On a hot summer’s afternoon, the sound of birdsong and motorbike alarms chorus together in the warm air at Zaoshanghao on Democracy Road.
Excitedly chattered about for the past few years and praised by Douban Music as “the true spirit of rock and roll” “amidst this increasingly conformist, fast-food generation,” Chengdu’s poetic post-punk band Hiperson greets you with their debut album No Need For Another History, out today on Maybe Mars!Surrounded by leafy green banana fronds and sunlit rooftops, Kiwese had the pleasure of catching up with vocalist Chen Sijiang, guitarists Liu Zetong and Ji Yinan and drummer Wang Boqiang, four of the band’s five boys and girls, who exude the chill, friendly vibes of Chengdu.Say “hi!” everyone!
Hiperson are an exciting new band that will leave you feeling as Comfortably Numb as a Sichuan peppercorn.
你们乐队的名字有都意思，给我们介绍一下。 The name 'Hiperson’ has a few meanings, how did it come about?
JI YINAN 季一楠：我们一直想不到乐队取什么名字，然后突然想到这个名字因为当时才进大学的时候容易想很多事情，包括人和人之间的关系，然后发生在人生上的关系的一些事情 。Hiperson这个名字是描述一个你思考一个问题的角度，这样是在给person打招呼，感觉好像是另外一个非人类的东西在看一些人之间发生的事情。
We couldn’t think of a name for ages, then it suddenly came to us. We’d just started university, a time when you’re thinking about things like human relationships and events that occur in your life. The name describes the perspective you use when you are pondering a question; by saying ‘hi’ to ‘person’ it’s like a non-human entity viewing things that occur in the human realm.
So our own philosophy behind it is that when examining particular issues, if you jump beyond a personal perspective you will be able to transform it into something else – you can find more answers, it will be more fulfilling.
LIU ZETONG 刘泽同：第三方，God Vision.
The third perspective. God Vision.
你可以给我们介绍 “海朋森”的中文名字？海边的“海”和“森”林的森有一种很自然的感觉。这是故意的吗？ And the Chinese name, Haipengsen 海朋森? The hǎi of hǎibiàn 海边 (ocean) and sēn of sēnlín 森林 (forest) has a nature vibe, was this deliberate?
LIU 刘：直接英译过来。是在一个开玩笑的环境里 !
It’s just a direct take from the English pronunciation, made up in a joking environment!
CHEN SIJIANG 陈思江: 然后选了几个字在排练室里。
Yeah, we just picked some characters in the practice room.
WATCH: Hiperson interview and performance of ‘He Made Up His Mind To Be a Tourist’ on The Sound Stage last year.
你们三年之前怎么开始？你们都在川音认识呢？ How did the band form three years ago? You guys all knew each other at the Sichuan Conservatory of Music?
LIU 刘：最开始我跟吉他手季一楠是同学，我们两个人就一开始认识就很聊得来，然后我们想做一支乐队。我们找到一个鼓手跟贝斯，就是现在秘密行动的鼓手跟贝斯手。 然后老季他认识了陈思江，是经过朋友介绍的，然后我们就去她里玩儿，这样就慢慢的大家都在一块儿了。我们的贝斯手黄哥黄仁涛也是我们同学，我们就让她一起过来试一下。我们之前的鼓手是陈庆凯也是我们隔壁班的同学，后来因为一些其他的因素，他就没有跟我们一起做了。现在这个新鼓手王博强进来了，我们最早跟他认识是他跟另外一个朋友一起做了一个两个人的乐队。
It started out when Ji Yinan and I were classmates, we got talking and decided to start a band. We found a drummer bassist, who is now playing in Stolen (秘密行动). Then Ji Yinan found Chen Sijiang through a mutual friend, we went to her place and had a jam and it gradually came together from there. Our bassist ‘Tao Ge,’ Huang Rentao, was also our classmate, so we got her over to try out. Our previous drummer Chen Qingkai was too, but after a while some other stuff came up so he left. Now we have a new drummer Wang Boqiang, we knew him from another two-piece band.
CHEN 陈：我们是在同一个school, 然后我是另外一个油画学院，但我们在一个campus.
We were all on the same campus and I majored in oil painting.
你们觉得正式的音乐教育是怎么影响你们的乐队？ Do you think having formal music education has influenced you as a band?
I wouldn’t say we’ve actually had a formal musical education…
Because you all ditched class!
I think the reason we ditched class was that the teachers and classes were all Chinese, Maths, English and stuff. But in saying that, it gave us an environment where we could meet a lot of like-minded friends, and I think that has affected us more as a band than the actual classes. From there, it was more a case of relying on your own interests and working to understand them on your own terms.
