Die! Die! Die! 来！来！来！Hold the press, New Zealand noise-rock / post-punk trio Die! Die! Die! are returning to China for the first time in five years for a ten date tour!
It’s a sweltering Thursday afternoon here in Chengdu and I am still nursing a strained neck induced by overly aggressive head banging at the first annual Punkfest CDC 成都朋克音乐节 at Morning House 早上好 last weekend. Speaking of overly aggressive head banging and sweatiness…
Die! Die! Die! are such a great band. Their live show is an almost cathartic experience, the relentless thrashing and collision of flying bodies, the unpredictability of vocalist/guitarist Andrew Wilson as to when he will careen off stage. Just thinking about Michael Prain’s drum intro to A.T.T.I.T.U.D. makes me feel like sporadically pogoing into people.
The band first toured China back in 2011 with Tom from This Town Touring, paving the way into the unknown for other NZ acts to follow. This time, with London-import Rory Attwell (Test Icicles) on bass duties, the band will be brought over by Beijing-based punk tour overlord Nevin Domer from Genjing Records and Maybe Mars for ten dates across Taipei, Hong Kong and the Mainland.
With the new high speed rail from Guiyang to Chengdu making things possible, the Die! Die! Die! train is storming west to play Guiyang, Chengdu and Chongqing, plus the main southern and eastern centres! YEAH!!
DIE! DIE! DIE! CHINA TOUR 2016
Revolver, Taipei Support: Slack Tide, Wayne’s So Sad NT500 (presale and student price) / NT600 (at door)
Focal Fair, Hong Kong
Support: SECTS, The Bollands
“A dream of a shopping cart left in the street in a desolate wasteland is stuck on repeat,” sings Jonathan Zeitlin on Alpine Decline’s latest album Life’s a Gasp, a record that echoes the dystopian smog world of Beijing.
Alpine Decline is Beijing-via-Los Angeles husband and wife rockers Jonathan Zeitlin and Pauline Mu. Self-described as “psych, shoegaze, noise rock and ’90s indie, without sounding too much like any of those,” Alpine Decline are currently touring their seventh album Life’s a Gasp across China with long time confidante, producer and bassist Yang Haisong.
Kiwese caught up with Jonathan ahead of their gig in Chengdu to talk about touring and synthesisers in a WeChat conversation littered with baby smoking Hitler emojis.
KIWESE: Hey Alpine Decline! Where are you guys?
JONATHAN: We’re driving up from Nanning to Guiyang right now and it is fucking gorgeous. Pauline and I are essentially nature-oriented people living in a city that is the antithesis of natural, so this lush landscape really moves us.
Rad, how was the show in Nanning?
Nanning was great. I think in places that don’t get as many touring acts coming through, the thrills are a little bit more palpable. A strange room and a strange feeling, like someone might bar the doors and some shootout might happen, or evil spirits descend… this is the perfect vibe for us to play.
“Playing for ten people ready to freak the fuck out is often more fun than 200 people who are only listening with one ear.“
Can you tell us about your tour bus and crew? Sounds huge!
We’ve been on the US get-in-the-van trip quite a few times and will be doing it again in October with Carsick Cars and Chui Wan, but this is the first time we’ve had a van to tour in china, instead of riding the rails. It completely changes the nature of the expedition – in a way we are temperamentally well suited for.
We brought our baby and a babysitter, so that adds two bodies. There’s the three of us in the band, Xiao Bao running sound, our old friend (and veteran of the earliest P.K.14 van tours) 黄师傅 minding the details, and our very trusted driver. For awhile Nevin from Genjing Records/Maybe Mars came along. Little Monster rolled with us from Shanghai to Nantong and that was max capacity.
Logistics aside, I love ripping down the road. I like stepping out of the car in the middle of nowhere. I like the whole ‘Peter Pan leading a pack of gypsy children out into the wilderness’ vibe.
This is not the first tour Alpine Decline for little Roland, right? He must be almost ready to join the band as the fourth member haha
This is his fourth tour. He did Australia when he was six months old, then the China tour for our last album GO BIG SHADOW CITY and the subsequent US/Canada tour. He’s pretty natural at it. He gets on really well with everyone and can tolerate the dirty language and rough living pretty well.
With kids, I find you create reality for them… they don’t come into the world with a set of expectations of how things are gonna be. So taking him on tour at first was about us being brave, not about him understanding what’s up. We just felt like it was a bad narrative in the long term to say “we used to tour and make albums and then you were born so it all stopped.” We felt like he could have warmth and support and a reasonable measure of stability and safety while still coming into Pauline and my world, joining our lives and our family.
What’s the best thing about being on tour?
There is a lot of wildness on tour; wild thoughts, the crazy feeling of being cut loose, the daily encounter with my fight-or-flight instincts. You meet crazy people and seem to be endlessly celebrating something, I don’t know what. For us, we are very focused on the shows, because getting in a room with people and playing music every night, there is a possibility we will get somewhere interesting, and that’s really the only reason to tour.
