivals around the country including Hongyuan Grassland Music Festival, Kangding Love Music Festival and Chunyou at Morning 早上好. “Dizzy Love was a way to shake off the name,” he says, “would anybody even like it if wasn’t called Proximity Butterfly?”
Dizzy Love, Kangding Love Festival.
Photos by 满足视觉&明嘉影像
虽然爱书华还是担任作曲和主唱，Dizzy Love的声音有别于变色蝴蝶的重型摇滚 riff 和鼓。Soendberg丰满的键盘和数字制作，以及Cecche的电鼓节奏都围绕着他独特的人声展开。从《Medusae》的爱情歌开始，Dizzy Love 继续前行。新的组合品质宏伟而梦幻，一个成熟的新形电子流行民谣。“变色蝴蝶对我来说总是黑暗的，像不断投石的魔鬼… 而Dizzy Love如一个开放的阀门，通过各种不同的能量，让我谱写多彩的爱的篇章。
With Joshua still comfortably in the songwriting seat, Dizzy Love moves away from Proximity Butterfly’s heavy rock riffs and drum rolls as the fullness of Soendberg’s keys and digital production and Cecche’s electric drum beats encase themselves around his distinctive chorus-drenched lyrics. The musical direction picks up where love songs on Proximity Butterfly’s curtain call album Medusae left off, the new combination has a grandiose, dreamy quality to it, a mature new form of electronic pop balladry.
“Proximity Butterfly was always darker for me – throwing rocks at the devil and calling out the bullshit,” he says, “Dizzy Love is the opening of a valve that allows a different kind of energy to flow through – to write about love and colourful things.”
“这不是假象，这是最真实的 This is not a performance – this is the most real it could possibly be”
Listening to Dizzy Love, it is immediately apparent that Joshua has put the love back into his music with all the sincerity and conviction that made Proximity Butterfly so refreshing. “It is entirely okay to be as honest as you can be; and love helps us do that,” Joshua says of their latest track Bliss, an old song which has finally found its wings with Jelly’s production. “When you are in love with somebody, you put your guard down completely and are just willing to accept everything.”
Joshua has known Wu Zhuoling, frontwoman of Wednesday’s Trip for over ten years. “There’s always been a trust and respect between us,” he says of the singer, guitarist and electronic producer, “we always support each other and have a very positive relationship.” At the recent Midi Festival in Tenglong Caves, the pair decided to bring this long-running musical friendship into fruition. “Working together in good faith with positive energy will hopefully inspire people, let’s make it unforgettable.”
While Proximity fans may be disappointed with the band’s hiatus, be assured that Love is still present and making music as uplifting as ever. “Carl Jung was talking about how your life is an overlapped reflection of itself,” he contemplates as our coffee comes to an end, “something happened recently which was a return point, there’s no point to go further into the cosmos, but to loop back through and realize that everything is already as it was.”
2016年11月11日，Dizzy Love和老朋友们星期三旅行要给大家一场星际演出从NU SPACE起飞！On Friday 11th November, Dizzy Love will team up with old friends Wednesday’s Trip to present a show of intergalactic proportions at NU SPACE.
Brace yourselves – in the second ever Kiwese tour, Wellington outsider punk duo mr sterile Assembly are making their way to China to freak some people out and devour various vegetarian fry-ups.
Last month I found myself waiting for some friends outside Baobab Cafe. Despite a two year absence from Wellington, everything was overwhelmingly familiar – the tangy scent of South Indian curries in the breeze, rows of faceless mannikins posing in op-shop windows and bright yellow public buses trundling past with a mechanical groan. Lofty signs for QUICK AND EASY PERSONAL LOANS remained latched to the sides of cheap bakeries. Not much had changed in Newtown, an inner-city suburb dotted with ethnic restaurants and a growing number of hipster hangouts.
After work traffic kept me waiting by the side of the road. Conversation floated by among those clasping fish n’ chips or Keep Cup lattes to their puffer-jacketed chests. A cold wind blew as gutters were scoured for cigarette butts and spare change by the chapped hands of the less fortunate.