你们去川音之前有没有自己搞音乐的经验？ What kind of experience did you have with music before going to Music/Art School?
I wouldn’t really consider it experience. I studied guitar for a month and thought it was fun, then wrote some songs and put them on Douban. That’s how I came to know these guys. Back then I was just randomly singing, just going with it, I never had training or anything.
JI 季：我是从初一的时候就开始，很神奇，因为我妈妈之前在电台在radio station 工作，然后她是管理那个碟库的, 专门放碟的仓库和磁带的tape 和CD的一个房子里面 。我初中的时候说我想学吉他嘛，然后她给了我一张CD的合辑，4AD的，是中文版的，上面配有很多CD乐队的介绍，歌词，照片，很好看那本书 。那个时候什么都不知道，就听了那张CD以后就想听更多的东西 。
I was in Junior High when I started playing guitar, it came about pretty miraculously. My mum was working for a radio station, taking care of all the tapes and CDs in the disk storage room. One day I mentioned I wanted to start playing guitar, so she gave me a 4AD compilation CD that came in a really beautiful Chinese edition book, with introductions to all the bands, lyrics and photos. At that time I knew nothing, then afterwards, I just wanted to listen more and more.
WANG BOQIANG 王博强：我是初中，因为我有朋友在身边学吉他，然后他说：“要不要我们就玩一个乐队吧？”然后我就随便去找了一个琴行, 不是乱选，那个时候感觉是自己对节奏也比较敏感，然后也挺有兴趣。那个时候什么都不懂，我们就在一起瞎闹。大学期间一直有一个做乐队的梦想，一直想把它完成。然后我也很高兴认识我现在的伙伴。
Back in Junior High, a guitarist friend said: “wanna play in a band?” So I went out and found a Tom Lee Store. It wasn’t just picking at random – I think I had a good feel for rhythm at the time, plus I was really keen on it. My friend and I didn’t know what we were doing and just made a racket. I’ve always wanted to fulfil my dream of being in a band, so I am really happy to be with these guys now!
LIU 刘：Hiperson 是我做的第一个乐队。我自己学琴还挺早的，也是初中开始，但我是读的那种封闭式学校，军校式的管理, 你不能随便进出，你只能待在学校里面，哪儿都不能去，后来我觉得很无聊，然后我就让我妈妈给我买了一把木吉他。当时有一本书叫做《吉他自学三月痛》就自己来学。
Hiperson is my first band. I started playing music quite early too, Junior High, but I went to a closed school with military style management, you couldn’t come in or go out, you had to stay within the school. I got really bored after a while and asked my mum if I could have an acoustic guitar. At the time I had this book called ‘Study Guitar Yourself in Three Months’ and worked at it by myself.
你们都是成都人吗？ Are you all from Chengdu?
Our bassist is the only one! I’m from Deyang.
I’m from Mianyang.
I’m from Xi’an.
I’m from Quanzhou, Hunan.
JI 季：贝斯是成都的uptown.青白江。Almost another city.
Our bassist is from uptown Chengdu, Qingbaijiang.
你们对成都的感情很深，你们为什么喜欢成都？ It seems like you have a deep affection for this place, what do you like so much about Chengdu?
JI 季：有很多各式各样的原因。有吃。。。[笑话], 人也很好玩儿 。主要还是因为整个环境都比较适应 。成都那种环境特别容易让人沉下来，没有那么浮躁，你可以自己专心地做一件事情，周围外面的其他因素都不会打扰你。
So many different reasons. The food… [laughs], the people are really fun. The main thing is that the environment suits us, it’s really easy to feel at home here. It’s not complicated; you can just do your own thing without external factors bothering you.
We were never interested in going to another city like Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou – those cities don’t really suit our us. Chengdu has a more grassroots feel to it.
你们在成都待了几年，在这三四年里，这个城市的发展和改变很多，你们觉得这种变化对你们的创作性有影响吗？ You guys have all been here for several years now, and in the past three four years or so the city has transformed remarkably. Do you think these changes have affected you creatively?
I think for us, the cultural changes have been more pronounced. In the past few years, there have been more and more events; projects and parties, small-scale and large-scale, it’s all growing because the way young people have fun and live their lives is changing. The internet has had a huge impact on that.
The changes in the city have given us more things to express. Whether it’s music or painting, I feel in past two years there’s been more to describe, more to depict, because all these different things are occurring. People are changing and their tastes are changing too. From a person’s appearance, to the things they like doing – all of it is in a state of flux, which sometimes results in really interesting combinations. Everything is converging.