Of course we get tired, nerves frayed and maybe lose perspective of reality a little bit. But I’m going to reach a place every night where the moment opens up and freezes and we are all intensely present for some fleeting interval. so 辛苦? 辛苦我可以收。(hardship, hardship I can take.)
Welcome to Chengdu, what’s your impression of this place?
Chengdu and these western parts always leave a very deep impression on us. Of course in Chengdu as everywhere you witness the crush of development, but there is a kind of frontier vibe that comes on this far from the eastern seaboard that strikes me as romantic.
Would be great to have an Alpine Decline synth set in Chengdu!
Aw, I would have loved to do a synth set in Chengdu! When we were planning the tour and figuring out where we could do the synth stuff, I just didn’t know if there was a community interested in that kinda thing…
I wouldn’t say there’s a ‘community’ but certainly individuals who have an interest.
Yeah, I find on tour there is pretty intense interest in the modular synths and people just trying to contextualize asymmetrical music in general, so that after the synth sets we are basically spending about a half an hour talking to the crowd, showing them the synths and explaining stuff.
We use the synths during the rock set too, so we also have gotten people who come out even though they aren’t interested in guitars or rock, but read somewhere about the synths.
If it’s not too mafan, are you able to tell us about your synths for all the synth nerds out there?
Ah, so basically we built two boxes and filled then with different modular synth components from a variety of sources. Eurorack is basically a format, a set of standards, so people can build synth components that will be compatible with other peoples modules. so we have basically a collection of oscillators, filters, VCAs, envelope generators, utilities, etc that we can patch together to create any sound we imagine.
We don’t have any presets or memory banks, it is nearly impossible to perfectly recreate a sound, so every night on tour the synths are slightly different, their ambience a little slippery and sorta every variable. plus they are a lot lighter than lugging around big vintage synths like the last tour haha.
I read in an interview that you recorded Life’s a Gasp in a makeshift studio in the mountains?
I think the place was originally going to be like a western style residential neighbourhood in the mountains past Badaling, northwest of Beijing, but the government moved some factories out to the adjacent valley and the place was more or less abandoned by the ten or twelve people that built houses there. Surreal, kind of ghostly, maybe some abandoned dogs, but with the ruins of unrestored Great Wall snaking along the ridgeline. We kinda had a sound design in mind and wanted to find a very big room where we could record drums, guitar and bass live together, and one of these houses became available to us. So we moved there for a week and were able to create a really different, closed-circuit kind of habitat for this part of the recording process.
So you guys are rolling in Guangxi right now, a far stretch from L.A. You’ve been in Beijing for a decent few years now, do you still align yourselves and your style with the L.A. scene at all?
No, we don’t align ourselves with the L.A. scene at all. Actually, I don’t have a clue what’s been going on in L.A. the last five years at all. Even before we moved here, we were feeling very disassociated with the music scene, pretty aware of the distance between what we were looking to do and the territory around us.
It might be a little different on a personal level for Pauline, because she grew up there, but especially for me just kinda drifting through from more remote parts, L.A. just seems like a fantasy to me, even when I lived there.
I’m originally from a small town in north-eastern Ohio, a sort of farmland about an hour outside of a big collapsing steel town.
There are brilliant musicians in L.A… I’m in disbelief I had the opportunity to call them my friends and whip up some music together… but we had a different plan when we started Alpine Decline and after about a year knew it wasn’t right in L.A.
L.A is known around the world as the mecca of music and film production, so no doubt full of people trying to make it big. Do you find any parallels between that and Beijing?
The scale is really different. People seeking to make art come to Beijing, but the leading industry in Beijing is politics, not art. In L.A., its almost exclusively entertainment, like a coal town with screening rooms instead of mineshafts. Truthfully, L.A. is really just film and TV, so playing music there is still a little outside… unlike New York or Berlin, perhaps.
I don’t know what “making it big” would look like in China. We didn’t think that was an option here, which was part of the appeal.
Alpine Decline play NU SPACE Chengdu this Saturday with support from the almighty Hiperson!
购票请长按下方二维码:Press & extract the QR code below for tickets on Zaomengshe:
atmen is an independent electronic music label in Chengdu, founded by local DJs Su and Xiang in 2015.
Kiwese is very proud to be part of this collective.
Resurfacing from last year’s raves in an empty swimming pool and an underground air raid shelter, atmen return with Aus-atmen Festival 2016, an independent electronic music festival in the lush Chengdu countryside. Techno, camping, fresh air, chill zones, food, drink, what more could you want?
Read more below about the DJs, registration for the Open ‘Shua’ Stage and how to win two tickets!
Video by VJ Mian Music by Su
〖 DATE 〗
Saturday 21 – Sunday 22 May 2016
4:30pm – end
〖 TICKETS 〗
Door sales 100RMB
Pre-sales on Zaomengshe, click here!!