The income gap in New Zealand has continued gape wide open in the two years since I’ve been gone. A suit scrolls through his iPhone while a homeless man rolls a used durry. This is the reality of urban Aotearoa – no glossy tourism pamphlets, no rare and endangered birds, no hobbits or wizards.
There is, however, a pair of performance punk musicians whose music speaks to the experiences of the poor, marginalised and ignored members of our society, who believe in telling stories that belong to the current cultural conversation, who believe “indifference is the death of the heart.” They are mr sterile Assembly, dubbed as one of the most unusual live acts in New Zealand, a band who have reached out to Kiwese seeking a way through China.
At a little past half five, my ride arrives.
Three years since the last break, not a single day off since Paradise is busy by the bay In orbit of the corner store, seven days a week Seven through to seven every day
Upper flat, inner city, such a long, long way from home Double cleaner’s wages pay the rent In a tiny condensed world, make do in a single room Quiet touch only, beside the daughter’s bed
Living third world in a first world city
Employer brands the loyalty, keeps the manners nice The old bloke at the front desk, bites down the bitterness Stress value first impression, try to smile with missing teeth Fight for slight promotion and pass the urine test
Living third world in a first world
A state house by the motorway, a tiny condensed space How many can camp down, into a single double bed Fever likes the company, attracted by rheumatic heart Win the prize of penicillin, or a surgeon on your chest
Loud hear them Lucky them Who were there And who got out Don’t hear them Other them Who are there Who can’t get out
– ‘Othering Heights’ from It’s All Over by mr sterile Assembly
A car pulls up in the middle of the road and a man with the most fantastic moustache in the South Pacific gestures for me to hop in. It’s the ringmaster Kieran, the drumming and singing mr sterile himself, with the other half of the Assembly, bassist and vocalist Chrissie, behind the wheel. Car troubles aside, we are soon cruising around the South Coast as the sun sets behind the hills, tinted orange and pink.
We soon arrive at their Happy Valley home – mr sterile gets to work on reheating a veggie curry for tea and Chrissie fires up the brazier. Their kids have all grown up and moved out, leaving the cat to prowl around the cozy living room stacked with a staggering array of books, CDs, records, cassettes and paintings. A drum kit and bass amp sit next to the sofa. It is a home full of music and information.
I’d received an email from mr sterile Assembly several months prior, who had seen the Orchestra of Spheres Rockumentary on YouTube and were themselves long intrigued by the possibility of touring China. A few more emails, a Skype and a serendipitous trip back to New Zealand for Going Global, I was now sitting in their living room hearing tales of Levin bogan basement gigs, the touring circuit in Indonesia and the travels of DIY punk duo Sabot.
It is with much pleasure that I announce the mr sterile Assembly China Tour 2016, kicking off this Friday in Shanghai.
MR STERILE BIO:
The mr sterile Assembly is a bass and drum duo of explosive proportions from Aotearoa New Zealand. With one foot in the world of punk, and the other dancing between noise, math rock, free-form squall, they are not easy to box, and are quite happy about that. Known as much for their wordsmithing as for their impressive live performance, sterile’s fierce delivery has been described as “oppressive and delightful both at the same time.” Organ Magazine, UK.
After 15 years, five albums, and several excursions to Central Europe and South East Asia, Sterile are looking forward to this 20 date tour across 2 continents.
The band will be traveling with their latest album, It’s All Over released through the band’s label skirted Records. International distribution is through Portland based Metal Postcards. Take a listen on Bandcamp to “A jolt of pure creative spirit married to social commentary, and damn good fun!” NZ Musician.
KIWESE PROUDLY PRESENTS:
MR STERILE ASSEMBLY CHINA TOUR 2016
Shanghai @ Space-631
NOIShanghai LXXIV X Space-631 Vol.8
Support: Torturing Nurse, 反方向的钟(上海) 白梦薇(上海))
Guangzhou @ Loft 345
In Collab With: QiiiSnacks Records