思江，你怎么开始写歌词的？ Sijiang, how did you start out writing songs?
I feel like my creative process has changed a lot. When I started, I would just write about a feeling, like how I felt on a particular day. After a while, it’s sort of moved beyond these isolated feelings and turned into more multi-faceted descriptions that are more like stories or scenes.
你全部用中文来写歌词，我觉得挺好的，因为有一些去国外的独立乐队，比如说刺猬，Carsick Cars都用英文来写。好像全中文歌作的乐队比较少，你们是怎么来看这个事情的？ All of your songs are in Chinese, I think they're great. Some bands that have been abroad like Hedgehog and Carsick Cars also sing in English, and the number of bands that fully sing in Chinese seems quite small. How do you guys view this?
JI 季：我觉得也不是说bad or good的问题，可能就是每个乐队的重心都不一样。
I don’t think it’s a question of ‘good or bad,’ each band just has a different focus.
I think it’s actually quite normal; rock music originated in the west and has been sung this way since the beginning, so the fact a lot of bands are singing in English now is just a progression from the original prototype.
The reason I write in Chinese has two sides: the natural and the unnatural. The natural being Chinese is our mother tongue – so it carries a different weight than English. That feeling of being exposed, naked, might disappear because it’s not our mother tongue, which is the unnatural aspect. It could put a wall between you and the things you’re singing about.
“Singing in your mother tongue is so direct for the performer and the audience，there’s nowhere to hide.“
If a singer is also a painter, they are able to write songs in Chinese more fluently. Like Muma, he’s a painter, and Ou Po [singer of Sound Toy 声音玩具], too. There’s some kind of phenomenon where artists are really good at expressing things in Chinese rather than English.
在你们的歌词里，有一些主题是关于历史，过去的事情和还没有发生的事情，记忆和忘记，就是这两个方面，还有leaving和returning。There seem to be a few common themes in your lyrics, such as history, the past and present, remembering and forgetting, leaving and returning…
CHEN 陈：我觉得我创作歌词的时候，可能我会把这些东西全部放到一起来看，就是有很多层面，就是说politics and personal feeling,和你的生活经验, 它有可能是结合到一块儿的。
When I write lyrics, I tend to put all of theses layers together, encompassing politics and personal feelings, life experience, society, emotions – they all roll into one.
在中国，如果你要说关于政治的事情，要小心一点。在你们的歌词里有很多双关语，比如说在《幕布》，“这是通往剧院的大路”，这个大路，可能也是中国大陆？ One needs to be cautious when commenting on politics in China. The puns in your lyrics, for example in ‘The Curtain’ you say “zhè shì tōng wǎng jùyuàn de dàlù” (“this road is turning into a theatre”), this dàlù 大路 (road) could also be be dàlù 大陆 (Mainland China)?
Ah, you’re clever. I guess maybe I didn’t make a deliberate effort to avoid this political pun you’ve mentioned, but when you are engaged in the arts, you may not want to express your views to the public so directly; though they can be included within descriptions of scenes or experiences. Perhaps there are a lot of puns in the lyrics; perhaps sometimes I don’t articulate myself clearly.
“I don’t feel the need to lay out my views in such a direct way. I think it’s more important to evoke a feeling than convey a perspective.”
WATCH: Hiperson perform ‘The Curtain.’ Video by Maybe Mars:
你们的专辑快要发行了，我超级期待啊！你们在Psychic Kong里面的时候是怎么样的经验？ Your new album is coming out soon, can't wait! How was recording at Psychic Kong?
CHEN 陈：Super cool, super tired. 我们去年8月待了10天，录音的话就是7天。后来我又录了几天人声。
We went to Beijing for ten days in August last year and recorded the album over a week. Then I did some extra vocals afterwards.
JI 季：它是我见过最underground的studio，在一个地下停车场里面，然后会走很久很久，里面很潮湿，很冷，没有任何光线，没有 fresh air，是在很热的夏天，进去以后就是另外一个感觉，就是很酷的设备和楼梯，那个地方你从眼睛看上去并不那么的专业，但是杨海松的态度和心是很专业的。很棒的一个经验，对我们的启发也很大。
It’s the most underground studio I’ve ever seen. It’s in an underground parking lot and you have to walk for ages to get to it, then inside it’s really damp and cold; there’s no natural light or fresh air. It was a really hot summer, but once we entered the studio it was a completely different feeling. It has really cool recording equipment, a staircase. At a glance, it looks really unprofessional, but Yang Haisong is an incredible producer. It was a really great experience and gave us a lot of inspiration.