Featuring electronic music all day and all night on the AUS-STAGE and the Open ‘耍’ Stage. Dance. Camping. Tattooing. Market zone. Food and drink.
The AUS-STAGE will feature a handpicked selection of ten local and international DJs, with techno, minimal, house and electronic music pumping from mid-afternoon to the following day… With chill beats, teepees and a swimming pool to cool off in the summer sun, Aus-atmen caters to both your relaxation and party inclinations.
Aus-atmen will fuse music, dance and art with the elements, featuring natural art installations,tattooing and a craft market housed amongst the trees.
Club experience 俱乐部演出经历:
❀ 北京的DADA和灯笼Lantern Beijing
❀ Ein-atmen 2015
❀ Golden Gate (Berlin) Edgar Peng China Tour – Support DJ
❀ Seafood Party 海鲜派对
Currently based in Chengdu, founder and curator of independent fashion retailer Sihe, electronic music collaborator HAO brings his distinctive style and multiplex technique to the AUS-STAGE. From Europe to Asia, from Fashion Week to music festivals, art museums to clubs in Berlin, Hao’s creative outputs as a tech house & techno DJ are underpinned by a passion for independent culture and belief in the spiritual power of electronic music. ❀
MAY Chengdu, CN
在MAY心里”音乐的律动就像是甹驰在沙漠里的感觉”作为一个新鲜电子乐DJ的May，从小受民族乐器的熏陶，这使得之后她在电子音乐的道路上有着自我的风格和意识，对于她而言，能够一直保持极简主义的方式去表达音乐，才能将音乐中的精髓完美释放。偏爱techno的May ，希望用自己的感知去构造出一个通透的音乐时空。正如她所说：“在这个浮躁不安的时代里,通过内心的简化与沉淀，才会找到音乐上的自我表达。” With a university background in traditional Chinese music and performance, May is an up and coming talent who sees music as a “warrior galloping across the desert.” Surrounded by the uplifting sounds of ethnic instrumentation as a child, May holds the power of minimalism at the core of her electronic music expression. By giving people the opportunity to experience new and exciting styles of music, she hopes to build a bigger and better electronic music scene in Chengdu for everyone to enjoy. ❀
DJ, producer and promoter Bchir has evolved from a humble bedroom mixtape creator, to a festival organizer in the late 2000s, to one of the most well-loved techno DJs in Chengdu. As a DJ with refined musical taste and ability to blow the roof off till 8am, Bchir also spreads the gospel of techno with the Chengdu party collective TechnoPowa. With a diverse bag of tracks and an intuition for the dance floor, Bchir will bring his good vibes and deep hypnotic groove to Aus-atmen this year. ❀
Ewan favours deep and edgy techno. With strong post industrial and classical romanticism influences combined with him being a true pioneer in music culture, Ewan has developed a strong personal style. Having played at all of Chengdu’s best underground clubs, as well as Lantern and Dada in Beijing, Ewan is now one of the highlights of Chengdu’s dance scene. ❀
Known for his deep, dance-floor ready house and techno selections, Xiaolong’s sets are unwavering in quality. With over ten years experience at clubs and festivals around China, Xiaolong is one of Chengdu’s most experienced and well-loved DJs. ❀
When hearing the likes of Mike Ravelli, don’t be fooled by his undeniable fresh sound, he’s by no means the new kid on the block! He became a pioneering artist with the infamous Amsterdam based ‘GZG’ collective in the early 00’s, known for their wild warehouse parties that changed the face of the electronic scene. From slow and melodic to fast-paced and energy-packed, his music meets the criteria craved by heated dance floors.
Nowadays, Mike Ravelli is recognised in the Netherlands for his borderless energetic sound in his DJ sets and has built a solid reputation as a popular act. Not only his highly acclaimed productions, supported by artists such as Karotte, Edu Imbernon and Dubfire, but also residencies at favourable Dutch techno and house organisations such as Shoeless, Perception, Thuishaven and the notorious Beachclub Woodstock 69 have lead him towards a career with international recognition. ❀
SU Chengdu, CN
出生于川剧世家的她，从小就对音乐及艺术有着浓厚的兴趣和基础。中学的时候开始接触电子音乐, 从此便迷恋上了这种充满无限创造空间的音乐形式。她始终坚持自己的音乐理想，游走在国内外自己喜欢的派对及电子音乐节，长年在德国、法国、意大利、西班牙等欧洲国家著名电子音乐俱乐部派对及音乐节的现场体验中，萌生了要将真正纯正、高品质的电子音乐及派对带回国内的念头，她逐渐的踏入了音乐推广的行业内，也同时成为一位dj和开始电子音乐制作，希望通过自己对电子音乐的理解和诠释来感染及影响更多的人了解并同样的热爱电子音乐。2014年，她同其他的三位伙伴在成都推出一家地下电子音乐俱乐部 TAG CLUB 其意为 To Another Galaxy,致力于推广电子音乐文化，希望通过这样一个平台，让生活在烦嚣城市生活中的人们，褪去浮躁、烦恼，感受电子音乐的魅力，体验身心灵同电子音乐艺术碰撞的奇妙旅程。同时，四名年轻人亦希望在这样一个充满无限可能的空间里，编织自己的音乐梦想。
Su is one of the co-founders of atmen. Born into a family of Sichuan opera artists, Su grew up surrounded by music and art. First exposed to electronic music in high school, she has had a crush on its infinite space and sound ever since. Having absorbed the energy of German club parties and European electronic festivals for years, Su felt compelled to bring high-quality electronic music to people back home, thus beginning her journey into promotion, DJing and music production.