杨海松是你们的制作人，跟他一起录音怎么样？ What was like recording with Yang Haisong as your producer?
I think the biggest piece of advice we took from him was that everyone needs to be in charge of choosing their own sound. He doesn’t tweak the original sound a lot – what you hear on record is the way it really is. During that week of recording, seeing him in his element gave us a kind of spiritual energy. We weren’t used to being in that studio environment and it was hard to breathe at first, our brains went slow, but Haisong could just effortlessly switch into working mode. He’d get there at 7am, we’d start at 10.
WATCH: The Maybe Mars preview of Hiperson’s debut album:
你们和兵马司怎么认识的？ How did you get involved with Maybe Mars?
We played a show with P.K 14.
CHEN 陈：在这儿之前还有The Gar. 就是很多兵马司乐队来成都演出，我们都去做opening，双方就看对眼了。
Before that we opened for The Gar. We’ve opened for a bunch of other Maybe Mars bands and got spotted that way.
LIU 刘：我们在读大学的时候，兵马司就有许多优秀的乐队，包括我们以前很喜欢的Guai Li。我们一直觉得兵马司不像其他的厂牌，他更有自己的精神在里面。
When we were at uni, there were a lot of excellent bands on their label, including Guai Li, who we’re big fans of. We’ve always thought Maybe Mars is different from other labels, they have their own soul.
CHEN 陈：有一天我们去兵马司签合同，就和兵马司的老板Michael开了一个会，他说的话对我的映象很深，他说“We don’t want to make money, we want to make history,”就很打动我们。
When we went to sign the contract, the label boss Michael said: “we don’t want to make money, we want to make history.” That really resonated with us.
我要问你们这个专辑的名字《我不要别的历史》， 对你们来说是什么意思？ Your new album is titled ‘No Need for Another History,’ what does this phrase mean to you?
There are many different layers; everyone will have their own interpretations.
CHEN 陈：《我不要别的历史》是我们又写的一首歌 。这个历史可以是个人的，可以是一个团体的，可以是一个国家的。
It’s from an old song we wrote. The history could be that of an individual, of a group, of a nation.
Or the world!
你们新的专辑有CD和黑胶。在成都好像没有什么唱片店？ The album is gonna be available on CD and vinyl, though it seems like there are no actual record stores here in Chengdu?
Yeah, Liu Yitong and I are actually planning to set one up, with the goal of selling them really cheaply, so everybody can have record players and vinyl won’t seem like such a distant a concept.
在中国，喜欢听音乐的人不一定去买他们喜欢的作品，所以你们有什么样的看法？对于你们的新的专辑出来？ In China, music fans are not necessarily going out and purchasing the music they like. What are your views on this ahead of your album release?
JI 季: 我之前看过一个我非常喜欢的乐队的采访，叫Fugazi，Ian MacKaye他做了一个讲座，说到了这件事情，他和他老婆做了一个新的乐队叫The Evens，他们去圣地亚哥演出的时候，他们还没有发过唱片，但所有人都知道他们的歌，所有的人都会唱，他一开始很震惊。不能避免我们就可以换个思考，就像我们的乐队的名字的理念一样，我们可以换一个角度去看这个事情，它也是很好的一件事情。
Recently I watched an interview with Ian MacKaye from one of my favourite bands Fugazi. He and his wife are in band called The Evens. They did a show in San Diego and despite not having released any records, everyone could sing along to all their songs. It was a total shock! So while we can’t avoid the issue, I think we can take the concept of our band’s name and change our perspective in order to turn it into a good thing.
LIU 刘: 我觉得还是有在转变，就是这个东西大家是去在网上下载还是去支持你的实体，包括现在国内有很多网站都还是有付费下载，就是一个慢慢的过程。之前我也玩游戏，我要去网上下载那种盗版或者是破解的，最近我玩游戏我都去买的正版，因为我会被那些游戏的工作人员感动，因为他们真的会花很多心血去做这个游戏，你为什么要浪费人家的心血你要去下盗版的。到时候也许10年之后，你会说我真的被这首歌感动了，我应该用实际行动去支持它。
I think it’s in a transition from downloads to support, including how there are Chinese websites now where you have to pay to download, it’s a gradual process. I used to download a lot of pirated games, but now I buy the real thing because I want to support the game makers. Why should they put their blood, sweat and tears into creating this thing if people just go and download it for free? Maybe in ten years or so, if people feel a song has really moved them, they will take real action to support it.
Actually, I think it’s been an inspiration, this internet piracy phenomenon. In many ways, it’s making up for deficiencies in Chinese pop culture, where these free things that we might never have been able to encounter otherwise are slowly being absorbed.