In 2014, Su and three partners founded an underground electronic music club in Chengdu called .TAG, “To Another Galaxy,” dedicated to pushing electronic music culture and creating a platform for people to create and share a space of endless possibilities and musical dreams. ❀(Check out Su playing at the Morning Bar after party of Orchestra of Spheres: Te China Rockumentary EP. 2 CHENGDU!)
Xiang is one of the co-founders of atmen. Classically trained as a child, two years of university in Germany amidst the backdrop of the mid-2000s techno scene inspired her to become a DJ. Xiang captivates audiences with her intuition for sound and flow – her live set integrates electronic textures from synthesisers and recordings sampled from nature and daily life.
Xiang also collaborates with artist Little New in their audio-visual project XX², amalgamating elements of the natural world and everyday life into a real-time sensory experience. ❀
KR Wellington, NZ
Kristen是一位来自新西兰的吉他手。她在惠灵顿玩过车库摇滚乐队，也喜欢用四轨机做一些Lo-fi的卧室录音，来到成都认识atmen以后就开始使用数字效果和循环来创造电子噪音。她的影响包括krautrock，实验音乐，碧昂丝和techno。这次Aus-atmen她跟Su和Xiang一起演出。Yours truly. Transplanted from Wellington, New Zealand, Kristen is a guitarist who comes from a background of garage rock bands and lo-fi bedroom recordings. She uses digital effects and looping to create electronic beats. Her influences range between krautrock, experimental music, Beyoncé and techno. She will play with Xiang and Su on the AUS-STAGE. ❀
CHAMBERLAIN Beijing, CN / New York, USA
张伯伦 出生在北京 生活在纽约 写诗同时也做声音 也做live performance用诗，声音和视觉交互在一起。 即将就读于在旧金山的Mills College的electronic music and recording media专业 全球最好的Avantgarde Music Academy(先锋音乐学院)。 用声音这个媒介创造空间\环境让人脱离现实/假象。用感官带来的未知，去发现新的可能性。 我相信’气’和能量来自于现在(now) 和每个人都有权利拥有的自由(freedom)。A DJ and a poet. Originally from Beijing, Chamberlain has been studying and living in New York for years. He explores sound that is integrated with body movements and spatiality/sound and architecture, dealing with the sound inside and outside by organizing system of frequencies to intertwine the sonic space and physical space, producing sonic sculptures which remains.Nothing essential happens in the absence of noise. ❀
HIROSHI Hiroshima, JP
Techno, consistency, Japanese ramen. ❀
Come join us in Flower Town on Saturday 21 May! Full moon!
In the bleary eyed haze of 4am in the morning, I stumbled home from the after party at Morning Bar 早上好 and began mashing about on my phone trying to decipher a Chinese van booking app. Several hours later, a comedically large house moving van appeared, and we were ready to go. Chongqing, here we come!
With a lot of laughs and a bit of KFC, the OOS x Lady Lazer Light x Kiwese China tour bullet trained it’s way to the sprawling, hilly municipality of Chongqing, home to 30 million people, the most populated centre in China.
NUTS Livehouse Chongqing is one of the most professional venues I’ve been to in China. These guys have their shit down pat, from the lights to the sound to the promotion to the vibe. The venue itself is located in Deyi Fashion Mall, a bizarre building in Jiaochangkou full of different levels, sections, awnings and shops.
The crowd was electric, with more than 100 people turning up on a weeknight. Although there was no warm-up band arranged, the Spheres magically mutated into a mysterious New Zealand hip hop act called The Niubis™. Never before has Chongqing been so educated about multinational milk corporations, the uterus or breakfast condiments.
It’s the second day of the national October holiday break, and we’ve just taken a 19hr overnight train from Beijing to Chengdu.
After arriving at the Chengdu Music Hotel, we chucked back some egg pancakes 煎饼 and a hot sour noodle 酸辣粉 round the corner on Minzhu Lu (R.I.P.). Back in my neighbourhood, I ran back to my house for a quick shower and change of clothes – having been in Beijing for the past three weeks, it was so good to be home and see all my friends, along with this amazing band from Wellington that I had been raving about for the past year!!
The Spheres were playing the headline slot on Day 3 of the second NUART Festival, a three day music, art and tech extravaganza that takes places over two streets and stages, featuring both local and international acts and artists. They played on a street stage built of bamboo to an enormous and adoring crowd of people young and old. Quite simply, Chengdu has never seen anything like it.
The quiet old street of Minzhu Lu, next to where the gang were staying, will be demolished to make way for a music hall complex.
That includes Morning Bar 早上好, our local watering hole and the venue for the Chengdu after party. Following the festival, Lady Lazer Light set up her projector and eyeballs and Riki presented his techno/juke project Cave Circles for the second time on tour, ultimately pushing his soundcard to the state of kaput. My beautiful friend Su from the electronic label atmen had just come back from Germany and brought her minimal techno vibes to the party.
As usual, Morning Bar was bustling with all sorts of friends. I found Riki eating spicy chicken wings with a reggae band from Guizhou at 3am in the morning.
Morning Bar has since been walled off and left to decay, the glass windows and wooden fixtures have been extracted and recycled by local workers, the eateries and stores have ended their decades long business to move elsewhere. When I walk past the old place on Minzhu Lu my heart sinks, now an empty shell of what was such a joyful hub of drunkenness, music and good times.
But when I glimpse over the blue retaining wall and see the Orchestra of Spheres poster still stuck to the alcove outside, I know that is a memory that can never be demolished.
In the first instalment of our five-part China tour series, Orchestra of Spheres reunite with Lady Lazer Light in Beijing and wreak havoc at School Bar, Temple Bar and Brother’s BBQ Tribe in Feijiacun.
Rumours have been circulating for months now, but the demolition of Morning Bar 早上好 on Minzhu Lu has finally become a reality.
Kiwese looks back on the old venue and forward to the new, ahead of Chunyou春游 2016 this weekend.
When people ask where I learned to speak Chinese, there are two truths – I studied at Victoria University of Wellington, Beijing Language and Culture University and Sichuan University for five years in three programs. But it was at Zaoshanghao where I really found my voice.
Located on Minzhu Lu 民主路 (Democracy Road), a quiet old street off the First Ring Road in the city centre, Zaoshanghao was a little local bar run by owner Zhang Xin and his crew of can-do local bros. Driven by a DIY attitude, love of chilling and independent music, over the past seven years Zaoshanghao has become a staple venue in the Chengdu music scene as well as the hosts and collaborators of some of the city’s most memorable music festivals.
Zaoshanghao on Minzhu Lu is a five minute walk from my flat or a two minute bike ride. Many friends live even closer; some moved to Jiuyanqiao just to be near it. Stylistically speaking, the crowd is a real mixed bag – hip hop rap stars, rasta potheads, punk guitarists, computer engineers, wandering folk singers, poets, hairdressers, techno producers, experimental cellists, oil painters, and more. Zaoshanghao is the beating heart of our little community.
I’ve celebrated the past two birthdays and New Year’s Eves at Zaoshanghao. I’ve met almost all my friends there. Zaoshanghao and the community of friends that make it great are a huge reason I am living here.
Though not an official ‘livehouse,’ the low stage and banging PA system has spawned random jam sessions, afternoon reggae gigs, experimental shows and impromptu DJ sets. While the majority of shows are hosted at the garden venue in Flower Town, the Minzhu Lu stage has been graced by bands as diverse as Soviet Pop, Noise Temple, Kawa and Jurat T.T.
With a fairly loose chuck-on-your-own music policy, people would be constantly plugging their phones into the main system, filling the weekday airwaves with music to share.
Zaoshanghao catered through the seasons, providing a place of warmth and good company all year round. The courtyard out back is cold beer in the summer and roasting round the fire in the winter. Kittens and spiders scuttled about, the foozball table perpetually in motion. Patti Smith gazed over the space in her white shirt and blazer, while the giant wooden giraffe towered above the stage.
Climb the stairs to the rooftop and you’ll find yourself sitting on a platform among the haggard rooftops of the houses next door. Amidst everyone’s grief about the closure, many have cited the greatest loss as the two banana trees out back, which have grown into ginormous beasts over the past four years due to being smothered in a full bag of fertiliser.
The charm of Zaoshanghao also stems from the neighbourhood. Surrounded by trees, cheap eateries and dilapidated wooden houses, the kind where walls are insulated with compressed ferns and newspapers. Morning traffic consists of elderly folk biking home from the vegetable market, while in the afternoon the street is lined with three-wheeled snack vendors parking up to feed the outpour of students from the music academy.
The sound of musical instruments and school children can be heard floating through the air, punctuated by the distinctive clink-clink-clank of iron hammers from local sweet sellers – the Chengdu version of the Mr. Whippy tune. The buildings are built in the old style, with traditionally tiled rooftops, open balconies and patterned brick window fittings.
Minzhu Lu held the vestiges of the city people once knew, and while towering skyscrapers and identical apartment buildings sprung up like wild grass, Zaoshanghao was a little haven of sanity amidst the madness. People felt comfortable there. It was like home.