现在你们的巡演安排好了吗？ Have you finished planning the tour?
It’s pretty close to being finalised – we’ve just added two more dates, so about 29 shows all up. We are hoping to drive the whole tour with a Douban van. Maybe Mars have been a big help, we wanted to do something different for our first national tour, as most bands touring in China take trains and planes. Maybe we’ll start in the north, head east, south, then south-west.
JI 季: 因为开车可以节约开支的话，尽量就是两个城市隔得不是特别远，才能够更有效率，更节约成本，所以巡演就有很多小的城市，很激动。小到刘泽同的老家，很多很小的四线五线城市。
Driving could save a bit of money. We’re trying to plan it so we can drive between cities that are close together as efficiently as possible, so we’ll be playing a lot of small cities, which is really exciting. Liu Yitong’s hometown. A lot of small fourth and fifth-tier cities.
And Huizhou, Dongguan.
这些城市演出很少。 I guess these places would have very few gigs.
JI 季: 就算是一个小的城市，一个小的演出场合，只有五、六个人来看你的演出，也很不错，很朋克。
For a small city, having five or six people turn up is still not bad. Very punk.
CHEN 陈：我们在做这个乐队是和我们的环境息息相关的。当下的中国是最有代表性的developing country, 除了像你一样来到这里的人无法亲身感受到。传统文化的消失和复兴、激进的现代化和城市化进程，作用在人们身上产生了许多光怪陆离的现象。普通人们用血肉和商品相互摩擦。
The reason we’re in this band is closely related to our environment. Modern China is an exemplar of a developing country, which people don’t get a sense of unless they come here and experience it firsthand, like you have. The disappearance and revival of traditional culture, as well as the intensity of modernisation and urbanisation has confronted people with endless bizarre phenomena. It’s flesh and blood of ordinary people pressing up against commodities.
So we’re really looking forward to playing smaller cities, people there aren’t completely urbanised and they might think our music is weird, it’s exciting!
你们觉在中国得独立音乐有什么样的挑战? What do you think are some of the challenges for independent music in China?
Audience and understanding. Some people don’t get why anyone would choose to do music, including friends and family who’ll ask: What are you doing and why are you even doing it? There’s no money in it, what are you gonna do after that? You’re never gonna get famous, so what’s the point? Loads of questions like that.
你们的家人都支持你们吗？ Do your families support your music?
JI 季: 他们虽然不知道你在做什么，他不了解你做的音乐和事情，但是他们会支持你，家人的爱就是这样。
Even if they don’t know what you’re doing and they don’t understand the music or the other things in your life, they will still support you. Family love is like that.
Actually I think this generation of parents are just hoping their kids grow up comfortably, it’s not like the older generation who were worried about their kids having enough to eat and being clothed properly. Those basic questions aren’t so common anymore, as long as you can feed yourself and grow up healthy that’s the main thing.
你们觉得你们是年轻人，你们去29个城市，可能在这个城市里面没有看过你们这种音乐，你们希望你们能给他们带来什么吗？ On your 29 date tour of China, there will be places who have never heard music like yours. As a young band, are you hoping to leave an impression on other young people?
I guess we’ve put a bit of pressure on ourselves in that regard, but it makes us happy and compels us to keep doing what we’re doing.
CHEN 陈： 中国的年轻人应该更年轻化一些，有没有觉得大部分中国年轻人没有那么年轻。他们做着不是他们年龄做的事, 想的也不是年轻人想的事。
The youth of China should act more their age, it’s like a lot of them aren’t really young people at all. They act and think in ways that don’t fit their age.
There are so many in China who think in a completely different way to us, in that we like rock music and things that excite us, real things. They avoid these things and in favour of the pursuits of the older generation, traditional goals like stability, money, that kind of stuff…
Buying a house, ‘plain sailing’…
你们的中国巡演之后，你们希望去国外吗？ After the China tour, would you like to tour overseas?
Of course! We’ve always wanted to go overseas, but singing in Chinese could be a problem. Sometimes you wonder what a Chinese song would sound like to someone who doesn’t understand the language.
我欢迎你们来新西兰，如果有机会的话。 I welcome you guys to New Zealand if you ever get the opportunity!
CHEN 陈： 我们很想去！我看过《鲸鱼士》电影，特别好看！
We’d love to go! I’ve seen Whale Rider, beautiful!
*Kiwese rant about serving Keisha Castle-Hughes a smoothie at Espressoholic one time*
Tour details to come soon.
Many thanks to the amazing Deng Yani and Faye Zhang for their help with transcription and translation!