In a city that has experienced such rapid, unimaginable change over the past 20 years, it was in this familiar environment that the second Zaoshanghao found it’s roots. Although the buildings were rundown, they were full of character and history, traits which become scarcer and scarcer with every newly built shopping complex.
Minzhu Lu is a quiet residential street off the First Ring Road, properties from 1 through 13 were given their demolition eviction notices late last year. Zaoshanghao is number 13.
Word that Zaoshanghao was going to be 拆掉 demolished began circulating in conversation about a year ago – everything but the date was certain. The government wanted to build a music hall next to the music school, everything had to go.
On several occasions throughout the year, it was said the bar only had two weeks left. Weeks later, we’d still be sitting out back drinking beers.
In November, it sounded as if the news was certain – two weeks left, for 真的 real this time. Residents from the surrounding apartments were shifting out, the moving trucks were being piled up, restaurants pulled their shutters down and pasted notices of thanks to the community for their years of patronage.
Along with two architect friends, I began to film interviews with friends of Zaoshanghao and local restaurants along Minzhu Lu, with the idea of producing a documentary about the demolition of the street called ‘Goodbye, Democracy Road‘ 《民主路，再见》.
“How long have you lived here?” Yang Yang yelled across to a resident washing the dishes in their sink on the balcony.
“Since 1973,” they replied, “we’ve got to leave by this weekend.”
Everyone was shocked to hear that there were only two weeks left, and as with most Chinese bureaucracy, the issue was shelved for another few months.
All throughout the winter, we converged around the brazier out back, burning the remnants of the old community around us.
Winter was spent sifting through the vacated brick flats for wood, old furniture and pot plants. Some of the stuff the guys found looked like it belonged in a museum. Rescuing the old things before the bulldozers come in and nothing is spared.
With the neighbours gone, the sound system was pumped up to its full potential. New Year’s saw Hiroshi play hard techno until 6am.
Zaoshanghao didn’t officially open again after Chinese New Year.
Demolition of Minzhu Lu started mid-last month at the mouth of the street. A blue wall was put up around the perimeter before being replaced with a brick one, which will likely remain that way for another year or so.
The blue wall now sits around Zaoshanghao and it’s neighbours, marking the inevitable. While many of us are upset, the Zaoshanghao crew are already onto the next. This is the second venue owner Zhang Xin has been evicted from in four years and he is not letting it stop him from continuing.
I’ve been super emotional about the demolition of the old street and community. The evicted residents will be scattered into soulless high rises on the outskirts of the third ring road, forever separated from the neighbours they’ve played mahjong with for the past three decades. The abandoned buildings will be left to decay, then replaced by buildings of the homogenised, modern city blueprint.
For my local friends, the news is sad but commonplace. I listen to their stories about what Chengdu was like when they were young – full of teahouses with big wooden slide doors, street side barbershops, swimming in the river, roads full of bicycles and carts. Now it is enormous high rises, freeways packed with cars and billboard screens. I think about what Wellington was like when I was younger. It more or less the same now. Revisiting spots from one’s childhood is not a possibility that exists for the locals of Chengdu. People have a different perspective on change here, it has been a constant for as long as they can remember.
Sometimes I think that’s why people here like taking photos, as a way of preserving memories when everything has been destroyed.
However, in an endless cycle of destruction and construction, there is life, rebirth and creativity.
Zaoshanghao have started a new venue out in Flower Town: Morning House. Sunshine, fresh air, bird song in the flower-growing village in the south of the city. Moving into the old Xiwo, the crew have established two more stages on either side of the swimming pool. New beginnings, bigger and better. Shit just got real.
In true DIY style, Zaoshanghao have smashed down the fence at the back and expanded into some of the old houses out back, converting them into an electronic music room, rehearsal space and studios for local band Stolen 秘密行动 and folk singer Zhang Xiaobing 张小饼. At the front, they have built a beautiful wooden stage beneath a plot of tall, willowing trees. While the banana trees at Minzhu Lu will be missed, there are plenty more tree friends at the new venue.
The new Zaoshanghao is beautiful and inspired. This weekend it is gonna kick off, as the fourth annual Chunyou rolls around!!
Get your pre-sales on Zaomengshe.
4月23日 DAY 1: BAND STAGE 乐队舞台
14：30-15：20 疆与他的朋友们 Jiang with Friends
15：20-16：10 亮子与乐队 Liang Zi
16：10-17：00 Pascal Pinon（Iceland）
17：00-17：50 Kingkong&The Chum（Thailand）
17：50-18：40 Apollo 20
19：30-20：20 海朋森 Hiperson
20：20-21：10 未之域 Terra Incognita
21：10-22：00 罗友生 Luo You Sheng
22：00-22：50 秘密行动 Stolen
22：50-23：40 声音玩具 Soundtoy
4月24日 DAY 2: BAND STAGE 乐队舞台
14：30-15：20 汪文伟 Wang Wen Wei（SH）
15：20-16：10 张尧 Zhang Yao（CQ）
16：10-17：00 黄晶与乐队 Huang Jing（CQ）
17：00-17：50 搞乐队 Gao Band
19：30-20：20 树子 Shuzi
20：20-21：10 Don Camilo（France）
21：10-22：00 说唱会馆 CDC
4月23日 DAY 1: ELECTRONIC STAGE 电子舞台
14：00-15：00 Eric Huang
4月24日 DAY 2: ELECTRONIC STAGE 电子舞台
03：00-05：30 Yang Bing（BJ）
07：30-09：30 Voko X
11：30-14：00 chill set
14：00-16：00 Cvalda & Ni Bing（BJ）
16：30-18：00 Summer & Nature Bao
19：30-21：30 Harry Ho
21：30-23：30 Mickey Zhang（BJ）
I am going to be playing with techno kweens Su and Xiang from atmen in creating some dark grooves on the Electronic stage!
Kiwese is very glad to join the Zaoshanghao crew this year in making videos and doing interviews! Stay tuned for more soon..
There are plenty of places that run weekly/spontaneous jam sessions in Chengdu. Submarine Bar down in Yulin is one of them.
Here’s a little ditty I shot and edited for the buddies down at Submarine Bar last night.
The chick in the hat was doing an acoustic singer-songwriter type thing early on, then as the night grew boozier and approached the early hours, launched into this epic Chengdhua rap.
Roughly translates to “lemme tell you / I’m wearing a dress tonight / you thought I wasn’t drinking tonight but I’m still on it / where should I go tonight / y’all satisfied? / I came out here again tonight / you drunk / we all drunk again etc.” etc etc
Cameos from Zhang Xiaobing 张小饼, The Hormones 荷尔蒙小姐 and Mosaic 马赛克.
Submarine have jam nights every Wednesday!
Video shot on a little camera by Xiaomi stuck to a selfie stick. At only 400RMB ($90NZD) it is a fraction of the price of a GoPro and still pretty nice quality! (this is not an ad hahaha, just giving 大家 the heads up!)
Erica Sklenars a.k.a. Lady Lazer Light is in the capital this week for two talks about her art residency in Beijing and touring with Orchestra of Spheres around China.
Kiwese caught up with her ahead of tonight’s first talk!
The last Lady Lazer Light show I saw before moving back to China was in collaboration with long time pals Orchestra of Spheres.
It was a cheap $10 gig at Valhalla – a grungy, hole in the wall on Vivian Street downtown Wellington, which having survived several different eras of management had remained popular among the metal, bogan and experimental community for it’s diverse billing, excellent beer selection and outdoor area provisioned with old car tyres and miscellaneous lounge furniture.
It was mid-2014, a rough time for Wellington music punters with the closures of popular inner city venues Mighty Mighty and Puppies. San Francisco Bath House had been renovated into ‘San Fran’ – a yuppie, tapas-catering ghost of it’s former self that had halved it’s capacity due to safety concerns – the packed out balcony and wall-to-wall mosh pit had become a thing of the past. The city was thirsty for a good show.
The Valhalla line-up included some of Wellington’s favourite acts, who were not greatly affected by the venue closures as they were accustomed to playing in unconventional spaces around town. Throat-ripping turntable noise trio the All Seeing Hand had arrived home from their national tour and were supported by their good mates Orchestra of Spheres, experimental folk yodeller Seth Frightening, andvisually enhanced by the Queen of Psychedelic Projections Herself, Lady Lazer Light. The stage was a whirlpool of colour and sound and the bar was packed with familiar faces, with Valhalla regulars happily drinking alongside the refugees of less fortunate venues.
In the second set of the night, the Spheres took the stage in inimitable style – festooned with the finest eyewear The $2 Shop can buy, armed with one-of-a-kind wooden and tin instruments and oozing with the bizarre stage presence that has earned them a cult following throughout the country. The crowd surged forward, ready for the cosmic rhythms.
As Lady Lazer Light sprayed forth her kaleidoscopic beams and the Spheres chanted a mantra about iPhone chargers, the sensorily satiated crowd swayed shoulder to shoulder as one, united by a brilliant display of colour and sound. If the desired effect was group hypnosis – they certainly succeeded.
The show was a spiritual experience for the city – the buzz around Valhalla, the friendliness and happiness of all the people who had come to celebrate and support, it was a truly magical night. Orchestra of Spheres and Lady Lazer Light were the gems in Wellington’s creative crown, and we all bowed down in ecstasy.
Around the middle of last year, things really started to fall into place. I was emailing Dan from the Spheres on an almost daily basis and we were gradually putting together the pieces for a national China tour. The dream was coming to life, everyone was excited.
KIWESE: “Are you guys bringing Lady Lazer Light?”
DAN: “Erica Sklenars is going to be in Beijing for three months on an artist residency!! So we’ll bring her along for the trip.”
The morning after the second Orchestra of Spheres show in Beijing, I awoke with a heavy hangover to find Erica passed out on the couch at my friend’s tiny flat in Beixinqiao, wrapped in her screen as a blanket and surrounded by noodles of projector cables and chargers. A Lady Lazer Light bomb had exploded in the lounge and ground zero was beautifully chaotic. This chick is crack up.
Despite being a fan of her work for years, I’d actually never met Erica Sklenars before she arrived in Beijing last September.
During my time with her in China, through all the madness, set-ups, pack downs, instant noodles, Jingjiu, overnight train rides, WeChat frenzies, gaffer tape, raves, laughs, cries and hangovers, she became a very dear friend, one who I have enormous respect and admiration for as an artist, improvisor, communicator and genuinely wonderful human being.
I am so pleased to finally feature her here on this humble blog.
KIWESE: Sup Sklen, how’s it going?
As Lady Lazer Light, you’ve been a staple visual collaborator in Wellington for many years. Can you tell us a bit about your current set up in Dunedin?
I’ve been living between Dunedin and Wellington a bit this year with various projects, but I’m technically based in beautiful Port Chalmers, Dunedin, living and making work in Chick’s Hotel.
What’s the deal with Chick’s Hotel at the mo?
They closed a couple of weeks ago, went out with a bang with a number of awesome farewell gigs, including Shifting Sands and The Clean sending us off on the final night.
I’ve been away since then, but word on the street says there is a killer recording studio developing downstairs…
You were based in Wellington for many years, how have you found the transition to Dunedin life? My only experience with the music scene on my trip there was a seedy late night karaoke bar, where I realised Seven Days by Craig David is actually really hard to sing.
Haha! I have only encountered YouTube karaoke down there… but may have heard something about such bars.
I’m finding it quite different, a bit more chill, a good place to reflect on my practice and on my high-energy, chaotic last few months of travel.
There are some really cool things happening there in the music scene, some awesome new and old bands, I’ve had a lot of opportunities to collaborate and perform. There is actually some REALLY great music happening there at the moment.
You’ve mentioned Élan vital before. Could you name some other acts you’re digging in Dunedin?
I collaborated with Repulsive Woman recently, she played alone outside an old Free Mason Lodge and the audience watched/peeped on her from inside through a camera obscura I constructed. She plays One Direction covers.
You were in Beijing for three months and really thrived in it. Do you have any favourite spots for music and art in the city?
Liquid Light Show at Temple Bar Beijing, which Erica participated in. Sept 2015.
Shocking Pinks DJ Set at Dada with visuals by Lady Lazer Light. Sept 2015.
Mos Iocos of Orchestra of Spheres with Lady Lazer Light. School Bar, Beijing, Sept 2015. Image / Live Beijing Music
What do you miss about China now that you are back in NZ?
I miss the food of course! I loved it all. I miss being able to order a bunch of different dishes – I’m terrible at making decisions on menus.
I miss always having an exciting new place to go! There’s one particular dish I would get that was kind of an omelette thing with sprouts and noodles, it was soo good for late breakfasts. And the shredded potato!! So good.
I miss the friendly faces around where I was living, going on adventures through different villages to find art supplies, taking several forms of public transport to go somewhere, the amazing friendly people I would meet that would extend so much help and kindness despite us not speaking the same language.
The Spheres tour was so bloody fab. Do you have a particularly standout gig?
Too hard to choose! I loved the BBQ party in Feijiacun because that was in the community I was living in.
I loved the NUART Festival in Chengdu and the after party at Zaoshanghao, so much fun! I loved every city and show for different reasons, I can’t pick a single fav. I really want to come back and I’m working on some plans, watch this space!
When can we expect to see the South Acid MiMi x Lady Lazer Light music video?
What would you say to other artists wanting to visit China?
Do it, it’s an awesome place to tour as a band and to make art.
Chur girl, you Sklegend!
Erica will be speaking in Wellington tonight and tomorrow:
P-LAB: LADY LAZER LIGHT
Time: 7:00pm | Wed 13 April 2016
Location: Pyramid Club
272 Taranaki Street, Wellington, New Zealand
For her P-LAB session, Erica will be delving into her world of projected visuals and speaking about her recent 3 month residency in Beijing on the Wellington Asia Residency Exchange.
The Pyramid Club is run by the Sound and Exploration Society.
International Connections: An artist residency forum
Time: 5.30pm – 7.30pm | Thu 14 April 2016
Location: Adam Auditorium, City Gallery
101 Wakefield St, Wellington, New Zealand
Hear internationally acclaimed visual artists speak about their practice and residency experiences in a panel discussion chaired by Courtney Johnston, director of The Dowse Art Museum. The artists – Marc Brandenburg, Etienne de France, Erica Sklenars and Sian Torrington – will share their work and their thoughts about the world versus Wellington.
Berlin-based Brandenburg is the current Goethe-Institut Artist in Resident at the Bolton Street Cottage; Etienne de France, from Paris, is the Massey University Artist in Resident staying at Te Whare Hera; and Erica Sklenars and Sian Torrington are both Wellington-based artists recently back from Asia.